Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listen to the words of the Scripture we are reminded that we have often been stubborn and rebellious before God, and we have often ignored the Lord’s genuine love and call for us to return to Him, as history and Scriptural records and truth had revealed to us. As it had once happened at that time, so it has happened again at present and will happen again in the future.

In the first reading today, taken from the passage of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord that He spoke through Jeremiah and which He asked of the prophet to convey to the people of Judah, calling them all to repent and turn away from their sins, that He might forgive them and stay His wrath from them all and rescind the punishments for the many sins that the people had committed all those while.

And the Lord also reminded His people that unless they repent from their sins, then what happened to the sanctuary of Shiloh would also happen to them all, as a kind and loving reminder that God still yet gave more and more chances to His people to repent and turn away from their sins. For the context, the sanctuary of Shiloh historically had been important religious centre for the Israelites since the days of the Judges before the rise of the kingdom of Israel.

And Shiloh was likely the place where the then Judge and High Priest Eli had his seat and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept under the Holy Tent. When the two wicked sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas led the Israelites against the Philistines who raided and attacked them, they brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, thinking that they would win and triumph over the Philistines. On the contrary, they suffered a terrible defeat, the wicked Hophni and Phinehas were killed and the Ark of God was taken away by the enemy.

The story of the sanctuary of Shiloh was a great tragedy and humiliation for the Israelites, and the utterance of the place was the way for the Lord to convey the message to the Israelites that if they continued on in their path of wickedness and sin, just as it had happened before, then it would happen again. And this was proven correct later on, as within about two decades, both Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the Temple destroyed and the Ark went missing since then.

It was a humiliation on a perhaps much greater scale than the humiliation of Shiloh, but it could have been prevented had the people then been more humble and accepting of God’s love and mercy. But they hardened their hearts as we heard from our first reading today, opposing Jeremiah and protesting publicly against him and whatever he had said and done, while refusing to reinspect and relook once again at their own lives and actions, their lack of faith and sin.

In the Gospel today, we heard a parallel story in how Jesus was doubted and rejected by none other than His own townspeople, those who had seen Him grow up in their midst, His neighbours and even perhaps friends. Those were the same people who expressed doubt and disbelief at the Lord after hearing Him speak and performing miracles. They had seen Him grow up in a poor carpenter family just like many of them, in a poor backwater village in Galilee. Therefore, it could even be seen as the people being jealous and refused to believe that the Lord Jesus could have been genuine.

It is sad how these attitudes are leading people away from God, and they kept so many people in their ego and pride, their hardened hearts and closed minds that they ended up being ever more and more distant from God. Yet, God has always been patient in reaching out to us and calling on us to follow Him despite our many transgressions and disobedience. And just as the path of disobedience leads to our downfall and annihilation, should we turn away from sin and be reconciled with God, then a bright future awaits us.

Today, we remember the memory of one of such converts, a great saint and holy man of God, devout as priest and champion of Christendom against its many troubles and enemies. Yet, when this holy man of God was young, he was not at all devout, and treated God as someone insignificant and distant, preferring to seek worldly ambitions and dreams of glory and might, as the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits can tell us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born into a minor noble family in northern part of what is now Spain. He was brought up in the common norm of the time as part of the nobility, surrounded by wealth, power and privileges, and the young St. Ignatius of Loyola dreamt of great pursuits and noble, chivalrous deeds as was expected of many among the nobles then. To that extent, in the pursuit of glory and power, St. Ignatius of Loyola joined the military, and at that time, wars and conflicts characterised many parts of Christendom as kings fought for power and influence.

In one of the sieges, St. Ignatius of Loyola was badly injured and he had to stay in the hospital to treat his terrible wounds. As he was bedridden for a while, he was initially restless and wanted to resume his previous military career. But his almost life-threatening injury ended his military life, and he went through profound spiritual conversion through reading the lives of the Lord and the saints. As he continued to explore this newfound interest and passion, St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind the worldly pursuits and desires he once had, and instead, he sought to imitate the holy lives of the saints and serve the Lord.

