Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the promises of God’s salvation which He made to His servant Isaiah, in our first reading passage today, with the comforting words that God will once again cherish and bless His people, which by the time of Isaiah had faced much difficulty and many trials, and how God will bless them all and make them whole again.

And the fulfilment of these prophecies had been made through Christ, the Saviour of the world, of whom Isaiah spoke extensively about. And God has called on all of us to come to Him and to gather in His presence and receive from Him grace and peace forever. But unfortunately, many of us rejected Him, ignored His call and turned a deaf ear to His pleas to seek our reconciliation with Him.

That is why, in our Gospel today, we heard the Lord gathering little children to Himself and told all of His disciples that unless they were to be like those little children in their faith and in their lives, they would have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. And this came right after the disciples were arguing and debating among themselves on who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven and amongst Christ’s disciples and followers.

The Lord therefore reminds them all that to be His followers we must be humble, make ourselves small and insignificant, for it was our hubris and ego that had led us to our downfall. It was our desire for power, influence, worldly glory, fame, wealth that led us to a path of disobedience and wickedness, and thus these made us to commit sin against God.

And it is not easy for us to be faithful as the Lord had called us to be, to be like little children in our faith, whose faith are pure and without strings attached to worldly desires and temptations. Often, we have too much in mind to be able to focus our attention on God, unlike those little children, whose attention can be wholly centred on Him, as they have not yet been affected by all sorts of worldly matters and concerns.

This is where perhaps we should look upon the examples set by our famous saint of the day, whose life and philosophy embody exactly this call for us to be ‘childlike’ in our faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of Child Jesus and as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’, was a Discalced Carmelite nun who has been very popular during her life and especially more so after her passing. She inspired many people by her virtuous life and was renowned for her ‘Little Way’.

St. Therese certainly did not have an easy life or vocation as a religious, as she was often sickly in her youth, although she was indeed brought up in a loving and devout family. Family tragedy struck early as her mother passed away when she was still a very young child. And St. Therese was also bullied and often suffered in school. She endured all these patiently and with faith.

When one of her elder sister joined the Carmelite nuns, St. Therese was devastated but this in itself led her to desire to join the Carmelites as well. She was often told that she was still too young and her poor health also made it difficult. St. Therese also began to experience spiritual visions which would be more frequent later in her life. It was then on the Christmas Eve of the Year of Our Lord 1886 that she experienced a complete conversion of her soul.

From that point onwards, St. Therese began a new journey of faith, overcoming her sensitivities and self desires, a victory over the desires of the flesh and body, and dedicating herself ever more to God. As she eventually entered the Carmelite monastery after several more years of trials and struggles, and throughout her later time as a postulant and novice religious sister, being devoted and dedicated to the Lord.

And the hallmark of her faith and idea is known as the ‘Little Way’ in which St. Therese put forward the view that in order for us to follow God, what we really ought to do is to be faithful to Him in all things, even in the simplest and smallest of actions. We are called to be faithful through simple and little actions in life. This is what we all need to do, in order to be faithful as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have just heard about St. Therese of Lisieux today, and from the reflections of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to be faithful to God at all times, and to do this through our lives, each and every day of them. Often we have ignored these as we are too busy pursuing worldly ambitions and desires, and by temptations we faced, we have been lured away by desire to walk down the wrong path in life.

This is why we are called to be like little children in our faith, to be genuine in our faith and dedication in God, be more humble and reject all the temptations of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire among others. This is not something easily done as we are often surrounded by all these every moment of our lives, and unless we make a concerted effort to resist those temptations we will falter and fall into sin.

And in addition to that, we often remain passive and inactive in our Christian life because we thought that we cannot do anything significant in the matter of our faith. And this is where we are wrong, as even little actions and commitments are part of that journey of faith, and all of our little actions and contributions combined together, will become a great effort indeed. That is why we really have to embrace God’s call to be witnesses of our faith and as missionaries to spread the Good News of God by our dedication and actions in life.

Let us all therefore strive to be faithful to God at all times, in every little actions we do in our lives, that by following the examples of St. Therese of Child Jesus, the Little Flower of Carmel, we may indeed become truly committed to God and no longer ensnared by the temptations in life. May God help and guide us in this journey, and bless us in our every good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us all! Amen.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 1-3

O YHVH, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child, on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in YHVH, o Israel, now and forever.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 66 : 10-14

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

For it shall be known that YHVH’s hand is with His servant, but His fury is upon His enemy.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded today through our Scripture passages of our Christian calling, that is to be filled with love and charity, as well as to be humble and not to boast of our own glory and might, but instead, focus our attention on God and do what He has commanded each and every one of us to do, in understanding His will and obeying His Law with genuine faith.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Apostle St. Paul an exhortation he made in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, for all of them not to look down on others or to be judgmental and comparative, to feel superior to others and to be biased. And by using the examples of himself and the other Apostles, by showing and reminding everyone how they had humbled themselves and laboured so hard for the sake of the people, despite being the leaders of the community, the intention of St. Paul was to remind all of us to be humble and to focus ourselves on God.

