Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 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, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us to be faithful to the Lord, in our every day living moments and in all things. We are all called to remember the Lord’s commandments and Law, and the need for all of us as Christians to love God first and foremost, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to everyone without exception.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s commands to His people as recorded in the Book of Leviticus, detailing the celebration of the fiftieth year or the year of the Jubilee, which was marked as a year of celebration and healing, of reconciliation and love, where people forgave their enemies and those who had been indebted to them from their debts. It is a year set aside to remind the people of God that they ought to give thanks to God and at the same time also show care and love for one another.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the martyrdom or the death of St. John the Baptist in prison, at the hands of king Herod, and at the instigation of his wife, Herodias, who held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist as the saint did not hesitate to rebuke and criticise both king Herod and her due to the adultery they had committed by their marriage when Herod’s brother, Philip, the legal husband of Herodias was still alive.

We all know how Herodias tricked Herod through her beautiful daughter, tricking Herod into ordering the execution of faithful servant of God as likely under the influence of alcohol during a party, and overcome by his lust and desire for pleasure and human beauty, he made a commitment before all the assembled guests that he could not deny or retract. Hence, through that act, he had condemned himself to an act of great sin in murdering a faithful servant of God, even if he did not intend for it to happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that it is not easy for us to be faithful as Christians, to live our lives as those who follow the path of the Lord and obey His Law and commandments. Those who have been faithful may encounter the fate of St. John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and killed for his steadfast defence of his faith, and we may be persecuted and face difficulties for all that we have done for the Lord’s sake. Yet, we should not give up just because of the obstacles we may encounter in our journey.

That is why we should follow the examples of our predecessors, one of whom today can show us what it means to be truly devout Christians, in all things, for the greater glory of God. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a faithful servant of God and the famous founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, which is now the largest of all religious orders and congregations. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier and nobleman, who had a life-changing experience and decided to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

Early in his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola sought worldly glory, fame and achievements in life, enrolling as a soldier to get that much sought fame and glory, only to get himself seriously injured during one of the siege battles, where his legs were severely injured in the heat of the battle. During his recuperation period, he had a spiritual encounter with God and a period of discernment, in which he came to realise that the true purpose of his life and true glory came not in the pursuit of worldly glory, fame and ambition.

Instead, from then on, as what would be famously known as his motto and the motto of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola would seek nothing else but the greater glory of God, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. It is with this spirit that St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered like-minded men and sought the Pope’s permission to establish a congregation dedicated to the mission of the Church, to proclaim the greater glory of God in various opportunities, from missionary efforts to involvement in proper Catholic education.

To this end, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his many fellow Jesuits such as St. Peter Canisius and St. Peter Faber were involved deeply in the Counter-Reformation efforts, establishing schools and seminaries, and other faculties involved in the dissemination of the true essence of the Christian faith. Others like St. Francis Xavier and many others involved themselves in missionary work, travelling far all over the world to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and truth, bringing many more people to the Lord. Many Christian communities today could trace their faith to the efforts of those courageous Jesuit missionaries back then.

This year we mark the five hundredth anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, marking the moment when St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind his former dream of worldly glory and fame, and embracing fully the Lord’s calling to seek for His greater glory, through which countless graces and wonderful things had come about, not least through St. Ignatius’ foundation of the Jesuits, as well as his hard works and efforts all throughout his life for the betterment of the Church and the faithful.

Let us all be inspired therefore by his examples and learn to commit ourselves to the Lord ever more wholeheartedly, resisting the temptations of worldly vices and ambitions, and instead, learning to love the Lord ever more and commit ourselves with ever greater conviction and commitment from now on. May the Lord be with us all and continue to guide us and bless us in all of our every endeavours and good works. May God bless our every good efforts and remain with us always, that we will always strive to do our best for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 7-8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us; that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation, among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice; and guide the nations of the world.

The land has given its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Leviticus 25 : 1, 8-17

YHVH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai : “When seven Sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land.”

“Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation.”

“In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbour or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbour and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you.”

“When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am YHVH, your God.”

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th 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, today all of us are reminded to refocus our attention towards the Lord and the faith that Mary, His beloved Mother has shown. As we draw ever closer to the celebration of Christmas, our attention is brought to Mary’s role in the salvation of the world, by her humble acceptance of the role that was entrusted to her, and her obedience to God’s will.

Mary, the Mother of God, was just a simple and humble woman in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, someone without pedigree and status, without much wealth, and yet, she has been honoured far greater than anyone else, to be the Mother of God and to bear the Saviour of the world in her. Of course, the Lord has prepared herself specifically and preserved her from the state of sin, and by grace therefore made her to be a worthy vessel of the Divine Saviour and as Ark of the New Covenant.

However, it was also her genuine and pure love for God, for her Son, and her obedience in total fullness of grace that kept her as a truly worthy servant of God and also a great role model for all of us as Christians. Her love for God and her faith are things that we should be inspired to follow in our own lives, and we should live our lives just as Mary had lived hers, placing God above all else and as the priority and focus in our lives.

This is a timely reminder for all of us just as we are about to enter into the glorious mystery and joyful celebration of Christmas. Ultimately, Christmas is not about ourselves and all the joyful merrymaking and pleasures that we desire from all the festivities and celebrations. Christmas is about God’s love, reaching out to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, born into the world through Mary, His mother.

We are all called to love God in the same way that God Himself had dedicated Himself to us, cared for us and spent time looking for us and calling on us to repent from our sinful ways. That is indeed the true essence of Christmas for us, the celebration of God’s love in our midst. We rejoice because of the hope that Christ has brought us, the light that He has restored to us amidst the darkness of the world.

We have to appreciate fully just how beloved and fortunate all of us have been, to have God Who truly cares for us and desires for us to be saved and reconciled with Him, that He had done everything for that purpose. We celebrate this love at Christmas, and therefore, we are called to reflect on the way that we celebrate Christmas, not through mindless and meaningless extravagance but through genuine love and devotion to God.

Today, let us all model ourselves on the examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, as well as the other holy men and women, saints and blesseds of the Lord. In particular, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, the great Doctor of the Church and Jesuit priest who was remembered for his great dedication to the Lord, his commitment to many works for the greater glory of God, his patient labours in spreading the Good News and truth of God among the people.

St. Peter Canisius was born in what is today part of the Netherlands, and he joined St. Ignatius of Loyola and other men in the newly founded Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. At that time, at the height of the reformation era in Europe, St. Peter Canisius and his fellow Jesuits were crucial in their role of ministering to the people and bringing back numerous people back to the Church through their efforts.

St. Peter Canisius was especially known for his efforts in evangelisation in the areas now part of Switzerland and Germany, and through his famous Catechism, many people rediscovered the true meaning and importance of the Christian faith, and many returned to the true faith they left behind out of ignorance and misunderstandings of the true Christian teachings.

And lastly, St. Peter Canisius was also known for his devotion to Mary, and his works on Mariology was also quite well remembered. In fact, he is credited with the last part of the prayer ‘Hail Mary’ that every one of us know very well, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’ Through this, all of us are reminded by St. Peter Canisius, of the important role that Mary as the Mother of God has in our salvation, for truly, she is our great helper and intercessor before her Son in heaven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore be inspired to live our lives in the manner that the faithful people of God, as represented by Mary herself and by St. Peter Canisius, had done in their own lives. Let us all make good use of the remaining time of Advent to prepare ourselves well that we may celebrate Christmas well, with proper understanding and appreciation of its importance to us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th 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!”

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th 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.

