Tuesday, 27 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how difficult it is for us to go to the kingdom of God and receive God’s eternal grace, as Jesus our Lord Himself put it, that the way is narrow, through a narrow gate, which is in fact the reality of our faith and our lives. That may come as a shock to many of us who think that as long as we are Christians, and as long as we belong to the Church, then we are guaranteed our salvation.

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not the reality. Indeed, salvation comes only through the Church, but it does not mean that if we have belonged to the Church and then does nothing or even worse, by committing sin, then we are still assured of our salvation. In one occasion, the prophet Ezekiel mentioned in his book, that the Lord said that if a righteous man should sin before the Lord, then he shall be judged by that sin he had committed.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It means that all of us as Christians cannot be ignorant of our obligations to live a good and faithful Christian life, according to the will of God and obeying the commandments which the Lord had given us, the commandments to love God and to love our brethren in the same manner that we have loved ourselves.

We must be faithful as Abraham, our forefather in faith, had been faithful to the Lord. In these days, the first readings of the Liturgical Year cycle are taken from the Book of Genesis, telling of the story of God’s work and grace among His people, and particularly we are now focusing on the example of Abraham, the forefather of many nations and one of the great servants of God.

Abraham himself did not have it easy in life, as did the many other servants of God, as many of them had to endure persecution and challenges in their life, because of their righteousness and commitment to the way of the Lord. But nevertheless, they remained faithful, and Abraham in particular, remained faithful to God’s promise to him, that He will bless him and his descendants, because of his commitment to the Covenant which He had made with Abraham and his descendants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the path of the Lord is not an easy one for us to take, for it is often that when we choose to follow Him, there will be opposition and challenges, even coming from those who are close to us, from even our families, relatives and from the society. But are we ready to stand up for our faith and truly defend it, not with violence, but through genuine living of our faith, by the outpouring of the Christian love which we ought to show our fellow brethren.

Perhaps all of us should follow in the example of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the holy bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, who lived and worked during the difficult time in the history of the Church, during its early days, when the Church, especially in Alexandria in Egypt, were divided against each other, splintered due to the many competing teachings and heresies.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was involved in great dispute against prelates and leaders in the Church who advocated heresies against the true and orthodox faith. He rebuked and opposed the heresy of Nestorianism, led by the powerful Archbishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, who enjoyed the backing of the Imperial family. He was involved in quite a number of tensions because all of these, and had to even face persecution and rejection for a while.

But St. Cyril of Alexandria did not give up despite all the difficulties and challenges, and he continued to fight for the sake of the true faith, which eventually prevailed over the falsehood of the heresies. Had he not done what he could to stop the spread of the prevailing heresies, countless souls would have fallen away from salvation, and many more people would not have been able to go through the narrow gate to God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we strive to help one another to reach out to the Lord? Indeed, it is not an easy path for us to tread, but it is thus also very important for us to help one another, for if we work together, as fellow brethren in the Lord, as fellow disciples of God, then we will have a better path for us forward, as we shoulder one another on our journey towards God.

Let us all be exemplary in all of our words, actions and deeds, so that through all of these we may inspire more and more people to turn away from their sins. Remember, that while the Lord is ever loving and ever merciful, but at the same time, He is always despising our sins and wickedness. And should our sins remain with us without repentance, we shall be rejected and our lot will be suffering in the eternal darkness.

Let us all turn towards the Lord, and inspired by the zeal and examples of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the faithful defender of the faith, let us live genuine and active Christian lives from now on. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Matthew 7 : 6, 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls before pigs. They might trample on them, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there, you have the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life; and how rough, the road; few there are, who find it.”

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words, who do no harm to their neighbours.

Those who cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will not be shaken.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Genesis 13 : 2, 5-18

Now Abram was very rich in flocks, silver and gold. Lot who went with Abram also had flocks, cattle and tents. The land was not sufficient to allow them to stay together, for their possessions were too great for them to live together.

A quarrel arose between the herdsmen of Abram’s flock and those of Lot. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at the time.) Abram said to Lot, “Do not let there be a dispute between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and yours, since we are brothers! Is not the whole land before you? Let us part company. If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”

Lot looked up and saw the whole valley of the Jordan : how well it was watered! Before YHVH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, this was like one of YHVH’s gardens, like the country of Egypt, on coming to Zoar. Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley and journeyed eastward. In this way they separated from each other.

Abram settled in the country of Canaan while Lot lived among the towns of the plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked, sinning greatly against YHVH. YHVH said to Abram after Lot had left him, “Raise your eyes and look from where you are, towards the north, the south, the east and the west; all the land you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.”

