Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the need for us to consider the path going forward in our lives, on whether we want to follow the path that the Lord has set before us, or whether we rather choose the alternative path of this world and not following the Lord and His ways. All of these have been given to us freely to choose, and we have been given the wisdom and free will to decide.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples and the people using a parable in which He described the actions of kings and rulers of nations who were about to go to war with each other, as well as builders and architects who wanted to build a house. The Lord used these as examples to show that no matter in what situation, everyone’s actions are often likely planned and well-thought of beforehand.

Yes, definitely there will be unforeseen circumstances and changes along the way no matter how well we have planned for everything. Yet to go and enter into something, or to act without any plans at all often leads to not just negative, but even disastrous outcomes and consequences. And the Lord linked all these to what He said before He told them the parable.

The Lord said that no one who loves their fathers, mothers, family members, spouses, relatives and friends, or anyone else more than they love Him can have any share in His kingdom, and unless they carry the burden of their crosses and follow Christ, they cannot be His disciples and consequently have no part of the grace and inheritance God had promised them through Christ, His Son.

What the Lord told the people did not mean that He asked them to abandon everyone and love Him alone, as what some people would have easily misunderstood the true meaning and purpose of what He had said. In truth, through these words, the Lord is reminding each and every one of us His faithful, that we must not forget that God must be first of all and first in our focus, attention and love. And if we love God, then we naturally will also love all those whom God had loved, that is our brothers and sisters.

We should not love something or someone greater than our love for God, but we are called to love everyone as greatly as how we have loved God and ourselves. This is the true intention and meaning of His words and the parable He mentioned, in presenting before us, the truth that He has unveiled before us, and the clear choices that we have to make if we are to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. We cannot treat our faith as a mere formality alone.

We know that the path that we follow in the Lord will lead us to eternal life and glory with God, for it is what He Himself has revealed to us. And yet, we often rather chose to follow different paths in life, refusing to follow the Lord and indulging in our own personal desires and selfish agendas. Truly, we know that doing so will lead us to ruin and yet we still carry it out nonetheless. Truly, we have been fools more often than we are not!

That is why today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by St. Charles Borromeo, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan and great Reformer of the Church, a paragon of faith and virtue in his many contributions especially in his efforts in spearheading the Counter-Reformation within his diocese and beyond as an influential adviser to the Pope and the Roman Curia. St. Charles Borromeo, despite his great influence and power at that time, was however a humble person, who cared for the people of God and spent his life in reaching out to them.

St. Charles Borromeo loved God above all things, and at that time, when many of the clergy and also laypeople were corrupted by the excesses of worldly wealth and glory, he worked hard to purge the corruptions from within the Church, reforming the way the Church and the priests and its laypeople lived, to distance themselves from sin and evil, and to embrace fully the way of the Lord. Clearly, St. Charles Borromeo had chosen the Lord’s path to be his path, and we too should do the same.

St. Charles Borromeo dedicated himself to the people whom God had entrusted to him, showing just how he loved God first and greatest of all, and then he showed the same love to his brethren as well, and not putting or allowing his selfish desires and the temptations to sin to distract him. It was told that he tried his best to feed his flock when a great famine struck Milan and its surroundings, and the holy man of God devoted much of his effort to care for the most needy.

Are we able and willing to follow in the footsteps of St. Charles Borromeo, brothers and sisters in Christ? As mentioned earlier, we have given the choice to make, to choose between God and His righteous path, or the path of the world and personal self-satisfaction and indulgence. Shall we choose consciously with faith, the path that we are going to take in life, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all commit ourselves to God anew as Christians from now on, in each and every moments of our lives, that by our every actions, words and deeds, we will always glorify God in all things. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 25-33

At that time, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, “If you come to Me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not follow Me, carrying his own cross, cannot be My disciple.”

“Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, if you, have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you : ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”

“And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become My disciple, if he does not give up everything he has.”

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Philippians 2 : 12-18

Therefore, my dearest friends, as you always obeyed me while I was with you, even more, now, that I am far from you, continue working out your salvation “with fear and trembling.” It is God Who makes you, not only wish but also, carry out what pleases Him.

