Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the word of God through the Scriptures by which we are all reminded of our obligation as Christians to follow the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him through love, to be wholehearted in our faith and devotion at all times. In our first reading we heard from the Book of Revelations on a great multitude of saints in Heaven, glorifying God and worshipping Him while in our Gospel we heard of the offering of the poor widow at the Temple of Jerusalem.

Let us then begin with that account of the poor widow’s offering. The Lord and His disciples were at the Temple when the widow came to worship and offer her small offerings to the Temple treasury, a small gift of two coins, a very small sum, and yet, considering her poverty, it was likely a relatively very big sum of money for her. As she was already widowed as well, it was likely that she had difficulties making ends meet too.

Nonetheless, she still gave out of her poverty because of her faith in God, her genuine faith and belief in Him, as well as her sincere desire to love the Lord and her fellow brothers and sisters alike. Therefore, the Lord praised the poor widow’s actions before all of His disciples, showing that her faith and offering were greater than all the rich people who offered much more than her.

What matters here is the widow’s determination and love for God which is so great that she willingly gave even from her poverty and lack of things. Her love for God was greater than her love for herself and her possessions. Correspondingly, God Who knows everything inside our hearts and minds rejoice at her great faith, and her rewards in Heaven shall indeed be great.

In our first reading today as we heard from the Book of the Revelations of St. John, of the vision of the great multitude of saints in Heaven, numbering a hundred and forty-four thousand with many other innumerable holy ones who have been chosen and called, and answered to that call. Those saints and many among them being martyrs, had given their lives in the service of God, committing themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, and suffered persecutions and trials for their steadfastness in faith.

They had also given their offerings to God, a pure offering of love and dedication, which the Lord desired more than sacrifices and other offerings of worldly nature. And hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the examples of the poor widow and in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, in how they dedicated themselves to God and loved Him with all their heart.

Today we also recall the memory of two great saints, namely Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them can truly inspire us on how to be faithful to God in all things, as we follow their good examples and experiences. Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter the Apostle who was renowned for his great hard work and efforts to establish and strengthen the Church, and steer the faithful through difficult and challenging times. Meanwhile St. Columban was an Irish missionary who established many monasteries and communities in what is today France and Northern Italy.

Pope St. Clement I was essential in his role in continuing the expansion of the Church that had begun from the time of the Apostles, as he also wrote extensively to the various communities throughout the Church, helping to enforce the orthodox and true faith against false heresies and other corruptions of the faith. He helped to steer the Church through intermittent persecutions of the Church particularly the harsh persecutions under the Roman Emperor Domitian. Eventually he was also martyred for his faith, and gave his life willingly for the glory of God.

St. Columban the Abbot was remembered for his establishment of numerous monasteries and monastic communities in Western Europe, and many flocked to join those communities. He also helped to maintain a rigorous discipline of the faith, known later as the Rule of St. Columban. He did not have it easy though, as he met oppositions and challenges from rulers and those who were wary and suspicious of his efforts. He also had his share of enemies, but all these did not stop him from his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the lives of these two saints and discern how we can move forward in life with ever greater devotion and be more willing and able to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May God help us all in this journey of faith, and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Luke 21 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the Temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins. And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Revelations 14 : 1-3, 4b-5

I was given another vision : The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, surrounded by one hundred and forty-four thousand people, who had His Name, and His Father’s Name, written on their foreheads. A sound reverberated in heaven, like the sound of the roaring of waves, or deafening thunder; it was like a chorus of singers, accompanied by their harps.

They sing a new song before the Throne, in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a song, which no one can learn, except the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been taken from the earth.

These are given, to follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are the first taken from humankind, who are already of God and the Lamb. No deceit has been found in them; they are faultless.

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of just fortunate we all are for having been beloved by God, as He showed us His love again and again throughout time. God has revealed His love to us constantly through His servants, but it is often us who pushed God away and refused to listen to Him or acknowledge His love for us.

The Lord has revealed to St. John, his Apostle, as recorded in the Book of Revelations, of the message and truth He has passed onto His seven Churches in Asia, representing the seven main Christian communities and centres at that time through His Angels. He revealed that despite the struggles and challenges that they were facing, they would not face those alone.

