Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the Sacred Scriptures, in which we began with the accounts from the Book of Kings on the completion and the Dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem built by king Solomon for God. In that account, we heard how the king and the whole people rejoiced as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple of God, and placed at its centre, the Holy of Holies where God Himself would dwell.

The Ark of the Covenant has been the centre of the whole community of Israel since the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as its name was linked to its role as the container of the actual Covenant which God has made with His people and written on the two slabs of stone, which together with the manna gathered from the time when God had fed His people and the staff of Aaron with which God had performed many wonders and miracles before the people of Israel, symbolise the very presence of God among His people.

And that moment when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple signified the moment when the Covenant of God was renewed, which king Solomon celebrated with the large offering of sacrifices to God as described in the account of the Book of Kings, numbering in the tens and thousands and more. The whole people of Israel rejoiced because God has willingly dwelled among His people and blessed the Temple that King Solomon has built in Jerusalem.

What we have heard in our first reading on the dedication of the Temple and the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant is a prefigurement of what would then come at the moment when God renewed His Covenant with His people, one final time, and this time with a new Covenant that He would seal with His people with a new sacrifice, and this one is the sacrifice which Our Lord Jesus would make on the Altar of His Cross at Calvary. For Christ is indeed the Mediator and Bearer of God’s New Covenant.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the works of the Lord Jesus and His disciples who were then at Galilee, ministering to the people and caring for many people who came to Jesus seeking to listen to Him and His teachings, or to be healed from their various illnesses, diseases, afflictions and troubles. People kept on bringing their sick ones to Him and many were healed by His touch and works, and the people who had faith in Him were healed by merely touching His cloak.

In the Lord Jesus, we ourselves have seen the Lord coming to dwell among us, and this time, not just in the intangible form of the slabs of stone of the Commandments and the Law, or the manna or the staff of Aaron or the container which is the Ark of the Covenant mentioned earlier. Here is the One Who is the Lord Himself Incarnate in the flesh, the Divine Word and Son of God, Who took upon Himself the nature and appearance of Man, that He is able to dwell in our midst in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

He came into our midst and dwell among us as He promised because He loves each and every one of us very dearly. After all, He created us all out of love and He wants nothing less than happiness and joy for us, which has been barred for us because of our sins and disobedience against God. Our sins have made us to be separated from God and His fullness of grace and love, which is precisely why He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ.

When the Lord Jesus came into our world and touched us His people, and then ultimately fulfilled His mission by taking up His Cross and suffered for our sake, becoming the very sacrificial Lamb on the Altar for our sake, and being sacrificed for us, renewing forever the Eternal Covenant of Love that God has made with us, affirming with this act of supreme love of the desire that God has in being reconciled with us. By the forgiveness of our sins, we can be reunited with God once again.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded of just how fortunate each and every one of us that God has always loved us all despite all of our infidelities and lack of faith, for all of our rebelliousness and our failures to obey His will. God still loves us all and wants to forgive us all, and He has done so by sending us His Son to be Our Lord and Saviour, suffering and dying a most painful death on the Cross for our sake.

How do we then appreciate God’s love and love Him back, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by opening ourselves to His love and allow His grace and forgiveness to touch us and our lives, that we may be healed by His compassionate love. Just as those people who came seeking Him to be healed from their various sickness and diseases, we are all also called to seek Him to heal us from the disease within us, within our heart, mind and soul, that is our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples led by one of our holy predecessor who had lived her life with great faith in God, that we too may know how to live our own lives with faith from now on. St. Scholastica, a renowned saint and holy woman, also the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia, is a great role model for us in faith as she led a devout life and inspired many others to follow her example mirroring what her brother had also done in establishing what would eventually become the Benedictines.

St. Scholastica lived a virtuous and prayerful life, dedicated wholly to God and committed herself to live an upright life of piety and charity, inspiring others in her community to be more dedicated and faithful to God. St. Scholastica showed us all what it truly means for us to be Christians, as those who believe in Christ and in His love, and because of that, we have to really show our love for Him by our action, our commitment to love Him and serve Him each and every days of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to renew our faith in God and grow stronger in our love and devotion towards Him. Let us all be more Christian-like in our way of life from now on, and let us seek to glorify God at all times through our words, actions and deeds for His such great love for us that He has done with us everything He has done through His Cross. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 8-10

The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar. Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

Arise, o YHVH, and come to Your rest; You, and the Ark of Your might. May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

Monday, 10 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 8 : 1-7, 9-13

Then Solomon assembled before him in Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, as well as the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH from the city of David, which is Zion.

