Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us to be faithful to the Lord, in our every day living moments and in all things. We are all called to remember the Lord’s commandments and Law, and the need for all of us as Christians to love God first and foremost, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to everyone without exception.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s commands to His people as recorded in the Book of Leviticus, detailing the celebration of the fiftieth year or the year of the Jubilee, which was marked as a year of celebration and healing, of reconciliation and love, where people forgave their enemies and those who had been indebted to them from their debts. It is a year set aside to remind the people of God that they ought to give thanks to God and at the same time also show care and love for one another.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the martyrdom or the death of St. John the Baptist in prison, at the hands of king Herod, and at the instigation of his wife, Herodias, who held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist as the saint did not hesitate to rebuke and criticise both king Herod and her due to the adultery they had committed by their marriage when Herod’s brother, Philip, the legal husband of Herodias was still alive.

We all know how Herodias tricked Herod through her beautiful daughter, tricking Herod into ordering the execution of faithful servant of God as likely under the influence of alcohol during a party, and overcome by his lust and desire for pleasure and human beauty, he made a commitment before all the assembled guests that he could not deny or retract. Hence, through that act, he had condemned himself to an act of great sin in murdering a faithful servant of God, even if he did not intend for it to happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that it is not easy for us to be faithful as Christians, to live our lives as those who follow the path of the Lord and obey His Law and commandments. Those who have been faithful may encounter the fate of St. John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and killed for his steadfast defence of his faith, and we may be persecuted and face difficulties for all that we have done for the Lord’s sake. Yet, we should not give up just because of the obstacles we may encounter in our journey.

That is why we should follow the examples of our predecessors, one of whom today can show us what it means to be truly devout Christians, in all things, for the greater glory of God. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a faithful servant of God and the famous founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, which is now the largest of all religious orders and congregations. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier and nobleman, who had a life-changing experience and decided to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

Early in his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola sought worldly glory, fame and achievements in life, enrolling as a soldier to get that much sought fame and glory, only to get himself seriously injured during one of the siege battles, where his legs were severely injured in the heat of the battle. During his recuperation period, he had a spiritual encounter with God and a period of discernment, in which he came to realise that the true purpose of his life and true glory came not in the pursuit of worldly glory, fame and ambition.

Instead, from then on, as what would be famously known as his motto and the motto of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola would seek nothing else but the greater glory of God, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. It is with this spirit that St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered like-minded men and sought the Pope’s permission to establish a congregation dedicated to the mission of the Church, to proclaim the greater glory of God in various opportunities, from missionary efforts to involvement in proper Catholic education.

To this end, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his many fellow Jesuits such as St. Peter Canisius and St. Peter Faber were involved deeply in the Counter-Reformation efforts, establishing schools and seminaries, and other faculties involved in the dissemination of the true essence of the Christian faith. Others like St. Francis Xavier and many others involved themselves in missionary work, travelling far all over the world to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and truth, bringing many more people to the Lord. Many Christian communities today could trace their faith to the efforts of those courageous Jesuit missionaries back then.

This year we mark the five hundredth anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, marking the moment when St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind his former dream of worldly glory and fame, and embracing fully the Lord’s calling to seek for His greater glory, through which countless graces and wonderful things had come about, not least through St. Ignatius’ foundation of the Jesuits, as well as his hard works and efforts all throughout his life for the betterment of the Church and the faithful.

Let us all be inspired therefore by his examples and learn to commit ourselves to the Lord ever more wholeheartedly, resisting the temptations of worldly vices and ambitions, and instead, learning to love the Lord ever more and commit ourselves with ever greater conviction and commitment from now on. May the Lord be with us all and continue to guide us and bless us in all of our every endeavours and good works. May God bless our every good efforts and remain with us always, that we will always strive to do our best for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 30 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that we have to seek the Lord and love Him with all of our strength and with all of our capabilities, that we focus our lives and our existence in Him. That is why we heard through the Scriptures those words that remind us of our obligations and calling to be faithful Christians at all times, obeying God’s Law and commandments.

