Friday, 29 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in, and danced, and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Monday, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 23 : 13-22

Therefore, woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor do you allow others to do so.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to win a single convert, yet once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves.

Woe to you, blind guides! You say : “To swear by the Temple is not binding, but to swear by the treasure of the Temple is binding.” Blind fools! Which is more worth : the gold in the Temple, or the Temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure?

You say : “To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding.” How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred? Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the Temple is swearing by the Temple and by God who dwells in the Temple.

Whoever swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him who is seated on it.

Sunday, 16 February 2014 : 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 17-37

Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfill them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.

So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.

I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial.

But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister “Fool!” deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell.

So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.

Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said : Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this : anyone who looks at a woman too lustfully has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart. So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pull it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

It was also said : Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a written notice of divorce. But what I tell you is this : If a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

You have also heard that people were told in the past : Do not break your oath; and oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this : do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne, nor by the earth, because it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King.

Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Say yes when you mean yes, and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

Matthew 5 : 20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.

You have heard that it was said : Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this : anyone who looks at a woman too lustfully has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart.

You have also heard that people were told in the past : Do not break your oath; and oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this : do not take oaths. Say yes when you mean yes, and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.

Friday, 7 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 14-29

King Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a Prophet like the prophets of times past.”

When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!” For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 27 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today Christ revealed His identity to His disciples, after asking them whether they know who He truly was. And the prophet Haggai in the first reading, comforted the people of God who laid in ruins after they returned to the land the Lord had given them after a long exile in Babylon.

In Christ, the Son of God, the world has been given the salvation that God had promised for them. In Christ, who is not mere man but a divine made man, the world achieve a fullness of glory in the Lord, the perfection that has been taken from us when we became lost after our rebellion at the beginning of Creation.

Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to mankind over time which He renewed through the prophets, and finally perfected in Jesus. God resolved to rebuild the destroyed mankind that they once again become His beloved ones, freed from sins and slavery to the worldly pleasures and sins.

Yet, although He is a conquering King who comes to destroy death and sin, and be triumphant over all evils, but He came as a humble King, One who is destined to suffer and die. Yes, death for our sake, that through the death, we may not die but live eternal with Him. He is the Lamb of God, the One to be slaughtered and whose Blood is to be shed, for the sake of all of us, for our salvation.

Although He is great and mighty, He faced suffering, persecution, and death, that He took in into Himself all the sins and sufferings of mankind, that we do not have to suffer them for eternity, and instead enjoy life everlasting in happiness with God. This is the renewal the Lord promised to the returned exiles of Israel through the prophet Haggai and the other leaders of the people. The renewal God had sent through His own Son, Jesus Christ.

The Lord loves us so much, that He was not willing to see us to suffer with the devil in eternal fire, to suffer for the consequences of our sins and faults. That was why He sent us Jesus, to be our Help, our Hope, and our Way, to return to Him, to reclaim the true joy, happiness, and the inheritance that we had forsaken when we disobeyed Him in the garden of Eden.

All that, and He was ready to endure lashes, torture, nails, and the cross itself.  The Lord Jesus walked that arduous path towards Calvary, enduring the weight of that cross, bleeding from His wounds, to die a criminal’s death on the cross, in Calvary, for our sake. Imagine the combined weight of the world’s sins, that is the sins of all mankind. That was the weight of the burden which caused Christ much pain and suffering, and He endured it.

At the same time, through that sacrifice of Himself, God had made His love for His people evident, by the giving of Himself for out sake. He gave us all new hope and light in life. Remember, before the glorious cross, the cross of Christ resurrected from the dead, there is always the cross of suffering, that is the cross taken up by the Christ suffering for our sins.

We cannot abandon the Christ, both in His glory and in His time of greatest humiliation on the cross, the humiliation that he turned into glory. That is why, brethren, we have a mission that has been given to all of us and that is to proclaim the crucified Christ to all people, to all the nations, especially to those who have yet to hear about the wondrous Christ and His works of salvation.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, one of the great saints in the Church, who was well known for his commitment to the Lord, especially to the weak, the poor, and the unloved. St. Vincent de Paul was born in France and was educated to be a faithful and good follower of Christ, when he was captured among many by the Algerian pirates running rampant in the region during his time, and was made into a slave.

St. Vincent de Paul was enslaved and sold to a renegade Catholic owner, until he managed to convince him to return to the faith, who then helped to get St. Vincent to be released from his slavery. He then committed the rest of his life as a worker of the Lord, caring for the last, the lost, and the least in the society, emphasizing on the need to give love to these people, and not abandon them to the darkness.

