Monday, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the anger of God being directed at the Israelites as He spoke it through His prophet Micah. At that time, the prophet Micah was ministering to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, whose people and king were disobedient and rebellious against God, worshipping pagan gods and idols instead of their loving God and Master.

God saw the disobedience in His people, which had led them to fall into sin. But yet, God ultimately still loved them all, and that was why He sent them His servants, Moses, Aaron as mentioned by the prophet Micah, as well as the many prophets who were sent, including Micah, to the people of Israel. They were sent to guide them to the right path, to get out of their sinful attitudes and works.

But they still refused to believe the prophets and the messengers sent to them to remind them. Instead, they hardened their hearts against God and rebelled all the more, from time to time, again and again. They persecuted the prophets and made life very difficult for them. But God still wanted to give them a chance, and therefore, He sent them the promised Messiah, Our Lord Jesus, His own begotten Son, to be our Saviour and Lord.

In the Gospel passage today, we see yet again another instance of the people doubting the Lord and His works among them. They have seen His miracles and signs, and yet, they continued to doubt Him just as they have refused to listen to the prophets and the messengers of God. The people have seen and heard all the wonders of the Lord directly, and the Messiah Himself was in their midst, but they did not recognise Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure that many of us are wondering why that is so. That is because many of us are so filled with pride and with self-centred attitude in our hearts and minds, that all of us are unable to allow God to enter into our hearts and minds. We are so preoccupied and so busy, with all the distractions present in our daily lives that we end up failing to realise God performing His works among us.

God is always present in our midst and He is always doing something in our lives, for our benefit, according to His will. And indeed, He wants to speak to us, to communicate with us, and to be with us, having a good and deep relationship with us. But more often than not, we did not want to listen to Him, and we preferred to occupy ourselves with other activities and things that we enjoy more, because to us, they provide us with pleasures of the body and the flesh.

That was why, we revel in the praise of people, when they praise our achievements, intellectual and physical marvels and greatness. And we become even more filled with pride and arrogance, as well as with greed and desire for more of those worldly pleasures and enjoyments. And in that preoccupation, we end up being lost in our own world and forget about the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we among those who have fallen into this category of people? Have we lived our lives with ignorance of God’s presence in our lives and failing to recognise just how much God has loved us, cared for us and provided for us all these while? Perhaps we should imitate the examples shown by St. Bridget of Sweden, a renowned holy woman and one of the patron saints of Europe.

St. Bridget of Sweden was born into a noble and relatively rich family, who was a devout believer and devoted herself to the poor and the less fortunate in the community. She eventually inspired the foundation of several religious orders, which were devoted to the spiritual well-being and development of those who decided to devote themselves to the Lord inspired by the holy saint’s examples.

St. Bridget herself carried out a famous pilgrimage to Rome amidst a plague-stricken Europe in order to gain permission from the Pope to start her religious order. She would remain in Rome henceforth, ministering and caring for many in the community with genuine faith, always with a smiling face and gentle disposition, inspiring many more people to turn towards the Lord and repent from their sinful ways.

St. Bridget reminds us all that in order for us to be able to realise God’s presence in our lives, first of all, we must be humble and generous in giving, as St. Bridget herself had shown us. We cannot be so full of ourselves or so prideful and haughty, that we spare no place for God in our hearts and minds. Naturally, we will end up so self-centred that others have no place in us.

Let us all therefore follow the examples of this holy woman, and learn to direct ourselves, our energy, effort and attention towards the Lord. Let us all seek to renew our faith and our commitment to live our lives filled with love for God, realising for ourselves, just how much He has loved us, despite all of our rejections and stubbornness. Let us all turn our hearts, minds and our whole being to Him, and be worthy of Him once again by living our faith in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

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, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 49 : 5-6, 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

I lie prostrate in the midst of lions that greedily devour people; their teeth are pointed spears and arrows; their tongues, sharpened swords. Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth!

