Saturday, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that God is so full of love and mercy towards us, that He is willing to forgive us all our sins and to give us once again the wondrous graces and love, the promise of inheritance that we have once been entitled to, through the forgiveness of our sins. Although our sins may have indeed been very great, but God’s love for each one of us is even greater.

That is why He was willing to give it all to us, for our sake, that He willingly carried the heavy burden of the cross, so that by His suffering on the cross and by His death, He frees us all from the bondage of sin and death. The cross of Christ is the perfect symbol and evidence of His love for each one of us, of the great desire which Our Lord has for our salvation and for our turnaround from the path towards damnation, into reconciliation with Him.

God is calling on all of us to repent from our sins, and to turn away from our wicked paths, calling on us to abandon our past ways of disobedience and waywardness, our refusal to listen to Him and our stubbornness in following our own prideful and ambitious ways. God gives us opportunities, one after another, chances after chances, for us to turn back to Him, and to seek Him and His mercy before it is too late for us.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord Jesus confronted the Pharisees who criticised Him for His interactions with those whom they deemed to be sinners and to be unworthy of God’s grace and love. The tax collectors were among those who were at the bottom of the society’s regards and status, as they were widely viewed as betrayers and traitors to the nation for having apparently colluded with the Roman overlords.

But the Lord showed pity and mercy towards them, even when the Pharisees were criticising Him before the people for doing so. And the Lord made it clear that He came into the world seeking the healing and forgiveness of sinners, and those whose sins were greater, were those whom the Lord sought first, as He hoped to rescue them from the fate of eternal damnation. And many of the tax collectors were sorrowful and repentant of their sins, and they were forgiven.

And we heard how one among the tax collectors left everything behind and followed the Lord, the man who was known as Levi, later known as St. Matthew the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles and also one of the Four Evangelists. This example shows us how even great sinners can become great saints, as long as they turn away from their sinful ways and sincerely repented from their wickedness. Those who turn towards God and placed their trust in Him will indeed not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realise that none of us are perfect in our ways, and in some way or another, we have not been fully obedient and good, and therefore, sins have corrupted us and caused us to fall deeper and deeper into this trap, and being led further and further away in estrangement from the Lord. We should not follow the examples of the Pharisees, who took great pride in their supposed piety and righteousness.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because it does not matter how small or how great our sins are, as the fact remains that we are all sinners in need of healing and forgiveness. And it does not give any one of us the right to condemn or look down on others just because we think that our sins are lighter and smaller than others’ sins. It is not right for us to be judgmental on others just because we think that we are better than them.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances of Rome, a holy woman and religious Benedictine oblate who was remembered for her devotion and piety, despite her noble and privileged upbringing. St. Frances of Rome often took care of the sick and the poor that she encountered, and despite the various challenges that she and her family had to experience, she continued to live a holy life that is dedicated to the service of God, and in her charitable love for her brethren who were in need.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are called to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, in how they lived their lives with holiness, turning away from sins and wickedness. God is calling each and every one of us to holiness, to be forgiven from our sins, that we may be redeemed from our bondage to that great obstacle which prevented us from being able to be reunited with our God.

Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, our time, effort and attention, to love the Lord our God and to serve our fellow brethren, to care for those who are in need. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in our love and dedication for Him. May God bless us all and our good works. Amen.

Saturday, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 27-32

At that time, after Jesus healed a paralytic man, He went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax office, He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.

Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”

Saturday, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o YHVH, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life, for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Saturday, 9 March 2019 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word. If you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.

YHVH will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; He will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fall. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses.

If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred YHVH’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in YHVH, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of YHVH has spoken.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 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 and Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God reminding us to remain virtuous and faithful in life, especially with the emphasis on faith and fidelity in our love for one another, in the married life between a man and a woman, the foundation of all Christian families. Through the Scripture passages that we heard today, we are reminded to put our faith and trust, especially in our marriage and family life, in God, and not in any other things.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the king Herod Antipas got himself into a very serious sin of murder because of his lack of faith in God, which caused him to fall into the temptations of lust and human desire, as well as ego and pride, that made him to commit even more and more heinous acts and sins against God. He committed adultery by taking the legal Herodias, the wife of his own brother Philip, and made her to be his queen, while his brother was still alive and legally married to Herodias.

