Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 2 : 8 – Ezekiel 3 : 4

God said to Ezekiel, “Listen then, son of man, to what I say, and do not be a rebel among rebels. Open your mouth and take in what I am about to say.”

I looked and saw a hand stretched out in front of me holding a scroll. He unrolled it before me; on both sides were written lamentations, groaning and woes. He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is given to you. Eat this scroll and then go; speak to the people of Israel.”

I opened my mouth and He made me eat the scroll; and then He said to me, “Eat and fill yourself with this scroll that I am giving you.” I ate it; and it tasted as sweet as honey. He said, “Son of man, go to the Israelites; speak to them with My words.”

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of St. Lawrence, Holy Deacon and Martyr of the Church, as one of the most renowned saints of the early Church. St. Lawrence was one of the deacons of Rome and as such was greatly involved in the many important decisions and works in the very heart and centre of Christendom, the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter.

And on this day whatever we have heard from the Scriptures are essentially what we have seen from the lives and examples of St. Lawrence, who in his capacity as one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, laboured tirelessly day and night in taking care of the needs of the people and ministering to the faithful, especially to those who are weak and poor, those who are less fortunate and needy. As the Archdeacon of Rome, despite his very important position, St. Lawrence remained humble and committed to his ministry.

At that time, the Church was going through a particularly tough and difficult persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Valerian who imposed strict and harsh measures against Christians, persecuting them, arresting many among them and even to the extent of making by the norms of Roman law of the seizing of the properties of those convicted by the state of crimes and penalties in order to condemn many among the Christians, from all walks of the society, and seize their belongings and assets.

As the Church did hold a considerable asset in its constant efforts to reach out and take care of those who are suffering, poor and less fortunate in the community, it quickly became a target by those who sought to gain the wealth and possessions of the Church for their own. The Emperor published a decree against the Church and its leadership, condemning all of the bishops, priests and deacons to death and that all of them were to be summarily executed, without trial.

Pope St. Sixtus II, the then Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ was among the first to suffer from the bitter rounds of persecutions, as he was captured and arrested as he was celebrating the Holy Mass at the catacombs, and was immediately put to death by execution soon after. More and more bishops, priests, deacons and and many among the laity would come to suffer in the coming days, and eventually, as it was evident that the authorities would move to confiscate and gain the possessions of the Church, St. Lawrence as the Archdeacon and therefore the one in charge of the management and the distribution of the properties of the Church quickly acted to distribute the properties and disposable materials to the poor and those who need them so as to prevent them from falling into the wicked hands of those who sought to claim them for their own benefits.

St. Lawrence was confronted by the prefect, who demanded the surrender of all the Church properties and its material wealth. And in response, he gathered all the infirm, the sick and all those who were poor and destitute, and presented all of them before the Roman prefect as the true wealth of the Church. This further infuriated the prefect and St. Lawrence was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron, which was made even hotter by the anger of the prefects over St. Lawrence’s defiance, which if we remember the Old Testament, was also what happened to the three righteous compatriots of Daniel who refused to bow down to king Nebuchadnezzar and his false golden idol.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Lawrence showed us all the true meaning of Christian calling and virtue, which each and every one of us should also emulate in our own lives. St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of the great wonders awaiting all those who had been generous in giving and charity, in love and compassion towards the poor and the needy. St. Lawrence showed us the examples of these by his great generosity and love, genuine concern for the poor and those who need help in the community.

And St. Lawrence also gave generously to the Lord, his faith and dedication, spending his time and effort to serve the Lord and giving everything to help the Church and the faithful. He showed us all what true Christian life and charism is all about, to give generously from ourselves to one another, to love tenderly and care with compassionate hearts and minds, and to reach out to help those who are in need, and to be faithful in all times and situations, even when things may be challenging and difficult for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord said to all of us through His disciples, in our Gospel today, “Unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains just as a seed, but if it dies, it produces much fruits.” These represent what we need to do in order to follow the Lord’s will and commandments, and this is by dying to our greed and desires, our pride and ego, all the things that led us to selfishness and to close ourselves up against God and against our fellow men.

The Lord called us all to follow Him, and following Him means that we should shed from ourselves our personal agenda and desires, our ambitions and all the things that had led us astray all these while. And let us all follow Him just as St. Lawrence the Deacon and Martyr had done, he who gave his whole life for the service of the Lord and His Church. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to reach out to the needy and the less fortunate in our midst, in our community, especially during these difficult times and moments?

