Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Scriptures through which we are all reminded that as Christians, we have to put our full trust and faith in God. We must be careful lest our pride, ambition, ego and desire in us lead us down the path towards ruin and sin. As we heard from the Gospel passage today, that was why the Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus and in His works and truth.

The Pharisees were often too proud of themselves and their actions, believing that they were always right and the best in everything they do and in the way that they obey and follow the Law of God. They criticised and looked down on others who they deemed to be unworthy and sinful, people like the tax collectors, prostitutes and people who were crippled and diseased. They also looked down on the Lord Himself and His disciples, whom they deemed to be dangerous influences on the people.

They were usually so full of themselves and so blinded by their pride that they were not able to open their hearts and minds to welcome the Lord, and as we heard in today’s Gospel passage, they argued with the Lord and asked, probably even rather demanding to see a miraculous sign. The Lord must truly have been sad to see their stubbornness and refusal to believe. For the truth was that all the while the Pharisees followed Him and His disciples, they have seen His miraculous signs and deeds.

Yet, despite having seen all those wonderful signs and miracles, they failed to believe and instead doubted the Lord and His works. They criticised and attacked Him, questioning His authority and legitimacy, and even going to the extent of associating Him and His miracles to the collusion with the prince of demons, Beelzebul. They asked for signs and wonders, and yet when the Lord graciously showed them all those things, they refused to believe.

They put their trust in their human intellect and judgment, their prejudices and thoughts, rather than to trust in the Lord. They were proud and could not bear to humble themselves before the Lord Who had come bearing His truth into the world. To them, the Lord Jesus was a rival and a dangerous threat because they feared of losing their much cherished privileges and honour, their own authority and glory among the people. All these things clouded their thoughts and judgements and prevented them from opening themselves up to the Lord.

This is why St. James in his Epistle which is our first reading passage today reminded us that all of us need to trust and have faith in God, and must not allow doubts, pride, desire, or whatever obstacles we often placed in our own journey of faith, to be a true obstacle in preventing us from finding and appreciating God’s love and grace. St. James reminded us as Christians that we need to be steadfast in our faith, to trust in God as there will be lots of trials and challenges that will come our way, which will test our faith and dedication to God.

How do we then overcome those challenges, both the doubts and the temptations of pride and desire from within us, and those challenges and trials that come from elsewhere? It is by deepening our relationship with God, through a healthy and living faith, filled with prayer and closeness to God, by obeying God and following Him through our lives and actions. And today, perhaps we should look upon the examples of today’s saints, whose feast we celebrate, namely that of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order.

These seven men who founded the Servite Order, a religious institution that remained and flourished until today, were those who were called by God, during the high Middle Ages era in Italy, when each of the seven men met one another and began to live their lives with a new emphasis on sanctity and obedience to God. They dedicated their lives to God, caring for the material and spiritual needs of the people living around them. Many people were touched by their devotion, faith and hard work, and many chose to follow their examples.

That was how the Servite Order eventually came to be, as thousands upon thousands enrolled themselves to the banner of the Order, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the seven holy founders had deep devotion for. Until this day, the lives of the seven holy founders continue to inspire many in the Servite Order, both the religious, priests and friars in the order, as well as the numerous lay groups associated with the Servites, all aiming for a more holy and dedicated life to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? What are we going to do in order to follow the Lord? Are we able to put our faith and trust in Him with all our heart and get rid of ourselves all the obstacles of pride, ego, ambition, greed and desire that have prevented many, such as the Pharisees among others, from truly believing in God? Are we able to commit ourselves, following the good examples set by the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order?

Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater zeal and devotion from now on then, and live our lives from now on with ever greater faith and be ever closer to God with every passing moments of our lives. May God be with us always, and may He bless us and strengthen us in our faith and courage to live in Him. Amen.

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side of the lake.

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 118 : 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

It is good for me to have been afflicted, for I have deeply learnt Your statutes.

Your Law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

I know, o YHVH, that Your laws are just; and there is justice in my affliction.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

James 1 : 1-11

James, a servant of God, and of Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Consider yourselves fortunate, my brothers and sisters, when you meet with every kind of trial, for you know, that the testing of your faith makes you steadfast. Let your steadfastness become perfect, with deeds, that you, yourselves, may be perfect and blameless, without any defect.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, Who gives to all easily and unconditionally. But ask with faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed on the sea by the wind. Such a person should not expect anything from the Lord, since the doubter has two minds and his conduct will always be insecure.

