Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we have heard a reminder that if we are to remain faithful and true to the Lord, in our faith to Him, we will encounter difficulties and challenges in our path, as there will definitely be those who will be opposed to us and to our faith, namely those who are clinging on to the ways of the world and would not want to see their influence challenged by us.

That means, our lives as Christians, if we truly cling onto our faith in God, and practice wholeheartedly what we believe in, will not be that smooth-going and easy. If we have found our lives to be easy and manageable, without crisis or difficulty, perhaps that is because God had indeed blessed us so, or which we hope that is not the case, that we have not been truly faithful in our ways and in our lives.

Many of us want to be accepted by the world, and to that extent, we conform to the ways and customs of the world, even if that ran contrary to the teachings of our faith. At the same time, we know that the reality in our Church is that there are many who are ‘cafetaria Christians’, which means those who pick and choose what they want to believe in our faith, and refuse to believe or that they are ignoring those tenets which they found to be too difficult to be followed or complied with.

That was what happened to the disciples of Jesus two millennia ago, as Jesus went about preaching about the coming of the kingdom of God to them and speaking about Himself, the truth of what would happen to them should they became His followers, and what they needed to believe in, even when they found the teaching to be difficult to be complied with. Indeed, many left the Lord behind because they were not willing to open their hearts and listen to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not we all should be like, as all of us should be true and devoted to our Lord in all things we do, and believe in Him wholeheartedly, and not conditionally. After all, the Lord had given us all His life and His love unconditionally, by His loving sacrifice on the cross. He has loved us with all of His heart, generously granting us pardon and mercy, forgiveness and grace even when we are all still great sinners and rebels.

If the Lord had not hold back His love for us, then why should we then hold back our love for Him? Why do we have to choose or to select what we want to believe in His message? Why should we set conditions for the Lord? It is not right, if He had already suffered for our sake, bearing the burden for our sins, the burdens which should have been ours, and died on the cross for us, then we should not and indeed cannot treat the Lord with ignorance or apathy.

We must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and learn from the examples of the holy saints, especially St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast day we are celebrating on this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a devout and holy priest, as a Franciscan missionary who lived during the late Medieval era. He was renowned as the ‘Apostle of Italy’ for his tireless works in bringing many people, especially throughout Italy, the heart of Christendom, back to the Lord.

For at that time, many of the people did not live in accordance with the ways of the Lord, living in debauchery and sin, in wickedness and doing what is vile and evil in the sight of God. People are more concerned with money and worldly livelihood rather than serving the Lord and obeying His will. St. Bernardine went around many places, preaching directly to the people in those places, and his words of encouragement and call to repentance have brought many people back to the loving embrace of the Lord.

His sincerity and devotion to the Lord inspired those lost souls who saw the light of God through St. Bernardine of Siena, like that of darkness being pushed back by the light. His examples and his dedication to the salvation of souls should be our inspiration, brothers and sisters in Christ, in how we ought to live our lives faithfully to the Lord. We should be exemplary in our actions and deeds, so that all those who see us will also then come to believe in God through us.

May the Lord awaken in all of us the desire to love Him, and to obey Him in all of His teachings. May we follow in the footsteps of St. Bernardine of Siena, that in all the things we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of the Lord and remain true to His ways. Amen.

Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 20 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Friday, 20 May 2016 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the judgment of God for all of us mankind, and how those who are good, and those who have done good in patience, waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord, shall be rewarded with the blessings and the grace of God, and be welcomed into the eternal life which God has promised all of His faithful ones.

St. James rebuked those who were fighting amongst themselves and said that the kingdom and the glory of God belong to those who are patient, kind, good and obedient, just as the servant of God Job had done before many millennia before today, where he patiently endured persecutions and troubles, all the challenges and the obstacles that he encountered, all the trials and tribulations placed before him by the devil to test him.

