Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints of our modern day era, one whom we may be quite familiar with, the saint of the World War II era and the NAZI Holocaust, namely St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and martyr, who gave his life for a very noble cause, imitating the very love which God has given to all of us His beloved ones.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a conventual Franciscan friar and priest who worked as a missionary for many years in the East, in Japan and other places such as India, where he was known for his zeal and piety, his contributions to the Church and its development in the mission regions, by the establishment of the Militia Immaculatae or the Army of the Immaculate One in his early years as a friar and then priest, through his personal strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to counter the many works of the devil and the opponents of the Church.

St. Maximilian Kolbe served the Lord faithfully for many years and dedicated his life to bring about the greater glory of God and the salvation of His people. He returned to Poland where he was born in, and continued to serve the Church afterwards in the years just immediately preceding the Second World War. He stayed on when the forces of NAZI Germany overran the entire nation of Poland and beyond.

Eventually, his opposition to the NAZI regime and constant passive resistance through the publications and works his monastery produced led to him being arrested and brought to the infamous concentration camp of Auschwitz. Even there, he continued to serve the people who were in despair and suffering in the worst conditions imaginable in the concentration camp. As a priest and servant of God, he inspired many of the inmates in the camp to remain strong in their faith and in their hope.

And St. Maximilian Kolbe was especially remembered for his courageous and most selfless love, when he offered himself in exchange for another inmate who was about to be executed when an attempt in escaping was foiled. The faithful saint offered himself because the man was in despair over his family that he was to leave behind if he was to be executed. And thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe in fact followed in the example of Christ, in offering himself to suffer for the sake of others.

And through all of these, the good examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the words of the Scripture we heard today, we are all reminded to be exemplary in our lives, living our lives with genuine and strong faith. In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses, the one whom God appointed to be the leader of His people Israel in order to rescue them from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt finally went to the end of his earthly life at Mount Nebo.

Moses was not able to enter the land promised by God to the children of Israel, although he was allowed to have a glance at the whole land before he died. It was because of the disobedience that Moses performed out of anger, when he did not do as the Lord commanded when the people pressed hard on him and complained against him and God. But regardless of that and besides that unfortunate occasion, Moses was truly a very faithful servant of God, much as St. Maximilian Kolbe had been.

Moses devoted his life to the Lord and tirelessly served God for many, many years, guiding and leading the people of Israel through to the right path, despite their constant bickering, disobedience and stubbornness in refusing to listen to God and His will. He persevered through all of the challenges and remained true to the very end, serving God with all of his heart and with all of his strength, and therefore, now counted as one of the great saints and elders of the faith.

All of us are reminded today therefore to walk in the footsteps of these holy predecessors of ours, Moses, the many other faithful and holy prophets, the holy Apostles, saints and martyrs of all the ages, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of our more recent times. We are called to be true Christians in how we live our lives from now on, that just as those saints and martyrs have been faithful in theirs, and reflect the glory and love of God, we too may do the same with our lives.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord also reminds us that we all have been given responsibilities as members of the Church, the Body of the faithful people of God. In that passage, the Lord exhorted His disciples to take care of one another and pay attention to those who have erred in the practices and beliefs of their faith, and to bring them back to the Lord and to reconcile them with Him in love.

Are we able to what the Lord has commanded us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to do what our holy predecessors had done? Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the holy saints of God, that through their prayers God may give us the strength and courage to live faithfully in His presence, from now on and till the end of time. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 18 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you : whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.”

“In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by My heavenly Father; for where two or there are gathered in My Name, I am there, among them.”

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 5 and 16-17

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth; sing to the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

Come, and see God’s wonders; His deeds, awesome for humans. All you, who fear God, come, and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Deuteronomy 34 : 1-12

From the barren plain of Moab, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho. And YHVH showed him all the Land : from Gilead to Dan, the whole of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim, and of Manasseh, the whole land of Judah, as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the Plains, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.

And YHVH said to him : “This is the land about which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promising it to their descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not enter it.”

Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the will of YHVH. They buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but to this very day, no one knows where his tomb is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died. He did not lose his vigour and his eyes still saw clearly.

The children of Israel mourned for him in the plains of Moab for thirty days. But Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him. The children of Israel obeyed him and did as YHVH had commanded Moses.

