Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded today through our Scripture passages of our Christian calling, that is to be filled with love and charity, as well as to be humble and not to boast of our own glory and might, but instead, focus our attention on God and do what He has commanded each and every one of us to do, in understanding His will and obeying His Law with genuine faith.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Apostle St. Paul an exhortation he made in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, for all of them not to look down on others or to be judgmental and comparative, to feel superior to others and to be biased. And by using the examples of himself and the other Apostles, by showing and reminding everyone how they had humbled themselves and laboured so hard for the sake of the people, despite being the leaders of the community, the intention of St. Paul was to remind all of us to be humble and to focus ourselves on God.

It is very easy for us to be tempted by the temptation of ego and pride, to think of ourselves as better and superior, and that others are not as good as ourselves. And this is very common temptation that we often face whenever we do our work as part of the Church, in our communities and Church ministries, and even in our interactions and activities in the general community.

By our nature, we are easily tempted to think that we cannot go wrong, and that it must have been because of another’s fault that we end up in trouble. And we also tend to point out another’s mistake first rather than recognising, less still pointing out our own mistake. And all of these were caused by the pride and ego in us, and they are among the biggest obstacles in the path of our journey of faith.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the account of how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticising the Lord’s disciples and followers before Him just because they picked on the grains of wheat in the field and eating them as they were hungry. All these happened on the day of the Sabbath, on the day which was supposed to be holy and dedicated to God, and of which there were rules and regulations related to this holy day.

The Sabbath is the holiest day in the week, and the Law of God stipulated that the day ought to be kept free from busy things in life and the usual activities, all for the intention of helping God’s people to refocus their attention on Him and spend quality time with Him, which is why the Sabbath day is also known as the Day of the Lord. It is what we also keep today in our observance of Sundays as the Days of the Lord, celebrating His resurrection and glory.

But over time, the Law was interpreted by the elders and the priests, passed down as increasingly strict sets of rules and regulations that severely restricted the activities of the people, and in time, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law embodied it, the obsession over the petty details of the Law of the Sabbath made many to forget the very reason, purpose and essence of Sabbath itself. The Law was enforced very strictly on the people, and those who did not obey fully, were looked down upon and despised like what the Pharisees did to the Lord and His disciples.

It was exactly what we have just discussed earlier, on the matter of pride and ego which misled the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord rebuked these people as misguided leaders and shepherds, who have indulged so much in their own sense of superiority that they had forgotten to lead the people on the right path, showing them guidance and compassion. Instead, they indulged in praise and fame they received from the people, and became haughty and arrogant.

That was why the Lord immediately reminded the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who criticised and attacked His disciples, that even the well-respected and adored king David in his time, gave his followers bread to eat when they were on the run from the authorities and were very hungry. And those bread in fact, were not just any bread, but bread reserved only for the priests to eat, and not for any one else.

The Lord wants to remind us through these, that we must not be distracted and tempted by pride, and we must not look at the Law of God, His commandments and laws at merely face value only. If we only appreciate these at face value only, then what we are doing is essentially just skimming the surface of God’s truth and will on the surface, without deep foundation and genuine understanding on what it means for us to be Christians.

If we act in ways that show prejudice on others, being judgmental and biased, being superficial in faith, then all of us need to realise that this is not what our Christian faith is about. And if we think that we are all good, righteous and more worthy than others, then we need to change our mindset and perspective. Today, we have a great role model whom we can look upon as an inspiration and example to follow in how we ought to live up a genuine Christian faith.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, also better known during her lifetime and after as the Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was a religious remembered well for her zeal and courage in reaching out to care for those who were sick and suffering, especially in the worst of conditions, as it was in Calcutta in India where many if not most of the people lived in abject poverty in slums and terrible conditions not fit for human habitation and life.

An Albanian Catholic girl, who chose to join religious life in her youth, and then thereafter came to India as part of her mission, St. Teresa of Kolkata came to know of these immense suffering endured by many of the poor in Calcutta outside her convent walls. As she came to experience more and more of these sad realities of life, she began to hear the calling to make a difference in the lives of those whom she had seen suffering so much.

