Monday, 27 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that those who are prideful and mighty are nothing before the Lord, and should they remain in their pride, they shall be destroyed by that same pride. They would be cast down and overcome much as how the Lord overpowered those who rose up against Him and His people in the past. And for all of us to follow the Lord, we are all called to entrust ourselves in Him and live our lives wholeheartedly according to His ways. We have no need to fear or to be worried about anything, for God Himself will provide for us.

In our first reading today, which was taken from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard of the Lord speaking to the people of Israel, about their wickedness and sins against Him, and how wicked they had been in their behaviour, in their mistreatment of one another especially for the poor and the weak, and God reminded them how He Himself had rescued them when they were struck down and oppressed by the same prideful and wicked people, like the Egyptians who enslaved their ancestors, the Amorites and the Amalekites, the Midianites and many other people who opposed them and oppressed them.

The prophet Amos came from the land of Judah, but he ministered to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the message of the Lord that we heard today, was directed squarely at them. At that time, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had veered so far off the path of the Lord, with all their wicked deeds and stubborn refusal to embrace God and His forgiveness, that they had also persecuted the prophets that God sent to remind them and to guide them to the right path. Even Amos himself was told off by the king of Israel to go back to his own land and not to give any more trouble by preaching in the land of Israel.

The prophet Amos reminded the people of God that if they continued to walk in the path of sin and continued to disobey God, then they shall face the wrath of God, and although God is truly loving and merciful, but at the same time, He is also good and just, and will not tolerate sin in His presence. If they continue to persist in sin, then God will exact His justice on them, and by their own refusal to follow the Lord and to embrace His love then they would be judged and condemned. This prophecy would eventually come true with the destruction of Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel and the destruction of that same kingdom by the Assyrians, who exiled and scattered the people to far-off and distant lands.

The Lord told His people that He is always welcoming for them, always calling them all to return to Him, but at the same time, they all have to be receptive to what He has offered them. Often times for us all to follow the Lord, it requires us to have a fundamental change in our way of life and habits, that we embrace the love of God in our whole lives, the truth and the righteousness of God in our every actions, words and deeds. We cannot be complacent anymore in not following what God had commanded us to do, to be good and holy just as He is all good and holy. We are all His disciples and His people, and rightfully, we have to follow what the Lord had told us to do.

In today’s Gospel reading, we also heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the matter of following Him and being His servants and in walking down the path that He had set before them. The Lord told them frankly how following Him does not mean having good and pleasant lives, and they may have to endure difficulties and challenges in their path and in being faithful disciples and role models for one another. The Lord did not mince His words and He told them the truth, so that they know that to be Christians, to be His followers and disciples, much are expected of us all.

However, we must not be afraid because as long as we entrust ourselves to the Lord, we will always have Him by our side, and He will always provide for us, especially in our time and hour of need, and we should be assured that God will protect us against those who seek to harm us. Like the prophet Amos and many other prophets who had devoted themselves to God, we too have to have faith in Him, and not to worry, but entrust ourselves ever in His providence and care. The Lord has called us all to be His disciples, and it is up to us to follow Him and to commit our lives to Him, distancing ourselves from the path of vice and sin, and striving to do our best for righteousness.

Today we can also model ourselves based on the examples set by St. Cyril of Alexandria, a great saint and Church father, who was a great defender of the faith and also a great shepherd of his flock, who faced a lot of opposition and hardships for his staunch defence of the true Christian faith. He did not give up the struggle and fight, despite having to endure exile and persecution due to the then Roman Imperial nobles and government support for those who championed the heretical ways of Nestorius, the heresy of Nestorianism, which was supported by some of the most powerful figures of the Empire.

St. Cyril stood up for his faith, committing himself to resist the heretical teachings of the false teachers and prophets, and dedicated his life to his flock, to those whom God had entrusted to his care much as the prophet Amos and many other prophets and saints had done before and after him, and his examples should also serve as inspiration for all of us that we may be good disciples and inspiration ourselves in our own way of life. Each and every one of us should be role model for one another, and be committed disciples of the Lord, in every moments and opportunities of our lives.

May God be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us in faith, so that we may walk ever more closely in His path and in His grace. May His love continue to watch over us and inspire us that we may ever be His better disciples and Christians, now and always, to be His witnesses and messengers to our world and communities today. Amen.

Monday, 27 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Matthew 8 : 18-22

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowd pressing around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. A teacher of the Law approached Him; and said, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Monday, 27 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 49 : 16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23

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

You join a thief when you meet one; you keep company with adulterers. You have a mouth of evil and a deceitful tongue.

You speak ill of your brother, and slander your own mother’s son. 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.

Give this a thought, you, who forget God; lest I tear you to pieces with no one to help you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 27 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Amos 2 : 6-10, 13-16

YHVH says this, “Because Israel has sinned, not once but three times; and even more, I will not relent; They sell the just for money and the needy for a pair of sandals; they tread on the head of the poor and trample them upon the dust of the earth, while they silence the right of the afflicted; a man and his father go to the same woman to profane My Holy Name; they stretch out upon garments taken in pledge, beside every altar; they take the wine of those they swindle and are drunk in the House of their God.”

