Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th 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 we heard how God brought out His people out of Egypt, after four hundred and thirty years of slavery. This showed the eminent love and goodness of God who did not forget the suffering of His people, and who did not turn a deaf ear against the pleas of His faithful ones. He is always listening to us, and His heart is forever always turned to us, waiting for us to receive His love and then return to Him the same love.

In the Gospel we heard how Jesus went from place to place, from towns to towns and from villages to villages, bearing healing, goodness and mercy. Through the works of His hands, He rejuvenated a people who had once been overwhelmed by darkness, evil, malice, greed, and all things that had brought about injury and disease to them, the disease and affliction of the soul.

He laid their hands of them, curing them all from the sickness of the flesh, awakening the sick and even raising some of them from death. These great occasions and evidences all led to the very fact that our Lord is a loving and caring God, who is always concerned about our well-being, whose ears and hearts are always directed at us, at all times.

But now then, we have to ask ourselves. What have done then, in order to repay the love which our Lord had shown us? What kind of love have we shown Him, for all of the goodness He had showered us with? Unfortunately, most of the time, what we have shown Him is indeed indifference, lack of love, ignorance, stubbornness, and refusal to acknowledge the love He has shown us. We went and sought other gods and idols, seeking pleasures and goodness through venues other than through the Lord.

God has given us so much good things, and yet we respond to Him with bitter scourges and vitriolic replies, and we rejected His grace right in front of Him many, many times. He has blessed us with so many things, and yet we took them for granted and did not thank Him when we should. This is the fact of what is happening to us today, and truly in many aspects we have not learnt from the example of our predecessors, those who went before us.

The Israelites were indeed brought out of Egypt as we all knew, but certainly we should also be aware of how they constantly rebelled against the Lord during their journey in the desert. Although God has given them much food and water to drink, they still complained of how good their lives were in Egypt, even though they were enslaved and oppressed. Truly, they had no gratitude for what the Lord had done for them.

And the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the elders of Israel rejected Jesus and His teachings, constantly hounded Him and His disciples at every possible opportunities to find fault in them and therefore to accuse them of any wrongdoing. They failed to see how the Lord had done so much for them, for the people of God, by all the miracles He had done publicly for all of them to see, and yet they still refused to believe.

Is this what we want to be, brothers and sisters in Christ? To be a people whose stubbornness and indignant behaviour made them to commit great sins before God? Or should we instead recognise first how feeble and vulnerable we are to the mercy of the forces of this world arrayed against us, and yet God is raising His hand at all times to protect us from all of them? Do we realise how much God had done for us in His own way, even when we do not realise it?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all reflect and pray, and pray so that we all may find the grace to love the Lord ever more as the time goes by, and the grace that we may see how much He has blessed us, and the humility to be able to thank Him for all the things He had done for us. Let us all also from now on commit ourselves to love Him all the more and devote ourselves through our own actions and deeds rooted in His love. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. Then He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : ‘Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him and He will announce My judgment to the nations.’

‘He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick. He will persist until justice is made victorious, and in Him all the nations will put their hope.’

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 135 : 1, 23, 24, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

He remembered us in our humiliation, His kindness endures forever.

And He freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

He slew the firstborn of Egypt, His kindness endures forever.

And He brought Israel out, His kindness endures forever.

With strong hand and outstretched arm, His kindness endures forever.

He split the Sea of Reeds, His kindness endures forever.

And He made Israel pass through it, His kindness endures forever.

Drowning Pharaoh and his army, His kindness endures forever.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Exodus 12 : 37-42

The Israelites left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand of them on the march, counting the men only, and not the children. A great number of other people of all descriptions went with them, as well as sheep and cattle in droves.

With the dough they had brought with them from Egypt, they made cakes of unleavened bread. It had not risen, for when they were driven from Egypt they could not delay and had not even provided themselves with food.

The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. It was the end of these four hundred and thirty years to the very day that the armies of YHVH left Egypt. This is the watch for YHVH who brought Israel out of Egypt. This night is for YHVH, and all the Israelites are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time.

Friday, 17 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about Jesus who contended with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, on the matter of the observance of the Sabbath day and its laws. The teachers of the Law contended that the disciples of Jesus violated the Sabbath law by crushing grains of crop and eating them.

We have to understand first what the situation was all about. The Law of the Sabbath was one of the many laws and ordinances which God had given unto men, since the time of Moses His servant, beginning with the law that prescribed the celebration of the Passover, the first Passover when Israel was about to be liberated from slavery under the Egyptians. This is what we heard in our first reading today.

Ultimately, in order to understand what Jesus had reasoned with the Pharisees in today’s readings, we have to understand the purpose of such laws in the first place. Jesus showed that the Law is created not to subjugate men under blind obedience and new oppression, but rather to help men to liberate themselves instead from the oppression of sin and disobedience.

The first reading today taken from the Book of Exodus is about the details of the celebration of the first Passover which took place at the land of Egypt, when at that night which was different from any other previous nights, God Himself descended and with His might saved His own people by the blood of unblemished lambs, which marked the houses of the faithful.

The focus here should not be on how the occasion was celebrated, as with the law of the Sabbath, it is very easy for someone to follow the rituals and the celebrations while forgetting the true intent for such commemorations. The Law of the Sabbath is for God to remind His people, that just as He had loved them so much by liberating them from their oppressors and slavers, then they too should devote their time for Him, at least for one day.

But the application of this law had become screwed in the end, as something intended for the benefit of men, that they can find time to spend with the Lord their God, became in itself an oppression, for the elders and the leaders of the people failed to understand the significance of the Law, which is not for God to punish or oppress men but truly to love them even more.