That was how St. Teresa of Kolkata chose to embark on a new journey, venturing out from the convent and embracing instead the poor, the sick and those dying in the slums and in the streets, giving love, care and comfort to those who had no one to love them, those who had been treated as less than human beings, and showed them the face of God’s love. It was certainly not easy for her especially at the start of her new mission, and she faced plenty of obstacles and opposition, but her conviction, zeal and love for the poor and the dying helped her to overcome all those obstacles.

Many had been touched by St. Teresa of Kolkata and her tireless efforts for many decades, as she established the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation dedicated to follow in her drive and passion to help the least and the poorest, those who are suffering all around the world. To those who are not suffering in the way those poorest in Calcutta, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity also reached out to those who had none to love and comfort them.

For all of these, St. Teresa of Kolkata was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize as well as great renown. But what she was very well-remembered for was her speech, in which she mentioned that ‘she was just an instrument, a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. St. Teresa of Kolkata remained personally humble and dedicated to her mission, and even as she struggled to overcome her many challenges, the temptations of the devil, we can see in her, a great and shining example of Christian virtue and faith, that each and every one of us can follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the inspiring virtues and examples of St. Teresa of Kolkata, being humble in our everyday life, humble before God and man alike, and place our focus constantly on God, as we live our lives joyfully in serving Him and in loving Him, in showing His love to one another, just as St. Teresa of Kolkata had done, sharing the genuine love of God to all man, especially to those who are most vulnerable, weakest and least loved by all.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa, pray for us all that we too may follow in your footsteps, in loving our brothers and sisters, in showing genuine love, care and compassion, that we may live our lives as genuine Christians centred on God and not on ourselves or our selfish desires. May the Lord be with us always, and guide us in this journey of life in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, YHVH has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of YHVH, let every creature praise His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example, not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How, then, are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings, without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me, that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place. We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you, as very dear children. Because, even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one Father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Thursday, 5 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded of our calling as Christians to be involved and to be active in the works and the missions of the Church, in our respective capacities and in whatever way that God has called us to. For God has given each and every one of us distinct and unique gifts and blessings that we can use to glorify God and to serve Him.

However, unfortunately, more often than not, we are reluctant to make good use of the gifts and talents, the abilities and blessings which God has given to each and every one of us. We even ended up misusing them and abusing the gifts and blessings that God has granted us. We often find excuses and reasons how we can avoid our responsibilities and duties as what the Lord has entrusted to us all as Christians.

We are often too preoccupied and too busy with worldly matters that we fail to recognise God’s calling and His words speaking in the depths of our hearts and minds. Our busy schedules, our many concerns and desires in life, our preoccupations prevented us from opening ourselves to God and from listening to the words that He wants each and every one of us to hear and to know. That is why we ended up going down the wrong path in life and making the wrong choices and decisions.

Today, in the Gospel passage we have heard, we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus and His disciples, who were at the Lake of Gennesaret. While the Lord was speaking to the people and taught them, the disciples went fishing on a boat and they did not manage to catch any fish all night long. The Lord came to them and spoke with them, asking them to put out their nets into the deep waters that they would be able to catch the fishes.

Initially, the disciples hesitated and asked the Lord, as they had not caught any fish during the entirety of the night. Thus perhaps they had doubts that they would be able to catch anything if at all if they listened to the Lord and did what He had asked them to do. They obeyed eventually regardless and as soon as they did what the Lord had asked, they caught so many fishes that the nets almost broke.

Through what the Lord has revealed to His disciples, we are therefore reminded of the primary mission that God has entrusted to His Church, and that is the salvation of souls, the souls of mankind, all those who have lived in the darkness of this world, the corruption of sin and the ignorance of God. Those fishes in fact symbolise the people of God and the lake represents the world we are all living in today.

