Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture, showing us the kind of opposition and difficulties that we, as the servants and followers of God may face in our life, over our faith, dedication and commitment to God, in doing His will and in performing His works, just as the prophet Amos and just as the Lord Jesus Himself had experienced.In the first reading today, we heard of the experiences of the prophet Amos, who was sent by God to the northern kingdom of Israel. To put everything into context, this happened during the time when the northern kingdom, called Israel, just broke off, not too many years previously, from the united kingdom ruled by kings David and Solomon. Solomon had disobeyed God and therefore, his kingdom was torn apart from under his heirs.

But Jeroboam, the king which God appointed over Israel’s northern portion had disobeyed God as fast as he was secure in power over his domains. In his fear that he would lose his kingdom and power because the people continued to go to the Temple and House of God in Jerusalem, he built two golden calves in his kingdom and ordered the people to worship them as their new gods instead of the One and only True God.

Thus, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel mentioned in the first reading today was the priest of this new pagan idol, who opposed the work of the prophet Amos, sent by God to chastise His people and call them to repentance. And instead of repenting or listening to God, they hardened their hearts, as what we can witness from the attitudes shown by Amaziah and the king of Israel, Jeroboam.

It was just the same attitude that was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in our Gospel passage today, as they criticised the Lord for having healed a paralysed man and said that his sins has been forgiven. They argued that God alone could forgive sin, and that the Lord Jesus had committed a blasphemy by uttering such words. They were in fact angry at Him and wanted to arrest Him, but they could not do so immediately because of the crowd.

The Lord was exasperated at their indignant attitude and refusal to listen to the truth, despite the miraculous deeds He had performed before them. Only God alone could have done what the Lord had done, and yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hardened their hearts and minds, and even accused Him in another occasion of having colluded and worked with the prince of demons, Beelzebul.

Thus, as we have witnessed, there are just so many challenges and obstacles facing those who are faithful to God, the servants and messengers of God, as well as all of us. There will be lots of challenges and opposition, which can end up making us to give up the fight and lose the faith. But are we doing something in order to resist the temptation to do so?

Perhaps we should look at the examples of St. Anthony Zaccaria, a holy and devout priest, who was renowned for his great role in the early years of the Counter Reformation efforts against those heresies and rebels at the time, threatening the unity and the survival of the Church. St. Anthony Zaccaria instituted many efforts to strengthen the faith and commitment among many of the faithful, including the popular forty-hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

St. Anthony Zaccaria was also known for the practice of ringing the bells at three p.m., as a reminder of the Lord’s crucifixion and death on the cross. His many other contributions helped to rejuvenate the faith during a challenging time, when people were slipping away from the Church and from God’s truth. St. Anthony Zaccaria also established several congregations of the devout servants of God, who continued the good works which he had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of this good and holy saint? In the face of difficulties and challenges, are we easily overwhelmed by our fears and doubts? Or are we trying our best to persevere despite the difficulties? The choice is ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we want to be a faithful follower of God, or be merely swayed by the tides and currents of the world.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with faith, and help us all to persevere through our daily challenges and difficulties, all sorts of troubles and obstacles that are in our way. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.

”Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Amos 7 : 10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to king Jeroboam of Israel, “Amos is conspiring against you in the very centre of Israel; what he says goes too far. These are his very words : Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a national shrine.”

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But YHVH took me from shepherding the flock and said to me : Go, prophesy to My people Israel. Now hear the word of YHVH, you who say : No more prophesy against Israel, no more insults against the family of Isaac!”

“This is what YHVH says : Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, your land shall be divided up and given to others, and you, yourself, shall die in a foreign land, for Israel shall be driven far from its land.”

Wednesday, 5 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the story of how Abraham sent away his son Ishmael, who was born from his slave Hagar. He was not allowed to share in the inheritance which God had promised for Isaac alone, the son of Abraham born of his wife, Sarah. Thus, he was sent away from the household of Abraham to wander on his own with Hagar his mother in the desert.

Yet, God did not abandon him and leave him behind without care. Indeed, God promised Hagar and Ishmael that from Ishmael would also come many peoples and many nations, for he was still a son of Abraham. God took care of him and his mother, and provided for them all that they needed. After all, he is also a son of man, one of those whom God had created, as all mankind were created through God’s love. He provided water and food for them that they might live.

Then in the Gospel passage today, we heard about how Jesus our Lord cast out the evil spirits and demons from the two men in Gadara. The two men who were possessed were so terrifying to others, that people feared to approach them and kept themselves away from them. That was why they were cast out in the desert, barred from coming close to the cities, shunned by the rest of the society for the evils that resided within them.

If we all think about this, is it not somewhat like what we heard in the first reading? Is it not like when Abraham cast out his son Ishmael? When the men possessed by the evil spirits came into that condition, they were thrown out of their society, and were forced to wander in the wilderness. They were rejected and their condition was hopeless, that is, until the Lord came to them and saved them from their distress.

Just as He had come to the help of Ishmael, the Lord came to help the two possessed men, by the mercy of His heart. He ordered the evil spirits to depart from the two men, and by such act, redeemed the two men and allowed them to reintegrate back into the society. In this manner, it is just the same as what He has done for the sake of all of us, all sinners and rebels before Him.

Why is that so? That is because, all of us have sinned before the Lord by our disobedience and inability to resist the temptations to sin, ever since the time our first ancestors first sinned against God. And those who have sinned before the Lord had become unworthy of the Lord and were cast out from His presence. Remember, brethren, that our ancestors, Adam and Eve, were banished out of the Gardens of Eden and were forced to endure the sufferings of this world.

However, God did not forget about us or abandoned us. He continued to love us regardless, even though He despised our sins and disobedience. Therefore, He promised us all the salvation which He had made evident and perfect through Jesus Christ our Lord, by His coming into this world, and by His act of the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. He gave us all a new hope, by bearing upon Himself our faults and shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take this opportunity to reflect, whether we have purposefully ostracised our brethren in life, just because we think that we are better than them, more righteous than them, or more pious or faithful than them. Then we ended up consigning them to damnation and ridicule, just because that we thought that they had no hope.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also thought the same about the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Many of these sought the Lord to be forgiven from their sins, and Jesus Himself commented that they were going towards the kingdom of God far faster than the Pharisees themselves, for they were genuine in their repentance and desire to be forgiven and to be loved again by God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that we are all sinners before God, no matter whether our sins are small or big, serious or trivial. And let us remember just how much God loves each and every one of us, and how much He desires to help us out of our predicament, just as He helped Ishmael and as He saved the two men by casting out the evil spirits that tormented them.

That is why all of us need to turn sincerely and wholeheartedly towards God. All of us ought to heed the words of the Lord Jesus, as He spoke to the woman caught in the act of adultery, whom the Pharisees and elders wanted to stone to death, but saved by the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus, Who spared her from death. He told her, “Sin no more.” This is what we all need to do, brethren, to sin no longer and henceforth be righteous in our ways.

Perhaps, all of us should be inspired by St. Anthony Zaccaria, the holy saint whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Anthony Zaccaria was remembered for his strong devotion to the Lord, through what we now know as the forty-hours devotion before the Blessed Sacrament, spending the time in fervent prayer before the Lord present in the Eucharist.

He was also credited with the practice of ringing the bell at the hour of the Lord’s death on the cross, at the third hour after noon time. Through all these, he helped to remind many people of the love which God had shown us, of which there is no greater love, according to the Lord Jesus Himself, than for one to die for another person’s sake. And that was precisely what the Lord had done for us, that by bearing all of our sins and iniquities, He suffered instead of us and bore our burdens, that all of us may live.

Shall we love the Lord just as He has loved us first? Shall we be thankful for all the kindness and graces we have received from Him? Let us show our gratitude to Him by sincerely devoting our whole lives to Him, that in all that we do, in all that we say, and in all of our interactions we will always bring glory to God and walk ever faithful and righteous in His ways. May the Lord, our loving God, be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Matthew 8 : 28-34

At that time, when Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, He was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged Him, “If You drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned.

The men in charge of the pigs ran off to the town, where they told the whole story; and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Psalm 33 : 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress. YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him.

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Come, listen to me, my children; I will show you how to fear YHVH. If you desire long life; if you want to enjoy prosperity.