Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that all of us have to keep our faith in the Lord and to obey His Law and follow Him. We have to be faithful to the Lord and not to give in to the temptations to follow false idols and gods, as what our predecessors had done. Instead, we have to listen to the Lord, receive His words and truth, and allow our faith to blossom and grow within us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus the account and story of the time when Moses, after having spent a whole forty days on top of Mount Sinai with God, discovered the rebelliousness and wickedness of the Israelites, who abandoned their God for the false idol of the golden calf, giving themselves up to their fears and their desires, doing whatever they wanted to do instead of listening to the Lord and to Moses, the servant of God, whom they thought to have died and abandoned them.

This is because they had little faith in the Lord, even after having witnessed, seen and heard everything that the Lord had done for them, all the wonders and miracles they have received, in the Ten Great Plagues the Lord sent against Egypt and the Egyptians while they were spared and protected from those plagues, and how God liberated them as He led them through the sea and destroyed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent against them.

Later on, the Lord also provided for them all as they journeyed through the desert, giving them bread to eat throughout the journey, the manna from heaven, on every single day with the additional gift of flocks of birds as their food. He also gave them constant supply of water to drink, clear and good quality water through the barren and dry desert without life. All these things the Lord had done for the sake of His people, and yet, they complained, grumbled and disobeyed the Lord, saying how life was better in Egypt and other similar things, showing just how little their faith and love for God were.

God was still so patient with His people even through the disobedience that they had shown. He punished and chastised them for their sins, but still desired them to realise the errors of their ways, and embrace His mercy and compassionate love, that they might be converted to the true faith. He never gave up on them even as they continued to fall again and again into sin, sending prophets and messengers one after the other to the midst of the people with the hope that at least some among them would return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord spoke about the kingdom of God, which He compared in parable to the measure of yeast in flour, and to mustard seed. These comparisons were used since many among the people would understand better using the terms and examples that they often used in their daily lives and professions. Using those explanations, the Lord wanted His people to realise what they all need to do to be His faithful disciples and followers.

Those parables revealed to us that as God’s disciples and followers, we have to nurture our faith and our love for the Lord in the most favourable condition possible, that through our actions, our deeds and our interactions, we may come ever closer to the Lord and His grace. For those who do not know, yeast is required for the bread to rise and become properly formed, but it requires strict conditions such as the right temperature and most importantly, the absence of oxygen in the air, and hence, the dough and yeast mixture has to be sealed from outside air in order for the bread to be properly formed.

Similarly, for a mustard seed, such a small seed to grow into a large and sizeable tree, with its rich produce and healthy growth, the seed has to germinate first of all, in the right condition. Otherwise, the seed will not germinate, and will remain dormant in its seed form until the condition is right. And after it has germinated, the young plant has to be nurtured and taken care of, or else, it will perish and die, before it can grow into its full glory and size.

Therefore, all of us who have receive the faith from the Lord and receive His truth have to nurture this faith and the love we ought to have for the Lord, for His Law and commandments. We cannot just give lip service and treat our faith as mere obligation or formality, or else, our faith becomes meaningless and dead. This is why, each and every days and moments of our lives, we shall have the need to dedicate ourselves, our time and effort to the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of the two parents of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, namely St. Joachim and St. Anne, who have nurtured and taken care of Mary since her birth and throughout her youth. While Mary has been prepared specially by the Lord to be Immaculate and pure, worthy to be the vessel of His salvation in Christ, but it was also definitely thanks to the commitment and the dedication which both St. Joachim and St. Anne had given in their role as the guardians and parents of young Mary, that she grew in faith and love for the Lord.

We can be inspired by the faith and dedication which St. Joachim and St. Anne had shown, especially in their role as dutiful and loving parents to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour. We too can show the same love and dedication, in our own way, first of all towards Our Lord and Saviour, and henceforth, towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and even to the strangers and acquaintances we encounter daily in our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all willing to live our lives more devoted to the Lord, and learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, that we will not stumble again like how the Israelites fell into the worship of the golden calf in the past? And are we willing to look upon the good examples of our holy predecessors, like St. Joachim and St. Anne, and the innumerable other saints in how they lived their lives faithfully? Let us all discern this well, and think of how we can be ever more dedicated and committed to the Lord, now and always.

May God be with us all and may He strengthen us with the courage and the commitment to live our lives ever more faithfully in His path, from now on and forevermore. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus offered His disciples another parable : “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.”

He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast than a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise.” Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet : ‘I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.’

Alternative reading

Matthew 13 : 16-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

Alternative reading

Psalm 131 : 11, 13-14, 17-18

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

From here, a Saviour shall come forth, a Son of David; here, shall shine forever, the lamp of My Anointed. In shame will I clothe His enemies, but upon His head a crown shall shine.

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 32 : 15-24, 30-34

Moses then returned and came down from the mountain carrying in his hands the two tablets of the Testimony, tablets written on both sides, back and front. These tablets were the work of God and the writing graven on the tablets was the writing of God.

