Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures in which first of all we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaking about the matter between the salvation of the Jews and the pagan peoples. It was mentioned how the Jews stumbled so that the Lord might be able to save the pagan peoples, and through that, the Jews themselves might be saved.

This is related to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, the familiar words of the Lord Jesus in which He related the story about the people who were clamouring and fighting over places of honour, using a wedding banquet or event as an example. He related to the people how it is often that many are seeking for the most important places, desiring prestige and honour, but only later humiliated because even more important guests came and took over their seats.

How does this relate to what we heard in the first reading? The Jews or the people of Israel were the ones whom God had first chosen and called from among all of mankind. He called their forefather Abraham and made a Covenant with him. As a result, the Israelites became a race that God had chosen to be His own, especially from the time when He directly intervened to bring them out from slavery in Egypt and into the land He has promised to them.

The Jews took great pride in this and they were always ready to boast that they were chosen by God to be His people, to the point that they actually looked down on the pagans and the non-Jewish people, whom they deemed to be less worthy of the Lord, because they were not chosen by God. Yet, they themselves were blind to their own shortcomings and faults, and through their constant disobedience and lack of faith, they have been punished many times.

And God did not intend to just call the Israelites and exclude all the other races and peoples. Ultimately, God wants everyone, every mankind to be reconciled to Him, for He created each and every one of us out of His great love for us, and because of that great love, He does not want any of us to perish in sin and in the darkness. Rather, He wants that each and every one of us can come into the light.

This is exactly the opposite of what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They prided themselves in obeying the tenets of the Law, and as Jesus mentioned, they liked to the praised and to be honoured. They were the epitome of those who came to the wedding banquet and sought the first and most important place in the room. Yet, the room and the place has not been given to them, because they have no God in their hearts, and in their pride, they have placed their own interests ahead of God’s interests.

That was why the Lord Jesus chided them and rebuked them, and saying that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were going faster towards the kingdom of heaven than them, even though these people were often seen and labelled as sinners and unworthy people, least of all those who were thought to be worthy of God and the heavenly glory He promised to all His faithful ones.

Why is that so? That is because, those people as we witnessed throughout the Gospels, were willing to listen to Jesus and His teachings, and many of them, in tears, turned themselves to the Lord in repentance for their old ways of sin, and recognising their sinfulness, they desired to be forgiven by God. They have been the last ones, but because of their humility and willingness to listen to God and to obey Him, God had raised them to greater glory.

As I have just mentioned earlier, the great problem that we now can see as the great obstacle preventing us mankind from reaching out to God, is pride. Our human pride, our ego and ambition makes us to be non-receptive to God’s love and mercy, and many of us had ended up hardening our hearts against Him, closing Him out of our hearts and minds, not letting Him to speak to us that we might know His will. Instead, often it is always about ‘I’ or ‘Me’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look at the examples of the holy predecessors, particularly, St. Charles Borromeo, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, as role models for us to follow, that we may know how to live a good and virtuous Christian life, and not engulfed by our pride and ego. St. Charles Borromeo was renowned as a great reformer of the Church, a Cardinal of the Church, as well as the influential and powerful Archbishop of Milan, perhaps second in its importance as compared to Rome.

Yet, St. Charles Borromeo, who was born to one of the most influential noble families in the region, who enjoyed close relationship with both the Church and the ruling class, did not let all these things to corrupt him or to make him proud of his lineage and position. When he was made a Cardinal and entrusted with the role of managing the Roman Curia, or the governance of the Universal Church in Rome, he lived in austerity and ordered the members of the Curia to do the same.

He helped to organise the great reforms of the Church through the Council of Trent, which helped to rejuvenate the faith in the Church and destroy or remove the impurities and excesses of the previous decades and centuries when the Church was filled with many corrupt individuals seeking for power, wealth and influence through the Church. And later on, as the Archbishop of Milan, he was also credited with the enforcement of the reforms among the clergy and laity in his Archdiocese.

He cared for the poor and the sick in his Archdiocese of Milan, and it was told that in one occasion, when the governor and the ruling class of Milan fled the city because of a great pestilence that struck it, St. Charles Borromeo remained behind to care for the people who were sick and provided for their needs. He was also known for leading a procession barefooted through the streets of Milan with a rope around his neck, as a sign of penitence and humility before God, asking Him to forgive the sins of His people.

The examples of St. Charles Borromeo should be an inspiration for all of us Christians today, that in all of our actions and deeds, we should be humble and not to listen to the voice of our ego, pride and human ambition. Let us all seek to be the last in worldly matters, but the first in the eyes of God, as the Lord Jesus reminded us in the Gospel passage today. Let us also not build for ourselves a temporary treasure in this world, but instead seek the eternal glory of heaven. St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us! Amen.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 1, 7-11

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honour.

And He said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited; and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you, ‘Please give this person your place.’ What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat!”

“Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that you host may come and say to you, ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 93 : 12-13a, 14-15, 17-18

Fortunate the one You correct, o YHVH, the one You teach Your Law; You give them relief from distress.

YHVH will not reject His people, nor will He forsake His heritage. Justice will return to the just; and the upright will follow, in its wake.

