Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us gather together to listen to the words of the Lord and to celebrate together as one whole Church, the Feast of the great saint and Patroness of Missions, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. On this day we heard of the words from the Scriptures reminding us all to entrust ourselves to the Lord and to follow Him faithfully, to follow Him with all of our hearts and might, and to be like little children in our faith, pure and sincere, and genuine in our desire to love God and to walk in His path, unfettered by the many temptations of the world often present all around us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, as He told them to have faith in Him and trust in Him, as He would restore peace, glory and happiness to Jerusalem, to His people and nation, and that they would no longer have to suffer or be in agony, as the Lord would be by their side and they would be His people. This was made in the context of how difficult the situation of the people of God at the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, and God wanted His people to remain firmly faithful to Him and to entrust themselves to Him, calling on them to turn away from their past, sinful ways.

For back then, many of the people of God had ended up being cast out and exiled from their own lands because of their own sins and disobedience as they allowed themselves to be swayed by their desires and attachments to the world. Those who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed on much of the ten tribes that rose in rebellion against the House of David, had been brought into exile by the Assyrians, the mighty empire that came and conquered the lands of Israel and destroyed the cities and towns of Israel, humiliating and crushing them. And all these happened because the Israelites there had not listened to God and His frequent reminders and calls on all of them to repent from their sinful ways. God had sent His many prophets, servants and messengers to call on them to repent, but they refused to pay attention and even persecuted those prophets.

In the southern kingdom of Judah, where the prophet Isaiah ministered in, the people of God had also not always been faithful to God and had from time to time falling again and again into sinful paths. They had not always listened to the words of the Lord, and rebelled against Him. They too have suffered at the hands of their neighbours and enemies, and back then, they were also under threat from the growing might of the Assyrians. But the Lord reassured them and told them that if they were to put their faith in Him, they truly had nothing to fear. God would restore the glory of Jerusalem and His kingdom to the people who were faithful to Him, and they would once again rejoice in His presence.

The main reason why the people had not been faithful and continued to fall into sin, again and again was because they were too attached to the worldly matters and concerns, desires and other things that kept them chained to the path of sin and disobedience against God. They were all too busy with their many attachments to worldly matters to attend to God and they ignored His calls because they were all too busy and preoccupied in seeking more worldly things, of wealth and glory, of fame and status, of many other satisfactions and pleasures in life. Due to all these, they kept on growing further and further away from God and His righteous path.

And that is exactly why we should heed what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that unless we follow the Lord in the manner that the little children were following Him, then we all can have no place in God’s kingdom. At that time, as mentioned, the disciples were then arguing amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and they were competing and arguing that each one of them had better merits and worth to be the ones trusted by the Lord, to be part of His inner circle. But in doing that, they essentially opened themselves to the temptations of Satan and the other evil spirits, who always tried to seek our downfall.

That was how we mankind often fell into sin, because we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, happiness and satisfactions, the desire for money and material wealth, for pleasures of the flesh and the comfort of the world, in various forms, and in indulging upon our many desires and wants in this world. Through these things, the devil and all of his wicked allies were trying hard always to snatch us from the path towards God and His salvation and grace. And unless we make the conscious efforts to resist the temptations to sin, then we may likely fall deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the life and examples set by one of our holy predecessors whose feast we celebrate today as just mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, namely St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. This holy servant of God was also often known as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’ and was remembered for her intense devotion to God and for her faith and holy life, as well as for her propagation of her ‘Little Way’ which were what she was mostly remembered and commemorated for. Even up to this day, the impact from her life and contributions are still enormous and can still be easily felt.

St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who had strong devotion to the Lord since her early youth, and who was inspired to join the religious convent at the very young age of fifteen. She grew up in a very devout and religious family, and her parents, who later on became saints themselves. St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, inspired their children to live a life of virtue and dedication to God, and all of their children became religious and dedicated their lives to God, including that of St. Therese of Lisieux herself. And when her mother passed away in her life, St. Therese was drawn closer to God, finding her refuge in Him.

Despite suffering from ill health throughout her life, St. Therese of Lisieux remained firm in her commitment to God and in her desire to be a religious devoted completely to God. St. Therese also began to experience visions and other mystical experiences from early in in her life. St. Therese was well-known for her night of ‘complete conversion’ experience, in which she experienced a great mystical vision and the liberating and comforting presence of God, solidifying her desire to commit herself to the Lord. Eventually, after a period of discernment and after some arrangements, St. Therese joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery.

