Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are brought to pay attention and place our focus on God’s loving mercy, His generous forgiveness and the compassion with which He has taken great care over each and every one of us. And we are reminded that each and every one of us are truly blessed to have the opportunity to embrace God’s loving grace and rich mercy. But have we been appreciative of His love for us all these while?

In our first reading today all of us heard from the words of the prophet Hosea, the proclamation of God’s love and upcoming salvation for His people, a very significant promise made at that time when the people of God were already on the verge of destruction and defeat, as the prophet Hosea performed his ministry among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel just within twenty years or so from the downfall of Samaria and the kingdom under the conquest of the Assyrians.

For a people and kingdom who had deviated from the Lord’s path for so long, many decades and centuries, it might have sounded so amazing that even after everything that they had done, the Lord was still so patient with them that He was willing to welcome them back, to love them and to show them His care despite every kind of sorrow and sadness that they had given to Him by their persistent disobedience and sins, their betrayal of the Lord for the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Hosea brought forth the prophecy that God would once again restore His people, gather them once again and allow them to live in peace and harmony together with Him, and they would no longer worship the pagan idols and Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, but instead, they would only worship the Lord, the one and only true God. The Lord desired for the reconciliation with His people and He was willing to forgive them their sins, but provided that they were willing to turn away from their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard yet another amazing story, of the healing of a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding for twelve long years. The woman was hesitant and afraid to come to the Lord, as bleeding such as what she had suffered from was something considered unclean according to the Law, and she must have tried her best to hide her condition for all those years. There was certainly a mixture of shame and uncertainty in her mind that day.

But she gathered her courage and whatever strength she had to come towards the Lord, with faith that if she could even just touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak, then she would be healed from her bleeding troubles. And sure enough, the very moment she touched the Lord’s cloak, her troubles were ended, and her body was made whole again. In all of these, and linking to what we have heard earlier on in our first reading, we heard the amazing story of God’s mercy, love and compassion for each and every one of us.

For the woman was actually a representative of us sinners, also much like the people of Israel of old, those who have disobeyed God and committed sins against Him. Her bleeding was just like how the people had sinned and disobeyed God therefore became defiled and unworthy of God. And by God’s power and grace, He will heal all of us just as He has healed the woman from all of her troubles. But all these, as we have heard, required faith, and strong, genuine faith.

Are we able to seek God with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow the examples of the woman, who although fearful and uncertain, but her faith helped her to overcome those fears and she stepped forward, seeking the Lord with that faith? And that is what we need, brothers and sisters in Christ, that faith with the genuine desire to seek the Lord, to love Him and to turn away from all of our evil and sins, and embrace God’s ever great and bountiful forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we also celebrate the memory of the renowned saint, St. Maria Goretti, whose faith and devotion to God, her commitment and love for God, her love and patience, her forgiveness even for someone who had caused her so much hurt can be a great inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives with faith. St. Maria Goretti was still a young girl and in her early teenage years, from a poor but loving family, as her parent worked and lived with another family.

The son of that family with whom St. Maria Goretti stayed with, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to commit what was sinful in the eyes of God. St. Maria Goretti resisted his advances when he made it during one opportune moment as she did not want to do what was against God’s will and Law, and her, being a pious and God-fearing person, also did not want Alessandro to fall into evil. In his moment of anger of being rejected by St. Maria Goretti, Alessandro stabbed the girl many times.

On her deathbed, St. Maria Goretti forgave her assailant and murderer, and prayed for him, and asked for clemency for Alessandro. And with that, this young girl who chose death rather than to blemish herself with the taint of sin, entered into heavenly glory through martyrdom. And through the testimony of Alessandro himself, when he was in prison, he saw St. Maria Goretti coming to him and told him how she had forgiven him and that she prayed for his conversion of heart.

That was how Alessandro was converted and turned away from his earlier, sinful in his youthful years. When he was released from prison, he begged for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, who promptly forgave him, saying that how she ought to have forgiven him if her own daughter herself had forgiven him and prayed for him so much from heaven. Alessandro spent his remaining years doing his best in penance and also living righteously in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we can see just how wonderful and amazing God’s healing and reconciliation can be for us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and seek His forgiveness just as Alessandro had? And are we willing to commit ourselves to God and reject sin and the temptation to sin just as St. Maria Goretti had done? Let us all be righteous and good, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He show us all His mercy, lovingly embracing us and taking good care of us, and help us in our journey towards righteousness, guiding us in repentance and giving us the necessary strength and patience to overcome all the temptations and sins present in our lives, that we may be healed from all these sickness of sin, and be purified by God’s ever wonderful mercy and love. Amen.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hosea 2 : 16, 17b-18, 21-22

So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly. There, she will answer Me, as in her youth, as when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, YHVH says, “You will call Me my Husband, and never again : my Baal. You will be My spouse forever, betrothed in justice and integrity; we will be united in love and tenderness. I will espouse you in faithfulness; and you will come to know YHVH.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

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

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

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

Amos 9 : 11-15

On that day, I shall restore the fallen hut of David and wall up its breaches, and raise its ruined walls; and so built it as in days of old. They shall conquer the remnant of Edom, and the neighbouring nations, upon which My Name has been called.” Thus says YHVH, the One Who will do this.

YHVH says also, “The days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes overtake the sower. The mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall melt. I shall bring back the exiles of My people Israel; they will rebuild the desolate cities and dwell in them.”

“They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will have orchards and eat their fruit. I shall plant them in their own country and they shall never again be rooted up from the land which I have given them,” says YHVH your God.