In our first reading today, we heard of the numerous feasts and celebrations as dedicated by the Lord and which He told to His people, the Israelites, through Moses that they ought to keep faithfully and celebrate throughout all the years, on the solemn feasts and celebrations, such as the Day of Atonement, in recalling of one’s faults and shortcomings, and regret for them, the great Feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Passover, remembering the time when the Lord saved His people from their slavery in Egypt, and the Feast of the Pentecost, the Feast of the Tents and many others.

All of these feasts and celebrations were all ultimately meant to celebrate the Lord and remind everyone of all the love that God had given to them, and all that they have been so wonderfully blessed with, in everything that they have received, that they do not forget Who it was that had made everything possible for them. It was a reminder for all of them to be faithful and to focus on the Lord and His truth, to abandon their sinful ways and to atone for their sins when they fell to the temptations to sin, so that in the end, they shall always be God’s people and walk ever always in His path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus was rejected by His own people, by His own townspeople, all those who knew Him and recognised Him in Nazareth, His hometown when He came there to visit and teach in their synagogue. Despite having spoken with authority and delivering the undeniable truth and wisdom of God into their midst, the people of Nazareth hardened their hearts and minds, and refused to believe that such a person, the mere Son of the village carpenter, of a poor village at the very fringe of the Jewish world and community, could be the Messiah and Holy One of God.

That was why they rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him, ridiculed Him and angrily even sent Him away from their midst, in one account wanting to throw Him off the cliff by the village. The Lord was saddened by the refusal of those whom He had known to listen to His words and the truth and love that He has brought into their midst, and all these happened despite the signs and wonders, all the miracles and other great things that He had done and performed among the people all over Galilee, which doubtlessly the people of Nazareth must have also heard.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these that we have heard are reminders for us, that if we allow our own ego and pride, our own false judgments and biases to cloud our thoughts and discernment, we can end up being like those who had rejected the Lord. They could not fathom, or appreciate, or even accept the Lord’s truth and revelation, as they were too deeply ingrained and entrenched in their beliefs and prejudices. And this is what we should not be doing, as we live our lives as Christians, and aspire to do our best to serve the Lord in all things.

Instead, we should look upon the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, one of whom we celebrate his feast today. Today we mark the memory of St. Peter Chrysologus, a great priest, bishop and holy man of God, who dedicated all of his talents and abilities, his efforts for the greater glory of God. St. Peter Chrysologus. He was the Bishop of Ravenna and remembered as Chrysologus, or the ‘Golden Worded’ because of his amazing skills at oratory and homilies.

Not only that he was remembered for his great and personal piety, his holiness and upright life, but St. Peter Chrysologus was remembered for his great efforts in reaching out to more and more people through his many sermons and homilies, his speeches and works, explaining the texts of the Bible and the Church teachings most clearly and concisely, using simple language to clearly explain the faith to the people while opposing the falsehoods of the many heresies that were then troubling the Church and the faithful communities.

Many people came to believe in the Lord and returned to the Holy Mother Church through the efforts of St. Peter Chrysologus, and still many more were inspired by his examples, his faith and dedication, many years, decades and centuries after his passing, even to this very day. We too should be inspired by the examples set by this holy predecessor of ours, in how we ought to do our best, in our own ways, to glorify the Lord by our lives and to proclaim the Lord in wherever we are and to whoever we interact with, at all times.

May the Lord our loving God continue to watch over us and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the courage to walk ever more faithfully in His path. May God be our guide and may He be our Hope in this journey of faith through life, that we will always be focused on Him and centre our lives and existence on Him alone, always. Amen.

Thursday, 29 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate the feast of the three siblings, St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus, who were featured prominently in the Gospels as friends of the Lord, as well as His close followers and disciples. They were mentioned in various parts of the Gospels, as St. Martha and St. Mary were depicted in the Gospel passage today as having welcomed the Lord to their place, and how both of them later on also had a moment with the Lord when their brother, St. Lazarus passed away from sickness before the Lord resurrected him from the dead.