Let us all be inspired to walk in the path set before us by the saints, principally St. Lawrence whose memory we remember today. And let us all realise that through our generosity, faith and love, God will certainly bless us all and glorify us, and all that we do, all of these shall be counted for us on the day of judgment. Let us all be beacons of God’s hope and light in our communities, among our friends and loved ones and also among all those whom we encounter daily in life. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-10

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, He gave to the poor, His good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works.

Sunday, 9 August 2020 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are presented with the reminders that God has always been faithful and He will always be by our side no matter what, and although we may not perceive it or realise it, but the fact is that God is ever present in our lives and as we heard last Sunday from the words of St. Paul, ‘Who can separate us from the love of God?’ And therefore this is why we must all realise just how fortunate we are to be God’s beloved people.

Unfortunately, many of us often do not realise this truth, and we are often ignorant of the rich and wonderful love that He has given us all these while. The Lord has always been patient in loving us, but too often, we are too preoccupied and busy, and especially we are often blinded by our fears and uncertainties, our doubts and lack of strong faith and trust in God. And that is why we have often failed to recognise God when He had been there for us, and with us all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the moment when the prophet Elijah came to meet with the Lord at Mount Horeb, after a long journey of forty days and forty nights from the land of Israel. At that time, for the context, the prophet Elijah had laboured among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel for some time, and went up against the king Ahab of Israel, his wicked queen Jezebel, and the many priests of Baal who all pushed for the worship of the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Elijah stood alone in his struggle against the many enemies he had, and he often had to suffer and endure difficulties throughout all the years of his ministry, and even after he showed the might of God by the miracle of the fire on Mount Carmel, in which he humiliated the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by their failure to prove the existence of the false god Baal, he was then hunted and persecuted especially by Jezebel who despised him and wanted him dead.

Elijah chose to flee into the wilderness and escape in hiding from the persecutions and the threats to his life. And the Lord for a time gave him food and water to drink, to give him the strength and called him to His mountain in the desert, and when he reached the mountain of God, as we heard in our first reading today, the Lord revealed Himself before Elijah, and this began with a great and mighty windstorm that came before the Lord, a great earthquake and then a great fire, and yet all of these were not where the Lord was.

Instead, God came after all of these mighty conflagrations and events, as a gentle breeze, or what some translations call as a ‘great silence’. The Lord came to Elijah in a moment of quietness, stillness and silence, as a reminder for us all, that first of all, amidst all the great challenges, trials, difficulties and ‘noise’ of this world, in the end, we will still find God in our midst in the depth of the silence of our hearts. Had Elijah fled from the great windstorm, the earthquake and the fire, he would not have perceived God’s presence.

This is echoed in what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the miraculous appearance of Jesus walking on the water in the middle of a great storm, with very strong winds and waves striking against the boat which the disciples were travelling in. The Lord was not with them because He sent the disciples ahead of Him while He went to pray alone to the Father in the mountains by Himself. And it was then that the Lord appeared to the disciples in the middle of the storm.

Although the disciples had seen all the miracles that the Lord had performed up to then, performing the impossible tasks of healing those who were sick, opening the eyes of the blind, loosening the tongue of the mute, opening the ears of the deaf, casting out demons and evil spirits from the possessed, and even raising up those who had been dead back into life, and heard all the words of wonder and wisdom that He had taught all of them, they still did not have firm faith in Him.

That was why they were very afraid when they saw Him in the middle of the storm, thinking that they had seen a ghost. They thought of this because they did not truly trust the Lord yet with all of their hearts and minds, and they still had those fears and uncertainties, probably thinking that as they feared for their lives because of the storm, they might have hallucinated and saw visions that were not there, and that was why, they thought they had seen a ghost. Indeed, when someone was about to die or experience similar kind of near-death encounters, history had shown that people could act erratically or hallucinate.

But in this case, it was truly the Lord Who appeared before them, walking on the water towards the disciples’ boats. He said to them all, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” And this is exactly what would also happen later when the disciples again saw the Lord suddenly appearing before them just after His Resurrection. Again that time, they thought that they had seen a ghost, but the Lord again told them, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” and showed them that He was not a ghost by eating before them, for ghost had no physical body and could not have eaten.

In both occasions, as we can see from our viewpoint of those who looked back into history, we see the doubt and fears in the hearts of the disciples and the uncertainties in their minds that kept them and prevented them from truly having a complete faith in God. They doubted and thought that, ‘No, the Lord could not have done that, or that could not be really Him, or how can He be there? I thought I was all alone in this suffering’ among other thoughts possibly running through their minds.