Do everything without grumbling, so, that, without fault or blame, you will be children of God, without reproach, among a crooked and perverse generation. You are a light among them, like stars in the universe, holding to the word of life. I shall feel proud of you, on the day of Christ, on seeing that my effort and labour have not been in vain.

And if I am being poured out, as a libation over the sacrifice, and the offering of your faith, I rejoice and continue to share your joy; and, you, likewise should rejoice and share my joy.

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Lord through the Scriptures speaking to us on the matter of judging of one another, and how we should not judge each other as we ourselves shall be judged by our own actions and for our own failures. In fact, it is often that when we judge others, we ourselves are doing what we are judging or being prejudiced against others for, and as saying goes, it is the fact that our insecurities due to our shortcomings that lead us to be judgmental on others.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we are people often controlled by our ego and pride, our human ambitions and desires, and we do not like it when we are wrong or are not in control over our actions and path in life. And that is why, in our Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke of this matter referring to the improper and prideful attitudes of many of the Pharisees, the scribes and teachers of the Law and many among the priestly clans and caste.

Those people often criticised and opposed the Lord Jesus and His works, quickly being judgmental and prejudiced against Him, firstly because He was a Galilean, from the very corners and fringes of the Jewish community and sphere of influence at the time, of His humble birth and origin, born into the family of a poor carpenter in the poor and relatively unknown village of Nazareth in Galilee.

And that His followers were also mostly poor, uneducated like poor fishermen of the lake of Galilee among others, and people belonging to the fringes of society like the members of the Zealots and tax collectors, added even more to the prejudice and the judgmental attitude levied against them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law despised how the Lord often walked alongside those whom they looked down upon, those condemned as sinners and unworthy, the tax collectors, prostitutes, those who were sick and diseased, among others.

But little they realised that in their hubris and pride, they had failed to realise that they themselves had erred and sinned against God, and their sins in fact were equally as bad and serious as those who they have condemned as sinners and unworthy of God. They had been too engrossed in maintaining their prestige, status and privileged conditions, shoring up their ego and desires that they ended up forgetting their important responsibilities and obligations to bring God’s lost people back to Him. Instead, they shut the path of salvation to the lost ones, and turned their backs on those who were seeking God.

In what they had done, not just that they had done sins of deeds, but also the sins of omission by their failure to reach out to those who need God’s love and help. And this was no different from their ancestors, the Israelites who had neglected their obligation to serve and follow God, to be faithful to their Covenant with Him. Instead, they chose to worship foreign idols and pagan gods and sought all sorts of worldly glory and pleasures, and they criticised the prophets and messengers God had sent to their midst, again not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.

And we knew how it all ended, as the northern kingdom of Israel were swallowed by the forces of the Assyrians who came and conquered their whole lands and destroyed the capital of Samaria, bringing many among the people into exile in faraway lands. Their brethren in the southern kingdom of Judah would also come to suffer the same fate in the later time, as the Babylonians came to conquer and destroy Judah and Jerusalem.

All of these are reminders not that God is an angry and wrathful God as what some of us might have thought of Him. Rather, it was our own willing and conscious rejection of God’s love, mercy and compassion, our constant refusal to abandon our sinful ways and our wickedness that had led us into sin, and therefore, from there, into damnation, because of our rejection of God’s most generous offers of mercy. We have to remember that while God is ever merciful and forgiving, but He is also a just God, and no sin can exist before Him, without repentance and forgiveness.

Today all of us are reminded of all these that each and every one of us may truly live up to our Christian calling to live a most faithful and dedicated life filled with genuine devotion to God, following Him faithfully each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to glorify God through our every little actions and words, our deeds and interactions in life. But in order to do this, then we must first be willing to accept the fact and truth that we are vulnerable, weak and easily tempted, sinful and unworthy people.

