Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today all of us heard of the creation of man at the pinnacle of the creation of the world and how God formed us and gave us the breath of life, blessing us mankind and granting us dominion and stewardship over creation. Everything had been made good and wonderful by the Lord, all the celestial things and all the lifeforms in this world, on the land, in the sea and air.

Therefore, when we heard of the Lord’s confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as the latter argued that the way they enforced the Law was the only right one, the Lord Jesus revealed the truth about the Law and commandments of God, and said how all things were inherently good and wonderful, just as God had created them to be, and that also includes us mankind as well. However, because of sin, we have been defiled and corrupted, not because of the things that entered into our bodies, but because of the things that came from within our hearts.

Take for example, the tree of knowledge of good and evil mentioned in the first reading today, the tree that was forbidden for mankind to touch or eat by God. That tree by itself was not evil or good in nature, but it was mankind’s mistaken way and misguided intention that led our first ancestors to sin against the Lord. It was not the fruit of the tree of knowledge entering their bodies that condemned Adam and Eve, but rather, their willingness in cooperating with the devil and listening to him that led them to their downfall.

In the same manner therefore, the notion that any food could have made a person unclean had no true and spiritual basis, as the Lord Himself debunked the falsehoods of such an idea. This was however the prevailing view for the many centuries of the traditions and practices of the people of Israel, for all those years that they lived under the Law of God revealed through Moses. However, we have to understand the context of such laws if we are to appreciate the true nature of the Law and the real intention of God for His people.

The Law of God revealed to Moses was given as sets of guidance and instructions that were meant to help to keep the people of God in line, especially considering how stubborn and disobedient they had been at that time, in refusing to listen to the Lord and His commandments and laws. Thus, the rules and tenets were revealed at the time to make sure that the people did not lose their way and remain faithful to the Lord despite the temptations and other obstacles in their path, trying to pull them away from the path towards God.

Some of those laws including the dietary restrictions were also enforced to ensure that the people of God remained healthy amidst the long journey throughout the desert, as well as considering the prevailing conditions at the time. In the end, when the reason for such laws were no longer in place, the people themselves had forgotten the reason and purpose of such laws and regulations. In the end, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, they obeyed for the sake of obeying, and worse still, doing what was asked by the Law for appearances and to be praised for it.

That is why the Lord wanted all of the people to realise the folly of such thoughts and way of life, and thus, revealed how the true meaning of the Law of God was far from what the laws and traditions of the people had prescribed, having veered off far from the original, intended purpose and meaning. He wanted to show us all that what is important is the purity and the sincerity of our inner, spiritual orientation of life rather than merely just focusing on outward gestures and appearances alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reexamine our way of life, and consider how we can be better disciples of the Lord in everything we do, in each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to a greater existence in holiness in God, to be genuinely devoted to Him with faith, and to follow His path wholeheartedly by appreciating all that He had taught us and revealed to us.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Scholastica, a holy saint of God and a faithful servant whose life can be a great example for us to follow, as she dedicated her whole life in a holy life of prayer. As the paternal twin sister of the great St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Scholastica also lived her life virtuously and committed herself to a life consecrated to God, traditionally considered as the foundation of the society of Benedictine nuns just as St. Benedict inspired the foundation of the Benedictine monastic order.

The faith of these saints were truly great, and they inspired many others to follow their examples. All of us should also follow in their footsteps and commit ourselves to the cause of the Lord. Are we able to do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with true and genuine faith, that each and every one of us may become true followers of Christ in all things?

May the Lord be our Guide and Strength, and may He empower us all to become faithful and dedicated Christians, living our lives wholeheartedly according to the way of the Lord and to our faith. May God bless all of our good efforts and commitments, and may He enlighten our path forward in life. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean.

And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 2 : 4b-9, 15-17

On the day that YHVH God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on earth any shrub on the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for YHVH God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth.

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of life on the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to take care of it. Then YHVH God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

Monday, 8 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today, after four weeks of discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we begin the series of readings from the Old Testament in our first reading with the account of the creation of the universe as represented in the Book of Genesis, the very first chapter of the entire Bible.