When Joshua heard the noise of the people who were shouting he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But Moses answered, “It is not a victory song, nor the cry of defeat that I hear, but the sound of singing.”

When he drew near to the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burst forth and he threw down the tablets he was holding, shattering them at the foot of the mountain. Then he seized the calf they had made and burnt it in the fire, grinding it into a powder that he scattered over the surface of the water, and this he made the Israelites drink.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you brought such a great sin on them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let your anger be roused. You know these people and how evil they are. They said to me : ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ I then said to them that whoever had gold was to give it over to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf!”

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a very grave sin, but now I am going up to YHVH; perhaps I will obtain pardon for your sin.” So Moses went towards YHVH and said, “Ah! These people have committed a very great sin; they made a god out of gold. And now please forgive their sin… if not, blot me out of the book You have written.”

YHVH said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out from My book. Go now! Lead the people where I told you. My Angel will walk before you and on the day of punishment I will punish them for their sin.”

Alternative reading

Sirach 44 : 1, 10-15

Let us now glorify illustrious men, the ancestors of our people. But now consider the godly men whose good deeds have not been forgotten. Those who came after them benefitted from the rich legacy they left; their race remained faithful to the Covenant, their children followed their example.

Their family will endure forever and never will its glory be tarnished. Their bodies will be buried in peace but their memory lives through generations. People will speak of their wisdom and the assembly will celebrate their praise.

Monday, 19 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to have faith in the Lord, to believe in Him and to trust in Him, that each and every one of us may grow in our faith in Him and not to be easily swayed by doubt and fear, or by worldly temptations and pressures among other things. The readings of the Scripture that we have heard today from the Book of Exodus on the moment of Israel’s liberation from the Egyptians, and the Lord’s words to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law ought to serve as good examples of this.

In our first reading today we heard of the time when the Israelites were already journeying away from the land of Egypt to the shores of the Red Sea, when the Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Israelites go free, and sent his forces, his army and chariot to go after all of them. The people became afraid and panicked after they saw the Egyptians and their chariots coming for them, trapping them between the chariots and the Sea. They were desperate and began to blame Moses and the Lord for having brought them out of Egypt.

This was the example of how we let our fears and insecurities to rule over us and cloud our judgments, leading us to lose our faith in the Lord, just as we did not have strong faith in Him from the very beginning. We placed our trust more in our own strength and capabilities, and when these failed us, we gave in to despair and desperate actions, that actually brought us even further away from God and fell deeper into sin and into the clutches of the evil ones. Too often we worry and are concerned excessively because we have no trust and faith in the Lord.

And therefore, just as on that day on the shores of the Red Sea, when the armies and the chariots of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh were bearing down on the Israelites, many among the people of God lost heart and grumbled against the Lord instead of entrusting themselves to Him, despite having seen for themselves how God had intervened on their behalf, in sending ten great plagues that struck Egypt, the Egyptians and their Pharaoh so hard that these all forced the latter to agree to let the people of Israel to go free. They had seen so much, and yet, failed to believe, because they had not allowed the Lord to enter into their hearts yet.

This is therefore can be compared to the attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who in our Gospel passage today were mentioned as asking the Lord to give then signs so that they might believe in Him. They had in fact seen so many of the Lord’s miracles and wonders as they relentlessly pursued the Lord and hounded Him throughout His ministry, as they followed Him from place to place, seeking to find evidence against Him. They had seen all these, and yet still refused to believe in the Lord, and even dared to ask Him for more signs.

Why did the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did these things, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they had hardened their hearts and minds, and closed them against the Lord, Who had ceaselessly and patiently knocked against the doors of their hearts and minds. They fell to the temptations of their worldly desires, of their pride and ego, their ambition and also want for power and influence, for fame and worldly glory, all of which led to their downfall, as they continued to resist the Lord’s good works and disobeyed Him, again and again.

No amount of miracles and signs would be enough to sway them all as long as they allowed themselves to be bought over by worldly desires and temptations. They saw the Lord as great rival of their own power, prestige and influence, and thus, that was why they worked so hard against Him, to the consternation of the Lord and His disciples. But the Lord remained patient and loving even towards them, and revealed how He would give them the ultimate Sign, as He was to be laid on the Altar of the Cross, to suffer death and then to rise again from the dead into glory on the third day, while alluding to the story of the prophet Jonah.

Through that, the Lord wanted to remind them and also all of us, that when we encounter challenges and trials, difficulties and hardships, we must not lose faith in Him. On the contrary, in fact we have to redouble our faith and commitment to Him, seeking Him with ever greater sincerity and zeal. This is what each and every one of us are supposed to do, and what all of us are called to do as Christians, to be those people who trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and might, and dedicate ourselves each and every moment of our lives to glorify the Lord.

