Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are called to be faithful to the Lord and to remember everything that He had done for us all, and we are called to reject the temptations to sin and to disobey His will and commandments, as we shall certainly encounter these in our journey of life throughout. And we should also encourage one another in how we live up to our faith, that we should inspire one another to be faithful to God.

In our first reading today, we heard the exhortations and reminders made by Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy, likely during the last moments of the Exodus, as the Israelites had been spending forty years in the desert, journeying and waiting for their time to enter the land promised to them and to their ancestors. The journey should not have taken such a long time, but the Lord chastised and punished His people for their disobedience and lack of faith in Him, when they openly rebelled against Him just as He was about to lead them into the Promised Land.

During that entire period of forty years, an entire generation of those who disobeyed and disregarded the Lord perished, just as the Lord had decided, that none of those in that generation, save for the two adult faithful servants of God from the days of the Israelites in Egypt, who remained faithful to Him, namely Caleb and Joshua, would remain and enter into the Promised Land. Joshua would be the one to succeed Moses in leading the Israelites as they marched to the land promised to them.

God spoke through Moses in our first reading passage today, as He reminded His people to remain faithful to Him and not be swayed by the temptations to sin and to disobey Him. Through Moses, God reminded all of them to remain strong in faith and not to forget about the Lord Who had saved them from their slavery in Egypt, and Who had guided them and provided for them and their ancestors, throughout the Exodus and afterwards.

But unfortunately, as we can see throughout the accounts of the Old Testament, the people of Israel did not remain faithful and continued to walk in the path of sin, falling again and again into disobedience against God. The Lord has patiently guided them and called them to return to Him throughout all those years without fail, sending to them various prophets and messengers, and leaders and guides to help keep them on their path, to chastise and to remind them when they have erred and fallen into the path of sin and evil.

Then He sent to His people, to this world, the Saviour of all, His own Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour, the Master of all. Through Him, the Lord brought His salvation into our midst, revealing the truth about His love and His intentions for each and every one of us. Yet, despite having seen all that He had done, all the miracles and wonders He had performed, and despite having heard all the wisdom and truth that they had received, they failed to appreciate this truth and the love of God, and still continued to doubt the Lord and questioned Him and His truth.

Hence, we heard the Lord again rebuking His people and telling them to be faithful, and to abandon their stubbornness and wicked attitudes. The Lord called all of them to believe in Him and in the truth and the pure, genuine love that He had brought into their midst. He told them all, including His disciples, that even if their faith is small, metaphorically symbolised as the mustard seed in size, but if their faith is true, everything will be possible for them, and all things will be in their favour through God, by their faith and commitment.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord, and believe in Him in this manner? Today as we listened to these words of the Scriptures we are all called to turn towards the Lord with newfound faith and dedication, with genuine and pure love. We are all called to serve Him faithfully and to walk ever in His presence without fail. And we should seek inspiration in the examples of our holy predecessors, especially in Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, whose feast days we are celebrating together today.

Pope St. Sixtus II was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult time of the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman Empire, when Christians faced series of persecutions while the rest of the Roman Empire were also undergoing upheavals and instabilities. Christians were often blamed for the troubles and issues that faced the state. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church faithfully through this difficult period, encouraging the faithful people of God to remain true to their faith despite the challenges and trials that they had to endure, and when he was arrested and martyred, Pope St. Sixtus II remained firm in his faith and exemplary in his courage to stay true to the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was an Italian priest remembered for his dedication and care towards the poor and the sick, as he made the effort to care for those who were needy and for those who were suffering from incurable diseases. St. Cajetan spent a lot of effort, in establishing hospitals and care places, and also established the Congregation of the Clerks Regular, also known as the Theatines, assembling people who were like-minded and with the same desire to serve the Lord, responding to the Lord’s call and embracing their responsibility in reaching out to their fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by these two most dedicated saints, let us all in our own lives spent as much time and effort in order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and faithfully so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and contribute to the good works of His Church, of which we are members and parts of. Let us all have true and genuine faith in the Lord, that as our holy predecessors have shown us, if we are faithful, even the greatest obstacles and trials will not hinder us from following the Lord.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, and may He encourage us and empower us to live ever more faithfully at all times, that we may dedicate our effort and time to serve Him, in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 17 : 14-20

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples came to the crowd, a man approached Him, knelt before Him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son, who is an epileptic and suffers terribly. He has often fallen into the fire, and at other times into the water. I brought him to Your disciples but they could not heal him.”

Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you : if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Psalm 17 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51ab

I love You, o YHVH, my strength. YHVH is my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer and my God.

He is the Rock in Whom I take refuge. He is my Shield, my powerful Saviour, my Stronghold. I call on YHVH, Who is worthy of praise : He saves me from my enemies!

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones.

Saturday, 7 August 2021 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 6 : 4-13

Listen, Israel : YHVH, our God, is One YHVH. And you shall love YHVH, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.

