Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that all of us have to keep our faith in the Lord and to obey His Law and follow Him. We have to be faithful to the Lord and not to give in to the temptations to follow false idols and gods, as what our predecessors had done. Instead, we have to listen to the Lord, receive His words and truth, and allow our faith to blossom and grow within us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus the account and story of the time when Moses, after having spent a whole forty days on top of Mount Sinai with God, discovered the rebelliousness and wickedness of the Israelites, who abandoned their God for the false idol of the golden calf, giving themselves up to their fears and their desires, doing whatever they wanted to do instead of listening to the Lord and to Moses, the servant of God, whom they thought to have died and abandoned them.

This is because they had little faith in the Lord, even after having witnessed, seen and heard everything that the Lord had done for them, all the wonders and miracles they have received, in the Ten Great Plagues the Lord sent against Egypt and the Egyptians while they were spared and protected from those plagues, and how God liberated them as He led them through the sea and destroyed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent against them.

Later on, the Lord also provided for them all as they journeyed through the desert, giving them bread to eat throughout the journey, the manna from heaven, on every single day with the additional gift of flocks of birds as their food. He also gave them constant supply of water to drink, clear and good quality water through the barren and dry desert without life. All these things the Lord had done for the sake of His people, and yet, they complained, grumbled and disobeyed the Lord, saying how life was better in Egypt and other similar things, showing just how little their faith and love for God were.

God was still so patient with His people even through the disobedience that they had shown. He punished and chastised them for their sins, but still desired them to realise the errors of their ways, and embrace His mercy and compassionate love, that they might be converted to the true faith. He never gave up on them even as they continued to fall again and again into sin, sending prophets and messengers one after the other to the midst of the people with the hope that at least some among them would return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord spoke about the kingdom of God, which He compared in parable to the measure of yeast in flour, and to mustard seed. These comparisons were used since many among the people would understand better using the terms and examples that they often used in their daily lives and professions. Using those explanations, the Lord wanted His people to realise what they all need to do to be His faithful disciples and followers.

Those parables revealed to us that as God’s disciples and followers, we have to nurture our faith and our love for the Lord in the most favourable condition possible, that through our actions, our deeds and our interactions, we may come ever closer to the Lord and His grace. For those who do not know, yeast is required for the bread to rise and become properly formed, but it requires strict conditions such as the right temperature and most importantly, the absence of oxygen in the air, and hence, the dough and yeast mixture has to be sealed from outside air in order for the bread to be properly formed.

Similarly, for a mustard seed, such a small seed to grow into a large and sizeable tree, with its rich produce and healthy growth, the seed has to germinate first of all, in the right condition. Otherwise, the seed will not germinate, and will remain dormant in its seed form until the condition is right. And after it has germinated, the young plant has to be nurtured and taken care of, or else, it will perish and die, before it can grow into its full glory and size.

Therefore, all of us who have receive the faith from the Lord and receive His truth have to nurture this faith and the love we ought to have for the Lord, for His Law and commandments. We cannot just give lip service and treat our faith as mere obligation or formality, or else, our faith becomes meaningless and dead. This is why, each and every days and moments of our lives, we shall have the need to dedicate ourselves, our time and effort to the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of the two parents of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, namely St. Joachim and St. Anne, who have nurtured and taken care of Mary since her birth and throughout her youth. While Mary has been prepared specially by the Lord to be Immaculate and pure, worthy to be the vessel of His salvation in Christ, but it was also definitely thanks to the commitment and the dedication which both St. Joachim and St. Anne had given in their role as the guardians and parents of young Mary, that she grew in faith and love for the Lord.

We can be inspired by the faith and dedication which St. Joachim and St. Anne had shown, especially in their role as dutiful and loving parents to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour. We too can show the same love and dedication, in our own way, first of all towards Our Lord and Saviour, and henceforth, towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and even to the strangers and acquaintances we encounter daily in our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all willing to live our lives more devoted to the Lord, and learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, that we will not stumble again like how the Israelites fell into the worship of the golden calf in the past? And are we willing to look upon the good examples of our holy predecessors, like St. Joachim and St. Anne, and the innumerable other saints in how they lived their lives faithfully? Let us all discern this well, and think of how we can be ever more dedicated and committed to the Lord, now and always.

May God be with us all and may He strengthen us with the courage and the commitment to live our lives ever more faithfully in His path, from now on and forevermore. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus offered His disciples another parable : “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.”

