Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in Him and let Him act. Then will Your revenge come, beautiful as the dawn, and the justification of your cause, bright as the noonday sun.

The Lord is the One Who makes people stand, He gives firmness to those He likes. They may stumble, but they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

The Lord is the Salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. The Lord helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them for they sought shelter in Him.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Hebrews 10 : 32-39

Remember the first days when you were enlightened. You had to undergo a hard struggle in the face of suffering. Publicly you were exposed to humiliations and trials, and had to share the sufferings of others who were similarly treated.

You showed solidarity with those in prison; you were dispossessed of your goods and accepted it gladly for you knew you were acquiring a much better and more durable possession. Do not now throw away your confidence that will be handsomely rewarded.

Be patient in doing the will of God, and the promise will be yours : A little, a little longer – says Scripture – and He Who is coming will come; He will not delay. My righteous one will live if he believes: but if he distrusts, I will no longer look kindly on him. We are not among those who withdraw and perish, but among those who believe and win personal salvation.

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the obligation each and every one of us have in living our lives with faith, in proclaiming the truth of God and becoming the beacons of His light in our world today. These are the responsibilities that we have been entrusted with, to be the examples of faith and inspiration for many others whom we encounter in our own lives.

In our first reading today, we heard from the second Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the prayer that King David of Israel made to the Lord after the Lord had made him secure in his rule and place as the leader over all the people of Israel. David thanked God for all that He had done for His people Israel and also what He had done to David himself and to his family, in honouring him and all his relatives for having chosen him as the King of Israel and through all the promises that God had made in assuring him of the kingship which will remain in his house forever.

David humbled himself and asked the Lord to bless him and his family, and hoping that his family and descendants will remain faithful to the Lord forever. He prayed to the Lord asking for His strength and guidance, and went on to become a great King over all Israel, whose reign was always remembered by the later generations as the golden age and time, and as a paragon and ideal for all the future rulers and kings. He ruled justly and devoted himself to the Lord wholeheartedly, and except for a few occasions when he faltered and made mistakes, he kept true to the faith.

In our Gospel reading today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using the parable of the lamp and the lampstand in order to deliver His intentions clearly, to remind all of those who listened to His words including all of us that all of us who have been called to follow Him, have to be those beacons of God’s light that our lives brilliantly reflect the light of God. Through all of us, God’s truth and love may be revealed to all men, and all shall come to know God because they have seen us and witnessed all that we have done.

Unfortunately, many of us have not done what we ought to be doing as faithful Christians, called and chosen from the world to be the witnesses of His truth and salvation. We have preferred to remain hidden in the darkness, to hide behind the veil of sin and evil. We have preferred to lay idle and not do what we have been called to do as Christ’s disciples. We have received the light of truth, and yet the light of Christ does not shine brightly in us, hidden by our ignorance, lukewarmness in faith and refusal to commit ourselves wholeheartedly.

Today, as we listened to the words of the Lord, each and every one of us are reminded of this duty and calling for us to be the bearers of Christ’s light, His truth and love in our respective communities and at every possible opportunities given to us. Through the examples set by King David of Israel and the many other virtuous paragons of faith, our holy predecessors, we have been called to be holy ourselves, to be worthy of God and His love. We are all called to be true and genuine disciples not just in name, but also in all actions, words and deeds.

We can follow the good examples of St. Angela Merici, one of the great saints of God, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Angela Merici was the famous founder of the religious order of the Ursulines, also known as the Company of St. Ursula that led to the later foundation of the Order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici was inspired since her early youth to commit herself with some others to work for the cause of the training and education of young Christian girls, which is still the inspiration for the educational institutes established by the Ursulines.

St. Angela Merici dedicated herself and inspired many others together in the ministry that she had committed herself as part of the Company of St. Ursula, establishing schools and orphanages, caring especially for the needs of young Christians, especially that of young, underprivileged Christian girls, who were often exploited and in disadvantageous positions. St. Angela Merici dedicated her life to this ministry, and many more people would come to follow her examples in working for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern our path in life through what we have heard from the lives of our holy and dedicated predecessors, King David, St. Angela Merici and many others. They have lived their lives with virtue, becoming truly shining beacons of truth and love, of God’s light and compassion, and from them, many came to believe in God and be saved as well. Are we able to do the same as well in our lives? Are we able to inspire others to follow the Lord, or have we instead kept the people away from God by our lack of genuine faith?

Let us all therefore seek the Lord our God with a renewed spirit and conviction, and let us commit ourselves to follow the Lord ever more faithfully and do whatever we can with our actions, words and deeds, even the smallest and seemingly least significant of them all, that we may indeed glorify the Lord through our lives and may become His ever worthy disciples, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 21-25

At that time, Jesus also said to His disciples, “When the light comes, is it put under a basket or a bed? Surely it is put on a lamp stand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!”

And He also said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive, and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given; and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 131 : 1-2, 3-5, 11, 12, 13-14

Remember David, o YHVH, and all his readiness; how he swore an oath to YHVH, to the Mighty One of Jacob.

“I will not enter my house nor get into my bed; I will give no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids; until I find a place for YHVH, a dwelling, for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

YHVH swore to David a promise, and He will remain true to it : “I will keep your descendants on your throne.”

