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.

Saturday, 11 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady and Popes)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the message of the Lord, through the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels, on the nature of our faith and salvation, and how we can attain that salvation through what we are doing in this life, not just based on any race or other passive benefits or factors, but through the commitment of actions that make our faith truly alive in God.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his letter to the faithful and the Church in Galatia showed how while in the past, God revealed His Law to His people to guide them and prevent them from going astray from the path towards salvation, but the coming of Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of all, gave mankind a new focus of their faith and devotion. For God Himself had come down upon us, in our humble form, to save us from our fate that was death and oblivion.

There was also to be no more division and prejudice, or any difference in treatment between those in the society, based on either race or birth, based no longer on either status or wealth or possessions. What matters is truly whether one believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and if one believes, and lives according to that faith which they have, then they are guaranteed salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

That was because, the Jews, who were descendants of Abraham, the faithful servant of God, with whom He had made His covenant with, were proud and prejudiced against their neighbours, thinking that as the heirs and sons of Abraham, they alone deserved salvation, and the others, the Gentiles, namely the Greeks, the Samaritans, Romans, Arabs, Canaanites, and others whom they considered as pagans and barbarians deserved eternal damnation.

Yet, Jesus made it clear in the Gospel, that blessing is upon those who follow the will of God, who walk in His ways, and who practice their faith in the real life, showing that their faith is truly real, concrete and dynamic. Yes, not the dead and stagnant faith shown by lack of action, by mere lip service of faith, and not by prejudicing against others or condemning others or glorifying oneself thinking that one is worthy of salvation, while others do not.

Therefore, today we are all called to reflect on our own lives, whether in all things we do, we have been truly faithful to the Lord, not just by mere faith or words, but also through actions founded in faith, filled with hope, and blessed and graced by love. This is what is necessary for us to attain our salvation, and blessed we are indeed if we listen to Jesus and what He had said, instead of following our own desires and wants.

Today, we celebrate together with the whole Universal Church, the feast of Pope St. John XXIII, the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and one of the great and holy Popes of the twentieth century after the birth of Christ. Pope St. John XXIII, who was also called the ‘Good Pope’, was chiefly remembered for his role in convoking and gathering the latest Ecumenical Council of the Holy Roman Church, that is the Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962 to 1965, but in fact, his holiness stemmed not just from that act, but also from the actions which he had taken for the entire course of his life.

The life and examples of Pope St. John XXIII, the Good Pope, il Papa Buono, can be an inspiration for us all, as ever since he was born of a poor peasant family in the village and commune of Sotto il Monte, in the province of Bergamo in northern Italy as Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, he had led a very faithful and devoted life to God. He was poor, just as his family was poor, but together they as a family lovingly devoted themselves to God.

At a certain moment in his youth, the young Angelo encountered experience in faith, by those whom he met, including his uncle, which encouraged him to consider giving himself to the service of God. As his family was poor, and peasant youths were considered important assets to help out in work, his parents were reluctant to let him to go and join the seminary.

Nevertheless, in the end, God had His way, and Angelo managed to join the seminary, studying intently and eventually was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Bergamo. He eventually became the secretary of the local ordinary, Bishop Radini-Tedeschi, who was a relatively obscure individual compared to his later famous protege, but the one who had great influence on Angelo and his later great works.

Bishop Radini-Tedeschi encountered a great workers and union strike in accordance to the poor living conditions and treatment of workers by the government of that era, in the early twentieth century, and Bishop Radini-Tedeschi faithfully and tenderly exercised his works as the shepherd of his flock, calling for restraint and restoration of order while calling for reforms and great improvement in the treatment of workers. He even donated his own personal wealth to help the poor workers made their ends meet.

All these inspired the young Angelo Roncalli, the later Pope St. John XXIII, as he later was made Archbishop and appointed as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and later to Greece and Turkey. During his diplomatic missions in the service of the Church, Archbishop Roncalli did many great works, establishing links and friendship with the separated brethren of faith in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and during his mission in Greece and Turkey, even saved many Jews from the actions of the German NAZI who was bent on annihilating them as a race in the holocaust.

In his later mission as the Apostolic Nuncio to France, Archbishop Roncalli continued to do many good works, establishing links and relationship with the French government, including dealing with the difficult leader of France, Charles de Gaulle, who wanted to reduce the influence of the Church of Rome in the affairs of the Church in France.

And eventually, as the Patriarch of Venice and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli continued to exercise the good works which he had done earlier in his earlier posts and ministries, and which eventually he continued when he was elected Pope in 1958 to succeed the great Pope Pius XII, the Pastor Angelicus, or the Angelic Pope.

Pope St. John XXIII continued to lead the Church faithfully, and he was particularly concerned with the restoration of relations with the Eastern Church, as he had experienced earlier during his time in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, in the relationships he had made with the prelates and faithful of the Eastern Church at the time. And then he was also concerned about the state of the Church, and the need for a continuation of the unfinished works of the First Vatican Council, which was prematurely ended due to the events at that time.

Thus, Pope St. John XXIII convoked the gathering of the Second Vatican Council, which commenced in 1962, and which sessions was started and opened by the Pope himself, which meeting was to continue until 1965, and concluded by Pope Paul VI, his successor as Pope St. John XXIII passed away in 1963, before the conclusion of the Ecumenical Council which he had initiated.

Pope St. John XXIII also was renowned for his role in helping to reduce tension between the superpowers, namely the United States of America and the Soviet Union, which almost ended up in a major war, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. One of the last major acts of Pope St. John XXIII was the peace which he helped broker between the two sides, and which was the major reason behind the Papal encyclical he released in 1963, the famous Pacem in Terris, or ‘Peace on earth’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have mentioned, that the actions of Pope St. John XXIII are examples to all of us, and through them, we should also be inspired to follow in his footsteps, that our faith may grow stronger and that in our devotion, we may be found justified in our faith by the Lord our God. Remember, brethren, that we have to have a living faith in us, so that our faith will not be just empty, but be real and concrete.

May Almighty God, who sees the faith and commitment which Pope St. John XXIII, also see the faith that is in us, and therefore may grant us the inheritance and reward which He promised us through Jesus Christ His Son. May we all come ever closer to His loving embrace, seeking His mercy and be made righteous once again. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 11 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady and Popes)

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.”

Saturday, 11 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady and Popes)

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His Holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.