Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today, we heard about the call for all of us as Christians to be dedicated to God and to put our trust in Him for everything we do in life, to listen to Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. We should not allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed by human ambition, pride and desires, but instead, allow ourselves to be led and guided by God.

In our first reading today, the Lord reminds us through His Apostle St. Paul, that for all the great wisdom, intellect, power and ability we have in the world, all of these are nothing and insignificant in the presence of God, and if we are to boast, as St. Paul said, let us all boast of the Lord and not of ourselves and our own abilities. And St. Paul mentioned in that same passage, his own name, that of Apollos as well as Cephas, the Aramaic name for St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all the faithful.

This was because contextually, in the communities of the Christian faithful, there had been intense divisions at the time, especially within the Church in Corinth, to which St. Paul addressed this Epistle, in which segments of the community began to side with certain factions proclaiming that they were for St. Paul, and others were for Apollos, while yet others were proclaiming for Cephas, St. Peter.

St. Paul was the famous preacher and evangeliser who travelled extensively all across the Mediterranean region, establishing the communities of the faithful in many places and was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles for his efforts and commitment, while Apollos was a charismatic Jewish convert to the Christian faith, who gained large following due to his charism, and St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the appointed Vicar of Christ. These figures became the rallying points around which the segments of the Christian faithful coalesced around. All of these factions and divisions among the faithful led to the fracturing of the Church unity and the confusions it caused in the Christian community.

St. Paul therefore asked all the faithful to avoid dwelling in human desires, the desires and ambition for power, and to avoid using human and worldly wisdom and understanding to live their faith in God. Instead, all the faithful should trust in God, put their faith and listen to Him. It is just like what we all heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the account of the calling of the first Apostles, the fishermen of the lake of Galilee, namely, St. Peter and his brother St. Andrew, as well as the two sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John.

At that time, St. Peter and others were fishing in the lake without result even after much efforts overnight. But the Lord told them all to put out into the deep waters, and as soon as they followed His instructions, they gained so much fish that the whole boat could not take the great weight of the fishes caught. St. Peter then immediately recognised that Jesus was no mere ordinary Man, but a great and Holy One of God and trembled before Him, knowing that he was unworthy and a sinner.

Then the Lord called on all of them to follow Him, and which they did, abandoning their boats, following Him to be the ‘fishers of men’. Through this, they would gather for the Lord, the ‘fishes’ representing mankind, to the Church, represented by the boat, and therefore into salvation and eternal life in God. This is the mission which God has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and which He also entrusted to all of us in His Great Commission, ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the nations!’

Through all of these God is calling on each and every one of us to be centred and focused on Him, and Him alone, not to trust in our own strength and power, but rather, doing our works through our strength and power drawing from God and His strength. And by drawing on strength from Him, then we are called to go out and ‘put into the deep waters’ which means that we need to get out of our comfort zone and go forth, be genuine and good Christians, to inspire and call others to be good Christians on their own accord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we look forward into how we are to live our lives as good and dedicated Christians, and also rejecting the temptations of human desires and worldly glories, let us all look at our holy predecessor, Pope St. Gregory the Great, the saint and holy Pope whose feast we are celebrating today with great joy, in memory of the great contributions and efforts he had made for the greater glory of God and His Church.

Pope St. Gregory the Great reigned as Pope at a time when the Church was encountering difficulties from both the religious spectre as well as from the secular world, as at that time, not only that secular authorities were falling apart as the remnants of the authority and power of the Roman Emperors ruling from Constantinople began to fall apart and Rome came under threat from foreign invaders, but the discipline in the Church and among the members of the clergy had grown lax.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, an experienced administrator for his days before being a priest and monk, and Pope, did a lot of effort to reform the Church and the administration of both the faithful community as well as the secular governance over the region of Rome and beyond. He improved the livelihood of the people and the governance, improved various aspects of Church life and also the discipline in the Church and among the members of the faithful.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was also remembered for his efforts in spreading the Gospel message and convert more and more souls to the Lord. He sent missionaries to Germany and also England, most famously in sending the missionary St. Augustine of Canterbury to be the first Bishop of Canterbury and therefore laying the strong foundation of the Church in England, as well as in other parts of Christendom.

Of course, we also remember his efforts for what would come to be known by his name, as the Gregorian Chant, in his efforts in standardising Church music and improving its quality, which in time, would come to be a vast multitude of hymns and chants that bring great glory to God and bring even more people ever closer to God by the sacredness of the wonderful hymns and chants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the faith and commitment of Pope St. Gregory the Great, in our faith and life that each and every one of us may become ever more faithful in everything we do, that we may put God at the centre of our life and existence. Let us follow his example and dedicate ourselves to the greater glory of God and His Church. May the Lord help us and be with us, and guide us through this journey of faith through life. Amen.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Thursday, 3 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 3 : 18-23

Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes. To this, Scripture says : God catches the wise in their own wisdom. It also says : The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless.

