Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of our faith in Christ, and our calling and indeed obligation as Christians to proclaim Him as our Lord and Master, as the One and only God we have, our one True God. We are called and we call ourselves as Christians because of this fundamental belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh as the Son of Man.

And we believe that He has come down into this world to be our Saviour, and we have been saved through His sacrifice on the Cross, that by dying together with Him through our baptism, and rising together with Him in His Resurrection, we have been brought into a new life and existence. The Lord has revealed all of these to us, and blessed us, and called us to this new life and existence. As Christians, therefore, we are God’s people, united to Him by our faith.

But our faith cannot be just merely a stationary and stagnant faith, that is without any actions or examples through which we stand up for that faith and be genuine witnesses to our belief in God. On the contrary, our faith must be vibrant and active, filled with genuine actions through which all who see us, hear us and witness us, interacting with us may know that God is in us, working through us and that we are His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what all of us are called to do with our lives, that is to be righteous and good, striving for virtue in life and obeying the laws and commandments of God. We are called to be good models and inspirations for one another, that we may help each other, fellow Christians, to remain faithful to God and to follow His path with piety and commitment.

Many of us today are no longer active in how we live up to our faith, as well as our calling as Christians. Many of us prefer to keep to ourselves and do just the very minimum. Even to do that, many among us were already often grumbled, complained and refused to participate fully. When the Church states that we have to fulfil our Sunday obligations, we grumbled and could not wait until the Mass is over.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us are taking our faith and even good life for granted. Many of us may have been blessed abundantly by God, or to have the freedom to worship God and follow His path without any issues. But do we realise just how tough it was for one to be Christians, and even up to today, there are still parts of the world where to be Christians may mean certain death and great sufferings?

Christians had to endure many persecutions during much of its history, and today, our saint of the day, St. Ignatius of Antioch, was himself a victim of this brutal persecution, having also witnessed how many of the faithful were persecuted and killed. St. Ignatius was the successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch as its bishop, and was the overseer of that Christian community, which according to the Acts of the Apostles, was the very first place where the faithful were known as Christians.

St. Ignatius, as one of the most prominent and important of all the early Church fathers, was very influential in the early Church, and helped to establish solid foundation for the Church, not just in Antioch, but also to the larger Universal Church. He wrote extensively to the other Church communities and was also instrumental in guiding the faithful and the Church in Antioch during those years when he was the shepherd of the faithful in that city.

St. Ignatius himself as mentioned was martyred at the end of his ministry as the Bishop of Antioch, and he suffered greatly like his flock, defending his faith to the very end. But he and the many other martyrs remained faithful and committed to God, despite all the challenges that they had to face. They put their complete faith and trust in the Lord, and followed Him to wherever and whatever He led them into.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take all these into mind as we endeavour to live our lives with greater zeal and dedication to the Lord. Let us all be courageous and truthful in standing up for our faith whenever it is necessary, that we may continue to be inspiring examples for one another and that we may become shining beacons of God’s light and truth. May the Lord bless us all, in our every endeavours and good deeds, now and always. St. Ignatius, holy servant of God and holy martyr of the Church, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 12 : 8-12

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before people, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the Angels of God. But the one who denies Me before others will be denied before the Angels of God. There will be pardon for the one who criticises the Son of Man, but there will be no pardon for the one who slanders the Holy Spirit.”

“When you are brought before the synagogues, and before governors and rulers, do not worry about how you will defend yourself, or what to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you have to say.”

Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 8 : 2-3a, 4-5, 6-7

O YHVH, our YHVH, how great is Your Name throughout the earth! And Your glory in the heavens above. Even the mouths of children and infants exalt Your glory in front of Your foes.

When I observe the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon, and the stars You set in their place – what is man, that You be mindful of him; the Son of Man, that You should care for Him?

Yet You made Him a little less than a god; You crowned Him with glory and honour, and gave Him the works of Your hands; You have put all things under His feet.

Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 1 : 15-23

I have been told of your faith and your affection toward all the believers, so I always give thanks to God, remembering you in my prayers. May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of glory, reveal Himself to you, and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know Him.

May He enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God. May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for His saints; may you understand, with what extraordinary power, He acts in favour of us who believe.

He revealed His Almighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and had Him sit at His right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world, but in the world to come as well. Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set Him above all things, as Head of the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him, Who fills all in all.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Christian virtues in life, to be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit in all things and in all of our words, actions and deeds. God has called us all to be truly faithful and to devote ourselves to Him, to be spiritually active and genuine in our faith. We must not be superficial in faith or just focused on appearances like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

That is what the Lord spoke against the Pharisees for in our Gospel passage today, as a stern warning to all of us that we ought not to follow their lead or imitate their way of life, using even strong words like ‘curse’ to the Pharisees and woe to them. All these signified the seriousness of the matter which the Lord presented before His people, showing them how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their influential positions, had dangerously misled the people into the wrong paths by their actions.

Through what the Lord said in today’s Gospel, we heard how He criticised the Pharisees for their wicked behaviour and irresponsibility as those who had been chosen to be the guardians and leaders of the people. And this is significant because if we remember what St. Paul said about the corruptions of the flesh, many of those were exhibited and acted on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

For example, the opposition of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often driven by the anger and jealousy in them, seeing their influence and power within the community threatened by the Lord and His disciples. And their greed, desire and want for power and worldly satisfactions led to them to stray from their path and their obedience to God. They succumbed to the temptations of those desires and emotions that led them down the wrong path.

This is why the Lord reminded all of us to be vigilant and be wary of the temptations of these worldly desires and all that threatened to lead us down the path of sin. We have to instead embrace the Lord and bear the fruits of His Holy Spirit, of faith, love, humility, temperance among other things. And we are all called to be shining examples and inspirations of our faith to one another, that we may lead more and more people on the way to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should be inspired by the examples of our own holy predecessors, one of them whose feast day we celebrate today. Pope St. Callixtus I was the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the difficult years of frequent persecutions by the Roman governments and their Emperor, who eventually was martyred for his faith. Pope St. Callixtus I was also once a slave according to the Church traditions, who had been enduring many punishments, from prison to prison, before eventually being freed, and becoming deacon of the Church.

Eventually he was elected as Pope and Successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ, in which he began to admit to the Church the converts from schisms and sects, in contrast to the earlier practice of denying admission to these people. His policy and decision to allow these new converts did not have universal support, and it led to the division in the Church, with St. Hippolytus being elected as an opposing or Antipope by those clergy and members of the Church who were against accepting converts from such origins.

Yet, all those who opposed the policies of Pope St. Callixtus I forgot that the Lord Himself would have embraced the repentant sinners and welcomed them back into His embrace, should they all sincerely repent from their faults and sins. The Lord Himself had extended His mercy and love to the worst of sinners, and many had come to be reconciled with Him. To close the doors of the Church to those sinners would just indeed be acting like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on sinners from their high pedestals, not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courageous decision of Pope St. Callixtus I to embrace those who have sinned and separated themselves from the Church and the love of God, provided that they embraced God with repentance, all of us are reminded that we are also ourselves in need of the same healing and forgiveness from God. We are all called to be the witnesses of God’s love, His mercy and forgiveness towards us. Let us all extend His love to our fellow brothers and sisters, all those whom we encounter in our daily living.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully in His presence, dedicating our time, effort and attention for His greater glory. May the Lord bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 42-46

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “A curse is on you, Pharisees! To the Temple you give a tenth of all, including mint and rue and other herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. These ought to be practiced, without neglecting the other obligations.”

“A curse is on you, Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the marketplace. A curse is on you, for you are like tombstones of the dead which can hardly be seen; people do not notice them, and make themselves unclean by stepping on them.”