Let the believer who is poor, boast, in being uplifted, and let the rich one boast, in being humbled, because he will pass away like the flower of the field. The sun rises and its heat dries the grass; the flower withers and its beauty vanishes. So, too, will the rich person fade away, even in the midst of his pursuits.

Saturday, 17 February 2018 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the messages of the Scripture, reminding us of the need for conversion and change of heart, especially in this blessed and holy season of Lent, during which time we take the opportunity to reflect on our lives and actions. It is a time for us to contemplate on what we have gone through this far in our lives on our journey towards full reconciliation and returning to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the essence of the words of the Scripture which we have heard today is the fact that we mankind have disobeyed the Lord, Our God, and by that disobedience, we have fallen into sin. But we must not be discouraged, because God is our loving Father, Who knows all that need to be done in order for us to be reconciled with Him in perfect and new love.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard about the moment when the Lord called one of His disciples from among the tax collectors, a man named Levi, who answered the Lord’s call and followed Him, leaving everything behind and became Christ’s disciple. He discarded all that was his, and took for himself a greater possession in becoming one who followed and obeyed the Lord, eventually known as St. Matthew, the Apostle and one of the Four Evangelists.

At that time, tax collectors did not have a good standing in the society. In fact, they were reviled and hated because of their role in collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers and governors who took over the rulership over the Jews and the people of Israel at that time. And as the taxations were heavy and became burdens for the people, they hated the taxes and by extension, those who worked to collect the taxes for the Romans.

Hence, the tax collectors were often considered as sinners and people unworthy of the Lord’s grace. They were often looked down by the society, particularly the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had high esteem and view of themselves in the matters of piety and faith. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, they alone had the most perfect observance and obedience to the laws of Moses, and therefore, others had to respect them and obey their teaching authority.

Yet, they failed to see that they themselves were sinners in need of God’s mercy. In all of their supposed righteousness and external forms of piety, they did them not for the glorification of God or because they truly loved God, instead, they loved themselves and wanted to look good before the people. They failed to see that God did not desire their sacrifices and prayers, but their total commitment and desire to repent instead.

The tax collectors readily welcomed the Lord Jesus into their midst, as He sat down at Levi’s house for a meal with them. They listened to His teachings and believed in Him, something that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to do. In that sense, the tax collectors were much further ahead than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law on their way towards salvation in God.

In the same Gospel passage today, the Lord made it clear to all of us that He is seeking for the conversion and healing of sinners. That is because ultimately we cannot forget the very important fact that God loves every single one of us, all those whom He had created and to whom He had given the grace of life. He does not discriminate between any one of us, and all of us are equally important to him, from the greatest among us to the poorest and to the least.

And because of sin, due to our disobedience and refusal to walk in His ways, we have fallen away from God’s grace and became separated from Him. Our fate would have been eternal damnation and disgrace in hell, in the eternal fire, because that is what our sins would have merited us. But God had mercy on us, because He did love us greatly, and would not have wanted us to fall into such a terrible fate.

That is why He went all the way to save us, sparing nothing less than the very best effort to help and rescue us from our predicament. He gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour, through Whose death on the cross, we receive the ultimate healing and reconciliation. He Who is sinless and without fault had willingly embraced punishment and suffering in our place, so that all of us may have a new hope in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord offers us this healing and reconciliation freely and generously. However, the question is, are we willing to take up the offer of forgiveness and love which He has presented to us? Many of us refuse to repent from our sins, and we continue to live in a state of sin, preferring to do what is right according to us, but not what is right according to God.

The problem lies with our inability to resist the temptations of our human pride, our refusal to listen to advice and feedback, because we think that we are always right. And we find it hard to turn to the Lord, because the devil is always active, trying to persuade us, to bring us into a lull, to tempt us, and even to force us to do what is sinful and wicked in the sight of God. And unless we put a strong and conscious effort to resist those temptations, and desire to repent from our sins, we may fail in our endeavour of faith.

Today the Church commemorates the memory of the seven holy saints who were the founders of the religious order of the Servites, formally known as the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. These seven holy and devout men were remembered for their commitment to God, having been cloth merchants of the city of Florence during the Middle Ages era of what is now Italy, being very rich and influential, and yet, voluntarily chose to leave everything they had behind in order to serve the Lord.

