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.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence the Deacon, a renowned and holy martyr of the faith, and one of the great inspirations to many Christians throughout the centuries. St. Lawrence the Deacon was one of the most prominent early churchmen, being one of the deacons of the Church of Rome, among the most respected positions in Christendom, as the direct assistant to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope in Rome.

St. Lawrence the Deacon was entrusted with great responsibilities in managing the daily affairs of the Church of Rome, taking care of the treasures and riches of the Church, managing the distribution of its goods and resources to those who were in need, taking care of almsgiving and charitable works in the Christian community just as how the order of the Diaconate was initiated for.

At that time, being a Christian meant great suffering and high probability of being arrested, persecuted and martyred, as the position of the civil government of the Roman Empire at the time was that of opposition and persecution of all Christians throughout the realm of the Empire. The Roman Emperor at that time, Valerian, was in particular harsh in his persecution and oppression of Christians, ordering the arrest of all Christians.

The Emperor ordered that all the leaders of the Church, the bishops, priests and deacons were to be arrested and killed right away, and that included St. Lawrence the Deacon and the Pope. The then Pope, Pope St. Sixtus II, whose feast we have just celebrated very recently also, was martyred in this manner, and followed not long afterwards by St. Lawrence himself. St. Lawrence was ordered to surrender the riches of the Church under his care and stewardship to the Roman state.

St. Lawrence courageously did all that he could in order to distribute discreetly all the resources of the Church as much as possible to the Christian community to avoid all of them being seized by the Roman state, and then defiantly presenting to the Roman prefect sent to seize the resources and wealth of the Church, poor, crippled and suffering people as the true treasures of the Church, declaring that the Church is truly richer than the Emperor. He was then martyred for his faith and courage.

What St. Lawrence meant was that, despite all the riches of the world, all the things that this world and its rulers and people can boast of having, none of these can compare to the true treasure that can be found in the Lord alone, through His Church. For God is the foundation and the heart of the Church, the One uniting all the believers and the whole body of the Christian community, and in God alone we can find true glory, true happiness and satisfaction.

And that corresponds to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, in what we have heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth speaking about the matter of sowing and reaping the benefit of what has been sown, and those who sow generously will also reap generous benefits as well, and vice versa. This reminds us of the need to be true witnesses of the Lord and be devoted to Him wholeheartedly as part of our ‘sowing’ of the faith in our own lives.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of the famous words, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains as a single grain, but if it dies, it will produce generous crops.’ This is in fact connected to what had happened to St. Lawrence and the numerous other martyrs of the Church who had suffered and even given their lives for the greater glory and for the service to God.

They remained true to their faith and were faithful to God, rather than seeking their own safety and the assurances of the world, so that by their courageous defence of their faith, by their exemplary piety and commitment to God, Christians of other times and ages may be inspired by their examples, and learn to follow the Lord as they have done. Indeed, the examples set by these holy martyrs, St. Lawrence and his many other companions in faith have inspired countless Christians throughout time, and I am sure that include many of us as well.

Now, brothers and sisters, we are all therefore challenged to be exemplary in our own lives and in how we live up to our faith as our holy predecessors had done. Are we able to follow the Lord in that way? Are we able to commit ourselves and follow Him with true love and sincerity from now on? Let us all be examples to one another, that by our lives and by our faith, we may become witnesses of our faith in God, and bear His truth to the world, as St. Lawrence and many of our holy predecessors had done. Amen.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

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

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

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

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-10

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, He gave to the poor, His good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the Scripture passages we heard of the wondrous deeds and works of God Who has performed such great miracles and wonders for the sake of His beloved people Israel, as part of the exhortation which Moses, the leader of the people mentioned to them to remind them to be faithful to the Covenant which they had made and sealed with God, as a lasting promise of faith and commitment.

In that passage from the Book of Deuteronomy in our first reading, we heard of the many wonders of God Who had taken care of the many needs of His people, protecting them from their enemies and guiding them patiently through the many years of their journey in the desert. It is a reminder also of the love and commitment which God has showered His people and which He has remembered for the love He had for them and their ancestors.

Therefore, Moses exhorted the people to remain faithful to the Law of God and to His commandments in all things, so that He would continue to bless them and protect them, and that they would prosper in the land promised to them and their ancestors, to which God was leading them into. At that time, the people of Israel were known to be stubborn and rebellious, refusing many times to obey the Lord and preferred to follow their own ways.

They were reminded that if they remained by the side of the Lord and stayed faithful, they would be blessed and glorified just as God has promised to each and every one of them. And this reflects the same message which our Gospel passage today delivers to us, as the Lord mentioned to His disciples of the reality of being His follower, in what they would have to endure as those who have devoted themselves to His cause, and the promise of true glory and happiness that will come in the end.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, we believe in God and take Him as Our Lord, Master and Saviour. And if we truly have faith in God and are truly devoted to Him, then we should realise that as the members of His Church, we will have to expect challenges and difficulties in our journey of faith, obstacles and barriers that will be in our paths, as we embark on our way to follow the Lord.

The people of Israel crumbled under the temptations of earthly desires and impatience, and they could not remain faithful to God, and instead, desiring quick-fixes and shortcuts to their problems. Essentially they trusted more in their own human instincts and desires rather than putting their trust in God and His providence. As a result, they fell into disobedience and sin, not realising just how much God had done for their sake, out of sincere and genuine love.

We really need to think and spend some time to reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on the words of the Scripture we have received today. The Lord called on us to follow Him, and made it clear to us that following Him means for us to take up our own crosses and follow Him in this journey of faith, and those who follow Him faithfully will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and the fullness of His providence.

And we must realise how fragile our human existence is, and how easily it is that we can fall into temptation as our predecessors have shown us. The people of Israel themselves showed us through their wicked behaviours throughout their journey in the desert. And then, throughout history, we can see just how much wickedness, injustice and suffering have been caused by our attachments and inability to resist the temptation of desire and the pulling power of sin.

Today, we mark the feast day of one renowned saint of the last century, whose life and exemplary faith are reminders for us to turn away from our sinful ways. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also more popularly known as St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, and who took up the religious life as a nun of the Congregation of the Discalced Carmelites during the years in between the two great World Wars.

She was an intellectual who was attracted to the truth found in the Christian faith, and that led her to Christ in accepting the faith and eventually becoming a committed religious nun. She loved God very much and dedicated herself to the rigours of the Discalced Carmelite life, and as at that time, the whole world was about to be plunged into the Second World War coupled with the persecution of Jews by the NAZI regime, she also prepared herself for the eventuality of martyrdom.

Instead of seeking glory and happiness for herself, St. Edith Stein showed us a life of total surrender to God and full trust to the Lord and His will. She was martyred in a concentration camp during the war, having been arrested and imprisoned by the NAZI regime, and placed into the horrible concentration camp and sentenced to death in a gas chamber. Yet, even after her death, the inspiring life story and exemplary faith of St. Edith Stein continue to inspire many Christians right to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the examples set by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, holy woman and holy servant of God? Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves wholly to Him, turning away from our sinful and wicked past? Let us all spend time to reflect on this, and think in what way we can grow ever closer to God and be more faithful to Him, each and every day from now on. Amen.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”