St. Martha was the one who welcomed the Lord to her place and then made herself busy in preparing all the hospitality, the food and all for the special guest that came to her house, while St. Mary waited by the Lord’s side, listening to Him speaking and teaching her while St. Martha was very busy with her chores and works. When St. Martha saw that her sister was not helping her with her work, and complained to the Lord that St. Mary should be asked to help her in the kitchen with her preparations, the Lord kindly told St. Martha that her sister did the right thing, by choosing to stay by His side and listening to Him.

Both St. Martha and St. Mary loved the Lord and were faithful to Him in their own ways, and it does not mean that each one’s method is better than the other. Rather, the Lord wanted to remind us all through that occasion and example, that we must first and foremost focus our attention to the Lord, to His truth and His love, and then we have to do our labours and work of love for the Lord just as St. Martha had done. But we must be careful not to allow the works and labours to distract us and end up making us fall into the desire for satisfaction and inner pride.

Neither should we allow ourselves forget about the Lord just because we want to do things to glorify Him. This was done to much greater harm by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as they were outwardly pious and faithful, and yet, they spent most of their time and actions, focusing on praising themselves and indulging in adulation and fame, enjoying their popularity and praises from others. It is because of this that they had forgotten what it is that they were charged with, as the guardians of the Law and the faith of the people. In the end, they became elitist and exclusionists, refusing to admit others to their elite faith and devotion to a fault.

St. Lazarus on the other side showed us all the virtue of having faith and staying true to the Lord, Who is the Master of all and the Lord of all, of the living and the dead. Through his resurrection from the dead, the Lord showed His might before all, and how beloved each and every one of us have been, all these while, that God would not let death to claim all of us and destroy us. From the beginning, we have been destined to destruction and suffering due to our sins, our disobedience against God, and yet, God rescued all of us, and restored us through His love.

He promised us all His salvation, which came true through Christ, His beloved Son, sent into this world to be with us and to dwell among us. He revealed His truth and love to us, and called us all to return to Him, to be reconciled and reunited with Him. He told St. Martha and St. Mary not to be worried and to have faith in Him, when St. Lazarus was sick and eventually died before He reached him. The Lord told the two sisters that He is indeed the Resurrection and the Life, the Master of all, in Whom all of us can trust, and hold firm in.

The wonderful faith and interactions between St. Lazarus and his sisters, St. Mary and St. Martha, as shown by the latter’s great sorrow at his passing and their unsurpassed joy at his resurrection are great model and inspiration for all of us in our own Christian communities, among all the faithful people of God. And their mutual love for the Lord, their dedication and commitment to His cause are also great inspiration for us to follow, as those who believe in the Lord and who should be inspired by their faith and commitment, their love for God above others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord with a new heart and spirit, strengthened by this love we ought to have for Him, and let us persevere in each and every moments of our lives, that we may glorify Him by our actions and works, and in all things, we may always aspire to the faith showed by St. Martha, St. Mary and St. Lazarus, holy siblings dedicated to the Lord. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are all reminded of the wonderful ‘treasure’ that all of us have received from the Lord, the truth and the blessings we have received from God, and all the graces we have been given. We have been blessed with generous love from the Lord and we should appreciate this and thank Him for all that He had done for us, all these while, seeking Him with all of our might and abilities.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus about the moment when Moses returned to the people after having met the Lord face to face within the Holy of Holies of the Holy Tent of Meeting. Moses went into the Holy Tent periodically to meet with God, to converse with Him and to know what it is that the Lord wanted to tell His people. The Lord spoke to Moses directly, and he saw the Lord in person, in all of His glory. Normally, no one would have been able to see the Lord face to face and live, but God gave Moses the special grace to be able to do so.

