Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard from the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God reminding all of us Christians that each and every one of us must be active and dedicated Christians, meaning that we cannot be complacent and lukewarm in our faith, and more so, in how we live our lives according to that faith. This is what we must constantly remind ourselves, each and every days of our life.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke to the people and taught them with the well-known parable of the talents. In that parable, the Lord told them about three servants who were entrusted with silver talents, a lot of wealth for that time, and each of them were given different amount of talents by their master, who was about to go far away and was making preparations.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach the people about the importance of being active and engaged in their faith, that they should not ignore what they have been called to do in their respective lives. The master who entrusted the silver talents to the three servants was none other than the Lord Himself, the Source and Master of all things.

Meanwhile, the servants represent all of us mankind, God’s people, who ought to follow Him and obey His commandments. And the silver talents represent the gifts, abilities, and indeed our specialties and talents in life, and just as the three servants have received different amounts of silver talents, we all know that all of us have been given different kinds of talents and skills.

Now, we have to discern what the servants had done after they received the silver talents, and understand how they relate to each one of us. The two servants who received five and two silver talents were hardworking, and immediately, after they have received the silver, they invested them and put them to good use, and thanks to their acumen and skill, they managed to earn double the amount of silver they have received.

Then, the lazy servant who had received one silver talent, did not do anything to the silver talent. He hid the silver and did nothing to it, until the time when the master returned to get an account of how his servants had been doing while he was away. This lazy servant represents all of us whom God had granted blessings, gifts, abilities, skills and talents, and yet, we refuse to do anything with them, or refuse to use it in the right manner.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us need to do what the Lord had asked each one of us to do, that is to invest the gifts which He has given to us. And how do we do that? We must not keep all the things we have received to ourselves, but instead, we should share the joy and blessings with our brothers and sisters in need. Otherwise, when the Lord comes again, He will condemn us just as the master punished the lazy servant.

That is the first lesson that all of us should take note of. We cannot ignore the plight of others who are around us, and we have to show them care, compassion and love. That is how we invest the ‘talents’ that God had entrusted to us. Have we all heard of the saying, that ‘joy that is shared is double the joy’ and ‘sorrow that is shared is half the sorrow’? This is what we need to take this phrase into our hearts, and understand its meaning.

Then, secondly, each and every one of us are called to be generous in giving of ourselves to each other, and not to be worried about giving too much. As mentioned in the parable of the talents, the one who had received five talents and did well with it to earn five more talents, was given even more. This means that, the more we have been given by God, the more generously we should be in giving and sharing our joys with each other.

We often think that if we give away our blessings, and part with our money and possessions, we end up losing and will have less happiness. However, in reality, if we are to build for ourselves immense wealth and possessions in this world, and we do not share it with others, selfishly keeping everything for ourselves, as what the lazy servant had done, then to the Lord, we will be considered as fruitless and lacking in faith. For Him, if we have done this in our lives, we will have no treasure in Him, no matter how much we have in this world.

None of these will be with us, on the day when the Lord calls us to Him, at the end of our lives or at the end of our time, at the judgment of the souls of all mankind, when the Lord will judge us based on our deeds. Do we want to end up like the lazy servant, who was severely punished and cast out because of his lack of faith and action, when he should have used whatever it was that the master gave to him, that it may bear fruit and profits?

Finally, last of all, we should take note that, even the one who was given only one silver talent was expected to have his returns. What does this mean? That means, we should not be hesitant or be prejudiced when we ought to be generous to others. It does not mean that we are poor, then we cannot be generous to others. There are indeed many sad instances around the world, where the poor are oppressing the poor, just so that they may be able to gain more for their living.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the followers of Our Lord, as Christians, heed the message of today’s Scripture passages, and be ever more generous and willing to share our joy with one another, and also to console those who are sorrowful, and care for those who have no one to care for them. Let us all show true Christian love in our actions and be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.'”

“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, thrown him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 25 : 14-15, 19-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6

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.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear YHVH and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots, will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears YHVH. May YHVH praise you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Proverbs 31 : 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

The woman of character, where is she to be found? She is more precious than any jewel. Her husband has complete confidence in her; she will be of great benefit to him. She brings him only good and not evil, all the days of her life. She has obtained wool and flax, and works them with skilful hands.

She puts her hand to the distaff and her fingers hold the spindle. She reaches out her hand to the helpless and gives to the poor. Charm is deceptive and beauty useless; the woman who is wise is the one to praise. May she enjoy the fruits of her labour and may all praise her for her works.

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church commemorates the feast of the dedication of the two Basilicas, of St. Peter and St. Paul, which together with the Cathedral of Rome, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) form the four Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, the most important churches in Christendom.

And the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Wall are in particular to the city and the Church in Rome, because both St. Peter and St. Paul were the ones who helped to establish the Church in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire at that time, and became the important pillars of the early Church. As we know, St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles, the leader of all of Christ’s disciples and Apostles, and the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Meanwhile, St. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who helped the Church to propagate the message of the Gospels to the non-Jewish people.

Thus, these two great Basilicas are tributes and monuments built for the memory of these two most faithful servants of God, who gave their all to serve the Lord, devoting their whole lives to the end, defending their faith and proclaiming Christ the Lord to all men. The sites chosen for the Basilicas were significant places, as where the Papal Basilica of St. Peter was built, was where St. Peter the Apostle most likely encountered his martyrdom, by being crucified upside down, and the site of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was where St. Paul stayed during his time in Rome, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome worked among the faithful, preaching the Gospels and the messages of Christ, which brought about the conversion of many to the faith, together with St. Paul the Apostle, who came to Rome after being persecuted in Jerusalem and throughout his journeys. Both of them led the Christians in Rome, amidst a difficult and turbulent time, culminating in the great persecution under the Emperor Nero.

The Christian population of Rome was accused and scapegoated by the Emperor, blamed for causing the fire that burnt much of the great city. As such, many Christians were tortured and arrested, pursued and had their lives made very difficult. St. Paul himself was martyred in this condition, beheaded for his faith during this great tribulation, and yet he gladly laid down his life for the Lord.

St. Peter was also martyred a few years after this, as the persecution of Christians continued. He was crucified by the Roman authorities at the Vatican hills, as mentioned, where now stands the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. But St. Peter felt that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and therefore, asked to be crucified upside-down instead. That was how St. Peter glorified God by his faith and steadfastness to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of these great Houses of God dedicated to His beloved two saints, the main pillars and foundations of His Church in this world, St. Peter and St. Paul, let us remember that their works and missions are still far from over. There are still many things that are not yet done, and there are still many more areas that require our attention.

We are the modern day successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, and the same commands which Our Lord had given to His Apostles to reach out to all the peoples of all the nations, preaching the Good News of God’s salvation and calling them to Him have therefore been passed on to us. Now, what matters is, for us to do what the Lord expects from us to do, that we walk in the path of the Apostles, particularly the glorious and faithful St. Peter and St. Paul. Pray for us, o Holy Apostles! Amen.

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told them a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my adversary!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

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!”