Monday, 15 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about first of all, what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia, about the comparison between the two sons of Abraham, namely Ishmael and Isaac, who were born of two different women. The former was born of the slave woman Hagar, while the latter was born of Abraham’s rightful wife, Sarah.

The birth of Ishmael was caused by the impatience of Abraham, who gave in to the temptation of worldly fear and concern, of the lack of an heir, even though God has promised him many times that an heir would be born to him through his wife. Yet God did bless Ishmael and his descendants, for after all, he and his descendants are still the descendants of Abraham, although not the ones to whom God would give the fullness of His blessings.

St. Paul used this example, as he himself mentioned, in order to represent allegorically, the relationship which the people of God has with their Lord and Creator, in the context of the old Law as revealed imperfectly through Moses, and what He revealed perfectly in the new Law and Covenant of Jesus Christ, Son of God sent into the world to be its Saviour and Redeemer. The old Law was represented by Ishmael while the new Law was represented by Isaac.

In order to understand his intention and meaning fully, we also have to look at the earlier part of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which St. Paul mentioned that the old Law brought about bondage and the new Law brought about freedom. What he meant was that, while the people obeyed the Lord through the old laws of Moses, they were still bound to the chains of sin, for the coming of God’s salvation have not yet been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the coming of Christ brought about the fulfilment of God’s promise just as Isaac was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. Christ revealed the full truth of God’s love through the Law and the Covenant which He renewed through the loving sacrifice of His Son on the cross. And this was written by St. Paul in rebuking those in Galatia who wanted to impose the Jewish laws and customs, that is the ‘Old Law’ on the people of Christ, Who has received the fullness of God’s Law – the ‘New Law’.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus also rebuked the people in the same manner, in how they kept on asking for miracles and signs even though they have seen many miracles when they were with the Lord all those times. They failed to notice God working in their midst even though He had done so many, many times. And that was why the Lord rebuked those people who so hardened their hearts and minds against His truth.

Those who were obsessed with the fulfilment of the old laws and ways as prescribed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and refused to accept the truth of God, would be judged according to their refusal and stubbornness, and as long as they continued to refuse to accept God into their midst, they would have no part in the new Covenant and Law which He has brought upon the world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves as Christians are sometimes also suffering from the same condition as the Jews had been. We have not been truly faithful to the Lord as how we should have. We have only been faithful on the outside, like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been, but inside our hearts, many of us do not have that faith and love which we should have for God.

Today, we ought to reflect on our lives, and our actions, and how they have or have not been good and faithful to God. And we should also follow the examples shown by the holy woman, St. Teresa of Jesus, also known by the name of St. Teresa of Avila, a great reformer and model of faith, and also a Doctor of the Church, for her many contributions and wonderful written works, which has inspired generations of the faithful.

St. Teresa of Avila was remembered for her great piety and love for God, dedicating herself into a life of deep and intimate prayerful relationship with Him. She was a great reformer of the Church, both for her contributions during the critical years of the Counter Reformation efforts against the heretics, as well as in her role in establishing the Discalced Carmelites order together with St. John of the Cross, in purifying the religious order from corrupting influences of worldliness.

For her role in the reforms of the Church and for her many other contributions, she was recognised as one of the great saints of the Church, and declared as Doctor of the Church. And her examples should also inspire each one of us, to live according to our faith, and to devote ourselves ever more closely to God and His ways from now on. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed zeal and with a new love, that we no longer live a life that is empty and devoid of love, but instead, have true love for God from now onwards. May God be with us always. St. Teresa of Jesus, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are reminded of the Lord Who has given us His wisdom and His words of truth, as He revealed through His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into this world bearing the revelation of the divine truth, and then later on, by the sending of the Holy Spirit into this world, to be with the Apostles and the disciples, and therefore, to be with His Church.

God’s wisdom and truth are indeed so wonderful, that He has desired to give us this wisdom and truth, because of the great love which He has for each and every one of us. Through His wisdom and truth, God revealed to us what it is that He desires from each one of us, and how we should live our lives, in accordance with His will, and with the way that He has shown us. And that is what He presented before us through our Gospel passage today.

In that Gospel passage, we heard of a young, rich man, who came to the Lord Jesus, with the desire to gain eternal life. The Lord then told the young man first, whether he has obeyed and fulfilled the commandments of the Law as revealed through Moses. The young man replied that he has fulfilled the many commandments and kept them closely throughout his life, having been an obedient member of the Jewish community.

