Friday, 25 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Popes or Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us to be true to our promises and words, and not to show that our words cannot be trusted or upheld. If our words cannot be trusted, then all the more the Lord Who knows what is in our hearts, will not show us His favour. For the Lord does not want in His presence, all those who lie and are untrustworthy.

For the Lord Himself is an ever-faithful God, Who upholds every single promises He made and truly means whatever He said and is faithful to every words that came out from His mouth. When He promised all of us, that He would save us from certain destruction because of our sins, and give us the Saviour and Deliverer, He did that perfectly, and faithfully, even unto the giving of Himself as the perfect Sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross.

He gave Himself to us so completely, that He was willing to bear the weight of the cross for our sake, and not just the physical weight of the wooden cross, but the true weight of the cross, which is the combined weight of the sins of man, which the Lord bore willingly upon Himself, that we do not have to bear the consequences for those sins which we have committed. That is just how much commitment the Lord has for all of us.

Unfortunately, it is us man, who often break our promises, which we made to God, and which we also made to one another. In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees, on the matter of marriage and its importance, as the latter argued that divorce should be allowed as in the laws of God passed on through Moses, the Lord allowed for a person to divorce his or her spouse, providing a certain settlement had been made.

However, the Lord Jesus revealed the truth about His true intention, and the truth behind God’s laws. He said that the Lord only allowed His people to do as the Pharisees contended, that is the matter of divorce, because they were so stubborn and were so wicked with their adulterous behaviour, that He granted them that permission, so that they would not commit even more sin of adultery than what they had done.

God never intended to allow the practice of divorce, and in fact, reiterated the importance of the vow of marriage and its sanctity. A marriage is a sacrament in the eyes of the Church, where a man and a woman made solemn promises to each other, to remain with each other, in times of good and in times of hardships, and through whatever life may throw at them. A marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, blessed and confirmed by God, and as the Lord Jesus made it clear, that what God had united, no one, no man, should ever dissolve.

Now, let us see the sorry state and reality in our world today, where the institution of marriage and the family is under constant attack. There are increasingly more and more occasions of divorces and broken families, due to various reasons, but primarily, infidelity and adultery between each of the married couples. And increasingly, people become more and more accustomed to see such practices and even allow them to flourish.

In the present world, we take our marriage vows and promises lightly, and are easily tempted by the pleasures of the flesh, and the temptation of materialism and greed. That is why so many marriages ended up being broken, and many children are left abandoned or troubled as a result. But the Lord reminded all of us through the Scripture passages we heard today, that we as Christians, must be faithful to each other, and ultimately to God Himself, just as He had been faithful to the promises He made to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, let us all reflect on our own respective lives, in all of our dealings and actions, in how we have interacted with each other. How many of us have that tendency to go back on our words and promises, or tell lies in order to gain advantage for ourselves? How many of us do not keep our promises even to our closest ones? I am sure many of us would remember the times when we have faltered in this regard.

The main reason for this is that we cannot overcome our pride, our ego and desire. We want satisfaction and good things to come to us, and it may happen that others suffer because of our pride, ego and desire, and our inability to resist those pressures and temptations. Now, it is important that each and every one of us learn to resist and do our best to overcome these temptations to be unfaithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we remember the memory of a few holy saints of God, namely St. Bede the Venerable, an English monk who devoted himself to his faith in God, and completely entrusted his life to Him, spending his time writing his many works about the faith, many of which still survived through the centuries to this very day. And then, we also remember Pope St. Gregory VII, the Successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ, remembered especially for the bitter struggle he had with the secular ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor, who wished to impose his power and will over the Church.

This holy Pope refused to give in to the demands of the Emperor, who demanded sovereignty over the bishops in his domains, and defended the rights of the Church, and stayed true to the faith and the commitment, despite the challenges from the Emperor and his nobles. Finally, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was an Italian Carmelite nun who was remembered for her intense dedication to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, spending hours after hours in devout prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow the examples of these holy predecessors of ours. We should be more faithful in all of our deeds, and do our best to follow the Lord our God, in all that He has taught us to do. Let us deepen our relationship with Him, and spend more time in prayer. May God be with us always, ever faithful to His Covenant, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 25 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Popes or Virgins)

Mark 10 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus then left that place and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more crowds gathered around Him and once more He taught them as He always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put Him to the test with this question, “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?”

He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.” Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined.”

