Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the famous St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, specifically our parish priests. He was also known by his name of the Cure of Ars, from the role he played in his dwelling at Ars in France, where he worked many works of wonders and miracles among the people of God through his hard work and dedication.

In the Scripture readings today, we heard about the covenant and the promise that God had made through His prophet Jeremiah, that He would renew the covenant with His people and bring them together again as one people, and gather them in His love into His embrace. And this was taken in the context that the people of God had been brought low and many were brought into exile in the land of their enemies, having sinned many times before the Lord.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also heard in the Gospel, the famous exchange between Jesus and His disciples, primarily St. Peter, who professed his renewed faith to the Lord, proclaiming without hesitation that Jesus his Master, is the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, and the Lord of all. This is something which many others, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and even among the disciples themselves, found hard to believe.

And Jesus entrusted all of His flock to him, whom He charged to be the leader of the whole Church which He established upon this world, founded upon that same faith which St. Peter had proclaimed before all that day. And He charged him with the care of the keys to the kingdom of heaven, with the responsibility to bind and unbind the souls of mankind to the Lord, that is the mission of the Church.

And how is this relevant to what we are celebrating today as the feast day of St. John Vianney? St. John Vianney is an example for all the priests, all those who have devoted themselves to the Lord. He has given himself in service to those who are the least and the weakest in the society, and he has delivered many great sermons, calling on many people to repent their sins and to find their way back to the Lord.

He cured the hearts of the faithful, and brought them back from the darkness and back into the light. He stirred the hearts of sinners that they might hearken to the word and the calling of God, which sounded in their hearts, and pulled them back from the edge of the precipice leading to hell. And thus, in this manner, St. John Vianney embodied that calling and that mission which Jesus our Lord had entrusted to St. Peter.

Our priests and our devoted servants of God are all precious to us, and they are the ones who are our bridges, the ones who help us to encounter the Lord, much as He is the One Who is the bridge between us sinful men and the Father in Heaven. They do not have an easy life, and as we all should understand, being priests and devoted servants of God is difficult, as challenges after challenges shall come their way.

Therefore today, as we celebrate together the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, let us all pray for our priests, all those who have devoted their lives and given themselves to care for God’s people, and to gather as many souls as possible to the salvation in God. Let us all devote ourselves as well in similar manner and commit ourselves to support our faithful priests, that their works will lead to even greater impact in bringing God’s beloved but wayward people back into His embrace.

May God help us all, and may He awaken in us all as well, the spirit of service and dedication, and hopefully that some of us may take up the challenge and the calling He had made unto us, that we too may have new priests and holy servants of God arising from our ranks. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, after Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for asking Him to give them a sign, He came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing Spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest and Patron of Parish Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 31 : 31-34

“The time is coming – it is YHVH Who speaks – when I will forge a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. It will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they broke My covenant although I was their Lord.”

“This is the covenant I shall make with Israel after that time : I will put My Law within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be My people. And they will not have to teach each other, neighbour or brother, saying : ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the greatest to the lowliest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and no longer remember their sin.”

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of the famous and renowned saint of our Church, that is St. Francis of Assisi, the epitome and model of our faith, and the faithful servant of God, through whose works and legacies, he had brought countless souls into salvation in God, and through whose dedications and works he had become an example for countless more who followed and walked in his path.

He was the founder of the Franciscan order, or the Order of the Friars Minor, renowned for their brown coloured habit and dedication to simple life and poverty, entrusting everything to the Lord, giving it all to the Lord and abandoning all worldly possessions. He was also contributed to the founding of several other religious orders, and his works and dedications had truly profound effect on the Church and the faith as a whole, even until today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Francis of Assisi was himself once like us all, an ordinary man, the son of a wealthy and influential merchant, named Pietro di Bernardone at his birth, as the heir of his father’s fortune and business. He was educated and prepared for a life of glory and happiness, being well versed in the ways of the world and in all matters of finances.

However, St. Francis of Assisi, then known as Pietro, always had that emptiness in his heart, which he could not satisfy with what he had gained in the happy life he had, and in the privileged life he had been given by his father. And therefore, there began the new life journey of who would eventually become the holy man of Assisi, one of the greatest saints of the Universal Church.

He was praying in a rather dilapidated church building, when he heard a voice, from the Lord, saying to him to repair and rebuild His Church. The young Pietro Bernardone mistook this for the order to rebuild the dilapidated church building where he was praying in, and where he had heard the voice of God. As his father was a wealthy merchant dealing in precious goods such as silk trading, he took some of his father’s stock of silk, sold it and used the proceeds to pay for the repair work of the church.