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded by God to keep up, to have hope, and to trust in Him, never to worry or to be afraid, but to be faithful because God Himself will help us and provide for us, and He will bring us out of the darkness and evil into the new life of light and joy. This is what the Lord has promised us and what He will grant us through our faith in Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord reassurance to St. Paul as he carried out his mission in the region of Greece as he visited several places carrying out works of evangelisation and preaching the Good News to the people in those places. He had encountered difficulties and challenges from both the pagans who refused to believe in him and ridiculed his revelation to them of the monotheistic faith in the one True God. Some among the pagans were receptive of the truth, but there were many who refused to believe.

In addition, St. Paul also encountered a lot of challenges and problems from the Jewish communities of the Jewish diaspora in many of the cities and towns that he had visited. Some of the Jews, like some among the pagans, were receptive of the Apostle and the message of truth that he brought to them, but many others persecuted the Apostle and the other Christian missionaries as well as the Christian converts in their midst. This was part of the conflicts among the Jewish elites who saw Christianity as an aberration and heresy because of the teachings of Jesus Who had been condemned by the Sanhedrin to death.

Amidst all of these situations, it must have seemed very daunting for St. Paul to continue with his mission, as he was often alone against so many people who were against him, were rude to him, and had his life threatened on not just once, but a few separate occasions. He could have given up and returned to safer places, but God reassured St. Paul and said that He would be with him along his journey and while he might encounter difficulties, but he would not be harmed.

In that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard then the very proof of God’s providence, how God saved St. Paul from trouble when he was faced with all these oppositions and troubles. And when the governor to whom the Jews had complained about St. Paul refused to indict the Apostle based on their complaints against him, they became desperate and even plotted further by trying to incite a riot with the beating of one of the leading man of the synagogue.

Yet, God saved St. Paul and prevented harm from coming to him. The plots and efforts of all those who were against the faithful servants of God could not stop the zeal and the dedication which they showed us through their commitment and devotion. They trusted fully in the Lord because as the Lord Himself reassured them, that their pains, sorrows, sufferings and troubles were merely temporary, and in the end, they would receive the promise of eternal glory and true joy.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord reassuring His disciples using the metaphor and comparison to the woman who was about to give birth, suffering and enduring the bitter pain of the birth process, and yet, once the whole process ended, the woman would be happier and felt more wonderful with the joy that her newborn brought her, helping her to overcome all the pain and sorrow that had come earlier on. In this same way therefore, our faithful predecessors, from the days of the earliest Christians, focused their attention on the reassurances of Christ’s coming glory, enduring the challenges and trials in their path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are now living through a truly unsettling and challenging times, in the midst of great economic crises, societal instability and divisions, brought about mainly by the current pandemic, as well as the conflicts and disagreements between nations and communities among others, it must have been tough for us to remain hopeful and strong amidst all the challenges that we and our families are facing. Some of us have people we know and love who are suffering and sick, and some even had lost our loved ones, or are separated because they are our frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers.

Quite a few people had also lost their means of income and employment, losing what was once stable and certain iron rice bowl of income. Many are still unsure of their future, as although they have retained their employment, but they have faced great pay cuts and reductions, put on no-pay leave for indefinite length among others. We have many people having difficulties in seeking their first-time jobs due to the lack of demand in the job market, and many other problems that may make everything seem to be very bleak.

Yet, we must not lose hope, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must stay faithful in God and give Him our trust, for everything that we are facing now, are indeed truly temporary and will not last forever. We must keep our focus and attention on God and His sure promise of eternal joy and glory with Him, that while we may suffer and face challenges now in this world, all of these troubles and challenges combined cannot compare to the great things we are to receive later.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, one of the saints who had truly difficult life, having married into a difficult family involved in the late Medieval Italian conflicts among feuding families, which led to the murder of her husband. St. Rita of Cascia had a difficult life filled with abuse, insults and humiliation, but before her husband’s murder by a rival family, her steadfastness in faith and efforts to convert her husband bore fruit as her husband had at least become a much better person by the time of his death.

And when her husband’s greater family wanted her sons to take part in revenge action against the rival family for the murder of their father, despite St. Rita of Cascia’s efforts in keeping her sons faithful and away from the wicked activities, eventually, she prayed to God asking Him humbly to take them away from the world. It must have been very hard and painful for a mother to ask God to take her own sons away, but she did so knowing that it would be better for them to be taken away, rather than for them to commit grave sins through revenge and more, and end up in hell for eternity.

After the deaths of both of her sons due to sickness, St. Rita of Cascia became a religious and dedicated the rest of her life in prayerful service to God, living a virtuous and piety-filled life as she had done earlier on in her life. Her great and exemplary life inspired many others, and eventually made her to be venerated as a great saint many years after she has passed on. And now, all of us can also emulate her virtues and good examples in each and every one of our lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to trust in God more and focus ourselves more to Him, entrusting ourselves so completely like St. Paul as well as St. Rita of Cascia had done? There will indeed be lots of trials and pains we may have to endure in our respective journeys of life, but unless we have that firm faith in God, then it will be very easy for us to fall into despair and darkness, to give up on our lives and everything just because we lose sight on God and His love.

Let us all discern on this and spend some time reevaluating our lives, our choices of action and our direction as we progress on in our lives. Let us all be more faithful from now on, trust God more, and every importantly, deepen our relationship with Him, spending more time with Him in prayer, through charity and action, loving our fellow men and understanding more what our role is as Christians in our world today. May the Lord help us all to be strong in our faith, and may He give us the courage to go on and strive harder despite the trials and challenges we may face going forward. Amen.

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 20-23a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy : a human being is born into the world.”

“You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask Me anything.”