Friday, 11 October 2019 : 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 all of us are called through what we have just heard from the passages taken from the Sacred Scriptures, to turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and to open them to allow God to enter into our beings, that He may transform us and heal us from our many afflictions, namely the afflictions of our sins and wickedness by which we have been found wanting by God.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard of terrible premonitions and words of caution from God to His people, asking them to be prepared to face trials and tribulations that would for them, in the context of how the prophet Joel lived during the middle years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Therefore, the premonition spoke of the then upcoming times of upheavals and sufferings when the people of both the kingdoms would be conquered and humiliated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians many years after.

God was in fact reminding His people not to be complacent in their lives and in their faith and commitment to live holy and virtuous lives in the presence of God and men alike. At that time, the people had lapsed from their faith and fell into the many temptations surrounding them, following the evil ways of the world and resorting to the worship of the pagan gods and idols, offering sacrifices to those idols rather than offering true sacrifice to their one and only True God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then we heard from our Gospel passage of the heated exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with the power of the evil prince of demons, Beelzebub in His many miracles and healing works among the people, and in the casting out of the evil spirits from those who had been possessed by those demons. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had seen all those miracles but they refused to believe.

And why is that so? That is because the devil himself and all of his wicked allies were busy at work in trying to destroy us, in tempting us to sin and to refuse God’s generous offer of love and mercy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were afraid that they would lose their much valued influence and status among the community and the people. They therefore saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat and rival to them. In truth, the pride and ego, the greed and desires in their heart blinded them.

God wanted them all to see the truth, but as long as those people allowed their ego, pride, desire, jealousy and all sorts of temptations to develop in their hearts, they will not be able to see the truth of God and accept Him wholeheartedly as they should have. When He spoke of the coming of the time of persecution through the prophet Joel, He was warning us all, His people, that if we want to be faithful to Him and walk in His path, then we must be prepared to face challenges, opposition, ridicule, humiliation and persecution as the Lord Himself had faced.

The devil is always out and about working to destroy us by dragging us into sin, in tempting us to walk astray on the wrong path. And we cannot face him alone or by our own strength and power. It is only through God and His providence that we can withstand and overcome the devil and all of his wicked forces of evil. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges awaiting for us in our journey of faith in life.

But we must not be disheartened, for God is truly with all of us, and He will always guide us in our path. He has guided one of His own devout servant, a holy man and leader of the Universal Church, as Pope St. John XXIII in his journey of faith in his life. Pope St. John XXIII was remembered as the ‘Good Pope’, ever dedicated to the Lord throughout his life and ministry. He is a great inspiration for each and every one of us in how we should be faithful in our own lives as well.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in a poor farmer’s family in Bergamo in northern Italy, and an opportunity in having education sponsored by his uncle eventually led to him embracing the call and vocation to priesthood, after which he served in his region of Bergamo. Having experienced the struggles of the people during the difficult years of the early twentieth century and inspired by the love which his bishop showed during those tumultuous times, the young Father Roncalli grew ever stronger in his own love and devotion to God.

He was appointed as an Archbishop and as the Papal Delegate to Bulgaria and later on to Turkey and eventually France, working as a diplomat for many years in managing the relationship both between the nations and the Holy See, and also in the relationships between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful, who were then often bitterly divided against each other. Archbishop Roncalli faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, sufferings and pains, in his ministry, in facing those who were distrustful of the Church and the faith.

Eventually, as he became the Patriarch of Venice and eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII carried on his life and mission with the fullness of faith in God, dedicating his years of life in bringing the love of God to His people. He initiated the Second Vatican Council to bring the Church together through difficult and challenging times, and also helped to broker peace among the superpowers of the world during a time of great tension in the height of the Cold War.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our own lives and think how we can serve the Lord with greater love, commitment and fidelity from now on. Let us all therefore seek to be ever more faithful, loving God each and every days of our life, putting our trust in Him just as Pope St. John XXIII had been. Let us all draw ever closer to Him from now on. Amen.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 15-26

At that time, some of the people said, “Jesus drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful and happy.” YHVH is King forever and the pagans have vanished from His land.

They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim. The evil one lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert, waiting to seize his prey and drag him off in a net.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Joel 1 : 13-15 and Joel 2 : 1-2

Gird yourselves, o priests, and weep; mourn, o ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, o ministers of my God! For the house of your God is deprived of grain and drink offering.

Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Summon the elders, and all who live in the land, into the house of your God, and cry out to YHVH, “What a dreadful day – the day of YHVH, that draws near, and comes as ruin, from the Almighty!”

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all dwellers in the land tremble, for the day of YHVH is coming. Yes, the day is fast approaching – a day of gloom and darkness, a day of clouds and blackness. A vast and mighty army comes, like dawn spreading over the mountain : such as has never occurred before, nor will happen again in the future.

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 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 we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the loving nature of God, and how we mankind, as God’s beloved children should put our trust in our God, and place ourselves in the caring hands of our loving Father. We heard how the Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel describing the loving nature of God as like of that of fathers, who loved their children.

And because God loves each and every one of us, then He will surely listen to us, should we ask Him to look upon us and to take care of us. He will not purposefully harm us or do something that ends up making us to suffer. When we suffer, in truth, we are actually acting in the manner that we misuse the freedom that God has given to us, which therefore end up causing us to make others suffer in order to satisfy our own personal desires and greed.

That was why, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia chided and rebuked the faithful living in that city because of their lack of faith and ability to live faithfully in accordance to that faith. They have succumbed to the temptations of their flesh, and instead of putting their trust in God, they fell into sin through their wicked and unfaithful attitudes and behaviours.

God reminded us that He is always there for us, ready to welcome us back, even when we have erred, disobeyed and failed to listen to Him. He will not turn a deaf ear to us, should we call upon Him, and crying out for His mercy. But first of all, we must also be willing to commit ourselves to the path of reconciliation, to be ready to be forgiven, and ultimately, ready to make the commitment to change our way of life.

However, the issue for many of us is that, we are often too preoccupied, too busy and too distracted in our lives, that we failed to notice this, and we failed to realise just how much God loves each and every one of us. We have been blinded and made deaf by the distractions, temptations and all the noise present in this world. We have been pulled away by the allure of human desire, of worldly glory and many other things that have been keeping us away from God.

Are we then able to overcome these temptations in life, and rediscover this love which we should have for God, our loving Father? For many of us, we have been wayward in our faith, and we have not been truly faithful, as we spent more time trying to gain for ourselves worldly acceptance and glories of this world. But this is exactly where we end up forgetting about God, His love and His caring nature for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should reflect on what we have just discussed and look deeply into our lives and how we have acted in our lives thus far. Have we been living in this world filled with the desires of worldliness and human greed, in trying to satisfy our own selfish desires and wants? Or have we been truly devoted to the Lord, in all of our actions and deeds?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. John XXIII, also known by his nickname of the ‘Good Pope’. He was the Pope who initiated the Second Vatican Council, in bringing about reform and renewal to the Church, almost six decades ago. He was remembered as a holy and devout servant of God, who spent his whole life, trying to bring the people of God closer to their loving Father.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, in a poor farmer family in northern Italy. He was born into poverty and hard life, and yet, he was raised well and heard the call to priesthood and holiness early in his life. He became a priest and was involved in the social works in the Church among his local community early on, inspired by the examples set by his local bishop, who devoted himself to the care and the well-being of the poor, especially the workers who were oppressed by the then horrible conditions at work.

Later on, he became the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then later still, the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey. In his role as the representative of the Pope to those countries, he fostered many good relationships both with the state as well as with the Christians belonging to the Eastern Orthodox traditions, who have always treated Catholics with much suspicion and animosity. But Pope St. John XXIII’s persistence in love and kindness have softened many hearts and won much adoration and praise.

In his many other roles and capacities, he was also remembered for his role in saving many Jewish refugees from Europe during the time of the Second World War when millions of Jews were massacred by the NAZI regime in Germany. He also helped to reconcile the relations between the Church and the state in France after the war, and many other good deeds, as the Pope of the Church, when he led the entire Church in the journey of discovering their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, should follow in the footsteps of this holy Pope in our own life, in how we live our lives, in our actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts, and turn ourselves towards God. And if we want to be one with God, then our actions must also show this faith and love which we ought to have for God. May the Lord be our guide and be our help, and bless us always in our every deeds and works. Amen.

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 5-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.'”

“But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need. And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”

“If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

Thursday, 11 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 1 : 69-70, 71-72: 73-75

In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old.

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy Covenant.

The oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.