Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us the challenges and trials that are part of our journey as Christians and how we should keep up faith and not be afraid. This is because the Lord will always be with us and by our side no matter what, and with His guidance and strength, we shall persevere through all the challenges and trials.

In our first reading today we heard of the words from the Book of Revelations of St. John regarding the happenings of the end times as the time of reckoning and judgment is coming up on the world, and the Angels of God bearing the seven great plagues that will befall the nations and the people who refused to believe in God. At that time, the righteous and those who are still faithful in God will be persecuted and oppressed by those unbelievers, and the plagues and other signs are reminders that God is by the side of His faithful.

The Lord will not abandon His people to darkness and destruction, and He, as the Lamb of God seen in the vision of St. John, has triumphed by His Passion and Resurrection from the dead, and not even death and evil can overcome Him. For He has defeated the ultimate enemy of all, that is death, and showing to all of us that there is light and hope beyond death, and death no longer has the final say for all of us. It used to be something that we were all scared of as death is a separation from our lives in this world.

The Lord reassured us all that death that we experience is only a temporary experience and is just a mark of the new beginning of a new life with Him, when we will be reunited completely with Him and enter into the eternal glory and the eternal life that have been prepared for all of us. However, unless we believe in Him and are faithful in HIm, dedicating ourselves to Him, there will be no place for us in His eternal kingdom and glory.

And all of these relate well to what we heard from our Gospel passage today. In our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord proclaiming the revelation of what His disciples and followers as Christians would encounter soon enough, after He established His Church and they preached His Good News to the nations. They would be persecuted, oppressed, rejected and ridiculed by many of those who refused to believe in the Lord and in His message, as well as those who saw the faithful as threats to their own power and influence.

Hence, that was why Christians especially in its early centuries faced so many persecutions, initially from the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His followers. And in addition, the Roman authorities and the state governments, as well as the Greeks and other pagan peoples who refused to believe in God also persecuted the faithful and made things difficult to them.

Yet, amidst all of that, many of our holy predecessors, the innumerable martyrs and saints of the Church remained firm in their faith and conviction to serve the Lord, dedicating their lives and all their efforts to follow the Lord to the very end. They endured those sufferings, trials, persecutions and challenges since they had faith that God would be with them and journeyed together with them even through the greatest sufferings and the deepest darkness and despair.

One of those saints is St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the most famous and inspirational saints of the early Church. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a noble, born of a powerful family as her father was the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, a very important position in the Roman Empire at that time. St. Catherine was persuaded to become a Christian after receiving visions of the Lord and was convinced to embrace the Christian faith fully. And all these happened amidst one of the most bitter and brutal persecution against Christians.

It was told that St. Catherine was arrested and tortured for her Christian faith. And in the attempt to make her abandon her faith and to publicly denounce the Christian faith and truth, the Emperor made her to debate as many as fifty or more pagan philosophers, who were all unable to outsmart or debate her, unable to match her wisdom, the wisdom of God as passed on and revealed through the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Catherine’s wisdom was such that even the Emperor’s own wife was touched, inspired and converted to the true faith.

And when all methods and ways had failed to persuade St. Catherine to abandon her faith, the desperate Emperor tried to turn her by offering her his hand in marriage. Normally, the temptation to abandon the faith to embrace marriage with the most powerful and influential person in the land would be so great. But St. Catherine resisted the offer and temptation, declaring publicly that she maintained her virginity and dedicated it to the Lord, refusing to stain her purity in any way, and neither would she abandon her faith. And thus, afterwards, she was martyred for remaining true to her faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the inspiring examples set by St. Catherine of Alexandria, as well as the many other examples made by the other holy men and women of God, who had chosen to walk with God and refused to abandon Him, let us all be inspired to follow their examples and walk in their footsteps even as challenges and trials are facing us and become great obstacles in our own respective journeys of faith. Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, that we may grow ever closer to God and in faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all in our journey of faith. May He strengthen us and our resolve that we may persevere and be more courageous in our pursuit of faith, and be ourselves inspiring examples of faith to one another. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death.”

“But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 7-8, 9

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world and all its peoples. Let rivers clap their hands, hills and mountains sing with joy.

Before the Lord, for He comes to rule the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Revelations 15 : 1-4

Then I saw another great and marvellous sign in the heavens : seven Angels brought seven plagues which are the last, for with these the wrath of God will end. There was a sea of crystal mingled with fire, and the conquerors of the beast, of its name and the mark of its name stood by it.

