Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded today through our Scripture passages of our Christian calling, that is to be filled with love and charity, as well as to be humble and not to boast of our own glory and might, but instead, focus our attention on God and do what He has commanded each and every one of us to do, in understanding His will and obeying His Law with genuine faith.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Apostle St. Paul an exhortation he made in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, for all of them not to look down on others or to be judgmental and comparative, to feel superior to others and to be biased. And by using the examples of himself and the other Apostles, by showing and reminding everyone how they had humbled themselves and laboured so hard for the sake of the people, despite being the leaders of the community, the intention of St. Paul was to remind all of us to be humble and to focus ourselves on God.

It is very easy for us to be tempted by the temptation of ego and pride, to think of ourselves as better and superior, and that others are not as good as ourselves. And this is very common temptation that we often face whenever we do our work as part of the Church, in our communities and Church ministries, and even in our interactions and activities in the general community.

By our nature, we are easily tempted to think that we cannot go wrong, and that it must have been because of another’s fault that we end up in trouble. And we also tend to point out another’s mistake first rather than recognising, less still pointing out our own mistake. And all of these were caused by the pride and ego in us, and they are among the biggest obstacles in the path of our journey of faith.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the account of how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticising the Lord’s disciples and followers before Him just because they picked on the grains of wheat in the field and eating them as they were hungry. All these happened on the day of the Sabbath, on the day which was supposed to be holy and dedicated to God, and of which there were rules and regulations related to this holy day.

The Sabbath is the holiest day in the week, and the Law of God stipulated that the day ought to be kept free from busy things in life and the usual activities, all for the intention of helping God’s people to refocus their attention on Him and spend quality time with Him, which is why the Sabbath day is also known as the Day of the Lord. It is what we also keep today in our observance of Sundays as the Days of the Lord, celebrating His resurrection and glory.

But over time, the Law was interpreted by the elders and the priests, passed down as increasingly strict sets of rules and regulations that severely restricted the activities of the people, and in time, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law embodied it, the obsession over the petty details of the Law of the Sabbath made many to forget the very reason, purpose and essence of Sabbath itself. The Law was enforced very strictly on the people, and those who did not obey fully, were looked down upon and despised like what the Pharisees did to the Lord and His disciples.

It was exactly what we have just discussed earlier, on the matter of pride and ego which misled the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord rebuked these people as misguided leaders and shepherds, who have indulged so much in their own sense of superiority that they had forgotten to lead the people on the right path, showing them guidance and compassion. Instead, they indulged in praise and fame they received from the people, and became haughty and arrogant.

That was why the Lord immediately reminded the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who criticised and attacked His disciples, that even the well-respected and adored king David in his time, gave his followers bread to eat when they were on the run from the authorities and were very hungry. And those bread in fact, were not just any bread, but bread reserved only for the priests to eat, and not for any one else.

The Lord wants to remind us through these, that we must not be distracted and tempted by pride, and we must not look at the Law of God, His commandments and laws at merely face value only. If we only appreciate these at face value only, then what we are doing is essentially just skimming the surface of God’s truth and will on the surface, without deep foundation and genuine understanding on what it means for us to be Christians.

If we act in ways that show prejudice on others, being judgmental and biased, being superficial in faith, then all of us need to realise that this is not what our Christian faith is about. And if we think that we are all good, righteous and more worthy than others, then we need to change our mindset and perspective. Today, we have a great role model whom we can look upon as an inspiration and example to follow in how we ought to live up a genuine Christian faith.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, also better known during her lifetime and after as the Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was a religious remembered well for her zeal and courage in reaching out to care for those who were sick and suffering, especially in the worst of conditions, as it was in Calcutta in India where many if not most of the people lived in abject poverty in slums and terrible conditions not fit for human habitation and life.

An Albanian Catholic girl, who chose to join religious life in her youth, and then thereafter came to India as part of her mission, St. Teresa of Kolkata came to know of these immense suffering endured by many of the poor in Calcutta outside her convent walls. As she came to experience more and more of these sad realities of life, she began to hear the calling to make a difference in the lives of those whom she had seen suffering so much.