And St. Peter showed this sentiment further when he asked of the Lord, that if that was really Him, that He would enable him to walk on the water just as He did, and that he could come to Him through the water safely. St. Peter in this sense had more faith in the Lord because he still wanted to try and trusted in Him enough to want to walk on the water. And as he did miraculously walk in the water, it was later then the waves and the wind that returned the fear in his heart and mind, and as his resolve faltered he began to sink.

Yet the Lord reached out to St. Peter and helped him up, after a light rebuke of his still lacking in complete faith, to show that first of all, again, God will never abandon His beloved ones, all of us to fall and suffer alone in the darkness. He will lift us up, strengthen us, rescue us and empower us. This is what He had also done with the prophet Elijah from earlier on, when the prophet was also despairing over the toughness of the challenges of his work and ministry, how he was hated and persecuted, and even had his life clearly threatened.

The Lord reassured and strengthened Elijah, and gave him a new command, to return to the land of Israel and follow in whatever He would command him to do, to continue in reaching out to the stubborn people of the northern kingdom and call more of them back to be reconciled with God. And the Lord also reassured St. Peter and the disciples, both on the occasion in the middle of the storm, as well as at His appearance just after His Resurrection, that He was always with them, guided them along the way, and although they might have been shaken in faith, but He would never abandon them, and sent them to carry out His will, to spread the Good News to all people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord wants us all to remember through all of these that even in our darkest moments, when we think we are all alone and without hope, He is still there for us, and will help us to get out of our troubles and trials. However, we need to realise just how the fears, uncertainties, doubts and all these obstacles in our hearts and minds often keep us from seeking the Lord and working with Him to get on the right path, and we need to overcome these, and grow in faith that we may trust the Lord ever more and put our faith more in Him.

This year, more than ever, our faith and resolve had been tested to the maximum and even beyond by all that had happened. Not only that we have this terrible pandemic that still continues on claiming lives and causing many more to suffer in the hospitals, but all the collateral damages it caused to the economy by severe and almost complete disruption to the economy, supply lines and transportation, travel and hospitality industry, businesses and others caused so many among us to lose our source of income through unemployment or through severe pay cuts or pay freeze, and many others also suffer mentally from the combinations of these issues.

Amidst all these challenges and troubles, do we still have faith in God? Do we even still have hope in our hearts? Or have we instead been filled with fear and doubt, uncertainties and concerns? As I said earlier, many of us are inundated with all these obstacles that prevented us from appreciating and knowing just how close God is to us, and how He has always been with us, even through these most difficult moments of our lives. Many of us continued to fear and worry for the days to come, because our faith in God is not strong, and we allow the devil to sow even more fear within our hearts, that led us to act irrationally and selfishly, that inadvertently led to even more fear and suffering.

Take for example, the actions of many people who wanted to take care of themselves first amidst these terrible problems, as we saw people who tried to hoard essential goods for themselves, or important items like masks and gloves, and also those who allow their fear to turn into anger, and lash out on others, being uncaring and even violent when everyone are supposed to be helping one another in overcoming these difficult situations together. We must not allow fear, uncertainty, all the ‘storms’ and ‘waves’ in our lives from distracting us and being obstacles in our trust in the Lord’s providence.

Instead, brothers and sisters, as Christians all of us are called to be the beacons of God’s light and hope, His guiding light and strength, that through us, our words and actions, in how we interact with one another, we should help one another, awaken the hope in those who have been despairing and without hope. Let us all remind one another that God is always with us, ever faithful to the Covenant that He has established with us, and that in the end, all those who remain faithful in God will rejoice.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that we are all God’s beloved people, the descendants of the holy patriarchs and all those holy men and women, saints of God and more, as St. Paul had said, and we will always be beloved by God. Let us all be inspired and strengthened, encouraged that God will lead us and He has called us to do His will. Let us all glorify Him by our deeds in life, and let us bring hope and light to this darkened and suffering world. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 9 August 2020 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone.

Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it. At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!”

Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Sunday, 9 August 2020 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 9 : 1-5

I tell you, sincerely, in Christ, and my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit, that I am not lying. I have great sadness and constant anguish for the Jews. I would even desire, that, I myself, suffer the curse of being cut off from Christ, instead of my brethren : I mean, my own people, my kin.

They are Israelites, whom God adopted, and on them, rests His glory. Theirs, are the Covenants, the Law, the worship and the promises of God. They are descendants of the patriarchs, and from their race, Christ was born, He, Who, as God, is above all distinctions. Blessed be He forever and ever : Amen!