They had been given the celestial harps and they sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb : Great and marvellous are Your works, o Lord, God and Master of the universe. Justice and truth guide Your steps, o King of the nations.

Lord, who will not give honour and glory to Your Name? For You alone are holy. All the nations will come and bow before You, for they have now seen Your judgments.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the Scripture passages, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us as Christians to be genuine in our faith and dedication to God. We should not be inactive, lukewarm or dormant any longer in our faith. It is only through real love and faith that we can follow the Lord truthfully and wholeheartedly. Otherwise our faith will be found wanting and empty.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Revelations of St. John, the vision that St. John received regarding the messages of the Lord sent through His Angels to each of the seven Churches of Asia, the seven most important centres of early Christianity at that time. And in those messages we heard how there were those who have kept the faith fully, not ‘soiling their white robes’ and this means that they had kept themselves pure.

This was contrasted with some others who had been lukewarm and had not been as dedicated in the living of their faith. The Lord reminded how the lukewarmness in faith and lack of effort and dedication in living that same faith has no bearing and meaning. As Christians we cannot be idle and lukewarm, in disregarding the Lord’s teachings and ways in order to pursue our own selfish worldly goals among other things.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus, a short man who was also a renowned and rich tax collector at that time. Zaccheus was very excited to see the Lord and tried his best, despite his physical shortcomings and other barriers, climbing up a tree just so that he could catch a glimpse of the Lord. The Lord knew Zaccheus and his thoughts, his faith and desire to seek Him.

Thus, He called Zaccheus and told him that He would grace his house with His presence. Zaccheus publicly declared his faith courageously and with proper dedication to the Lord. This was remarkable as he was a tax collector and was also seemingly a particularly notorious one at that, and tax collector being reviled and hated by most of the people for their actions and greed.

Yet, Zaccheus publicly showed his repentance and committed himself to the path of truth. He did not only disavow his path of evil and greed, but he also promised to undo the damages he had incurred, paying back four times as much to those that he had cheated. Regardless of the amount, it was truly remarkable for Zaccheus to commit publicly to his repentance and showed his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen in today’s Scripture readings what it means for us to be faithful to the Lord as Christians. We should not be lukewarm and passive in our faith like what the Pharisees and many of the people of the Lord’s time, who were outwardly pious but had no real faith or love for God.

All of us should be like Zaccheus, a sinner and yet a sinner who loves God. His desire to seek the Lord, His sincere repentance and commitment to change his life is what each and every one of us should also aspire to as Christians, as God’s chosen and beloved people. And we should also seek inspiration from our holy predecessors on the path going forward in our lives.

Today we commemorate St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess of Hungary turned into religious icon and persona, who has been renowned for her great piety throughout her whole life. St. Elizabeth of Hungary grew up in a good and pious Christian environment, and this helped her to be pious and truly faithful as she became one of Christendom’s great persona, in her generosity and charity towards the poor and in her efforts to advance the cause of the Church throughout the kingdom.

In one of the most famous traditions about her, the ‘Miracle of the Roses’, St. Elizabeth, during one of her trip to bring food and sustenance to the poor, which had to be done in secret, happened to encounter her husband and his hunting party. She would not have wanted her secret to be known, as it might have brought opposition and difficulty for her, but miraculously, when she was asked to show what she was carrying in her basket, miraculously red and white roses filled her basket. This story convinced her husband in God’s protection of her, and apparently, led him to support her cause as well.

However, she did encounter trials and challenges through her life, as she lost her husband who went to the Crusade to the Holy Land and passed away along the way. She had difficulties but she remained firmly dedicated to her faith, committing herself to a vow of celibacy and holiness after her husband’s death even as this went against her family’s wishes. Despite their efforts to force her to remarry for political purposes, St. Elizabeth remained firm and strong in her convictions to the end.

The holiness of St. Elizabeth is an inspiration and model for all of us Christians to follow, that we may also be holy like her, and be courageous in living our faith just as Zaccheus and others had done, no longer being lukewarm or inactive in our Christian faith. Let us all discern carefully all of these and strive to commit our efforts and dedicate our lives to serve God from now on with greater zeal and generosity of love. May God bless us all and be with us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words.

Those who do no harm to their neighbours and cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will soon be shaken.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 3 : 1-6, 14-22

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Sardis, “Thus says He Who holds the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars : ‘I know your worth : you think you live but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen that which is not already dead. For I have found your works to be imperfect in the sight of My God.”