The disciples on the boat represent all of us Christians whom God had called from this world to be His followers and disciples. The boat they were in represents the Church, into which all the people who believe in God are gathered in. That is why the Lord called His disciples to be the ‘fishers of men’, as they were tasked to gather all of God’s people and call them to the salvation through faith and through the Church.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of today’s Scripture readings and what we have discussed thus far? It is the need for us all to realise that as God’s people, as Christians, all of us have also been entrusted by God with the same mission that He has provided for us, the evangelisation and conversion of the world. And just as the disciples listened to the Lord and put out into the deep waters, it is often that we too must ‘put out into the deep’.

What does it mean? It means that often we may have to make sacrifices and extra effort in serving the Lord and in doing what we are supposed to do as Christians, in reaching out to others and all those whom we care for, in how we live our lives with faith and following the examples of the saints. It means that we may have to suffer and endure difficulties along the way, and we may have many obstacles that we will have to overcome.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of a great and renowned saint of recent years whose life certainly embodies this attitude. I am sure we are familiar with St. Teresa of Kolkata, known well as Mother Teresa during her life. Born as an Albanian Catholic by the name of Agnes Bojaxhiu, St. Teresa of Kolkata heard the calling of God and joined the religious life early in her life and went on to India as part of her mission.

And while initially she had a comfortable life as a religious and educator in a missionary run school, she was called to a higher and greater purpose when the terrible poverty being present in the city of Calcutta (or Kolkata) moved her to establish a new religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, of those who also want to dedicate themselves to the care of the least fortunate, the least privileged, the ostracised and those who had none to love them.

We have heard how St. Teresa of Kolkata reached out to many of the poorest, those who suffered grievously and treated in many ways less than how a human ought to be treated, and returned human dignity to them in how she cared for them and provided for them. St. Teresa of Kolkata showed us all how she truly lived out her faith in her life, and evangelise the faith through real and concrete actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Kolkata and many other saints who have shown such great faith and sincerity in following God throughout their lives? Are we able to listen to God and His calling, in how He shows us the path forward that we should take in living our lives with faith? Let us all truly ‘put out into the deep’ and be truly faithful in all things, and do our very best with all of our hearts and with all of our strength to serve God and to love our brethren from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us and may He bless all of our good works and endeavours, that by our witnesses for our faith and by the sincerity of our words and actions, many more come to believe in God and receive His salvation. Amen.

Thursday, 5 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.

Thursday, 5 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 97 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, YHVH!

Thursday, 5 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Colossians 1 : 9-14

Because of this, from the day we received news of you, we have not ceased praying to God for you, that you may attain the full knowledge of His will, through all the gifts of wisdom and spiritual understanding.

May your lifestyle be worthy of the Lord and completely pleasing to Him. May you bear fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God. May you become strong, in everything, by a sharing of the glory of God, so that you may have great endurance and perseverance in joy.

Constantly give thanks to the Father, Who has empowered us to receive our share in the inheritance of the saints, in His kingdom of light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. In Him, we are redeemed and forgiven.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of our mission as Christians, that is to go forth proclaiming the Good News of God and to preach His truth among the people, by our words and actions. We are all reminded that unless we remember this mission given to us by God, it will be very easy for us to fall into the temptation of this world, and forget our mission and purpose of serving God.

This was presented in plain sight in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth in Greece. Even at that very early stage in the history of the Church, when the community of the faithful was just being established, there were already evident divisions and disagreements among the members of the Christian communities, stemming from the jealousy, misunderstandings and disagreements between factions.

The name Paul, referring to St. Paul, was mentioned in that Epistle passage, as was the name of Apollos. If we read the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles, we will realise that Apollos was the name of a famous and eloquent preacher of Jewish origin, who converted to the Christian and originated from the city of Alexandria. He was a widely respected and popular preacher, who managed to convert many among the Gentiles and Jews in various cities.

At the same time, St. Paul was also very active in his ministry among the Gentiles and Jews alike in various places throughout the eastern Mediterranean area, including Corinth and many other important cities like Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica among many others. But as there were some variations in their teachings, it ended up with the community being divided into those who followed the teachings of St. Paul, and those who followed the teachings of St. Apollos.