In that way, the people of God knew that Moses truly spoke God’s words and truth, as the glory of God was reflected and shown on his face whenever he finished speaking with God. That was how God led His people throughout the journey of the Exodus, keeping them in check throughout the many temptations and disobedient attitudes that they had shown Him. God was always ever patient in seeking His people even though they repeatedly again and again abandoned and betrayed Him. He chastised and punished them with justice, but also showed them compassion and guided them to the right path.

That is why we have to consider ourselves so fortunate that God has taken care of us so wonderfully all these time, and He has always ever patiently sought us and wanted us to be reconciled and reunited to Him, and He wants us to be good and to abandon our sinful ways, and that was why He gave us His Law and commandments, and sent us prophets and messengers, one after another in order to work with us, and to reveal to us God’s will and truth, all the truth about His generous love and mercy.

That is why, He sent us in the end, as He promised, the assurance of salvation through Christ, Our Lord, His own only begotten Son. Through Christ, all of us received the fullness of truth, as He revealed to His disciples and to the Church, through the Holy Spirit, the fullness of God’s truth and salvation, which He has brought into this world. And He taught the people through parables and other stories, which He used to explain this truth to them, including what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today.

The Lord told the people about what the kingdom of God is like, likening it to a pearl of great price and value, as well as to a great treasure that lies hidden in a field. The Lord said that just as how one would react upon discovering such a treasure, be it in the sea or on the land, that they would sell everything and leave everything behind and obtain that treasure, therefore it is a reminder to all of us the faithful people of God, that first and foremost, in all things, we have to seek the Lord with all of our strength and might, with all of our efforts and abilities.

The Lord should be the centre and focus of our lives and communities, our actions, activities and interactions. We have to put Him first in all things, and in all that we say and do, we should strive to do His will, in obeying the commandments and the Law which He had clarified and made known to us through the Church. We are all called to follow the Lord with all of our hearts, and today we heard those Scripture readings as reminders for us if we have not done so yet. The Lord has called us a lot of times, but it is often that we have shut ourselves off from Him, all these time.

Let us all therefore learn to trust in the Lord, open ourselves and our hearts and minds to receive the Lord into our midst, speaking with Him and communicating with Him through prayer and silence, just as how Moses once communicated with the Lord. Let us all be thankful of everything God had done for us, in His patience to love us and to forgive us our sins, and His ultimate gift to us in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, that by His suffering and death, He has set us free from the tyranny and bondage to sin and death, and leading us down the path to everlasting life and glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scriptures a reminder for each and every one of us to be truly faithful to God and to be righteous in our way of life and deeds, so that we are truly worthy of being Christians, as God’s chosen and beloved people. We have heard the story of Moses from our first reading today, proclaiming God’s love for His people, and all the obligations and commitment that they all need to make as part of the Covenant which God has lovingly made with them, as they were chosen and affirmed as God’s precious ones. And then we also heard the words of the Lord Jesus explaining the meaning of His parable of the weeds which I will elaborate a bit more later on.

In our first reading, we heard of the moment when Moses before the assembled people of Israel as they gathered before the Lord at the Holy Tent, entered the Tent to meet with God, Whose Presence came to reside within the Holy Tent, and Moses came to see God face to face, a privilege which few would ever have. God came to dwell among His people and Moses came to be the one to bear God’s will and commandments, words and advice to His people, a people who have often been wayward and disobedient, who preferred to follow their own paths rather than to follow the Lord and His Law.

We heard Moses then supplicating on behalf of the entire people, proclaiming the regret the people had for their sins, and sought God to be merciful and to forgive the people all of their sinful and wayward actions, which had angered Him and made them to be punished for their intransigence. The whole people were with Moses and worshipped the Lord, all bowing down themselves before Him, after what they had done in past events, as earlier in the week we have heard how the Israelites betrayed the Lord for the golden calf idol, abandoned His Covenant and walked in the path of sin. It was not just once that they did this, but many times, repeatedly over the years, again and again.

