Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard first of all from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the description of a great vision that Isaiah received, as he saw the marvellous glory of God, the magnificent Throne of God and His divine majesty, enthroned among the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatest among the Angels of God. The Lord showed Isaiah that vision to strengthen him and to make him know how He has chosen him to bear His words to the people and to proclaim His truth and prophesy in His Name.

And therefore, from then on, Isaiah after he enthusiastically answered God’s call with, ‘Here I am! Send me!’, went on to serve the people, speaking God’s words among them, encouraging them as shown at the moment when king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to besiege Jerusalem with a mighty army and mocked both God and the king, Isaiah reassured both the king of Judah and the people, that God would be with them and that for all the boasts and hubris of the Assyrian king, he was nothing compared to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sure enough, no sooner that the Assyrian king had made his boast, blaspheming against God, that the Lord sent His Angels against the king’s mighty army, and wiped them all out with a great disaster and plague, that when morning broke, hundreds of thousands were dead and the Assyrian king Sennacherib had to abandon his siege and retreat back to his lands in shame. Through this, God showed that He is truly the One in charge, and the Master over all things.

And through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has also promised His people that He would bring them salvation and liberation, as He renewed His promise of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was extensively spoken about in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Through all these assurances, the Lord again wanted His people to have faith in Him and to keep their trust in Him, that despite everything that they might have suffered and endured because of their sins, their wickedness and disobedience, but God was always ready to welcome them back and be reconciled with them.

This reconciliation came about and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the One Whom the prophet Isaiah had been prophesying about. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the whole world has seen the salvation of God, and the world that was once filled with darkness and uncertainty, have seen the light and hope of God, finally revealed to all. And Christ reiterated again and again, including in what we have heard in our Gospel today, how we are truly fortunate to have God Who loves us all dearly and considers us precious.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord spoke of the trust that we ought to have in God because of just how precious we are in the sight of God, how beloved we are and how fortunate we are because every single one of us are blessed and important to God, no matter how small or insignificant we may think we are. The Lord has shown again from time to time, throughout history, how He has protected His faithful ones and provided for them in their time of need. And even at the darkest and the most vulnerable moments, when we mankind have no where else and nothing and no one else to turn to, the Lord is and will always be there for us.

But are we willing to accept Him? Are we even aware that He is always there for us, providing for us and granting us what we need? The Lord has shown us His ever present love and attention, but many of us have abandoned Him, left Him for other things, for worldly comforts and desires, for all sorts of temptations that made us more and more distant, and became more and more separated from God. That is why today we are reminded through these Scripture passages, to turn once again towards God if we have forgotten about Him or abandoned Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have to remember how we are truly beloved by God and precious to Him, and then, even more importantly, we are called by God to do His will, to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and help others to find their way back to God, and to remind them all of how great and loving God has been towards us. All of us have been called and share in this calling through our baptism, that we all are charged with spreading the word of God, to lead others to Him.

St. Benedict, holy Abbot and great father of Christian monasticism in the Western Christendom can be our great source of inspiration, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. Benedict, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was a great and holy servant of God, renowned for his piety and commitment to live a life of purity and prayer dedicated to God. He was born in a Roman noble family and had a good upbringing and life, but as he continued his education in Rome, the immorality and wickedness he witnessed made him to want to seek God.

As a result, he and his sister, St. Scholastica, began to seek God through prayerful life and retreat away from the world. Through his efforts and example, the foundations for Christian monastic practices in the Western Christendom were established, as he inspired many others to follow him in a life of asceticism and prayer dedicated to God, living in a close-knit community, and wrote the rule which would be remembered for many centuries and generations since, the Rule of St. Benedict, which would also inspire the rules in the many other monastic orders.

Through his life, St. Benedict inspired many people to turn once again towards the Lord, some of whom decided to follow his way of life and become an ascetic and monk, while others endeavoured to lead a better life more connected to God, through greater charity, life more attuned to God and more righteous and just in all of their dealings. Are we able to inspire others just as St. Benedict had done? That is why we need to follow God wholeheartedly and make our lives a great reflection of our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He make us all great instruments of His presence in this world. May He grant us the strength and courage to be ever faithful, dedicated to Him as how the prophet Isaiah and the many other prophets, and as St. Benedict of Nursia and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. May all of us be ever faithful, and be great and committed disciples of the Lord, in words, deeds and actions, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the exchange between Joseph and his brothers, as the former wanted to keep Benjamin as a hostage as part of a ploy he planned to test his brothers. Judah spoke up passionately in defence of his brothers and also Benjamin, pleading for Joseph to release Benjamin. At that time, they did not know yet who Joseph actually was.

