Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about seeking the true treasures of our life. Are we able to discover this true treasure or are we going to be distracted by the other false treasures of this world that do not lead to true happiness and joy? That is what the Scripture passages today hope to remind us all as Christians in how we live our lives in this world today.

In our first reading passage taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, the Apostle recounted the many difficulties and challenges that he had had to experience throughout his missionary journeys to the many places and cities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region. He had to endure the rejection from many people, the suffering of imprisonment and torture, almost losing his life on several occasions and others.

And given a choice, he could have a very different life altogether. For the context, St. Paul himself is of a privileged background at a time when people throughout the Roman Empire were classified into many different social status and groupings, from the lowest of all, the slaves, all the way to the wealthiest and the most privileged among the Roman citizens. St. Paul was not just a highly educated and intelligent person, but he was also a Roman citizen, a rare feat accomplished by one of the Jewish people at that time.

In his early life, as a member of the Pharisees, he had wielded great influence and power as a young zealot going about hunting the early Christians and persecuting all those who believed in the Lord Jesus, and he could have enjoyed such a prestigious life, respected and honoured by the people around him, and enjoying the support and respect of those who were in power at that time to have a good and enjoyable life then.

He could have avoided all the sufferings, pains and difficulties that he had mentioned and instead enjoyed all the good things that the world had to offer, in wealth, in fame, in human glory and praise, in prestige and power, all sorts of things that we mankind often seek in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction in this world. But this was not the path that St. Paul chose to take.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure that is far more precious and far better than those treasures of the world. For none of the treasures mentioned earlier could last forever, and they were illusory and temporary in nature at best. None of the wealth, fame, glory and praise can bring us true and everlasting happiness, and in fact, if we look throughout our history, we can see so many occasions when all these things brought more sorrow than joy.

Why is that so? That is because we mankind are hard to satisfy, and we are often never satisfied by whatever we already have. We crave for even more of those things we desire, and when our desires collide with that of another, we can cause suffering, pain and unhappiness to others, all because we want to satisfy our own selfish desires for pleasure, joy and happiness in this world.

St. Paul instead sought the true treasure of his life, that is the Lord Himself, the One Who alone can give us true happiness in life. For it is in the Lord alone that we can be made whole again, in our whole existence, the One Who will reward us with true treasures of joy and happiness by our faith in Him. And this promise of true and everlasting joy, of total freedom from the suffering caused by our sins, is what had empowered St. Paul to endure through all the difficult challenges and sufferings he had to endure for so many years.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of another saint, whose life can also be an inspiration and example for us to follow, in how he has dedicated himself to the Lord, in seeking Him as the treasure of his life. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into the noble Italian Gonzaga family and therefore was rightfully going to inherit his family’s position and fortune, title and power, only for him to shun them all by choosing the path of commitment and dedication to God.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s family tried to dissuade him from his chosen path, trying to persuade him to take a better path, or at least a path that would preserve his status and privileges as a noble. However, none of these could dissuade St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who remained firm in his decision to dedicate himself completely to God as a Jesuit. And in the midst of that pursuit, he died as a dedicated and holy servant of God due to a serious epidemic at that time.

The courage and bravery of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in rejecting the privileges and norms of his time for the sake of glorifying God is something that each and every one of us as Christians should be inspired by, in how we ourselves can live our lives faithfully, dedicating ourselves each and every day with ever more commitment and faith from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us in our journey, that we too may have the courage of the saints, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Aloysius Gonzaga amongst many others. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 6 : 19-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not store up treasures for yourself here, on earth, where moth and rust destroy it; and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it.

For where your treasures are, there, also, will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

Friday, 21 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Corinthians 11 : 18, 21b-30

As some people boast of human advantages, I will do the same. But if others are so bold, I shall also dare, although I may speak like a fool. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I begin to talk like a madman) I am better than they.

Better than they, with my numerous labours. Better than they, with the time spent in prison. The beatings I received are beyond comparison. How many times have I found myself in danger of death! Five times, the Jews sentenced me to thirty-nine lashes. Three times, I was beaten with a rod. Once I was stoned. Three times, I was shipwrecked; and once, I spent a night and a day, adrift on the high seas.

I have been continually in hazards of travelling; because of rivers, because of bandits, because of my fellow Jews, or because of the pagans; in danger, in the city, in the open country, at sea; in danger from false brothers. I have worked, and often laboured without sleep, I have been hungry and thirsty and starving, cold, and without shelter. Besides these, and other things, there was my daily concern for all the churches. Who is weak, that I do not feel weak as well? Whoever stumbles, am I not on hot bricks?

