Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 100 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6

I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, o YHVH, I will sing praise. I will walk the way of integrity – o YHVH, when will You come to me?

With a blameless heart, I will walk within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the deeds of faithless people.

He who deals with others treacherously, I will silence. He who talks and acts arrogantly, I will not endure.

I will choose from the faithful of the land, those who may dwell with Me; only the upright shall be My servant.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Timothy 3 : 1-13

If someone aspires to the overseer’s ministry, he is, without a doubt, looking for a noble task. It is necessary, that the overseer (or bishop) be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, responsible, judicious, of good manners, hospitable and skilful in teaching.

He must not be addicted to wine, or quarrelsome, but be gentle and peaceful, and not a lover of money, but a man whose household is well-managed, with obedient and well-mannered children. If he cannot govern his own house, how can he lead the assembly of God? He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must enjoy a good reputation among the outsiders, lest people speak evil about him, and he fall into the snare of the devil.

Deacons, likewise, must be serious and sincere, and moderate in drinking wine, not greedy for money; they must keep the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them be first tried and, if found blameless, be accepted as deacons. In the same way, the women must be conscientious, not given to gossip, but reserved and trustworthy.

A deacon must be husband of one wife, and must know how to guide his children and manage his household. Those who serve well as deacons will win honourable rank, with authority to speak of Christian faith.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, which in essence is calling us to be sincere and true in our faith, that is not by putting a farce or falsehood in our devotion to God in our life. It is telling us that unless we are sincere in our devotion, by genuine actions that came from the heart, we cannot call ourselves as true Christians.

In the Gospel today, Jesus told the people to do their good deeds for the right intentions, that is to really serve the people of God, our fellow brethren, and therefore to glorify God and serve Him, and not our own personal desires and interests. He used the examples of prayers and fasting, which the Jewish people according to the laws of Moses were obliged to do, especially during certain times and periods in the year.

However, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who strictly enforced the application of the rules on prayers and fasting, they themselves did so not because they truly do them for the sake of God, but instead, it was to fulfil their own vanity, their own desire to be praised and adored for their piety and commitment to the laws of Moses. They showed their prayers and fasting in order to be looked favourably upon by other men and women.

That was why Jesus rebuked them and were angry at these people, who made their faith as if they were showpieces for their own personal benefits. He was angry because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were not doing what they preached, and yet, they burdened the people to obey the same rules to the suffering of the people. They misled the people by their actions, and were not showing true discipleship as those whom the Lord had entrusted with the leadership and guidance over His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, the same response of the Lord will be ours if we ourselves do not love Him, serve Him and be faithful to Him in a way that is much more than the way the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. That is, if we live our lives in this world, but we do not do what we believe, we do not act in the manner that we have preached and claimed to have faith in.

What are some of the examples, brethren? First of all, many of us Christians go to the Mass in the Church, not because we want to really be with the Lord and spend our time with Him. Rather, some of us wanted to outdo each other in piety, and showing our fellow friends or relatives just how devout we are, by our prayers and devotions. We turn our focus inwards upon ourselves, upon our ego and desires instead of what we need to focus on, that is our love and devotion for the Lord our God.

And then, we grumble and we put up grumpy faces when we fast, because we do not truly understand what it is that we fast for, or that as the Pharisees had done, we wanted to be praised for our piety. This is not what the Lord wants from us, brothers and sisters in Christ. What He wants from us is our sincere and genuine love, devotion and commitment, through our prayers and fasting, as well as through many other ways of how we can love Him, but which must be done with true desire from our hearts.

Let us all look at the examples of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the holy saint whose feast we are commemorating today. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a noble, rich and powerful family of the Gonzagas in the late Renaissance era Italy, a few hundred years ago. He was born as the firstborn of the noble family, a position of extreme honour, as the rule was that he was to inherit all the titles, prestige, wealth and properties that his father as an influential nobleman had possessed.

But as he grew up, even though he received numerous education and preparation of a typical nobleman of his era, St. Aloysius Gonzaga slowly grew to seek and long for the Lord, by all the experiences and the readings he had done, especially on the missionary activities of the Jesuits in the faraway lands. As his desire to serve the Lord grew, eventually, things came to the point when he openly declared his intention to become a Jesuit and thus, had to renounce all that he stood to inherit.

He encountered stiff opposition from his family, particularly from his father, who tried all he could to dissuade him and stop him from joining the religious order. Nevertheless, St. Aloysius Gonzaga remained firm in his commitment and was adamant in his desire to serve the Lord through what He had called him to be. In the end, he prevailed and he became a Jesuit.

He lived his life with devotion and commitment, serving the people of God through words and action, caring for the poor, the sick and the dying, even in the midst of a deadly plague which eventually took his life. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, his strong devotion and desire to love the Lord and to serve Him by serving His people, as well as his ability to resist the temptation of human glory, desire and all the other obstacles should be our inspiration in how we ourselves ought to live our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all now therefore renew our commitment to live our lives full of faith, genuine faith to the Lord, just in the same manner as St. Aloysius Gonzaga and the many other holy saints and martyrs of God had done. May the Lord help us in our journey, so that we will be able to give our all to serve Him with all of our lives, with all of our might and all of our commitment. May the Lord bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, “Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family; there, his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness; he is kind, merciful and upright.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.