Repeat them over and over to your children, speak to them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.

Do not forget YHVH when He has led you into the land which He promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for He will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget YHVH Who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him and call on His Name when you have to swear an oath.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that we have all been called to follow the Lord and to focus our attention on Him, as those whom He had called and chosen to be His people. And at the same time we are also reminded that to follow God and to be faithful to Him will often require from us dedication and commitment that may lead us down the path filled with obstacles and challenges.

That is why the Lord said to His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today, that for all those who want to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. This means that we ought to share in the Cross and the sufferings that He had borne for our sake, and strive to seek the Lord and His righteousness above all other things, and to look beyond the false glory, pleasures and satisfactions of the world, resist the temptations and remaining faithful to God.

Indeed, this will not be an easy task, as just the Lord encountered plenty of opposition and challenges from those who disagreed with Him and refused to believe in Him, was persecuted and forced to endure humiliation, punished for the punishment that He was innocent from, and bore the cross of condemnation, and we heard how these enemies also acted against His disciples, that is why as followers of Christ, we too are likely to suffer the same fate as the Lord, hated and despised by the world.

That is why, we are presented with the choice, whether we want to follow the Lord, taking up our crosses in life and walking with Him, or whether we want to follow the path of the world, to embrace the path of disobedience and sins against God. These are the paths and choices presented to us, and unless we have strong faith in God, it is very easy for us to fall into the temptation to walk away from God.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Nahum, we heard of the Lord’s promise to His people that He shall crush the wicked and all those who have oppressed His people. It is the promise that the Lord will be faithful and will stand by His people in the midst of persecution and suffering. He will not abandon them to the darkness, and while for a while they might suffer, in the end, those who have kept their faith in Him will be triumphant while those who opposed Him and rejected Him will be crushed and destroyed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is therefore a kind reminder for us not to easily give in to the temptation to sin and disobey God, although the path of faith may seem to be challenging and daunting. In the end, as the
Lord said, “What worth is it for man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” This shows us that it is better for man to lose the whole world and yet remain in God’s grace. For the pleasures and glory of this world is all but temporary, while the soul is eternal.

What worth is it therefore for us to gain the comforts and pleasures of this world if we end up losing in the battle for our souls? When the souls of the wicked and those who were unrepentant are judged and condemned, they will all suffer for eternity from which there is no recourse or any way out at all. All these for the temporary taste of worldly goodness and joy, and in the end, eternal suffering awaits us all.

And the devil and his forces are always active out there trying to pull us away from God’s path, by tempting us to follow the temptations of our desires, by presenting to us many forms of worldly pleasures and false leads, into which if we succumb to them, it will be difficult for us to get out and escape, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations. What shall we do then? This is where we should thus look on the examples set by our predecessors in faith.

Pope St. Sixtus II, holy Pope and Martyr, together with his many companions were persecuted by the Roman Empire and the pagans, who tried to destroy the Church and crush the faithful. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church during the turbulent days of the Church when persecutions were rampant, and even so, he dedicated his life and effort to unite the Church, and tradition stated that he successfully restored the relations between the Church in Greece and Africa that had been torn apart and divided by certain issues earlier on.

And to the very end, when the Roman Emperor Valerian continued the persecution of the Church and the faithful, Pope St. Sixtus II was among the many faithful arrested for refusing to abandon their faith in God, and despite the efforts to convince them otherwise, and the pressures, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions in faith chose to remain faithful to the very end, dying as martyrs rather than to enjoy reprieve and comfort by giving in to the state.

Meanwhile, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Cajetan, a priest and also founder of the Religious Order of the Theatines, remembered very well for his care and concern for the poor and the needy, for those who were suffering especially from spiritual sickness and the lack of faith. He chose to dedicate his time, effort and attention to help all those who have lost their compass and guidance in life, and chose to spend much time to care for their needs and guide them back to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see from today’s saints’ examples, we can see how being faithful and doing what the Lord had asked us to do is not something that can easily be done, and we see just what kind of difficulties and trials that they all had to face, and how some had to endure even death in martyrdom for being faithful. But this is exactly what is meant by ‘taking up our crosses and following the Lord’, for being Christians is not one of inaction and comfort, but instead one of dedication and commitment.

Let us all therefore discern carefully from now on, how we will carry on living our lives, with all the opportunities that we have been given. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and be ever more genuine and devoted in our love for God from this moment onwards. May the Lord, our loving God, continue to guide us and help lead us down the right path in life, giving us the strength to carry our crosses faithfully and follow Him wholeheartedly, all the days of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Deuteronomy 32 : 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Learn this now – that I alone am He; there is no god besides Me. It is I Who give both death and life; it is I Who wound and heal as well and out of My hand no one can deliver.