Yet, throughout all of that, God was most patient in His love and mercy for His people, as while He did admonish them and punish them to keep them in check and to remind them of what they ought to be doing as God’s chosen ones, He sent them numerous prophets and messengers to guide them and lead them down the right path, prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos among many others. That God was so patient in dealing with His people and leading them to Him despite their rebellious and wayward attitude revealed just how beloved and fortunate all of us have been.

That is why we have to appreciate our blessings and the opportunities we have been given, all these while. The Lord Himself spoke to His disciples, telling them all the meaning of His parable of the wheat and the weeds, as that parable spoke of an enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat, growing together and cannot be separated until the day of harvest. It is a reminder for us all that we have to persevere and resist the temptations to sin, the pressure to conform to worldly desires and wickedness, the allures of evils and sins all around us.

Those things are the ‘weeds’ that are part of our lives and which often cannot be avoided as we live our lives daily. There will be lots of times when we will feel surrounded and even helpless in the face of all the opposition, temptations and evils, and that we may be discouraged and disheartened, weakened and have that wish to give up the struggle. However, the Lord wanted to reassure us all that He is with us, and He dwells among us, being with us, journeying with us. We are never alone throughout the journey, and just as He had been with the Israelites through thick and thin, through hardships and good times, He is also with us too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord and see in Him a great love and compassion which He has shown to each and every one of us, out of the desire to be reconciled and reunited with us. And therefore, are we all willing to live our lives from now on in a more worthy manner, filled with faith and filled with ever greater love for God? Are we willing to let God guide us and show us the way going forward that we will not end up on the wrong path, and that we may be strengthened and encouraged to keep faithfully the way of the Lord?

Let us all discern these things carefully and consider how we can live our lives in a more Christ-like manner, as genuine and faithful Christians in all things. Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith and with zeal, doing whatever we can, even in our smallest ways, to do the will of God and to be exemplary as best as we can in each and every moments of our lives and be inspiration to one another to remain truly faithful to God. May the Lord be with us all and may He give us the strength and courage to remain faithful at all times. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 26 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that all of us have to keep our faith in the Lord and to obey His Law and follow Him. We have to be faithful to the Lord and not to give in to the temptations to follow false idols and gods, as what our predecessors had done. Instead, we have to listen to the Lord, receive His words and truth, and allow our faith to blossom and grow within us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus the account and story of the time when Moses, after having spent a whole forty days on top of Mount Sinai with God, discovered the rebelliousness and wickedness of the Israelites, who abandoned their God for the false idol of the golden calf, giving themselves up to their fears and their desires, doing whatever they wanted to do instead of listening to the Lord and to Moses, the servant of God, whom they thought to have died and abandoned them.

This is because they had little faith in the Lord, even after having witnessed, seen and heard everything that the Lord had done for them, all the wonders and miracles they have received, in the Ten Great Plagues the Lord sent against Egypt and the Egyptians while they were spared and protected from those plagues, and how God liberated them as He led them through the sea and destroyed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent against them.

Later on, the Lord also provided for them all as they journeyed through the desert, giving them bread to eat throughout the journey, the manna from heaven, on every single day with the additional gift of flocks of birds as their food. He also gave them constant supply of water to drink, clear and good quality water through the barren and dry desert without life. All these things the Lord had done for the sake of His people, and yet, they complained, grumbled and disobeyed the Lord, saying how life was better in Egypt and other similar things, showing just how little their faith and love for God were.

God was still so patient with His people even through the disobedience that they had shown. He punished and chastised them for their sins, but still desired them to realise the errors of their ways, and embrace His mercy and compassionate love, that they might be converted to the true faith. He never gave up on them even as they continued to fall again and again into sin, sending prophets and messengers one after the other to the midst of the people with the hope that at least some among them would return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord spoke about the kingdom of God, which He compared in parable to the measure of yeast in flour, and to mustard seed. These comparisons were used since many among the people would understand better using the terms and examples that they often used in their daily lives and professions. Using those explanations, the Lord wanted His people to realise what they all need to do to be His faithful disciples and followers.

