Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to be faithful to God, and to believe in Him and His providence, to do His will because all of us who are faithful to Him and remain true to our commitment to Him will not be disappointed, as God knows all of our actions and dealings, and whatever we have done, our every small little actions, for the greater glory of His Name, shall be rewarded in the end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken to His people through the prophet Joel, who was active during the years following the return of the descendants of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. To put things in context, the people of Israel had by then endured a lot of humiliations and sufferings because of their past sins, due to their stubborn refusal to follow the Lord and to believe in His words and the prophets that had been sent to them.

They had been beaten, oppressed and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Their cities and towns were destroyed, and they were forced to leave their ancestral homeland for a faraway exile in Assyria and Babylon, and seeing pagans and foreigners taking over the ownership of their lands. Their Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the House of God was destroyed, a House which they themselves had long forgotten and abandoned for the worship of pagan gods and idols.

The Lord never forgot about His people though, and continued to love them despite of all the troubles and the betrayals they had done to Him. He loved them regardless and desired to reconcile themselves to Him, to love them once again and to extend His merciful hands to be reunited with them. He guided them and sent His prophets to them, and after many decades, gathered them back and through King Cyrus of Persia, led them back to their homeland, and allowing them to rebuild their towns and the Temple of God.

Therefore, through the prophet Joel, God wanted to remind His people to stand by His side and to remain faithful to Him so that they will no longer experience those periods of sufferings and challenges, and even if they were to suffer from difficulties and challenges, the Lord would be by their side and they would triumph together with Him, for He will come in the end to gather them all and lead them into the true joy and glory with Him, at the very end of time.

As we heard in our short Gospel passage today, we are all then reminded that in order to do this, what we all need to do is to be faithful to God and to commit ourselves wholeheartedly, by doing His will and obeying His laws and commandments. To do the will of God is the calling for us all as Christians, and we should do our very best to live a virtuous and exemplary life, to the best of our ability, so that even in the smallest things that we do, we will always remain faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us also follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom, as well as St. John Leonardi, faithful servants of God and saints whose feasts we are celebrating today. We should delve into their lives’ examples and be inspired with how they had led lives that were centred and focused on God, and how they had shown great faith despite the many challenges and trials they had encountered in life.

St. Denis was the Bishop of Paris during the time of the later Roman Empire, during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors and the state. St. Denis was sent from Rome by Pope St. Fabian, and was tasked with the evangelisation and conversion of Roman Gaul, together with several other missionaries. They encountered great challenges while having a lot of successes as well, and that time, when the Emperor Decius declared a great persecution against Christians, he and the other missionaries were arrested.

St. Denis and his companions were tortured and made to suffer for their faith in God, and they refused to give in, and finally, were led to their execution, which St. Denis suffered by beheading, together with his fellow martyrs. However, in a most miraculous and amazing occasion, St. Denis remained alive even after he was beheaded, and he picked up his head, and the head preached to the people as he walked for many kilometres, to many awed witnesses and even those who were involved in the execution. It was at the place where he stopped and finally passed into heavenly glory, that he was buried and where a great church, the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris now stands.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was an Italian priest and founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, who lived about five centuries ago. As a priest, he was remembered for his great dedication to his flock, the parishioners and the other members of the faithful whom he dedicated himself to, in the formation of young adults in the faith among other things. He also popularised the devotion of the Forty Hours and the Eucharist to the faithful, which was meant to bring them closer to God.

St. John Leonardi also worked hard to implement the many reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent, while also proposing to the Pope for the formation of a religious order that is focused on the reforms of the Church and greater discipline in faith, which eventually became a reality with the foundation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca, gathering many like-minded people who seek to serve the Lord following the charism and efforts of St. John Leonardi. Through his faith and dedication, and his perseverance, in facing the challenges and opposition he had for his efforts, St. John Leonardi has shown us, just as St. Denis and his companions in martyrdom had, on how to be truly faithful and committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord and let us do our very best to follow Him, and to walk in His path, so that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and be exemplary and inspirational in our way of life, such that many more people may come to believe in the Lord through us and our examples. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us in our journey of faith, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Saturday, 9 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (First Reading)

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

Joel 4 : 12-21

Rise up, o people, and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, nations. Bring a sickle for the harvest is ripe; come and tread, for the wine press is full, and the vats overflow; so great is their wickedness! Multitudes and more multitudes in the Valley of Verdict! The day of YHVH is near in the Valley of Verdict! The sun and the moon become dark, the stars lose their radiance.

YHVH roars from Zion and raises His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth are shaken. Indeed, YHVH is a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites. You will know that I am YHVH, your God, dwelling on Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be a holy place; and foreigners will never pass through there again.

On that day, the mountains shall drip wine and the hills flow with milk; all the streams of Judah will run with water; and a fountain will spring from the house of YHVH, and water the valley of Shittim. On the other hand, Egypt will be devastated; and Edom will become a deserted wasteland, because they committed violence against Judah and shed innocent blood in their country.

