Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the Scriptures we heard the words of the Lord speaking to us about the matter of loving and serving God as part of the Covenant which He has made with each and every one of us, reminding us of the wonders of His love and caring heart, His kindness and faithfulness to us, despite our countless and endless rebellion and disobedience against Him.

In the first reading passage taken from the Book of Joshua, we heard how the people of Israel made promises before the Lord, renewing their commitment to the Covenant that God had made with them in the presence of Joshua, the appointed leader of the entire nation and with everyone as witness, at the moment when Joshua was about to depart from this earthly existence due to his old age.

Joshua was concerned that the people of Israel would fall again into the same temptations and the same pitfalls of desire, greed and all sorts of things that had caused their forefathers to fall into sin. Joshua had seen how many of the Israelites who went out of Egypt disobeyed God and His commandments, broke the Covenant which He had just made with them by making for themselves a golden calf idol as a false god over them, and for their many other wicked actions.

Thus, Joshua reminded them of God’s wonderful love for the people He cherished and whom He had chosen from among all the nations. And he also reminded them that should they be disobedient and refused to obey the will of God, or to follow His laws, then they would receive the same fate as their forefathers, as they would suffer and would receive nothing other than destruction and damnation.

But if they were faithful, they would receive the fullness of God’s providence and the fullness of His promised inheritance and glory. The people promised to obey the Lord and renewed the Covenant they had made with God. However, as time would prove, the people would end up falling again and again into temptations and abandoned God many times, only for the Lord to guide them yet again by sending His Judges to be the leaders of His people during those times.

Such indeed was God’s great love for His people, for all of us who have sinned against Him. His love for us is truly boundless and His mercy and compassion is always ever generous and good. No one can hide from His loving gaze and merciful heart. But many of us still resist His love and mercy, and refuse to listen to Him or to embrace His ways. We still attach ourselves to the many desires we have in this world, that led us astray from God.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard then the Lord Jesus Who spoke to His disciples, when they tried to prevent the people from bringing little children to Him. He rebuked them and their behaviour, saying that in fact, they had to be like those little children in their faith, and not to turn them away, instead welcoming them just as they ought to welcome their Master, Lord and Saviour.

And the Lord wanted to show us all through this that we must have true and genuine faith, like those of the little children’s. Little children has that pure faith and ability to believe in something totally, completely and wholeheartedly due to their innocence, and not being clouded, distracted or compounded by the desires and the corruptions or temptations within the heart and the mind.

Are we able to devote ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord in the manner that He has first loved us all so tenderly and graciously? Let us all turn towards the Lord with love and let us dedicate ourselves to Him with a renewed zeal and strength from now on. May the Lord continue to love us and guide us throughout this journey of life from now on. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 19 : 13-15

At that time, little children were brought to Jesus, that He might lay His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.”

Jesus laid His hands on them and went away.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to YHVH, “O YHVH, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I praise YHVH Who counsels me; even at night, my inmost self instructs me. I keep YHVH always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence, the fullness of joy, at Your right hand, happiness forever.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Joshua 24 : 14-29

Joshua said to the people of Israel, “So fear YHVH, and be sincere and faithful in serving Him. Set aside those gods your ancestors worshipped in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Serve only YHVH. But if you do not want to serve YHVH, make known this very day whom you shall serve – whether they be the gods your ancestors served in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites who formerly occupied the land in which you now live. As for me, I and my household will serve YHVH.”

The people answered, “May God not permit that we ever abandon YHVH to serve other gods! For it was He Who brought us and our ancestors out of Egypt, the house of slavery. It was He Who did those great wonders that we have seen; He protected us on the way and through all the land where we passed, driving away before us all the nations especially the Amorites who lived in this land. So we shall also serve YHVH : He is our God!”

Joshua asked the people : “Will you be able to serve YHVH? He is a holy God, a jealous God Who does not tolerate wickedness or faults. If you abandon YHVH to serve other gods, He will turn against you and just as He has done you so much good, so shall He punish you and destroy you.”