It is very easy for us to be tempted by the temptation of ego and pride, to think of ourselves as better and superior, and that others are not as good as ourselves. And this is very common temptation that we often face whenever we do our work as part of the Church, in our communities and Church ministries, and even in our interactions and activities in the general community.

By our nature, we are easily tempted to think that we cannot go wrong, and that it must have been because of another’s fault that we end up in trouble. And we also tend to point out another’s mistake first rather than recognising, less still pointing out our own mistake. And all of these were caused by the pride and ego in us, and they are among the biggest obstacles in the path of our journey of faith.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the account of how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticising the Lord’s disciples and followers before Him just because they picked on the grains of wheat in the field and eating them as they were hungry. All these happened on the day of the Sabbath, on the day which was supposed to be holy and dedicated to God, and of which there were rules and regulations related to this holy day.

The Sabbath is the holiest day in the week, and the Law of God stipulated that the day ought to be kept free from busy things in life and the usual activities, all for the intention of helping God’s people to refocus their attention on Him and spend quality time with Him, which is why the Sabbath day is also known as the Day of the Lord. It is what we also keep today in our observance of Sundays as the Days of the Lord, celebrating His resurrection and glory.

But over time, the Law was interpreted by the elders and the priests, passed down as increasingly strict sets of rules and regulations that severely restricted the activities of the people, and in time, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law embodied it, the obsession over the petty details of the Law of the Sabbath made many to forget the very reason, purpose and essence of Sabbath itself. The Law was enforced very strictly on the people, and those who did not obey fully, were looked down upon and despised like what the Pharisees did to the Lord and His disciples.

It was exactly what we have just discussed earlier, on the matter of pride and ego which misled the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord rebuked these people as misguided leaders and shepherds, who have indulged so much in their own sense of superiority that they had forgotten to lead the people on the right path, showing them guidance and compassion. Instead, they indulged in praise and fame they received from the people, and became haughty and arrogant.

That was why the Lord immediately reminded the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who criticised and attacked His disciples, that even the well-respected and adored king David in his time, gave his followers bread to eat when they were on the run from the authorities and were very hungry. And those bread in fact, were not just any bread, but bread reserved only for the priests to eat, and not for any one else.

The Lord wants to remind us through these, that we must not be distracted and tempted by pride, and we must not look at the Law of God, His commandments and laws at merely face value only. If we only appreciate these at face value only, then what we are doing is essentially just skimming the surface of God’s truth and will on the surface, without deep foundation and genuine understanding on what it means for us to be Christians.

If we act in ways that show prejudice on others, being judgmental and biased, being superficial in faith, then all of us need to realise that this is not what our Christian faith is about. And if we think that we are all good, righteous and more worthy than others, then we need to change our mindset and perspective. Today, we have a great role model whom we can look upon as an inspiration and example to follow in how we ought to live up a genuine Christian faith.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, also better known during her lifetime and after as the Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was a religious remembered well for her zeal and courage in reaching out to care for those who were sick and suffering, especially in the worst of conditions, as it was in Calcutta in India where many if not most of the people lived in abject poverty in slums and terrible conditions not fit for human habitation and life.

An Albanian Catholic girl, who chose to join religious life in her youth, and then thereafter came to India as part of her mission, St. Teresa of Kolkata came to know of these immense suffering endured by many of the poor in Calcutta outside her convent walls. As she came to experience more and more of these sad realities of life, she began to hear the calling to make a difference in the lives of those whom she had seen suffering so much.

That was how St. Teresa of Kolkata chose to embark on a new journey, venturing out from the convent and embracing instead the poor, the sick and those dying in the slums and in the streets, giving love, care and comfort to those who had no one to love them, those who had been treated as less than human beings, and showed them the face of God’s love. It was certainly not easy for her especially at the start of her new mission, and she faced plenty of obstacles and opposition, but her conviction, zeal and love for the poor and the dying helped her to overcome all those obstacles.

Many had been touched by St. Teresa of Kolkata and her tireless efforts for many decades, as she established the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation dedicated to follow in her drive and passion to help the least and the poorest, those who are suffering all around the world. To those who are not suffering in the way those poorest in Calcutta, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity also reached out to those who had none to love and comfort them.

For all of these, St. Teresa of Kolkata was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize as well as great renown. But what she was very well-remembered for was her speech, in which she mentioned that ‘she was just an instrument, a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. St. Teresa of Kolkata remained personally humble and dedicated to her mission, and even as she struggled to overcome her many challenges, the temptations of the devil, we can see in her, a great and shining example of Christian virtue and faith, that each and every one of us can follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the inspiring virtues and examples of St. Teresa of Kolkata, being humble in our everyday life, humble before God and man alike, and place our focus constantly on God, as we live our lives joyfully in serving Him and in loving Him, in showing His love to one another, just as St. Teresa of Kolkata had done, sharing the genuine love of God to all man, especially to those who are most vulnerable, weakest and least loved by all.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa, pray for us all that we too may follow in your footsteps, in loving our brothers and sisters, in showing genuine love, care and compassion, that we may live our lives as genuine Christians centred on God and not on ourselves or our selfish desires. May the Lord be with us always, and guide us in this journey of life in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, YHVH has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of YHVH, let every creature praise His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example, not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How, then, are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings, without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me, that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place. We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you, as very dear children. Because, even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one Father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard of the exhortation for us to be holy, to be good and ever righteous in the presence of God, to be ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again as He has promised. And that is why we must dedicate our whole lives in His service and to be ever committed in our faith, not to be lax or complacent in living that faith, or else, we may regret it when the time of reckoning comes.