Those parables revealed to us that as God’s disciples and followers, we have to nurture our faith and our love for the Lord in the most favourable condition possible, that through our actions, our deeds and our interactions, we may come ever closer to the Lord and His grace. For those who do not know, yeast is required for the bread to rise and become properly formed, but it requires strict conditions such as the right temperature and most importantly, the absence of oxygen in the air, and hence, the dough and yeast mixture has to be sealed from outside air in order for the bread to be properly formed.

Similarly, for a mustard seed, such a small seed to grow into a large and sizeable tree, with its rich produce and healthy growth, the seed has to germinate first of all, in the right condition. Otherwise, the seed will not germinate, and will remain dormant in its seed form until the condition is right. And after it has germinated, the young plant has to be nurtured and taken care of, or else, it will perish and die, before it can grow into its full glory and size.

Therefore, all of us who have receive the faith from the Lord and receive His truth have to nurture this faith and the love we ought to have for the Lord, for His Law and commandments. We cannot just give lip service and treat our faith as mere obligation or formality, or else, our faith becomes meaningless and dead. This is why, each and every days and moments of our lives, we shall have the need to dedicate ourselves, our time and effort to the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of the two parents of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, namely St. Joachim and St. Anne, who have nurtured and taken care of Mary since her birth and throughout her youth. While Mary has been prepared specially by the Lord to be Immaculate and pure, worthy to be the vessel of His salvation in Christ, but it was also definitely thanks to the commitment and the dedication which both St. Joachim and St. Anne had given in their role as the guardians and parents of young Mary, that she grew in faith and love for the Lord.

We can be inspired by the faith and dedication which St. Joachim and St. Anne had shown, especially in their role as dutiful and loving parents to the Mother of our Lord and Saviour. We too can show the same love and dedication, in our own way, first of all towards Our Lord and Saviour, and henceforth, towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and even to the strangers and acquaintances we encounter daily in our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all willing to live our lives more devoted to the Lord, and learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, that we will not stumble again like how the Israelites fell into the worship of the golden calf in the past? And are we willing to look upon the good examples of our holy predecessors, like St. Joachim and St. Anne, and the innumerable other saints in how they lived their lives faithfully? Let us all discern this well, and think of how we can be ever more dedicated and committed to the Lord, now and always.

May God be with us all and may He strengthen us with the courage and the commitment to live our lives ever more faithfully in His path, from now on and forevermore. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the most wonderful love of God which He has shown us by sharing with us His blessings and graces, His kindness and providence by the sharing of food and sustenance for His people, as highlighted in our Scripture readings today. The Lord also wants to unite His people through the same breaking and sharing of the bread that is in essence, at the centre of our Christian faith.

In our first reading today we heard the account of the activity of the prophet Elisha from the Book of Kings during his ministry in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Elisha was followed by a large number of people, about a hundred in total, and a man they encountered brought them offering of bread from barley and wheat, about twenty loaves all in all. Those bread were nowhere near enough to sustain the whole multitude of people, and hence, the follower of the prophet asked him how he could get enough food to feed all of them.

The prophet reminded that follower and told him to do what he asked him to do, to give all the offered bread and food to everyone, and that God would provide for His beloved ones and they would not be lacking. True enough, everyone miraculously had enough to eat, and everyone had their fill just as the prophet had said, as God miraculously multiplied the bread for them all, and gave them all the share of bread and food to eat in the midst of their ministry and works.

This is a close parallel to what we know even better in the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of others in the Gospel as we heard earlier today. In that occasion, the Lord fed the whole multitudes of thousands assembled before Him, with even much fewer food, only five loaves of bread and two fishes offered by a young boy. The Apostles, especially St. Philip wondered how they were to go and obtain the food and sustenance to provide for all those people when the Lord asked them to provide the whole multitudes with food.

