Thursday, 29 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate the feast of the three siblings, St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus, who were featured prominently in the Gospels as friends of the Lord, as well as His close followers and disciples. They were mentioned in various parts of the Gospels, as St. Martha and St. Mary were depicted in the Gospel passage today as having welcomed the Lord to their place, and how both of them later on also had a moment with the Lord when their brother, St. Lazarus passed away from sickness before the Lord resurrected him from the dead.

St. Martha was the one who welcomed the Lord to her place and then made herself busy in preparing all the hospitality, the food and all for the special guest that came to her house, while St. Mary waited by the Lord’s side, listening to Him speaking and teaching her while St. Martha was very busy with her chores and works. When St. Martha saw that her sister was not helping her with her work, and complained to the Lord that St. Mary should be asked to help her in the kitchen with her preparations, the Lord kindly told St. Martha that her sister did the right thing, by choosing to stay by His side and listening to Him.

Both St. Martha and St. Mary loved the Lord and were faithful to Him in their own ways, and it does not mean that each one’s method is better than the other. Rather, the Lord wanted to remind us all through that occasion and example, that we must first and foremost focus our attention to the Lord, to His truth and His love, and then we have to do our labours and work of love for the Lord just as St. Martha had done. But we must be careful not to allow the works and labours to distract us and end up making us fall into the desire for satisfaction and inner pride.

Neither should we allow ourselves forget about the Lord just because we want to do things to glorify Him. This was done to much greater harm by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as they were outwardly pious and faithful, and yet, they spent most of their time and actions, focusing on praising themselves and indulging in adulation and fame, enjoying their popularity and praises from others. It is because of this that they had forgotten what it is that they were charged with, as the guardians of the Law and the faith of the people. In the end, they became elitist and exclusionists, refusing to admit others to their elite faith and devotion to a fault.

St. Lazarus on the other side showed us all the virtue of having faith and staying true to the Lord, Who is the Master of all and the Lord of all, of the living and the dead. Through his resurrection from the dead, the Lord showed His might before all, and how beloved each and every one of us have been, all these while, that God would not let death to claim all of us and destroy us. From the beginning, we have been destined to destruction and suffering due to our sins, our disobedience against God, and yet, God rescued all of us, and restored us through His love.

He promised us all His salvation, which came true through Christ, His beloved Son, sent into this world to be with us and to dwell among us. He revealed His truth and love to us, and called us all to return to Him, to be reconciled and reunited with Him. He told St. Martha and St. Mary not to be worried and to have faith in Him, when St. Lazarus was sick and eventually died before He reached him. The Lord told the two sisters that He is indeed the Resurrection and the Life, the Master of all, in Whom all of us can trust, and hold firm in.

The wonderful faith and interactions between St. Lazarus and his sisters, St. Mary and St. Martha, as shown by the latter’s great sorrow at his passing and their unsurpassed joy at his resurrection are great model and inspiration for all of us in our own Christian communities, among all the faithful people of God. And their mutual love for the Lord, their dedication and commitment to His cause are also great inspiration for us to follow, as those who believe in the Lord and who should be inspired by their faith and commitment, their love for God above others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord with a new heart and spirit, strengthened by this love we ought to have for Him, and let us persevere in each and every moments of our lives, that we may glorify Him by our actions and works, and in all things, we may always aspire to the faith showed by St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus, holy siblings dedicated to the Lord. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 29 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 11 : 19-27

At that time, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that He will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

Alternative reading

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Thursday, 29 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Thursday, 29 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 7-16

My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves, is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love have not known God, for God is love. How did the love of God appear among us? God sent His only Son into this world, that we might have life, through Him.

This is love : not that we loved God, but that, He first loved us and sent His Son, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if such has been the love of God, we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love comes to its perfection in us.