If it is necessary to boast, let me proclaim the occasions on which I was found weak.

Thursday, 20 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Holy and Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, a great day and occasion dedicated to one of the most important central tenets of our Christian faith, in our belief and firm conviction that God Himself has given us His own Precious Body and His own Precious Blood to be partaken.

We believe that in the celebration of the Holy Mass, or more appropriately, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest minister as the representation of Christ Himself, acting in persona Christi, unites the offerings of the bread and wine made at the Offertory with the offerings that Christ Himself had made to His heavenly Father as our one and true Eternal High Priest from the Altar of His Cross at Calvary.

The bread and wine themselves have been completely and fundamentally transformed into the essence and material of the Lord’s Body and Blood Himself, in what is known as the Transubstantiation. Therefore, while the bread and the wine themselves still appear to be the appearance and texture of bread and wine, but the moment they are consecrated by the priest they become completely and truly the matter and the essence of the Lord’s own Body and Blood.

There are those who doubted the veracity and truth behind this seemingly mysterious and otherworldly transformation, as by our eyes and senses, by the appearance and by the taste and texture, the bread and wine seemingly remain unchanged as they were. However, this is where our faith is essential and necessary, because we truly believe that each and every one of our priests, moulded and ordained in the same order of priesthood as Christ is, and representing Christ Himself, has truly been given the power and authority to turn the bread and wine into Our Lord’s Body and Blood.

The Lord Himself made it clear in one occasion as He taught the people about Himself as the Bread of Life, the Living Bread Who has come down from heaven to the midst of His people, to give them the true Bread by which all of those who partake in this Bread will never hunger again and will have a share in the eternal life promised to all those who have received this Bread worthily and with faith.

He was not just mentioning this Bread of Life randomly at that occasion without reason. In fact, He was referring to His very own Flesh and Body, His own Blood as He made that teaching to the people. The Lord speaks only the truth, and therefore, how can the Lord bluff or lie to the people about His own Body when He spoke of it then? He spoke of His own Body as real Food, to be partaken by His people, His faithful ones.

And in today’s Gospel passage, we heard yet another occasion in the Gospel, when the Lord miraculously provided for the need of His people, in feeding the five thousand men and countless other women and children when they were hungry and without food, giving them bread and fishes to eat, out of merely five loaves of bread and two fishes that were available. This occasion was in fact a prefigurement and premonition of what was to come in the Sacrifice of the Cross, though the people then did not know it as yet.

As the Lord offered the bread and the fishes and giving thanks to His heavenly Father, He was representing His own upcoming sacrifice, in which He offered Himself instead as the perfect offering for the oblation and atonement of all of our sins. In the olden days, lambs and other animals were used in sacrifices according to the Jewish laws and customs to be the sin offerings to atone temporarily for one’s sins.

And in the time of the Passover, if we remember, the people chose a young, unblemished lamb to be slaughtered and as a sign of God’s providence and salvation, with the blood of the lamb being smeared and placed on the doorposts of the houses of the people of Israel, as sign for God’s Angels to ‘pass over’ them as they scourged the whole land of Egypt for the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.

Therefore, at the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, we mark our new Christian Passover, in which a new Covenant had been made by God to be binding between Him and all of us. He offered not the imperfect offerings of lambs and animals of this world, but His own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, as He was ‘slaughtered’ on the Cross for the crimes that His enemies had charged on Him.

He laid down Himself and offered His Body and Blood as the perfect sacrifice and offering before God, on the Cross which is His Altar. He is our Paschal Lamb by Whose Blood we have been marked as those who are faithful and worthy to be saved from eternal damnation and destruction because of our sins. By His Most Precious Blood, if we refer to the Book of the Revelations of St. John, the holy martyrs have been washed and made clean in their own outpouring of their blood, and thus, we too are made clean by His Blood.

The Lord Himself has given His all for our sake, laying down His own life and giving His own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood for us all to partake, in that same Sacrifice at Calvary, to which each and every celebrations of our Holy Mass are united to, not as separate and different sacrifices as some would have misunderstood it, thinking that the Lord is being sacrificed and offered again and again, but in fact, the truth is every time the Eucharist is celebrated, it is the same Sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary again.