When I sharpen My glittering sword and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will deal out vengeance upon My foes and retribution upon those who hate Me.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Nahum 2 : 1, 3 and Nahum 3 : 1-3, 6-7

See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings Good News, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you any more. YHVH will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendour. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.

Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, o city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs! See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying – we trip over corpses!

I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say : Nineveh – a city of lust – is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?

Wednesday, 7 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the Scriptures to remind us to keep our faith in Him strong, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter in life. In the Scripture passages we heard from both the Old Testament and the New Testament today we can see the contrast between what happened in the time of the Exodus and at the time of the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today, we listened to the story of Caleb and his fellow men chosen to be those who would scout ahead of the whole nation of Israel to see the land promised to them and their ancestors, the land known as Canaan. They saw the whole land and saw the people who lived in them, and except for Caleb, the rest of the scouts came before the Israelites and made them to fear the Canaanites because they seemed to be so powerful and tough, and they made the whole nation to go against God and Moses.

And all these happened despite God having provided for them throughout the whole journey and guided them through the difficult moments, liberating them with great power from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, and brought them out of the land of Egypt, providing for them and their needs along the way, giving them manna to eat and water to drink in the middle of the desert.

God has done so much for His people and yet, they refused to believe in Him and did not want to trust Him. They became fearful and refused to enter the land promised to them because they did not have strong and genuine faith in God. They thought rather in human and worldly terms, fearing that they were not powerful enough to overcome the many people living in Canaan at that time, some of whom were described as powerful and mighty, even like giants in appearance.

Then, we heard from our Gospel passage today, the irony of having one of the same Canaanite, or in another source, a Syro-Phoenician, which corresponded to the region of Canaan itself, who actually had such a strong and genuine faith in God, surpassing the faith of all those who have called themselves as the chosen people and the chosen race of God. And for this to come from a Canaanite and a woman was indeed special, to the point of being revolutionary and breaking prejudices held at that time.

The Canaanite woman begged the Lord to heal her daughter and cast out the demon that had been tormenting her. But the Lord’s response to her seemed to be not just cold and unfeeling, but in fact could be seen as rude and being condescending, if we do not understand the context and the purpose of why the Lord Jesus made such a reply to her. The Lord’s intention with such a remark was in fact to show all of His disciples the kind of prejudice that the people of Israel had against the Canaanites that kind of mirrored what they had exhibited all the way from the time of the Exodus.

The Israelites took great pride in the fact that they were a people chosen by God, and the remnants of that once great people by the time of Jesus, namely the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee often looked down and despised the foreigners living in and around them, from the Samaritans to the Syrians, Phoenicians and all other peoples whom they deemed to be outside of the exclusive group chosen by God.

It was in fact so bad that the Lord showed perfectly just how prejudiced and unbecoming their judgmental attitude against the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles. He used a comparison with dogs to refer to the non-Jewish people and how food from the table of the house should not be given to them, a reference to the blessings and the salvation found in God. But yet, the woman remained persistent and showed her genuine faith by humbling herself before the Lord.

It is an irony that the Canaanite woman had greater faith than the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, as the latter became fearful and panicked when they saw the people in the land promised to them by God and having seen all the wonders that God had done for them all those while. And those people thought that the Canaanites were godless and unworthy people when that Canaanite woman mentioned in the Gospel probably put all of them to shame in the matter of faith.

Today, all of us are called to follow the example of the faithful Canaanite woman who had faith in the Lord and devoted herself wholeheartedly to Him, despite of the rejection and refusal she seemed to be getting. She remained firm in her resolution to be faithful and to trust in God, unlike the Israelites who had wavered in their faith so easily just because of some challenges they were to face ahead of them.

On this day, perhaps we should also look upon the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate this day, namely that of Pope St. Sixtus II, a martyr of the early Church and also St. Cajetan, a holy priest and founder of the Theatines religious order. Their faith and dedication to the Lord through their lives should be inspirations for us to follow in how we should live out our own lives as well.

Pope St. Sixtus II was martyred together with several other martyrs during a harsh persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Valerian in the early days of the Church, when many of the faithful suffered grievously just because they believed in God. And as their shepherd, Pope St. Sixtus II courageously stood by his faith in the Lord and committed himself totally to Him, that he did not budge from his faith even under the threat of suffering and death.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was a holy and dedicated priest, who followed the Lord’s call and ministered to the poor and the people who were less fortunate and troubled in the society, and co-founded the religious order later on known as the Theatines, with people who had similar calling and passion to help with the needs of those people who were often looked down by others in the community.

Now, having seen the faith present in all these people we have discussed about today, let us all be inspired by their examples and grow to have the same kind of faith in us, in our sincere and genuine belief and commitment towards God. Let us all put our trust in God and no longer doubt His providence and love from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us throughout this journey and may He continue to be with us and bless us all in our good many endeavours in life. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that area, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”

The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.