And in the Gospel today, we heard about one of the teachers of the Law speaking and arguing with Jesus about divorce, and what the people ought to do in accordance with the Law of God. And the teacher of the Law argued that because the laws according to Moses had allowed for the cases of divorce, thus it was rightful for a person to divorce his wife, or to divorce her husband vice versa, as long as the necessary documents were completed.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying that such laws and rules were in place only because the people of God were obstinate and unruly, and were unable to follow precisely what God had told them to do. And such allowances were meant only to accommodate the demands and wishes of the rebellious people of God, but those were not meant to cover up their sins.

Jesus made it very clear on many occasions, that sin is sin, and the sin of adultery is truly grave indeed. It is because marriage is a holy Sacrament of God, one of the Seven holy Sacraments of the Church, which God had instituted Himself and passed down to His Apostles and thus to the Church. And through marriage, as what God had mentioned to mankind in the Book of Genesis, He had made man and woman into one body, uniting them in a holy bond of matrimony which He Himself had blessed.

Therefore, it is not right for anyone to break this holy bond which God had blessed as long as it had been lawfully made. No man should dissolve the holy bonds and desecrate the holy union which God had blessed unless if they want to commit a grave sin for themselves, and made worse if that desecration was caused by unfaithfulness and by betrayal of the love and trust made at the holy union between man and woman.

Why does that sin happen, brothers and sisters in Christ? The sin of adultery is caused by our own lack of patience, our tendency to be tempted and swayed by the offer of worldly pleasures, the pleasures of the flesh, the sins of corruption and perversion, and many other forms of distractions that keep us away from finding our way to righteousness, and from upholding the integrity and the holiness of God’s holy union.

Mankind were often not satisfied with chastity and with temperance, and instead looking forward to the opportunities to overcome the limitations and the rules imposed on the holy married life, and thus committed adultery, often with another more desirable and more pleasurable to the eyes and to the flesh, all these while they were still in the holy union legally and rightly blessed by God.

As such, we must not heed those in our world today, even those who are within the Church who espoused and pushed forth for the effort to ignore the sins of those who have committed adultery and divorce. We have to understand that the reality is such that, there were those who argued, just as the teacher of the Law had argued with Jesus at that time, that those who committed adultery by desecrating the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony should be welcomed and pardoned unconditionally through God’s mercy.

Yet, these people had conveniently or even purposely forgotten the fact that, while God is merciful and loving towards all of us, but at the same time, He also abhors all forms of sin and wickedness which all of us had performed in our lives. Thus, without clear and genuine repentance from sin, and without turning away from sinfulness, there can be no way forward for us mankind.

And in living our lives worthily before God, we can heed the examples shown by St. Bernardine of Siena whose feast we celebrate today. St. Bernardine of Siena was a priest of the Lord, a Franciscan missionary from Italy, who was a great and devoted preacher who taught the people of God against the sins and wickedness that had corrupted many of the people at the time.

He actively went from places to places, from towns to towns, villages to villages, and from communities to communities, calling the people of God to purify themselves and their faith, and remove from themselves all the sins and the unworthy things which had made themselves unworthy of God’s grace and blessings. He called for many of the people to cast away their sinful actions and remove from themselves all the vanities and the things that have led themselves to sin, such as unnecessary excesses and luxuries.

The words and the works of St. Bernardine of Siena are calling us to reexamine our own lives. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord? And have we been patient in enduring challenges after challenges, obstacles upon obstacles that would come our way when we remain faithful to the Lord and obey His laws? Or have we instead been impatient, and tried to circumvent God’s laws to serve our own unsatisfiable desires?

Let us all reflect on all these, and let us have a new resolve to devote ourselves to a holy life in God, upholding the sanctity of life and holy matrimony at all times. Let us not be deceived into allowing sin to enter into our hearts, especially by trying to show false mercy to those who have committed adultery and yet refused to repent from their sins and continue to live in sin. May God help us on our way to Him and bless us all our days. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2016 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Mark 10 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus then left Capernaum and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more crowds gathered around Him and once more He taught them, as He always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put Him to the test with this question, “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?”

He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.” Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined.”

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked Him about this, and He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery.”

Friday, 20 May 2016 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11-12

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

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

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.