Because of this, let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you; Paul, Apollos, Cephas – life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours, and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through what we have heard from the Sacred Scriptures that we all need to escape from the darkness present in this world, and find the true Light and salvation that can be found in God alone. For too long we have dwelled in the darkness and God has come to us to free us from this darkness and bring us into the light.

The Lord blesses us all and protects us because of His great love for us. He does not want us to be destroyed and be condemned because of the darkness that are all around us. He is always ever vigilant in watching over us and in being concerned with us. And that was why He sent us His Saviour, His own beloved Son to us in the first place. If He did not love us as He does, then He would not have done whatever He had done for our sake.

I am referring to His work and ministry among us, how He went about from places to places to save His people and deliver them from the darkness of their sins, ministering and caring for them and their needs. In our Gospel passage today we heard about how He taught among the people in Capernaum in the synagogue and then healed a man who was tormented and possessed by evil spirits, casting those demons out of him.

He showed all the people that He has power and authority over all things, including even over the evil spirits, who had to obey Him and get out of the man they possessed when He commanded them to do so. He is the One Whom every being on earth, in heaven, in hell and indeed in all places and in all creation had to obey and bend to knee to worship, even Satan and all of his allies, the fallen angels and demons.

All of these forces are trying their best to bring about our downfall, striking at us constantly with temptations and efforts to turn us away from God and leading us down the path of sin. But what the Lord intends with us has been made clear as St. Paul wrote it in his Epistle to the Thessalonians in our first reading passage today, as he said that “God has not willed us to be condemned, but to gain salvation, through Christ Jesus, Our Lord.”

Through what the Lord has done, we can see just how much He truly loves each and every one of us without exception, as we are after all, His most precious and beloved creations. He did not go through so much suffering on the Cross for no reason, and that reason that He loves us all and wants us to be reconciled completely with Him is good enough for Him to bear and endure the burden of our sins and to suffer and die for our sake and for our salvation.

Yet, unfortunately, the sad reality is such that even though God truly loves us all and desires nothing but our liberation and salvation from certain destruction, but it is often that we mankind refuse to accept His generous offer of mercy and love, His compassion and willingness to reach out to us, to heal us and to make us whole again. We are often tempted and swayed by our desires and by all the worldly things present all around us, our busy schedules and preoccupations with them that prevented us from truly loving and knowing God as we should.

Today perhaps all of us should look at the example set by a holy man of God, whose feast we celebrate, namely Pope St. Gregory the Great, a great and holy servant of God, dedicated and ever committed to the service of God. Pope St. Gregory the Great was remembered for his many contributions to the Church, in the vigorous reforms he carried out, in his works of evangelisation, most prominently by sending St. Augustine of Canterbury to re-establish the Church in England among many others.

Pope St. Gregory the Great truly loved God and devoted himself to the many works to bring greater glory to His Name, in allowing the Church to grow even more and in stabilising the foundations of the Church, strengthening the leadership and rooting out corruptions and heresies from within the Church. He was also credited with the reforms in the Church music for worship, which eventually led to the famous Gregorian chants being named after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see just how much this holy servant of God dedicated himself to God, each and every moments of his life. Now, are we able to do the same with our own lives? Can we be inspired to do what Pope St. Gregory the Great had done with his own life, a life of total service and commitment to God? Let us all learn to resist the many temptations present in our lives, and resist the allure and distractions of our busy life in this world.

Instead, let us all turn towards God, in our hearts, minds and indeed, in our whole being, that we are no longer being distracted by those thoughts and distractions, of worldly ambitions, pride, greed and vainglory. Let us instead be true Christians, true disciples of the Lord from now on, knowing just how much He has loved us all, all these while. Let us all love Him dearly in the same way He has loved us from the Cross, giving our whole lives to

Him just as He has given everything to us. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 31-37

At that time, Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and began teaching the people at the Sabbath meetings. They were astonished at the way He taught them, for His word was spoken with authority.

In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by an evil spirit, who shouted in a loud voice, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I recognise You : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus said to him sharply, “Be silent and leave this man!” The evil spirit then threw the man down in front of them, and came out of him without doing him harm. Amazement seized all these people, and they said to one another, “What does this mean? He commands the evil spirits with authority and power. He orders, and you see how they come out!”

And news about Jesus spread throughout the surrounding area.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

YHVH is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? YHVH is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of YHVH, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His Sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of YHVH in the land of the living. Trust in YHVH, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in YHVH!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6, 9-11

You do not need anyone to write to you about the delay, and the appointed time for these events. You know, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people feel secure, and at peace, the disaster will suddenly come upon them, as the birth pangs of a woman in labour, and they will not escape.

But you, beloved, are not in darkness; so that day will not surprise you like a thief. All of you are citizens of the light and the day; we do not belong to night and darkness. Let us not, therefore, sleep as others do, but remain alert and sober.