We heard how the Lord created the whole creation, the entire universe and all the things and our world as we know it, and the Lord made everything good as He had created it, willing them into being by His Word, the Word that made everything to be and created everything according to God’s will. This very same Word had become Incarnate in the flesh, as the Son of Man and Son of God, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord Jesus went about doing His ministry, going from places to places, and many people came to see Him and listen to Him, hearing the words of truth that He has brought into their midst. They also brought their sick with them, and many people with various conditions and sicknesses came to seek the Lord and wanted Him to heal them.

The Lord touched them and healed them, and by His power and the will of God, all of them were made whole again and were cured from their troubles. The significance of this act in relation to the first reading today is such that God Who created this world to be good and perfect, has again done everything in order to restore order and goodness to this world.

Christ has showed us the love of God manifested in Himself and His actions, in showing mercy and compassion to the needy, those rejected and abandoned, ostracised and persecuted. And truly we are all fortunate because of the love that God has lavished upon us, His great patience and the attention He has for us. He has willingly embraced us and called us all to return to Him and to accept His forgiveness so that we may not perish because of our sins, but instead may receive from Him the assurance of eternal life.

Are we grateful and appreciative of all that God has shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has already shown us so much love and kindness, and therefore all of us should appreciate what He has done for us, that He still loved us despite our constant refusal to listen to Him and to love Him wholeheartedly. Today, we should be inspired by the faith and examples showed by two saints, whose lives indeed shine through as great inspiration for us all, namely St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita.

St. Jerome Emiliani was remembered for his great charity and efforts, in caring for the needy, the poor and the sick, all those whom he had encountered, selflessly caring for them and inspiring many others to follow in his footsteps and examples. He built many orphanages and other places where those who need help could be taken care of and loved, just like the Lord Himself has reached out to His people and sought to help us. St. Jerome Emiliani showed us all what it means for us to be Christians, that is to be like Christ in His love.

Then, St. Josephine Bakhita was a former slave who hailed from the area now known as Sudan. As a child, she had already suffered much, captured by slavers and treated horribly as a slave passed on from master to master, one after another. When she had the fortunate chance to escape slavery through her former master, who was touched and converted by her virtuous life, St. Josephine Bakhita eventually found her way to freedom and eventually joined the religious community in which she spent the rest of her life in.

St. Josephine Bakhita never held grudges for her past slavers and masters, all those who had made her life very difficult and painful. In embracing the Christian faith and in dedicating herself completely to the Lord, St. Josephine Bakhita showed many people including us all what it means to be true disciples and followers of Christ. We are all called to love one another just as the Lord has loved us all so generously. Therefore, let us all discern what we all can do, even in little things and ways, to serve the Lord and glorify His Name by our worthy lives and actions.

May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us in this journey of life, that with the same love He has shown us, we too may love Him wholeheartedly and love our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need of love, care and attention. May God bless us all and our every good and worthy endeavours, now and always. Amen.ignored by the world, those who are in need of healing and consolation. He was making everything good and new again, and through Him, God fulfilled the promises that He had made to us mankind, that He will restore us once again and deliver us from the evil one.

Monday, 8 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Mark 6 : 53-56

At that time, having crossed the lake, Jesus and His disciples came ashore at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognised Jesus, and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside.

Wherever He was, they brought to Him the sick lying on their mats; and wherever He went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace, and begged Him to let them touch just the fringe of His cloak. And all who touched Him were cured.

Monday, 8 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 5-6, 10 and 12, 24 and 35c

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

You set the earth on its foundations, and never will it be shaken. You covered it with the ocean like a garment, and waters spread over the mountains.

You make springs gush forth in valleys winding among mountains and hills. Birds build their nests close by and sing among the branches of trees.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Bless the Lord, my soul!

Monday, 8 February 2021 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Genesis 1 : 1-19

In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had no form and was void; darkness was over the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.

God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. There was evening and there was morning : the first day.