The people replied, “No, may it not be as you say. We will serve YHVH.” Joshua said, “You yourselves are witnesses that you have chosen YHVH to serve Him.” They answered, “We are witnesses.” Joshua then said, “Remove now from your midst any other gods and serve YHVH, the God of Israel, with all your heart.” The people answered : “We will serve YHVH, our God, and obey His commands.”

On that day at Shechem, Joshua made a Covenant with the people and fixed laws and ordinances. He also wrote down everything expressed in the book of the Law of God; he chose a great stone and put it under the oak tree in the sacred place of YHVH. Then Joshua said to the people : “This stone shall be a witness to all that YHVH said to us, for it heard all these words. It shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with YHVH.”

Joshua immediately sent the people away and everyone returned to his land. After all these deeds, Joshua, son of Nun and servant of YHVH, died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence the Deacon, a renowned and holy martyr of the faith, and one of the great inspirations to many Christians throughout the centuries. St. Lawrence the Deacon was one of the most prominent early churchmen, being one of the deacons of the Church of Rome, among the most respected positions in Christendom, as the direct assistant to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope in Rome.

St. Lawrence the Deacon was entrusted with great responsibilities in managing the daily affairs of the Church of Rome, taking care of the treasures and riches of the Church, managing the distribution of its goods and resources to those who were in need, taking care of almsgiving and charitable works in the Christian community just as how the order of the Diaconate was initiated for.

At that time, being a Christian meant great suffering and high probability of being arrested, persecuted and martyred, as the position of the civil government of the Roman Empire at the time was that of opposition and persecution of all Christians throughout the realm of the Empire. The Roman Emperor at that time, Valerian, was in particular harsh in his persecution and oppression of Christians, ordering the arrest of all Christians.

The Emperor ordered that all the leaders of the Church, the bishops, priests and deacons were to be arrested and killed right away, and that included St. Lawrence the Deacon and the Pope. The then Pope, Pope St. Sixtus II, whose feast we have just celebrated very recently also, was martyred in this manner, and followed not long afterwards by St. Lawrence himself. St. Lawrence was ordered to surrender the riches of the Church under his care and stewardship to the Roman state.

St. Lawrence courageously did all that he could in order to distribute discreetly all the resources of the Church as much as possible to the Christian community to avoid all of them being seized by the Roman state, and then defiantly presenting to the Roman prefect sent to seize the resources and wealth of the Church, poor, crippled and suffering people as the true treasures of the Church, declaring that the Church is truly richer than the Emperor. He was then martyred for his faith and courage.

What St. Lawrence meant was that, despite all the riches of the world, all the things that this world and its rulers and people can boast of having, none of these can compare to the true treasure that can be found in the Lord alone, through His Church. For God is the foundation and the heart of the Church, the One uniting all the believers and the whole body of the Christian community, and in God alone we can find true glory, true happiness and satisfaction.

And that corresponds to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, in what we have heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth speaking about the matter of sowing and reaping the benefit of what has been sown, and those who sow generously will also reap generous benefits as well, and vice versa. This reminds us of the need to be true witnesses of the Lord and be devoted to Him wholeheartedly as part of our ‘sowing’ of the faith in our own lives.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of the famous words, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains as a single grain, but if it dies, it will produce generous crops.’ This is in fact connected to what had happened to St. Lawrence and the numerous other martyrs of the Church who had suffered and even given their lives for the greater glory and for the service to God.

They remained true to their faith and were faithful to God, rather than seeking their own safety and the assurances of the world, so that by their courageous defence of their faith, by their exemplary piety and commitment to God, Christians of other times and ages may be inspired by their examples, and learn to follow the Lord as they have done. Indeed, the examples set by these holy martyrs, St. Lawrence and his many other companions in faith have inspired countless Christians throughout time, and I am sure that include many of us as well.

Now, brothers and sisters, we are all therefore challenged to be exemplary in our own lives and in how we live up to our faith as our holy predecessors had done. Are we able to follow the Lord in that way? Are we able to commit ourselves and follow Him with true love and sincerity from now on? Let us all be examples to one another, that by our lives and by our faith, we may become witnesses of our faith in God, and bear His truth to the world, as St. Lawrence and many of our holy predecessors had done. Amen.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.