Monday, 22 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are presented with the story of Daniel, the servant of God and his three friends, who were those brought from the land of Israel to the land of Babylon in their youth at the end of the kingdom of Judah. We heard how Daniel and his friends were brought into the court of the king of Babylon and eventually became his trusted advisers. Then in our Gospel passage today we heard the story of a poor widow who gave a very small offering from her poverty to the Temple treasury, and her example was praised by the Lord before His own disciples.

In that first reading we heard regarding Daniel and his friends, those four people were brought as exiles from their homeland to a far-off distant, strange and foreign land that they did not know at all. They mostly had nothing with them, uprooted from the land of their ancestors, likely separated or even having lost their own families as well. They had little or nothing with them, save their faith in God, that we all heard in how they remained firm in their faith despite the king’s steward persuading them to eat from the unclean food prepared for them.

Like the poor widow mentioned in the Gospel passage today, Daniel and his friends had little with them, a material poverty and lacking everything. Yet, they were full of faith and dedication to the Lord. The poor widow still chose to give to the Lord from whatever little that she had remained with her. In the same way, Daniel and his friends gave to the Lord from whatever little they had, humbled and humiliated they had been as a nation and people, and yet, they represented Israel’s remorse and desire to seek the Lord anew.

And this is the kind of faith that the Lord approved, brothers and sisters in Christ. He wants faith that is not just superficial and lacking in depth, but instead faith that is genuine and true, filled with commitment. That is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do. We cannot be just paying lip service to the Lord and making empty proclamations of faith. Without real and genuine love for the Lord, then we are having an empty and meaningless faith that is not what is expected of us.

Today, all of us are therefore reminded to love the Lord wholeheartedly and to renew our commitment to Him, so that in our every actions and deeds, our words and interactions from now on, we will always strive to glorify God and serve Him to the best of our abilities. We are all called to give our time and effort, whenever we can, even when we ourselves have little to spare. If we truly love the Lord with all of our hearts, certainly we can give and offer Him everything we have without doubt and fear.

Today, we should also be inspired by yet another great role model and example that we can follow, in our Christian living. That is because today we mark the feast of the great and renowned St. Cecilia, the Patron of Church music and a holy virgin and martyr. St. Cecilia devoted herself thoroughly to the Lord and suffered greatly for that, and we should be inspired by her never-ending dedication and commitment to the Lord. And we should also do the same in our own lives as well.

St. Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman who had made vow of virginity before God. But she was forced by her family to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. She dedicated herself to God at her marriage and told her husband Valerian that he could not consummate their marriage as an Angel of the Lord was watching over her. When he asked for proof of the Angel, St. Cecilia told him to go to the Appian Way to see the Angel after being baptised by the Pope, and in the end, he did see the Angel after following St. Cecilia’s instructions.

In the end, it was told that St. Cecilia and her husband, as well as her husband’s brother were all martyred by the Roman prefect. They all suffered martyrdom, and it was indeed amazing how St. Cecilia’s faith was so great and her commitment to the Lord so noble that these inspired her husband and others to seek the Lord as well and to remain faithful to Him even through sufferings and trials, and even unto death and martyrdom.

They have given everything to God, and how about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow in their footsteps and love the Lord with total commitment and devotion from now on if we have not yet done so? Let us discern carefully how we are going to live our lives as true and dedicated Christians in each and every moments of our living presence here in this world. May all of us draw ever closer to God and find our way to Him, following Him in the manner that Daniel and his friends, as well as St. Cecilia and many others had followed Him. Amen.

Monday, 22 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the Temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins. And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”

Monday, 22 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Daniel 3 : 52a, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory; Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You, on the throne of Your kingdom; honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You, Who fathom the depths, Who are enthroned on the Cherubim; praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You, in the firmament of heaven; praised and glorified forever.

Monday, 22 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Daniel 1 : 1-6, 8-20

In the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign as king of Judah, king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem. The Lord delivered into his hands king Jehoiakim of Judah, and some of the vessels from the Temple of God as well. These he carried off, to the land of Shinar, and placed in the treasure house of his god.

King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his chief eunuch Ashpenaz to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility : young men without physical defect, handsome, intelligent and wise; well-informed, quick to learn and understand; and suitable for service in the king’s palace.

