Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us listened to the word of God, which spoke to us about the parable of the sower, a parable which many of us are likely to be familiar with, in which our Lord Jesus spoke about the sower of seeds, who dispersed his seeds and they fell on various grounds and soils, from the rocky grounds and the road sides, to the thorny bushes and then rich and fertile soil.

In that passage, Jesus our Lord spoke of what can happen to the seeds which the sower have spread, depending on the condition of the soil. If the soil is of poor quality and if it has plenty of obstacles, then it is unlikely to be able to support plant growth, and less still to allow bountiful products of fruits and crops to be realised. Only if the soil is fertile then the plants will grow strong and healthy, and bear many fruits.

In that parable, the seeds are the seeds of faith which God has spread over the whole world, to all of us mankind, as the Sower of the Word, for God has spoken His Word and gave us His truth, through none other than Jesus, the Divine Word made flesh, Who became Man for our sake, and all those who heard the teachings of the Lord Jesus have therefore received the Word, the seeds of faith.

But how those seeds develop then depends on how we live up to our faith in Jesus, our Lord. If we do not provide a conducive and matching environment to have the seeds of faith develop in us, then nothing will happen, and the faith in us will remain dormant. And we all ought to know what is going to happen to all of those who remain barren and fruitless, namely, that they will be cast out and rejected.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these are constant reminders for us that all of us need to be active in our faith, and to be truly committed to the Lord, for it is only through this commitment that we are providing the fertile and rich ‘soil’ for the ‘seeds’ of faith to grow in us. Otherwise, we are not doing our part in providing the best condition for the growth and development of our faith.

There are many temptations in this world, the temptations of worldly possessions and wealth, the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh and sexual impropriety, the temptation of greed and worldly glory, the temptation of power and fame, all of which are tools used by the devil and his allies in their never-ending attempts to bring about our downfall. The devil is never at rest, always instead ready to snatch us from God’s saving grace.

That is why if we do not let the Word of God, the truths passed down to us through the Church, to be internalised and understood by us, then when trials and difficulties come upon us, we will be tempted to lose our faith and commitment towards God. And then we will end up becoming like the seeds that were eaten by the birds on the roadside, or like the seeds that were unable to grow firm roots on rocky ground, scorched to death, and also like the plants choked by the thorny bushes and brambles.

Is this the fate that we want to happen to us? Is it what we seek in life? It is easier indeed to obey the demands of the devil and this world rather than to walk faithfully in the path of the Lord. Yet, just as farming involves very arduous and tiring labour, thus for us to be faithful Christians it will also require a lot of effort from us. We must be vigilant and ready against all sorts of traps and obstacles the devil is getting ready in our path.

Let us today reflect on the life and examples of the renowned holy saint, whose name may not be foreign to many of us. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, more commonly known by the name of Padre Pio, was a famous and holy Franciscan friar and priest, who was remembered for his many miracles and hard work among the people, his exorcisms of the people possessed by demons, and his stigmata, or the miraculous appearance of the wounds of the Lord on his body.

Thousands and many thousands more flocked to meet Padre Pio, seeking his miracles and prayers. And many were astonished at his miraculous stigmata. Yet, despite all of those, St. Padre Pio remained humble and he distanced himself from any sorts of pride and worldly glory. In fact, Padre Pio was suffering greatly, first of all, physically from the pain of the wounds of the stigmata, and then also through the persecution and difficulties he had to encounter for many years by the skeptics who refused to believe the authenticity of his miraculous signs.

And yet, Padre Pio endured all of these trials and tribulations quietly, with obedience to his superiors and with faith. He placed his trust in the Lord, and continued to work among the people of God despite the criticism and ridicule that many levied upon him, and his piety and perseverance inspired many others who were converted and atoned for their sins because of his examples.

The story of the life of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio should be an inspiration to all of us Christians as well. We must not be complacent or passive in our faith, but instead be active in our commitment like Padre Pio had done in his life. That means, all of us should go beyond our comfort zone and do what we can, in order to do what the Lord wants us to do, so that by our actions we may be fruitful and filled with the good fruits of the Holy Spirit as St. Padre Pio had shown.

May the Lord bless us all, that the seeds of faith He has sowed in us may grow through our loving actions and commitment to Him. May He help us to persevere as St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio had done in his life, that we may not grumble or complain, but accept the suffering with grace, knowing that God Who finds us fruitful will bless us many times more. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, holy man of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 8 : 4-15

At that time, as a great crowd gathered, and people came to Jesus from every town, He began teaching them with a story : “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.”

“Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked Him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; and hearing, they may not understand.”

