Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all reminded of the calling of the Lord to all of us to trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead us down the right path as our Shepherd, and each and every one of us must then also follow the example of our Shepherd and become sources of inspiration and strength for one another so that each and every one of us may be inspired to always remain committed to God.

In our first reading today from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people, who at that time was in exile in Babylon, that He would gather them like a shepherd gathering his sheep, from those scattered among the nations, and He would look for them and reunite themselves to Him, as He still loved them and cared for them as His beloved people and His children. The Lord is still ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with them even though those same people had betrayed and abandoned Him for the false pagan idols and gods.

The Lord would prove this right by gathering all of His scattered people and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great to allow the descendants of the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their cities and dwellings, as well as the Holy Temple and House of God in Jerusalem. God gathered them all and reunited them, to live once again in obedience to His Law and commandments, and distancing themselves from the rebellious ways of their ancestors.

Then, in our Gospel today, we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, when He appeared to His disciples in Galilee, and as they gathered, the Lord had a conversation with St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all of His disciples, who had earlier on denied Him three times at the moment of His Passion and suffering. The Lord asked St. Peter three times whether he loved Him, and St. Peter responded each time with a sincere proclamation of his love and dedication to the Lord.

Through these series of questions, in fact, which mirrored the three times denial of St. Peter earlier on, it showed that the Lord had forgiven St. Peter, and just as He had called and chosen him earlier on, He entrusted His Church to St. Peter, as He earlier on also said that, as He gave him the name of Peter, or Cephas, ‘the Rock’, that He established His Church on the Rock of St. Peter, as His Vicar and the leader of all the faithful, as the shepherd of shepherds and the one to represent the one True Shepherd of all, the Lord Himself.

This was further affirmed as the Lord told St. Peter to ‘feed My Sheep’, symbolically presenting the Church as the flock of the Lord’s faithful, and entrusting the Church and all the faithful to the Apostles and the other disciples to be the ones to lead and guide them to the right path, as they gather together in prayer, committing themselves to a new existence together in God, and guided by the examples and the inspiration of the Holy Apostles, the saints and martyrs who had lived with devotion to God.

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of one of St. Peter’s holy successors, as Pope and leader of the Universal Church, namely Pope St. John XXIII, also known as the Good Pope, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, elected in the Year of Our Lord 1958 as the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, to lead the entire faithful people of God, as the shepherd of all the faithful representing Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Pope St. John XXIII and his many contributions still inspire many even to this very day.

Pope St. John XXIII was born in a poor family in the northern part of Italy in Bergamo, in a family of many children, who raised their children in the Christian faith devoutly. One of his uncles sponsored his education, and eventually he joined the priesthood and was ordained a priest in Rome. He was then involved in working in the Diocese of Bergamo and witnessed firsthand how his bishop showed his care and concern for his flock during an incident in which workers on strike to fight for their rights were arrested, and he and his bishop helped in mediating between the workers and the authorities.

This would continue to inspire Pope St. John XXIII in his later role as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria and Turkey, as he worked hard to reach out to his flock and also to all other Christians and fellow men, in showing God’s love to all, in leading them towards God as the successor of St. Peter, as the shepherd of shepherds and as guide for them towards the Lord. Then, as Apostolic Nuncio to France and finally as the Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope St. John XXIII would continue to show his dedication in his efforts to reach out to the faithful.

As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII devoted himself to reform the Church, and called for the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican, also known better as the Second Vatican Council, which began during the later part of his pontificate. Pope St. John XXIII also contributed greatly to the world, in healing the divisions between Christians, through his links to the separated brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church from his earlier tenure as Delegate in Bulgaria and Turkey, among others. And he was also well-known for his peacemaking effort, between the superpowers at the height of the Cold War, in order to avoid mutual destruction between them and the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the good examples and the life work from Pope St. John XXIII, can we be inspired to follow him and his good examples, and do whatever we can in our lives, so that we may truly be faithful disciples and followers of our Lord? Let us all be shepherds and guides to one another as well, to reach out to those who are in need, and to help one another to find our way to the Lord together. May the Lord, our loving Shepherd and Guide, continue to strengthen us and help us in our journey through life, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

John 21 : 15-17

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep!”

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Romans 1 : 1-7

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an Apostle, called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises He foretold through His prophets in the sacred Scriptures, regarding His Son, Who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognised as the Son of God, endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead, through the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of His Name, we received grace, and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved God in Rome, called to be holy : May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

Ezekiel 34 : 11-16

Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over My sheep; and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from their countries. I will lead them to their own land; and pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in all the valleys and inhabited regions of the land.

