Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

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

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

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

Amos 9 : 11-15

On that day, I shall restore the fallen hut of David and wall up its breaches, and raise its ruined walls; and so built it as in days of old. They shall conquer the remnant of Edom, and the neighbouring nations, upon which My Name has been called.” Thus says YHVH, the One Who will do this.

YHVH says also, “The days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes overtake the sower. The mountains shall drip sweet wine and all the hills shall melt. I shall bring back the exiles of My people Israel; they will rebuild the desolate cities and dwell in them.”

“They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will have orchards and eat their fruit. I shall plant them in their own country and they shall never again be rooted up from the land which I have given them,” says YHVH your God.

Saturday, 27 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, 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 all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to seek God’s mercy, forgiveness, kindness and compassion. We are all reminded just how we are all truly sinners and unworthy of God and yet, all of us have been so fortunate and blessed to enjoy the graces of God and to be given many opportunities, yet again and again just that we may be reconciled with God.

Continuing from the previous few days’ discourse from the Old Testament in which we heard of the final days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and how both kingdoms were destroyed because of the disobedience and sins of the people who chose to trust in their worldly designs and other worldly supports and matters rather than trusting in God, today, all of us heard in our first reading the part from the Book of Lamentations, which as the title holds, is filled with sorrow and regret for the sins that people have committed before God.

In that passage we heard of the destructions that had ravaged through the land, the destruction of Jerusalem and the entire kingdom of Judah and Israel centred in Samaria, which have been this week’s topic. And we heard how the Lord had laid the people humbled and low, shamed for their actions, disobedience and all. But at the same time, the author of the Book of Lamentations also called on the people to seek to return to God, to cry out for His mercy and forgiveness, to beg for His compassion and love to allow them to be reconciled with Him.

Then, we remember what we have then heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord encountered an army captain, whose servant had fallen sick and perhaps was on the verge of death. And being an army captain or centurion at that time, it was likely that this army captain was a member of the Roman army, and could very well have been a Roman himself. At that time, it was also quite common for the Jewish people to look down on the pagans and people whom they deemed to be unworthy of God’s kingdom, like the Samaritans as well as the Greeks and the Romans.

That was the context behind what the Lord then uttered when the army captain humbly sought the help of the Lord to heal his sick servant. And when the Lord wanted to go to his house, the army captain politely declined, and instead, spoke in a very interesting if not intriguing manner, saying that since in his position as an army captain, a mere word of his would be translated into direct order to be completed without fail, thus, if the Lord were to just speak the words, then the army captain believed that his servant would immediately be well.

First of all, visiting the house of a Gentile or a non-Jew especially if the Gentile is a pagan was truly a sensitive matter at the time, and many considered interacting with the Gentiles would make them unclean, going to the house of a Gentile made it even more unclean for them, and thus, was frowned upon by the society. The army captain might have been aware of this and wanted to avoid the Lord getting into controversy by visiting his house to heal his servant.

And then, what the army centurion said to the Lord also underlined his great and genuine faith in God, as contrasted to those who have seen the Lord’s works, heard His words and teachings, and yet, continued to doubt Him and demanded to see more signs and miracles, the army captain did not need to see the sign or witness for himself whatever the Lord was going to do. Instead, he believed that by the will of God alone, such a feat was possible and would be accomplished.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is exactly the kind of faith that all of us must have as well. The faith that leads us to seek God wholeheartedly, to be humble before Him and to love Him above all else, and not to allow the pride, ego, hubris and our desires from intervening and swaying us into disobedience and sin against God. In the past it was all these things that had brought the ancestors of the people of God into their downfall through sin and disobedience.

Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to God with new strength and hope, with new courage and desire to love God even more? That is why today we should also take courage and inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Cyril of Alexandria, a great Church father and leader of the Church in Alexandria, and as its Patriarch, is one of the members of the Pentarchy, the five most senior leaders of the Church at time, and he was busy dealing with many issues facing the Church at that time.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was a courageous defender of the true Christian faith against the errors and the heresy of Nestorianism, which at that time was endangering the unity of the Church, with the false ideas being promoted by the then Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, the Imperial Capital of the Roman Empire. Nestorius claimed that the humanity and divinity of Christ were separated and not united together, creating a dual personality that were distinct, in contrast to the true teachings of the Church.

As Nestorius had his support from yet another powerful leader, the then Patriarch of Antioch, he had great sway over the Church and the faithful, and being the leader of the See of Constantinople, he had great influence over the secular Empire and its leadership as well. But this did not deter St. Cyril from trying his best to oppose the efforts of the heretics from gaining influence and further ground in the Church and among the faithful. He had to endure much suffering and opposition for his efforts.

But in the end, the efforts of St. Cyril of Alexandria bore fruits, as he managed to gain the support of the Church and many among those who remained true to the Orthodox faith, that the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus was convoked and in that Council, the true nature of Christ, his two natures, divine and human jointly united though distinct in the person of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, was affirmed and the heresy of Nestorianism was condemned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen and heard what St. Cyril of Alexandria had done, all that he had done for the greater good of the Church, let us all devote ourselves, our time and attention, our faith and commitment to God from now on, that we may truly be able to follow God wholeheartedly from now on, following the good examples set before us by the army captain who professed his faith publicly before the Lord, as well as St. Cyril of Alexandria, the faithful servant of God.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through life, and may He strengthen us in faith and in the resolve to continue living our lives with faith from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good endeavours, at all times, now, always and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 27 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Matthew 8 : 5-17

At that time, when Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached Him, to ask His help, “Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralysed and suffers terribly.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The captain answered, “I am not worthy to have You under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one, ‘Go!’ he goes; and if I say to another, ‘Come!’ he comes; and if I say to my servant, ‘Do this!’ he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, He was astonished; and said to those who were following Him, “I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven; but the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown out into extreme darkness; there, they will wail and grind their teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the captain, “Go home now. As you believed, so let it be.” At that moment, his servant was healed. Jesus went to Peter’s house and found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever. He took her by the hand and the fever left her; she got up and began to wait on Him.

