Wednesday, 1 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings, is truly all about children, as in the first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, mentioned how we are like children to the Lord, whom the Lord will send His love, care and providence, and how the Lord will bring gladness to us, like that of a father who loves his children with all of his heart, protecting and providing for the wellbeing of the children.

And in the Gospel, as written by St. Matthew, showed us the bickering and competition among the Apostles and the disciples of Christ, on who would be considered the greatest among them, in the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus brought to Himself a child, whom He made into a model for the Apostles, chiding and rebuking their childish ways of fighting amongst themselves for meaningless purpose.

Rather, Jesus mentioned to His Apostles, that if they want to be found worthy of the kingdom of heaven, they must be like children in their faith. Not childish in their faith and in their way of life, but instead to be as innocent and pure in their faith in life as those possessed by the young children. Those who know children and how they are like would immediately know how pure they are, untainted by the ways, the concerns, and ultimately the corruptions that exist in the world.

And when a child believe in something, they really hold on to it very strongly, and they believe without a single grain of doubt, such purity it is within their hearts, before the corruption of the world and the darkness of the world taint them. And indeed, the Apostles and disciples of Christ who bickered and quarrelled over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven exactly showed us what kind of corruption that the world and the darkness of evil can have on us.

Human desire, that is desire for fame, wealth, possessions, glory and many other things, as well as human pride, hubris, jealousy, arrogance, and greed, as well as many other negativity that exist in us are what had caused a great gap and indeed, a rift to develop between us and the Lord, our loving Father. Our Lord and God loves us dearly, as we clearly heard in the way He proclaimed it to the prophet Isaiah.

But that rift of our pride, of our greed, of the darkness that is in us separate us from the love and grace of God. And that is truly dangerous and harmful, for we have just two choices, either life and glory in God or death and eternal damnation in hell, away forever from God. If we choose to cling on to our disobedience and our way of violence and evil, the taints of darkness within our hearts, then we move dangerously closer and closer towards damnation awaits us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of a great and holy woman, a renowned saint, known as the Little Flower, and more appropriately, the Little Flower of Jesus in full. She is St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, a Discalced Carmelite religious nun, who devoted her entire life and work to the cause of the Lord and His people.

St. Therese of Lisieux was very renowned both during and after her life in her piety and her spirituality, and she was truly devoted and dedicated in complete faith to her Lord and God, and ever since her mother passed away very early in her life, she had been alone in the world, and in her loneliness as well in her constant sickness, she suffered greatly, in silence and in sorrow.

St. Therese of Lisieux encountered a divine experience as she grew older, and she experience a complete transformation of herself, where once she felt sorrow and suffering, the love and joy of Christ had entered her and made her anew. She entered the religious life following the example of her older sister before her. She took on the name of Therese in honour of St. Teresa of Avila, the founder and the great saint of the order of the Discalced Carmelites.

She persevered through the difficult life of a religious sister, despite her weakness and constant sickness, and even amidst the persecution and ridicule from her fellow sisters, who ridiculed her apparent lack of talent in doing the many things which the sisters committed themselves to do at that time. And eventually she discovered what she named as the ‘Little Way’, which is the way of surrendering all to God, and putting all our trust in God, just like that of a child.

In this, St. Therese Lisieux proposed the idea that in order for us to attain salvation, we who are mere men and sinners have great difficulties in our effort and our way to reach the Lord and His salvation. Instead, rather than boasting and fighting our way to become greater and mightier, as what the Apostles had done, she proposed that instead we should become smaller and little, and our Lord and loving Father will raise us up to Himself, just like a father who raises up his children.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the examples of St. Therese of Lisieux, through her amazing thoughts and wisdom, and as well as through what our Lord Jesus Christ had taught us Himself, let us all become ever more faithful to our Lord and devote ourselves ever more strongly to Him. Let our faith and our lives be pure and sincere, like that of little children, and cast away all pride, jealousy, hatred, desire and other negativity, the taints of darkness from our hearts.

May our loving God and Father continue to love us tenderly and provide for us, that all of us His children may come to a greater understanding and appreciation of the love He had shown to us, and may draw ever closer to His merciful and loving heart. God bless us all, forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you that, unless you change and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“Whoever becomes lowly like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child in My Name receives Me.”

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 1-3

O Lord, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul like a weaned child on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in the Lord, o Israel, now and forever.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 66 : 10-14

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : “I will send her peace, overflowing like a river and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap.”

“As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish. For it shall be known that YHVH’s hand is with His servant, but His fury is upon His enemy.”

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 9 : 1-6

Then Jesus called His twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor silver coins; and do not even take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet : it will be as a testimony against them.”

So they set out and went through the villages, proclaiming the Good News and healing people everywhere.

Friday, 12 September 2014 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary)

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22b-27

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will.

How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel. So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number.

So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it. Have you not learnt anything from the stadium? Many run, but only one gets the prize. Run, therefore, intending to win it, as athletes who impose upon themselves a rigorous discipline. Yet for them the wreath is of laurels which wither, while for us, it does not wither.