He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast than a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise.” Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet : ‘I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.’

Alternative reading

Matthew 13 : 16-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 19-20, 21-22, 23

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

So He spoke of destroying them, but Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him to shield them from destruction.

Alternative reading

Psalm 131 : 11, 13-14, 17-18

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

From here, a Saviour shall come forth, a Son of David; here, shall shine forever, the lamp of My Anointed. In shame will I clothe His enemies, but upon His head a crown shall shine.

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 32 : 15-24, 30-34

Moses then returned and came down from the mountain carrying in his hands the two tablets of the Testimony, tablets written on both sides, back and front. These tablets were the work of God and the writing graven on the tablets was the writing of God.

When Joshua heard the noise of the people who were shouting he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But Moses answered, “It is not a victory song, nor the cry of defeat that I hear, but the sound of singing.”

When he drew near to the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burst forth and he threw down the tablets he was holding, shattering them at the foot of the mountain. Then he seized the calf they had made and burnt it in the fire, grinding it into a powder that he scattered over the surface of the water, and this he made the Israelites drink.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you brought such a great sin on them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let your anger be roused. You know these people and how evil they are. They said to me : ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ I then said to them that whoever had gold was to give it over to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf!”

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a very grave sin, but now I am going up to YHVH; perhaps I will obtain pardon for your sin.” So Moses went towards YHVH and said, “Ah! These people have committed a very great sin; they made a god out of gold. And now please forgive their sin… if not, blot me out of the book You have written.”

YHVH said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out from My book. Go now! Lead the people where I told you. My Angel will walk before you and on the day of punishment I will punish them for their sin.”

Alternative reading

Sirach 44 : 1, 10-15

Let us now glorify illustrious men, the ancestors of our people. But now consider the godly men whose good deeds have not been forgotten. Those who came after them benefitted from the rich legacy they left; their race remained faithful to the Covenant, their children followed their example.

Their family will endure forever and never will its glory be tarnished. Their bodies will be buried in peace but their memory lives through generations. People will speak of their wisdom and the assembly will celebrate their praise.

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, namely St. Joachim and St. Anne, her father and her mother respectively. They were remembered as those who were faithful and committed to obey the Lord and His laws, which they passed on to their daughter, Mary, preparing her well for the crucial role she would end up taking as the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

The parents of our blessed mother Mary taught her to be obedient to the Lord, to be righteous and just in accordance to the Law which God has revealed to His people through Moses, as we ourselves have also heard in our first reading passage today, which related to us the important Ten Commandments that God revealed to Israel at Mount Sinai, as the core and basis of the laws which He has provided for them.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable of the sower which we all should be familiar with, as spoken by the Lord Jesus to His disciples and all the people who were listening to His teachings. In that parable we heard how the sower of the seeds spread the seeds that fell onto different kinds of soils and conditions, and as a result the seeds grew differently and ended up in various conditions.

The Lord also explained how all those seeds that fell by the roadside and got eaten up by the birds, or those that fell on the rocky ground and perished, and those seeds that fell among brambles and thistles and were choked to death, were symbolic of those who have received the seeds of faith from God, and yet, failed to allow those seeds to grow and germinate in them, therefore, they bore no fruits in them.

This has to be understood in the context of how the Law of God, which God has given to His people at Mount Sinai through Moses, had been neglected and abandoned by the very same people who have received them firsthand from God, and even those who have witnessed God’s miraculous wonders and works in the first place. They did not allow God’s laws and words to take roots in them, and as such, they ended up being unfaithful.

They refused to believe because they allowed the many concerns of the world, the temptations of worldly desires and the pressures of sin cause them to fall and to get further and further away from the Lord. But what if the opposite happen then, brothers and sisters in Christ? That was exactly what happened with Mary, who not only prepared especially for the role she was to undertake as the Mother of God, but she was also brought up well in faith.

It was her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne who brought her up well in faith, instructing her in the ways of the world and to be a righteous, just and obedient person, as a servant of God. In the traditions of the Church, St. Joachim and St. Anne were truly loving and caring parents who brought up Our Lady well, showing to us what it truly means to be parents to our children, and especially as Christian parents.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the faith and good examples shown by St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary, we are all called to reflect on our own Christian lives, especially in our own Christian families, in how we live our lives together in our respective families, in our roles either as a father, or as a mother, or as a child, or as a son-in-law or as daughter-in-law, or as any other members of the family.