“Now, this is the point of the parable : The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it; but immediately, the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he does not want them to believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are people who receive the word with joy; but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial.”

“Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it, in a gentle and generous mind, and, persevering patiently, they bear fruit.”

Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve YHVH with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that YHVH is God; He created us, and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His Name.

For YHVH is good; His love lasts forever; and His faithfulness, through all generations.

Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Timothy 6 : 13-16

Now, in the presence of God, Who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ, Who expressed before Pontius Pilate the authentic expression of faith : preserve the revealed message to all. Keep yourself pure and blameless, until the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, Who God will bring about at the proper time : He, the Magnificent Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

To Him, alone, immortal, Who lives in unapproachable light, and Whom no one has ever seen or can see, to Him, be honour and power, forever and ever. Amen!

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd 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 we heard the message from the Scriptures telling us all as Christians to be true disciples of the Lord, that in all things we do, we must be truly faithful to the Lord, and not just having superficial faith. That is the essence of what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people His parables.

He began with the parable of the good tree producing good fruits, and vice versa, the bad trees producing bad fruits. What the Lord said was that if the trees were healthy and in good condition, they would not have produced poor quality or rotten fruits. Similarly, if the trees are bad and rotten, it is unlikely for them to produce good quality fruits. And all these trees in fact represent all of us mankind, God’s people.

Jesus our Lord then also elaborated on another parable, the parable of the foundations, where He mentioned two types of foundation, firstly the strong and solid rock foundation where a house would remain sturdy and strong even when battered by strong winds, rains or waves. And then, He mentioned about the house built on the weak foundation of sand, were although it was quickly and easily built, but when strong winds and rains batter it, it quickly fell down and collapse.

In these two narratives that Jesus had taught His people, He wanted to show them, and therefore to all of us that as Christians we cannot resolve to cut corners and take it the easy way out, or to make compromises if we are to truly become good disciples of the Lord. Much effort and hard work will be required from each one of us, and from time to time, there will be challenges and difficulties that will come to assail us, just like the winds and waves that assailed the houses in the parable.

It also takes a long time and a lot of effort to grow a healthy and productive plant such as a fruit tree. It requires a lot of hard work to produce a good tree, which we can know that it is good because it produces good fruits. If the tree is not properly taken care of, then it is highly likely that it will end up bad and rotten, and the fruits it produces will be of bad quality and rotten too.

In the same manner, therefore if our faith is not strong, and if we do not put the necessary effort required for us to remain faithful to the Lord, then we may end up losing our faith when the troubles and challenges of life come upon our path. We may end up like the house built upon the foundation of sand, shaky and weak, because we have chosen not to strengthen the foundation of our faith, and when challenges come our way, everything end up collapsing.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must be strong and courageous in our faith, that we may remain true to our faith despite all the difficult times and moments we may encounter, and despite the opposition and troubles that may come from even those who are dearest and closest to us. Remember that Satan and his allies have many things in their power and ability in order to try to bring about our downfall, and we must be ever vigilant.

Let us all look up to the examples of the holy saints whose memory we remember today, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, holy martyrs who have stood faithfully by their faith despite the difficult and challenging times of the early days of the Church, when being Christians was considered as equivalent to having a death wish upon oneself. Christians and the Church were persecuted and many were arrested and put to death for remaining true to their faith and refusing to abandon the Lord.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Church throughout the years of difficult persecution under the Roman Emperors, while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage, the contemporary of the Pope, who was one of the leaders of the Church. There were great divisions within the Church at the time, as there were those who under the famous Novatian, who refused to allow the re-baptism of those who have lapsed from their faith, disagreeing with Pope St. Cornelius, St. Cyprian and many other of those who remained to the true faith.

As such, it was truly a difficult time for the Church and for the faithful, and yet Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian remained strong in their faith and commitment to God. They showed their faith and commitment through their never ending dedication that inspired many others to remain strong in their faith to God, despite all the challenges and persecutions. And to the very end, unto their martyrdom, they did not give up their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples of these holy saints and devoted servants of God. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord following their footsteps. Let us walk faithfully through the journey of our lives, and let us all draw ever closer to God’s love and mercy. May He bless us and guide us all as we continue to struggle daily in our respective lives, trying our best to remain true to our faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 43-49

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears : you do not gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, the good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart.”

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what the one is like, who comes to Me, and listens to My words, and acts accordingly. That person is like the builder who dug deep, and laid the foundations of his house on rock. The river overflowed, and the stream dashed against the house, but could not carry it off because the house had been well built.”

“But the one who listens and does not act, is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. The flood burst against it, and the house fell at once : and what a terrible disaster that was!”

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who also bends down to see on earth as in heaven? He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap.