Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the establishment of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as prescribed by the Law of God and instructed by God Himself. The Holy Tent of Meeting was the precursor of the Temple of God, which was the centre of the entire community of the faithful, where the Altar of God was placed at, and where the whole community revolved around.

The Lord was with His people at all times, gathering them all together, guiding them along the entire journey in the form of the great pillar of cloud at daytime and as a great pillar of fire at night. He was the focal point of the entire journey, and Moses acted as the mediator between God and His people, as he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with God and to deliver His will and revelations to the people of Israel.

This Holy Tent of Meeting and the community of the people of Israel, if we also then recall what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, on the parable of the kingdom of God represented as a great fishing net gathering many fishes of various kinds, are in fact representations and prefigurements of how our Church today looks like. For the Church of God is just like Israel of old, the community of the entire faithful people of God.

Just as the entire community of Israel was gathered around the Holy Tent and were included within the boundary of the entire camp, thus the whole Church of God is centred and focused on the Holy Presence of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is truly present in our midst in His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, as the tangible focus of our whole lives, the very centre of our Christian faith.

There is also parallel to what happened in the old times of Israel and our Church today, as while in those days, people who were deemed to be unclean were cast out of the camp into the wilderness until they were able to prove themselves to be clean before they were allowed to join the camp once again, in the Church, we also have what is called excommunication, when this most severe of penalties is reserved for those who have acted in a most unfaithful way, with the intention of helping the person to reflect on his or her errors and repent from his or her sins.

The significance of what we have heard in today’s readings cannot be understated, as the Gospel parable also reminds us that those who are wicked and unjust, unfaithful and evil shall have no part in God’s kingdom and inheritance. They will be rejected and cast out forever just as they have willingly and consciously rejected God and refused to follow His laws and commandments.

Do we want to be included or counted among those who will be condemned to eternal damnation? Or do we rather stay on the Lord’s good side? The choice is completely in our hands, and indeed we have been given many opportunities to make our conscious choice. God has given us the free will to choose between good and evil, between obedience to God and disobedience against Him, between righteousness and wickedness.

Today, all of us celebrate together the feast of the Founder of the Redemptorist religious order, or the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Alphonsus Liguori is a great figure filled with faith, sincerity and devotion to God, who can be a great example to each and every one of us in how we ought to live out our lives with faith, and not just any faith, but a living and genuine faith in God.

St. Alphonsus Liguori was once a great lawyer, but after having spent quite a few years in that profession, he found his true calling in serving God and chose to abandon his former life and embraced the call to priesthood and service. And as a priest, he reached out to the poor and the marginalised in the society, gathering all of them and managed to gain many people to return to the faith.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, his dedication and hardwork, his dedication to the Lord and to the people, his efforts to bring the lost souls and sheep of the Lord are things that can inspire us all to live ever more faithfully as true Christians from now on. Are we able to follow in his footsteps in being good examples of faith for one another? All of us have been given the same mission from the Lord, that is to gather His people, our fellow brethren, in the Church that He has established in this world.

Let us all together as one people, one community of the faithful people of God, one Church, serve the Lord with all of our hearts and believe in Him wholeheartedly from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us all throughout this journey of life. May St. Alphonsus Liguori also intercede for us all sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 47-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.”

Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So He said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”

When Jesus had finished these parables, He left that place.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11

My soul yearns; pines, for the courts of YHVH. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o YHVH of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy, the pilgrims whom You strengthen, they go from strength to strength.

One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be left at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 40 : 16-21, 34-38

Moses did this; he did exactly as YHVH had commanded him. The Holy Tent was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. Moses set up the Holy Tent. He fixed the bases for it, put up its frames, put its crossbars in position, set up its posts. He spread the tent over the Holy Tent and on top of this the covering for the Tent, as YHVH had commanded Moses.

He took the Covenant and placed it inside the Ark. He set the poles to the Ark in place and put the mercy seat on it. He brought the Ark into the Holy Tent and put the screening veil in place; thus he screened the Ark of YHVH, as YHVH had commanded Moses.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the Glory of YHVH filled the Holy Tent. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the Glory of YHVH that filled the Holy Tent. At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the Holy Tent, the people of Israel would continue their march. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not move their camp until it did.

For the cloud rested on the Holy Tent by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night for all the house of Israel to see. And so it was for every stage of their journey.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who made his grievances known to the Lord. The context of this passage was that, at that moment, the prophet Jeremiah was assailed by his many enemies, who opposed him and refused to believe in his words. Prophet Jeremiah had difficulties and challenges which he had to endure while he performed his mission among the people.