God knows how lawless we can be, and how disobedient we can be. He knows the extent of our rebelliousness ever since the day when we mankind first committed sin before Him, and yet, in His tender mercy and great love for us all, He still endeavoured to give chance after chances, and opportunity after opportunities. It was because of His great love that He had rescued us time and again from ourselves, from our sins and wickedness, from our selfishness and evils.

And continuing from the first reading today, where we talked about the Passover, the very first Passover when God passed over His people marked with the blood of the unblemished lambs so that all those marked were not to suffer death unlike the Egyptians, then do we all realise that God had given us an even greater Passover, a new Covenant which He had established with us?

This new Passover, the new Covenant is the covenant with the Blood of the one True Lamb, the Lamb of God, who became the Paschal sacrifice. Instead of the blood of the mortal lambs, God had given Himself to be the Lamb for the slaughter, so that by the outpouring of His Blood on us, we who share in this Sacred Blood may share the salvation and life which He had given all who are faithful to Him.

The Blood of the Lamb of God is the mark of the new Covenant, which all of us believers and faithful ones have received through the Church. We all share in the Body and Blood, the Most Holy and Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was indeed the love of God that made all these possible. Without God’s love, then there would have been no hope for us all.

Therefore, on this day, as we reflect on the Scripture passages, let us all keep in mind, the fact that God loves us, and He does not give us something too heavy a burden for us to endure. What He wants from us is just simply our love and our obedience, and nothing more. For He who have loved us so much and given us so much, is truly worthy of being loved.

May Almighty God be with us and guide us on our path, so that in all the things we do, we may avoid becoming blinded to the will of God, and following our faith to God emptily without meaning and reason. We must go forth and understand our faith more so that we may truly serve our Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength.

Let our minds and hearts be filled with genuine love for our Lord and whenever we do something let us do it because we love the Lord, and not because we think that we are just following a law and commandment, for the sake of doing it, which is meaningless and empty. May God bless us in this endeavour, and remain with us always, our loving God who gave us life and freed us from the darkness of our sins. Amen.

Friday, 17 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that Jesus walked through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some heads of wheat and crush them to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple break the Sabbath rest, yet they are not guilty?”

“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Friday, 17 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15 and 16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Friday, 17 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 11 : 10 – Exodus 12 : 14

Moses and Aaron had worked all these marvels in the presence of Pharaoh, but YHVH had made Pharaoh obstinate and he would not let the people of Israel leave his country.

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat.”

“That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat the meat lightly cooked or boiled in water but roasted entirely over the fire – the head, the legs and the inner parts. Do not leave any of it until the morning. If any is left till morning, burn it in the fire.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH!”

“The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”

Thursday, 16 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of our Lady of Mount Carmel)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ in her aspect as the Lady of Mount Carmel, which is a mountain found in the Holy Land, in what is now Israel. She is the patroness of the great Carmelite religious order which was founded at the very site of Mount Carmel during the time of the Crusades almost a millennia ago.

From there the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary represented as our Lady of Mount Carmel spread around the world as the Carmelites established their monasteries and chapels all over the earth. And the most popular part of this devotion is the wearing of the brown scapular around one’s neck, which consists of an image of the Blessed Virgin carved on a simple brown-coloured material with strings linking both sides of the scapular.

To all those who regularly wear the brown scapular, through the promises which our Blessed Mother had mentioned herself when she appeared to her servants in the Carmelite order, the protection and blessings against evil and its forces will be in power against all those who seek to corrupt and destroy us. Those who wear the scapular devoutly and live their lives in good faith will be shielded from the malice of the devil.

All these point out to one thing, why do we devote ourselves in prayer and thanksgiving for our Blessed Mother Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ? That is because she is the mother of our Lord, and she lies the closest to the presence of her Son in heaven. She is always constantly thinking about us, praying for us, and beseeching her Son to show His mercy to all of us, especially those of us who graciously seek it from her.

God had honoured His own mother, not just because of her virtue of being His mother. But if we notice in the Gospel today, how Jesus mentioned to the people, who are His brothers and sisters, and who are His mothers. He was not insulting or rebuking His mother in that case, as we would have thought if we just look at it at the surface.

In fact what Jesus did was truly pointing out the great virtues which His mother had done. Mary is great and truly blessed because she is indeed firstly the mother of our Lord, but also because of her exemplary faith, piety and devotion to her Son, and the love which she showed to all of us, whom He had entrusted to her as her own. Remember when Jesus entrusted Mary His mother to John and then entrusted John to her? In the same way, God had entrusted His own mother to be our mother, and entrusted all of us to be under her care.

This devotion to our Lady of Mount Carmel, the popular devotion of the brown scapular of Mount Carmel should be strong reminders for us, that all of us ought to lead a life that is exemplary and filled with faith, just as the life which our mother Mary had once led during her time in this world. We should look up to her and see her virtuous examples, and strive to make it as part of our own life.

Let us on this day, renew our faith and commitment to the Lord our God, through the intercession and guidance of His blessed mother Mary, our Lady of Mount Carmel. May the brown scapular we wear today with devotion be a reminder for us always, to lead a life filled with faith and real dedication to our Lord. May this be an inspiration for us to resist evil and wickedness, and take these out of our own lives, replacing them with righteousness and light of Christ.

May our Blessed Mother Mary, our Lady of Mount Carmel always intercede for us in the hour of need, and may we draw ourselves closer to her, so that through her we may get ever closer to the throne of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of our Lady of Mount Carmel)

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest. For My yoke is good, and My burden is light.”

Alternative reading (Mass of our Lady of Mount Carmel)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was still talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is for Me brother, sister or mother.”