To this extent, St. Ignatius of Loyola came to practice spiritual discernment and experiences that he would later also be famous for, as the Ignatian spirituality. And as he met and gathered like-minded people, who wanted to serve the Lord and the Church particularly during the troubled times at that time when the Church and the faithful were threatened from both the outside by the rising power of the Ottomans that persecuted Christian communities and conquered many nations, to the rapidly growing heresy of Protestantism that divided many communities of the faithful and led many astray from the true faith.

Therefore, St. Ignatius of Loyola together with several other men founded the Society of Jesus and became in time, the spearhead of the Church’s efforts in countering the threats faced at that time by the faithful. Led by St. Ignatius of Loyola, many Jesuits would go to various places throughout Christendom and through many years of labour and loving commitment, brought countless souls back to salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how St. Ignatius of Loyola had been transformed by the chance experience he had when he was injured, and how he opened himself to the Lord and desired to seek Him as he went on to learn more and more about Him. And this is what we should all be doing as well in our lives. This is what each and every one of us have been called to do, to allow God to lead us in our lives to the right path, and for us to follow Him wholeheartedly, rejecting sin and evil for good and righteousness.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and remember his motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ meaning ‘For the greater glory of God’. Let our lives and actions be transformed and changed by God, that in everything we say and do, in our every interactions, we will glorify God and be inspiring role models for one another, that we all may become ever closer to God and His salvation. May God bless us always in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? How did He get all this?” And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 5, 8-10, 14

More than the hairs of my head are those who hate me for no reason; mighty are those who attack me, many are my enemies without cause. What I did not steal I am forced to restore.

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s sons. Zeal for Your House consumes me, as fire, and those who insult You, insult me as well.

But I pray to You, o YHVH. At a time most favourable to You, in Your great love, o God, answer me, with Your unfailing help.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 1-9

At the beginning of the reign of Judah’s king Jehoiakim son of Josiah, the word of YHVH came to Jeremiah : YHVH says this, “Stand in the courtyard of YHVH’s House and say to all who come from the towns of Judah to worship in YHVH’s House – all that I command you to say; do not omit anything! Perhaps they will listen to you. Perhaps each one will turn from his wicked ways. Then I will change My mind and forget the destruction that I have planned to inflict on them because of their wicked deeds.”

“Tell them : This is what YHVH says : ‘You have not obeyed Me and you have failed to walk according to My law which I have set before you. You have not heeded My servants, the prophets, whom I have persistently sent to you. If you stubbornly close your ears to them, I will treat this House of Mine as I treated the Sanctuary of Shiloh and let all the nations see that Jerusalem is a cursed city.’”

The priests, the prophets and all the people heard what Jeremiah said in YHVH’s House. When Jeremiah finished saying all that YHVH had commanded, he was besieged by the priests and prophets saying, “You are bound to die! How dare you speak in YHVH’s Name telling us that this House will be treated like Shiloh and this city is to become a deserted ruin.” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the House of YHVH.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the holy Doctors of the Church, who was also a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, and also a great priest and champion of the Counter Reformation efforts of the Church. St. Peter Canisius is truly a great inspiration and role model that many of us Christians can look upon as we ourselves progress in our own respective journeys of faith.

St. Peter Canisius lived at the time when the Church and Christendom were at a crossroads, at a time of great challenges and trials for the Church and the faithful, when many of the faithful began to walk away from the true faith at the time of the Protestant reformation, when many different alternative thoughts and teachings brought segments of the faithful to splinter away from the Holy Mother Church.

It was there then that St. Peter Canisius, as one of the earliest members of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, was instrumental in the efforts to counter the divisions within the Church, in what was called the Counter Reformation. St. Peter Canisius was one among the Jesuits tasked with the works of re-evangelisation of traditional lands of Christendom such as in what is now Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Nordic countries among others.

St. Peter Canisius was remembered particularly not just for the zeal with which he carried out his mission, but also the love and gentleness with which he performed his works and ministries among the people of God, even in difficult and challenging times. He advocated clarity in doctrine and preaching and discouraged attacks and insults against the Protestant populations, arguing that such methods made the spiritually sick and needy to become incurable.