No prophet like Moses has appeared again. YHVH conversed with him face to face. What signs and wonders he worked in Egypt against Pharaoh, against his people and all his land! He displayed great power and awesome might in view of all Israel!

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (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 reminding us of the Covenant which God has established with each and every one of us, the children of Abraham by faith. Abraham was prominently mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Book of Genesis, in which the Covenant of God with him was mentioned, all the promises that God had made before him, how He would make him the father of many nations, and how his descendants would be innumerable and became great nations.

And Abraham were favoured by God with such a great promise because of his faith in God, his steadfastness and willingness to obey and to follow the will of God. That was why out of many other men and women of his time, God chose Abraham to be the instrument of His will and the partaker of His Covenant. To him was granted a son, even at his old age, and when his wife could not possibly have borne him any more children, as the proof and concrete sign of God’s faithfulness.

It was ironic therefore, that in the Gospel passage today, when the Lord came to fulfil the fullness of His promises to the descendants of Abraham, many among those same descendants refused to believe in Him, and in the good works and the truth that He was proclaiming and performing in their midst. Instead, they accused Him of collaborating with evil spirits and committing blasphemy before God, in their own opinion.

The people claimed that the Lord could not have been true in what He spoke, because they were unable to see the wisdom of God being revealed in the person of Jesus. They were amazed and in fact enraged when they heard Jesus saying that He was there even before Abraham was, and they thought of Him as merely a Man and nothing else. Some among them even thought of the Lord Jesus as a heretic, a dangerous influence that must be removed.

In this occasion therefore, we saw two very different attitudes and expressions between the attitude of Abraham, who was faithful and committed to God, and the attitude of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham who lacked faith in God and who refused to believe in the One Whom He had sent into the world, into their midst. We saw how mankind had succumbed so deeply into sin, that those sins hardened their hearts and minds, and prevented them from coming closer to God and His truth.

In this case, we saw the contrast between the humility of Abraham in accepting God’s plans for him, and the pride of his descendants who refused to acknowledge the truth of God being revealed before their very eyes. And that pride brought danger to them, for it made them stubborn and even ardently opposing the Lord’s efforts and wanting to kill Him for His supposed ‘blasphemy’ in their opinion.

And therefore, through the passages of the Scriptures we have received and heard today, we are reminded that we have been presented with many choices of actions in our daily lives. We can choose to obey the Lord and to follow His commandments and laws just as Abraham, our father in faith has done, or we can instead indulge in our own worldly desires and in our own ego and pride, as the Israelites did, many times throughout history, including at the time of Jesus, in how they disobeyed God and opposed His good works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be aware that if we choose to follow in the path of Christ, as we should, we will likely encounter the same opposition and challenges as the Lord Himself has faced. It is indeed much easier for us to be wicked than to be righteous, to be prideful rather than to be humble, to be filled with anger, hatred, lust and jealousy rather than to be filled with love, compassion and mercy.

Today, therefore, we ought to listen to the story of the life of St. Stanislas, a holy bishop and servant of God, and also a martyr of the Church and the faith. St. Stanislas was a Polish bishop who stood up courageously against the ruler of Poland at the time, king Boleslaw the Brave. The king and his nobles were not living righteously and were enacting laws and regulations that were corrupt. St. Stanislaw himself chastised the king for his sexual immorality and lack of proper conduct as a ruler.

The king was so angered by the bishop’s opposition to his rule and his policies, that he tried to have him killed, only for St. Stanislas to be even firmer in his opposition to the king’s waywardness. Eventually, the holy and devout servant of God was martyred at the hand of the king himself, when the men the king sent to slaughter him refused to lay their hands on the holy bishop. And thus, a faithful servant of God fell for defending his faith, and yet, be assured that his reward in heaven and everlasting life is unimaginably great.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to be inspired by the faith of both Abraham, our father in faith and that of St. Stanislas, holy servant of God and faithful defender of the faith. Let us all purge from ourselves all taints of sin, of ego and pride, of anger and jealousy, of hatred, greed and worldly desires. Let us all instead fill ourselves with humility, with love and compassion in our hearts, and with the burning desire to love God and put Him at the centre of our lives from now on. May the Lord always be our guide, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

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.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.