But then, the Lord asked him to do something that he could not bear doing, that is, to sell away all of his riches and to give them all to the poor, leaving everything behind and follow Him as His disciple. The young man immediately went away in sorrow, not being able to do what the Lord had asked of him, because he had great amount of wealth with him. It is likely that he could not bear to be separated from all those worldly achievements that he had gained and possessed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the significance of what we have just heard in the Scripture passages, particularly that of the Gospel? First of all, we must not interpret the meaning of the Scripture literally, thinking that we should equate following the Lord with the total abandonment and selling of all of our worldly possessions and goods, for this is called interpreting God’s words without understanding the context.

Yes, indeed, there are those among us who are called to do so as part of their vocation, as religious nuns and monks, who left behind everything to live a life of total commitment to God, but that does not mean for the rest of us, we should just follow what we heard to the letter without understanding its meaning. Instead, we are called to listen to the word of God, speaking in the depth of our hearts and minds, and discern carefully on what it is that He wants us to do in our lives.

The issue which the Lord brought up in our Gospel occasion today, is that we mankind, even though we may be able to fulfil our obligations and our duties in our faith in God, but we can precisely do such efforts even without truly appreciating the true purpose and intention of why we do what we are doing, as part of our faith. The young and rich man fulfilled all the obligations of the Law, but in truth, he was not able to dedicate himself fully to the Lord, as shown when he was called by the Lord to dedicate himself fully to Him.

He was not able to commit, and left in sorrow because ultimately, he loved his riches and goods more than that of the Lord, and given the choice between those things and God, ultimately, God was secondary in importance to him. Then, if we carefully scrutinise what the young man said, he asked the Lord Jesus, “Good Master, what must I do in order to gain eternal life?”, in this question lies a desire from the man to want something for his own satisfaction.

What do I mean by this? The man asked Jesus in that manner, out of desire to gain for himself eternal life, and probably not because he truly loves God. This is a reality that exists even within our Church, where there are many among us faithful who have our faith and practice things within our faith, the various devotions, prayers and actions, because we want something for ourselves, be it for personal glory and fame, or for personal salvation and benefit.

It is not wrong that we want to be saved, for indeed, if we want to be saved, then we must seek it and desire it, otherwise, how will we then attain salvation if we ourselves do not want it in the first place? But we must not let that desire to supersede first and foremost, our love for God. Ultimately, we want to be saved and gain eternal life, not because we are afraid of hell or punishment from God, but rather, because we want to be together again with God and be reconciled with Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to rediscover this purpose of our faith and our lives. If we have been wayward all these while, failing to recognise these shortcomings of our lives, and if we have been disobedient and been unable to give our best in serving the Lord, putting Him in secondary and even worse places in our hearts and minds, then perhaps, we should really consider spending some time in prayer and in the quietness of our hearts, in order to find out what it is that we can do, in order to become closer to God.

The Lord reminds us through the same Gospel passage, that the path to enter the kingdom of heaven is narrow and difficult, but at the same time, also manageable and accessible, given that we put our trust not in the human wisdom, power and intellect, but instead, in the wisdom and the power of God. Many of us failed to make progress because we are not having the correct focus in life, and we are easily distracted, as we depend too much on our worldly possessions, power and other achievements, and we end up becoming too attached to all of them.

Let us look at these examples, brothers and sisters in Christ, beginning with those who think that just by doing what we are supposed to do for our faith, by coming to Mass every Sundays, and yet, we are not focused at all on the Lord and become easily distracted, because instead of focusing our attention on God, we cannot wait for the Mass to end so that we can go back to our various worldly commitments and activities.

And then, some of us profess to believe in God and followed all obligations of the Church, coming regularly for Mass and also become active part of various ministries in our parishes, but then, in how we behave towards one another, towards our fellow Christians, we scandalise our faith by our actions. Many of us brought slander and gossip into our interactions, even within the ministries and Church groups we are part of. We bicker and fight even over the smallest of matters and over trivial things.

That is exactly what happens when we allow our so called human wisdom, intellect, power and ability to take over and control us in what we say and do. The clashes and incompatibilities between our varying human desires and wants will end up tearing us apart and causing divisions among us. This is what we cannot and should not do with our lives. And as the example of the young and rich man in the Gospel passage today has shown us, we should strive to overcome our human desires and attachments to all sorts of temptations present in this world.

