Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded that as Christians we must not have the elitist attitude thinking that we alone are righteous and that others are less deserving of God’s salvation than us. We must not think that we are more worthy than others just because we follow His Law and commandments, and then ridicule and ostracise, being prejudiced or biased against others, or worse still, blaming others just because we think that they have not been faithful to God the way that we have been faithful. Instead, first and foremost we must remember that it is our Christian calling and obligation in fact to not only love the Lord with all of our hearts and might, but also to love our fellow brothers and sisters, without prejudice, in the same way.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, we heard the Apostle speaking to the people regarding the matter of circumcision and the faithful. In order to understand the significance of this discourse, we have to understand that back then there were significant friction between the members of the Christian communities including that in Philippi, between the new converts from among the Jewish diaspora as well as the new converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people like the Romans, the Greek and many others. The Christian faith and truths attracted both the Jewish people and the Gentiles alike, and the differences in their thoughts and practices bring about this discord between the faithful.

That is because according to the practices of the old Law as revealed through Moses and as shown in the Old Testament, the Jewish people had to undergo circumcision or the removal of the skin from the genital of their males, in order for them to be part of the Jewish community. This Law had been preserved from the days of Moses onwards to this day. However, the crux of the matter as highlighted by St. Paul, was the overemphasis on these external and outward practices and which also became sort of badge of pride and honour by the adherents of its practices which resulted in the people of God being elitist and exclusivist in their way of life and in how they interacted with others who do not belong to their group, or those whom they deemed as inferior and less worthy than they were.

The Pharisees, to which St. Paul himself belonged to, and which the Apostle highlighted in that very occasion, was in particular the most to blame for this attitude. For back then, many among the Pharisees were very proud of their observance of the Law of God, their piety and dedication. They looked down on others and made great show of their faith practices and piety. They imposed the very strict interpretation and excesses of the additions to the Law of God over the centuries to the whole people. Their prejudice against people who were sick and diseased, possessed, and others like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, were carried on to some among the early Christian converts originating from among the Jewish people, some of them like St. Paul himself, were Pharisees.

Therefore, there were disagreements and even attempts by those who supported the Pharisees and wanted the whole Church to adopt the very strict interpretation of the Law and all of its immense number of rules and regulations, imposing them even to the Gentiles who converted to the Christian faith. That would have made it very difficult then for the Gentiles to adopt the Christian faith, as back then, some of the Jewish practices and customs were viewed with disdain and even with outright disgust by the Romans, the Greeks and the other Gentiles. In particular, this involved the practice of male circumcision, which the Gentiles found abhorrent. That is why, people like St. Paul, a former Pharisee, wanted this practice to be made completely optional for the whole Church.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus as He confronted the Pharisees and the elders who were very critical at the Lord’s warm treatment of those whom the they considered as sinners and unclean like the tax collectors, as He went even to their place to have a meal with them. Such an action would have been unthinkable for the Pharisees and the elders who wanted to have nothing to do at all with those pagans and all those whom they deemed to be inferior, less worthy and wicked. This was exactly why St. Paul warned the faithful against these attitudes that are actually incompatible with all of us being Christians. A Christian should not be prejudiced, exclusivist and self-righteous in their attitudes.

On the contrary, we have to remember what the Lord told all those assembled, using the parable of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin. When He mentioned how the shepherd would go out forth to look for the one lost sheep despite the ninety-nine other sheep that were safe and sound, and how the woman would put all her effort to find her missing silver coin piece despite the other pieces that she had with her, it showed us all the kind of love and the effort with which God had done for our sake, out of His ever enduring and ever great love for us all. Through His generous love, He has reached out to us again and again, all of us sinners who are undeserving of His love, and yet, despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness, God continued to reach out to us nonetheless, with love. And that is what we as Christians are expected to do as well with our lives.

Today, we shoud also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, on his feast day, namely that of St. Martin de Porres, the renowned patron saint of the poor and the needy, and of those who are underprivileged and ostracised. St. Martin de Porres was himself born in the New World, the Americas, as a mixed-race illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed nativewoman. St. Martin de Porres grew up in poverty and endured a lot of prejudices and sufferings because of his background, and although as he grew up he wanted to join the Dominicans as a member of the religious order, the prejudices and the challenges facing St. Martin de Porres as a mixed-race man prevented him from joining the Dominicans as a full member.