They lived a life of poverty and also penance, filled with prayers and devotions, works of charity among the poor and the underprivileged. Through hard work, persistence and perseverance, they inspired many others to follow in their footsteps and lead a life of holiness and purity, no longer chained by the sins of their past. They devoted their time, effort and attention to the Lord, and did their best to advance His good works among His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples of these holy predecessors, who have gone before us to the glory of heaven. We should spend more time in prayer and contemplation before God, especially during this time of Lent, when we are called to a renewed relationship and connection with God. Let us allow the Lord to speak to us, in the silence of our hearts, that we may know what His will is for us.

May the Lord be with us always, that throughout our journey of faith during this Lenten season and beyond, we may grow ever stronger in faith, and we may draw closer to God, and eventually find full and complete reconciliation in Him. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 17 February 2018 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 27-32

At that time, after Jesus healed a paralytic man, He went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax office, He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.

Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”

Saturday, 17 February 2018 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o YHVH, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life, for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Saturday, 17 February 2018 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word. If you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.

YHVH will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; He will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fall. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses.

If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred YHVH’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in YHVH, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of YHVH has spoken.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the story from the prophet Jonah, where he was sent to the city and to the people of Nineveh, the great city and capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire, the world superpower at the time. The Assyrians conquered many nations, and they enslaved many of the peoples around them, and they grew mighty and proud with their achievements.

But the Lord knew of their pride and haughtiness, and he sent Jonah to them to warn them of their impending destruction because of whatever sins and wickedness that they have committed. And the prophet Jonah did just as what he was told to do, and preached the word of God to the people of Nineveh. He told them that catastrophe and destruction would soon come to claim the whole city and all who dwelled in it.

What was remarkable and noteworthy was how the people of Nineveh, from the king and the greatest nobles, to the humblest and the smallest of the people, all turned from their evil ways and repented, hoping that God would spare them the destruction He had intended for them. And so sincere was their desire to repent and to change their wicked ways, that God had mercy on them, forgave them and gave them a new chance.

God did not carry out the sentence which had been intended for them, and He spared them from the destruction which He had designed on them because of their repentance, and He had mercy on them. God forgave them their sins as an example to all mankind, that if they too, are to turn their back to the sins and wickedness of their past, they have a chance at salvation and redemption in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the people in our Gospel today, and chided particularly the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law because of their refusal to believe in what the Lord Jesus Himself had come into this world to reveal to them, and despite all the good things and the miraculous wonders He had performed before their very own eyes.

And the people of Nineveh who did not even see what Jesus or what God Himself had done, and they neither saw anything performed by Jonah, as it was not mentioned that Jonah performed any miraculous deeds in that city, and yet they all believed, repented and changed their ways. They did not see and yet they believed, and for their faith, they were justified by God.

Remember what Jesus told one of His disciples, Thomas, who initially did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, when He appeared to him on one occasion? Thomas had not believed until Jesus had risen from the dead and Jesus said that while his faith was indeed good, as he believed, unlike those who had seen all the miracles Jesus had performed and refused to believe, but better still are those who have not seen and yet believed.

And the people whom Jesus rebuked did not believe, no matter what, and they asked for signs from Him. And Jesus replied that the only sign He would show is the sign of Jonah, and we knew how Jonah was swallowed by a whale for three days and three nights, before he was then released at the seashore. In the same way therefore, Jesus had died and then was buried in the earth for three days before on the third day He rose from the dead.

And how is this significant for us, brethren? This Lent, we are all called to be believers, and not just any believers, but true believers of our Lord in faith and in action. Let us be inspired by the examples of the holy saints whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of the seven Holy Founders of the Servite order, who were faithful servants of God, who devoted themselves to the service of God and of His people.

The seven holy founders were once merchants of the city of Florence, during the height of the medieval era, who left everything they had, that they might discover the Lord, and they led a new life of poverty and penance, withdrawing and turning their backs completely against the sins and wickedness of their past lives. They led a life of virtue and purity justified by God.

Many people followed their examples, and they helped establish what would be known as the Servite order. They obeyed the Lord and served Him faithfully, helping to lead the people of God back to Himself. They did not have a smooth journey however, as challenges and rejections came their way, but they remained faithful and they met the challenges with full faith in the Lord.

Through these examples, the dedication and commitment of the founders of the Servite order, let us all also follow in their footsteps, and let us all renew our own commitment to God, and let us all in this season of Lent be ever filled more and more with the righteousness and justified actions, that we will draw ever closer to God and to His mercy and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus began to speak in this way, “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.”