Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, in the first reading, as was for the past two days, we heard the story from the Book of the prophet Jonah, as he was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. He relayed the Lord’s message to them, that the city and all its inhabitants will be destroyed because of their sins and wickedness.

But the entirety of the city, from the Assyrian king right down to the lowest slaves showed remorse and sincere repentance from their sins, because they feared the wrath of God, and they understood that if they were to turn away from their sins and repent, God might spare them from their fated destruction. They listened to the Lord and had a change of heart, and for that they were vindicated.

Yet, Jonah was angry at God for having forgiven the Assyrians and spared their city from destruction. He could not understand why God would be doing that, while he had gone into all the trouble to come to Nineveh to proclaim God’s wrath on the city. In his anger against God, he shut himself from God, and when a tree that had given him solace and protection died, he was again angry against God.

And this was where God pointed out to Jonah, that if he was so concerned for the life and fate of a single tree, then He as God, the God and Creator of all mankind, could not be not concerned of the fate of so many people under His care. The life of all mankind, all of His creations are important to Him, from the holiest ones to the ones with the greatest sins.

That is why the people of Nineveh were spared from destruction when they showed genuine remorse and repentance from their sins. Ultimately, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise and understand that God does not hate the sinner, but instead He hates the sins that we, who are sinners, have committed. Ultimately, the anger of God is directed at us because of our sins, and not because He has issues with us as a person.

Therefore, all of us should remember that we are all called to a life of holiness, and if we have sinned, we must not be afraid to seek for God’s forgiveness. God is always ready to forgive us our sins and to be reconciled with us. He wants us to return to Him, but the question is, are we willing to be forgiven and do we want to reconcile with Him? It is often that we reject God’s offer of forgiveness and mercy, and decided to continue down our own path.

That is because God often has no place inside our hearts, filled with ego and selfishness, with pride and arrogance, with stubbornness and vanity. We often refuse to admit that we have been wrong, that by sin, we have been made to be imperfect and corrupted. And in our persistence, we continued and doubled down on the path of sin, and many of us therefore became separated from God.

What should we do, then, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is why we need to deepen our relationship with God, through a good and healthy, vibrant and active prayer life. We have to be in constant communication with God, that we may know what it is that He wants us to do, and we may be able to steer through the challenges of this life, even with difficulties and challenges that await us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should follow the examples of the holy saint, whose feast we celebrate today. Today, we celebrate the feast of the holy Pope, Pope St. John XXIII, whose memory may still be fresh in the mind of some people, as he passed away just over five decades ago, remembered by his epithet, ‘The Good Pope’ and as the one who called, organised and opened the Second Vatican Council in the year 1962.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in northern Italy, born of a poor farmer’s family. Although he was born poor, but he had a passion for learning, as well as great love for God. Naturally, his family being a poor, farmer family, would want him to continue the family legacy and become a farmer. But God had a different plan for young Angelo, and in his deep spiritual life and relationship with God, he heard God’s call, and eventually with the help and support of many, he became a priest.

And as he continued to rise in the Church hierarchy, becoming the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey, he remained humble and dedicated to the Lord, placing the Lord and His people ahead of everything else. He cared for the weak and for the poor, and worked hard to guide the people of God through difficult times, especially during the Second World War.

As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII remained dedicated as ever to the Lord, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the faithful benefitted the most from the works of the Church, through evangelisation and reform in the Church. Pope St. John XXIII showed us all, that through a close and healthy relationship with God, all of us can gain plenty, and we can find our true purpose and vocation in life.

Let us all therefore pray, asking for the intercession of holy Pope St. John XXIII and the other holy men and women of God, that we may be strengthened in our faith by the Lord, and by deepening our relationship with Him, we may turn away from our sinful ways, and repenting sincerely from those wickedness we have committed, we may be forgiven from our sins, just as God had spared the people of Nineveh from destruction, and in the end, we may merit the glory of eternal life with God.

May God bless us all, and may He continue to guide us, and to remain with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 85 : 3-4, 5-6, 9-10

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

All the nations You have made will come; they will worship before You, o YHVH, and bring glory to Your Name. For You are great, and wonderful are Your deeds; You alone, are God.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Jonah 4 : 1-11

But Jonah was greatly displeased at this, and he was indignant. He prayed to YHVH and said, “O YHVH, is this not what I said when I was yet in my own country? This is why I fled to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and full of love, and You relent from imposing terrible punishment. I beseech You now, YHVH, to take my life, for now it is better for me to die than to live.”

But YHVH replied, “What right have you to be angry?” Jonah then left the city. He went to a place east of it, built himself a shelter and sat under its shade to wait and see what would happen to Nineveh. Then YHVH God provided a castor-oil plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade over his head and to ease his discomfort. Jonah was very happy about the plant.

But the next day, at dawn, God sent a worm which attacked the plant and made it wither. When the sun rose, God sent a scorching east wind; the sun blazed down upon Jonah’s head, and he grew faint. His death wish returned and he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Then God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?” Jonah answered, “I am right to be angry enough to wish to die.” YHVH said, “You are concerned about a plant which cost you no labour to make it grow. Overnight it sprang up, and overnight it perished. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish right from left and they have many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned for such a great city?”