God said, “Let there be a firm ceiling between the waters and let it separate waters from waters.” So God made the ceiling and separated the waters below it from the waters above it. And so it was. God called the firm ceiling ‘Sky’. There was evening and there was morning : the second day.

God said, “Let the waters below the sky be gathered in one place and let dry land appear. And so it was. God called the dry land ‘Earth’, and the waters gathered together he called ‘Seas’. God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants, fruit trees bearing fruit with seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And so it was. The earth produced vegetation : plants bearing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit which has seed, according to their kind. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning : the third day.

God said, “Let there be lights in the ceiling of the sky to separate day from night and to serve as signs for the seasons, days and years; and let these lights in the sky shine above the earth.” And so it was. God therefore made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the smaller light to govern the night; and God made the stars as well. God placed them in the ceiling of the sky to give light on the earth and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning : the fourth day.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us as Christians are reminded to be holy and pure in all things, in our dealings and in our relationships. In particular today we are called to focus on the nature of marriage and family that is truly sacred in the eyes of the Lord. Then we are also called to reflect on the courage that St. John the Baptist in upholding the sanctity of this marriage against even the powerful ruler of his time when he disobeyed the Law and committed adultery.

In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminded the faithful to keep up their faith and to continue showing the love as they had been instructed and commanded to by the Lord. The author wanted all the faithful especially among the Jewish populations not to be afraid of the opposition and challenges from the community at large and in particular from the authorities who might be trying to prevent them from practicing their faith.

The author reminded all of the people that God was with them and that they would not walk the journey all alone, as God would be journeying with them. The Lord was by their side and walked with them even against the world, and therefore they should not be afraid. In the same way, their predecessor in faith, namely St. John the Baptist himself had suffered and endured bitter struggles for his commitment and faith in the Lord.

St. John the Baptist had been arrested and imprisoned for having rebuked the king, Herod Antipas for his adulterous and sinful behaviour in taking the lawfully wedded wife of his own brother, Herod Philip, as his own wife, when Philip was very much still alive. Such an action was tantamount to adultery and wicked, and a very immoral act for someone who ruled as the king over the land.

Hence, just as St. John the Baptist had earlier on rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy and lack of faith in doubting his work and authentic ministry, thus he did the same against even king Herod, earning especially the wrath and enmity from Herodias, the wife of Herod, the one with whom Herod committed adultery with. Yet, as we can see, St. John the Baptist was not afraid to do so.

Even in prison, he would continue to speak out against the king and his immoral actions, being faithful to the very end. When he was eventually martyred after Herodias tricked king Herod into killing the man of God by using her own daughter as a pawn in the process, St. John the Baptist showed us all what it truly means for us to be a follower of God and to be faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all respond to God’s call to be His faithful servants, and let us all be inspired by the faith that had been shown by St. John the Baptist. Let us all not be deterred by the challenges and trials that we may face throughout our journey, all the temptations and pressures that may persuade or force us to abandon the faith and the efforts to live a genuine Christian living.

Today we also commemorate the feast of St. Agatha, a renowned saint and martyr of the faith, who have died defending her faith and purity in commitment to God. Also known as St. Agatha of Sicily, she lived a virtuous Christian life throughout her youth, and despite the efforts of a pagan Roman prefect who desired her, she resisted the temptations and efforts, and this led to her arrest and torture.

But St. Agatha remained firm and resolute in her faith, and not even all the sufferings and trials could dim her dedication and zeal to the Lord. Despite all the sufferings she experienced, tortured and struck with iron hooks, burnt with torches and even had her breasts cut out with iron pincers, she remained true to her faith, to the very end, as the perfect example of dedication and commitment of a true Christian, one that we can be inspired by and follow.

The Lord has called us all to be His faithful servants and followers. He has called us to be exemplary in our lives and to be inspiration in our way of life such that so many others could be inspired to follow in our footsteps and be saved as well. Let us all pray for the grace of faith and strength, of courage and the ability to dedicate our lives and actions daily for the Lord, in keeping ourselves true to our faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.