Toward evening, they brought to Jesus many people possessed by evil spirits; and with a word, He drove out the spirits. He also healed all who were sick. In this way, what was said by the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : He bore our infirmities and took on Himself our diseases.

Saturday, 27 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 73 : 1-2, 3-5a, 5b-7, 20-21

O God, have You rejected us forever? Why vent Your anger on the sheep of Your own fold? Remember the people You have formed of old, the tribe You have redeemed as Your inheritance. Remember Mount Zion, where You once lived.

Climb, and visit these hopeless ruins, the enemy has ravaged everything in the Sanctuary. Your foes have roared triumphantly in the holy place, and set up their banner of victory.

Like lumbermen felling trees, they smashed the carved panelling with hatchets, hammers and axes. They defiled Your Sanctuary and set aflame the dwelling place of Your Name.

See how they keep Your Covenant, in the dark caves of the land. Do not let the oppressed be put to shame; may the poor and needy praise Your Name.

Saturday, 27 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Lamentations 2 : 2, 10-14, 18-19

Without pity YHVH has shattered in Jacob every dwelling. He has torn down in His anger the ramparts of Judah’s daughter. He has thrown her rulers and her king to the ground, dishonoured.

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit in silence upon the ground, their heads sprinkled with dust, their bodies wrapped in sackcloth, while Jerusalem’s young women bow their heads to the ground. With weeping, my eyes are spent; my soul is in torment because of the downfall of the daughter of my people, because children and infants faint in the open spaces of the town.

To their mothers they say, “Where is the bread and wine?” as they faint like wounded men in the streets and public squares, as their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms. To what can I compare you, o daughter of Jerusalem? Who can save or comfort you, o virgin daughter of Zion? Deep as the sea is your affliction, and who can possibly heal you?

Your prophets’ visions were worthless and false. Had they warned of your sins, your fate might have been averted. But what they gave you, instead, were false, misleading signs. Cry out to the Lord, o wall of the daughter of Zion! Oh, let your tears flow day and night, like a river. Give yourself no relief; grant your eyes no respite.

Get up, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to Him, for the lives of your children, who faint with hunger at the corner of every street.

Saturday, 20 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the day after the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate then the feast of the Immaculate Heart of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This day, just as we have recalled the great love which God has poured out from His most loving Heart, we also recall the tender, compassionate and motherly love shown by Mary to her Son, her beloved One, from her Immaculate Heart.

We recall Mary’s great love for God, her faith and piety, her commitment to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, and how she loved her Son dearly from the moment before He was born, and even up to the way of the Cross, when Mary followed her Son faithfully as He picked up His Cross and bore that burden of the Cross with Him to Calvary. It must indeed have pained her a lot to see her Son treated in such a way, and suffered in such a terrible manner.

And this was what the man of God Simeon spoke of at the Temple when the Lord Jesus was presented there after His birth. Simeon told Mary, the mother of the Lord that her Son was a Sign that would be the cause for the rising and downfall of many, and then, prophesied that ‘a sword will pierce your own heart’. It was at that moment of great anguish and sorrow, seeing her own Son’s suffering and journey towards His death that the ‘sword’ pierced Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

This was a heart that beats with love and filled with genuine faith in God, a heart blameless and immaculate because Mary herself had been conceived without sin, and pure from any taints of evil and wickedness. Yet, this loving and gentle Immaculate Heart has to endure such bitter wound and hurt. But all these did not stop her from loving, and instead, she loved with even greater sincerity and effort. And the same love which she has shown to her Son, she has also showed to all of us.

The Lord has entrusted us all to the loving care of His own mother when from the Cross, at the moment of His suffering and death, symbolically entrusted St. John to Mary’s care, and also vice versa, Mary to the care of St. John. Ever since then, all of us have been truly blessed to have Mary, not just as a great saint and role model, but also as our own adopted mother, and we have all been placed under her loving care and embrace.

That was why we have had many moments when the Blessed Virgin Mary, our loving mother appeared to us in different occasions, most famous of which occurred in Guadalupe, in La Salette, in Lourdes, in Fatima among others. And in all occurrences, Mary, the loving Mother of God and our mother always emphasised on repentance and for all mankind to turn once again towards God, towards her Son and to be forgiven from all of our sins and be reconciled.

Having seen the pain and suffering, the sorrow and troubles her Son endured on the Cross, it is not surprising that first of all, Mary as a loving Mother would not have wanted her Son’s sacrifice for our sake to be wasted on account of our stubbornness and refusal to turn towards God and remain in sin. And of course, then as a loving mother to all of us, she also certainly does not want any one of us to be lost from her due to our sinful ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must really consider ourselves truly fortunate, to have received such abundant love, care and compassion not just from the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, but even also from the Immaculate Heart of His own mother Mary, who is also our loving mother. Do we not want to listen to our mother’s loving words calling upon us to turn to her and from her towards Jesus Christ, her Son, Our Lord and Saviour?

Let us all therefore turn towards God with renewed faith, and devote ourselves from now on with greater zeal. Let us all commit ourselves to the path shown to us by our mother, Mary, through her loving Immaculate Heart, and follow this path faithfully to our complete reconciliation and forgiveness in God. O Blessed Mother Mary, help us all to be more like you in faith, and to share the love overflowing from your Immaculate Heart. Pray for us all sinners, and bring us ever closer to Christ, your Son, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Saturday, 20 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them. As for His mother, she kept all these things in her heart.