St. John the Baptist spoke up against this heinous act and immoral behaviour, which went up against the Law of God and the moral conduct of the society. For his outspokenness and his stand against the king, St. John the Baptist was arrested and put into prison. Herodias held grudge against the saint for what he had blatantly and fearlessly mentioned before all, the sin of adultery that she and Herod had committed.

That was why in today’s Gospel passage we heard of how Herodias tried to achieve this by manipulating Herod, through her daughter, who was very beautiful and seductive, as she danced during a party that Herod had thrown for his nobles and guests. Herod was mesmerised by her performance and probably swayed under influence of the party and even alcohol, began making unrealistic promises and oaths before her, overcome by his desire and lust.

And this was when Satan struck, by making use of the opportunity through Herodias and her daughter, to force Herod’s hand into committing a great sin. Herod had not wanted to deal harm to St. John the Baptist even though he had arrested him and put him into prison, but as he made all those promises and oaths to the daughter of Herodias, when the mother instigated her to ask for the head of St. John the Baptist, Herod was trapped and could not refuse the request before his guests and nobles.

In all of these, we saw how when God is not at the centre of our family and married life, then we will end up having a lot of troubles, temptations of the desires of the flesh and the greed within our hearts, lust for things that are immoral and improper in the sight of God and men alike. That was how Herod and Herodias sinned, and that was also how countless others among us mankind also had sinned. Marriages and families have been destroyed by those corrupt desires and sin.

Today all of us are called to return to the true faith in God, and anchor ourselves, our marriage and family lives for all those who have families and been married, in God. Unless we do this, we will end up bringing harm and destruction to us and to our loved ones. Satan is always busy at work trying to strike at us, and even when we are faithful, we saw how St. John the Baptist was treated. He suffered many rejections, people who doubted and accused him, and was martyred for his courage in faith.

But all of these should not discourage us from living our lives with faith. Instead, they should become inspiration for us to be even more courageous and dedicated in living our lives with sincere love and genuine faith for God. Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints whose exemplary life and commitment to God should become inspiration to each and every one of us in how we ought to be living our individual and respective lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a soldier who turned into a priest and loving servant of God and His people, after conversion experience and intercession by the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time of troubles. He became well-known for his care of many orphans whom he encountered, all those who experienced sorrow and sadness, suffering and pain for the loss of their loved ones. They had no one to take care of them, but St. Jerome Emiliani took care of them, fed them and showed them much love.

He founded a religious order, gathering those who were like-minded and having the same desire to serve the poor and all those children of God who were suffering and had no one to take care of them. And he continued to minister to the people, particularly the poor, the orphans as mentioned earlier, the sick and those who were dying. St. Jerome Emiliani did not let up on his work, and ministered to all, dying in his duty as he contracted illness as he cared for the sick.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was once a slave, who was enslaved by slavers and made to suffer many terrible experiences as a slave, as someone who had virtually no rights at all, and she had to endure many insults to her dignity as a human being. Eventually, she became the servant to an Italian family, who was the Vice Consul of Italy in the region where she was in, today’s Sudan. And that was how she gained her freedom, as she left her old life of slavery behind and became a free woman.

She became a Catholic after being inspired through the experience of her freedom, and after baptism, she decided to dedicate her life to God for the rest of her life, and join the religious order of the Canossian sisters, and she was a very dedicated servant of God and of her fellow sisters, and praying at all times for all those who shared the painful experiences of her slavery and for all others in Africa, who were suffering from abject poverty and abuse of human rights.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these faithful and loving servants of the Lord? In their own ways, St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita have shown us how we can truly be faithful in our daily lives, and also filled with love for one another and for God, by loving those who are in our midst, and putting aside all the temptations and the desires of our body and flesh. We are called to be faithful, and to resist all the efforts that Satan had put in place, to cause us to fall into sin.

Let us all pray and work together, that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church may come together united and strong in our faith, beginning from our families, where each and every one of our families are the important foundations of the Church and our faith life. Let us all strive to do our best to emulate the good examples showed by our holy predecessors and do our best to love one another and to love the Lord, putting Him at the centre of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

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.

Friday, 8 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.