Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture where we heard first of all the beginning of the Book of Exodus in which the people of Israel who have been living for many years in the land of Egypt were resented by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, who were afraid at their continuous growth and thriving community. The Pharaoh resorted to enslaving the Israelites and putting them under strict control and attempted even to wipe their young generation by ordering Hebrew boys to be killed.

The Pharaoh and the Egyptians treated the Israelites very terribly and they suffered a lot over those years when they were in slavery. But God did not forget about them or abandon them in the moments of their difficulty. Eventually, He sent them a deliverer, in the person of Moses, whom He prepared and protected despite the Pharaoh’s orders to kill all the newborn male babies of Israel. In time to come, he would be the one through whom God worked to free His people from bondage.

In the Gospel passage, God sent yet another Deliverer, and this One was sent into the world to save not just the people of Israel, but in fact the whole race of man, from our slavery, that is much worse than the slavery of the Israelites. For all of us mankind are in truth, have been enslaved to sin, because of our disobedience against God and His will. And sin has therefore subjugated us to its power, and because of that, we have been subjected to death as well.

Unless we are freed from this bondage to sin, we will end up being drawn deeper and deeper into the power of sin, and in the end, there will be nothing for us but destruction, suffering and pain that never end. But God’s love had made our salvation possible, through the giving of His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Saviour. And Christ, by the power of His divinity and authority, and by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, brought us all into the promise of eternal life free from sin.

Unfortunately, just like when Moses was sent among God’s people, the Lord Jesus encountered a lot of oppositions, a lot of challenges and difficulties. And He put it plainly to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that His coming into the world would not bring about immediately an era of eternal peace and happiness, unlike what the people at that time expected. The people expected that the coming of the Messiah would herald an era of great peace and glory for the people of Israel.

Moses had a lot of challenges as well, because his message to the people of God was initially met with skepticism and doubt, and they grumbled when the Pharaoh hardened his heart and made the people to work even harder when Moses performed great miracles before him and insisted that the Israelites were freed. And after God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, there would be many more challenges that Moses had to endure.

Along the way, the people constantly grumbled and refused to obey the Lord, even putting a golden calf as an idol they worshipped, following the pagan idols of the people they encountered along the way, acting in ways that were wicked and grumbling that they had been led into the desert to die, while they were at least having good life and plenty of food and drink in Egypt although they were enslaved.

In the same way therefore, many of us are also attached and bound by sin, as we resist the efforts of the Lord in bringing us closer to Him and to His righteous ways. The Lord Jesus had to go through a lot of resistance and opposition throughout His years of ministry, and many were against Him, as He Himself said that His coming into the world would bring about controversy, divisions, troubles, and difficulties for all those who follow Him.

The reason for this is because of sin, and because of the dangerous allure of sin that constantly tempts us to pursue the path of sin. And we have to understand that just as God freed His people from the bondage of slavery, He is also freeing us from the bondage we have to sin. In fact, it is God alone Who is capable of freeing us from the bondage to sin. He alone is capable of forgiving our sins.

But are we willing to be forgiven from our sins? It is often that we enjoy living in the state of sin, because sin seems to be better, more attractive and more enjoyable than the path that God shows to us. Therefore, it is important that each and every one of us are aware of the dangers of sin, and that we need to have the strength and resolve to resist the temptation to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps today we can be inspired by the good examples of St. Bonaventure, a devout and holy servant of God, whose life is truly an inspiration for each and every one of us. St. Bonaventure is a Franciscan who was renowned for his great many works and wisdom, for his great contributions to the Church and in the ministry of the episcopate he exercised, and later on as a Cardinal of the Church, he inspired many others through the ages to live an upright life before God.

Are we able to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to turn our hearts and minds totally to God and serve Him from now on with all of our strength? Let us all seek Him with ever greater conviction and be more courageous in living our lives faithfully. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties along the way, but I believe that with God by our side, everything is possible.

May the Lord be our guide and may He continue to strengthen us along this journey, that we may walk ever more faithfully by His side, each and every days and moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 123 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-8

Had not YHVH been on our side – let Israel say – had not YHVH been on our side, when people rose up against us, then, they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more, and the flood would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; the raging waters would have swept us away. Blessed be YHVH, Who did not let us be devoured.

Like a bird, our soul escaped from the snare of the fowler; the snare that was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of YHVH, Who made heaven and earth.

Monday, 15 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 1 : 8-14, 22

Then a new king who had not known Joseph came to power and said to his people, “The Israelites are more numerous and stronger than we are. Let us deal warily with them lest they increase still more and, in case of war, side with our enemy, fight against us and escape from the land.”

So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labour. In that way they built the storage towns of Pithom and Rameses. But the more they oppressed the Hebrews the more they increased and spread, until the Egyptians dreaded the Israelites and became ruthless in making them work. They made life bitter for them in hard labour with bricks and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields. In all their work the Egyptians treated them harshly.