For God has not willed us to be condemned, but to win salvation, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. He died for us, so that, we might enter into life, with Him, whether we are still awake or already asleep. Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, as you are doing now.

Monday, 3 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we listened to the words of the Lord, speaking to us about the matter of the revelation of His truth, which He revealed to us through first, the prophets and messengers, and later on, in its fullness of truth, through the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and God. He came to us with the Good News of His salvation, that we may come to know of His love and saving grace.

However, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the unfortunate moment when the Lord Jesus went back to His hometown village of Nazareth, where He encountered opposition and rejection from none other than His own fellow countrymen and even perhaps close friends and relatives, all those who have known Him since His youth and lived around Him for many years.

And the Lord Jesus also made the point through His discourse, how prophets and messengers were not welcome in their own lands and homes, and were rejected by those who knew them well. Ironically, it was those who did not know the prophets and the messengers of God, including the example of the Lord Jesus Himself, that were willing to listen to God’s truth.

Now, we must truly wonder, why was it that the prophets and the messengers, including the Lord Jesus Himself were rejected by the people whom they knew well? In order to understand this, then we must understand how human relationships and thinking work. In our own relationships with others, we always want to find out about others, and when we do so, we make ideas, prejudices and bias in our minds, subconsciously.

What does it mean? It means that just as the saying goes, ‘First impression lasts’, we mankind are very easily impressionable by what we see and by what we hear and sense, and therefore, forming an opinion on something or someone almost as immediately as we witness that something or someone. This is what we have done to everyone and everything we encounter in life, as how we judge them by our human intelligence and wisdom.

But what is flawed is that, we often make assumptions and presumptions based on our own limited understanding and limited awareness of what is actually happening. That is what happened to those who rejected the prophets and messengers, just because they thought that they knew those whom God had called to be His servants. They must have argued that just because they knew those who were to be prophet and messengers, then they could not believe the authenticity of what the prophets have taught and declared.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what happened to the Lord in Nazareth as well. He was, in the eyes of the people of Nazareth, a mere Son of the village carpenter, St. Joseph. And a carpenter was a very often overlooked profession, paid lowly and considered as a menial and tough job that no one wanted to do as a profession in their lives, unless they had no choice to do so.

By the standard of that time, carpenters and their families were usually very poor, and because of their poverty, they typically were uneducated. Hence, the people of Nazareth took offence at the Lord Jesus, just simply by the fact that His wisdom, the way He preached and taught to them, and how He had worked His miracles and showed His powers, which words would have reached their ears, could be something that was a reality.

They could not reconcile the fact that all those miracles and wonders, all the wisdom they heard being taught and the truth revealed to them about the fulfilment of the prophecy of the prophets, came about through the mere Son of a carpenter Whom they have seen growing up in their midst. To them, it was an affront and insulting that such things have happened, and they blamed the Lord for that.

In reality, it was their human wisdom and limited understanding, their pride in them that caused them to reject the Lord. They could not stand of being outshone by someone Whom they had known for so many years, Who suddenly revealed Himself as the Messiah of God right in their midst. Thus, they hardened their hearts and shut their ears off, refusing to listen to and accept the truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often that we are also to blame for the same kind of attitude in our own respective lives. Too often it has been that we mankind are not receptive to suggestions and to the truth of God, just because we think that we know everything or that we cannot be wrong. This attitude caused us to shut ourselves off even from the Lord Who is trying to show us the way to the truth.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the great Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was remembered for his great piety and dedication to the growth and reform of the Church and the faith. Pope St. Gregory was remembered for his long years of dedication and service to God, as a monk and later on as the Papal ambassador to the Emperor’s court in Constantinople. He was remembered for being a strict yet dedicated and faithful person.

Pope St. Gregory the Great was in truth a very humble person. When he was elected to the office of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, as the successor of the Apostle St. Peter, leader of the entire Universal Church, he disavowed publicly any form of worldly ambitions and desires, stating clearly that he would devote his whole life to the service of God alone, and nothing else.

And he was remembered for his great commitment to the fulfilment of God’s works in the Church, in his reform of the Christian worship and liturgy and his great charitable efforts to the poor and to the needy, his fervent and strong opposition against all those who espoused heretical thinkings and teachings. His contributions to the Church were immense and yet, he remained after all, humble and focused towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from the good examples shown by Pope St. Gregory the Great, that we may also learn to be humble and to be committed in living our lives with faith and with humility, that we may open our hearts and minds fully to the Lord, Who wants to show us the truth about Himself and yet, many of us have not allowed Him to speak in our hearts and minds because of our pride and stubbornness.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to bless us with His truth, that we may come to learn more and more about His love, and therefore, come to love Him even deeper in our own lives. May the Lord be our guide through our lives and show us the way to Himself. Pope St. Gregory the Great, holy servant of God, pray for us. Amen.

Monday, 3 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 16-30

At that time, when Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?”

So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal yourself! Do here, in Your town, what they say You did in Capernaum.” Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country.” Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land.”

“Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.