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 23 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Micah 6 : 1-4, 6-8

Listen to what YHVH said to me, “Stand up, let the mountains hear your claim, and the hills listen to your plea.” Hear, o mountains, YHVH’s complaint! Foundations of the earth, pay attention! For YHVH has a case against His people, and will argue it with Israel.

“O My people, what have I done to you? In what way have I been a burden to you? Answer Me. I brought you out of Egypt; I rescued you from the land of bondage; I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead you.”

“What shall I bring when I come to YHVH and bow down before God the Most High? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with sacrifices of yearling calves? Will YHVH be pleased with thousands of rams, with an overabundance of oil libations? Should I offer my firstborn for my sins, the fruit of my body for my wrongdoing?”

“You have been told, o man, what is good and what YHVH requires of you : to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Monday, 16 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Our Lady of Mount Carmel)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the apparition of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who appeared to St. Simon Stock, one of the member of the Carmelite order which at that time had a chapter at the Mount Carmel area of the Holy Land. Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to St. Simon Stock in a vision, and told him to propagate the use of the now famous brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The brown scapular eventually become a regular part of the habit of the Carmelites themselves, and through that, the devotion of the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel gradually spread throughout Christendom to this very day. The brown scapular is a sacramental, meaning that it is an object signifying sanctification and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her aspect as the Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Carmelites were devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, whom they held as the patron and protector of the Carmelite order itself, as she is the perfect role model for all of them in living their faith and in carrying out their Carmelite charism and commitment. She is a great model in prayer and piety, as a faithful servant of God and the one closest to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And therefore, she should be a great role model for each and every one of us Christians as well. She is the best and most faithful of all the children of God, devoting her whole life to His service and surrendering herself completely to the plan which He had entrusted and revealed to her through the Archangel Gabriel, that is to be the Mother of the Messiah and God, Jesus Christ.

She placed herself in God’s hands, and even when she was unsure and afraid, she would trust it all in God. She gave her all to love her Son, Jesus, Our Lord, and brought Him up all the way from the time when He was conceived in her womb, through His birth and young age, and then throughout His adult ministry among the people, and finally, to the cross itself, at Calvary.

Having seen her own Son, her own flesh and blood suffering in such a terrible way because of our sins, which He willingly took up upon Himself, so that we would not have to suffer the punishment and suffering for our own sins, that is why she has appeared so many times before us, in various places, including to St. Simon Stock, by offering the sacramental devotion of the brown scapular, so that we may be saved through her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Mary is like our loving mother, and indeed, she is our mother. The Lord Himself has entrusted her to us as our mother, when He symbolically entrusted her to His disciple, St. John the Evangelist, and then, vice versa, by entrusting him to Mary, His mother, He has also entrusted all of us to the loving care of our mother, Mary.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have not lived our lives according to the way that the Lord has taught us and which He had commanded us to do. We have been swayed by the many temptations of pride, of worldly greed and desires, of the pleasures of the flesh, of accumulation of money and properties, all for our own selfish benefits and desires, often without consideration of our brethren’s well-being.

And God is not at the centre of our lives, as we sidelined Him during our continuous and unceasing efforts to gain for ourselves more and more of worldly properties, belongings and goods, fame and glory, and all things that we deem to be more precious than anything else. But ultimately, all these things are just illusory and temporary, and our unbridled desire for them led us into sin.

Mary, our loving mother does not want us to remain in this state of sin, and in this despicable state of life, and that is why, she has tried her best, and interceded for us before her Son at every possible opportunity. After all, which mother would want to see her son or daughter suffer and be lost to her? And because Mary is our mother, she cares for us and always thinks of us, just as she has done for her Son Jesus, Our Lord.

Let us today therefore reflect on the word of God in the Scriptures, that hopefully had stirred the faith within our hearts, that we will find the courage and resolution to be faithful to God and to turn towards Him with a repentant and loving heart, desiring to seek Him and to love Him from now on, with all of our hearts, every day of our lives. May Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Simon Stock continue to intercede for us sinners, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 16 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Our Lady of Mount Carmel)

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.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Monday, 16 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Our Lady of Mount Carmel)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.