Then a teacher of the Law spoke up and said, “Master, when You speak like this, You insult us, too.” And Jesus answered, “A curse is on you also, teachers of the Law. For you prepare unbearable burdens and load them on the people, while you yourselves do not move a finger to help them.”

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Galatians 5 : 18-25

But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law. You know what comes from the flesh : fornication, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and sorcery, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I again say to you what I have already said : those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. For such things there is no Law or punishment. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us live in a spiritual way.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the shortness of our lives, the temporary nature of our earthly existence, and how we are reminded not to lose ourselves in the pursuit of worldly matters and pleasures, just as we have been reminded in the past few days from this Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes.

The author of this book clearly intended to remind the people of his time of the many excesses of worldly desires, their decadent lifestyle and refusal to obey the Law of God. And throughout history, we have seen how greed and attachment to desire had led to the conflicts that raged in wars and conquests, in the exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable, those who were poor and sick.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what happens when we place our own selfish desires above our faith, and when we allow all these to tempt us and sway us to indulge in all sorts of worldly and materials pursuits. And we are reminded by these readings, including from our Psalm today, ‘Make us know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart.’

Yes, often we may end up becoming foolish in our endless and persistent desire for all that I have mentioned earlier. We spent so much time to worry about all those things, and spent much of our energy to gain for ourselves all these so that we can gain satisfaction. And our greed makes us to desire for even more and more, never fully satisfying or fulfilling our needs and desires.

In the end, with all these accumulated in our hands, what are we going to do with it, brothers and sisters in Christ? Even the greatest piles of money and wealth can be destroyed or vanished overnight, as how past financial crises had showed us. Many despaired after the Great Depression after losing all that they had, even when they were very wealthy earlier on. And no amount of food, luxury and other goods can be lasting to us.

In the end, we must realise as how Job did, that naked we had been born into this world, empty and without any possessions, and thus in the same manner we shall depart from this world, from our earthly existence. We shall not bring any of our worldly possessions, or fame or glory with us. What we shall receive in the end, is either eternal glory and true joy with God, or eternity of regret and suffering, especially if we have rejected God for the sake of our worldly pursuits.

It is indeed a great folly for us to reject true happiness and joy that can be found in the Lord alone. But if we are wondering why this is the case, that is because we are easily tempted, and we often look for quick happiness and pleasure that all these false happiness are offering us. That is why many of us fell and failed in our journey of faith, as we prioritise our own selfish desires rather than our faith in God.

Today, all of us should look upon the examples of our holy predecessors to help guide us in what we should do in order to be faithful to God. We celebrate the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, renowned saints, who were physicians by trade and according to some traditions, were twin brothers. They lived through the difficult years for the Christian faith, as the Roman Empire and its administration persecuted all the Christians, and forced them to abandon their faith on the pain of death.

They were renowned for their services as physicians, caring for the needs of the sick and all the diseased. And most notably, they refused to accept any payment or returns for their services, which they offered voluntarily and with much love and great care for those whom they treated. It was told that miracles even happened as there were those who were miraculously healed by their intercession.

When the Christian faith was persecuted even more harshly under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, both of them were arrested and were tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith. But St. Cosmas and St. Damian remained faithful and chose to suffer, which according to some accounts including being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally they were beheaded, dying a martyr’s death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the exemplary faith of the brothers St. Cosmas and St. Damian, generous in love and compassion, putting God and their fellow brothers and sisters above their own needs and desires. Are we able and willing to follow that example? Let us all spend some time to discern carefully on these and do what we can to be ever more faithful and be genuine in how we live up to our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith. May He bless us and strengthen us, and empower us all to live virtuously and not be swayed or shaken by the many temptations of worldly matters. Let us all dedicate ourselves ever more faithfully to the Lord from now on and always. Amen.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 9 : 43b-45

At that time, while all were amazed at everything Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Listen, and remember what I tell you now : The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.” But the disciples did not understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.