Had YHVH not helped me, I would have fallen into the silence of death. No sooner did I say, “My foot is slipping,” Your kindness, o YHVH, held me up.

Saturday, 4 November 2017 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 11 : 1-2a, 11-12, 25-29

And so I ask : Has God rejected His people? Of course not! I, myself, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected the people He knew beforehand.

Again, I ask : Did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not. Their stumbling allowed salvation to come to the pagan nations, and, this, in turn, will stir up the jealousy of Israel. If Israel’s shortcoming made the world rich, if the pagan nations grew rich with what they lost, what will happen when Israel is restored?

I want you to understand the mysterious decree of God, lest you be too confident : a part of Israel will remain hardened, until the majority of pagans have entered. Then, the whole of Israel will be saved, as Scripture says : From Zion will come the Liberator, Who will purify the descendants of Jacob from all sin. And this is the Covenant I will make with them : I will take away from them their sins.

Regarding the Gospel, the Jews are opponents, but it is for your benefit. Regarding election, they are beloved, because of their ancestors; because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified.

Friday, 4 November 2016 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today our Lord Jesus Christ presented to His disciples the story of the dishonest steward, whom the master fired over his dishonesty, and as we knew in this well known story, the steward began finding ways to preserve himself and ensuring his own well-being after he was fired, by using his skills and persuasion, in order to do even more dishonesty, which is the way that he was familiar with, to secure for himself a good life afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the point of this story? It is in fact a reminder for us that if we treat of ourselves as those who belong in this world, we will then act in ways acceptable to the world, in all of its tenets and ways, just as the steward, who served himself and his greed for money, did all sorts of dishonesty in order to ensure his life’s well-being. But then, although he may indeed secure for himself a comfortable life after, how about the accountability of all that he had committed?

Truly, the ways of this world can indeed make us go far in this earthly life. Many people are working very hard and even trying to outdo each other in order to secure for themselves promotion, fame, and praise from their superiors and underlings alike. They gathered for themselves much money, possessions, and even power and influence. All of these would indeed ensure that they have a good life in this world. But then again, what will all these worth in the world that is to come?

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful and the Church in the city of Philippi in Greece, he spoke of us being transfigured, changed and transformed by Christ, as Christians who truly devote ourselves and put ourselves in the company of the Lord our God, obeying His ways and commandments. It is linked to what we have heard in the Gospel, that whoever live by the ways of the world, shall likely depend on these, but these while they are good for this world, they are not what can guarantee our salvation in the afterlife.

The ways of this world are often opposed and contradictory to the ways of our Lord. As such, what made us prosperous in this world may not bring us to prosper when the Lord calls upon us to return to Him and to give an account of our lives, of what we have done in that life. If we truly belong to the Lord, then surely we should have committed and done what the Lord had asked us to do?

Unfortunately, many of us are not even aware of what the Lord expects from us. Many of us think of our faith as something of a mere formality, and many of us do not even actively practice our faith! If our actions show that we are contradicting the teachings of the Lord, through our selfishness, through our lack of love and devotion to God, through our hatred and acts that brought about pain and sorrow, we have in fact desecrated the good and holy Name of our Lord.

We cannot be hypocrites in our faith, brethren, and neither should we be lukewarm or ignorant in it. Our faith must be real, genuine, filled with real action and commitment, that we all may then be truly be worthy of the Lord, and in accordance with what St. Paul said in his Epistle, that we should be transformed and changed by the Lord, that in all of our words, deeds and actions, we endeavour to bring glory to God.

And perhaps, in this matter, we should look at the example of St. Charles Borromeo, the famous saint whose feast we are celebrating on this day. St. Charles Borromeo, or San Carolus Borromeo was born into a very influential family of nobles, who at that time, a few centuries ago, had great influence and power in the society. As such, St. Charles Borromeo had been destined for great things from the beginning of his life.

As his relative became the successor of St. Peter and leader of the Universal Church as Pope Pius IV, St. Charles Borromeo at a young age was entrusted with great matters of the Church state and even was made as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, a practice common at that time. And yet, despite such privileges and such great influence wielded by his family and relatives, he lived frugally, with austerity and enforced strict spiritual discipline on all who worked with him and lived with him.

St. Charles Borromeo was very influential and impactful in his works in the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation, together with his contemporaries, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Canisius and many others, resisting and combatting the evil influences of the so-called false Protestant ‘reformation’, the great heresy which had seized millions and many more of the souls of the faithful into damnation due to its lies and false teachings.

He helped the Church to reform its practices, and helped it to impose much stricter discipline on its teachings and ways, purifying the corruptions that had troubled it for many years previously. In the same manner, after he was appointed as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan, one of the most influential dioceses in the world, even then as it is today, he helped to enforce the reforms to renew and rejuvenate the faith against the heresies of Protestantism and against the excesses of the Church.

St. Charles Borromeo often led by example, living as what the Lord had taught him to do, and we should do the same as well. We should walk in his footsteps and follow what he had done, practicing our faith through real commitment and actions. May the Lord help us all to do so, and may He awaken in each one of us the strong desire to be truly faithful to our God. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 4 November 2016 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)
Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him for fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people who will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question. ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 4 November 2016 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)
Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.