It was therefore only natural that he would feel so distressed and displeased with his situation at that time. But the Lord reassured him and told Jeremiah that He would always be with him and He will guide him in all of his ways, despite the challenges he might encounter. And He proclaimed to him all the good things that He would do to His people if they turned themselves to Him and repented from all of their sins.

Essentially, He would bless them bountifully once again, and He would love them completely once again without the barrier of disobedience and sin which had caused separation between them and their God. Through this redemption, they would be healed and they would be made whole once again, that while once they were cast away and humiliated because of their disobedience, they would once again become God’s beloved and chosen people.

This was the same promise which God kept on reiterating to His people through the many prophets and messengers that He sent to them. He called them all to embrace the forgiveness that He has given to all of them freely. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast we celebrate today, in God there is plentiful redemption. And it is this belief in God’s great saving grace and the redemption He freely gives us all, that encouraged St. Alphonsus to establish the religious order known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or the Redemptorists.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to the people what the kingdom of God is like. He compared it to a pearl of great value and a rich treasure found hidden in a field. In this parable, the Lord wanted us to know that looking for God’s mercy and love is truly something that we should look up for in life. To be with God and to be reconciled with Him is something that all of us should aspire to.

But the Lord in the same parable also wanted us all to know that, attaining the kingdom of God, that is to be reconciled with Him and to live in His grace is something that does not come easily for us without our commitment and effort. Indeed, God has given us and offered to us His bountiful and infinite mercy, but this mercy will only come into its full and complete fruition in us, if we endeavour to commit ourselves to be forgiven, that is through sincere and complete repentance from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are therefore called to reflect on our own lives, on whether we have allowed God’s mercy and love to enter into our lives. Have we been so preoccupied in life that we end up forgetting what is it that we are living for in this world? We do not live and we indeed should not live for the worldly things that many of us often desires, as those things are temporary and superficial at most.

Instead, we should seek for the true and everlasting treasure that is in God alone. It is God’s love that all of us should be seeking for, as we cannot live and survive without God’s love. God is the giver of our lives and it was because of Him that we exist today. If God withdrew from us His favour, grace and spirit, and by His will, should He have willed our destruction, every single one of us would have perished.

But God has always been loving and merciful to all of us, that even to the greatest sinners who repented and truly regretted having sinned before God, He would give salvation and liberation from their sins if the sinner truly, genuinely and sincerely showed the love which he or she had for God, and the total rejection of sin. It is ultimately our sins and wickedness that God despises and not our own self as human beings. We are, after all, God’s most beloved creations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all strive from now on to look for God’s redemption, by following the examples set by St. Alphonsus Liguori and the many other holy predecessors of our faith. St. Alphonsus Liguori was renowned for his great piety and devotion to the Lord, as well as to the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, who is the best example for us on how to live faithfully in the way of the Lord.

He dedicated his whole life to God, to the service of God’s people and to the poor. He has given his all to bring God’s redemption to all the people, including to the least privileged, the poor and the greatest of sinners in the community. St. Alphonsus’ examples inspired many others, who joined the Redemptorists and became agents of God’s continuing work of mercy and love among His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all do our very best to turn ourselves to God, to make Him the very centre and focus of our lives, remembering that He Himself has loved us first from the very beginning. He has given us so much in life, that it is only right and just that we should love Him with the same intensity and devotion. And let us all also be exemplary in faith and in our lives, so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify God and help more and more people to be inspired to return to the Lord.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us all our lives, giving us the strength and conviction to live our lives for His greater glory, and to bring ourselves ever closer to His merciful heart. St. Alphonsus Liguori, patron and founder of the Redemptorists, pray for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.”

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 58 : 2-3, 4-5a, 10-11, 17, 18

Deliver me from my enemies, o God, from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from evildoers; rescue me from the bloodthirsty.

Look, they lie in wait for my life; the mighty conspiring against me, for no fault of mine, o YHVH. I have done them no wrong; yet, they prepare to attack me.

O my Strength, I look up, to You; for You, o God, are my Fortress. My loving God will come to help me and let me see my enemies fall.

But I will sing of Your might; in the morning I will sing of Your love. For You have been a Fortress to me, a Refuge in time of distress.

O my Strength, I will sing praises to You; for You, o God, are my Stronghold; You are a loving God.