The brothers defended Benjamin who was accused of stealing from the Regent of Egypt, that is Joseph, and they showed concern that their father Israel would die if Benjamin was to be arrested and taken away, and they also kind of showed regret having sent Joseph off earlier on, abandoning him to the hands of the slavers of Midian. And Joseph was touched by all the love that the brothers showed to each other, so much so that he was overwhelmed by his emotions and eventually revealed himself to his brothers.

And in the end, the twelve brothers were united once again, and Joseph, the brother once thought lost, was reunited with his other brothers, and eventually this good news came to Israel who was left behind in Canaan. Ut was a happy ending for the bitter pain that the family had to endure, especially for Israel, who had to accept the painful fact of his beloved son’s death earlier on.

It is then for this same reason that God in our Gospel passage today, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, sent out His disciples to the many places He was about to visit, to prepare His way for him and to call on the people to repent from their sins and to be willing to accept the Good News and the truth of God. Through this, the Lord wanted to reconcile His people to Himself, and to gather them back from being scattered away in the darkness of the world.

However, at the same time, just as it was difficult for the sons of Israel to be reunited, the Lord also revealed to His disciples that they would encounter challenges and difficulties along the way, people who would reject them and refuse to believe in them, those who were stubborn and hardened in heart. But at the same time, He also reassured them that He would be with them, and those who refused to believe essentially had rejected salvation on their own volition.

All of us are therefore also called to go forth and be witnesses of the truth of God, by virtue of our Christian baptism and therefore membership of the Church. As members of God’s Church, all of us are called to be examples and role models in faith so that by our good examples and living faith, many others will also come to believe in God through us and our actions. There will indeed be challenges along the way, but we should not easily give up our efforts just because of those.

Today, let us be inspired by the good and faithful example of St. Benedict of Nursia, also known as St. Benedict the Abbot, who was famous for his inspiration for what would eventually become the Benedictine religious order, and also for his rigorous and disciplined rule, the Rule of St. Benedict, which became a model for many other religious orders and faithful communities in how they lead a life of faith.

St. Benedict of Nursia was a Roman noble who was intelligent and bright, and yet, was disappointed with the immorality he discovered when he went to Rome to further his studies. Eventually, he retired away from the city and found a place of solitude, where gradually he developed a hermit-like lifestyle of solitude and prayer, and more and more people came to join him. That was how the Benedictines first came to be, a gathering of men who wanted to seek God through prayer and internal peace.

The faith, piety and love which St. Benedict had for God is truly an inspiration to each and every one of us as Christians, for through his examples, many have been inspired to follow a better and holier way of life, turning away from sin and the temptations to sin, embracing instead the noble and true path of the Lord. Let us also be inspired by their examples and lead a better, more Christian way of life from now on in our own lives.

May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to guide us, through the inspiration and examples of St. Benedict, that we may grow ever closer to God and we may be more faithful in all things we say and do. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

“And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.”

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then YHVH sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons; till what he foretold came to pass, and YHVH’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him; set him free; the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Thursday, 11 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 44 : 18-21, 23b-29 and Genesis 45 : 1-5

Judah then went forward and said, “My lord, allow your servant to speak. Do not be angry with your servant, although you are equal to Pharaoh himself. The last time you questioned your servants saying : ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ We said to my lord : ‘We have an aged father who had a child in his old age. His brother is dead and he is the only one left of his mother’s children. And his father loves him.'”

“Then you said to us : ‘Bring him down so that I can see him for myself, if your youngest brother did not come with you, you would not be admitted to my presence.’ All this we said to our father on returning there. So when he told us to come back and buy a little food, we said : ‘We cannot go down again unless our youngest brother is with us. We shall not be admitted to the lord’s presence unless our brother is with us.'”

“Then my father said : ‘You know that my wife had two children. One went away from me and has surely been torn to pieces since I have not seen him anymore. If you take this one from me and something happens to him you will bring my gray hair in sorrow to the grave.'”

Now Joseph could no longer control his feelings in the presence of all those standing by and he called out, “Leave my presence, everyone!” And only his brothers were with him when Joseph made himself known to them. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard and the news spread through Pharaoh’s house.

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” And his brothers could not answer because they were terrified at seeing him. Joseph said, “Come closer,” and they drew nearer. “I am Joseph your brother, yes, it is me, the one you sold to the Egyptians. Now do not grieve or reproach yourselves for selling me, because God has sent me before you to save your lives.”

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the first reading taken from the book of the prophet Hosea first of all about the sins which Israel and their kings have committed with their wickedness and pagan worship, the abandonment of the laws and commandments which have been given to them through the prophets of God.

And we also heard how the Israelites and their country were humbled and thrown to the worst of situations, as their cities were razed and destroyed, and their populace carried off into slavery and became a stigma and outcast among the nations. That was what happened to them, when the Assyrians destroyed Israel and carried off most of the population to exile in faraway lands.

And after such a terrible state, the Lord was calling on His people to return to Him, and to worship Him once again, as in the end, He did not despise them for who they were, but rather, for the sins and wickedness that they had committed. God did not create us mankind in order to see us destroyed and humiliated, but instead, our own failures to resist the worldly temptations of pride, greed and desire have led us to utter humiliation of our noble soul and existence.

But God never gave up on us, and He gave us chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity to repair our relationship with Him. He sent prophets after prophets, messengers one after another to Israel, His beloved and chosen people. And even though they rejected and persecuted many of His faithful servants, but God continued to open the doors of His mercy and love, in case His people came to Him repenting from their sins.

And He sent us His own Son, to be the messenger of the Good News of His salvation. He freely offered pardon and forgiveness to all those who have sinned against Him and disobeyed Him. All that He asked them, is for a change of heart, and for an openness of the mind and our being, so that He may be able to enter our existence and being, and inside us, transform us from people of darkness into children of the Light.

Then, in today’s Gospel passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus selected twelve among His followers and disciples, whom He made to be His Twelve Apostles, those to whom He entrusted the growth of the mission and the good works that He had begun in this world, in the saving of souls and calling of sinners to repentance. He sent them all out to go before Him, and proclaim the message of the coming of the kingdom of God.

It was through the courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, and the hardships they encountered which had brought so many souls away from the brink of destruction and eternal damnation, because they preached the Good News of God and called many to turn away from their sins before it was too late for them. And although many refused to listen to them and rejected them, but there were also quite a few who were stirred in their hearts and accepted the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. There are still much work to be done, and there are in fact still many souls out there, who are in great danger of eternal damnation, as they continue to live in sin, either through ignorance of the truth or through deliberate intention to disobey God.

I am sure that many of us would feel unworthy of such a monumental task. After all, we are talking about the state of someone’s soul here. Yet, should we fail to do anything or to continue the good works that the Apostles have started, then many more souls will fall into hell forever. Now we should perhaps reflect on the life and the work of the famous St. Benedict the Abbot, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Benedict the Abbot, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was the inspiration for the foundation of the Benedictines, one of the largest religious and monastic order present today. St. Benedict was remembered for his great dedication to God, his exemplary faith and his reform of the livelihood and way of life of many Christians, by turning away from the sins of the world, and rejecting the temptations of worldly pleasures and the wickedness of human greed.

He lived at a time where decadence was rampant among the middle and rich classes of the people, into which St. Benedict was born. He was born a noble and was destined into a life of greatness, going through extensive education and preparation for life. Yet, he was dissuaded from all the wickedness he experienced and encountered in life, and instead, sought to deepen his relationship with God by becoming a hermit.

The rules for ascetic and hermitic Christian life written by St. Benedict, later known as the Rule of St. Benedict, would eventually be followed by many later monastic orders and congregations, with thousands and many more following the examples of St. Benedict, deepening their spiritual relationship with God, and resisting the worldly temptations that had led so many people to sin.

The examples shown by St. Benedict and the inspiration he had given to so many others, who in turn, inspire even more people and might have turned countless souls from the edge of damnation, show us that for us to do what the Apostles had done, does not require incredible feats of faith. Indeed, we must in fact remember that the Lord had called the Apostles from humble and the most unlikely of origins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what matters is our willingness to listen to God’s calling, for us to be His disciples, and to act and work like one of those whom He had called. And this requires us to practice our faith through real action, by showing love in all of our actions and deeds, and by deepening our relationship with God, just as St. Benedict has shown us.

It is often times that we do not need to utter grandiose words in order to convince others to be faithful, but rather through our concrete actions and sincerity of heart. That is how true holiness came about, and how we can convince many others to follow us, just as we followed the Apostles, on our way together to the Lord, to be worthy of the salvation and eternal life He has promised all those who are faithful to Him.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of St. Benedict of Nursia, many more will be able to discover the Lord and His love through us. May each and every one of us be holy instruments of God, in all the things and actions we do in our daily lives. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near.”