Instead, spearheading the efforts of the Counter-Reformation and the gradual implementation of the reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent which rooted out many of the ills and corruptions then affecting the Church, St. Peter Canisius contributed immensely to the efforts of the Counter-Reformation by his courageous efforts and tireless devotion to serve the Lord by his outreach to those who have separated themselves from the Church, focusing on clarifying the confusion within the Church and explaining more clearly the truth of the Church.

To that extent, St. Peter Canisius wrote and authored the three volumes of what would be known as the Catechisms in the Latin and German language, the language of those who have been most affected by the reformation. This was one of his most renowned contributions to the Church, which was part of the reason why he was canonised as a saint and made as one of the Doctors of the Church in the year 1925 by Pope Pius XI. His contributions in leading the Counter-Reformation in Germany, reclaiming many areas to the Church was also a contributing factor.

And not just that, as St. Peter Canisius was also renowned for his deep devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and his contributions to the area of Mariology which helped to deepen the then developing spiritual devotion to Mary, in which again he is remembered for his lasting contribution of adding the final part of the Ave Maria or the Hail Mary prayer with the final prayer and petition of ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen’.

As we can see, the inspiring examples of St. Peter Canisius in everything he has contributed to the Church and his important role in the renewal of faith especially among those who have lapsed in their ways, should be important reminder for us all as well, in how we ourselves should rediscover our faith in God and deepen our relationship with Him, especially through a deeper relationship with His mother Mary, to whom St. Peter Canisius and many of our holy predecessors had deep devotion for.

As we approach the moment of Christmas in just a few days’ time, it is perhaps timely that today’s commemoration of the memory of the glorious St. Peter Canisius reminds us of the need for us to be reconnected with God, and how as Christians all of us have that obligation and calling to be witnesses for Christ within our own communities, friends and families.

Just as how it was during the time of St. Peter Canisius, when many had fallen away from the faith, there are also today many people who had lapsed from their faith and became wayward in their lives. Have we become like one of them, when we allowed our faith to become lukewarm? We have lost the faith if we have allowed ourselves to treat our faith as merely just a formality, and especially, if Christmas has no further meaning to us than just another holiday.

If this is the case, then there is a need for us to reexamine our lives and reconnect ourselves to God. We need to seek the Lord again with a new love and zeal just as how we heard from our first reading today in the Book of Song of Songs, like that of a lover seeking his or her long lost lover. And once we have regained that connection with God, then our challenge is such that, we need to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Canisius, and bring others back into the faith just as we have done.

And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Not through confrontation or by being condescending as what St. Peter Canisius had said, that if we do so, we will end up making those who have rejected God to close themselves against Him even more. Instead, we should be role models of our faith, just as St. Peter Canisius has been a great role model for us. Live our lives full of faith, and practice what we believe in our actions, words and deeds, and in time, all those who see us, hear us and meet us will be touched by our faith.

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts then, and endeavour to love Him more as we are about to celebrate the glorious celebration of Christmas in just a few days’ time. We should not allow Christmas to be just another holiday or festivity, but instead, let us all immerse ourselves in the true meaning and joy of Christmas in our Lord’s coming, and share the love which He has shown us to one another. May God be with us all and with our blessed Christmas preparations. Amen.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14

The voice of my Lover! Behold He comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Noe He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My Lover speaks to me, “Arise, My love, My beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, My beautiful one, come with Me, My love, come.”

“O My dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice. Your face – how lovely! Your voice – how sweet!”

Alternative reading

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day, they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the memory of a great saint and servant of God, who is also commemorated as the Patron of all missions and missionaries, recalling the great contributions that this holy man had given throughout his many years of ministry to the far-off lands and regions, travelling from places to places bringing the Good News of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard or known of God.