So, then, I run knowing where I go. I box but not aimlessly in the air. I punish my body and control it, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be rejected.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Most Holy Name of Mary)

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : ‘Abba!’ that is ‘Father!’. You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Most Holy Name of Mary)

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, who in Christ has blessed us from heaven with every spiritual blessing. God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us in love to be His adopted sons and daughters through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving kindness which He granted us in His Beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him who disposes all things according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Sunday, 24 August 2014 : 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Lay Apostolate Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the Lord and all the truth about Him, which Peter His Apostle proclaimed about Him. Yes, that Jesus is truly the Lord of all, the very Son of the living God and the promised Saviour which many prophets had proclaimed for many ages. And it is this truth that we also believe in, and this is essentially what our faith is all about, that is about we believing in Jesus as the Son of God, He who is the Word made flesh, and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Saviour.

And today we ought to look at the example of Peter, the disciple of Christ who courageously and without doubt, proclaimed the truth about Christ, that He is the One whom the people of God had awaited for, for a very long time and yet they failed to recognise Him when He came into the world. Some thought He was one of the prophets and some even considered Him as a fraud and an outcast, such as the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law who were always against Jesus and His works no matter where He went to.

Today we celebrate with the whole Church, the occasion of the Lay Apostolate Sunday, in which we commemorate the role of the laity in the Church of God, and what the laity are expected to do, as part of their role and contribution towards evangelisation and the growth of the Church through the spreading of the Good News of the Holy Gospels.

First we have to understand what is meant by the term laity, which in fact refers to the people of God in the Church who are not part of the group of those who had been ordained to the sacred priesthood or to totally devoted life in religious professions and vocations. The laity or as they are also called the laypeople formed the bulk of the members of the Body of the Church of God.

So what can the laity do as part of the Church, in order to bring forth the truth of the Lord to all the nations? That is why today we celebrate this Lay Apostolate Sunday, for indeed the laity has many things they can do on their hands to help the priests and all the other servants of the Lord, contributing in various ways to help the Church of God, be it in terms of time, money, or other forms of dedications for the good of the faithful.

The priests we have with us today are the successors of the faithful disciples of the Lord, the numerous servants of the Lord since the early days of the Church. And our bishops and popes are the successors of the Apostles of the Lord, who passed on their teaching and healing authority to them through a continuous succession of bishops across the many ages of the past.

But they and their predecessors did not work alone, and the laity, namely the non-ordained members of the Church in their various parts and professions contributed greatly to the efforts of evangelisation and survival of the Church and the faith. Many of the early Church martyrs were of the laity, who in their staunch defense of the faith did not allow themselves to be tempted by the lure of worldly vanities and temptations. They would rather lose their life rather than losing their faith in God.

We have to remember the efforts and the hard work of the laity of the bygone days and strive not to fall on our way towards the Lord. We have to follow in the footsteps of many holy men and women who had gone before us to the Lord, both of the laity and those of the ordained alike. We are an integral part of the Church, and through our actions and our help, we can bring our fellow brethren who are still living in darkness, ever closer to the light of God.

All of us had been called, and some of us may eventually take up the vocations and dedicate ourselves wholly to the Lord to join the priesthood or those others who devoted themselves completely to God. Many of us will remain in our usual life in this world, carrying on what we have always done while remaining faithful to the Lord and to the orthodox teachings and values of the Church. And it is our duty in this increasingly difficult time for the faith, to shore up the defenses of our faith together and help each other to persevere against the increasing persecution of the faithful by the forces of Satan and his allies.

We must be like Peter, who courageously proclaimed his faith and belief in God, and although his faith was shaky at first, even denying Jesus when He was brought in for trial and betrayed by His own people, but Peter persevered on, and eventually he proclaimed his faith and undying devotion to Jesus, who duly therefore made him the one in charge of His flock on this entire world, to lead His holy Church.

Our faith too, is often like that of Peter in the beginning, shaky and uncertain, and we can often be tempted by the temptations of the devil and sin so that we veer away from the way to the Lord. However, this is in fact part and parcel of our role as a member of the Church of God. Temptations and persecutions will definitely be on our way, and it will never be an easy path for us to seek and reach for the Lord.

But we cannot give up, as St. Peter and many other of the faithful had done across the ages. Many of the laity contributed much to keep the faith amidst even the greatest of persecutions. The people worked together to spread the Word of God through good works and testimonies of their faith. They spoke with many, and showed the love of God through their charities, and in doing so, they made many to turn towards the Lord and atone for their sins.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we come together to celebrate with the Lord the Sacrifice He had done on the cross for us, we have to be mindful of the part we ought to play in the Church’s works to spread the Good News and in the salvation of mankind. We have our part to play, brothers and sisters, and we should dedicate as much time and effort as possible to help one another and especially those who are still lost in the darkness.

May on this occasion of the Lay Apostolate Sunday awaken in us the spirit of courage and strength to be the bearers of the Good News to others, working hand in hand with the ordained ministers and servants of the Lord, for the good of all of us and all of our fellow brethren in the world. May God bless our endeavours and shine His light upon us. Amen.