St. Vincent de Paul was particularly caring about those who were enslaved, being once a slave himself, and showed them the true nature of Christian love, that is dedication and the giving of oneself for the sake of others in need. He was truly the embodiment of who we all Christians ought to become, to be people for others, to be faithful disciples of the Lord who is Love.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow the examples of St. Vincent de Paul, making real our faith in this world, through our dedication and service to our brethren in need. We do not have to do big things, but what we can do is, to do even simple things to those around us, to those whom we meet along the way, giving them simple acts of love.

Even these small acts are significant, brethren, and we must not discount them for bigger and more ambitious acts of charity, as it is in these small acts that we can do daily that truly make the difference, and truly bring out the love that we have in us, and sharing it with one another. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us always, that in all the things we do, we may be more inspired to be charitable and loving. God bless us all, always. Amen.

Friday, 27 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 18-22

One day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from His disciples, He asked them, “What do people say about Me?” And they answered, “Some say that You are John the Baptist; others say that You are Elijah, and still others that You are one of the prophets of old, risen from the dead.”

Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone.

And He added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days, He will be raised to life.”

Thursday, 29 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate a great feast in our faith, that is the Passion of St. John the Baptist, when he died in the prison of King Herod because of his uprightness, his faith, and his courage. St. John the Baptist, as we all know, is a relative to Jesus, the son of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the Mother of our Lord. He was the one to open the way for Christ and straighten His path in this world.

St. John the Baptist was a truly upright man, who followed the Lord faithfully even unto his suffering and death. He was not even afraid of chastising a king, scolding him for having improper relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. He suffered prison, but he did not fear. He had also suffered rejection, mockery, and doubt, by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who disliked whatever he was doing when he baptised many people in the Jordan, and even questioned his authority.

He stood up courageously and rebuked them as an evil nest of vipers, just as he had in the same way rebuked Herod and his new wife. He feared not human hatred nor opposition, because to Him, it is the love of God that truly mattered to him. His death is part of the Lord’s plan for salvation, that his work in preparing the way for the Lord was then complete, having initiated our Lord Jesus through His baptism at the Jordan, marking the formal beginning of the Lord’s ministry on earth.

St. John the Baptist took his ministry seriously and dutifully, and he truly loved God and was glad of the part he had done in the Lord’s plan of salvation. When Jesus’ ministry began and many people began to come to Jesus instead of John, he was happy and slowly and quietly drifting away into nothingness, while still doing whatever he could to the people who came to him, and directed them to Christ the Lord. He showed true humility, unlike the Pharisees and the chief priests who viewed both him and Jesus as threats to their teaching authority.

Today we are reminded, and indeed urged to do more good and less of the vices, things abhorred in the eyes of the Lord our God. We are urged to follow the examples of St. John the Baptist while keeping away from the vices of Herod and Herodias, wicked people in the eyes of God. Yet, it is very natural for all of us to follow the path of Herod rather than that of John. Why is it so, brothers and sisters? Precisely because we all are weak, weak to sin, open to sin, and vulnerable to sin.

It is most likely that Herodias, even after she was widowed by Philip, the brother of Herod, remained very attractive and beautiful, and that was what attracted Herod to his own brother’s wife, even though as king, he could have had many women as his partner, he chose to follow his urges and desires and chose Herodias. The same can be said of Herodias, the wife. She certainly craved power and authority and wealth that only a king could muster, and that was why she was complicit in the improper relations between her and Herod, her husband’s brother.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded today of the unjust death of St. John the Baptist, messenger of God and the one who prepared the way before the Lord, that we too should be upright, just, and truthful in our lives, in all our words, actions, deeds, and dealings with others, and not be led by our human emotions and even less so to fall into the temptations of the devil and embrace them.

We must not let ourselves be swayed like Herod had done, in promising even up to half of his kingdom to the daughter of Herodias, just because he was fascinated by her and her dance. Lust, passion, and desire can indeed bring us to destruction, just as it had done to Herod. Herod killed the messenger of God, John the Baptist, and therefore incurred for certainty, the eternal wrath of God, all because of the vow he made to the daughter of Herodias, words that came out of desire and lust, which later on came back to haunt him.

Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, follow the example of John, that we will be ever courageous to stand up for our faith, to stand up for what we believe in, to be faithful defenders of the Lord in our increasingly hostile world. Let us not be afraid of saying the truth and live an upright life just as John had done. Guard our emotions and have a strong and healthy prayer life, that the devil will not be able to enter into our hearts and corrupt them, as he had done to Herod.

John showed his disciples that Christ is the Lamb of God, and therefore, today he too showed us to Christ, as the pathway and the only door to salvation. Let us be faithful to Christ our Lord, and be inspired by John His servant and messenger, and let us also adopt his humility, in not seeking human glory and human praise, but seeking the greater glory and praise in God instead. Let us strive to love God more by acting on His will, and do as He wants us, that is to love Him with all our strength and our being, and to give ourselves in love to our brethren, especially those who are unloved, those who are lonely, and those who are abandoned. May God bless us all. Amen.