She was remembered for her constant care for others, and for her prayers for sinners, such as for one convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, whom she prayed for daily for his conversion before he was due to be executed for his crimes. She was also remembered for her great sanctity and her adherence to what is now known as St. Therese’s ‘Little Way’. This ‘Little Way’ constitutes the need for all of us as Christians to commit ourselves to God even in the smallest and the littlest things we can do on each days and in every moments of our lives. St. Therese said that it is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we gradually build up our approach towards the eternal kingdom of God.

The faith and dedication which was shown by St. Therese of Lisieux should remind all of us that as Christians, we have the calling and responsibility to reach out to our fellow men and to be the genuine witnesses of our Christian faith and truth. We are all called and in fact, challenged to do whatever we can to glorify God and to proclaim His Holy Name, His truth and love to the world, by the simplest things we do in life. We do not have to think of great and ambitious things, as in fact, many of those who seek for great things to do, end up disappointed, and not just that, but many ended up doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to serve their own pride and vainglory, their own desires and ambitions rather than to fulfil their role as servants and followers of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that each one of us as Christians have that important responsibility, for all of us to contribute in whichever ways we can, in our respective areas and missions entrusted to us, in our own daily living and activities. All of us are indeed missionaries, and we have to realise that mission entails even things as simple as us proclaiming the Lord through our own exemplary and virtuous lives. That is why St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions, reminding us not to have the misconception that missions can only take place in faraway and distant lands, or in great missionary efforts, but in fact, mission happens in each and every moments of our lives.

Let us all therefore do our best to proclaim the Lord as His missionaries of faith, hope and charity, and do our best, inspired by the good examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and the innumerable other saints, holy men and women of God, that we may always be virtuous and worthy in our actions, words and deeds, even in the smallest things. Let us all strive to be holy and inspirational to others, leading a most Christian living in our daily lives to the best of our abilities. May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in our efforts and endeavours, and may St. Therese of Lisieux, of the Child Jesus continue to pray for us and intercede for us sinners, always. Amen.

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 1-3

O YHVH, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child, on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in YHVH, o Israel, now and forever.

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 66 : 10-14

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

For it shall be known that YHVH’s hand is with His servant, but His fury is upon His enemy.

Saturday, 24 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded yet again of the need for each one of us as Christians to be always mindful and aware of what we all need to do in our lives, in doing the actions that are in accordance with God and His ways, obeying His will and commandments, and keeping in mind that each and every single things that we say and do, all these will be accountable to God on the Day of Judgment. And not only that, but in all the things that we are able to do and in the capacity of doing, but not doing because we neglect our responsibilities, we shall also be made accountable for them as well.

That was the gist of what we heard from the Book of Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth in our first reading today. We heard how the author reminded those who were young that they ought to keep those words in mind, reminding them that each and every one of their actions will be accountable to God. There is nothing that we do which will not be known or unveiled to God. The Lord knows everything in our hearts and minds, and He shall judge us all by everything He knows of us. We have been given the opportunities and the time to do the things that God has shown us, to be His faithful disciples and witnesses in the midst of our communities.

And we should not be ignorant of that calling to do something, to participate in the good works and efforts of the Church, in its various outreach and commissions, and not only that but also in our own individual capacities, even to the smallest and simplest things like living our lives worthily and faithfully in accordance to the Law and commandments of God. In a world where there are plenty of temptations for us to disobey God and to embrace the path of worldliness and sin, each one of us have been called to seek the Lord wholeheartedly and to follow Him, while knowing that this path that God has called us to walk in, may not be an easy or smooth one.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding Who He truly was, and what He was about to endure during the moments of His Passion, suffering and death. Back then, no one would have known or expected that the Lord would have suffered such a grievous fate. In fact, many among the followers of the Lord would have expected that He would lead them all into glory and victory against the Romans and other oppressors, and reestablish the kingdom of David, the kingdom of God’s people Israel. The coming of the Messiah was understood as a time of great glory and triumph, where the Lord would gather His people and give them the freedom and victory against their enemies.