“It was I Who destroyed the Amorites before them, whose height was like the height of the cedar; a people as sturdy as an oak. I destroyed their fruit above and their roots below. It was I Who brought you up from the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness to take possession of the land of the Amorites.”

“Behold, I will crush you to the ground, as a cart does when it is full of sheaves. The swift shall be unable to flee and the strong man shall lose his strength. The warrior shall not save himself nor the bowman stand his ground. The swift of foot shall not escape nor the horseman save himself. Even the most stout-hearted among the warriors shall flee away naked on that day,” says YHVH.

Monday, 20 June 2022 : 12th 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 Lord, we are reminded of our obligation and calling as Christians to be righteous and to obey the Lord, following His Law, commandments and ways. Otherwise, we shall face the retribution and the consequence justly meted for our sins. In the end, we must realise that while God is loving and merciful, as long as we distance ourselves from Him and refused to be reconciled to Him, even though He offered us generously His kindness and compassionate mercy, we shall still be suffering the consequences of our sins, that is the possibility of eternal damnation in hell, should we continue to be stubborn and refusing God’s love and mercy.

As mentioned in our first reading passage today from the Book of Kings, we heard of the account of the downfall and destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, as the Assyrians and their king brought their full force and bringing destruction upon Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. That destruction was presented as the culmination of the many years, decades and centuries of the stubbornness of the Israelites in refusing the love and mercy of God, and in them rejecting the prophets and all those who had been sent their way, like the prophets Elijah, Elisha and many others, to call them to be reconciled with God, returning to the true faith.

Their wickedness and evil led then to the punishment justly deserved by those who actively and consistently refused to listen to the Lord and His mercy. For their constant transgressions and refusals to believe in God, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel faced the just retribution and consequence, of being scattered all around the world, cast aside and humiliated for having lost their homeland and forced to wander off in the foreign and distant lands. They had refused God’s ever generous mercy and kindness, handed to them and given to them freely, through the ministry of the prophets and messengers that God had sent to them, again and again over the centuries, only for the people to reject them and persecute.

But the Lord still loved His people nonetheless and continued to send His servants to call on them and to remind them to return to Him. He did so even though the people kept on stubbornly refusing His outreach and compassionate love. He kept on giving them chances, one after another, until the time of reckoning and judgment, when the sins of the people finally caught up with them. The fate of the Israelites, their capital in Samaria and what happened to the northern kingdom ought to be a lesson and reminder for us to heed the calling of the Lord, as He calls on us to be His followers and disciples.

In our Gospel passage today, all of us are presented with the Lord speaking to His disciples with regards to the matter of judgment and of what His followers ought to do with regards to reminding one another about our respective obligations and way of life. He told us all not to be judgmental towards others and to be righteous in our deeds. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations to be self-righteous and self-aggrandising in our attitudes, and that was what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the disciples not to be hypocrites in their faith, and to be genuine Christians in all opportunities.

The Lord told His disciples not to judge others not because He does not want us to judge or criticise others at all. On the contrary, what He actually meant was that each and every one of us must not judge with the wrong intention and spirit, and we must not judge others thinking that we are in any way better or superior compared to others around us. The problem is that, just as what many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, they often considered themselves as superior to others, especially to those whom they disagreed with and were biased against, such as those they deemed as sinners and unrepentant. They deemed themselves as the moral compass of the people and refused to listen to reason, thinking that they could have done no wrong, and that those who disagreed with them were walking in the wrong path.

That kind of attitude was what prevented them from listening to God and His reminders, much as their ancestors and predecessors had done. Just as the Israelites of old had continuously disobeyed the Lord and refused to listen to His prophets, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also continued to show disobedience and lack of willingness to listen to God and His truth, as He had delivered into our midst through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And what the Lord wanted to highlight to us is the fact that, all the things that led those people into sin, was all their pride and arrogance. Such was indeed the dangers of pride, one of the greatest of the sins that afflicted us mankind. It was pride that brought down Satan in the past, and it was pride that brought down innumerable other children of God throughout history.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all henceforth be willing to listen to the Lord and open our hearts and minds to reason, be willing to humble ourselves before the Lord and our fellow men, and realising that each one of us are sinners in need of God’s healing and mercy. WIthout the Lord and His mercy, we will not be able to get out of our predicament, the tyranny of sin and darkness surrounding us in the world today. That is why, each and every one of us are reminded today to stop hardening our hearts and minds, and turn once again towards the Lord with renewed faith and zeal, so that by all that we may be inspiration to one another in leading a new life of virtue, as well as a life that is filled with care and concern for our fellow brethren in faith.