And this means that we must resist the temptation of worldly pleasures, power, prestige, honour, fame, glory, wealth and all sorts of things that can bring about unhealthy attachment and desire. It is not wrong for us to possess wealth or possessions, or to achieve something in our lives, but we cannot be overtaken and swallowed by our desires for those things.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the Lord has called us all, each and every one of us, to be His true disciples. And that means, each and every one of us should respond with a thorough and genuine conversion of heart, changing our attitudes in life, from one that is world-centric and self-centric into one that is centred on God alone. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed faith, and with a renewed zeal, from now on. May the Lord be our guide in our journey towards Him and His everlasting life. Amen.

Saturday, 13 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded to be true followers of Christ, in all of the life which we have lived thus far, and to obey and listen to the will of God, as much as we are able to do it. This is an important reminder, as sometimes, we may end up living our lives and living our faith devoid of true understanding of what it is that God wants us to do in our lives.

In the first reading today, St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia, explaining to them, both to the Jewish and the Gentiles among the faithful, about what they should be doing in following God’s will and in obeying Him. The Jews, even among the Christians, at the time still thought that they had to obey the Law of Moses, all the accumulated and compiled traditions and customs of the Jewish people in its entirety.

And the inability to agree on whether the Christian faithful ought to follow the Jewish laws and customs or not, have divided the communities of the faithful in many places, including that of in Galatia. Some of the Jews wanted that all the faithful must obey the entirety of the laws and the customs of the Jews, while there those among the Jews and the disciples themselves who thought that it should not be the case.

But the Lord Himself made it clear to His people, through what He has revealed throughout His earthly ministry, and through what He has taught His disciples and the Apostles, and by the wisdom and understanding, truth and revelation bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit. The truth is that, to be followers of the Lord, then we must truly believe in Him, listen to Him, and keep all the commandments and do them in our own lives.

And the Lord said that His commandment is about love, first of all, the love of God with all of our hearts, minds and with our whole being fully immersed in the love of our loving Father and Creator, and then the same love which we ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men, all brethren in the same God, our Father. It is not about a burden or an imposition of practices and traditions that were done, many of them, without understanding their real purpose and meaning.

Many of the people then just followed and obeyed the practices of the Law without knowing what they were for. For many of them, it ended up becoming a formality and something that is an obligation, and for some others, it was even worse, as they ended up making use of those practices and impositions of the Law, to advance their own selfish desires and positions, such as what was done by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Many of us unfortunately also share the same blame in this manner, as many of us have not been truly and wholeheartedly faithful, in how we approach our obligations to the Lord as Christians. To us, we have received the fullness of truth, as according to St. Paul, in the same Epistle he had written to the Galatians, which should have set us free from our bonds and from our old ways of sin. But many of us have not allowed God’s truth to set us free.

And that is because of our own inability to resist the temptations to sin and to keep on falling again and again into our sinful ways, and despite the reminders and calls which the Lord made to us, many of us are often still too stubborn to accept His calls deep in our hearts. Now, are we willing to overcome these challenges and resolve to overcome this unwillingness to allow God to transform our lives for the better?

Let us all turn towards God, from now on, with all of our hearts, with our every efforts, and commit ourselves towards Him with a new resolution and courage in our hearts. Let us all strive to seek our focus and our source of unity and our salvation in God, our loving Lord and Father. May the Lord be with us throughout this journey, and guide us to His everlasting glory. Amen.

Friday, 12 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first to the exhortation from St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia, where he mentioned how all those who believe in God, and did what the Lord has asked them to do, are considered as the sons and daughters of Abraham, the one who is widely considered as our father in faith. This must be understood in the context of the attitudes of the Jewish people, even those who lived in the diaspora.

Many of the Jews still upheld the view that they were the chosen people and race of God, who were descended from Abraham, and therefore, were partakers of the Lord’s promise and covenant, and in some ways, superior and better than that of the pagans and the non-Jewish people, or the Gentiles. And some of these people were among those who opposed the works of St. Paul and his fellow disciples of the Lord, in their evangelising mission.

That was why St. Paul rebuked the attitudes and mentioned that despite their thinking that the title of the children of Abraham belonged to them alone, but in reality, Abraham’s true descendants were those who not only descended from him through flesh, but even more importantly, those who follow the same faith and live in the same way as that of Abraham. For, if one profess to be a descendant of Abraham and yet does not do what he has done, then truly, that person has scandalised Abraham’s faith.