This division in the community in fact created such a scandal, that St. Paul had to address this very issue in the Epistle he wrote to the Corinthian Christian community. He reminded all of them, that ultimately, so long as the people of God continued to think in the worldly terms, and as long as they were concerned about their prestige, worldly fame, ambitions, pride and greed, all sorts of worldly temptations, they would continue to be divided and became bitter against each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the devil and all of his forces wanted to happen to us in the Church. He wants each and every one of us as Christians to be divided against each other, and that we have doubts and mistrust over one another, and as a result, making it very easy for him and his allies to strike at us and to claim us victoriously, as he drags many souls with him into eternal damnation.

That is why it is important that all of us must stay united and committed to the Lord, Our God, in Whom we believe in. As what St. Paul said to the faithful in Corinth, regardless of whoever it was that evangelised to them, be it Apollos, or Paul, or any other of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, ultimately they were His ministers, tasked with the evangelisation and spreading of the Good News to all the faithful.

What made the people to bicker among themselves and disagree with one another, was likely their pride and refusal to acknowledge that they did not have the fullness of truth, or that others might have a better understanding of the faith that them. But in that process, they forgot that they were serving the Lord and must obey His will. Instead, they were focused on themselves and their own selfish desires, their desires to be praised and followed for their piety.

And the irony is that, in the Gospel passage today, even evil spirits had to acknowledge the Lord as their God and Master. Even they were bound to the Lord, for although they have disobeyed God, but it was an undeniable fact that the Lord is their God and Creator. They had to bend their knee before the Lord, no matter how painful or humiliating that would have been to them.

Unfortunately, it was often us mankind who have not shown our proper deference and respect for God, as we are often too preoccupied with the many concerns and temptations of this world. That is why many of us have ended up losing our faith and our direction in life, that instead of finding our way to God, we become lost in the darkness of this world, the darkness of desire, of pride, of ambition and vanity.

Today, the Church celebrates the life of the holy and renowned saint, St. Teresa of Kolkata. She was remembered fondly in life as Mother Teresa, an Albanian religious who came to India to minister to the poor and the needy in the community, eventually establishing the religious community of the Missionaries of Charity, dedicated to the care and the need of all those who are the least, the poorest and the smallest in the community, providing them the love and the dignity they deserved.

St. Teresa of Kolkata was remembered for the great love and compassion she showed to all the people, the poorest and the weakest among the people, including all those who were abandoned on the streets and dying. She established a house dedicated to the care of all these sick people and the dying, providing for them the example of true Christian charity and love.

And she was also remembered for her great humility and devotion to God. She spent much time in prayer, and enforced to all of her Missionaries of Charity members to do the same. When she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution and works, she uttered the now famous words of, ‘I am just a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. This phrase summarised her great humility and commitment as God’s servant, entrusting herself completely to what God wanted her to do.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Kolkata and that of many other holy saints, holy men and women who have devoted themselves to God? Are we able to let go of our pride, our desires and resist the temptations of this worldly life? Are we able to turn to the Lord, Our God, with all of our focus, attention and desire to love Him and serve Him wholeheartedly?

May the Lord be with us and may He guide us on our way, that we may truly be able to become true disciples and followers of His, in each and every action we take, and do our best to serve Him with all of our abilities, in complete humility and desire to love Him. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 4 : 38-44

At that time, leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the house of Simon. His mother-in-law was suffering from high fever, and they asked Him to do something for her. Bending over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately, she got up and waited on them.

At sunset, people suffering from many kinds of sickness were brought to Jesus. Laying His hands on each one, He healed them. Demons were driven out, howling as they departed from their victims, “You are the Son of God!” He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, for they knew He was the Messiah.

Jesus left at daybreak and looked for a solitary place. People went out in search of Him, and finding Him, they tried to dissuade Him from leaving. But He said, “I have to go to other towns, to announce the good news of the kingdom of God. That is what I was sent to do.” And Jesus continued to preach in the synagogues of Galilee.