Thursday, 9 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how Isaac blessed his younger son Jacob with the blessing which was intended for Esau, the eldest son. And in the Gospel we heard how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who criticised the way that the disciples of Jesus followed, not fasting and following what the norm of traditions at the time dictated.

It may be difficult to see the link and connection between the two readings, but the truth is that the two are indeed very related, considering what Jesus told them about how new wine ought to be placed in new wineskins, and how old wine ought to be placed in old wineskins. This is related to the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, each of whom represent the old ways of the world, and the new ways of the Lord and His salvation.

The triumph of Jacob over his brother Esau showed the incompatibility of the old ways with the new ways, and that we must indeed make a choice between the two of them. This also means that if we call ourselves followers and disciples of the Lord, then all of us cannot do what is contrary to what is expected of us as the followers of the Lord.

If we call ourselves the disciples of the Lord, and then we commit things wicked and evil in the sight of God and men, then we discredit and trample on our own faith. In this manner, we are exactly like the old wine being placed into new wineskins. The incompatibility between the two will tear apart the whole wineskin and wine inside it will be spilt and wasted. In the same manner, therefore, if we believe in God and yet did not do as is expected from us, then it created a scandal for us.

We have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that in order to be true disciples of our Lord, then all of us have to show it not just by mere words or proclamations of faith, but instead, we must also show it through work and devotion, which will vindicate our faith, that it is indeed real and genuine. This is what we ought to do, and what we must stand up for.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we have to wake up to the realisation that we have to listen to what the Lord had taught us. He had taught us about love, for He is love Himself, and by showing that love for us, He taught us that we need to love Him and love one another in the same manner. Yet, we know that even among us the faithful, we see so much discord and divisions, infighting and conflict among us.

We should know that faith is meaningless and dead without action and commitment. True faith requires us to go forth and do what the Lord had commanded us to do, to be righteous in all of our dealings, to defend the truth which He had revealed to us, and to stand up for the Lord. Indeed, the world will be hard on us and it will oppose us with all of its might.

But remember, they have also rejected the Lord when He came into the world, and they refused to listen to Him, and persecuted Him and His servants and disciples. This is why we have to have courage in our faith, and do not fear, for God is always with us, and He will guide us on the path, and if we remain faithful to Him, we will receive the fullness of the richness of God’s grace and blessings.

On this day, we commemorate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who was the Queen of Portugal in the middle ages, who was renowned for her great faith and piety, and who after her husband’s death, she left everything behind and chose to devote the rest of her life in a prayerful retreat in a monastery. She continued to do great works of charity, even in her old age, helping those who were less fortunate, poor, weak and ostracised.

The examples of St. Elizabeth of Portugal reminds us that while we live in this world, filled with much vices and evil, it does not mean that we have to succumb to it and to follow the way of this world. We can choose to be righteous and just, as St. Elizabeth of Portugal and the other holy men and women of God had done throughout the ages. Let us all go forth and show God’s love to one another, a concrete show of our faith.

May Almighty God be with all of us, strengthen our faith and devotion to Him, and empower us to be even more devoted disciple of His cause. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine in old wineskins. If you do, the wineskins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine in fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

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

Psalm 134 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise the Name of the Lord. O servants of the Lord, praise Him, you who serve in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for He is good, praise His Name, for it is beautiful; for the Lord has chosen Jacob as His own, Israel as His possession.

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in their depths.

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

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

Genesis 27 : 1-5, 15-29

When Isaac was old and his eyes so weak that he could no longer see, he called Esau, his older son, and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac continued, “You see I am old and I do not know when I shall die; so take your weapons, your bow and arrow, go out into the country and hunt some game for me. Then prepare some of the savoury food I like and bring it to me so that I may eat and give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau went into the country to hunt game and bring it back, then Rebekah took the best clothes of her elder son Esau that she had in the house and put them on Jacob, her younger son. With the goatskin she covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck, and she handed to him the bread and food she had prepared.

He went to his father and said, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son, who is it?” And Jacob said to his father, “It is Esau, your firstborn; I have done what you told me to do. Come, sit up and eat my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac said, “How quick you have been my son!” Jacob said, “YHVH, your God, guided me.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near and let me feel you, my son, and know that it is you, Esau my son, or not.” When Jacob drew near to Isaac, his father felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like the hands of Esau his brother and so he blessed him.

He asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob answered, “I am.” Isaac said, “Bring me some of your game, my son, so that I may eat and give you my blessing.” So Jacob brought it to him and he ate. And he brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.”

So Jacob came near and kissed him. Isaac them caught the smell of his clothes and blessed him, saying, “The smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. May God give you the dew of heaven; and of the richness of the earth; and abundance of grain and wine.”

“Let peoples serve you and nations bow down before you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone that curses you and blessed be everyone that blesses you!”

Friday, 3 July 2015 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely that of St. Thomas, known also as St. Thomas Didymus or the Twin, whom many of us would know from the Gospels, as the doubting disciple, who did not believe and indeed refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.

St. Thomas had always been a doubtful disciple, even before the suffering and death of Jesus. When at one moment Jesus mentioned that He ought to go back to Judea despite opposition and plotting by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, St. Thomas commented that they ought to go forth and follow Him, so they could die together with Him. He made such a comment because of his lack of faith, and the doubt in his heart.

And similarly therefore, he refused to believe when the other disciples told him about the resurrection of Christ from the dead, when he was not there while Christ appeared to them the first time after His resurrection. It was indeed noteworthy what he said in that occasion, that unless he saw with his own eyes and touched with his own hands and fingers the very wounds on the Body of Christ, then he would not believe.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters? It is part of our human nature as well, to demand tangible and real explanation for phenomena and things that we do not understand. We want to touch it first, feel it first, and be able to experience it first with our senses, and then only then we believe in something, and even so, we are still often filled with doubt and uncertainty.

And that comes to the problem which our world is facing today, as more and more people refused to believe in the Lord, because they thought that He does not exist, and that He is not real, just because they were unable to see Him, or touch Him, or interact with Him directly, in a way that we normally interact between one another. So, some of us think that God does not exist, and therefore drift away from His path towards salvation and into the uncertainties of the world.

This is our vulnerability, trying to reason and find proof of the existence of God, without realising that God has always been present with us, and indeed, without Him, there would not have been life in us. If we truly know love, and if we truly have love in us, then we would have known God being present in and around us. For God Himself is love. And the manifestation of that love is none other than by the sending of His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour.

Jesus came into the world, manifesting the love of God which He had given us. And even at that time, those who saw His miracles and works refused adamantly to believe in Him, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who have seen so many of His works and yet continued to oppose Him. Better was the faith of St. Thomas, who at least believed when Jesus finally appeared to him and showed him the truth about Himself and His resurrection.

And as Jesus had told His disciples, indeed, we are all truly blessed, for we have believe in Him, even though we have not seen Him, heard Him or touched Him. We believe in Him, because deep inside, we know that, we live by His grace and love, and His tender love and care is always around us, surrounding us and is with us, and to all those who are faithful to Him, He will bless and give all His promised salvation and entry into the eternal life in bliss prepared for us.

Let us all learn from the examples of St. Thomas the Apostle and the many other faithful disciples of our Lord, who remained true to Him despite all the difficulties and challenges. May this be our destination in life, the goal we ought to look out for. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 3 July 2015 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 24-29

At that time, Thomas the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were inside again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not be an unbeliever! Believe!”

Thomas then said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”