All the Israelites assembled near king Solomon in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests carried the Ark of YHVH and brought it up together with the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the tent.

After the priests and Levites had brought them up, king Solomon with the entire congregation of Israel that had assembled before him and were with him before the Ark, sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they could neither be counted nor numbered.

Then the priests laid the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH in its place in the inner Sanctuary of the house – the Most Holy Place – underneath the wings of the Cherubim. The Cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, providing a covering above the Ark and its poles.

There was nothing in the Ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, where YHVH made a Covenant with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, such a cloud filled YHVH’s House that the priests could not continue to minister. Indeed, the glory of YHVH filled His House.

Then Solomon said, “YHVH has said that He would dwell in thick darkness. So the House I have built You will be Your House, a place for You to dwell in forever.”

Saturday, 8 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Holy Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures which first of all told us of the prayer of the king of Israel, Solomon, son of David, who prayed to God at the beginning of his reign asking for wisdom and good judgment, that God would bless him and help him to make up what he lacked in experience and ability. God blessed Solomon and praised his humility that he has not asked for worldly glory, wealth and power which were things commonly desired by those who were in power, like kings and lords.

God blessed Solomon for his steadfastness, honesty and sincerity, as Solomon readily admitted his youth and inexperience before Him, and also looked up to his father David as a great example he admired and aspired to follow in the actions he had taken in leading a righteous and just reign. God blessed Solomon with more than what he has earlier asked for, not just for wisdom and guidance, but even all those things which he had not asked for earlier on.

Solomon had a heavy responsibility and burden on his shoulders as king, especially as he succeeded his father David who had been very successful as king. David reunited the people of Israel once divided in civil war after the death of Saul, the previous king, and he also expanded the borders of the kingdom and brought great prestige and honour to the people of Israel. David provided a steady foundation that allowed Israel to enter into a great golden age, which continued and peaked under Solomon’s reign that God had blessed as He promised earlier on.

Solomon carried on his duties responsibly and reigned with great wisdom and justice over all of Israel, ruling Israel at the height of its glory and power. He also built the famous Temple of God, also known under its namesake the Temple of Solomon, upon the foundation and preparation that his father David had gathered beforehand. He was faithful to God for much of his reign, but unfortunately, if we read on more through the account of his reign from the Book of Kings, we will find it unfortunate that at his old age, Solomon began to be swayed by his many wives and concubines, many of whom continued to practice their pagan worship and customs.

Many of the successors of Solomon as kings in Israel and in Judah after the division of the kingdom were unfaithful to God and they led the people into sin, as they were the ones entrusted with the guidance over the people of God, and yet, they themselves were in error and led the people, the flock of God further away from their God and deeper into sin. And this is when we ought to look again into our Gospel passage today, when we heard about the Lord Jesus and His actions during His ministry with His disciples.

It was told that the Lord and His disciples were tired and exhausted after continuous work and encounter with many of the people who constantly brought their sick ones over for the Lord to heal them. And when they wanted to take a break, the Lord saw how many people were still coming to Him and seeking His help, even finding the way to discover where He and His disciples were despite their best effort to slip away. The Lord then continued to teach them and work, seeing how the people were like flock of sheep without a shepherd to guide them.

The Lord Jesus was the one and true King of Israel, Who as the Heir of David was the One promised by God to be the King that would sit on the throne of David and perpetuate his house. And yet, as the Lord Jesus Himself showed, His kingship was different from the many other kings of Israel who had not been faithful to God and led the people to the wrong paths. We can see how Jesus placed the needs of His people, His flock, above that of Himself, caring for their needs and loving them, even when He was tired and in need of rest.