In our Gospel passage today, this is very well illustrated with the parable of the faithful servant and the bad servant, using the example of those servants to highlight what will happen to us should we take the Lord’s words seriously, or if we choose instead to ignore Him and continue to reject what He has called us to do in our lives. Unless we listen wholeheartedly to God’s words calling us and speaking to us in the depth of our hearts, we will be easily swayed and tempted to abandon His path.

The parable highlighted first of all, the two types of servants, one that is diligent and conscientious of all that he had been entrusted with, while the other servant was lazy and thought that the master would not come back so soon, and did not do as he had been tasked to, and instead abused his authority and treated his fellow workers and those under his authority badly for his own selfish desires.

The servants represent us, brothers and sisters in Christ, all the sons and daughters of man. All of us have been entrusted by God for our various tasks and callings in life. And this passage is a reminder that whatever we do in life, whatever we say and act, and how we interact with one another, all of these are significant and they will count on the moment of our reckoning, be it at the end of our lives or when the Lord finally comes again into this world.

The faithful and diligent servant represent those who have listened to the Lord, obeyed His commandments, and did everything as he or she had been told and taught through the teachings and laws of the Church. Meanwhile, the lazy and bad servant are those who ignored the teachings and laws of the Lord as held by His Church, and those who preferred to live their lives their own way, without regards for the path that the Lord had set before us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in our readings today, as St. Paul highlighted in our first reading today that, for all of us the faithful people of God, we have been assured of the glory of God and the eternal joy that will be ours. However, we need to trust in God and put our faith in Him, or else, because of our lack of faith, we are the ones who make ourselves stumble in rejecting the surety of the glory of God and instead, exchange it for the temporary pleasures and glory of the world.

Do we want to be like that lazy and bad servant who slacked and took it for granted that his master had granted him so much and so good a life, that he disobeyed and did things to satisfy his own selfish desires? We see how it all ends, when the master came back suddenly and the bad servant was caught unaware by it. Do we want to be caught unaware also in our vices and sins, and then be cast out into the eternal darkness, from where no regret can do anything for us anymore?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow the examples set by St. Monica, whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Monica was a pious and devout woman, who was remembered especially as the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, the great bishop and Doctor of the Church, one of the finest saints of the early Church. And the role of St. Monica in making St. Augustine to be who he was cannot be underestimated, as it was her persistent faith and commitment, her love for her son and her refusal to give up on him that eventually led St. Augustine to return to the faith.

St. Augustine was born to St. Monica, a Christian woman, and Patricius, a Roman pagan, his father, who led a dissolute and wicked lifestyle, which would eventually also be followed by St. Augustine in his younger days. But despite being surrounded by all sorts of wickedness and vices of the world, St. Monica patiently and faithfully lived her life as a wife and mother, and she also acted with virtue, often giving alms and charities for the poor and the needy.

St. Monica definitely wanted her husband and son to be turned to the light, but the path would indeed be long, arduous and can be heartbreaking at times. Not just that she had to endure her husband, who although respected her, but lived wickedly, St. Monica also had to endure seeing her own son falling into sinful path, as he grew up and began to seek the truth, in a long journey, during which time, he would dwell into false ways like Manichaeism and also various hedonistic ways.

It was so bad that St. Augustine even caused a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock, meaning that he made the woman pregnant while not being married to her. This amongst others, such as his pursuit of pagan philosophical pursuits, must have hurt St. Monica badly, seeing her family like that. Yet, St. Monica patiently put her faith in God and dedicated herself to pray for her family’s conversion.

Eventually, by her patient faith and endurance, her care and concern for her loved ones, St. Monica managed to turn the heart first of her husband, who was said to have converted to the Christian faith and repented from all his sinful ways when he was dying. And when St. Augustine and St. Monica were divided by the former’s adoption of Manichaean heresy and his wicked way of life, St. Monica patiently endured and followed her son, eventually leading her to find St. Ambrose of Milan, the influential and charismatic man who eventually together, managed to turn St. Augustine back into the truth of Christ after many years of resistance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in St. Monica the example of a true and virtuous Christian, who remained committed to God despite the challenges and pains that she had to endure. St. Monica showed true Christian virtues and patiently persevered, continuing to pray and to do what she could, just as the faithful and diligent servant had done, in dedicating her efforts to the greater glory of God.

And you see just how much impact that had caused, as through St. Augustine and the many people whom he inspired and touched, countless peoples and souls had been saved thanks to the perseverance and faith of St. Monica, his loving mother. Are we able and willing to follow in her footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the sacrifices required at times to be faithful to God, in all things?

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to be always faithful despite the challenges, trials and tribulations we may encounter in life. May God bless us all, and may St. Monica pray and intercede for each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.