Nonetheless, St. Martin de Porres continued to persevere in his faith and faithful actions, devoting a lot of time and effort to care for his fellow brethren, especially to those who were sick and dying, those who were underprivileged and suffering. He performed many works, even menial works and labours for the sake of his community of Dominican brothers, as well as others. Soon after, many miracles and wonderful works occurred all around St. Martin de Porres, and many came to him for healing and advice. He continued to live humbly and faithfully in God’s path, and devoted his works to the good and the well-being of his brethren, obeying his superiors and listening to God’s will. He lived virtuously and humbly, to the very end of his life, a great example and role model for all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of St. Martin de Porres, his life and good examples, let us all therefore reflect upon all these and see in what way we as Christians can do and act in our own lives to be more like St. Martin de Porres and the innumerable other saints whose holy lives, whose love for the needy, the poor and the underprivileged can become our source of inspiration and examples, in how we ought to lead our own lives. Shall we not follow the path of the Pharisees and the elders, and the path of those who thought themselves as being worthy and righteous, but instead, walk ever humbly and faithfully in the path that God had set before us?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen and empower each and every one of us to be able to live courageously with faith and devote ourselves and our attention to Him. May God bless us all and all of our good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 15 : 1-10

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Thursday, 3 November 2022 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Philippians 3 : 3-8a

We are the true circumcised people since we serve according to the Spirit of God, and our confidence is in Christ Jesus rather than in our merits. I myself do not lack those human qualities in which people have confidence. If some of them seem to be accredited with such qualities, how much more am I!

I was circumcised when eight days old. I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin : I am a Hebrew, born of Hebrews. With regard to the Law, I am a Pharisee, and such was my zeal for the Law that I persecuted the Church. As for being righteous according to the Law, I was blameless.

But once I found Christ, all those things that I might have considered as profit, I reckoned as loss. Still more, everything seems to me as nothing compared with the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to distance ourselves from the taints of hypocrisy and all sorts of temptations to sin, especially the temptation of worldly desires and pleasures, worldly glory, fame and renown, all of which can distract us in our journey towards the Lord. Through our Scripture readings today we are all reminded how there had been many people who were entrusted with the faith and the responsibility to guide their fellow faithful ones, and yet they failed to do their duties and responsibilities appropriately.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their behaviour and way of living their faith lives, and especially in how they misused their authority as well as their hypocrisy and their imposition of very strict and harsh rules and regulations pertaining to the Law on the entire people of Israel. They demanded their portion and for the people to respect and to support them, and yet at the same time, they looked down on all those whom they deemed to be less worthy, the ones like the tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those who were inflicted with various diseases and illnesses, and many others.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law demanded an external application of the Law, and they paraded themselves in doing all the things that people could witness and see them doing, praying aloud in the synagogues and in the streets, and they similarly imposed this bias and preferences in what they taught the people of God through their actions and words. But they had failed to realise that obeying the words of the letter of the Law is empty and meaningless unless one also understands and appreciates the meaning and the Spirit of the same Law. One can easily obey the Law to the letter but without understanding the importance and significance of why one has done so.

That is why the Lord was so critical on them and their actions. Their actions and irresponsible behaviour had made it difficult for many to seek the Lord and not only that, but it likely also turned many people away from God and His salvation, since the conditions and requirements which they imposed on everyone were so difficult, tough and yet unnecessary, that many people simply did not make the effort to come closer to God and instead remained in their state of sin. That way, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom God had entrusted with His people, had not done as they were supposed to do, and in their obedience to the Law, they were also selective and focused more on the externals rather than a wholesome application of the Law of God.

The Lord told His people that in order for us to truly love and serve the Lord, we have to have that proper understanding of His truth and love, and obey His Law wholeheartedly instead of just obeying blindly or paying lip service or only seeking for external application or holding up appearances only. Each one of us must live our lives with faith and practice our faith with genuine dedication and commitment, at every available opportunities and at every moments, or else we may end up causing scandal on the Lord and His Church, and we may have to be responsible for making people to be more distant from God just as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

That is why today we are all called to reflect on our way of life and see carefully how we can better commit ourselves from now on with faith, in following the Lord in all the path of our lives, and at all times. Each one of us have been called to reflect on the path that we should be taking moving forward in life, so that our actions and words, our deeds and everything may always be aligned with God and His will, with His teachings and with His revelation of truth. We are all presented with the opportunities and the many circumstances through which we will be able to find our way to do things in accordance to our calling and God’s will.

Today, one of such ways and opportunities is for us to follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, the first saint to be proclaimed from the New World. She was born in what is today Peru in the New World, the Americas, and was acquainted with another saint of the New World, St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, who was then Archbishop of the area and administered to St. Rose of Lima the Sacrament of Confirmation. St. Rose of Lima began to grow closer to God and despite her father’s efforts to force her to marry against her will and desire, St. Rose of Lima resisted and remained faithful to her commitment to God.