May the Lord be with us and may He strengthen us, reminding us of how He has rescued His people by the shores of the Red Sea, opening the sea before them, leading them through and crushing the armies and the chariots of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, showing them and all of us, that in the end, if we stay faithful to the Lord, we shall triumph and if we remain in His grace, we shall gain eternal life and true joy, through Him. May God bless us and our good endeavours and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 19 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 12 : 38-42

At that time, some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

“At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon.”

Monday, 19 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 15 : 1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6

I will sing to YHVH, the Glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea. YHVH is my strength and my song, and He is my salvation.

He is my God and I will praise Him; the God of my father : I will extol Him. YHVH is a Warrior; YHVH is His Name. The chariots of Pharaoh and his army He has hurled into the sea; his chosen officers were drowned in the Red Sea.

The deep covers them; they went down like a stone. Your hand, o YHVH, glorious and powerful, Your right hand, o YHVH, shatters the enemy.

Monday, 19 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 14 : 5-18

The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled; then Pharaoh and his ministers changed their minds with regard to the people. “What have we done,” they said, “in allowing Israel to go and be free of our service?” Pharaoh prepared his chariot and took his army with him. There were six hundred of his best chariots; indeed he took all the Egyptian chariots, each one with his warriors.

YHVH had hardened the mind of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who set out in pursuit of the Israelites as they marched forth triumphantly. The Egyptians – all the chariots and horses of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army – gave chase and caught up with them when they had encamped by the sea near Pihahiroth, facing Baalzephon.

The Israelites saw the Egyptians marching after them : Pharaoh was drawing near. They were terrified and cried out to YHVH. Then they said to Moses, “Were there no tombs in Egypt? Why have you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done by bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not what we said when we were in Egypt : Let us work for the Egyptians. Far better serve Egypt than to die in the desert!”

Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stay where you are and see the work YHVH will do to save you today. The Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again! YHVH will fight for you and all you have to do is to keep still.”

YHVH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!”

Monday, 12 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Scriptures reminding all of us that the realities of life in this world can often be quite terrible and cruel, and we may very well be disappointed by the bitter truth that we encounter in life. Many people had to endure sufferings and persecutions, just as we heard in our readings today, first of all because they are prejudiced and discriminated against, like that of the Israelites in the land of Egypt, while then, as Christians, we are also often prejudiced against, and face persecutions and opposition from the world.

In our first reading today, from the beginning of the Book of Exodus we heard the story of the people of Israel, the descendants of Jacob or Israel in Egypt, a few hundred years after their ancestors first came to Egypt to live there, out of the promised land of Canaan. God had promised Jacob that He would one day lead all of his descendants out of Egypt and back to the land which He has promised and given to him and his descendants forever. Then, a Pharaoh came to power who saw the Israelites as a grave threat to Egypt due to their ever growing numbers and began to find ways to destroy and control them.

And it was hence that the Israelites were oppressed and enslaved in Egypt under the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, forced to endure tough conditions and treated with disdain and with the most brutal conditions, as even though they were oppressed, they kept on growing in numbers and spread, as a sign of divine favour and grace, as God was always with His people. The Pharaoh tried to exterminate the whole nation by attempting genocidal killing of all the male child of the Israelites, but it was through this act that God then would raise a saviour and leader of His people, namely Moses, to lead them all out of Egypt.

We then heard in our Gospel passage today, of the premonition of troubles and trials which Our Lord Himself has revealed to His disciples, that He specifically mentioned how His coming into the world was not going to bring peace to the world, and would instead bring about clashes and even violence. All of these were to happen because many among the people refused to believe in the Lord or walk along His path, and they preferred to follow their own desires and ambitions, succumbing to the temptation of worldly glory and fame.

Like the Pharaoh of Egypt who oppressed the Israelites and wanted to see them destroyed, all these were born out of desperation and fear, as mankind tended to be afraid to let go and lose of their prized possessions, their power, privileges, fame and glory. All those things therefore often clouded the judgments of man, and led to many misery against the faithful people of God, all those who still cling faithfully to the truth of God and refused to allow worldly concerns and matters to turn them away from the path of the Lord or leading them down the path of corruption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called to remain faithful to the Lord despite these trials and tribulations. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed or misled by fear, despair and doubt, which had led so many of our brethren down the wrong path, and led mankind to commit so many grievous sins as the ones committed by the Pharaoh in killing all the sons born of the Israelites. Instead, we have to learn to trust the Lord and to keep our gaze and focus steadily on Him.

We are all called as Christians to be the bearers of God’s truth, His love and grace, His assurance of eternal life and glory for us. We have received this same truth from the Lord through His Church and by the works of the Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, and all those who had laboured for the sake of the one true faith. Now, we are called to walk in their footsteps faithfully, committing ourselves each and every moments of our lives, to be the exemplary and inspirational Christian role models for one another.

Let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed heart and mind, with a new zeal and purpose in ourselves. May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to walk the path with us, together as one people, that we may always ever be committed in all things, and grow to love Him more and more, and be ever closer to Him always. May God bless us all and our good works and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 12 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.