Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who made his grievances known to the Lord. The context of this passage was that, at that moment, the prophet Jeremiah was assailed by his many enemies, who opposed him and refused to believe in his words. Prophet Jeremiah had difficulties and challenges which he had to endure while he performed his mission among the people.

It was therefore only natural that he would feel so distressed and displeased with his situation at that time. But the Lord reassured him and told Jeremiah that He would always be with him and He will guide him in all of his ways, despite the challenges he might encounter. And He proclaimed to him all the good things that He would do to His people if they turned themselves to Him and repented from all of their sins.

Essentially, He would bless them bountifully once again, and He would love them completely once again without the barrier of disobedience and sin which had caused separation between them and their God. Through this redemption, they would be healed and they would be made whole once again, that while once they were cast away and humiliated because of their disobedience, they would once again become God’s beloved and chosen people.

This was the same promise which God kept on reiterating to His people through the many prophets and messengers that He sent to them. He called them all to embrace the forgiveness that He has given to all of them freely. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast we celebrate today, in God there is plentiful redemption. And it is this belief in God’s great saving grace and the redemption He freely gives us all, that encouraged St. Alphonsus to establish the religious order known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or the Redemptorists.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to the people what the kingdom of God is like. He compared it to a pearl of great value and a rich treasure found hidden in a field. In this parable, the Lord wanted us to know that looking for God’s mercy and love is truly something that we should look up for in life. To be with God and to be reconciled with Him is something that all of us should aspire to.

But the Lord in the same parable also wanted us all to know that, attaining the kingdom of God, that is to be reconciled with Him and to live in His grace is something that does not come easily for us without our commitment and effort. Indeed, God has given us and offered to us His bountiful and infinite mercy, but this mercy will only come into its full and complete fruition in us, if we endeavour to commit ourselves to be forgiven, that is through sincere and complete repentance from our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are therefore called to reflect on our own lives, on whether we have allowed God’s mercy and love to enter into our lives. Have we been so preoccupied in life that we end up forgetting what is it that we are living for in this world? We do not live and we indeed should not live for the worldly things that many of us often desires, as those things are temporary and superficial at most.

Instead, we should seek for the true and everlasting treasure that is in God alone. It is God’s love that all of us should be seeking for, as we cannot live and survive without God’s love. God is the giver of our lives and it was because of Him that we exist today. If God withdrew from us His favour, grace and spirit, and by His will, should He have willed our destruction, every single one of us would have perished.

But God has always been loving and merciful to all of us, that even to the greatest sinners who repented and truly regretted having sinned before God, He would give salvation and liberation from their sins if the sinner truly, genuinely and sincerely showed the love which he or she had for God, and the total rejection of sin. It is ultimately our sins and wickedness that God despises and not our own self as human beings. We are, after all, God’s most beloved creations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all strive from now on to look for God’s redemption, by following the examples set by St. Alphonsus Liguori and the many other holy predecessors of our faith. St. Alphonsus Liguori was renowned for his great piety and devotion to the Lord, as well as to the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, who is the best example for us on how to live faithfully in the way of the Lord.

He dedicated his whole life to God, to the service of God’s people and to the poor. He has given his all to bring God’s redemption to all the people, including to the least privileged, the poor and the greatest of sinners in the community. St. Alphonsus’ examples inspired many others, who joined the Redemptorists and became agents of God’s continuing work of mercy and love among His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all do our very best to turn ourselves to God, to make Him the very centre and focus of our lives, remembering that He Himself has loved us first from the very beginning. He has given us so much in life, that it is only right and just that we should love Him with the same intensity and devotion. And let us all also be exemplary in faith and in our lives, so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify God and help more and more people to be inspired to return to the Lord.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us all our lives, giving us the strength and conviction to live our lives for His greater glory, and to bring ourselves ever closer to His merciful heart. St. Alphonsus Liguori, patron and founder of the Redemptorists, pray for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.”

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 58 : 2-3, 4-5a, 10-11, 17, 18

Deliver me from my enemies, o God, from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from evildoers; rescue me from the bloodthirsty.

Look, they lie in wait for my life; the mighty conspiring against me, for no fault of mine, o YHVH. I have done them no wrong; yet, they prepare to attack me.

O my Strength, I look up, to You; for You, o God, are my Fortress. My loving God will come to help me and let me see my enemies fall.

But I will sing of Your might; in the morning I will sing of Your love. For You have been a Fortress to me, a Refuge in time of distress.

O my Strength, I will sing praises to You; for You, o God, are my Stronghold; You are a loving God.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 15 : 10, 16-21

Woe is me, Mother, why did you bring me to the light? A man of dissension throughout the land! I owe them nothing, neither do they owe me, yet they all curse me!

