Friday, 14 August 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Friday, 14 August 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 54b-57

When our mortal being puts on immortality, the word of Scripture will be fulfilled : Death has been swallowed up by victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?

Sin is the sting of death, to kill, and the Law is what gives force to sin. But give thanks to God, Who gives us the victory, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Friday, 14 August 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 9-10, 13-14

Then came the news, “The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar.” Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

Friday, 14 August 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Chronicles 15 : 3-4, 15-16 and 1 Chronicles 16 : 1-2

Then David gathered all Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the Ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the Ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered according to the command of YHVH.

David then told the leaders of the Levites to assign duties for some Levites to sing and play a joyful tune with their various musical instruments : harps and lyres and cymbals. They brought the Ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had prepared for it; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.

And when David had finished offering the sacrifices, he blessed the people in the Name of YHVH.

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 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 are all reminded that we need to listen to God and put our trust in Him, and appreciate the wonderful love with which He has blessed us all these while, loving us so tenderly and generously that despite our many infidelities, our many betrayals and disobedience against Him, He still looks out for us and cares for us, and still wants us all to walk down the right path in life.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which the Lord spoke at length about how His people had sinned greatly against Him, how they had disobeyed Him and sold themselves to the pagan idols and gods, worshipping those abominations instead of worshipping the true God, how they had persecuted His prophets and all those whom He had sent to them to remind them and call them to return to Him.

And yet, despite all of these, the Lord said through Ezekiel, that even in their most vulnerable moments, when they were completely troubled, humiliated and naked, He came by their side, clothed them and took care of them, just as how He had patiently watched over them for all those years without fail. And yet again, although God had blessed His people such and made them wonderful, but they chose to squander their blessings and beauty to commit sin against God and all sorts of evil.

Through all of these we can see how God had been so caring and patient towards us that He is willing to endure all these nonsense from us, and still provide for us and give us what we need. He will always uphold the Covenant that He has established with us as He has promised and nothing can separate us from the love and mercy of God, that is except our own stubborn rejection of His love and mercy, by which we closed ourselves from God and continued to fall deeper and deeper into sin.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples on the matter of divorce, as some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were asking Him on the matter of divorce and what ought to be done as the Law of God handed down to Moses did allow for divorce to be done. And then the Lord immediately revealed how the allowance for the divorce was made only because the people was so stubborn in their ways and in refusing to follow the Lord’s ways, and some concessions were probably made to prevent the people from falling even further into sin.

But the Lord showed how God never intended for the people to treat their lives and actions into mere formality, as He wants all of them to love and to be true to their faith in whatever that He has called them to. This means that all of us are called to lead a God-centred life in our respective calling and way of life, just as He presented in today’s Gospel passage, in calling on all of us to do what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, in our various callings and vocations in life.

The Lord said how there are those who are destined for married life, while others were destined for a life of virginity and singlehood, dedicated to God, and all of these callings and vocations of life are all noble and good in their own accord, as how the Lord meant for them to be. What matters is that we love God, and devote ourselves to Him by being righteous, good and virtuous in life, and today, we have a perfect inspiration on how to do this, through the examples set by St. Maximilian Kolbe, a renowned holy saint and martyr of the faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest and member of the Conventual Franciscans, who was chiefly remembered for his death in the concentration camp under the NAZI Germany tyranny. He was a longtime missionary, working for many years in distant lands after he joined the Franciscans and became a priest. He worked in Japan for quite a few years, evangelising and spreading the word of God, continuing the efforts he had begun when he was in Poland with the organisation Maria Immaculata, aimed at opposing the enemies of the Church and calling them to repentance through faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe established monasteries in Japan and also in India during his missionary years, before he returned to Poland not long before the outbreak of the Second World War which would come to engulf not just Poland but the entirety of Europe and much of the world. As we know today, this war surpassed all others in ferocity and brutality, as millions and many more perished from many brutal actions of states and all those who disregarded the sanctity of human life and existence.

Although St. Maximilian Kolbe himself had German ancestry, which could have earned him the right of equal treatment with the citizens of NAZI Germany at the time, he refused to cooperate with the oppressors and those who brutally treated and killed many, and worked to hide and provide shelter to many of those who were oppressed, especially the Jews who were unable to escape, and were prime targets in the ethnic cleansing and genocide efforts of the NAZIs.

This led to the eventual forced closure of the monastery in which St. Maximilian Kolbe operated, together with some other friars, he was arrested and put into prison for the secret anti-German activities they carried out in defending the dignity of human life and also their opposition to war and the German actions. He was then transferred to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and there, he continued to minister to the people imprisoned there in the camp as a priest, despite the harassments and humiliations he had to endure daily.