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th 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.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church commemorates the feast of the great saint, St. Francis Xavier, known widely throughout the Church especially in the mission areas of the Eastern Hemisphere, where he laboured for many years as the missionary of God to proclaim the Gospel and the Good News of God to the many people who had not yet ever heard of the Lord.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the earliest and founding members of the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. At that time, like minded men and those with fervour and zeal to reform the Church and spread the faith joined St. Ignatius of Loyola in what was soon to become a great struggle and plenty of work in advancing the cause of the Christian faith both within the Church and outside of the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts throughout Christendom, particularly in Europe when they were working hard in stemming the tide of false teachings and heresies that sprung up with the reformation. Many members of the Jesuits were sent to various states and countries throughout the world in order to evangelise, preach and teach the faith to the people, and they often faced many challenges and trials.

While much of the attention was often given to the efforts of the Jesuits in Europe and in Counter-Reformation, but equally important is the Jesuits’ efforts in sending missionaries that became successful in their efforts to plant the seeds of the Christian faith in many distant places in the Far East as well as in the New World, the Americas, where St. Francis Xavier was the pioneer in this effort with his missions to India, Southeast Asia, Japan and also China. It was timely with the discovery of routes and improvement in naval technology that allowed the Christian missionaries to travel to all those places they had not been able to go to before.

St. Francis Xavier went on a long journey to India where he established the foundation of the Jesuit mission in several places, and became the lead for many more Jesuit missionaries as well as other missionaries from other religious orders in the centuries to come. He also then went to Malacca in Southeast Asia, in the present day Malaysia and travelled throughout the Indonesian archipelago, spreading the first seeds of faith and building up the first local Christian communities.

This was where the famous story of St. Francis Xavier and the crab named after him came to be, as it was told that during a great storm that hit his boat as he was travelling through the archipelago, the boat was about to sink when St. Francis Xavier prayed hard and threw his crucifix into the water with faith that God would calm the waters. Indeed, the storm stopped and the waves calmed, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had once calmed a storm before His disciples. A crab appeared, holding up the crucifix that St. Francis Xavier threw, and as he collected his crucifix and thanked the crab, he blessed it, and from there henceforth, the crab has the marking of a cross on its back.

This story, among many others showed just how tough the works of a missionary is, especially in those distant, unexplored territories that St. Francis Xavier had gone to, to the furthest reaches of Japan and East Asia, where he also established the foundation of a very successful Japanese mission where hundreds of thousands would be converted in the succeeding decades. At that time, missionaries had to endure a lot of hardships, and St. Francis Xavier was no exception.

Nonetheless, St. Francis Xavier remained firm in his conviction and in his efforts to serve the Lord, doing his very best to spread the word of God and showing by example what it means to be faithful to Him and what it truly means to be a Christian missionary. As he waited for the opportunity to enter China in Macau and Shangchuan island off the coast of China, he passed away, until the very end never ceasing to desire to work for God and His greater glory, seeking to convert many souls for the Lord in the great land of China.

St. Francis Xavier had been named as the Patron of Missions and as the role model for all the Christian missionaries, all those who dedicate themselves for the Lord and His mission to evangelise the Good News to all the peoples, of all the nations. St. Francis Xavier should also be our role model in faith because ultimately, the Lord’s commission has been given to all of us and not just to any one of us.

He told all of His disciples, ‘Go forth to the nations, and baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And with that same commandment, all of us have also been called to reach out to our neighbours and to all others, and to show them what our Christian faith is all about, not necessarily by words, but even more importantly through our actions and deeds.

After all, if we say that we believe in the Lord and preach of Him, and yet, in how we behave and act, we are doing contrary to what we believe, just like what many among the Pharisees had done, how can we expect others to believe in us? We are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers in reality. Unless we become genuine and true Christians in all things, we will have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all embrace our calling as Christian missionaries, in each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be role models of faith and be good examples of what it means to be Christians to all. Let us show by example and not just by words alone, as St. Francis Xavier had done, and let us all have the same fire and zeal in us as St. Francis Xavier had once shown.

May the Lord help us all that we may make best use of this Season of Advent to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas, as well as to strengthen our conviction to be good and exemplary Christians, from now onwards if we have not yet done so. Let us all commit ourselves ever more faithfully from now on, always and evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : 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.