Instead of pointing out what is lacking in others, we must look into ourselves, and find ways how we can make good use of the opportunities that God had given us in order to return to Him and to rend our hearts and cleanse all the impurities within, to discard all the sins and wickedness and replace them with faith and genuine love for the Lord, with a newfound zeal and commitment, to walk in God’s path from now on.

Today, we should draw inspiration from our holy predecessors, whose lives can be great examples for us to follow, whose faith have been great and can show us the way in following God. First of all, St. Paulinus of Nola was once a great and influential Roman governor of the region of Campania in what is today Italy, who converted to the Christian faith under the influence of his wife, and who eventually left his office behind and chose to dedicate himself to God, eventually becoming the Bishop of Nola.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a great and committed shepherd, who cared greatly for his faithful flock, always ever seeking to bring them closer to God. Despite St. Paulinus of Nola’s privileged birth and previous powerful position in the world, that did not lead him to be swayed and engulfed in his personal desires, ego and whatever temptations the world might have brought him, and as a result, through his ministry and commitment, St. Paulinus of Nola is a great example for all of us.

Then, the two holy martyrs and saints of the English ‘Reformation’ namely St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, were truly courageous and great examples of faith for each and every one of us, for their brave and fearless opposition to the faithlessness and immorality of the then king of England, Henry VIII, whose unbridled desire to secure for himself a son and heir for his kingdom and house, had led to the separation of the Church in England from the Universal Church, a terrible deed and injury to the unity of the faithful that last until this very day.

At that time, St. Thomas More was the powerful Chancellor of the kingdom, the right hand man of the king, well trusted by the king. Meanwhile, St. John Fisher was the pious and faithful Bishop of Rochester and also Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who also enjoyed the strong favour and support from king Henry VIII. Unfortunately, the king, who was once faithful and remembered for his defence of the true faith against the heresy of Protestantism in his famous Treatise of the Defence of the Seven Sacraments, turned against the Church when his desire to annul his marriage to his lawfully married wife, was rejected by the Church.

As the king showed his strong hand in severing the Church in England from the Universal Church and the true authority of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher stood out among other bishops, priests and laypeople who chose to remain loyal to the true Church. Although it must have been difficult for these two men to go against the king who had favoured them so much and also allowed them both to rise greatly in power, but they did not allow worldly desires and temptations to turn them away from their faith in God.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher opposed the king and his continued efforts to become the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and when things and situation continued to worsen, St. Thomas More chose to resign his position and together with St. John Fisher continued to resist the king’s unfaithful and wicked actions, which eventually led them to be arrested and suffered greatly, but these did not dampen their faith and desire to return England to the true faith and the true Church. Eventually they were killed in martyrdom, and their faith continued to inspire people to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great inspirations showed to us by St. Paulinus of Nola, as well as by the courageous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, let us all then live our lives from now on with renewed desire to seek God and to be faithful to Him, to be good in life and rather than focusing on the lack and faults in others, wondering who among us are more faithful and good, let us instead be exemplary in our own lives, and lead one another to God through our own dedication and actions in faith. Let us all glorify the Lord, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 1-5

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you.”

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as the plank is in your own?”

“Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 59 : 3, 4-5, 12-13

O God, You have rejected us and have broken our defences; You have been angry; but now turn back to us.

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its cracks, for it totters. You have made Your people suffer; You have given us wine that makes us stagger.

Have You not rejected us, o God? You no longer go with our armies. Give us aid against the foe, for human help is not worth a straw.

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Kings 17 : 5-8, 13-15a, 18

The army of the king of Asshur subjected the whole of Israel, coming to Samaria and laying siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, exiled the Israelites to Asshur and made them settle in Halah, at the banks of Habor, the river of Gozan, as well as in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the children of Israel had sinned against YHVH, their God, Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they were subject to Pharaoh. But they had turned back to other gods. They followed the customs of the nations which YHVH had driven out before them.

YHVH warned Israel and Judah through the mouth of every prophet and seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments and precepts according to the laws which I commanded your fathers and which I have sent to you by My servants, the prophets.” But they did not listen and refused, as did their fathers, who did not believe in YHVH, their God. They despised His statutes and the Covenant He had made with their fathers.

