Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded of the faith and the teachings which we have received from God, and to which we have been called, just as St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading reminded us, that we need to cling closely to the Good News and the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles, their successors and the Church.

And what is this truth and Good News, brothers and sisters? It is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, the essence of our Christian faith in how the Lord treated the sinful woman, a prostitute who came to the feast hosted by the Pharisees for the Lord. When the Pharisee host saw this he was evidently hoping for a chance to catch the Lord off His guard by this opportune moment, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and large segments of the Jewish society then looked down on prostitutes whom they considered as sinners and unworthy.

Therefore, as the sinful woman came to the Lord, they would perhaps hope that the Lord would either cast out the woman and condemn her, therefore affirming their own position and practices of the faith, by showing that even the Lord Jesus was on their side supporting their way of interpreting the Law, or else, by allowing her to touch Him without resistance, the Pharisees could then discredit the Lord and condemn Him for allowing a sinner to taint Him among other things.

But what the Lord did to the woman, just as what the woman also did to Him were surely beyond belief of all those who witnessed the occasion. The woman took a very expensive jar of alabaster with best perfumes inside, and used the perfume to anoint the feet of the Lord with great love, and she humbled herself, most likely kneeling down low in doing so, and then dried the feet of the Lord with her own hair, the crown of her beauty and her pride.

In doing so, the sinful woman lowered herself and humbled herself such before God, with tears and sorrow, repenting for her sins with great sincerity. She must have heard of the Lord’s coming, and His fame and works, which preceded Him, must have stirred the woman, who wanted to be forgiven from her sins and faults. And that was how the woman came to the Lord and humbled herself before Him, begging for His mercy and forgiveness. And God gave her the forgiveness for the sincere repentance she had shown.

The Lord then pointed out immediately to the Pharisees who were baffled by what the woman had done and by what the Lord had told her, that the Lord is loving and forgiving, generous with His mercy and compassionate forgiveness. He used the parable of a creditor who had two people owing him money at the same time to explain this, and highlighted how the forgiveness of those debts made the indebted ones felt so thankful and appreciative of the forgiveness.

Thus, the woman, who was sinful and had done many wicked things earlier on, would naturally be more grateful for the mercy shown to her, rather than the Pharisees for example, who did not appreciate this mercy and love of God. And the Lord made this to point out that, after all, every one of us are sinners, regardless whether we are great sinners or whether we have only sinned a lot less against God, and sin is still sin to be forgiven.

Unless the sinner seeks the Lord’s forgiveness with an open heart and with the genuine desire for repentance, the sinner will not be forgiven. And as the example showed has clearly been presented to us, for each and every one of us to be forgiven, we need to get rid from ourselves pride and arrogance, hubris and ego, and be open to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to seek Him with a remorseful and repentant heart.

We are truly so fortunate to have such a loving and merciful God, and we often do not appreciate this opportunity presented to us, spurning the chances that God has given to us, in His generosity and kindness, and therefore, we should embrace this love and mercy wholeheartedly and not wait until it is too late for us. And today we should follow the good examples of the saint whose feast we celebrate, namely St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and servant of God, declared Doctor of the Church for his works.

St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the most prominent leaders of the Church at the height of the Counter-Reformation, in his many writings and works, and in his role as a bishop and Cardinal in assisting the Pope in the governance of the Universal Church, particularly in the struggle against the many heresies and divisions, various conflicts and disagreements among the members of the faithful at the time.

Through his many actions, writings and efforts, St. Robert Bellarmine was instrumental in the efforts of the Church at the time to bring many segments of the people and the communities to return to the true faith in God, to abandon the false ways and all the false heresies and divisions, and to be reconciled to God. And as we celebrate his feast day today, we ought to recall our own sinfulness and imperfections, all the obstacles that had prevented us from being reconciled to God.

Let us all atone for our sins, turn our hearts, minds and indeed, our entire beings to God, our loving and most merciful Lord and Master, that He may forgive us our sins, and forgive our great transgressions and sins. Let us all be genuinely repentant and regret fully our sins, and endeavour not to sin any more, and to be righteous and worthy of God, from now on. May God be with us always, and guide us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

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, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16ab and 17, 28

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of the Lord is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

You are my God, and I give You thanks. You are my God, and I give You praise.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-11

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me. For I am the last of the Apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although, not I, rather the grace of God, in me.