That was how St. Teresa of Kolkata chose to embark on a new journey, venturing out from the convent and embracing instead the poor, the sick and those dying in the slums and in the streets, giving love, care and comfort to those who had no one to love them, those who had been treated as less than human beings, and showed them the face of God’s love. It was certainly not easy for her especially at the start of her new mission, and she faced plenty of obstacles and opposition, but her conviction, zeal and love for the poor and the dying helped her to overcome all those obstacles.

Many had been touched by St. Teresa of Kolkata and her tireless efforts for many decades, as she established the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation dedicated to follow in her drive and passion to help the least and the poorest, those who are suffering all around the world. To those who are not suffering in the way those poorest in Calcutta, the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity also reached out to those who had none to love and comfort them.

For all of these, St. Teresa of Kolkata was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize as well as great renown. But what she was very well-remembered for was her speech, in which she mentioned that ‘she was just an instrument, a pencil in the hands of the Lord’. St. Teresa of Kolkata remained personally humble and dedicated to her mission, and even as she struggled to overcome her many challenges, the temptations of the devil, we can see in her, a great and shining example of Christian virtue and faith, that each and every one of us can follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the inspiring virtues and examples of St. Teresa of Kolkata, being humble in our everyday life, humble before God and man alike, and place our focus constantly on God, as we live our lives joyfully in serving Him and in loving Him, in showing His love to one another, just as St. Teresa of Kolkata had done, sharing the genuine love of God to all man, especially to those who are most vulnerable, weakest and least loved by all.

St. Teresa of Kolkata, Mother Teresa, pray for us all that we too may follow in your footsteps, in loving our brothers and sisters, in showing genuine love, care and compassion, that we may live our lives as genuine Christians centred on God and not on ourselves or our selfish desires. May the Lord be with us always, and guide us in this journey of life in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 144 : 17-18, 19-20, 21

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

He fulfils the wish of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. For those who love Him, YHVH has compassion; but the wicked, He will destroy.

Let my mouth speak in praise of YHVH, let every creature praise His holy Name, forever and ever.

Saturday, 5 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Kolkata, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Corinthians 4 : 6b-15

Learn by this example, not to believe yourselves superior by siding with one against the other. How, then, are you more than the others? What have you that you have not received? And if you received it, why are you proud, as if you did not receive it?

So, then, you are already rich and satisfied, and feel like kings, without us! I wish you really were kings, so that we might enjoy the kingship with you! It seems to me, that God has placed us, the Apostles, in the last place, as if condemned to death, and as spectacles for the whole world, for the Angels as well as for mortals.

We are fools for Christ, while you show forth the wisdom of Christ. We are weak, you are strong. You are honoured, while we are despised. Until now we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and badly treated, while moving from place to place. We labour, working with our hands. People insult us and we bless them, they persecute us and we endure everything; they speak evil against us, and ours are works of peace. We have become like the scum of the earth, like the garbage of humankind until now.

I do not write this to shame you, but to warn you, as very dear children. Because, even though you may have ten thousand guardians in the Christian life, you have only one Father; and it was I who gave you life in Christ through the Gospel.

Saturday, 5 September 2015 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how St. Paul mentioned to the faithful and the Church in Colossae in Greece, that they have been saved by the work and by the grace of God, and even though they were once delinquents, rebels and sinners, who disobeyed the Lord and lived in great wickedness, but God had made ourselves redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise the great love and mercy that God had given to us. He had given us a new opportunity and a new chance to redeem ourselves from our faults and mistakes. And He wants us all to be loved and to be saved, and for Him no one should go alone on His own, rejected, hungry and downtrodden. He wants us all to be loved and cared, and He wants to forgive us our sins if we sincerely look for redemption.