I devoured Your words when they came. They were my happiness and I felt full of joy when You made Your Name rest on me. I never associate with worldly people, amusing myself with scoffers! When Your hand was upon me I stood apart and You filled me with Your anger. Why is there no end to my sorrow or healing for my wound? Why do You deceive me, and why does my spring suddenly dry up?

Then YHVH spoke to me, “If you return I will take you back and you will serve Me again. Draw the gold from the dross and you will be as My own mouth. You must draw them to you and not to go over to them. I will make you a fortress and a wall of bronze facing them; if they fight against you they will not overcome you; I am with you to free you and save you. I will redeem you from the wicked and free you from the hands of tyrants.”

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from the Gospel passage we heard the famous parable of the sower, which reminds us all of the obligation that we need to do in our respective lives, to lead a faithful and righteous life, filled with faith and commitment to God, by our actions, words and deeds in this life. We are called to a life that is fruitful and blessed by God.

In that parable, we heard about what happened to the various seeds sowed by the sower, which fell on different types of soils. Some fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky, while some others fell on rocky ground, and were unable to grow deep roots and thus were scorched by the hot sun. And still some others fell among thistles and brambles, which grew around the budding plant and choked the life out of it.

And lastly, some seeds fell onto the rich and fertile soil, which then allowed the seeds to grow healthy and strong into good plants that bore fruits in many multiples of what had been planted. This is what the Lord Jesus had told His disciples, so that all of us who have heard it as well, may know of what we need to do in our lives so that we will be found to be filled with the good fruits of our faith.

For you see, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the seeds mentioned in the Gospel today are the seeds of faith which have been given to us all. All of us have heard the words of the Lord, through the Gospels we read, through the Scripture passages we have spent time going through, through the Church teachings and catechism, through the homilies, sermons and teachings by the priests and other faith educators alike.

However, as the Gospel showed us, even though all of us received the same seeds of faith, but the outcome of the seeds can greatly differ from one situation to another, and from one person to another. And it depends greatly on whether we provide the optimum condition and environment for the seeds to grow healthy and strong, just as the rich and fertile soil allowed the seeds to grow and produce huge returns in fruits and products.

If we do not actively try to cultivate and grow in our faith, then we will end up failing to achieve what it is that God wants us to be, to be fruitful people of God. Yet, that is the reality for many of us, who are tempted by many things in this world, the temptations of power, wealth, fame and worldly glory, which Satan is actively putting in our path, hoping to prevent us from attaining the salvation which God promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

It is often that we are too busy with ourselves and with our worldly preoccupations that we fail to do what we need to do in order to become fruitful in the sight of God. We spend our time worrying about our lives and we prioritise our work and busy life schedules over that of the Lord. We put God aside and often ignore Him and His attempts to reach out to us. We usually remember Him only when we are in trouble and in need of help, and we tend to be angry at Him when He apparently does not answer our prayers.

But that is because we are still yet putting our own needs, our own desires ahead of the Lord's will for us. We are often so concerned about ourselves, and thinking solely about ourselves in our selfishness, that we end up becoming like those seeds that failed to grow and produce their crops. Satan then has been successful in his attempts to turn us away from God and ensure our downfall because of our sins.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians all of us have the obligation to do God's will in our lives. We must be sincere and true in our faith, and that means, all of us will need to show genuine love to our brethren, even to those who are strangers and even those who hated us. We must lead by example in our life, beginning from even the smallest things that we do in our everyday life. And let us not forget to spend time with the Lord, seeking Him through prayer that comes from our hearts that we may know what His will is for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, a holy bishop and religious, who is the founder of the Redemptorist order, also known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Alphonsus Liguori was renowned for his great devotion and his missionary work among the poor, and even when he was made a bishop, he continued to devote his time and effort to care for the least and the weakest in the society.

St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorist order to gather more people who also wanted to show God's loving mercy to His people, calling more people who were out of reach from the Church and who had distanced themselves from the Church to come back to the loving embrace of God. Through his hard work and exemplary life, he inspired many others to follow his footsteps, and many, countless souls were saved from the damnation in hell.

All of us should also imitate the good examples of St. Alphonsus Liguori, by practicing our faith through our actions, filled no longer with selfishness or the desire to satisfy our personal ambitions and greed, but instead through humility and real commitment, that we all do what is asked of us by the Lord. May God help us all in this endeavour, and may the intercession of St. Alphonsus Liguori be our help in providing us the courage to do what we must do as Christ's disciples. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 36-43

At that time, Jesus sent the crowds away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Jesus answered them, "The One Who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the Angels."

"Just as the weeds are pulled up and burnt in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send His Angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

YHVH restores justice and secures the rights of the oppressed. He has made known His ways to Moses; and His deeds, to the people of Israel.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger; He will not always scold nor will He be angry forever.

He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve. As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins. As a father has compassion on his children, so YHVH pities those who fear Him.