Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us and reminding us about faith that each and every one of us should have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between us and God, through what He has done lovingly for our sake, by His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross. We must have that trust in His love and providence as what we have heard the army centurion had done in our Gospel today.

For the context, the army centurion or commander who was mentioned in the Gospel today and met the Lord Jesus on the way, asking for His help in healing his very sick servant, was likely a non-Jewish person or a Gentile. That was because the whole region of Judea, Galilee, Samaria and indeed the entire Mediterranean region were under the power and rule of the Roman Empire. Even though at that time parts of the Israel was still somewhat autonomous under the rule of the descendants of King Herod, but many of the state apparatus and the military had been subsumed by the Romans.

It was likely that the army centurion was either a Roman or at least a Greek. And in that context, we can see an even greater surprise and astonishment that would have happened among all those who followed the Lord. The disciples of the Lord definitely would not have expected that an army centurion of such a high rank, feared by many and considered as a pagan would act in such a way that showed just how great his faith was in God and how firm he was in his belief.

The Jews at that time held firm in their pride of being the descendants of God’s chosen people, the Israelites and looked down upon the Gentiles as pagans and unworthy people, and in particular, the many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law exhibited this bias in the strongest manner. Imagine their astonishment if they can see just how strong the faith and how genuine the dedication that army centurion had in the Lord.

And the irony was such that those same people who took great pride in themselves being God’s chosen people, refused to believe in the One Whom God Himself had promised since the beginning of time, the Saviour Whom He had promised to send into the world to bring about its salvation. Instead of welcoming Him and listening to His truth, many of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and the Jewish people rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him.

Yet, it was that army centurion, supposedly pagan and unworthy in the eyes of the Jews who truly welcomed the Lord into his heart and mind, putting his whole trust to Him without condition and hesitation. And when the army centurion asked of the Lord for a favour saying that he is not worthy to have Him in his place and just by His words alone that his servant would be healed. That in fact showed just how much he trusted in the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is often that we need to see and to experience something directly in order for us to believe in something. For someone to be able to trust just by the weight of words alone means someone must have really trusted in the other person, and that is exactly what the case is for the army centurion in his belief in the Lord. Are we able to have this kind of faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we have to ponder on the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church during the particularly vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. St. Cyprian meanwhile was the influential Bishop of Carthage and Church leader whose works with Pope St. Cornelius were important for the strengthening of the Church through the turbulent times and for the salvation of many souls.

At that time, there was a bitter division in the Church led by the influential Novatian, who held the position that Christians who have left the Church or obeyed the state’s commands of offering sacrifices to the pagan gods and idols could not be welcomed back into the Church and that the Church remained shut off to those people. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian vehemently opposed this argument and strove to show the Church that welcomed sinners who returned to the faith.

Eventually, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian would be martyred for their faith, but this is not before they had worked hard to convince the Church and the Christian communities to remember how each and every one of them were sinners before God, and also for us, remembering what we have listened from the Scriptures, that we must never be proud or be exclusive in our attitudes in faith.

Just as the army centurion was able to show such a great and wonderful faith in God despite being supposedly a pagan and most unlikely to have faith, therefore, we cannot take the position of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or that of Novatian, who took pride in their status as God’s chosen people to the exclusion of others whom they thought to be less worthy or inferior.

Let us all then be open to God’s love and also be open-minded in our interactions with one another, with the intention for the good of one another’s condition in life and faith. Therefore let us all together as one people be more committed and be more faithful, looking upon in particular, the faith of the army centurion which is so genuine and real, and aim that our own faith and devotion to God may be like his. May God bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 2 : 1-8

First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for rulers of states, and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For He wants all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth.

As there is one God, there is one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, Who gave His life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me Apostle and herald. I am not lying, I am telling the truth : He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth.

I want men, in every place, to lift pure hands, in prayer, to heaven, without anger and dissension.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love by which God has reached out to us through Christ, His beloved Son, by Whom He has brought salvation to us all and the whole world. Today we are all reminded that by God’s love and grace, He has willingly embraced us and has wanted us to be reconciled to Him, that we can be truly reunited with Him in perfect love.

God has revealed that first and foremost of all, He is a loving God and Father to all of us, and not some angry and wrathful God Who demanded us to be subservient and to kneel in fear. Instead, what He wants us to do is for us all to realise just how much He has loved us since the very beginning and therefore have the same kind of love within each and every one of us as well. We are all called to be loving just as God is loving.

Unfortunately it is by our own actions that we have failed to appreciate God’s love for us, in how we categorise God and make assumptions about Him, just like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law acted in enforcing the observances of the laws of God, particularly the law of the Sabbath as we heard in our Gospel passage today. They questioned the Lord if it was lawful for someone to be healed on the Sabbath.

This is when those people failed to understand the Law of God properly in its meaning, purpose and intention. They focused on the ‘letter’ of the Law but failed to understand the ‘spirit’ of the Law, and the two should not be separated one from the other. The Lord did not intend for the Law to restrict His people and make themselves difficult by imposing the Sabbath observance to prevent people from doing something that is good, as the Lord Jesus Himself plainly revealed.

Instead, we must all understand the purpose of the Sabbath itself in the first place in the historical context of how the Sabbath came to be. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, not from doing good deeds but rather from all the busy schedules, activities and preoccupations of God’s people that had taken them away from God and distracted them from their faith in Him. In their pursuit for more worldly goods and happiness, it was easy for them to be swayed and fall into the temptations to sin.

That is why, the Sabbath was meant to help the people to take a break and stop whatever they were busy and preoccupied with, so that they can reorientate themselves and rethink the purpose and direction of their lives and refocusing their hearts and minds to God’s will. The Sabbath was therefore meant to allow God’s people to grow in their relationship with their loving God, Father and Creator, just as how we ought to honour the Sundays, the days of Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are therefore reminded to be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord, not just knowing the ‘letter’ of the Law but also the ‘spirit’ of the Law so that we do not end up being misguided like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were overly obsessed and focusing on the wrong parts of the Law, as they bickered and argued over the external application and observance of the Law rather than what the Law truly means for the people of God.

Today, all of us ought to observe and follow the example of one saint, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Peter Claver, a holy and devout priest who was remembered for his dedication to the poor and to the oppressed as a priest serving the faithful and many of the people in the then New World, the Spanish American continent. He ministered to many of the people who have not yet heard of God and baptised many of them into the faith over many decades.

He spent many years working among them all and especially among the slaves, all those who have been exploited for the sake of wealth and glory by those who wanted these things. He championed their rights and ministered among them, touching their hearts and minds as they saw in him the presence of God’s love and mercy in their midst. He reached out to them and many of them turned towards God with great faith as a result.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the good examples of St. Peter Claver, his love for his fellow men, all those whom God had entrusted to his care, and his devotion and love for God throughout his life that he devoted all his time and effort to the care of God’s beloved people. Let us all be ever more faithful to God from now on and let us be true in our live for Him and in our ever stronger devotion to His greater glory. May God bless us all in our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 6 : 6-11

At that time, on another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralysed right hand, and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees watched Him : Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to the man, “Get up, and stand in the middle.” Then He spoke to them, “I want to ask you : what is allowed by the Law on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all.

Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored, becoming as healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.

Monday, 9 September 2019 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 61 : 6-7, 9

Find rest in God alone, o my soul; from Him, comes my hope. He alone, is my Rock and my Salvation; with Him as my Stronghold, I shall not be overcome.

Trust in Him at all times, my people; pour out your hearts before Him; God is our refuge.