The Lord prayed and broke the loaves of bread, and also did the same with the fish, distributing them to the disciples who then gave the food to the assembled multitudes, all of whom received enough food and things to eat, had their fill, and still, twelve basket-full of leftovers were gathered. Everyone had enough and were happy, and the Lord showed to all of them, as well as to all of us again how wonderful God’s love and grace is, how He cared for each one of us. He did not send the people away, but fed them from the food which had been offered to Him, and provided for them in their hour of need.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is exactly how it is like at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the offertory, we bring the bread and the wine as offerings to the Lord, which the priests gathered and took, giving thanks to the Lord just in the same manner as the Lord Jesus having given thanks to His Father, and then gave the bread for all of us to partake and share. But even much more so than what had happened in the past, at the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted at the Last Supper, He gave Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood to all.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, at the pinnacle of our faith, at its very core, is our belief in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, that in miracle that surpasses any other miracles, not only that God feeds us and gave us all food to eat, but He Himself came down upon us, to be in our midst and to be with us. He has given us all Himself as the sustenance and food, to be partaken and shared among us that we truly become part of that One and united Body of Christ, the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Church of God of which we are part of is united through this Communion, by the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the Holy Mass and the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God did not just provide for us in our physical needs, but even more importantly, He shared with us the spiritual nourishment, His true and Real Presence that comes to dwell within us, and we become the Temple of His Presence, as He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in our path in life.

And as we therefore reflect on all these words of the Scripture we received this Sunday, then we should spend some time to discern and reflect on our attitude in the Church as one united community in Christ. Unfortunately, in the past few years and decades, especially in recent years, there have been those who wanted to harm the unity of the Church, either by being exclusive and Pharisaical, extremist and hardline in their ideologies and way of thinking, or by disrespecting and disobeying the core tenets and teachings of the Church.

I refer to those fundamentals and extreme groups who sought to either change the Church teachings or to adapt activities and ways that are not in accordance with our faith or sacred tradition, as well as those who have taken in to the extremes ideas such as being against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that had been legitimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit through the assembly and discussion of all the bishops and the assembled prelates of the Church.

All these things caused divisions within the Church, as it had happened previously in the long history of the Church. It set brothers against fellow brothers, families against others, and segments of the faithful against other segments, groups against groups. And because of this, we ended up losing sight on the true calling we have as Christians, to keep the unity among us and to live together with faith, celebrating and sharing together the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity in the Holy Mass.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and reflect on the love which God has shown to all of us, His faithful and beloved people, let us all therefore strive to put aside our differences, and abandon our illogical and unhealthy ideologies, especially those based not on the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, but on the basis of human prejudices, ambition, and even selfishness and evil. Let us all put aside all the things that divide us, and instead, focus our attention on the Lord, our God.

Through Him we have received this new life, for He Who is the Bread of Life, has given us all new life, that we receive, partake and share not just mere bread alone, but in truth, we have received nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we who partake worthily of Him, become one Body and one Church, and through this unity and the sharing of this holy union with God, we are made whole once again, and receive the assurance of eternal glory and true joy in Him.

Let us all remember what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Ephesians, part of which is our second reading today, that we all have to strive for unity of the Church, through the Holy Spirit, and nurture a spirit of charity and love, of generosity and kindness towards one another, that we share this blessing and grace of God we have received with each other, that we remind ourselves of the need to build a truly united and harmonious community of the faithful and Church, that we do not only love the Lord with all of our might and strength, but also our fellow brethren, as part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God.

Let us all therefore grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, deepen our relationships with Him, and entrust ourselves to Him with ever greater commitment and devotion, with greater trust and desire to seek Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live together as one united Church, one united community of the faithful. May God bless us all and our every good works and good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 24 : 3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of YHVH and all His laws. The people replied with one voice : “Everything that YHVH has said, we shall do.”

Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to YHVH.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that YHVH said we shall do and obey.”

Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that YHVH has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.