Monday, 22 July 2019 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great disciples and followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, one who is often considered to be an equal to the Twelve Apostles of the Lord, and one who has followed Him through much of His ministry ever since He called her from her past life, and she was also prominently mentioned in quite a few parts throughout the Gospels.

Today’s feast of St. Mary Magdalene, holy woman and devout disciple of the Lord Jesus reminds us of the great transformation that has happened to the life of this woman, who according to some Apostolic traditions and Scripture, was a sinner who lived a life of sin and debauchery, and the Lord Himself cast out many demons out of her. St. Mary Magdalene was known thereafter as a very dedicated follower of the Lord.

In all of these, we can see how God transformed the life of this woman, from someone who was sinful and corrupted into someone who is truly exemplary in faith and worthy of being an inspiration to many other Christians throughout the ages. In St. Mary Magdalene we see someone who has welcomed the Lord into her heart and into her life, allowing Him to work wonders in her and through her.

On this day, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives, and see how each and every one of us have lived them thus far. Many of us may not realise that the story of St. Mary Magdalene is actually not different from our own stories, her life being similar to our own lives in one way or another. We must not have the misconception of thinking of her as a wretched being whom God miraculously rescued and made clean, or that what she has done is impossible for us to emulate.

Many of us tended to take two extreme positions, both of which led us to the failure in appreciating the significance of St. Mary Magdalene, her examples and her faith. On one side, we look down on her as a sinful woman, whom God saved through mercy and pity, and therefore failing to realise that those same sins she had committed, are the very same sins that have corrupted us and which we ourselves have committed in one way or another.

On the other extreme, we may think that our sins are so severe and terrible that we cannot be forgiven by God, or that God is angry with us and our sins, and will exact punishment and destruction upon us because of those sins. This is called despair, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we must never despair before God. For God’s love for each and every one of us is so great and powerful that not even the greatest of sins can hold against His love, as long as we are fully repentant of our sins.

We must remember and indeed realise that many of the saints whom we venerate and glorify today were themselves sinners, and some among them were in fact infamous for their terrible sins. Some were murderers, while others were adulterers and unfaithful, worshipping pagan idols and gods, or performed wicked and selfish actions in their lives. But what were common among all of them is the fact that all of them repented and turned away from their sins.

They followed in the example of St. Mary Magdalene, who left behind her past life to follow God with all of her heart, which can be summed up in a way through what we have heard in our first reading passage today from the Book of Song of Songs. In that Book, the writer described a great longing and desire for God, which surpassed everything else, born from a genuine and true love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have just mentioned earlier, each and every one of us must realise and appreciate just how great God’s love is for us. He looks for us and desires for us to be reconciled with Him, and went out all the way to find us, like a Good Shepherd looking for all of us, His lost sheep, scattered in the darkened world due to our sins. And we must also remember how He endured the most bitter and painful of sufferings and pains, on the Cross, for the sake of our salvation.

Therefore, if God has loved us so much, should we not love Him in the same way then? St. Mary Magdalene had shown us her own good example, in her faith and commitment, in her genuine love for the Lord, leaving behind all traces of sin and disobedience behind her. Are we willing and able to make the commitment to do the same before God? Are we able to persist through the many temptations to sin in life?

Let us all pray that God may be moved and through the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene, that each and every one of us will realise how generous God’s love and compassionate mercy is, that we do not give in to despair, but remain hopeful in His love and merciful forgiveness. May the Lord also continue to guide us as we journey in our lives towards His grace and salvation. Amen.

Monday, 22 July 2019 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-2, 11-18

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two Angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and answered Him, “Lord, if You have taken Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will go and remove Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to Him, “Rabboni!” – which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them : I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.”

So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what He said to me.”

Monday, 22 July 2019 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 62 : 2abc, 2d-4, 5-6, 8-9

O God, You are my God, it is You I seek; for You, my body longs and my soul thirsts.

As a dry and weary land without water. Thus have I gazed upon You in the Sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

I will praise You as long as I live, lift up my hands and call on Your Name. As with the richest food, my soul will feast; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

For You have been my help; I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Monday, 22 July 2019 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Song of Songs 3 : 1-4a

On my bed at night I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I called him and he did not answer. I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek the love of my heart…

I sought him without finding him; the watchmen came upon me, those who patrol the city. “Have you seen the love of my heart?” As soon as I left them, I found the love of my heart.

Alternative reading

2 Corinthians 5 : 14-17

Indeed, the love of Christ holds us, and we realise, that, if He died for all, all have died. He died for all, so, that, those who live, may live no longer for themselves, but for Him, Who died, and rose again for them. And so, from now on, we do not regard anyone from a human point of view; and even if we once knew Christ personally, we should now regard Him in another way.