And when a prisoner managed to escape from the concentration camp, the Germans forced ten people to be punished by starving to death to deter further attempts at escape. A Polish man who was selected cried out ‘My wife! My children!’, knowing that he was about to die, only for St. Maximilian Kolbe to step in and offered himself in exchange for the man. St. Maximilian Kolbe chose freely to die, in his love for his fellow brother, who was grieving over not being able to see his family anymore, and thus, died in martyrdom, a martyr of justice and faith, a martyr of love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Maximilian Kolbe has shown us all what true Christian love and true Christian faith are all about. He showed us the same love that God has shown us, one that is pure, genuine and selfless, the love with which He has cared for us, provided for us and being patient with us all despite our infidelities and lack of faith. Are we able to love God with the same love and dedication? Are we able to love one another in the same way too?

These are the questions that we really should ask ourselves as we evaluate our direction in life, in our approach towards righteousness and in distancing ourselves from our past sinfulness and all the things that had brought us into sin. Let us all be inspired by the faith and love showed by St. Maximilian Kolbe and strive hard to be true and faithful disciples of the Lord, filled with love for God, first and foremost, and for our fellow brothers and sisters. May God be with us all and bless us, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Friday, 14 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ezekiel 16 : 1-15, 60, 63

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its sins. You say on My behalf : Your beginning was in Canaan; there, you were born. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born, your cord was not cut; you were not bathed in water to make you clean; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you wrapped in cloth.”

“There was no one to look with pity on you; or compassionate enough, to give you any of these attentions. You were left, exposed, in the open fields; because you were looked upon with disgust, on the day you were born. But I passed by; and saw you, immersed in your blood. I said to you, in the midst of your blood, ‘Live!’”

“I made you grow, like a plant of the field. You grew up and became tall; and were becoming of marriageable age. Your breasts were formed and your hair had grown; but you were naked and exposed. I passed by later, and saw, you were at the age of love; and spread part of My garment over you, to cover your nudity. I made a Covenant with you with an oath – word of YHVH – and you were Mine.”

“Then I bathed you in water; I cleansed you of your blood and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with embroidered cloth and put soft leather sandals on your feet. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with jewelry, putting bracelets on your arms, a necklace around your neck and a ring in your nose. I gave you earrings and a magnificent crown for your head.”

“You were adorned with gold and silver; your clothing was fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You were fed on finest flour, honey and oil; you became very beautiful and rose to be queen. Your beauty was perfect; and your renown spread through the nations, because of the splendour I had given you – word of YHVH.”

“But you relied on your beauty; you trusted in your fame; and you began to give yourself to every passerby, like a prostitute. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Alternative reading

Ezekiel 16 : 59-63

For thus says YHVH : “I will treat you as you deserve; you, who despised the oath and broke the Covenant. But I will remember My Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favour, an eternal Covenant. You will be mindful of your ways and be ashamed, when I take your sisters, both the elder and the younger; and give them to you as daughters, without prejudice to My Covenant with you.”

“For I will uphold My Covenant with you; and you will know that I am YHVH, so that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of YHVH.

Thursday, 13 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of God’s wonderful love and mercy, and just how fortunate and blessed each and every one of us are that God has extended to us His forgiveness and reached out to us to show His love and compassion. We have sinned against God by our disobedience, our wickedness and constant failure to resist the temptations of the devil, and we should have been crushed and destroyed if not for God’s mercy and love.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which the prophet spoke of the Lord’s premonitions and words regarding the downfall of the sinful and all those who have disobeyed and refused to believe in Him. The Lord told Ezekiel to do as He said, to show all those who had been carried off into Babylon in exile, that the final days of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem were at hand.

Ezekiel showed what would happen to the prince of the city of Jerusalem and the rest of the people, as how king Zedekiah, the last king of Judah would flee from the besieged city of Jerusalem after years of siege, and tried to flee from the Babylonians, only to be caught and humiliated, and the rest of the people enslaved and brought into exile. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple of God, long defiled by the sins of the people, was torn down in the conquest, its many vessels and goods brought into Babylon as spoils of war.

And this is the consequence of the sins that the people of God had committed, as they abandoned God for the pagan idols and for their futile pursuits of worldliness, to satisfy their ego, greed and ambitions. They lost everything, their pride and their land, their livelihood and all that they had, humiliated and treated less than men, to serve the needs of their masters and conquerors. Yet, they lived, and this showed that God still loved them, cared for them, regardless of their many sins.