And this is what we truly believe, that God Himself has truly become present in our midst, in the form of His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and therefore, He is truly and really present in that Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we receive and partake, a Holy Communion that each and every one of us members of the Church share with one another, and that is why we become the part of the Church, the Body of Christ.

If God Himself has come into our midst and entered into our bodies as we receive Him, then it is of the utmost importance that we understand what this means for us, and how we live our lives from now on, or else we scandalise our own faith and God by our unworthiness and by our own actions that are against His ways. What do I mean by this? I mean that if we believe that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist then we will do our very best to make sure that we are properly prepared and worthy to receive Him.

Of course this must be understood also in the context that the Lord also seeks to gather all those who have been lost to Him, in extending His mercy and forgiveness to those who have sinned, and the Eucharist is one way that this reconciliation has been made in full. Yet, if one is to receive the Eucharist, the Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord in a state of continuing sin, then it is also a scandal to our faith.

We have to be properly predisposed and be prepared to receive Him into ourselves. And we do not have to look far but see how in the liturgical celebrations, we do our very best in everything, to make use of the finest and greatest materials to contain the most Precious matter of God’s Body and Blood, using only precious and incorruptible materials such as gold and silver for the chalices and ciborium used to contain the Sacred Host and Blood of the Lord.

And the Tabernacle housing the Lord’s Presence in that same Eucharist is also made using the finest materials, in a way comparable to that of the Temple of God in Jerusalem at the time of Solomon, where everything that is finest and good were used to adorn the whole Temple, with the Ark of the Covenant being the most precious of all, made using gold and finest materials, and so holy that no one was allowed to touch it.

Then, we know of an even better Tabernacle, the one who had contained the Lord Himself for nine months in her womb, and she is none other than Mary, Our Lord’s own Mother, who had borne our Lord and Saviour in her, and for this very purpose, the Lord made her, as the finest Tabernacle, not crafted by human hands unlike our chalices, ciborium, Tabernacles or the Temple of God in Jerusalem, but the perfect and unblemished human being, not tainted by the corruption of original sin, Mary, conceived and born without sin.

God did so much to prepare His own Mother to bear His holy and most sacred Presence in her, to show that when God is truly present in our midst, there can be nothing less than doing our best just as He has done His best, to bear His Presence, for nothing evil and wicked can truly exist in His Presence and survive. In the same way therefore, do we realise that when we receive the Lord into ourselves through the Eucharist, we too have become the Tabernacles and Temples of God’s own Presence?

St. Paul spoke of this, how by receiving the Lord into ourselves we have made ourselves into Living Temples, the Temples of His Presence and the Temples of the Holy Spirit. And if we sully the sanctity of this Holy Temple, that is our body, heart, mind and soul with the corruption of sin, it is indeed a great sin and wickedness we have committed against God Himself. That is why, as Christians, we are called to be worthy and to be ready to welcome the Lord’s Holy Presence into ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where and when we are called to recommit ourselves in our faith, to live in accordance with our faith again if we have fallen away and went astray from the true faith. We are called to turn towards God, Who is ever loving and merciful towards us. We only need to ask, and He will forgive us our sins, and that is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for, readily available through our priests.

Let us all from now on truly show it in our lives, in our every actions, in how we consciously and actively participate in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in how we reverently receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, to show everyone that truly, the bread and wine which we brought to Him in offering, has become nothing less than God’s own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, which He offers to us generously for the sake of our salvation.

May the Lord, Who is ever present in us, and Who is our Bread of Life continue to be with us, and guide us in our journey of life, so that each and every one of us who have worthily received Him into ourselves, may be transformed by His Presence into beings truly worthy to be called God’s own beloved people and God’s own beloved children. May God be with each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 20 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 11b-17

At that time, Jesus welcomed the people of Bethsaida, and began speaking about the kingdom of God, curing those who needed healing. The day was drawing to a close, and the Twelve drew near to tell Him, “Send the crowd away, and let them go into the villages and farms around, to find lodging and food, for we are here in a lonely place.”

But Jesus replied, “You yourselves, give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves and two fish. Do You want us to go and buy food for all this crowd?” for there were about five thousand men. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.”

So they made all of them sit down. Jesus then took the five loaves and two fish, and, raising His eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them; He broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. They ate and everyone had enough; and when they gathered up what was left, twelve baskets were filled with broken pieces.

Thursday, 20 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.