Through all of these, God wants all of us to know that to be His followers and servants, to obey His will and commandments and to be the ones whom He had called and chosen, is something that will not be easy and straightforward for us. Those kings of Israel were chosen by God and had the obligation of being God’s vicars in taking care of God’s own people, the Israelites, but many of them fell to the many temptations present in our world, the temptations of money and wealth, of fame and glory, of lust and pleasures of the flesh among others.

As long as we allow our desires, pride, ego, ambition and all those temptations to mislead us, we will likely end up getting more and more distant from God and be like those who have not been faithful to their calling. The Lord Himself showed us what it means for us to work for the sake of the greater glory of God, which often requires sacrifices of time and energy, effort and resources. And today perhaps we should also look upon the good examples set by the two servants of God whose feasts we are celebrating.

St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Jerome Emiliani are two saints whose lives are truly extraordinary and they show us what being true and faithful disciples of the Lord is indeed about. They dedicated their lives in service to God, through prayers and work, that each and every one of us can also be inspired to follow in their footsteps too. If we are able to walk in their footsteps to follow the Lord, then we are heading in the right direction in life.

Let us begin first with St. Josephine Bakhita. She had a difficult early years of her life, being abducted from her family and community at a young age by slavers who made her into a slave and forced her to convert to a faith that was not her own. St. Josephine Bakhita had to endure much suffering as a slave and endured all sorts of humiliation and difficulties when she was treated less than a proper human being, sold from one place to another, until eventually she met her last employers, the Italian Vice Consul in Khartoum, Sudan who treated her well and eventually passed her on to another Italian family, who then gave St. Josephine Bakhita to encounter Christ for the first time through the Canossian Sisters when circumstances put her under their care.

Through the help of many people, St. Josephine Bakhita eventually was freed from her slavery with the support of the court and the authorities, and she became a Christian, and in time, joined the Canossian sisters into religious life. Her past, painful and difficult experiences in life did not make her to be bitter in life. On the contrary, she worked devoutly and always remembered the suffering of her people in Africa throughout her many years living as part of the Canossians, leading her to be well-respected by everyone for her faith and dedication to God.

She also forgave her abductors, persecutors and all those who had given her a terrible life during her first and early years. She would even thank and bless them, as she said that were it not for them, she would not have become a Christian and to be where she was then. It was God who called her out of slavery, much as how He liberated His people out of Egypt, and gave her a new life, to be a testimony of His glory and wonderful works among His people, and St. Josephine Bakhita’s life is indeed a powerful testimony of her faith.

Meanwhile, St. Jerome Emiliani was a man who ran away from his family during his teenage years to join the military, and then became official in the government. He encountered God through miraculous survival from a siege, which he attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God, which gradually began to touch his life, and in his later years, St. Jerome Emiliani dedicated himself to the care of the poor and orphans, those who are sick, opening houses and places to be where they can be taken care of and treated.

St. Jerome Emiliani was thus known for his extensive labours of charity, opening hospitals and orphanages, as well as dormitories for former prostitutes, caring for many and touching the lives of countless thousands. Together with some priests who supported his efforts, eventually St. Jerome Emiliani laid the foundations for the Congregation of Regular Clerics, composed of all those who share the same ideals and charity of St. Jerome Emiliani, in reaching out to the people of God, especially the less fortunate and weaker ones among them.

St. Jerome Emiliani embodied what the Lord Jesus Himself had done as described in our Gospel passage today, in caring for the needs of the poor and the needy, consoling orphans and all those who seek God for help. Together with St. Josephine Bakhita, they truly show us what true Christian virtues and charity are all about, and how each and every one of us are also able to follow in their footsteps to serve God in our own capacities and with our own abilities and talents.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing and able to follow in our predecessors’ footsteps? Are we capable to making the commitment to serve God as we should? Let us all ponder on this and reflect on how we can probably be better Christians and disciples of Christ from now on through our lives and through our commitment to live up to our calling as those whom the Lord has called to be His followers and disciples. May the Lord be our guide and may He strengthen us all in faith, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 8 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Holy Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Saturday, 8 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Holy Virgins or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 118 : 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

How can young people remain pure? By living according to Your word.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my YHVH.

Praise to You, o YHVH; instruct me in Your statutes.

That, with my lips, I may declare all Your spoken decrees.

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.