That is why in the Gospel today, we heard of His confrontation with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were so transfixed on their laws, rules and regulations, so that they failed to realise and understand the true meaning, purpose and importance of the Law of God. The Law is a gift from God for us all mankind as a guide and a path for us to follow so that by walking with the Law, we may remain true to the Lord and be found righteous and worthy of being with our Lord once again.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law instead looked at the Law as something to be blindly obeyed and followed, even without proper understanding. They focused on external appearances and fulfilment of the Law without transformation of the heart, the mind and the soul. They enforced the laws of the sabbath day, where everyone was not supposed to do any work or activity, but they did so for the sake of enforcing it, and not understanding the true intention.

God did not intend for the Sabbath to oppress the people and making it a burden for them. Instead, His intention to instate such a rule is to help the people to coordinate and regulate themselves that out of their busy daily schedules, we may find the way to love our God and devote ourselves to Him, and spend some time with Him, speaking with Him, knowing Him and understanding His will rather than being preoccupied so much with our lives and our worldliness.

Ironically, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who insisted so much on enforcing the laws of the sabbath were themselves the ones who became preoccupied with themselves and worldly concerns. They wanted to be seen as holy and pious when they went about doing whatever they could to fulfil the Law’s obligations. But in fact, they were dooming themselves for failing to understand God’s true intention, and in doing so they also led the people into ruin by their false ways.

The same often happen to us all as well, and we often lose the understanding of the bigger picture of our lives for the sake of fulfilling our own ego and our own desires. It is our selfishness that is often our greatest enemy and our greatest obstacle. And today, we celebrate the feast of a holy woman, whose life had been an inspiration for countless people, and whose actions had brought a new hope to countless people who had no hope.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born an Albanian, and in her young age the desire to serve the Lord and His people grew in her heart, and she joined the missionaries and devoted herself to a life of celibacy and service. She went on to India and served there for the rest of her life. As we all should know from all that we had heard about her, she would go on to serve the poor people in Calcutta.

She established the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation devoted to the service of the least and the poorest in the society, those who had been rejected and without love, those who were suffering and on the brink of death. She brought hope to the destitute and those who thought that everything was hopeless to them. This is exactly what God had done for us, remember? He lifted us up out of the pit and the darkness, and He brought us a new hope and into the eternal life He promised to all of us.

Therefore, as we remember the examples of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, what she had done and how she devoted herself to the poor and the downtrodden without worry for herself, let us all also realise, first that God is loving and merciful, and He truly cares for all of us, and He wants all of us to be saved and redeemed from our sins and wickedness. We would have fallen into hell and eternal suffering for sure, if God did not come and help us.

Then, we have to realise that we have to let go of our own ego and die to our own selfishness if we are to be able to truly be the disciples and followers of the Lord. It was the selfishness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that made them as hypocrites in their faith, as they served themselves first and thought only of making themselves look great at the expense of righteousness and genuine faith.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the many other holy saints of God, and let us all show love, care and concern for others around us. Let us all show more concern and effort to bring all of us to true and genuine life filled with the love of God, and care for one another. May Almighty God, our Lord and loving Father be with us always, love us and may He guide us always to the right path, to love Him with all of our hearts. Amen.

Saturday, 5 September 2015 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Luke 6 : 1-5

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was going through the corn fields, and His disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?”

Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.”

And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the sabbath.”

Saturday, 5 September 2015 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 53 : 3-4, 6 and 8

By Your Name, o God, save me; You, the Valiant, uphold my cause. Hear my prayer, o God; listen to the words of my mouth.

See, God is my helper; the Lord upholds my life. Freely will I offer sacrifice to You and praise Your Name, o Lord, for it is good.

Saturday, 5 September 2015 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Colossians 1 : 21-23

You yourselves were once estranged and opposed to God because of your evil deeds, but now God has reconciled you in the human body of His Son through His death, so that you may be without fault, holy and blameless before Him.

Only stand firm, upon the foundation of your faith, and be steadfast in hope. Keep in mind the Gospel you have heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.