“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; if the grains of the dust can be counted, then your descendants may be counted. Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for it is to you that I am giving it.” So Abram moved his tent and came to live by the oaks of Mamre at Hebron. There he built an altar to YHVH.

Monday, 27 June 2016 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the great anger of God which He had raised against His own people, all because of their disloyalty, their insubordination and extremely rebellious attitude, refusing to listen to the Lord their God and preferring to walk on their own decided paths. They sold themselves to debauchery and to the pagan idols of their neighbours, and turned a deaf ear to the Lord and to His prophets.

God had done so much for their sake, destroying their enemies before them and protecting them from all those who desired for their destruction, and He also brought them to deliverance from their suffering and slavery in the land of Egypt, giving them land to stay and dwell in, showing His great power and majesty in carrying them out into freedom.

And yet, through the generations, they had been unfaithful. They complained when God brought them out of Egypt into the desert, raising up a golden calf for themselves to worship as a god. And they disobeyed and complained on the harsh laws and rules which the Lord gave to them, because they were themselves lazy, poisoned by the laziness of this world, and the complacency which led to the raise of temptations of the flesh.

Thus, that was why even many of the people of God eventually slid down the slippery slope of sin and disobedience, abandoning the Lord their God, because they found the world and its temptations to be more appealing and attractive to them rather than what the Lord offered them in the discipline of the faith. They found that following the Lord was too difficult and too demanding for them, and thus, they faltered.

And that is the same reality which our Lord Jesus mentioned to the teacher of the Law and to His disciples about following Him and His ways. When two of them came up to Him and said that they needed to do so and so first before following Him, and saying that they would follow Him wherever He went, He mentioned to them that to follow the Lord, one cannot be divided or to be distracted in his or her heart.

It was those distractions and temptations which had led the people of Israel in the past to wander and to drift away from the Lord into wickedness and sin, and that was what Jesus had warned His disciples about, that following Him is a difficult matter, and challenges and oppression would come upon all those who professed their faith in Him, for He was taking them out of the world, and the world controlled by Satan does not like that.

It is a reminder to us all that being a Christian is not a part-time job, and neither should it be a mere formality. To be a Christian means for us to commit ourselves, body, heart, mind and soul in obeying the Lord and His commandments, and to devote ourselves, our time and our commitment to transform ourselves and others around us by righteousness and through our devotion to the ways of God.

It is a reminder also that we have to be the bearers of the truth of Christ, by showing love to one another and by showing that we truly belong to the Lord through our ways. We should no longer say things or act in the way which would identify us as those who do not belong to God. We have to persevere and stand by our faith even though it will indeed be difficult for us, and we will be ridiculed, rejected and even persecuted for doing so. But great is our reward in the Lord.

Let us all see the example of St. Cyril of Alexandria, the holy saint whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Cyril of Alexandria was the Bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the greatest early centres of Christianity. St. Cyril of Alexandria lived and served the Lord and His people at a time of great turmoil and trouble for the faithful, a truly difficult time to live in.

St. Cyril lived at the time when the faithful and the Church in Alexandria were divided among the different groups, where several of these were in open heresy against the true faith. He was in constant struggle over the supporters of the heretic Nestorius and his false teachings, known to us as the Nestorians. Those people alleged that the divine and the human nature of Jesus was separate as two distinct beings, which were false and untrue.

And thus St. Cyril of Alexandria worked hard through his works, writings and preachings to condemn the false teachings of the heretics and convinced the people of God to remain faithful to God and His truth, even though his enemies made his life difficult and challenged him wherever he went. He endured persecutions and oppositions, and to the very end, he remained faithful and committed to save the people of God from the falsehoods of Satan.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Cyril of Alexandria remained faithful and true to the Lord even though he suffered rejection, ridicule and even persecution for his faithfulness. Are we able to do the same as well? Are we all able to commit ourselves to God just as he had committed himself fully to the Lord his God and Saviour? Let us all discern and ponder all these deep in our hearts.

May God our Lord and Master help us to find the courage to stand up for Him and for the Church, that we will not tolerate or be complacent in our faith, that in all things, we may always remain true to He Who loves us all and Who will bless us the faithful ones with the eternal glory and joy of heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 27 June 2016 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Matthew 8 : 18-22

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowd press around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other shore. A teacher of the Law approached Him and said, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Monday, 27 June 2016 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 49 : 16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

You join a thief when you meet one; you keep company with adulterers. You have a mouth of evil and a deceitful tongue.

You speak ill of your brother, and slander your own mother’s son. Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you.

Give this a thought, you who forget God, lest I tear you to pieces with no one to help you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.