Wednesday, 31 January 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we listened to the Scripture passage relating to us about what happened to David, the king of Israel in his later years, after God has granted him rest from the troubles and challenges in the early years of his rule as king. David then asked Joab, his commander of the army, to conduct a great survey of the whole realm, and count the numbers of his people.

We might not understand what was the problem with this request done by David, but if we are to think about it more carefully, what David has done is a natural reaction by many of us mankind, because of our human greed and prideful nature. By asking such a command to be done, David fell into sin as he became enamoured by the power and influence he commanded at the time, as his kingdom grew in might, wealth and power.

When he wanted to count the number of his subjects, it is not different from us, when we have gained a lot of money or earned something substantial, and we want to count them all. That is because when we have them, we desire for even more, and as we count what we possess, be it in terms of money or in terms of other material goods, we actually feel, deep in our hearts, a sense of pride and arrogance because we think that it was by our own power and ability that we have achieved all that we gained.

God was angry at David because of that short, momentary occurrence of pride and arrogance. He has allowed himself to be swayed by that pride and the temptation of the flesh, as those were what had led many people into their downfall, into committing sins against God. Thus, God reminded David of his errors and corrected him by means of admonition and just punishment.

And David’s reaction was truly admirable, as he humbled himself before God and admitted all the wrongs which he had done. He accepted the just punishments that God had meted out against him and against his kingdom. He recognised that he was a sinner and that he had gone astray in his path, and resolved to return to the right path. Such was the behaviour which God loved in David, His servant, and He continued to bless him henceforth.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard about the Lord Jesus Who went to His hometown, likely the village of Nazareth, where He performed miracles and taught among them in the synagogue, and yet, He was not well accepted by them. The people quickly grumbled and spoke among themselves, questioning His credibility and doubting all that He had done and performed among them.

They used their human prejudices and judgments to look upon the Lord and His actions. As such, they doubted Him simply because He was the Son of a mere carpenter, a person whose job was not well respected at the time, and considered to be uneducated, poor and generally as people who were looked down upon at that time. That is why they had that preformed judgment in their minds, and they therefore stubbornly closed their hearts and minds to the Lord.

What they have done is not different from what king David had once done. If king David was proud of his own achievements and greatness, the vastness and glory of his kingdom, then the people of Nazareth doubled down on their pride and trust in their own human judgments rather than allowing the Lord to speak to them through His actions. And they refused to listen to Him, and hardened their hearts against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, essentially, what we have heard in today’s readings are reminders for us that each and every one of us will always and indeed, have always faced temptations, challenges and difficulties in our lives. In various ways, we have been burdened by those difficult moments and obstacles, and we may have fallen many times into the temptation to sin. However, we have to persevere and resist through those temptations and overcome those challenges we face along the way.

As Christians, all of us are called to live righteously, filled with courage and dedication, that we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and spend our energy and time doing what the Lord had commanded us to do, what He has shown us and taught us. And perhaps, we should follow an exemplary role model, whose life has been shaped by the Lord, and whose devotion to Him can be good examples for us to follow.

St. John Bosco was the founder of the religious order now known as the Salesians of St. John Bosco or the Salesians, one of the largest religious orders in the world today. Members of the religious order dedicate themselves to follow in the footsteps of St. John Bosco in his missionary outreach and efforts, as well as in his dedicated service to the people of God, particularly to the youths, to the underprivileged and to the weak among the people.

St. John Bosco was an Italian priest renowned for his efforts in educating the youths and the homeless in his community, establishing schools and dormitories for young boys who were homeless and without occupation, getting them to be educated and bringing them up in the right way, giving them the opportunity to be good and contributing members of the community.

St. John Bosco wanted to do more, and he wanted to embark on missionary works to evangelise the faith among the people, and therefore, he established with several others who were inspired by St. John Bosco, in a new religious congregations which eventually became the Salesians we know of today. Through the good examples set by St. John Bosco, which was followed by many of those who have dedicated themselves to God in the same manner, many have been saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way as St. John Bosco has committed himself. Let us all turn towards the Lord, and rededicate ourselves completely to Him, just as king David turned away from his folly and admitted his mistakes before God. Let us all be true Christians, filled not with pride and arrogance, or with the greed of our human desires, but instead be filled with love, care and compassion, especially for our brethren, those who have less and are not as fortunate as us to have a good and comfortable life.

May the Lord strengthen each one of us, that we may live in accordance with His ways, and devote ourselves ever more strongly and genuinely to Him. St. John Bosco, pray for us all, that each and every one of us may be strengthened to live our lives with faith as you have done with your own. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 6 : 1-6

At that time, leaving the place where He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Jesus returned to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard Him were astonished.

But they said, “How did this come to Him? What kind of wisdom has been given to Him, that He also performs such miracles? Who is He but the Carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the Brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offence at Him.

And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And He could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying His hands on them. Jesus Himself was astounded at their unbelief. Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.”

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 6, 7

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

So let the faithful ones pray to You in time of distress; the overflowing waters will not reach them.

You are my Refuge; You protect me from distress and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 24 : 2, 9-17

The king said to Joab and the commanders of the army who were with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and count the people that I may know how many they are.”

