Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

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

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

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH 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.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard just how the Lord had loved us mankind so dearly and yet, He had to face rejection and stubbornness from His people, from those to whom He had tirelessly and constantly sent messengers one after another, servants and prophets to proclaim to them the love of God and His faithfulness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah the words of the Lord’s sadness and anger at His people for their ingratitude and lack of faith, their constant disobedience and sinfulness, as they proved again and again to be rebellious and unwilling to embrace God’s love and His path, right up to the end of the kingdom in Judah, as how it was in the time of the prophet Jeremiah, who ministered to the people at the end of the southern kingdom just before its downfall.

God has ever shown His patience and kindness, His mercy and compassion through the generations, but the people abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him for the comfort and the false allures and pleasures of worldliness, putting their trust instead in the pagan idols and foreign gods like Baal, Ashtaroth among others. They had forgotten the wonders and the love that God had showed their ancestors, and allowed the devil to tempt them and sway them to the false paths.

Thus then it was also how the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel today stated that even till then, the people were still stubborn in refusing to believe in God, and held on to their flawed and sinful ways. This was when the Lord’s disciples asked Him on why He was often teaching them in parables and speaking in metaphorical terms especially when describing and explaining many of the concepts of the truth He had revealed.

And the Lord told them essentially how the people’s stubbornness and closed hearts and minds truly prevented them from being able to listen, appreciate and understand the love and the truth of God, blinding them to that truth and reason and made them to harden their stance against the Lord and His followers, as showed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the Sadducees, many of whom often confronted and opposed the Lord in His works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today through all of these each and every one of us are reminded of just how pride, ego, stubbornness, hubris and greed, all of these can be very great stumbling blocks and obstacles in our journey of faith towards God, His love and salvation. As all these prevented our ancestors from seeing reason and listening to the truth, and instead, leading many of them further down the path towards damnation.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded to turn away from this same path, and instead, embrace the path of renewal and forgiveness, the path of being loved by God and accept wholeheartedly the Lord’s compassionate mercy, and to grow ever more faithful in Him with each and every moments of our lives. And we should therefore look upon the good examples of our good and holy predecessors to help and guide us in our journey.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, a great and renowned holy woman and servant of God, known as one of the Patron Saints of Europe remembered for her great piety and commitment to the Lord. And although she was born into one of the richest noble families and could count kings and nobles among her relatives, but she remained humble and committed to the Lord.

Throughout her life, St. Bridget of Sweden worked tirelessly to care for the poor and the sick, and also championed life of prayer and purity, establishing religious orders and congregations that inspired many people to follow her example and faith. By her dedication and commitment, St. Bridget inspired many to turn once again to God and abandon their past, sinful way of life, and this is something that all of us can also aspire towards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able and willing to follow the good examples of St. Bridget of Sweden in our own lives? Are we willing to seek not for the pleasures of the world and for the glory of this human existence, but rather to grow ever stronger in faith, charity and hope, in our devotion towards God and in our virtues in life? Let us all discern these and think carefully of how we should proceed forward in life, especially in how we are going to act towards one another.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Bridget of Sweden and innumerable other holy saints, martyrs and holy servants of God, constantly bless us all and strengthen us, that each and every one of us may grow ever stronger in faith and in our commitment to follow Him and to serve Him with all of our strength. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 35 : 6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11

Your love, o God, reaches the heavens; Your faithfulness, to the clouds. Your justice is like the mighty mountains; Your judgement, like the unfathomable deep.

How precious, o God, is Your constant love! Mortals take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. In Your house they find rich food and they drink from Your spring of delight.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Bestow on Your faithful, Your love; and give salvation to the upright of heart.

Thursday, 23 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH Who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the trust and obedience that each and every one of us must have in our lives towards God, our loving Father and Creator, the One Who loves each and every one of us, and by Whose hands we have been brought to freedom from sin, through the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, the people of God, the sons and daughters of Israel were brought out of the land of Egypt by God’s own great power. Those who were saved enjoyed God’s saving power because they obeyed the Lord and His commands, which He made through His servant Moses. They followed the Lord’s instructions, on the Passover and what they ought to do, smearing the blood of the Passover lambs on their house doorposts.

Those who did not do what the Lord has commanded them to do, and refused to believe in the Lord and obey Him, like the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as the latter constantly refused to let the people of Israel go free until the very end, all of these suffered because of their disobedience and stubborn refusal to listen to God. They rejected God’s truth and love, and therefore, received the wrath of God as a result.

In our Gospel passage today, this message was reiterated once again by the Lord Jesus Himself, as He mentioned before His disciples and the people, that all those who do the will of God, His heavenly Father, obey Him and follow His ways, are all those who will be considered as His brothers, His sisters and His mother. This happened when the relatives of the Lord came to see Him, and those were waiting while the Lord was busy teaching the people.

It may seem that the Lord Jesus was being rude in rebuking His own relatives and refusing to acknowledge them in such a public manner before His own disciples and so many of the people. But if we look at it more carefully and understand the context and purpose in which the Lord made that comment, then we will realise that the Lord was making a point, calling on the people to be truly faithful to the Lord.

And it also showed how the Lord would not be limited by the boundaries of societal norms and familial relations, which often caused people to be divided and grouped together, to the exclusion of others. What the Lord has done was to show that God’s love is extended to all the people equally, with no favourites and cliques. All those who has obeyed the Lord and done His will shall be considered as God’s own beloved ones.

That is precisely because of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has assumed our humanity in the flesh, the Divine Son of God Who has willingly taken up our human existence and essence to be His own, that in His person is perfectly united and yet distinct, two natures, fully Divine and fully Man at the same time. Through His humanity, and by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has made a new Covenant between us and God.

And by this Covenant, each and every one of us have been made worthy of adoption by God Himself, to share with Christ and through Him the status as the beloved children of God. But are we willing to be part of this great inheritance? More often than not, we are distracted and prevented from finding our way because of the many temptations present in this world, because of sin.

Today, perhaps, all of us should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Bridget was born into a noble family and was a devoted mother of a large family. She was remembered for her great piety and generosity in helping the poor and the needy, in being generous for all those who were in need.

St. Bridget devoted her life to the Lord, especially after her husband passed away early, and began the foundation of a religious order eventually named after her, the Brigittines, also known as the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, gathering men and women from many backgrounds to dedicate themselves to the Lord in prayer and service in monasteries. She went on a pilgrimage to Rome and stayed on there, performing many more good works throughout the rest of her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the piety and commitment shown by St. Bridget of Sweden should become a great inspiration and example for each one of us to follow, in our own lives, that we may also do the same and may also grow ever closer to God, in our obedience and wilful following of God’s will in each and every single days of our life.

May the Lord continue to guide us all in our journey of life, and may He strengthen us all to live courageously with faith from now on, for the sake of His greater glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”