“If your sons keep My Covenant and the decrees I have taught them; their sons, too, will sit forever upon your throne.”

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

Thursday, 27 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

2 Samuel 7 : 18-19, 24-29

Then king David went in, sat before YHVH and said, “Who am I, o YHVH God, and who is my family that You have brought me so far? Yet this was not enough for You, o YHVH God, for You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a long time to come. Is this the way men act, o YHVH God?”

“You have set apart Your people Israel to become Your people forever; and You, YHVH, have become their God. Now, o YHVH God, keep forever the promise You made and have now revealed to me regarding myself and my family, that Your Name may be honoured forever and people may say, ‘YHVH of Hosts is God over Israel.’”

“The house of Your servant David will be secure before You because You, o YHVH of Hosts, God of Israel, have made it known to Your servant and have said to him : ‘Your family will last forever.’ This is why I have dared to address this prayer to You. So now, o YHVH God, since You are the faithful God, and have promised me this good thing, please bless my descendants, that they may continue forever before You. For You, o YHVH God, have spoken and, with Your blessing, my family shall be blessed forever.”

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard again about the salvation of God passed down to us through Christ, the High Priest as we continue the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, reminding us yet again how the Lord had offered Himself as the perfect and worthy sacrifice for our sins. The Lord has blessed us with this wonderful grace, forgiving us our sins and leading us into assurance of eternal life through Him.

And now, all of us are called to remember that the Lord has revealed to us all these and therefore we are expected to make good use of all that He has given to us along with this revelation. To each and every one of us God has given us the gift of faith, the wonders of our various talents and abilities, the gift of hope and love as well. These are the seeds that God had sowed in us, and which is aptly summarised and shown through the parable in our Gospel today.

In that parable of the sower, we heard how the sower spread the seeds and those seeds fell on different places. Those different places in fact represent the different attitudes by which we receive and embrace the gifts of God, and how we respond to His call and His truth. Those seeds that fell by the roadside, those that fell on rocky grounds and those that grew amidst thorns and bushes were those who have not fully embraced God’s truth and love.

First of all, those seeds that fell by the wayside were seized and eaten up by the birds, which symbolised the failure of those who reject the Lord and their refusal to even listen to Him or to accept His words and teachings. As a result, those seeds of faith had no place in them, and the devil and all of his fellow forces of evil came and snatched these from them, leaving them barren and without grace.

Then, those seeds that fell on rocky grounds represent those that did receive the word of God, His truth and love, but they hardened their hearts and did not allow these to take root deep within them. Their faith were superficial and merely for appearances rather than genuinely believing in the Lord and in His truth. Thus, similarly those seeds could not grow properly and perished. They did not have the right attitude to welcome the words of the Lord into their hearts.

Those seeds that fell on among the thistles, bushes and brambles represent those who have been more willing to embrace the word of God, His truth and love, and yet they still loved the world more and sought pleasure and enjoyment from the world rather than to fully trust in the Lord. As such, they also failed to grow properly in faith and God’s grace, and they too fell just like the others. The temptations to sin are powerful, and they can bring us down if we are not careful.

Only those seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil grew well and multiplied in produce so much that they produced thirty, sixty and hundred-fold as many in produce as compared to the original. This represents those who embraced the Lord, His truth and love, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him, and allowed the Lord to perform His wonders through them. And this is what we are all called to be, brothers and sisters, to be fruitful in faith and to be filled with God’s love.

Are we willing to do so brothers and sisters? Can we commit ourselves to Him and do our best to follow Him and do His will? We can follow the good examples set by St. Angela Merici, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Angela Merici was a renowned religious and educator, who was essential in the founding of the now famous Ursulines Order. She dedicated much of her life and work to the advancement of education especially that among the girls, often neglected at the time.

St. Angela Merici spent a lot of time educating young girls and young women, and inspired many women to follow in her own footsteps, encouraging them all to follow the Lord wholeheartedly while remaining in the world, ministering to the needs of those who lacked basic education and proper guidance. As a result of her dedication and efforts, many people came to follow in her footsteps and their combined effort brought so many changes and impact to the society, a definition of what thirty, sixty and hundred-fold produce is all about.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can do the same with our own lives. We do not have to do great and wonderful things, but even with our small actions, we may impact the lives of others and touch them with the love and truth of God. This will in time cause a great ripple effect as those whom we touch will then continue to touch the lives of others on their own accord, spreading the impact far beyond what we ourselves can do alone.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to God, and spend time to do what the Lord has called us to do. May God be with us always in this journey and may He strengthen us that we may always strive our best to bear fruits in our faith, at all times. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus began to teach by the lake; but such a large crowd gathered about Him, that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake, while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through parables. In His teaching, He said, “Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path; and the birds came and ate it up.”

“Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately, because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burnt it, it withered, because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thorn bushes; and the thorns grew and choked it; so it did not produce any grain.”

“But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some seed produced thirty times as much, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.” And Jesus added, “Listen then, if you have ears.”

When the crowd went away, some who were around Him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so, that, the more they see, they do not perceive; the more they hear, they do not understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How, then, will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path, where the seed fell, are people who hear the word, but as soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”

“Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy. But they have no roots, so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall. Others receive the seed, as seed among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hope of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word, so that finally it produces nothing.”

“And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce : some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.”