Joab gave the total count of the people to the king : eight hundred thousand warriors in Israel and five hundred thousand men in Judah. But after he had the people counted, David felt remorse and said to YHVH, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done, but now, o YHVH, I ask You to forgive my sin for I have acted foolishly.”

The following day, before David awoke, YHVH’s word had come to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, “Go, and give David this message : I offer you three things and I will let one of them befall you according to your own choice.”

So Gad went to David and asked him, “Do you want three years of famine in your land? Or do you want to be pursued for three months by your foes while you flee from them? Or do you want three days’ pestilence in your land? Now, think and decide what answer I shall give Him Who sent me.”

David answered Gad, “I am greatly troubled. Let me fall into the hands of YHVH Whose mercy is abundant; but let me not fall into human hands.” So YHVH sent a pestilence on Israel from morning until the appointed time, causing the death of seventy thousand men from Dan to Beersheba. When the Angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, YHVH would punish no more and said to the Angel who was causing destruction among the people, “It is enough, hold back your hand.”

The Angel of YHVH was already at the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. When David saw the Angel striking the people, he spoke to YHVH and said, “I have sinned and acted wickedly, but these are only the sheep; what have they done? Let Your hand strike me and my father’s family.”

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Scriptures from the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, of how the Pharisees, the chief priests and the elders of the people argued on how they should deal with the Apostles and their work in spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ the Messiah and Lord. They wanted to persecute them and silence them, and many of them wanted in fact to put them to death.

But the respected elder, Gamaliel spoke up in their midst, calling them to restrain themselves and let God decide what is right and wrong. He mentioned how the previous false prophets and Messiahs, who had declared themselves as the chosen ones, failed in whatever they had done. Their movement and efforts disappeared as soon as they perished or were defeated in their rebellions against the Romans and the authorities.

Gamaliel told all those who were assembled, that if the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles came from man as previous false prophets had done, then they would meet downfall on their own accord, but if the truth of Christ came indeed from God, then nothing that they do would be able to stop or hinder the progress of the good works God had begun in this world.

The wise Gamaliel had indeed spoken with wisdom, and understanding that what comes from God, indeed belongs to God, and what God has planned for us mankind, He shall do without fail. If we go against God, we shall fail. But if we remain true and faithful to His will, then He will do all that He can to make sure that we go forward in life, and through to the salvation which He had promised us all.

And in the Gospel today, we all heard about the famous event when Jesus fed a multitudes of five thousand men, not counting women and children who were also fed, with merely just five loaves of bread and two fishes, which Jesus miraculously broke into pieces enough to feed all the people who were gathered there. Many subsequently wanted to follow Him and liked to make Him as a King over them, after witnessing what He had done for them. But Jesus withdrew and hid Himself to avoid being forced into such a fate.

In this account of the feeding of the five thousand men and more, we saw how the Lord provided for His people, giving them food when they were hungry and had nothing to sustain themselves with. He loved each and every one of them, and showed them His compassion and love. He gave them all food to fill their stomachs, so that the people who were once hungry then became satisfied.

Yet, that was not all that the Lord had done, for He did not just give them food to eat. He had done that before, at the time when the Israelites went out of Egypt and travelled through the desert for forty years. He fed them with manna, the bread from heaven itself, sustaining them for all of those times. But, He did not just give physical and earthly food to the people, rather, He gave them true satisfaction and sustenance.

How so? It is by the giving of Himself, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, which gave us all sustenance, and true fulfilment. Jesus Himself mentioned that, unless we eat of His Body and drink of His Blood, we shall have no part in Him, and we shall be excluded from the promise of salvation and eternal glory, which He had promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

And all those who have faithfully shared in the gift of His own Body and Blood, shall never perish, for the Lord Himself has become our anchor, and He has become our support and strength. That was just as what Gamaliel mentioned to the gathering of the chief priests and elders. Those who put their trust in the world shall perish, but all those who place their trust in the Lord shall prosper and not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are many people who have preceded us and have lived their lives in accordance to the will of God, even sometimes having to endure bitter persecutions. For example, St. Peter Chanel, the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today, was a devout priest and missionary who went to the region of Oceania to preach the Good News of the Lord there.

He endured bitter persecution by the king and his followers who resisted the effort to convert them to the faith. He was martyred in the midst of his evangelising work, but not before gaining many converts to the faith. Even eventually those who murdered him were converted as well and atoned for their sins. This was among many other examples of just how the Lord was always with His faithful ones and provided for them when they are in need.

St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was another saint whose feast we are celebrating today. He was the founder of the Montfortian congregation, who was renowned for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. He was a very hardworking person, committing his whole life to the service of God and the Gospels. 

He also placed his trust in the Lord and did his best to serve Him, and many good deeds and results had come about because of his devotion. Many were inspired by his actions to follow the Lord more faithfully, and many of them had a conversion of the heart. After we listen to the examples of these two saints of God and also that of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, should we not do the same too, brothers and sisters in Christ?

May the Lord help us to remain strong in our faith in Him, so that in everything and at all times, we will always be ever faithful to Him, and that we can give our complete and full trust to Him, our Lord, God and Saviour. May the Lord bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!