Christian family is a very important part of the Church, as without good and faithful Christian families, the foundations of the Church will crumble and collapse, and countless souls would have been lost to sin and to the devil’s machinations. And the devil and his allies know this perfectly well, and thus, they constantly assault our Christian families and the institution of marriage itself, wanting to destroy the fabric of our Christian faith.

Let us all remember that our families must stay together in faith and look upon the good examples set by St. Joachim and St. Anne, in their faith and dedication and in how they raised Mary up well in the faith. Let us all follow in their examples and do what we can to live up to the same kind of faith as they have. Let us all model our own Christian families after the example of Mary’s loving family from now on, praying together and striving to be united together in faith.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our families, and may He bless all parents, that they may continue to remain faithful to their calling as parents, in the responsibilities they have to one another as husband and wife and to their children. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Alternative reading

Matthew 13 : 16-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Alternative Psalm

Psalm 131 : 11, 13-14, 17-18

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

From here, a Saviour shall come forth, a Son of David; here, shall shine forever, the lamp of My Anointed. In shame will I clothe His enemies, but upon His head a crown shall shine.

Friday, 26 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Alternative reading

Sirach 44 : 1, 10-15

Let us now glorify illustrious men, the ancestors of our people. But now consider the godly men whose good deeds have not been forgotten. Those who came after them benefitted from the rich legacy they left; their race remained faithful to the Covenant, their children followed their example.

Their family will endure forever and never will its glory be tarnished. Their bodies will be buried in peace but their memory lives through generations. People will speak of their wisdom and the assembly will celebrate their praise.

Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. They are St. Joachim and St. Anne, according to the tradition of our faith. On this day we focus on the great faith which both of these faithful servants of God had, in the upbringing of the Blessed Mother of God from her infancy and through to her adulthood.

Although the life of St. Joachim and St. Anne was not recorded in the Scriptures, but through sacred tradition and history of the Church, and through our own observation of the nature and characteristics of Mary, as a faithful and obedient servant of God, who was an exemplary role model for all of us, therefore, it is just right that her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne must have been made of the same qualities in life.

And this is contrasted to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, beginning from the book of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, where the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet, of a lamentation of their disobedience and bad treatment of the Lord, even after all that He had done for their sake, loving them and protecting them from harm and from their enemies.

They have turned away from the path which He had shown to them through His prophets and messengers. The people had built up idols and false gods as the ones to whom they worshipped, and they forgot about God and all the good things which they have received and been blessed with. They disobeyed His laws and commandments, and instead, they turned to sinful ways and performed what were wicked in His sight.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is linked to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord spoke to His disciples and followers about why He always taught them in parables. Through the parables, the Lord was in fact trying to explain to the people about the truth and the Good News in ways that were more easily understandable and relatable to them. However, whether they benefitted from those efforts depended on whether they were open in their hearts and minds to the word of God.

When the people of God hardened their hearts and minds against God, essentially what they were doing was that they refused to listen to the Lord, and rejected Him, as it was often that they failed to recognise God’s presence in their midst. They were often preoccupied heavily by worldly concerns and matters, to the point that they ended up focusing on the wrong things in life, including worldly glory, fame, recognition, wealth and pleasures of the body and the flesh.

All of those things are obstacles and hindrances that prevented us from finding our way to God and from recognising the Lord Who is in our midst and Who is always trying to reach out to us, speaking to us and calling us in the depths of our hearts. We have not responded favourably to the Lord Who has always showed His greatest efforts to be with us and to work with us, in every possible way and at every possible opportunities.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to continue to walk down this path of rebelliousness and disobedience? Are we going to continue to harden our hearts and resist our Lord’s efforts to help us? If we continue to follow down this path, then I fear that there is nothing else for us in the end, except for damnation and suffering, for when we reject God’s love and mercy, then we do not deserve His mercy and forgiveness.

Instead, let us all look upon the great faith and dedication that holy saints, St. Joachim and St. Anne have shown in their lives, which became great role model for their daughter, Mary, who herself is the great role model for all of us Christians. Let us all seek to resist the temptations of worldly glory, the corruptions of sin and the allure of Satan, and turn towards God with all of our hearts, minds, strength and might.

May the Lord be with us in our journey of life, so that we may turn towards Him with genuine love and sincere dedication, that inspired by St. Joachim and St. Anne, we may find our true direction and purpose in life, to be righteous in all things and to serve God to the best of our abilities. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”