But they had misunderstood the Lord’s intentions, and the Lord Himself told them that in truth, He, the Messiah, the Son of Man, just as the prophets themselves had predicted, particularly that of the prophet Isaiah, He would have to suffer grievously for the sake of His beloved ones. He would have to be rejected and oppressed, punished and tortured, scourged, beaten and spat upon for the sake of our salvation and liberation. And yet, knowing all that would happen to Him, and all the sufferings that He would have to endure, the Lord Jesus still obeyed His Father’s will perfectly and carried out everything to perfection, suffering and dying on His Cross at Calvary.

Through that act of supreme love and sacrifice, the ultimate selfless expression of love, God has shown us first of all that He loves us in an infinitely wonderful way, and He has always cared for us all these times despite of our frequent disobedience and refusal to believe in Him. And not only that, but through His Son, the same Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the same suffering Son of Man, God showed us the perfect obedience and the perfect role model that His Son has done for us, so that we know that it truly means for us to be Christians. The Apostles and disciples of the Lord themselves followed His examples, remembering His new commandment and mandate at the Last Supper, that they ought to do whatever that their Lord and Master had done.

This is a reminder that each one of us following in the footsteps and examples of the Apostles and the innumerable saints, holy men and women of God, we have to listen to the Lord, obey His will, His Law and commandments, and do what He has called us to do and make good use of the time and opportunities that He has presented to us. We are all given many different and unique talents, opportunities and other things that can allow us to do so many great wonders, and we should realise that each one of us have this part to play as God’s people, to be active and committed in giving ourselves and our lives for the cause of the Lord at all times. This is what we should do instead of being distracted by the many temptations all around us, the temptations of power, wealth, worldly glory and many others.

Let us all realise that all of us have been given this opportunity to serve the Lord and to do good things, and through all of that, we may be found worthy by the Lord in the end, when He comes to judge all of us. Let us appreciate the opportunities that we have been given, and do whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives, by our every words, actions and deeds, even in the smallest things we say and do. May the Lord continue to be with us, guiding and strengthening us in each and every possible opportunities. May God bless our every endeavours and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 9 : 43b-45

At that time, while all were amazed at everything Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Listen, and remember what I tell you now : The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.” But the disciples did not understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

Saturday, 24 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 89 : 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, a dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Saturday, 24 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 11 : 9 – Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 12 : 8

Rejoice, young man, in your youth and direct well your heart when you are young; follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do.

Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last. Be mindful of your Creator when you are young, before the time of sorrow comes when you have to say, “This gives me no pleasure,” and before the sun, moon and stars withdraw their light, before the clouds gather again after the rain.

On the day when the guardians of the house tremble, when sturdy men are bowed and those at the mill stop working because they are too few, when it grows dim for those looking through the windows, and the doors are shut and the noise of the mill grows faint, the sparrow stops chirping and the bird-song is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening;

Yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caperberry bears fruit that serves no purpose, because man goes forward to his eternal home and mourners gather in the street, even before the silver chain is snapped or the golden globe is shattered, before the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel at the mill, before the dust returns to the earth from which it came and the spirit returns to God Who gave it.

Meaningless! Meaningless! The teacher says; all is meaningless!

Saturday, 17 September 2022 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded yet again on our faith in the Lord and our beliefs in Him, in how we should have faith in us, which He has sown in us, and we should bear rich fruits of faith, through our exemplary lives and actions. Each and every one of us should do our best to love and serve the Lord at every moments throughout life, so that we may truly live our lives as good and dedicated Christians, worthy of being the ones who have been made and created in the image of God Himself, and Whom God had called and willingly made to be His own beloved children and people.

In our first reading today taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth we heard the Apostle St. Paul spoke to the people there regarding the matter of the resurrection from the dead and the resurrection of the body as there were still members of the faithful who did not understand or appreciate what the resurrection truly meant and how it would affect all of them. There were then still members of the Christian faithful, probably those who once belonged to the caste of the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead who had doubts about the resurrection and did not understand how it works.