The revelation showed how the Church and the faithful would endure long periods of persecution throughout its history, but God would be with His people guiding them and protecting them regardless. The Lord helped them from their misery and guided them through those challenging years. In the end, many saints and martyrs came about from those communities, that while they might have suffered but they gained glory through God.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, of God’s wonderful mercy and love. We heard how the Lord Jesus moved with pity and love, and responded to the one who had been seeking fervently His mercy and healing. When the blind man was helpless and was without hope, in the darkness of despair and suffering, God reached out to him and showed him that even in his darkness there is still hope and light, as long as one keeps faith in God.

The key there is the willingness of that blind man to humble himself and to reach out to the Lord, seeking His mercy wholeheartedly when he called out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” a few times, even when the people tried to silence and hush him. He revealed his vulnerability and his weakness to all, but in doing so, bared his faith in God fully, and it was by this faith that God was moved to save him and heal him from all of his troubles.

In the same manner therefore, God will always be with us and will help us through life, through our troubles and challenges if only we can have faith in Him like that of the blind man. The problem is that, unfortunately, more often than not, we allow our pride and ego to stand in the way of this salvation, as we often do not want to reveal our weakness and the fact that we actually are in need of help and assistance from God. We preferred rather to remain in our state of sin and in being despicable due to our pride, rather than seeking God for healing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in order for us to move forward in this life with faith, we have to get rid from ourselves this wicked mentality and the attachments and the allures of our pride and ego. Indeed, we have to die to our pride and remove all these from our hearts and minds as best as we are able to. Otherwise, we may end up rejecting God’s love and mercy again and again, until it is too late for us to seek His healing, mercy and forgiveness.

Today, let us all reflect on all these, and discern carefully on what each and every one of us as Christians can do to serve the Lord and to follow Him ever more faithfully. And perhaps we should look up to the examples set by the saints, especially the two saints whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Margaret of Scotland, as well as St. Gertrude the Great, both being holy women who had dedicated their lives to the Lord.

St. Margaret of Scotland was an English princess who later became the Queen of Scotland. And although she was born a high noble and royalty, and a queen no less, but she has always been very pious and humble throughout her whole life, putting God above all else, and was ever dedicated in her work as queen in taking care of the needs of her people, especially to the less fortunate and the poor. She has also dedicated much effort to expand the Church and various other institutions for the benefit of her people.

St. Margaret and St. Gertrude were both very pious and dedicated themselves much to follow the Lord faithfully and led a very pious and virtuous way of life. While St. Margaret was a pious queen, St. Gertrude was a renowned Benedictine religious nun remembered for her many intellectual writings about the faith that are still influential to this very day. Many people had been inspired through their piety and their efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on the lives of these saints, and be inspired to seek the Lord with renewed faith and zeal, to be humble in reaching out for Him to ask for His forgiveness and grace. Let us all seek the Lord’s mercy, love and forgiveness, and let us all be thoroughly reconciled and regain God’s grace and favour. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Luke 18 : 35-43

At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what was happening, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by.

Then he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people in front of him scolded him. “Be quiet!” they said, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped, and ordered the blind man to be brought to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!” Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.”

At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Monday, 16 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Revelations 1 : 1-4 and Revelations 2 : 1-5a

The Revelation of Jesus Christ. God gave it to Him to let His servants know what is soon to take place. He sent His Angel to make it known to His servant, John, who reports everything he saw, for this is the word of God and the declaration of Jesus Christ.

Happy is the one who reads aloud these prophetic words, and happy those who hear them and treasure everything written here, for the time is near. From John to the seven Churches of Asia : receive grace and peace from Him Who is, Who was and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits of God which are before His throne.

Write this to the Angel of the Church in Ephesus, “Thus says the One Who holds the seven stars in His right hand and Who walks among the seven golden lampstands : ‘I know your works, your difficulties and your patient suffering. I know you cannot tolerate evildoers but have tested those who call themselves Apostles and have proved them to be liars. You have persevered and have suffered for My Name without losing heart.”

“Nevertheless, I have this complaint against you : you have lost your first love. Remember from where you have fallen and repent.”

Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, together with the entire Universal Church all of us rejoice together celebrating the great Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which is the preeminent, principal and most important of all the churches in the whole world. It is the most important church and the heart of all Christendom.