“‘Remember what you were taught; keep it and change your ways. If you do not repent I will come upon you like a thief at an hour you least expect. Yet, there are some left in Sardis who have not soiled their robes; these will come with Me, dressed in white, since they deserve it. The victor will be dressed in white and I will never erase his name from the book of life; instead, I will acknowledge it before My Father and His Angels.'”

“‘Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea, “Thus says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s creation : ‘I know your works : you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold so I will spit you out of My mouth.'”

“‘You think you are rich and have piled up so much that you need nothing, but you do not realise that you are wretched and to be pitied, poor, blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold that has been tested by fire, so that you may be rich, and white clothes to wear so that your nakedness may not shame you, and ointment for your eyes that you may see. I reprimand and correct all those I love. Be earnest and change your ways.'”

“‘Look, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with Me. I will let the victor sit with Me on My throne just as I was victorious and took My place with My Father on His throne. Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches.'”

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of just fortunate we all are for having been beloved by God, as He showed us His love again and again throughout time. God has revealed His love to us constantly through His servants, but it is often us who pushed God away and refused to listen to Him or acknowledge His love for us.

The Lord has revealed to St. John, his Apostle, as recorded in the Book of Revelations, of the message and truth He has passed onto His seven Churches in Asia, representing the seven main Christian communities and centres at that time through His Angels. He revealed that despite the struggles and challenges that they were facing, they would not face those alone.

The revelation showed how the Church and the faithful would endure long periods of persecution throughout its history, but God would be with His people guiding them and protecting them regardless. The Lord helped them from their misery and guided them through those challenging years. In the end, many saints and martyrs came about from those communities, that while they might have suffered but they gained glory through God.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, of God’s wonderful mercy and love. We heard how the Lord Jesus moved with pity and love, and responded to the one who had been seeking fervently His mercy and healing. When the blind man was helpless and was without hope, in the darkness of despair and suffering, God reached out to him and showed him that even in his darkness there is still hope and light, as long as one keeps faith in God.

The key there is the willingness of that blind man to humble himself and to reach out to the Lord, seeking His mercy wholeheartedly when he called out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” a few times, even when the people tried to silence and hush him. He revealed his vulnerability and his weakness to all, but in doing so, bared his faith in God fully, and it was by this faith that God was moved to save him and heal him from all of his troubles.

In the same manner therefore, God will always be with us and will help us through life, through our troubles and challenges if only we can have faith in Him like that of the blind man. The problem is that, unfortunately, more often than not, we allow our pride and ego to stand in the way of this salvation, as we often do not want to reveal our weakness and the fact that we actually are in need of help and assistance from God. We preferred rather to remain in our state of sin and in being despicable due to our pride, rather than seeking God for healing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in order for us to move forward in this life with faith, we have to get rid from ourselves this wicked mentality and the attachments and the allures of our pride and ego. Indeed, we have to die to our pride and remove all these from our hearts and minds as best as we are able to. Otherwise, we may end up rejecting God’s love and mercy again and again, until it is too late for us to seek His healing, mercy and forgiveness.

Today, let us all reflect on all these, and discern carefully on what each and every one of us as Christians can do to serve the Lord and to follow Him ever more faithfully. And perhaps we should look up to the examples set by the saints, especially the two saints whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Margaret of Scotland, as well as St. Gertrude the Great, both being holy women who had dedicated their lives to the Lord.

St. Margaret of Scotland was an English princess who later became the Queen of Scotland. And although she was born a high noble and royalty, and a queen no less, but she has always been very pious and humble throughout her whole life, putting God above all else, and was ever dedicated in her work as queen in taking care of the needs of her people, especially to the less fortunate and the poor. She has also dedicated much effort to expand the Church and various other institutions for the benefit of her people.

St. Margaret and St. Gertrude were both very pious and dedicated themselves much to follow the Lord faithfully and led a very pious and virtuous way of life. While St. Margaret was a pious queen, St. Gertrude was a renowned Benedictine religious nun remembered for her many intellectual writings about the faith that are still influential to this very day. Many people had been inspired through their piety and their efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on the lives of these saints, and be inspired to seek the Lord with renewed faith and zeal, to be humble in reaching out for Him to ask for His forgiveness and grace. Let us all seek the Lord’s mercy, love and forgiveness, and let us all be thoroughly reconciled and regain God’s grace and favour. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.