St. Rose of Lima had wanted to join the Dominicans as a nun, however her father’s opposition prevented that, and she instead became a third order member of the Dominicans. She took a vow of perpetual virginity and lived a life of great holiness and grace, and was famously remembered of her wearing of a heavy silver crown with spikes and thorns to emulate the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord and Saviour, in keeping up to her commitment to God and in self-mortification, living her life full of prayer, inspiring many others to be more faithful to God themselves, and many were inspired even long after she passed away at the rather young age of thirty-one.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the great examples showed by St. Rose of Lima and many other holy saints, holy men and women of God so that we may always do our best to resist the temptations of worldly glory and ambitions, the temptations and desire for human praise and other worldly pleasures. Let us all instead strive to become ever closer to the Lord and to His salvation, and may St. Rose of Lima intercede for us all, helping us sinners to come ever closer to God, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

2 Thessalonians 2 : 1-3a, 14-17

Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, and our gathering to meet Him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand. Do not let yourselves be deceived, in any way.

To this end He called you, through the Gospel we preach, for He willed you, to share the glory of Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Because of that, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions that we taught you, by word or by letter. May Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who has loved us, may God Our Father, Who, in His mercy, gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, strengthen you.

May He encourage your hearts and make you steadfast in every good work and word.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, hearing how the people of Israel rebelled against God and disobeyed Him when they grumbled and complained against Him as they journeyed through the desert from Egypt. They complained that they had a better life in Egypt even though over there they were slaves and were treated badly.

They did all these even though the Lord had in fact treated them very kindly, patiently answering their pleas and requests, giving them daily the bread from heaven itself, and also other food and plenty of water to drink in their journey through the desert. The Lord took good care of His people and patiently cared for them only to gain contempt, betrayal and disobedience, rebellion and wickedness in return.

The Lord then sent fiery serpents that were disastrous in their effects on the people, as many were bitten by those serpents and died. Those serpents killed many and the people begged the Lord for mercy, asking Moses to intercede for their sake. The Lord had pity on His people and showed them His clemency through instructing Moses to build a great bronze serpent standard, and lifting it up before the whole people that all those who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent would be saved.

This is related to our Gospel passage today in which we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking plainly to the people and all gathered about what would happen to Him. Those Jews were the ones living in Judea and many of them supported the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in opposition against Jesus. They doubted Him and refused to believe in Him, demanding to see miracles and signs from Him even when He had done all those wonders before them all.

And the Lord then revealed to all of them how He would be lifted up high above the Earth, a prelude to what He would endure during His Passion namely when He would be scourged, stripped and nailed to the Cross, and lifted up on the hill of Calvary, for all the same people to whom the Lord had spoken, to see the ultimate and greatest of all the signs of God’s wonders and love.

What is the significance of this, brothers and sisters? It is just like the lifting of the bronze serpent of Moses in the past through which the people were saved from the deadly sting of the serpents, thus, the Lord also had Himself lifted up so that all those who see Him, believe in Him and have faith in Him will be saved from certain death and destruction from the sting of sin.

This is therefore an important reminder for each and every one of us that we are all called to shun the temptations to sin, the allure and pull of its corruption, and all the things that have led us to our downfall, and the downfall of so many who came and went before us. As we approach the beginning of the Holy Week in less than a week’s time, we are all called to reflect deeply of the Lord’s Passion, all that He had done, out of His great love for us.

It is thanks to Him, His enduring love and great patience that each and every one of us still have hope, the hope of entering into a new and blessed existence free from sin, and one that is no longer corrupted by those wicked and evil taints of the world. The Lord has willingly taken up His Cross, bearing our many sins and their consequences and punishments, all because of His love for us. If not for Him, we should have been lost to despair and the darkness.

That is why we should appreciate the love of God and everything that He had done for us, and we must not take the opportunities that He has given us for granted, or else, we may find it that we are too late to realise how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God and to have received so many good opportunities from Him. We need turn towards the Lord, look at Him crucified and remember the love by which He selflessly took up that sacrifice in order to save all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also be inspired by the good examples set by St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, one of our holy predecessors. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo was a great and renowned Archbishop, who was once also the confessor and trusted advisor of the King of Spain. He was credited with the conversion of numerous people, many of whom he personally preached to and worked with. He dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the improvement of the life of his flock, and committed himself to care for them.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo travelled extensively throughout his diocese and beyond, often on foot and baptising many, taking care of the spiritual needs of those whom he had encountered throughout his ministry. He established many chapels, convents, hospitals and schools for the benefit of many people, and many indeed were helped and touched by the actions of this saintly bishop that they became converts and believers.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with a new heart and desire to follow Him, inspired by the good examples of the saints, particularly that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo. May the Lord be our guide that we may journey successfully through life with faith, and focusing our attention from now on, to the Lord and His saving grace. Let us always remember all the sufferings and humiliations that Our Lord had to face in order to save us all, out of His enduring and ever-present love for us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.