But Judah will be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem through all generations. And I shall avenge their blood and not leave it unpunished, for YHVH dwells in Zion.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to put our faith and trust in the Lord, seeking Him for His forgiveness and mercy. We must not be afraid or doubtful because we have to know that God has always looked kindly upon us and desiring for us to find our way back to Him, to be reconciled and reunited fully with Him in love.

And that is why we heard the passage from our Gospel reading today, detailing the moment when the Lord had an encounter during a meal hosted by the Pharisees for Him, as a sinful woman, widely known for her vices and sins, came to seek Him and brought an alabaster jar full of perfume before the Lord. She wept and cried on the Lord’s feet, before wiping those feet dry with her own hair, and then she used the perfume to anoint the Lord’s feet.

If we understand her context and background, then we can truly understand how significant this event was to all those who witnessed it. For that sinful woman was likely a prostitute, whom the Pharisees often looked down on and despised. The Pharisees must have been shocked that the Lord Jesus allowed such a sinner to approach Him and less still allowing her to touch Him, as at that time, even coming close to a sinner could be considered as a defilement, and hence people would distance themselves from those considered as sinners.

Yet, that sinful woman humbled herself such before the Lord and everyone present, throwing aside all pride and ego, and using her hair, the crown of her beauty, to wipe the feet of the Lord, using her precious treasure to wipe clean the part of the body considered as dirty. She came to the Lord with tears and sorrow, all because she knew how sinful she had been, and came seeking the Lord for forgiveness and healing. She gave it all to the Lord, anointing His feet with expensive perfume, honouring Him before all who saw it.

Yet, those Pharisees still failed to see the truth of God’s love, and still judged Him based on what they had seen and based on their own prejudices. They refused to see the sinners as their own fellow brethren, and preferred to remain in their arrogant and self-serving attitude, in being proud of their piety and privileged position within the community, looking down on all those who disagreed with them and who did not follow the Law and commandments of God in the manner that they had done.

God told them that He came into this world seeking for sinners, for their redemption and healing, so that they might be reconciled with Him and be forgiven from their sins, saved from the destruction that threatened them. He told the Pharisees the parable highlighting how those who had their debts forgiven more would have been more appreciative of the forgiveness, and that was a way for the Lord to tell them that they must not look down on the prostitutes, or tax collectors, the diseased, those possessed by evil spirits and others they deemed as sinners.

Everyone, after all, were sinners all the same, all equal before God and all deserving the same love from God. God wants us all to know this truth, and as we heard the Scripture passages today, we are again reminded of the grace that we have received from Him, the generous extension of His forgiveness and mercy, the love which He has lavished upon us all. And since we have been loved in such a manner, as God called us all to seek Him and be reconciled with Him, let us all remember what He told the sinful woman, that we ought to go forth in peace and sin no more. In our lives, we have to always be vigilant, resisting the temptations to sin that are always present all around us.

It does not matter how great the sins we have once committed. For as long as we are truly sincere in seeking the Lord, like that of the sinful woman, in being repentant and humble, in allowing God to come and heal us, then we shall be secure in the Lord and in the inheritance that He has promised to us. We should not be afraid to seek Him, as if we seek Him with a genuine heart full of remorse for our sins, and desiring to be reconciled and reunited with Him, God will surely hear us and grant us our longing for Him.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith from now on, embracing Him in the manner of our holy predecessors, especially that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, whose feasts we are celebrating today. They were truly great and honourable servants of God who gave themselves wholeheartedly to the missions entrusted to them by the Lord. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage during the difficult years of intense persecution of the Church and the Christian faithful by the Roman state. They were both eventually martyred and died defending their faith.

At that time, the Church was not only facing persecution from the pagan authorities but also in fact suffering from internal divisions, particularly by those who adamantly refused to allow the readmission and acceptance of those Christians who had lapsed from their faith, who disagreed with the stand of the Church fathers, on the forgiveness of sinners. Those were lead by a particular priest called Novatian, who led the Church into schism with his followers on one side, and Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian on the other.

Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian championed the rights of those who had lapsed from their faith, either by their choice or coercion, pressure or other reasons, having abandoned their faith in God only to return later on back to the Holy Mother Church. Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian supported the rights of those Christians to return, against the Novatianists who argued that once they apostatised, there could be no forgiveness or return for them. Those so-called purists were in fact reminiscent of the attitudes showed by the Pharisees in our Gospel passage today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those two holy men of God, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian had done their all to show God’s love and mercy to repentant sinners. Therefore, we too should follow in their footsteps. First of all, are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord, in turning away from the path of sin and wholeheartedly repenting from our past sins? And are we willing to help one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in seeking God?