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in how they propagated and practiced their faith, and He also rebuked them for their behaviour and in how they oppressed and misguided the people of God with their way of observing the commandments of the Lord.

He criticised them using the example of a cup and a dish, which He compared to the Pharisees as those who have cleansed the outside of the cup and the dish so that they looked good and clean to those who saw them, but leave the insides dirty and unwashed. It does not make sense at all, since if we have a cup or a plate, we are using the inside and not the outside. They may appear good from the outside, but if the inside is dirty, then what use will they have?

What Jesus used as a comparison today is a comparison of our own beings, like what He had told the people about the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law. These people were the elites in their society, and they often walked around proudly, proud of their status and their influence in the governance over the people. They wore their vestments as the symbol of their superiority, and they often looked down on others.

They prayed loudly and with gestures in order to be seen by the people, and they had no qualms to criticise those who did not follow their ways and teachings, as mistaken and misguided as they were. And they were adamantly unrepentant of their behaviours, forcing the people to accept their way of observing the Law of God, focusing solely on the outward appearances, on the menial matters even such as washing of the hands and feet, the way to do them properly to the smallest details, the imposition of no work during the Sabbath days and others.

But in their hearts, in truth, they did not have God in them. They were so full of themselves that God did not take any priority for them. They always tried to bring themselves to the fore of the society, despising all those whom they considered as threats to their power and influence. And that is why, if you are wondering why these Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were supposed to be intelligent and the most educated especially about the laws and ways of the Lord, were to refuse Jesus when He came to this world.

Human ambitions and greed can indeed be very dangerous, and very powerful at the same time. Just as what we heard today in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the faithful in Galatia, where he rebuked those who pretended to be righteous and just in their ways, and yet in reality, they have fallen further and further away from the Lord and His salvation. They have only obeyed the Lord in their exterior application, but inside they remain rotten and unchanged.

That is why we should follow the example of the holy saint, Pope St. John XXIII, one of the Popes of the last century, whose life has been exemplary in his faith and dedication to the Lord. Through him we can see the example of how the faithful ought to live their faith, and be thoroughly devoted of their ways to the Lord both in their exterior and interior, and not just their exterior as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

Pope St. John XXIII was born as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the son of a poor farmer in a poor family in the northern region of Italy. At that time, life was simple and hard for him and for his relatives. His father wanted him and his siblings to continue his work as farmers, but with the help of a relative, Angelo Roncalli was able to attain education in a seminary in the nearby town, where gradually he felt the calling of the Lord.

Even though his father initially refused to allow him to become a priest, but eventually with some help, he was able to make it and thus he became a priest of the Lord, serving the poor and caring for the people, both spiritually and in material terms. In one occasion, when there was a riot in the diocese where he was serving as a priest, due to the unfair labour laws, Angelo Roncalli helped his local ordinary, the bishop who was supportive of his flock and calling for greater equality and fairer treatment of the workers.

He was then appointed as the Papal representative to Bulgaria, where he became one of its first Apostolic Delegate, caring for the people of the faith who lived there, and became the representative of the Vicar of Christ to them. Many did not welcome him as he was representing the authority of the Roman Church, while many Bulgarians belonged to the separatist Eastern Orthodox churches. However, through his persistence and many charitable works, including helping out when a major earthquake struck the country won him many people’s support.

Even in his later works as the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey, the future Pope St. John XXIII helped many people, including the Jews who suffered under the NAZI Germany rule, where on one occasion it was told that he helped many Jews to escape by persuading the German soldiers and commanders that the train did not carry Jews but instead pilgrims to Turkey.

Eventually he was elected to be the leader of the Universal Church, and there were even more good things he had done in leading the faithful people of God, helping to reduce the Cold War tension between the superpowers which at that time was at the breaking point due to what happened in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He wrote and published the Papal Encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’ dedicated t world peace. He also convened the Second Vatican Council to address some unfinished issues in the Church.

In the end, looking at the examples that Pope St. John XXIII and the many other holy saints and people of God had done, we ourselves should be inspired to follow in their footsteps and do the same. We should not be like the Pharisees whose faith are for appearances only, but instead, we should practice what we believe through our own actions. May the Lord help us to be more devoted to Him, and may He bless us in all that we do, that we may receive glory with Him at the end of our days with the glorious saints. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Luke 11 : 37-41

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to have a meal with him. So He went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not first wash His hands before dinner. But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil.”

“Fools! He Who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)
Psalm 118 : 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48

Give me Your unfailing love, o Lord, Your salvation as You have promised.

Take not the word of truth from my mouth, for I would also lose my hope in Your word.

May I always keep Your word forever and ever.

I shall walk in freedom, having sought out Your laws.

For I delight in Your word, which I fear.

I will lift up my hands to You, and meditate on Your commandments.