Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture reminding us to be faithful and to have courage in the midst of difficulties and challenges that we may have encountered as we lived our lives filled with faith in God. In the first reading today, we heard of how the prophet Elijah stood up against the king of Israel, Ahab, and his four hundred and fifty priests, all serving and worshipping Baal, the pagan god of Canaan.

At the Mount Carmel, Elijah stood alone against those multitudes of people arrayed against him and against God, as the people of Israel have followed their kings and rulers into error and into worship of pagan idols. Only a handful remained in their faith in God, including the prophet Elijah, whom God had sent to call the people back to Him, and to reconcile those who had wandered away from His path.

Yet, despite all the persecution he had faced, having to flee many times for his life, and despite all the difficulties and the odds stacked against him, the prophet Elijah continued his ministry with zeal, and in a sense, it culminated in that great showdown at Mount Carmel, where before the people of Israel and their king, God showed His majesty and truth before them, against their false gods and idols.

Even though there were four hundred and fifty of them, none of the prayers of the priests of Baal were heard. There was no fire provided to them, to burn their offerings on the altar, showing to the people how false and useless their pagan worship had been. On the contrary, although Elijah was alone, but God was with him. And despite having poured a lot of water on the offerings and the altar, fire came down from heaven, so powerful and intense that it consumes everything including the water and the stones.

From this, we can see just how God is always faithful to His Covenant with us, and He will never abandon those who have always walked in His presence. He will always be with those who are faithful to Him, even during difficult and challenging times. In the end, despite all the sufferings, persecutions and difficulties, God will always triumph against those who have made themselves to be His enemies.

That is why, He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfilment of His long promised salvation to us, to be the One to fulfil the entirety of the Law He had given to us mankind. Unfortunately, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, and as we can see throughout the entirety of the Gospels, we see how the Lord Jesus was treated much in the same manner as how the prophet Elijah and the other prophets had been treated.

They had not been obedient to the true Law, and instead, twisted the Law to their own desires and to their advantage. They made use of the Law to serve their own selfish greed and pride, and as a result, they were no different from those priests of Baal who worshipped the devil and Baal, and not God, as they put their own selfish needs and desires ahead of their obligation to God, to the point that they opposed the Lord Jesus and made His works difficult.

But the Lord pointed out their errors and reemphasised how He came to fulfil the Law and complete what the Lord had promised His people, the salvation which He had vowed to give them. He still persevered regardless of the challenges He faced, just as the prophet Elijah had done. And today, another faithful servant of God is also remembered, that is St. Anthony of Padua, the renowned priest and Doctor of the Church.

St. Anthony of Padua was born into a wealthy and influential Portuguese family, but was attracted to the way of life of the consecrated religious orders, and eventually ordained to the priesthood and later on, joined the Franciscan order. He devoted his life to the service to God, and to a life of prayer and preaching the faith before the people. His sermons and preachings were so eloquent and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that many people came to hear him and were converted to the truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring stories of faith from these faithful servants of God, and from the Lord Himself, in what they had done, let us all reevaluate our own lives, and seek to turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and do our very best to be faithful to God in the same manner, by living our lives filled with love for God, as well as love for one another, even if we face challenges for who we are, as Christians, as God’s own people.

Let us all stand up together for our faith in God, and let us not let challenges and difficulties to hinder us or keep us away from loving God as we should. May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to watch over us, and bless all of our endeavours and good works of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a, 4, 5 and 8, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to YHVH, “You are my Lord.”

Those who run after foreign gods only have their sorrows multiplied.

Let me not shed blood for them, nor their names be heard on my lips.

O YHVH, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot. I keep YHVH always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence, the fullness of joy, at Your right hand, happiness forever.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 18 : 20-39

So Ahab sent for all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. Then Elijah addressed the people and asked, “How long will you follow two ways at the same time? If YHVH is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God then follow him.” The people remained silent.

So Elijah continued, “I am the only prophet of YHVH left here to face Baal’s four hundred and fifty prophets. Get us two bulls. Let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood; and I will do the same with the other bull. But we will not set it on fire. Then you shall call on the name of your gods while I shall call on the Name of YHVH. The God Who answers with fire is the true one.” Then the people answered, “That is right.”

