Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord our God, in all of our actions and deeds. Each and every one of us as Christians ought to strive to live our lives and deepen our spirituality, our relationship with God, so that all of us may grow ever better in our Christian living and in our obedience to God. All of us are called and challenged to live our lives full of Christian truth and discipleship, obedience to the Law and commandments of God, in following the Lord wholeheartedly, doing everything as God had told us to. We are all called to be genuine Christians and true disciples of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the words of the Lord to the people through Isaiah, the warning for all those who have committed sins against God. God warned all of them that their sins were known to Him, and those sins would be their undoing unless they turned away from them and repent from them. The Lord was referring to Sodom, which in fact by that time had been a wasteland for a long time since it was destroyed in the rain of brimstone from Heaven, together with Gomorrah. This reference to Sodom was in fact a reference to the sins of the people, which are just like the sins of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in the past.

Then the Lord also made references to the people’s offerings and sacrifices. This was actually referring to their hypocrisy and lack of faith. They might still be doing their rituals and worship, which they offered at the Temple in Jerusalem, but it had become superficial and lacking in genuine faith and love for God. The people of God had not done what they should have, in loving God wholeheartedly as they had not obeyed His Law and commandments, and merely paid lip service to Him. Their offerings and sacrifices were made with equal sincerity and fervour to God as they did with the pagan idols and gods. They did not truly believe in God with all their heart and might, and were more concerned by worldly matters and desires than to serve God.

Hence, the prophet Isaiah was sent to the people with the message to remind them all to turn back towards God wholeheartedly, and abandon their sinful and lukewarm attitude in following God. This is something that the Lord had always done to His people, giving them reminders and help, encouragement and strength, although He always encountered stiff and stubborn resistance from many of them who were unwilling to walk in the path that the Lord had shown them, and many of His prophets had to suffer rejection and hardships throughout their ministries and lives in the world.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of St. Matthew in which the Lord told His disciples presenting to them the reality of His coming into the world and how the disciples might have to face sufferings, hardships and persecutions much as how the prophets had faced in the past. This was because contextually at that time, the people generally expected that the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour and Holy One that God had promised to them ought to be accompanied with a lot of rejoicing, happiness and deliverance from the wickedness and evils of the world.

The people often expected that the Messiah, the Son of David would be the One to lead them all in a great campaign and rebellion to free them from the tyranny and dominion of their Roman oppressors and overlords. They expected the Messiah to be a new King over them, ruling over the restored Kingdom of Israel. But the reality is such that, the Lord’s coming would in fact create divisions and tribulations for His followers, all because of the stubbornness and the same resistance that the world had often shown Him and His messengers. The truth that Christ brought with Him to this world would tear even families and friends apart, and that would have caused divisions and struggles, even amongst the most ardent of the faithful.

Hence, through all these each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians is not something that is trivial or easily done. There may often be a lot of sacrifices and efforts needed for us to be truly faithful to God. That is why we are all called to be truly faithful to God and not just merely paying lip service or formality as what the Israelites in Judah had done by the time of the prophet Isaiah. All of us should commit ourselves to a new life dedicated to God, and in our every actions and deeds, we should be genuinely filled with the desire to love God and with the desire to embrace His methods and ways. All of us ought to be exemplary in our lives and actions at all times.

Today, we also can look up upon the examples set by the famous St. Benedict of Nursia, whose feast day we are celebrating this day. St. Benedict of Nursia was the renowned founder of the Benedictine religious order and one of the most prominent proponent of monasticism in Western Christendom. He was renowned for his Rule of St. Benedict and the propagation of monastic life in various parts of Christendom, in which many people were called to a new life and existence, inspiring many people with the search for holiness in life, for prayerful contemplation as one of the many ways to live one’s life faithfully in serving God.

St. Benedict inspired many others through his sincere desire to seek and love the Lord, embracing a life of contemplative prayer and holiness, in a monastic community formed from those who shared the same desire and insight, and hence answered God’s call for them to live their Christian lives most meaningfully and purposefully. St. Benedict and his life examples should therefore also inspire each one of us to seek to live our lives worthily as Christians from now on. We are all called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord and exemplary disciples of His, so that through us many more people may come to believe in God and be saved as well.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us so that each and every one of us may persevere in faith and grow ever closer to Him, through each moments and opportunities we have in life, in serving and glorifying His Name. Amen.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 1 : 10-17

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says YHVH, “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before Me and trample on My courts. Who asked you to visit Me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense.

Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts. They burden Me. When you stretch out your hands I will close My eyes; the more you pray, the more I refuse to listen, for your hands are bloody.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.

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.”