The Lord Jesus also faced the same predicament during the time of His earthly ministry, as shown in today’s Gospel passage. The Lord Jesus was opposed by those who refused to believe in Him, slandering Him and saying all sorts of falsehoods against Him, even to the point of equating His actions with that of the prince of demons, Beelzebul. Then, the Lord rebuked them by saying that if the devil is divided in his own kingdom and among his own allies, then his dominion would have collapsed and be destroyed.

What the Lord Jesus meant when He said all of those words? First of all, He wanted to highlight that those people who thought of themselves as so righteous and just, and opposed the works of the Lord, are themselves causing the breaking and the division of the house of God, that is God’s people. At the time when they should all come together to believe in the common faith, instead they allowed the devil to come into their hearts and create divisions in them.

At the same time, the devil and his forces, instead of being divided among themselves, they are in fact, united in their purpose and desire to see us mankind fail and fall away from grace. Although each of them might clash or disagree on other matters, but in their common desire for the ruination of souls, the kingdom of Satan is fully united in this purpose. And that is why we must ever be vigilant, lest we allow our own ego, human desires, ambition and greed to make us fall.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, through what we have heard from the Scriptures, about what happened in the past to the community of the people of God, of the bitter division, disagreement and the refusal of some among them to receive the word and truth of God, and now, unfortunately, that is why even within our Church, there are many divisions and disagreements. Even among us Christians, many of us accuse one another and are often unhappy and angry towards our fellow brothers and sisters.

And this is what is unbecoming and unworthy of us as Christians, to be enemies to one another and to be divided to each other, as what the Lord has said, that a house divided within itself will not be able to stand. Our attitude towards each other is exactly what the devil needs in his efforts to bring down to ruin as many souls as possible, by weakening the Church and the unity of God’s people.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to overcome these divisions and disagreements between us, by placing God once again at the centre and as the main focus of our lives. Let us put aside our differences, by resisting the temptations and the pull of our ego, human desires, greed and all sorts of things that have so far caused us to sin and to be divided against our fellow brethren.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our path, and may He bless us all in our journey, that we may persevere throughout our efforts, and do our best to preserve the unity among ourselves, and be united in praising and glorifying Him, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the loving nature of God, and how we mankind, as God’s beloved children should put our trust in our God, and place ourselves in the caring hands of our loving Father. We heard how the Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel describing the loving nature of God as like of that of fathers, who loved their children.

And because God loves each and every one of us, then He will surely listen to us, should we ask Him to look upon us and to take care of us. He will not purposefully harm us or do something that ends up making us to suffer. When we suffer, in truth, we are actually acting in the manner that we misuse the freedom that God has given to us, which therefore end up causing us to make others suffer in order to satisfy our own personal desires and greed.

That was why, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia chided and rebuked the faithful living in that city because of their lack of faith and ability to live faithfully in accordance to that faith. They have succumbed to the temptations of their flesh, and instead of putting their trust in God, they fell into sin through their wicked and unfaithful attitudes and behaviours.

God reminded us that He is always there for us, ready to welcome us back, even when we have erred, disobeyed and failed to listen to Him. He will not turn a deaf ear to us, should we call upon Him, and crying out for His mercy. But first of all, we must also be willing to commit ourselves to the path of reconciliation, to be ready to be forgiven, and ultimately, ready to make the commitment to change our way of life.

However, the issue for many of us is that, we are often too preoccupied, too busy and too distracted in our lives, that we failed to notice this, and we failed to realise just how much God loves each and every one of us. We have been blinded and made deaf by the distractions, temptations and all the noise present in this world. We have been pulled away by the allure of human desire, of worldly glory and many other things that have been keeping us away from God.

Are we then able to overcome these temptations in life, and rediscover this love which we should have for God, our loving Father? For many of us, we have been wayward in our faith, and we have not been truly faithful, as we spent more time trying to gain for ourselves worldly acceptance and glories of this world. But this is exactly where we end up forgetting about God, His love and His caring nature for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should reflect on what we have just discussed and look deeply into our lives and how we have acted in our lives thus far. Have we been living in this world filled with the desires of worldliness and human greed, in trying to satisfy our own selfish desires and wants? Or have we been truly devoted to the Lord, in all of our actions and deeds?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. John XXIII, also known by his nickname of the ‘Good Pope’. He was the Pope who initiated the Second Vatican Council, in bringing about reform and renewal to the Church, almost six decades ago. He was remembered as a holy and devout servant of God, who spent his whole life, trying to bring the people of God closer to their loving Father.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, in a poor farmer family in northern Italy. He was born into poverty and hard life, and yet, he was raised well and heard the call to priesthood and holiness early in his life. He became a priest and was involved in the social works in the Church among his local community early on, inspired by the examples set by his local bishop, who devoted himself to the care and the well-being of the poor, especially the workers who were oppressed by the then horrible conditions at work.