So YHVH became indignant with Israel and cast them far away from His presence, leaving only the tribe of Judah.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the end of the season of Easter and as we are about to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension tomorrow, each and every one of us are called as Christians to be the witnesses of the truth of Christ, that is to proclaim Him in our lives and in our daily actions, that others may come to believe in the Lord and follow Him into their salvation much as we have received the same offer of salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard the account of how St. Paul went to the renowned forum in the great city of Athens, named Areopagus, where many people often came for philosophical debates and discussions between those who were interested. St. Paul went and joined in the debate as he came forth presenting the words of God and His calling, preaching to many of the pagan philosophers about the one and only true God, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all the whole world.

St. Paul revealed the truth about God, the One Who loved all mankind, regardless of whoever and wherever they are, the One Who created the whole world and the entire universe, to those philosophers, many of whom had probably spent many years, decades and even perhaps their entire lives just to find the meaning and purpose of their lives. Some among the philosophers and pagans were intrigued by what St. Paul had revealed and spoken to them, and were open to listen more to him.

Unfortunately, many among the people ridiculed St. Paul and his revelations and words, laughed at him, ignored him and scorned him. This was to be expected given that the commonly held ideas and thoughts of that time were polytheism in worship, where people believed in many gods and deities, as well as many who worshipped elements and aspects of nature, including the Greeks and Romans, many of whom linked the elements of these paganism into their philosophical thinking.

Nonetheless, St. Paul tried and did his best to explain about God to these people in the place many considered to be the heart of Hellenistic paganism and philosophy, many of which aspect were against the Christian faith. He was patient yet succinct and detailed in his explanation and refute of the false pagan ways and practices. As a result, some of the pagans as mentioned did become intrigued by the revelations made by St. Paul, and it was likely that some among them did become Christians in the end.

St. Paul laboured and worked hard, revealing what he himself has received from the Spirit of Truth as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Holy Spirit has been sent from God to all the Apostles and disciples, who by laying of hands have passed the same Holy Spirit to all Christians, all throughout the ages and up to us all living today. We too have received the same Spirit, the same revelation and truth, as what we believe in our Christian faith and Creed that we believe in the One and only True God Who created all the world and the universe.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, to us have been entrusted the same mission and calling as St. Paul, and the missions and works of the Church are still far from being completed. On the contrary, there are still many areas where we can still contribute more in our own various capacities, to engage our fellow brothers and sisters especially those who have not yet known Christ in meaningful and respectful discourse that they too may come to believe in Him through us.

But if we want others to believe in God through us, then we ourselves must have genuine and strong faith in Him. Otherwise, how can we expect others to believe when we ourselves do not fully believe and practice our faith in our own daily lives and actions? We will be hypocrites and wicked if we do otherwise. That is why we should follow the good examples set by our predecessors. Today, we happen to celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a devout and holy priest, a dedicated servant of God whose examples can definitely inspire us.

St. Bernardine of Siena was renowned for his great piety and revolutionary style of preaching. Just like St. Paul, St. Bernardine of Siena spoke honestly and freely to the people. St. Bernardine of Siena reached out to the people and spoke to them about matters that directly influenced their lives. His efforts led to many people beginning to seek God more earnestly or trying to reevaluate their way of life. Many turned away from excesses of life and reorientate their lives towards God once again.

Of course, this did not mean that St. Bernardine did not encounter troubles during his journeys and works. There were also those that opposed and despised him, and in more than one occasions, people had tried to disturb and sabotage his sermons and works. That was the same rejection and difficulties that St. Paul and the other early Christian missionaries have experienced as well, and which we may experience ourselves during our own lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we have been called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord in all occasions. Let us all be inspired by the faith of our holy predecessors, St. Paul and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, St. Bernardine of Siena whose memory we celebrate today. Let us strive to be ever more committed to our faith, and dedicate ourselves with ever greater passion with each and every passing moments, giving ourselves to the service of God and our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”