The full name of the Lateran Basilica is appropriately, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran. It is the only Archbasilica to signify that it is truly above all every other churches as the place where the seat of the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ is at.

Although most of us would often associate the Papal Basilica of St. Peter as the seat of the Pope given that it is part of the Vatican City and the Pope himself resides within its complex in the Apostolic Palace, and although most of the Papal celebrations and liturgies take place in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, but the Cathedra of the Pope is not there.

Each of the diocesan bishops of the world has his seat of authority in a church, which is then named as the cathedral of the diocese named after the cathedra, the bishop’s seat of authority as the symbol of his jurisdiction and authority over his entire diocese. The Pope as the Bishop of Rome therefore also has his cathedra which is at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran was the first of the public churches of Rome to be built after centuries of often intense persecutions of Christians by the Roman government and state and the faithful in Rome had to clandestinely meet and celebrate the Mass in catacombs. There were also other churches built in Rome by the Emperor Constantine after he extended official toleration of Christians in the Edict of Milan, including the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the current one being rebuilt five hundred years ago.

It was therefore there at the very heart and centre of Imperial Rome that the Basilica of St. John Lateran was built and completed, and the Pope took it as his Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and it has remained as such to this very day. The Pope himself lived and reigned at the adjacent Lateran Palace for many centuries before political circumstances and agreements made it such that now the Pope resides in the Vatican.

But the Cathedral of Rome remains and is always at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the events of the inauguration of a new Pope is only complete when he assumed his cathedra at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The possession of this cathedra makes this great Basilica as the Mother Church of the Diocese of Rome, just like in any other dioceses.

And since the Pope is not just the Bishop of Rome, but also the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the leader of the entire One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, thus, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is the Mother Church of the entire world, the Mother of all the churches. Hence, this is why all of us rejoice together today marking the anniversary of its Dedication.

But we must also not forget that even as we rejoice at the Dedication of this great House of God, the Mother and Head of all the churches of Rome and the world, we are also ourselves God’s Holy Temple, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Corinthians. We are all the Temples of His Holy Presence and of His Holy Spirit, dwelling in us all and sanctifying us.

Just as at the Dedication of a church, the church’s Altar is blessed with holy water, anointed with holy oils, and had its candles lighted and the Altar covered with pure white Altar cloths, thus, each and every one of us at the moment of our baptism, we have been baptised with holy water in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, anointed with the holy oil of chrism, dressed in new, white garment and received the lighted candle.

We can clearly see the parallel between the Dedication of a church, like the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, with our own ‘dedication’ to God that is our baptism and initiation into the Faith and the Church. Just as the Dedication of the Church and its Altar sanctifies them and makes them a holy place worthy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then through baptism we have also been sanctified and purified to be worthy to be God’s Holy Temple.

We receive the Lord Himself into us in the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, and also the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. Thus, if we keep the sanctity and purity of our churches and their Altars, then we must also keep the sanctity and purity of the Temple of our body and being, the House of God that is each and every one of us. Doing otherwise and to defile this sanctity is a sin against God.

What do we do then if we have defiled the sanctity of our Temple of God, our body, heart, mind and soul? Then we ought to try to rectify it as best as we can. The Lord has granted us through the Church, the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by which through the authority He has given to His Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, the authority to forgive us our sins and absolve us from our faults and wrongdoings given that we are willing to fully repent from them.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have not gone for confession for a while, let us have the courage to admit our faults and sins, and have the desire to repent and turn away from those sinful ways. The Lord through His priest and the Sacrament of Reconciliation will heal us and make us whole again. And then, more importantly, we must strive henceforth to resist further temptations to sin.

It will definitely be challenging as we live in a world surrounded and filled by those many temptations. But if we do our best and keep strong our faith in God, and help one another in persevering through the challenges then we should be able to pull through the difficulties and trials together, and together we shall be found worthy of God and be glorified together with Him in the end, forever and ever.

May the Lord, our ever loving God help us to keep each and every one of us holy and filled with faith, each as glorious Temples of His Holy Presence, much like the glorious Mother of all the churches of Rome and the world, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Amen.

Monday, 9 November 2020 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.