Then Elijah told the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many. Then call on the name of your god lest you are left without fire!” So they took the bull and prepared it, and they called on the name of Baal, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice; and no one answered them while they went on, dancing on one foot around the altar they had built.

By noontime, Elijah began to mock them, “Shout out louder. Baal is a busy god; or he may have gone out, or perhaps he has gone on a trip, or he is sleeping and must be wakened.” So they shouted louder gashing their skin with knives, as they are used to doing, until they bled. It was already past noon and they were still raving on, until the time of the evening offering. But still there was no voice. No one answered or gave a sign of life.

Then Elijah said to the people, “Draw closer to me,” and the people drew closer to him. He then repaired the altar of YHVH which had been thrown down. He took twelve stones corresponding to the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob whom YHVH had addressed saying, “Israel shall be your name.” With these stones, he built an altar to the Name of YHVH; and dug a trench around it that would contain about thirty litres.

He then arranged the firewood, cut the bull in pieces and laid them on the wood. Then, he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the firewood.” He said, “Do it again;” and they did it again; “one more time,” and they did it a third time. The water ran around the altar and filled the trench.

When the time of the evening offering came, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O YHVH, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel; and that I am Your servant, doing all these things at Your command. Answer me, o YHVH, answer me so that this people may know that You, o YHVH, are God; and that You are turning back their hearts to You.”

Then the fire of YHVH fell and consumed the burnt offering, together with the wood, the stones also, and the dust; the water also dried up in the trench. All the people witnessed this. Then they fell on their faces and said, “YHVH is God! YHVH is God!”

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us about the importance for us as Christians, to care for one another, our fellow faithful, our brothers and sisters in the same Lord. St. James told us this, in the Epistle he wrote, that we should pray, pray for our sake and pray for each other.

A good and devout Christian will pray, and pray in order to communicate with the Lord, Our God, the source of our strength, hope and power. And through prayer, we show our concern towards one another, and then, we put ourselves into action, to help lead and guide one another, that each and every one of us are responsible for the well-being of one another in faith.

And this means that, we should not be quick to judge or to cast our brothers or sisters out, just because we think that they were not as faithful as we are, or that they are not doing things the way we want it to be. In the Gospel passage today, we saw how the Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples because they tried to prevent children from coming towards Him. He was angry at them because they tried to impose what they thought was right over others.

And we have to understand this in the context of their actions towards one another. The disciples were often arguing and bickering among themselves on who among them, will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But in doing so, they are trying to undermine each other, and exclude others from God’s grace and love. St. James and St. John went with their mother to the Lord, asking Him to grant them special favours over that of the other disciples.

But the Lord showed them that it is not the way that He wants from each one of His followers and disciples. Rather, He showed that the Church must be welcoming, especially to little children who want to come to the Lord and know Him. This is important because, those children are still innocent, and are willing to know the Lord with genuine intention and faith.

If we prevent them from reaching out to the Lord, then we have committed a great sin, for we have caused their souls to be lost to Him. And then, if we, through our actions have caused them to fall into sin, because we ourselves have not been faithful and committed what is wicked and sinful before God, then we will also be held accountable for the souls of these little children, as well as anyone else that we have misled into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, a famous holy man and devout servant of God, who was an Italian priest remembered for his great dedication to the Lord, for his missionary work and outreach to many of the faithful, calling many people to repent from their sins and follow the Lord. As a result, many people followed the Lord and turn away from their sins. He has done the Church and the people of God a great service.

Now, each and every one of us as Christians should follow the examples of St. Philip Neri and live in the way that he has lived his life, and in how he has served the people of God. Let us all devote ourselves anew to God, and be exemplary in our lives, by truly living them with faith, through genuine actions, by loving one another and by our guidance towards one another in faith. We hope that through all these, we may help to guide each other, to remain true to our Christian faith, and welcome all those who seek the Lord, especially those who desire His love, like those little children who come to Him.

May the Lord be with each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us in faith, that we will grow to love Him more and more, with each and every passing day of our lives. Amen.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 10 : 13-16

At that time, people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 140 : 1-2, 3 and 8

Lord, I call on You, hasten to help me! Listen to my plea when I call to You. Let my prayer rise to You, like incense; as I lift up my hands, as in an evening sacrifice.

O YHVH, set a guard at my mouth; keep watch at the gate of my lips. But my eyes are turned to You, o God, my YHVH; strip me not of life, for You are my refuge.