Later on, he became the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then later still, the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey. In his role as the representative of the Pope to those countries, he fostered many good relationships both with the state as well as with the Christians belonging to the Eastern Orthodox traditions, who have always treated Catholics with much suspicion and animosity. But Pope St. John XXIII’s persistence in love and kindness have softened many hearts and won much adoration and praise.

In his many other roles and capacities, he was also remembered for his role in saving many Jewish refugees from Europe during the time of the Second World War when millions of Jews were massacred by the NAZI regime in Germany. He also helped to reconcile the relations between the Church and the state in France after the war, and many other good deeds, as the Pope of the Church, when he led the entire Church in the journey of discovering their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, should follow in the footsteps of this holy Pope in our own life, in how we live our lives, in our actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts, and turn ourselves towards God. And if we want to be one with God, then our actions must also show this faith and love which we ought to have for God. May the Lord be our guide and be our help, and bless us always in our every deeds and works. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passage, in which we continued the story told by St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Galatia. St. Paul told them how he came to be the Apostle of Christ, and how he conducted his ministry during the early years of his mission. He met with the other Apostles in Judea and Jerusalem, and he was affirmed in the mission by those Apostles who supported his efforts.

Yet, St. Paul did not have it easy throughout his mission, as he encountered difficult moments when he had to even go against the other Apostles at times, for their indecisiveness regarding the matter of the obligations for Christians to follow and obey the old law of the Jewish people, that is the laws of Moses. There were many among the Jews, especially among the Pharisees and the teachers who became believers of Christ, who wanted the imposition of Jewish traditions and practices in its entirety on the Christian faithful, even among those who were of non-Jewish or Gentile origin.

St. Paul disagreed with those who wanted such an imposition, and argued with them, and also with the some of the Apostles and elders of the Church who did not take a firm action against those who wanted such an irresponsible action and un-Christian attitudes to go on. The disciples and the Apostles therefore argued among themselves, and yet, whatever disagreements they must have had at that time, eventually through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they overcame those differences.

What is the key, brothers and sisters in Christ? How did they overcome their issues and troubles? It is because they discerned carefully the will of God, and took into consideration their weaknesses and the challenges they encountered through prayer, that is through intimate and close relationship with God. They are in close relationship with God, following the example set before them by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus taught His disciples the prayer that He Himself made, directed to God His Father. Although He is indeed the Son of God, but this prayer is in fact the proof of the amazing love and closeness which He enjoyed with His Father in heaven. In His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster, we are reminded of the special relationship which we have with God, Who is our loving Father.

Through prayer, we help ourselves by quietening our minds and hearts, our senses and our entire being, and indeed, making ourselves closer to God. This is when we will be able to discern well what it is that God is willing to tell us in the depths of our hearts and in the deepest recesses of our minds. Otherwise, if we allow the noise of this world to overcome us, that is why we end up placing our own selfish needs and desires before our obligation to God.

We should instead reflect on the words of the Lord’s Prayer, which we may have uttered frequently both during the Holy Mass and in our own devotions and prayers, but perhaps failed to understand or say it meaningfully. If we look through the words of the prayer, we will realise that first of all, our focus in this life, should be to centre ourselves on God and to put God’s will above all else, and thank Him for all the good things He has done for us.

Are we able to refocus our attention to the Lord in this manner? In the same prayer, the Lord Jesus also asked His Father to forgive us mankind our sins, just as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. This is how the Apostles were able to forgive one another their faults and return their focus to serve the greater glory of God. That is why we also need to do the same in our own lives, and in how we live up our own Christian lives.

Let us all turn our attention towards the Lord, and renew our commitment to live from now on, in the way and the path that God has shown us, and that we may become ever closer to Him, through prayer and through quality time spent with Him. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us through this journey of life, that we may continue to glorify Him by our deeds, day after day. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first of all we heard about the persecution of Christians as mentioned by St. Paul the Apostle, who recounted what he had done when he was still know as Saul, when he hunted down all Christians, all those who believed in God and followed the teachings and the truth as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world and Son of God.