For that same reason, the one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him, the old things have passed away; a new world has come.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture where we heard first of all the beginning of the Book of Exodus in which the people of Israel who have been living for many years in the land of Egypt were resented by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, who were afraid at their continuous growth and thriving community. The Pharaoh resorted to enslaving the Israelites and putting them under strict control and attempted even to wipe their young generation by ordering Hebrew boys to be killed.

The Pharaoh and the Egyptians treated the Israelites very terribly and they suffered a lot over those years when they were in slavery. But God did not forget about them or abandon them in the moments of their difficulty. Eventually, He sent them a deliverer, in the person of Moses, whom He prepared and protected despite the Pharaoh’s orders to kill all the newborn male babies of Israel. In time to come, he would be the one through whom God worked to free His people from bondage.

In the Gospel passage, God sent yet another Deliverer, and this One was sent into the world to save not just the people of Israel, but in fact the whole race of man, from our slavery, that is much worse than the slavery of the Israelites. For all of us mankind are in truth, have been enslaved to sin, because of our disobedience against God and His will. And sin has therefore subjugated us to its power, and because of that, we have been subjected to death as well.

Unless we are freed from this bondage to sin, we will end up being drawn deeper and deeper into the power of sin, and in the end, there will be nothing for us but destruction, suffering and pain that never end. But God’s love had made our salvation possible, through the giving of His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Saviour. And Christ, by the power of His divinity and authority, and by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, brought us all into the promise of eternal life free from sin.

Unfortunately, just like when Moses was sent among God’s people, the Lord Jesus encountered a lot of oppositions, a lot of challenges and difficulties. And He put it plainly to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that His coming into the world would not bring about immediately an era of eternal peace and happiness, unlike what the people at that time expected. The people expected that the coming of the Messiah would herald an era of great peace and glory for the people of Israel.

Moses had a lot of challenges as well, because his message to the people of God was initially met with skepticism and doubt, and they grumbled when the Pharaoh hardened his heart and made the people to work even harder when Moses performed great miracles before him and insisted that the Israelites were freed. And after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, there would be many more challenges that Moses had to endure.

Along the way, the people constantly grumbled and refused to obey the Lord, even putting a golden calf as an idol they worshipped, following the pagan idols of the people they encountered along the way, acting in ways that were wicked and grumbling that they had been led into the desert to die, while they were at least having good life and plenty of food and drink in Egypt although they were enslaved.

In the same way therefore, many of us are also attached and bound by sin, as we resist the efforts of the Lord in bringing us closer to Him and to His righteous ways. The Lord Jesus had to go through a lot of resistance and opposition throughout His years of ministry, and many were against Him, as He Himself said that His coming into the world would bring about controversy, divisions, troubles, and difficulties for all those who follow Him.

The reason for this is because of sin, and because of the dangerous allure of sin that constantly tempts us to pursue the path of sin. And we have to understand that just as God freed His people from the bondage of slavery, He is also freeing us from the bondage we have to sin. In fact, it is God alone Who is capable of freeing us from the bondage to sin. He alone is capable of forgiving our sins.

But are we willing to be forgiven from our sins? It is often that we enjoy living in the state of sin, because sin seems to be better, more attractive and more enjoyable than the path that God shows to us. Therefore, it is important that each and every one of us are aware of the dangers of sin, and that we need to have the strength and resolve to resist the temptation to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps today we can be inspired by the good examples of St. Bonaventure, a devout and holy servant of God, whose life is truly an inspiration for each and every one of us. St. Bonaventure is a Franciscan who was renowned for his great many works and wisdom, for his great contributions to the Church and in the ministry of the episcopate he exercised, and later on as a Cardinal of the Church, he inspired many others through the ages to live an upright life before God.

Are we able to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to turn our hearts and minds totally to God and serve Him from now on with all of our strength? Let us all seek Him with ever greater conviction and be more courageous in living our lives faithfully. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties along the way, but I believe that with God by our side, everything is possible.

May the Lord be our guide and may He continue to strengthen us along this journey, that we may walk ever more faithfully by His side, each and every days and moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 123 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-8

Had not YHVH been on our side – let Israel say – had not YHVH been on our side, when people rose up against us, then, they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more, and the flood would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; the raging waters would have swept us away. Blessed be YHVH, Who did not let us be devoured.

Like a bird, our soul escaped from the snare of the fowler; the snare that was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of YHVH, Who made heaven and earth.