St. Francis Xavier was a Spanish Jesuit who was also one of the founding and original members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order. He was remembered for his great missionary efforts and travels throughout many regions of Asia and the far eastern regions of Asia, from India to Southeast Asia and then even as far as Japan and many other parts of those areas, spreading the words of God to the people there.

At that time, Christendom was faced with many challenges both from the inside and from the outside, as the era of the Protestant reformation came about, causing many of the people of God to be splintered away and separated from the Holy Mother Church into the various heresies and false teachings, while the rise of the power of the Ottoman Turks threatened many parts of the Christian world from the outside.

The Society of Jesus was then founded at that time by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a courageous servant of God who gathered like minded to serve the Lord for His greater glory as is in their motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. Many people came to join the Jesuit order in the vigorous effort and campaign by the Church to stem the tide of the Protestant reformation and also to reinvigorate the faith among the people of God.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those whom St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered, and while quite a few of the Jesuits worked hard within the old Christian world, spreading the true faith to the people who have been swayed by false and erroneous teachings, there were many others led by St. Francis Xavier who ventured forth to distant lands that at that time were just recently discovered.

St. Francis Xavier represented the efforts of the Church to embrace those who have not yet heard of God’s salvation and truth, just as the Lord Himself had commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, as part of the Great Commission which He has entrusted to all of them. The Great Commission was a sending off from the Lord as He asked all of them to go forth to the many nations to bring God’s truth to them and to make them God’s own beloved people through baptism.

To that extent, St. Francis Xavier dedicated his whole life to missionary works, travelling far and wide at a time when travel was still hazardous and taking many months just to cross the oceans to reach the destinations. St. Francis Xavier thus travelled far from Europe, first of all to Goa in India, before travelling to Malacca and to the other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, laying the foundations of the Church and the faith among the many communities he visited, braving through even many storms and difficulties.

St. Francis Xavier also travelled to Macau and Japan, establishing the grounds for the faith and the Church in the latter and visiting the growing populations of Catholics elsewhere, going back and forth between India and the Far East throughout his many evangelising missions, and passed away just before he was about to enter China to evangelise there. His mortal remains and relics are now preserved in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus in Goa, India, where the faithful from all over Christendom often come to venerate this faithful and holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having gone through in quite a great detail on the life and works of St. Francis Xavier, all of us are also therefore called to reflect on his many contributions and efforts, his tireless attempts and outreach to bring the Good News to the reach of many of those who had not had the opportunity to listen to the truth of God, much as how the Apostles in the earliest days of the Church travelled to many places sowing the seeds of faith.

This is a reminder for us that the works of the Church and the Apostles were far from being completed, and rather, many of our predecessors throughout the years and many generations who had endeavoured and worked hard to continue the good works that the Lord had begun in His Church. St. Francis Xavier did just that, and showed us just what we should do with our lives in being wonderful witnesses of the Lord’s truth just as St. Francis Xavier himself had done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we remember all those who have devoted their lives to the service of the Lord as missionaries, following in the direct footsteps of the Holy Apostles and the saints, like that of St. Francis Xavier, who is their patron. We have to pray for them and ask that the Lord will strengthen them and give them the courage and the ability to persevere through challenges and difficulties they may have to endure during their journey.

But at the same time, all of us as Christians are also then reminded of our own obligation and calling to be missionaries of the Lord, as each and every one of us as the members of God’s Holy Church are also part of the Lord’s Great Commission. We do not have to aim for great things or to think that we need to perform extraordinary deeds or laboured in the way that our holy predecessors like the Apostles and St. Francis Xavier had done.

Instead, what we need to do is to do our best in our each and every actions, in each and our every interactions in our daily living so that by our actions, words and deeds we become genuine and true witnesses of the Lord’s truth and salvation in wherever we are living, in our families and communities. Through this we can become missionaries of the Lord in our own way, working for the greater glory of God and making use of whatever goods and talents that God has blessed us with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew in us the faith which we have in the Lord and renew the zeal and love, the dedication and commitment we have towards Him, as we are shown the inspiring examples of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of mission and all missionaries. Let us all bear courageously and truthfully our faith in God in all things. May the Lord be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.