The word of this action came to the knowledge of Pietro’s father, the rich merchant, who then confronted him on his actions. At this time, Pietro, having heard the call of the Lord had decided that the path of his life was not through what he had always been prepared to be, and he sought refuge at the local bishop’s residence at his cathedral.

The father of Pietro, the future St. Francis of Assisi, confronted the bishop and his son, contending and made noises over the amount of money and preparation he had given to his son and heir, and the supposedly humiliating action of his son, stealing and selling his goods and donating them to the Church. In response, St. Francis of Assisi took off all his clothes and possessions, and stood naked in front of the bishop, who then immediately covered him and protected him with his voluminous cope.

In that way therefore, Pietro Bernardone rejected the temptations of wealth and the world, giving up everything to follow the Lord, and began his journey of faith and suffering, to be who we know now as the holy St. Francis of Assisi, the great servant of God, and went to truly rebuild and strengthen the Church of God as God had once called him. He went from place to place, preaching about the Lord and growing ever stronger in faith, and in various occasions, he experienced various experiences of faith that further strengthened his devotion to the Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi also championed the faithful living of abandoning all forms of worldly attachments, and living in joyful poverty, in a life where everything he has belongs to the Lord, and where there is no need for worry, as everything will be taken care of by the Lord. St. Francis of Assisi thus established a new religious orders, now known famously as the Franciscans, after their founder, as a body to accommodate those who also desired to follow the Lord after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.

Like St. Pius of Pietrelcina, another famous Franciscan monk and priest, who had received the five wounds of Jesus, called the stigmata, St. Francis also received the holy wounds of Christ through the moment of euphoria and holy vision, where he received the honour to bear the five wounds that were also once on the feet and hands of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. These wounds would bring him great suffering but also great joy until the end of his life just a few years later.

St. Francis of Assisi was known to be a holy and pious servant of God, and he was also exemplary in his life, loving all the people of God and he held great sincerity seeking to find a way to help bring the salvation of souls to as many souls as possible. St. Francis of Assisi was renowned for his prayer for peace, also known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, where he extolled the values blessed by the Lord in the Beatitudes, on those who championed peace and who are devoted to the Lord with all of their hearts.

And therefore, St. Francis of Assisi is truly a great role model which we can follow in this life, that in all of his actions and deeds, we hope that we may also follow in his footsteps and therefore, we may also share in the justification which he had attained. And we should also follow in the loving ways of St. Francis, whose love for all the creations of God, mankind and animals alike, that we truly can become epitome of love as he had indeed become.

And referring to the readings of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels today, it is quite clear that God will reward all those who had believed in Him and remained true to Him in faith. To Job who remained faithful in his humility and obedience, He granted him great graces and blessings which He had bestowed once before, and then gave him even greater things, to the point that what Job had after his suffering was far greater than what he once had.

And Jesus also gave thanks to the Lord His Father for the faith and the good works which His disciples had on Him and which they had done in His Name. And He revealed the truth about Himself, and how blessed they were indeed, for the righteous and the faithful had indeed seen the Lord Himself in action. And thus, all of us here who are also faithful and true to our faith will be blessed with greatness and riches beyond all things.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi and the other holy saints of God, let us all from now on excise from ourselves, from our hearts, our minds and our souls, the darkness and evils of this world, committing ourselves in the same manner as St. Francis of Assisi had done. It is not necessary that we ought to all abandon everything of possession and goodness as he had done, but what is important is that we try to imitate him in his actions and deeds, which reflected his standing as a pious servant of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith in the Lord, not just through empty words or superficial application of faith, but through a dedicated and real devotion reflected in our actions and deeds, so that we may indeed be generous with our love, be caring for one another, especially those who are poor, sick and weak. Let us be peacemakers in this world, abandoning the ways of violence and hatred, and instead follow the path of love and justice.

May Almighty God help and guide us in this endeavour, that in all the things we do we may become ever more and more faithful and devoted to the ways of the Lord in the same way as St. Francis of Assisi had done. May He guide us all, that we may become justified through our loving actions, filled with faith, hope and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 10 : 17-24

The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on Your Name.”

Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will. I have been given all things by My Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130

Give me knowledge and good judgment for I trust in Your commands.

It is good for me to have been afflicted, for I have deeply learnt Your statutes.

I know, o Lord, that Your laws are just, and there is justice in my affliction.

Your ordinances last to this day, for all things are made to serve You.

Give me knowledge; I am Your servant who desires to understand Your statutes.

As Your words unfold, light is shed, and the simple-hearted understand.