Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 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, today we heard the message from the Sacred Scriptures in which we are again reminded to abandon sin and evil, to turn away from the path of disobedience and instead embrace God’s path. We heard how our predecessors had refused to listen to the Lord and His messengers, the prophets, and instead succumbed to temptation that led them to sin more and more against God.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophet Jeremiah, continuing from the narrative of the previous few days, as he was accused of fear-mongering and even treason for his words, which was in truth the words of the Lord Himself warning that unless the people all changed their way of life, reject sin and evil, be reconciled with God, they would suffer the consequences, which included the destruction of their nation and city, the desecration of the Temple and House of God.

But the people accused him of slandering and treason against the king, nation and the people and refused to listen to the words of the Lord. Yet, as we heard in today’s first readings, just as Jeremiah left himself and his fate at the hands of those who were up against him, speaking that he had spoken whatever the Lord had commanded him to say and presented his case to them, there were still some of those who took Jeremiah’s side and protected him from harm’s way.

Although this saved Jeremiah from death, but in the end, this did not change the fate of the kingdom of Judah and the people, who were crushed by the Babylonians, had their city and Temple destroyed, and most of them sent to decades of exile in Mesopotamia and Babylon. And the words of Jeremiah was therefore proven to be correct, and it was unfortunate that the people had been stubborn and allowed themselves to be affected by their ego and pride in refusing to believe him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard about the story of king Herod of Galilee, who was admonished by St. John the Baptist for his wicked and adulterous behaviour with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, while his brother was likely still alive. This immoral action constituted adultery and grave sin, and as a king and ruler of the people, all the more it was unbecoming for the king to have committed such a sin.

Instead of listening to the words of wisdom and truth from St. John the Baptist, reflecting and correcting his way, king Herod chose to arrest and imprison the man of God, and later on, by the plotting of Herodias who despised the saint for his opposition to her adultery, Herod ended up being forced to execute St. John the Baptist by beheading, and therefore, the innocent blood of the saint stained his hands and those who have plotted against him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore all of us are reminded that we need to look at our lives and how we have acted thus far. Have we been following God and His ways, listening to Him and obeying His precepts and laws? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the temptations of power and glory, of pride and greed, of material wealth and worldly matters? Have we been blinded by our obsession with all these things that we have lost our way like the people of Israel of old and also king Herod?

That is why today, as we reflect on these matters, we should also look up at the examples shown by our saint whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known better as the Redemptorists, was a truly holy man and a role model that we can emulate in our own lives. St. Alphonsus Liguori was remembered for his great piety and dedication to serve the people of God.

At that time, St. Alphonsus Liguori dedicated much of his time serving the poor and the needy in his community, as a priest caring for the spiritual needs of the people, being engaged and in touch with their plight and troubles. He was notable for his simple and yet effective homilies, his courageous and loving outreach to those under his care and the people in his community. St. Alphonsus encouraged the people to spend more quality time with God, caring for their spiritual needs and organising prayers and activities to support that. Many people converted and became more active again in living their faith through his efforts.

And eventually St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists as a religious order, gathering people with like-minded intention to follow his drive to seek the lost souls and all those who have been distanced away from God. The emphasis on the loving Most Holy Redeemer, the call for repentance and conversion is the cornerstone of the Redemptorist order charism and work. Over the many years, St. Alphonsus Liguori, his followers and many other Redemptorists touched countless people that they brought back from the brink of damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, to devote our time and effort to serve the Lord and to inspire more and more people to be faithful to God in all of their ways. The Lord has given us all His love and He has always been patient with us all these while, but we are the ones who have often ignored Him and rejected His efforts in reaching out to us.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus Liguori, opening our hearts and minds and allowing God to lead us that through our lives, sanctified and blessed by His love, we may be inspiration for others just as how St. Alphonsus Liguori inspired many people to turn back to faith instead of being stubborn like that of the Israelites and king Herod. May the Lord bless us all in our every endeavours and good work, now and always. And may St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 15-16, 30-31, 33-34

Rescue me, lest I sink in the mire; deliver me from the storm and the deep waters. Let not the flood engulf me, nor the deep suck me in, let not the pit close its mouth upon me.

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 11-16, 24

Then the priests and the prophets said to the leaders of the people : “This man must die for he has spoken against the city as you have heard with your own ears!”

Jeremiah replied, “I have been sent by YHVH to prophesy against this House and this city all that you have heard. Hence, reform your ways and your deeds and obey YHVH your God that He may change His mind and not bring upon you the destruction He had intended.”

“As for me I am in your hands; do with me whatever you consider just and right. But know that I am innocent; and if you take my life you commit a crime that is a curse on yourselves, on the city and the people. In truth it was YHVH Who sent me to say all that I said in your hearing.”

Then the leaders, backed by the people, said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve death; he spoke to us in the Name of YHVH.” As for Jeremiah, he was befriended by Ahikam, son of Shaphan, and was not handed over to those who wanted him put to death.

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.”