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked Him about this, and He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery.”

Friday, 25 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Popes or Virgins)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11-12

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger; He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

Friday, 25 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, and Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Popes or Virgins)

James 5 : 9-12

Beloved, do not fight among yourselves and you will not be judged. See, the Judge is already at the door. Take for yourselves, as an example of patience, the suffering of the prophets, who spoke in the Lord’s Name. See how those who were patient are called blessed. You have heard of the patience of Job and know how the Lord dealt with him in the end. For the Lord is merciful and shows compassion.

Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth, or make a habit of swearing. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, lest you become liable for judgment.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord wants to remind us through the Sacred Scriptures, that the way for us to take if we want to be faithful and committed disciples of His, is for us to embrace humility, to be steeped in faith and love, and to be devoted wholeheartedly to God. We should not be tempted by the many temptations of power and worldly glory.

There are indeed numerous ways by which the devil is trying very hard, in order to bring about our downfall. One way is through the temptation of worldly riches, glory and power. In the first reading today, from the Epistle of St. James, we heard how we crave and desire for things, that even lead to us hurting one another, or even leading to murder and killing.

That is the extent in which we are ready to go, in order to satisfy what we want, to fulfil our desires and to please ourselves, our physical bodies in particular. We bicker without end and strive to gain more things and more pleasures for ourselves, as we cannot be satisfied easily, and our desires will only end up growing more and more, and our ego also end up getting more and more bloated.

And the more we are influenced by our desires, pride and ego, the more likely we will end up hurting and causing harm to others around us. The Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples for precisely this reason, as they were bickering and fighting among themselves for favour and influence in the Lord’s inner circle. They were fighting over who should be the greatest among His disciples, and hence, the greatest in the kingdom of God to come.

But they did not realise that all sorts of worldly power, grandeur, fame, greatness, influence and indulgences are nothing and meaningless in God’s sight. God does not seek or value all these fleeting things, which are merely temporary and which are perishable. None of those things will last forever, and we will not have them with us forever. Instead, the Lord called upon us all to follow His way, that is, to be like little children in our faith.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord Jesus alluded to the children and why we need to be like them in our faith, as those children, at that age, are still innocent, and they will believe with a pure heart, without the taint of ambition, ego, desire, pride and greed. Unlike many of us, we have been tempted with the temptations of power, of fame, of glory, of wealth and all sorts of things that distract us from our faith in God.

Thus, we are all called to resist the temptations of the world, and to believe in God wholeheartedly as a child would have. We should listen to the Lord and purge from ourselves, all sorts of pride and ambition, and all sorts of greed and desire, indulgement in which is unbecoming for us all as Christians. Instead, we are called to a holier life, based on active faith and devotion to God.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a faithful and devout woman, and a dedicated religious, who have given her entire life to the service of the Lord in prayer. St. Rita of Cascia was a prayerful and dedicated woman and mother, who loved her family greatly, and having encountered tragedy in the family, as her husband was assassinated by a rival family, she remained resolute in her faith and commitment to her family.

Her sons wanted to have a revenge at those who have murdered their father. However, St. Rita of Cascia strongly dissuaded them from doing so, with words of love, care and compassion. And when they were at risk of committing sin because of their impulsiveness and desire for vengeance, she prayed to God, asking Him to take them away from this world, rather than to have them commit sin and then fall into hell. Her prayers were heard in the end.

After her family’s passing, she dedicated herself further to the Lord by joining a convent, as a religious woman dedicated to a life of prayer and service to God. St. Rita of Cascia showed such an exemplary life and faith, that she was eventually raised to the Altar as a saint after her passing, and she continued to inspire many generations of the faithful up to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should reflect on the examples that the faithful St. Rita of Cascia had shown us. Let us all then seek to live a good and devout Christian life, that we endeavour to gain for ourselves, not for the glories and the goodness of this world, that is wealth, fame, pleasures of the body, and all sorts of temptations we often encounter in life, but instead, know how to seek God, and place Him at the very centre of our lives. May the Lord be with us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 54 : 7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

I said, “If I had wings, like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest; I would seek a home in the desert.”

“I would hurry to find a cave, for shelter from the tempest.” O YHVH, shatter their plans.

In the city, I see strife and violence; day and night, they prowl about its walls.

Place your burden on YHVH, and He will sustain you; for He never allows the upright to fall.