Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, 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 Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin 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 yet again of the coming of the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. As we heard from our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, we heard how the man of God, Balaam the Seer blessed the people of Israel and spoke of a prophecy of what would be come, the coming of the Star that would rise from Jacob, an early proclamation of Christ’s coming into this world. Then we also heard from our Gospel passage today of the Lord Jesus Himself and His debate with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who questioned Him on the authority and legality of His actions and works.

In our first reading that we heard from the Book of Numbers, we heard of the people of Israel who were at that time on their way to the promised land of Canaan, that God had promised to their ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At that time, the Israelites had become a great nation with hundreds of thousands of people, all having journeyed through the desert for a long period of forty years during their Exodus from Egypt. God guided them and protected them during all that time, provided for them, food and drink, as well as crushing their enemies before them, all the while punishing those who refused to believe in Him and disobeyed His Law and commandments.

It was then that the king of Moab, one of the later neighbours of the Israelites, namely king Balak was worried about the Israelites, their great numbers and power, and feared them. As such, he resorted to using methods such as curses that he asked a seer named Balaam, son of Beor as we heard in our reading today. Balaam was tasked by king Balak to curse the people of Israel so that the curses might destroy them and make them to be at a disadvantage. Yet, as we heard in today’s first reading, Balaam instead spoke the truth, of whatever God had told him to proclaim before the king, a blessing instead of a curse for the Israelites.

Balaam praised God and His people, the Israelites, blessed them for all of their wonders and he also proclaimed the vision that he had received from God. He saw a vision of a Figure to come, that he was not yet able to comprehend, and yet, that figure was indeed like a Star that would arise from Jacob, a reference to the people of Israel, to be the One Who leads and guides the whole entire world. Through this we can see how Balaam was blessed by God and given the rare opportunity to glimpse God’s great plan of salvation for all of the nations and all the people, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we look upon from our current age and time, in which Christ had come into the world and revealed Himself, we know that Balaam spoke the truth, and he had given the people of God back then an insight of God’s plans and all that He had done out of His great love for them. And yet, we should be able to see the irony that it was Balaam, a man who did not even belong to the people of Israel, who proclaimed God’s love and truth, while God’s own people denied Him, rejected Him, doubted Him and questioned His authority as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

In our Gospel today, we heard how the Lord was questioned by the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees as He was teaching in the Temple, who questioned Him for His actions and all that He had taught the people. This was likely because of the jealousy that those people held for the Lord, as they saw Him as a rival and great threat to their own popularity, influence, authority and power. Contextually, we must understand that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made up one of the two groups of very influential leaders of the community back then.

As such, they likely saw the Lord and His immense popularity, His radically different teachings and truths as a challenge to their own authority and power, that they opposed Him, refused to listen to Him and stubbornly resisted in believing His message of truth despite all that they themselves had witnessed, seen and heard. All the miracles and the works the Lord had done, all the wisdom He had shown and the words He had spoken all point out to Him being the Messiah or the Saviour that God had promised His people, and those same Pharisees and teachers of the Law, being those who were most knowledgeable about the Law and the prophets should have known this better than anyone else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is important that we should not let our pride and worldly desires from interfering with our faith in the Lord. We should learn to listen to the truth and not to be easily swayed by all of our worldly temptations and concerns. Otherwise, we may end up behaving and responding like the Pharisees and those teachers of the Law who remained stubborn in their opposition of the Lord, and even St. John the Baptist, the Herald and messenger whom God had sent to prepare the way for His coming.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse, the daughter of a Roman noble who died as a martyr during the height of the last great persecution of Christians under the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian. She had consecrated herself to God as a holy virgin, but her mother who did not know about this, arranged for her to be married to the young son of a rich noble pagan family. The mother was then suffering from a disease, and was worried about St. Lucy’s future.

Through the intercession of St. Agatha, another great martyr of Sicily, St. Lucy’s mother was healed, and St. Lucy was able to persuade her mother to give generously much of their wealth and inheritance to the poor and the needy. This was not taken kindly by her betrothed pagan fiancé, who reported her to the local governor. The governor ordered St. Lucy to make offerings to the pagan idols, which she refused courageously. She was arrested and according to some traditions, was put to death by the sword after attempts to force her to a brothel and burning her did not succeed because of God’s miraculous intervention.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope all of us take good lesson from the faith that St. Lucy had in the Lord and strive to do what we can to be faithful to God. We should learn to live our lives with genuine faith and commit ourselves to follow Him the way that St. Lucy and many other saints and martyrs had done. And let us be inspired by the love and hope that Christ Our Lord Himself had brought us, that brought joy even to Balaam so many years ago. It is this same hope and love that we are expecting throughout this season of Advent, of celebrating the coming of Christ in this Christmas.

Let us all live our lives with great faith and dedication to the Lord from now on, committing ourselves in each and every moments to serve Him and to look forward to His wondrous coming in glory, to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly in the manner that St. Lucy and all of our holy predecessors had done. May God bless us all and may His grace be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 21 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus had entered the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the Jewish authorities came to Him, and asked, “What authority have You to act like this? Who gave You authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “I will also ask You a question, only one. And if you give me an answer, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. When John began to baptise, was it a work of God, or was it merely something human?”