This is then what the Lord told His disciples in our Gospel passage today as He spoke of them on the matter of forgiveness when the Apostle St. Peter asked Him how many times we must forgive our enemies and those who have wronged us, and the Lord said, ‘seventy times seven times’. The connotation of seven and seventy was in fact a reference to the need for one to be constantly forgiving, as seven is a number of perfection, and seventy times seven show complete perfection, meaning forgiveness without end in this case.

The Lord also used the parable to highlight this matter to His disciples, as He spoke of a rich lord who had many servants, and whose servants owed him quite a fair amount of money, and they were supposed to pay back what they owed or face the consequences. One of the servants who owed ten thousand pieces of gold, a relatively large amount that time, begged his lord and master to give him more time to be able to pay back the debt, and not to levy punishment on him or his household.

The lord, moved with pity, did not just listen to what the servant asked and begged for, but even more, he cancelled out his entire debt, which means that the servant did not have to pay off the entire huge debt of ten thousand pieces of gold. The servant, definitely being happy, then went off and then, met another servant who owed him money, a sum of a hundred pieces of silver. This is a much, much smaller amount than what the servant once owed his lord and master and had been forgiven from.

Yet, the servant forced the other servant to pay him back and threatened him, and even when the other servant begged for him to forgive him or at least give him more time to pay back his debt, the servant refused and sent the poor other servant into prison. And this came to the knowledge of the lord, who became very, very upset at the servant, who showed complete ingratitude at what he had been so fortunate and blessed with. He was forgiven his massive debt and yet, could not forgive a much smaller debt owed him.

This was representative of what God, our Lord and Master has done for us and what He is expecting all of us to do in our own lives. The lord in the parable represents the Lord Himself, and the servants of the lord being each and every one of us. The debts represent the sins and faults, the mistakes and hurt we have caused one another, the large debt represents the debt we have towards God, our sins caused by our disobedience and wickedness, while the smaller debt represents the faults and hurts we committed to one another, to our fellow brothers and sisters.

The essence of today’s Scripture readings therefore is to point out to us that, if God has been able to forgive us our sins, just as how enormous and incomprehensibly large the extent of those sins are for each one of us, then why can’t we forgive one another our sins and faults, our mistakes and hurts we have caused each other? That is because we are often too filled up with ego and pride that we cannot see ourselves humbling and stepping down to forgive, seeing forgiving others as a sign of weakness.

And our desires made the better of us, by tempting us to seek for satisfaction and good things for ourselves, for things we want and crave like money and material possessions, often at the expense of others. That is why we get angry at others, or demand others to give in to what we want, and not forgiving them their debts and mistakes, not realising that we have been forgiven even greater debts by the Lord.

The Lord wants us to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters, to forgive them their debts and mistakes, their sins and faults to us, just as He has forgiven us all our sins and trespasses. Isn’t this what we always pray for in the Lord’s Prayer? ‘Forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.’ And in order to do this, we need to get rid from ourselves the taints of pride and ego, the temptations of greed and worldly desires among other things.

Are we able to do so brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to commit ourselves to be forgiving to one another and also accept God’s forgiveness in our lives? We are called to devote our time, effort and attention to serve the Lord faithfully and to be loving just as He is loving, forgiving and be compassionate just as He is forgiving and compassionate. And today, let us all also gain the inspiration from our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, whose feasts we celebrate today.

At that time, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were rivals in the influence within the Church, with St. Hippolytus apparently having been elected as the ‘Antipope’ in opposition to several Popes, as the former accused the latter of heresies and infidelities. St. Hippolytus was supported by the Greek-speaking Christians in Rome while Pope St. Pontian and his immediate predecessors were supported by the Latin-speaking Christians. The division lasted for quite a few years, and in the meantime new round of persecutions against Christians occurred.

It was then that the Roman Emperor and the government imposed a new persecution that led to the arrest of both Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, who were sent into exile and hard labour in Sardinia, and it was there that both of them were reconciled to each other, forgiving one another what had transpired and happened between them for the sake of unity in the Church. St. Hippolytus likely gave up his contention as an ‘Antipope’ while Pope St. Pontian also resigned from the Pontificate to allow for the election of a new Pope to commence, as his arrest meant that it was unlikely that he would ever be able to resume his duties.

Both saints eventually died in martyrdom, defending the truth of their faith, but not before showing all of us the power of forgiveness and reconciliation, of forgiving each other no matter how bitter we may have been over the disagreements and divisions we have between us. Ultimately, we must remember that God forgave us all and is still forgiving us even when we have committed so many sins against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with a new heart of love and hope, and seek for forgiveness from Him for our every sins and weaknesses. Let us all be loving as He has been loving, and be inspired by the story of forgiveness of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, forgoing their differences and embracing a new existence in love through God. May God be with us always, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.