Pharaoh then gave this order to all the people : “Every infant boy born to the Hebrews must be thrown into the Nile, but every girl may live.”

Saturday, 15 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are reminded yet again that we should not worry about our worldly affairs and about our personal concerns. In the first reading today, Jacob was about to die and join his ancestors, and he was buried in the land of Canaan. The sons of Jacob were worried that Joseph, whom they once had betrayed to the slavers and cast out to Egypt, would seek revenge upon them now that Jacob, their father was dead.

But Joseph dissuaded them from their fears and reaffirmed his forgiveness and mercy, which he had shown them, even though they had caused him much misery and sufferings. Joseph did not seek for vengeance, but instead, he trusted in the Lord, Who had helped him in his time of need and delivered him from the hand of his enemies and dangers. He forgave his brothers just as the Lord our God has also forgiven us all our sins.

In the Gospel today, we heard about how the Lord Jesus told His disciples that the truth will always be unveiled and revealed in its fullness, no matter how one sought to hide it from being uncovered or known. For we have to know, brethren, that the Lord our God knows everything that is inside our hearts and our minds. There is no way we can hide any thoughts or deeds from Him, no matter how well it is that we try to do so.

But at the same time, He also mentioned again that we all should not worry for what could destroy the body but could not harm the soul, and instead, we should fear the One Who is capable of destroying us body and soul. What does the Lord mean with this? He meant that all of us must not fear persecution and challenges, or be worried when even the whole world rose up against us. We should instead be worried if we are to leave behind the Lord for the safety of the world because we are concerned that we will lose everything if we are to go against the world.

No matter how powerful or fearsome the devil may appear to us, and how capable he is in harming us physically through his rule over the world, he has no power over us. All of us who have given ourselves to the Lord and who have been cleansed from our sins are no longer under the dominion of Satan, but God. God our Creator and Master has all the power over us, over our bodies, minds, hearts, and over all of our souls. He is the One Whom we have to fear, should we commit sin that taint our soul and make ourselves unworthy of Him.

And therefore remember this, brothers and sisters in Christ, that if we ignore the Lord, and commit what is wicked in our lives, in order to appease the world and to safeguard ourselves, what we will gain for ourselves will just be a temporary respite from our troubles, and whatever benefits we will receive, will just be temporary, as what they can give us is not true happiness or joy.

The devil is always working very hard in order to persuade us that the way of the Lord is more difficult and challenging, and that his path is an easier and better one, one that is able to satisfy us and fulfil what we need. Yet, let us remember that while the path shown by the devil seems to be easier, but it is in fact leading us to greater sorrow and suffering in the end. And the path of the Lord, while it may seem to be challenging and tough at first, but this path leads to eternal life and true happiness.

As the Lord had said, that what is the point for us to gain the whole world if it causes us to lose our souls to condemnation? And how much better it is indeed for us, even if we do not gain the approval of the world but we are able to gain the salvation for our souls and enjoy forever true happiness and joy which can be found in God alone? This is what all of us really need to think about and reflect on in our lives.

We should also heed the inspiring examples of St. Bonaventure, a renowned holy man and saint, who was a Franciscan religious, eventually becoming a bishop and a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church for his many contributions to the faithful and to the Church as a whole. St. Bonaventure was known well for his great devotion and faith in God, in his dedication to the Franciscans and his numerous works and publications that brought about great intellectual revolution in the Church.

St. Bonaventure did not have it easy though, as he faced opposition for his efforts and works both from within the Franciscans as well as from various other sources. Yet, despite all of these obstacles and challenges, he continued to strive through those difficulties and influenced many others who would also end up being known for their great theology and philosophical works, following the example of St. Bonaventure.

Through this example, all of us Christians should follow the footsteps of St. Bonaventure in his faithful dedication to the Lord despite all the challenges he encountered through his life and his works. Let us all remain strong in our commitment to God even if there may be great temptations for us to do otherwise. Let us never forget that God is ever faithful to His promises, and if we continue to cling on to Him despite the temptations to do otherwise, He will bless us and grant us His grace.

May the Lord awaken in our hearts a strong desire to love Him and to serve Him faithfully in all the things we say and do. May all of our actions bring glory to the Lord, and may our faith in Him continue to flourish despite the challenges we face in life. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 15 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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, 15 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 104 : 1-2, 3-4, 6-7

Give thanks to YHVH, call on His Name; make known His works among the nations. Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.

Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek YHVH rejoice. Look to YHVH and be strong; seek His face always.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is YHVH our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Saturday, 15 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Genesis 49 : 29-32 and Genesis 50 : 15-26a

Jacob then gave his sons these instructions : “I am soon to be gathered to my people; bury me near my fathers, in the cave in the field of Ephron, the Hittite; in the cave in the field of Machpelah, to the east of Mamre in Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place. It was there that Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried. There they buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were purchased from the Hittites.”

