Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the faith that we must have in God and we must not doubt Him any longer, no matter what. We must trust in Him and we must not allow temptations to distract us and to pull us away from Him as what happened to the Israelites of the time of the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord spoke before the people making references to both the Queen of the South as well as the prophet Jonah. And the context of this occasion was that the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked the Lord to perform miracles and signs before them that they might believe in Him and follow Him. Yet, the fact is that the Lord had done numerous miracles before their eyes before they asked Him, and they refused to believe.

In fact, plenty of times when they asked the Lord to show them something miraculous was meant to test Him and to find evidences against Him, as they continued to refuse to listen to Him and closed their hearts and minds against Him. They did not have faith in the Lord and they allowed pride and worldly greed and desires to overcome their rationale and wisdom, and as a result, they refused to believe even though they have seen and witnessed the wonders of God many times.

St. Paul in our first reading passage today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome spoke firmly and courageously of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Whom he was serving as an Apostle, and laid before the faithful in simple and straightforward terms, who the Lord Jesus truly is, the One Whom God had promised to His people as the Saviour of the whole world and by Whose hands, mankind were to be saved.

As a significant proportion of the earliest Christians were members of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean including in Rome, St. Paul alluded to the Lord Jesus being the One Who fulfilled the many prophecies of the prophets of God, the One promised to bring mankind into eternal life and salvation, and by the supreme act of love on the Cross of His sacrifice, Christ brought salvation into the world.

And that was the sign of Jonah as alluded by the Lord Himself in the Gospel passage today. The Lord would descend into the depths of hell until the third day of His resurrection, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great whale. And just as Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh to remind them of their wickedness that led them to repent from their sins, the Lord Jesus came into this world to call us to repent from our sins.

Through all of these, and what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, we really need to reflect deeply on our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God all these while or were our faith more of the superficial kind, or just of a formality and paying lip service to God and the Church? We need to discern what we have to do from now on in our lives as faithful Christians, that is as those who truly believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today perhaps we should also look at the inspiring examples shown by this day’s saint, namely Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the early leaders of the Church who endured much difficulties and challenges from even his youth, as it was told that he lived formerly as a slave during his early years. When he was eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter and leader of the Church, he lived through a difficult time of persecution of the Christian faithful.

There were challenges from both outside and from within the Church at the time, as disagreements in the Church leadership actually caused bitter division and election of a rival Pope, St. Hippolytus of Rome. And during those years, persecution of Christians would end up causing the arrest and eventual suffering and martyrdom of Pope St. Callixtus I and many other Christians of his time. Nonetheless, they lived their lives with great faith and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on renew our conviction and commitment to live as better Christians, to be more faithful in all things and to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters around us with ever greater love and faith. May God through the intercession of His faithful saints, especially Pope St. Callixtus I, continue to bless us in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Romans 1 : 1-7

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an Apostle, called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises He foretold through His prophets in the sacred Scriptures, regarding His Son, Who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognised as the Son of God, endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead, through the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of His Name, we received grace, and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved God in Rome, called to be holy : May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Thursday, 26 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures reminding us about the time for us to embrace God’s love and compassion to their fullest, knowing that He has always loved us dearly and He never ceases to want to reach out to us, welcoming us back into His embrace and forgiving us from our sins. And we should not wait any longer and try our best to seek Him out at the soonest opportunity available.

In our first reading today, we heard the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Haggai in which God spoke through the prophet Haggai to the people of God represented by their leader Zerubbabel, the heir of David and the other leaders and elders of the community. God told them all to reconsider their continued delaying and refusal to rebuild the House of God in Jerusalem even after they have returned to their ancestral homeland from their exile in Babylon.

The people have rebuilt their houses and cities and they have resettled back nicely in their ancestral land, and yet, the prophet Haggai pointed out that as long as the House of their Lord, the Temple in the city of Jerusalem has not been rebuilt yet, to replace the one built by Solomon that has been destroyed by the Babylonians, the Israelites would not be able to find true and lasting happiness and peace.

And that is all because of the fact that God has not been truly at the heart and centre of their community, and the Lord had not yet dwelled again amidst His people as He had once done. And that was why the prophet Haggai insisted that the people rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem and put their priorities right, spending the effort to return the Lord’s glory back in the midst of His people.

The Temple is a very important centre of the community of the Israelites, especially for the community post-exile from Babylon, as it was a new centre of their community that had once been scattered in the faraway lands, as the focal point of all the believers in God, and where they would go on the days of the important festivals and celebrations like the Passover among many other festivals and celebrations.

And we can see all that in how at the time of the Lord Jesus, throughout the Gospels and into the time of the Apostles and the early Church, the Temple played such a very important role in the Jewish community and also among the earliest Christians who went to the Temple to gather and worship, and the Lord Himself spent a lot of time teaching at the Temple, and as we all know, He once cleared that same Temple from the corruption of merchants and cheaters with zealous anger.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what then is the significance of today’s Scripture readings to us? It is the fact that all of us are God’s chosen people, and therefore, rightfully, God should be at the very centre of our lives and our existences. We should not tarry and wait, postpone and delay in doing this just as what the Israelites had done in rebuilding the House of God while they have rebuilt their houses and cities.

It means that just as we continue to live our lives, building our careers and families, and even our wealth and property, our worldly belongings and things that we desire, we must always remember that our obligation is to focus ourselves on God and place Him at the very centre of our lives, and in everything we say and do, we must always have God in mind, or else indeed it will be very easy for us to go astray and fall into sin.

Today let us all reflect on this, and how we can make ourselves to be better Christians more attuned to God’s will and more capable of walking down this journey of faith. And we should look for inspiration from two of His faithful saints, St. Cosmas and St. Damian, two holy martyrs of the Church and devout servants of God who had given their whole lives to the service of God, and remained faithful to the very end.

St. Cosmas and St. Damian were known as famous physicians who were also twins, and they were known to treat the poor and the needy without charging them for their services. They also remained true and faithful to God even amidst the persecution of Christians at that time under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. St. Cosmas and St. Damian were martyred, but their courageous faith and also upright life and generosity in loving others truly showed us what it truly means for us to be Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in their footsteps? Are we able to walk the same path that St. Cosmas and St. Damian had walked, in following God wholeheartedly and giving ourselves to Him in each and every words, actions and deeds we take? Let us all draw ever closer to God and let us be ever more faithful to Him from now on, so that we may truly come to the eternal glory He has promised us all who are faithful to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 26 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 7-9

At that time, king Herod heard of all that Jesus and His disciples had done, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.”

Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this Man, about Whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see Him.

Thursday, 26 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to YHVH a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name; and make music for music for Him with harp and timbrel. For YHVH delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night, on their couches, let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!