Saul was once thought to have the potential to be a very influential and powerful Pharisee, as he was born into privilege, an educated and bright young Jewish man from Tarsus, having many close connections to the other Pharisees and the influential members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and High Priesthood. Saul seemingly was destined for a life of glory and greatness, of power and privilege among the Jewish people, being an elite among the elites of the society.

But God had a very different plan for Saul, and He called him to be His disciple, through the dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus, where He revealed Himself and the truth to Saul, calling him to turn away from evil and from his misguided past ways, and embrace the truth of God, and follow Him just as the other disciples of His had done. Saul eventually became a believer, was baptised, and from then on, became a great champion of the Christian faith.

Yet, in accepting the role into which God had called him to, Saul, who take up the new name of Paul to mark his conversion and acceptance of the Lord, he had to abandon all the worldly glory and power, influence and privileges he once enjoyed, and instead, having to endure all sorts of insults and difficulties, challenges and rejections. He had to endure torture in prison, and even almost being killed on many occasions.

Nonetheless, to the very end, as St. Paul showed throughout his travels as recorded in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, he endured all of those challenges and sufferings with patience, hope and faith, because he trusted in God wholeheartedly, and placed himself completely under His care. He went to wherever God called him to go, and did what the Lord had asked him to do. He endured it all, until he met his martyrdom in Rome.

St. Paul showed us that to be a disciple of Christ we must be thoroughly focused on Him, if we are to resist the temptations to do otherwise. This is shown in the Gospel passage today, in what we heard about the encounter between the Lord Jesus, and His friends, Mary and Martha. When the Lord came into their house, both of the sisters were so happy to welcome Him, and while Mary listened attentively on what the Lord told her, Martha instead was busy preparing all the food and all the hospitality work.

Martha became too engrossed in her works, and seeing her sister attending by the Lord’s side without helping her, she became annoyed and asked the Lord to tell her sister to give her a hand to help. But the Lord Jesus then reminded Martha, that Mary had in fact done what is right, that is, to focus her attention to the Lord, and not to all the hectic and busy matters of the world. Martha wanted to please the Lord by her actions, but in her choice of action, she ended up losing her focus on Him and instead on all of her chores.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us mankind, even among us as Christians, we have not been truly living our faith as how we should have, as we are too busy and preoccupied by our worldly concerns and desires, for wealth, for glory, for human praise and for all sorts of pleasures of the body and joy of the world. That is why we end up drifting further and further away from the Lord, because of the pull of these temptations.

Today we mark the feast of two holy servants of God, whose lives should become inspiration for us on how we should live out our own lives. First St. Denis, bishop of Paris, was a holy martyr of the faith, during the years of persecution of Christians by the Romans. St. Denis was a great missionary and evangeliser, who together with some other bishops and priests managed to gain so many followers and converts, that they earned the anger of the pagans.

Thus, St. Denis and his companions were arrested and tortured for their Christian faith. But they refused to let go of their faith or to betray their Lord for the pagan gods and the worship of the Emperor. He was beheaded with a sword, but miraculously, even after the beheading, the head of St. Denis continued to preach about the truth of God, and his hand carried his own head up, and walking down on a few miles from the place of his execution, he continued to preach, until he eventually stopped and passed on, a place marked with what is now the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.

The examples and the miraculous occasion which accompanied St. Denis’ martyrdom inspired many of the Christians then suffering from persecution, and many others who witnessed his courage and faith, and the astounding spectacle of the miraculous talking head became believers in the faith and converted to the true faith. Many of them would also eventually became martyrs themselves.

Then, today, we also celebrate the feast of St. John Leonardi, a holy and devout priest who lived in the late era Renaissance Italy, remembered for his great piety and encouragement of many others to live a more devout and holy life, especially in the devotion he fostered for the Blessed Sacrament and to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. His work inspired many others to follow his example, and eventually they began a religious order together.

St. John Leonardi dedicated himself to the Lord thoroughly and spent his efforts trying to be more and more committed to serve the Lord, in each and every days of his life. His examples should also therefore, inspire us to live a more dedicated and pious life, just as St. Denis and his companions have inspired us to remain faithful and courageous in living our faith, even despite the challenges we encounter in life, one day after another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore turn towards God with a renewed heart and with a new commitment. Let us spend more quality time with Him, to know what is His will for us, and what we can do more, in order to live our lives with faith, imitating what St. Paul the Apostle had done in his life. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.