Now, whether it was I or they, this, we preach, and this, you have believed.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st 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 as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are called to be generous to one another just as our Lord Himself has first been very generous to us from the beginning. He has always been generous to us, in providing for us all that we ever need in life and in giving us first of all the gift of life as well as then many opportunities for us throughout life to be reconciled to Him.

Despite our constant and persistent disobedience, rebelliousness and wayward behaviours, we have always received the fullness of God’s mercy and compassion, as He loves us all very much and wants us to be saved and freed from our fated destruction. By our sins we have been made unworthy of God and we should have faced destruction and eternal damnation if not for God’s enduring love for us.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard the Lord exhorting His disciples and the people to be generous in giving, to be kind and loving to one another, by using the analogy of giving a feast or dinner, in which the custom of that time and I am sure which we are still doing today is that we invite all those who are close and dear to us, and we expect our invitation and kindness to be repaid in kind.

Take for example our current wedding and feast traditions. When we are hosting a banquet, in quite a few cultures and traditions we are expecting the guests to bring gifts or put in their monetary contributions to show that they are contributing to the expenses that we have incurred in hosting and preparing for the banquet and celebrations. But then, if our guests do not give us as what we expect them to give, we then end up feeling bitter and unappreciated.

Then this precisely brings us to wonder about why we even bother to invite the guest we have invited in the first place. Did we invite them because we care about them and we also know that they care about us too and are important to us? Or have we instead thought of our guests and invitees as mere means to an end, or as a return in investment and as something that we can gain from for our own benefits?

That is why many of us mankind failed in building up good and meaningful relationships in our lives. We often do not realise that we have put our selfish desires, our pride and greed ahead of the needs of others. That is why many of us have not been sincere in living our lives with faith, and many of us have hurt one another, or manipulated each other just so that we can benefit and gain from whatever we want.

This is where we need to look at the Lord’s generosity again as He continues to give and very generously give, even after He has already given so much for us all these while. And we must not forget that He has given us the ultimate gift in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom He sent into this world in our midst, that He willingly bore the heavy burden of our sins and suffered for our sake on the Cross, that by His suffering and death, by His ultimate loving sacrifice, He can give us the everlasting reprieve from sin and death.

Today, we also should reflect on the example and life of St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Charles Borromeo was a holy man, a dedicated bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan and one of the most prominent and important leaders of the Church of his time was a crucial and very important figure in the Counter Reformation and also the reforms of the Church and the faithful.

Although he was a very high ranking and influential prelate, St. Charles Borromeo remained humble and dedicated himself to the service of the Church, avoiding the corruptions and scandals that affected many other members and prelates of the Church of his time. In fact, he was known to enforce strictly his reforms aimed at rooting out all the vices and bad practices of the Church within his Archdiocese and encouraging similar developments elsewhere.

St. Charles Borromeo gave his all in service both to God and also to the flock whom he had been entrusted with, dedicating himself, his time, energy and efforts to care for the needs of the faithful and in purifying the Church from all sorts of corruptions and wrong practices. He shows us just what a faithful Christian can do, in being generous with his efforts to love God, just as God has generously loved us first.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to be generous in using our time and efforts for the good purpose of the Lord? Are we willing and able to dedicate ourselves with faith, doing our best to serve Him and be generous with our love towards one another? Let us all challenge ourselves to love ever more and to be more faithful all the days of our lives from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus also addressed the man who had invited Him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid.”

“When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 30-31, 33-34, 36-37

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. His people shall dwell in the land and possess it. The children of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His Name will dwell in it.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 11 : 29-36

Because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified. Through the disobedience of the Jews, the mercy of God came to you who did not obey God. They, in turn, will receive mercy, in due time, after this disobedience, that brought God’s mercy to you. So, God has submitted all to disobedience, in order to show His mercy to all.

How deep are the riches, the wisdom and knowledge of God! His decisions cannot be explained, nor His ways understood! Who has ever known God’s thoughts? Who has ever been His adviser? Who has given Him something first, so that God had to repay him? For everything comes from Him, has been made by Him and has to return to Him. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

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.”