Let us all help one another on our way towards the Lord, and may the Lord continue to help us in our journey as well, in our perseverance to resist the temptations of sin, especially that of pride, and help remind one another to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy, turning away from the path of sin and evil, darkness and destruction, remembering the lessons of the Israelites and that of the prideful Pharisees and teachers of the Law, so that we will not end up walking down the same path that they had walked. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 20 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 20 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that we cannot let the desires in us and greed to bring ruin to ourselves, as the lessons of the past contained in the Scriptures should remind us. Instead, as Christians we have to heed the words that the Lord Himself had told us, that we must not be a people of greed and hatred, of anger and jealousy. Instead, we have to be filled with the same genuine love that God has for each and every one of us, and because of this, we are all called to be righteous, loving and exemplary in all of our actions, words and deeds.

In our first reading today, we heard from the First Book of Kings the account of the encounter between king Ahab of Israel and Naboth, the vineyard owner from whom Ahab wanted to purchase the vineyard from. King Ahab has strongly desired that vineyard, but Naboth refused as that vineyard was on the land that he had inherited from his forefathers. By Law, Naboth was entitled to keep the land of his inheritance, and not even Ahab as king could lawfully force Naboth to sell his land to him. This made Ahab very upset and his wicked wife, Jezebel, plotted and arranged that Naboth was to be falsely accused of blasphemy and of faults that he had not committed.

That was how Ahab managed to unlawfully and illicitly gain ownership of Naboth’s vineyard, and that was a great sin that he committed before God and men alike. That was not what the Lord had told His people to do, and as king, Ahab was expected of an even greater standard and obedience to the ways of the Lord, to His Law and commandments. But Ahab failed it all, and he allowed his wife to mislead and misguide him, and to enforce policies and practices that promoted pagan worship, idolatry, and also the act of tyranny and wickedness as what Jezebel had done in the name of Ahab in persecuting and then seizing the lands of Naboth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord telling His disciples that while Jewish traditions and customs demanded that ‘an eye is ought to be repaid with an eye, and a tooth repaid with a tooth’, they should not be following that path any longer, as He has shown them the better path, the path that He expected all Christians to follow, the path of His love. The old customs and practices were done in accordance to the principles of divine justice and retribution according to their understanding of the old laws of Moses, which had been misinterpreted and misunderstood by the people of God.

Hence, the Lord came to reveal the true intention of His Law, and to call on everyone to turn once again back to Him, abandoning their sinful ways, their selfish desires and greed, and instead embracing His path and following what He has been revealing and showing to us by His own actions. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the love of God manifested in the flesh, coming into our midst and dwelling among us. He did not just tell His disciples to love one another and to show genuine care and concern, doing more than what had been expected of them, and not to retaliate upon being treated badly, but He Himself did as He told His disciples, in His own actions, in what He had done in loving and forgiving even those who had persecuted Him.

For if we recall what took place during the Lord’s Passion, suffering and death, the Lord Jesus endured bitter rejection and harsh treatment from His enemies, abandoned and betrayed, and was condemned to death and accused of a crime that He was innocent of, and even after all that, He still looked lovingly upon His people, even to all those who had rejected and condemned Him, praying for them and asking His heavenly Father not to hold their actions against them. He showed how a true and genuine Christian love is like, a truly selfless and unconditional love, that does not seek one’s own comfort and benefits, but rather, truly caring for the well-being and the good of the other person.

Compare that love and path of life as compared to what king Ahab and his wife, the wicked Jezebel had plotted and done against Naboth. Then we can obviously see what we are expected to do as Christians, in obeying the will of God, and in following His love, His truth and compassionate ways. Each and every one of us have been called to follow the Lord and to walk in His path in the same manner, and today, we also have the examples of St. Anthony of Padua, the renowned saint and Doctor of the Church, whose faith and commitment to God can be great sources of inspiration for all of us Christians to follow in our own lives. All of us should look upon St. Anthony of Padua, his determination to love his fellow brethren, the poor and the sick, as our examples.

St. Anthony of Padua was a Franciscan friar and priest who was greatly remembered for his eloquent and moving sermons, inspired by the Holy Spirit and by the love that he had for both the Lord and for his fellow brothers and sisters. Many people were touched by his personal sanctity and all the efforts he did in reaching out to those who have been lost to the Lord and His Church, and also for those who were poor, sick and abandoned, ostracised and neglected by the society, and he was remembered for his many works and efforts to bring the people of God back to Him, and to bring the love of God closer to all of His people, wherever he went and ministered to.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as St. Anthony of Padua had inspired numerous people to follow in his examples, let us all also walk in his path, and remembering what the Lord Himself had done for our sake, in His selfless love and in His desire to be reconciled and reunited with us. Let us all ourselves be the beacons of God’s light, and the bearers of His truth, showing the genuine love of God, His compassion and kindness to all of mankind, to those whom we encounter in life daily, and doing our best to follow the Lord in all of our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us, that we may not walk down the same path that king Ahab had walked, and instead of succumbing to the temptations of our desires, let us all seek to live a better and more Christ-like lives from now on. May God be with us and bless our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 13 June 2022 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 38-42

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “You have heard, that it was said : An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this : do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well.”

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.”