St. Paul highlighted how through Christ, the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world, bearing the truth and salvation from God, has shown us a new life through Him, a new existence that goes beyond our earthly life. He mentioned how the first Adam, our ancestor was given life when he was created by God, and how the New Adam, that is Christ Himself, has brought upon us true and everlasting life, that we shall transcend beyond our mortal bodies and existence, and through Him we shall be reunited and reconciled with God. That new life, which God brought upon us through His Son, shows us that our mortality and death do not mark the end of our existence, and instead there is eternity beyond that of death.

In our Christian faith and beliefs, all of us believe that there is life beyond death, and while all of us have to experience suffering and death as consequences for our sins, but the same sins and death do not have the final say over us. To those who are righteous and worthy, God has shown us through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Saviour, that we shall be reunited with Him and shall once again enjoy the fullness of His grace and blessings as He has always intended for us. The Lord has always been so reassuring towards us, and He did not just love us despite our many rebellions and disobedience against Him, but He even sent us His Son to bring His salvation and deliverance upon us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known parable of the sower by the Lord, in which the Lord Himself told His disciples of what happened to the seeds sown in four different places, by the roadside, on rocky and dry ground, amongst the thistles and brambles, and finally on rich and fertile soil. The Lord went through the meaning of each part of the parable and told them what each of them represented, and how the seeds were truly a reference to the Word of God, the Wisdom and truth which God has bestowed on all of His people. How and where the seeds landed represented how we mankind responded to the Lord, to His truth and love, to His Good News and grace in our midst.

We have to realise that as long as we continue to resist the Lord in the manner of how some among the faithful in Corinth continued to have doubts and reservations on their beliefs, and in their inability to comprehend the resurrection, then it is just like how we mankind tend to shut the Lord out of our lives as we prefer to live them in the manner that we want to live them, following the ways of the world and the paths that may not conform to the path that God has shown and taught us. More often than not we prefer to trust in our own judgments and ideals, and not listening to God speaking to us in the depth of our hearts and minds. And our preoccupation with our own desires prevent us from being able to listen to Him.

That is why today, as we also celebrate the feast of two great saints whose examples and faith can become our inspiration in how we ought to live our own lives, we should give some time to heed their examples and their actions in life. St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Hildegard of Bingen are these two great servants of God who should become our role models in life, that we may grow ever stronger in faith and ever closer to God. Both of them had served the Church and the people of God in various ways, and in their personal holiness and dedication, they have done much to bring the people of God ever closer to their Lord and Saviour.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a Jesuit Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, who was credited for his intense effort in supporting and applying the reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent in the midst of great changes in the Church and the community during the Counter-Reformation period. He was very much involved in the renewal of Catholic theology and education, as he was involved over many years in the teaching of theology at the Roman College, now known as the Pontifical Gregorian University, influencing many seminarians who would become future priests and leaders of the Church, impressing many people with his deep intellectual understanding of theology and the Scriptures, as well as his great wisdom.

St. Robert Bellarmine was made as the Rector of the aforementioned Roman College, and then as a Bishop and finally a Cardinal of the Church. He was entrusted by the Pope with the task to assist in the reforms of the Church, and he also wrote extensively on many works and books related to theology and Christian teachings. He also defended the true faith against the many heresies, falsehoods and the other forces arrayed against the Church at that time. Through his ceaseless efforts and commitment to God, St. Robert Bellarmine showed us what it truly means to be truly dedicated as Christians.

Meanwhile, St. Hildegard of Bingen was a German Benedictine abbess who was renowned as a great mystic and writer, and whose contributions to the Church both in her local community and the larger Universal Church were immense. St. Hildegard of Bingen was credited with many writings in various topics and aspects, both regarding Church teachings and even beyond, and devoted her life to the Lord and her community. She wrote extensively on the matters of theology, as well as botany and medicine, and was also credited with the development of monophony in the Church music of her time. For all these efforts and hard work, and for all the contributions that she had done, she was recently therefore canonised ten years ago by Pope Benedict XVI, and then elevated to the position of the Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis, our current Pope.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples shown by St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Hildegard of Bingen, that we ourselves may also be good role models and examples for others all around us, in our faith and in how we live our lives. Let us all be true witnesses of the Lord and proclaim His truth and love, His Good News and all His grace to all the nations through our own lives and actions each day. May God bless us always and may He continue to guide us in all of our actions, in our every efforts and deeds. Amen.

Saturday, 17 September 2022 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

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.”