When Joseph’s brothers realised that their father was dead they said, “What if Joseph turns against us in hate because of the evil we did him?” So they sent word to Joseph saying, “Before he died your father told us to say this to you : Please forgive the crime and the sin of your brothers in doing evil to you. Forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.”

When he was given the message, Joseph wept. His brothers went and threw themselves down before him, “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph reassured them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? You intended to do me harm, but God intended to turn it to good in order to bring about what is happening today – the survival of many people. So have no fear! I will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he touched their hearts and consoled them.

Joseph remained in Egypt together with all his father’s family. He lived for a hundred and ten years, long enough to see Ephraim’s great-grandchildren, and also to have the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, placed on his knees after their birth.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am going to die, but God will surely remember you and take you from this country to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Joseph then made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “When God comes to bring you out from here, carry my bones with you.” Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten.

Friday, 15 July 2016 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord Who reminded all of us that He is the Lord over all things, over the matters of life and death, and that we live at His behest and pleasure. But yet, at the same time, God Who is loving and merciful towards us has given us so much in this life, that especially this very life is the boon and the grace He has granted to all of us.

In the first reading today from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard how the faithful king Hezekiah of Judah laid in pain and dying from his ailment, and he begged the Lord to remember all the good and faithful things which he had done before Him, all the efforts he had put into place to return the people of God back to the ways of the Lord, after many generations of unfaithful people and kings.

He was a mortal after all, even after all the great deeds which he had done, and after all the good things that he had committed in his life. In the fear and the despair which Hezekiah felt, the attachment which he has to life made him to beg the Lord and to humble himself before his God, trying to seek His mercy and the chance to life and enjoy more years of his earthly existence.

And God granted him that desire, and indeed, not only that he was healed from his afflictions, but he was granted several more years of blessed life on earth as the reward of God for the faith and dedication which he had shown. But if we are to read on, we should see the part where king Hezekiah after he had been blessed with new life and grace, he boasted about his wealth to the envoys of the Babylonian king, despite the warning given to him about what was to come by the prophets.

Hezekiah grew proud of his human and worldly achievements and he forgot that all that he has obtained he has gained because of the Lord and His kindness and love alone. The same is often what is happening to many of us who are unable to let go of our pride, our human greed and desires. And that is why we tend to put our trust in our own human achievements and sense of greatness, without acknowledging God Who is behind of all of them.

In the Gospel, we heard one of the common confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees, as well as with the teachers of the Law. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were very particular in their observation of the Law, especially the laws and rules regarding the Sabbath day, when the people of God were not supposed to have any activities and keep that day holy for the Lord.

That Law was intended for a good purpose, that is to help the people of God in finding their way to Him, but in the implementation, it had been twisted beyond recognition by the wrong purposes of the leaders of the people who cared only for their own personal gain and for their own human pride, greed and desire, exactly what had also affected the king Hezekiah of Judah.

What does this mean brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we mankind should learn to restrain ourselves and to forgo those pride, those greed and desires that are exactly what have become hindrances and obstacles on our way as we journey on towards the Lord our God. And indeed we should not fall victim to those things, or else that is why we will be like those whom God had condemned for their lack of faith.

Let us all look at the example of St. Bonaventure, the holy servant of God whose feast we are celebrating on this day. St. Bonaventure was an Italian Franciscan monk, who was renowned for his great piety and for his dedication to the Lord. He preached to the people and cared for them, leading them by the example of his piety. He was also involved in the process of the reform of the Church at the time, leading the Church as well as the Franciscan order whom he led, into a path of piety and commitment to God.

St. Bonaventure was eventually appointed to high positions in the Church, becoming a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and the leader of the Cardinals himself. He was influential in the reforming of the Church and his initiatives helped to strengthen the Church and save many more souls. However, he remained humble and committed to the mission which had been entrusted to him. He did not allow ego or human greed to overcome him.

The disciplined life of St. Bonaventure is a great example and he is indeed a good role model for us all. St. Bonaventure has shown us how to be good in our deeds and actions, be examples for one another and yet remain humble and remain true to our calling. It is indeed not easy to resist those temptations of power, fame and glory, as our human frailty and imperfections have allowed us to seek all of them, and many have fallen along the way because of those things.

Let us all heed that good example, and let us hope that through whatever we have done, we may become ever closer to the Lord and become more and more like Him, that He Who loves us all may recognise us as His own when He comes again to bring all of His beloved ones to His eternal glory. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 15 July 2016 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that Jesus walked through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some heads of wheat and crush them to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple break the Sabbath rest, yet they are not guilty?”

“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”