Instead of looking down on others and thinking that we are in any way better, holier or more worthy than them, let us all reflect on our own sins and all that we have done in our past, all that we have failed to do in obeying the will of God, and in extending our love to one another, just as the Lord has called us all to do. Let us all reflect on this, and strive to become better Christians from now on. Let us all be exemplary in our way of life and show better care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in our every living moments.

May the Lord be with us all and may He guide us in our journey, so that each and every one of us will be more willing to be more committed to God, and strive to abandon our past sinfulness, embracing instead the path of God while inspiring others to turn away from their sins, by our own virtuous life examples, through which God may be glorified, and more may come to know of Him and His love for each and every one of us. Amen.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 110 : 7-8, 9, 10

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverance and made with them a Covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered!

The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are those who live by His precepts. To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 4 : 12-16

Let no one reproach you on account of your youth. Be a model to the believers, in the way you speak and act, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourself to reading, preaching and teaching, until I come.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words, when the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about it, and practice it, so that your progress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself, and attend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this, and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings remind us that all of us are beloved and precious to God, and we should not be afraid to seek Him for help, and trust in Him. For God alone can be trusted and depended on, and when other worldly and human ways and methods fail, we often will have only the Lord and nothing else left. This is a reminder for us to turn towards God and to be ever faithful to the Covenant which He has made with each and every one of us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael from the Book of Genesis. While Ishmael was born of a slave woman named Hagar, the slave of Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac was the lawful and legal son and heir of Abraham, as the long awaited son of his wife Sarah. God has promised Abraham that he would have countless descendants and that they would be blessed just as God had blessed Abraham.

However, Abraham slipped in his trust in the Lord and he listened to the suggestion of his wife Sarah to take the slave Hagar as the one to bear a child for him. In the custom of the time, the child born to a slave owned by a man’s wife was considered to be the child between the man and his wife, and not of the slave, as the slave belonged to the wife. And that was how Ishmael was therefore conceived and born, before Isaac, the promised child and son was born later as God fulfilled His wondrous promise to Abraham.

And this created friction between Ishmael and Isaac, as while Ishmael was older and the supposed heir before Isaac was born, he had been superseded by Isaac, the true heir. Hence, in our reading today we heard how Abraham sent both Hagar and her son Ishmael away after providing them with some food and water. They both wandered in the desert and in places without food and sustenance, and Hagar cried out to the Lord for mercy and compassion, which the Lord heard and He sent His Angels to help Hagar and Ishmael.

We can see therefore God’s love for His people here, for Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, as He has promised them, and even for Hagar and Ishmael, although the latter’s conception and birth had been against the will of God. He was still the child of Abraham nonetheless, and God took care of Ishmael and blessed him too, and he would go on to become the father of many nations just as his half-brother Isaac would. God fulfilled His promises and showed His love and compassion to His beloved ones.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord and His action in Gadara as He met two men tormented and possessed by the evil spirits, from whom many others had fled in fear, and those men had been ostracised and sent off to live in the wilderness away from the rest of the society. But the Lord showed His love and compassionate mercy, and just how precious and beloved they were, by commanding the evil spirits that dwelled in them to get out and by His power and authority, He sent those evil spirits instead to the flock of pigs nearby.

Again, through this example and story, all of us are reminded how God had cared for each and every one of us, and how He has loved us so wonderfully since the very beginning without cease. The Lord has always had us in His mind, and He will always seek us and wait on us to return to Him. Such is the love and the patience with which God has lovingly cared for us, that He gave everything for our sake, even to suffer and to die in His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross.

Today, we recall the memory of those who have devoted themselves to the Lord and placed their trust in Him, the very first martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, celebrated this day on the day following the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles. These were our fellow brothers and sisters in faith, who had endured bitter and intense persecution from the Roman authorities as part of the great persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero, who falsely accused the Christians in Rome for the Great Fire of Rome.

The Emperor Nero was likely to be the one who started the fire himself, in order to clear the lands for his grandiose projects. This is a fact which had been corroborated by historical and archaeological evidences by experts. Yet, the Emperor conveniently assigned the blame on the Christian population in Rome in order to shift the blame and to dissuade the people from focusing on his increasingly unpopular reign and actions. Many Christians were put to death and numerous others suffered during this first great wave of persecutions.

Yet, they remained firm and resolute in faith, staying committed and dedicated as Christians, no matter what threats and sufferings that they had to go through. They entrusted themselves in the Lord and did not let fear to rule over them. And this is why we should make them our sources of inspiration, in how we ourselves should live our lives, seeking the Lord and always entrusting ourselves to Him, no matter what happens. Let us all seek the Lord from now on, and let us devote ourselves to the greater glory of the Lord from now on.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with faith, that we may always live ever more faithfully in His path. May God bless each and every one of us, in every one of our good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 8 : 28-34

At that time, when Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, He was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged Him, “If You drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned.

The men in charge of the pigs ran off to the town, where they told the whole story; and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.