They reasoned out among themselves, “If we reply that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ And if we say, ‘The baptism of John is merely something human’, we have got to beware of the people, for all hold John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what right I do these things.”

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Monday, 13 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 24 : 2-7, 15-17a

Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping, tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered this song : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, and beholds the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled.”

“How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your encampments, Israel! Like valleys stretching far, like gardens beside a stream, like aloes planted by YHVH, like cedars beside the waters. His buckets are overflowing and His seeds are always watered. His king becomes stronger than Agag, and His kingdom grows.

Then Balaam pronounced his oracle : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, who has the knowledge from the Most High, and sees the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled. I see a Figure, but not really. I behold Him but not near. A Star shall come forth from Jacob, He rises with a staff in His hand.”

Friday, 13 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us all to remain faithful and to be obedient to God in all things. He has called on all of us to be truly faithful in Him and not be easily swayed by worldly temptations and desires that will end up misleading us down the wrong path, as we should heed from past examples of our predecessors on how we should be vigilant and careful in living our lives.

In our first reading today, we heard about the story of how Joshua gathered all the Israelites not long before he was to pass away, and as their leader, he reminded all of them of all the wonderful things that God had done for them and their ancestors, as he spoke to them and exhorted them to remain faithful to God. He reminded them to keep their faith in Him and to obey the Law and the commandments which God had placed in their midst. Joshua detailed all the things that God had done for the people He loved so much, and therefore, they ought to love Him in the same way as well.

As we heard from that passage, the Lord had repeatedly again and again cared for His people, showed His love and concern for all of them. He never abandoned them in their hour of need. He has always blessed them and helped them in their journey, even when those same people had wandered off, disobeyed and abandoned Him. He brought the Israelites themselves out of the land of Egypt, and in the Exodus, took care of them for the entire forty years of their journey before giving them all the lands that they now possessed. Hence, Joshua wanted to remind all of the people not to forget the love and deeds of the Lord for them.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law when some of them questioned Him regarding His teachings and also wanted to test Him with regards to the Law of God as revealed through Moses. They asked the Lord regarding the matter of divorce, which according to their practice and ways, was allowed as long as a writ of divorce was produced, and in reality, the practice was very common, as the people and the Temple authorities used ways and even monetary incentives to accommodate the allowance of divorce, among other rules that had been modified and broken.

What is significant about this is that as the Lord Himself mentioned is, how mankind had twisted and changed the meaning of the Law and the commandments of God, that in their practice and application, they had forgotten the fundamental purpose and idea behind those guidance and path which God had given and revealed to His people, so that through those laws and commandments, the people of God might find their way back to their loving God and Father. Instead, after centuries and more years of misunderstanding and mismanaging the Law, the people had ended up losing sight of the true intention of the Law, and made loopholes and excuses to try and suit the Law of God to their own needs.

That included the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who often made the Law of God as an excuse to impose their desires and thoughts on the other people, and to gain popularity, power and influence through them. That was why the Lord often criticised those people for their lack of true and genuine faith for the Lord and His Law, and why He revealed to the people the true meaning, intention and significance of God’s Law, so that they may come to understand and appreciate what God wants from each one of them.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to reject these wayward paths and entrust ourselves to the Lord and His commandments. We ought to seek the Lord with new spirit of love and devotion, with renewed zeal and conviction, to love Him wholeheartedly and to commit ourselves thoroughly on His path. Let us all then, look upon the good examples of the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating, namely that of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus. For those who were knowledgeable about the history of the Church, they would have known that these two saints had a long history between them, as they were rival candidates for the seat of the Bishop of Rome at that time.

St. Hippolytus opposed the efforts and views of the earlier Popes who had been more lenient in allowing pagan converts and others who had lapsed from the faith in returning to the Christian faith, belonging to the faction of those who saw themselves as embracing the purer aspect of Christianity. However, the Popes resisted the pressure from these segments, and kept the Church open towards those brethren who had repented their sins and wanting to return after having lapsed from the faith or away for a moment.

Pope St. Pontian was the succeeding Bishop of Rome, of whom St. Hippolytus went up against, as the story went that he was made an antipope against the authority of Pope St. Pontian by his efforts and the support of those who sided and agreed with him. Nonetheless, Pope St. Pontian acted in love and charity, and continued to do his best to bridge the divisions and overcome the misunderstandings within the Church. He led the faithful people of God during the difficult period of external persecution and internal divisions.

Eventually, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus would both be arrested by the authorities and sent into exile, to do hard labour and eventually perished as martyrs both in their exile. But before he died, St. Hippolytus was known to reject his past ideas and opposition against the Popes and the Church attitude, and was reconciled to Pope St. Pontian, dying as a true Christian and defender of the faith together with his former rival and enemy, Pope St. Pontian.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the great examples set by these two saints, that we may emulate them in our own lives. We are all called to seek Him wholeheartedly and commit ourselves anew, to be the faithful, righteous and worthy bearers of His truth and love, His light and hope in our world today. Let us all remember God’s love for us, and learn to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters ever more in our daily living, now and always. May God be with us all and bless us, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 13 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”