How may we know that we live in God and He in us? Because God has given us His Spirit. We ourselves have seen, and declare, that the Father sent His Son to save the world. Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in them, and they in God. We have known the love of God and have believed in it. God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Thursday, 22 July 2021 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the closest followers of the Lord Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. St. Mary Magdalene was mentioned several times in the Gospels, as one of the most fervent disciple of the Lord. She was according to some traditions, the repentant woman and adulterer, or prostitute who had turned towards the Lord and became His disciple. In the same tradition, the Lord also exorcised seven demons or evil spirits from her.

St. Mary Magdalene was honoured by the Church because she has indeed shown faith and dedication as one of the Lord’s closest followers, who have followed Him throughout His ministry, and dedicated herself to Him and His cause, staying by His side even throughout His Passion, His suffering and death, being there with Mary, the Mother of God, by the foot of the Cross. And she was also there when the Lord first made His appearance again after He has risen from the dead.

For this reason, St. Mary Magdalene has often been considered the Equal of the Apostles, since the very beginning of the Church, and she is also known as the Apostle to the Apostles, being the one who brought the Good News of the Lord’s Resurrection to the assembled Apostles on the day of His glorious Resurrection. It was St. Mary Magdalene who joyfully broke the news of the Lord’s return to the disciples who were fearful and afraid after having lost their Lord and Master, and it was St. Mary Magdalene who once again inflamed their hearts with hope.

St. Mary Magdalene was just an ordinary woman, and according to some tradition, even was an unworthy woman in the eyes of people like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as if she was a prostitute as some tradition mentioned, then she was truly a filthy and unclean person that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law considered as less than human beings, as sinners that were condemned to damnation and destruction because of their vices and sinful actions. This attitude and prejudice remained even though those prostitutes and others like the tax collectors and people who suffered from diseases and demonic possession could repent and turn away from their sinful ways.

But the example of St. Mary Magdalene showed all of us that there is no end for sinners, and there is bright future even for those who have been great sinners, no matter how unworthy they are before the Lord and man alike. St. Mary Magdalene and her conversion to the faith and her commitment to the Lord showed us that God called and chose all of His people even from among those deemed as the most unworthy, that they might turn towards the light and inspire others to follow their examples as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are also called to follow in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, to be converts to the true faith and to redirect ourselves and our focus on the Lord. Though we are sinners and we may have been unworthy, but God through His love has always ever been so generous in His kindness and patience, in reaching out to us and calling on us to repent from our sins. In God alone we can find healing and redemption from our sins, and the story of St. Mary Magdalene is a proof and assurance for us, that even great sinners can become great saints.

What truly matters is our focus and internal disposition towards the Lord. We are all called to respond to His call to holiness and to abandon our past, sinful lives, as St. Mary Magdalene had done, and then respond to the call to be part of the Church’s mission, that is to testify for our faith and to be the bearers of God’s truth and Good News to all of His people, as St. Mary Magdalene herself had done when she brought forth the news of the Lord’s resurrection and broke the wonderful news to them, despite many of them at that time not believing in her words.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, following her piety and faith, her humility to follow the Lord and casting aside our past sinfulness. Just as she humbled herself in one occasion, to wipe the Lord’s feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, let us all tearfully and sorrowfully also seek the Lord, full of regret and sorrow over our sins and waywardness. Let us all turn away from all those that are evil, and face the Lord once again with true and genuine love, and be the source of inspiration in faith for one another.

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may courageously follow Him with greater zeal and dedication, in each and every moments of our lives, and that we should persevere with faith, no matter what challenges, trials and temptations we may encounter. Let us all sinners be sinners no more, throwing away the shackles of our sins by the Lord’s grace and forgiveness, and be fully reconciled and reunited with Him. May God bless us all and His Church, all of His faithful ones, all the same, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 22 July 2021 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-2, 11-18

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two Angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and answered Him, “Lord, if You have taken Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will go and remove Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to Him, “Rabboni!” – which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them : I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.”

So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what He said to me.”