I will take them to good pastures on the high mountains of Israel. They will rest where the grazing is good, and feed in lush pastures on the heights of Israel. I, Myself, will tend My sheep and let them rest, word of YHVH. I will search for the lost and lead back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak; but the fat and strong will be eliminated. I will shepherd My flock with justice.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called through what we have just heard from the passages taken from the Sacred Scriptures, to turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and to open them to allow God to enter into our beings, that He may transform us and heal us from our many afflictions, namely the afflictions of our sins and wickedness by which we have been found wanting by God.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard of terrible premonitions and words of caution from God to His people, asking them to be prepared to face trials and tribulations that would for them, in the context of how the prophet Joel lived during the middle years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Therefore, the premonition spoke of the then upcoming times of upheavals and sufferings when the people of both the kingdoms would be conquered and humiliated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians many years after.

God was in fact reminding His people not to be complacent in their lives and in their faith and commitment to live holy and virtuous lives in the presence of God and men alike. At that time, the people had lapsed from their faith and fell into the many temptations surrounding them, following the evil ways of the world and resorting to the worship of the pagan gods and idols, offering sacrifices to those idols rather than offering true sacrifice to their one and only True God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then we heard from our Gospel passage of the heated exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with the power of the evil prince of demons, Beelzebub in His many miracles and healing works among the people, and in the casting out of the evil spirits from those who had been possessed by those demons. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had seen all those miracles but they refused to believe.

And why is that so? That is because the devil himself and all of his wicked allies were busy at work in trying to destroy us, in tempting us to sin and to refuse God’s generous offer of love and mercy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were afraid that they would lose their much valued influence and status among the community and the people. They therefore saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat and rival to them. In truth, the pride and ego, the greed and desires in their heart blinded them.

God wanted them all to see the truth, but as long as those people allowed their ego, pride, desire, jealousy and all sorts of temptations to develop in their hearts, they will not be able to see the truth of God and accept Him wholeheartedly as they should have. When He spoke of the coming of the time of persecution through the prophet Joel, He was warning us all, His people, that if we want to be faithful to Him and walk in His path, then we must be prepared to face challenges, opposition, ridicule, humiliation and persecution as the Lord Himself had faced.

The devil is always out and about working to destroy us by dragging us into sin, in tempting us to walk astray on the wrong path. And we cannot face him alone or by our own strength and power. It is only through God and His providence that we can withstand and overcome the devil and all of his wicked forces of evil. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges awaiting for us in our journey of faith in life.

But we must not be disheartened, for God is truly with all of us, and He will always guide us in our path. He has guided one of His own devout servant, a holy man and leader of the Universal Church, as Pope St. John XXIII in his journey of faith in his life. Pope St. John XXIII was remembered as the ‘Good Pope’, ever dedicated to the Lord throughout his life and ministry. He is a great inspiration for each and every one of us in how we should be faithful in our own lives as well.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in a poor farmer’s family in Bergamo in northern Italy, and an opportunity in having education sponsored by his uncle eventually led to him embracing the call and vocation to priesthood, after which he served in his region of Bergamo. Having experienced the struggles of the people during the difficult years of the early twentieth century and inspired by the love which his bishop showed during those tumultuous times, the young Father Roncalli grew ever stronger in his own love and devotion to God.

He was appointed as an Archbishop and as the Papal Delegate to Bulgaria and later on to Turkey and eventually France, working as a diplomat for many years in managing the relationship both between the nations and the Holy See, and also in the relationships between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful, who were then often bitterly divided against each other. Archbishop Roncalli faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, sufferings and pains, in his ministry, in facing those who were distrustful of the Church and the faith.

Eventually, as he became the Patriarch of Venice and eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII carried on his life and mission with the fullness of faith in God, dedicating his years of life in bringing the love of God to His people. He initiated the Second Vatican Council to bring the Church together through difficult and challenging times, and also helped to broker peace among the superpowers of the world during a time of great tension in the height of the Cold War.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our own lives and think how we can serve the Lord with greater love, commitment and fidelity from now on. Let us all therefore seek to be ever more faithful, loving God each and every days of our life, putting our trust in Him just as Pope St. John XXIII had been. Let us all draw ever closer to Him from now on. Amen.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 15-26

At that time, some of the people said, “Jesus drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put Him to the test, by asking Him for a heavenly sign.

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then.”

“But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you? As long as a man, strong and well armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils.”

“Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 6 and 16, 8-9

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful and happy.” YHVH is King forever and the pagans have vanished from His land.

They lie in ambush near the villages, murdering the innocent and the unfortunate, spying upon their next victim. The evil one lurks in secret, like a lion in its covert, waiting to seize his prey and drag him off in a net.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Joel 1 : 13-15 and Joel 2 : 1-2

Gird yourselves, o priests, and weep; mourn, o ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, o ministers of my God! For the house of your God is deprived of grain and drink offering.

Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Summon the elders, and all who live in the land, into the house of your God, and cry out to YHVH, “What a dreadful day – the day of YHVH, that draws near, and comes as ruin, from the Almighty!”

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on My holy mountain! Let all dwellers in the land tremble, for the day of YHVH is coming. Yes, the day is fast approaching – a day of gloom and darkness, a day of clouds and blackness. A vast and mighty army comes, like dawn spreading over the mountain : such as has never occurred before, nor will happen again in the future.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, in the first reading, as was for the past two days, we heard the story from the Book of the prophet Jonah, as he was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire. He relayed the Lord’s message to them, that the city and all its inhabitants will be destroyed because of their sins and wickedness.

But the entirety of the city, from the Assyrian king right down to the lowest slaves showed remorse and sincere repentance from their sins, because they feared the wrath of God, and they understood that if they were to turn away from their sins and repent, God might spare them from their fated destruction. They listened to the Lord and had a change of heart, and for that they were vindicated.

Yet, Jonah was angry at God for having forgiven the Assyrians and spared their city from destruction. He could not understand why God would be doing that, while he had gone into all the trouble to come to Nineveh to proclaim God’s wrath on the city. In his anger against God, he shut himself from God, and when a tree that had given him solace and protection died, he was again angry against God.

And this was where God pointed out to Jonah, that if he was so concerned for the life and fate of a single tree, then He as God, the God and Creator of all mankind, could not be not concerned of the fate of so many people under His care. The life of all mankind, all of His creations are important to Him, from the holiest ones to the ones with the greatest sins.

That is why the people of Nineveh were spared from destruction when they showed genuine remorse and repentance from their sins. Ultimately, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise and understand that God does not hate the sinner, but instead He hates the sins that we, who are sinners, have committed. Ultimately, the anger of God is directed at us because of our sins, and not because He has issues with us as a person.

Therefore, all of us should remember that we are all called to a life of holiness, and if we have sinned, we must not be afraid to seek for God’s forgiveness. God is always ready to forgive us our sins and to be reconciled with us. He wants us to return to Him, but the question is, are we willing to be forgiven and do we want to reconcile with Him? It is often that we reject God’s offer of forgiveness and mercy, and decided to continue down our own path.

That is because God often has no place inside our hearts, filled with ego and selfishness, with pride and arrogance, with stubbornness and vanity. We often refuse to admit that we have been wrong, that by sin, we have been made to be imperfect and corrupted. And in our persistence, we continued and doubled down on the path of sin, and many of us therefore became separated from God.

What should we do, then, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is why we need to deepen our relationship with God, through a good and healthy, vibrant and active prayer life. We have to be in constant communication with God, that we may know what it is that He wants us to do, and we may be able to steer through the challenges of this life, even with difficulties and challenges that await us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should follow the examples of the holy saint, whose feast we celebrate today. Today, we celebrate the feast of the holy Pope, Pope St. John XXIII, whose memory may still be fresh in the mind of some people, as he passed away just over five decades ago, remembered by his epithet, ‘The Good Pope’ and as the one who called, organised and opened the Second Vatican Council in the year 1962.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in northern Italy, born of a poor farmer’s family. Although he was born poor, but he had a passion for learning, as well as great love for God. Naturally, his family being a poor, farmer family, would want him to continue the family legacy and become a farmer. But God had a different plan for young Angelo, and in his deep spiritual life and relationship with God, he heard God’s call, and eventually with the help and support of many, he became a priest.

And as he continued to rise in the Church hierarchy, becoming the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, and then the Apostolic Delegate to Greece and Turkey, he remained humble and dedicated to the Lord, placing the Lord and His people ahead of everything else. He cared for the weak and for the poor, and worked hard to guide the people of God through difficult times, especially during the Second World War.

As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII remained dedicated as ever to the Lord, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the faithful benefitted the most from the works of the Church, through evangelisation and reform in the Church. Pope St. John XXIII showed us all, that through a close and healthy relationship with God, all of us can gain plenty, and we can find our true purpose and vocation in life.

Let us all therefore pray, asking for the intercession of holy Pope St. John XXIII and the other holy men and women of God, that we may be strengthened in our faith by the Lord, and by deepening our relationship with Him, we may turn away from our sinful ways, and repenting sincerely from those wickedness we have committed, we may be forgiven from our sins, just as God had spared the people of Nineveh from destruction, and in the end, we may merit the glory of eternal life with God.

May God bless us all, and may He continue to guide us, and to remain with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”