They were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. They were allotted a daily portion of food and wine from the king’s table; and were to be trained for three years, after which, they were to enter the king’s service. Among these were young men of Judah : Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

As Daniel was resolved not to make himself unclean with the king’s food or wine, he begged the chief eunuch to spare him this defilement. By the grace of God, the chief eunuch had been sympathetic to Daniel. But he was afraid of the king, so he said, “If the king, who has allotted your food and drink, sees that you look more emaciated than the other young men of your age, he might think ill of me. It will put my life in danger to give in to your wish.”

Daniel then turned to the steward whom the chief eunuch had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. “Please test your servants for ten days. Give us only vegetables to eat and water to drink, and see how we look in comparison with the young men who eat food from the king’s table. Then treat us in accordance with what you see.”

The steward agreed and tested them for ten days, at the end of which, they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate the king’s food. So the steward continued to give them vegetables instead of the choice food and wine. To these four youths God gave wisdom and proficiency in literature, and to Daniel the gift of interpreting visions and dreams.

At the end of the period set by the king for the youths’ training, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them and found none to equal Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These four became members of the king’s court. In any matter of wisdom and discernment about which the king consulted, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages by which we are reminded of the duty and responsibility that each and every one of us have to keep as all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as true Christian disciples and as the followers of God’s will and commandments. All of us are called to be full of faith and love for God in all things.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the victory and triumph of the rebellion of Judas Maccabeus, one of the Maccabean brothers who revolted against the kings of the Greek Seleucid Empire because of their oppression of the faithful people of God and their attempts to destroy the Law of God and outlawing the worship of God and by forcing the Greek pagan worship to the Jewish people.

The city of Jerusalem was taken over by the pagans and the citadel built there kept the entire populace under the power of the kings, while the Temple of Jerusalem was desecrated and made to be a mockery of the faith, where pagan idols and pagan worship took place at the altar once reserved only for the worship of the One and only True God. As such, the House of God was defiled and could not be used for the purpose of divine worship.

That is how it was until the time when Judas Maccabeus and his forces managed to score victories against the king in rebellion and eventually came to occupy the Temple of Jerusalem once again, and as described in our first reading passage today, the abominations, pagan idols and corruptions in the Temple were cleared out and the old altar torn down to make way for a new altar dedicated to God.

There is then a clear parallel between that event and how just over a century later, the Lord Jesus cleared the same Temple from the corruptions of merchants and sinners as described in our Gospel passage today. At that time, the Temple courtyard just outside the main Temple building itself was filled with numerous merchants and people peddling their wares and goods to the visitors and worshippers of the Temple.

Yet, many if not most of those merchants and peddlers cheated their customers to gain more profits for themselves. They bought their goods at a low price while raising their sale prices to be as high as possible to profit from all the people visiting the Temple for various purposes. As many of the worshippers came from faraway places, they would have no choice but to accept the prices imposed by the merchants even at a great loss.

Such wicked and sinful practices should not have been allowed at the Temple, and yet the Temple authorities tolerated them all and even became angry at the Lord Jesus when He cleared them and chased those merchants out of the Temple grounds. Why was that so? That is because the presence and the activities of the merchants were mutually beneficial to both the merchants themselves and the Temple priests and elders.

When the Lord Jesus chased those merchants outside the Temple, the Temple authorities, the elders and the chief priests became angry because while the Lord stated the right thing but those Temple authorities were more concerned about their own worldly concerns and attachments, their desire to retain power and authority, and saw the Lord Jesus as a dangerous threat to their own worldly power.

But the Lord wants us all to know through these that if we are too attached and distracted by the many temptations of life present in this world, we will end up forgetting what our true focus in life should be. And we will end up walking down the same path of wickedness and sin that have been mentioned in our Scripture passages today. We heard of the defilements of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, twice, first by the Greeks and then secondly by the wicked merchants with the tacit approval of the elders and the priests.

But more importantly for us all today is to take note that each and every one of us are also in fact God’s Temple, the Houses of His holy Presence. Why is this so? That is because firstly, through our Holy Communion and by sharing in the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we have partaken in the Lord Himself, being fully present in the Eucharist in Body and Blood. And not only that, but the Lord Himself has given us His Holy Spirit through our Baptism and which He reaffirmed and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, if we are God’s Holy Temples and are His dwelling place, then if we act in manners that are wicked and sinful, we are in fact corrupting and defiling the holiness of this Temple that is our body, our heart, our mind and our soul. We are no better than the Greek kings, those wicked merchants and all those who have defiled God’s Temple. And we saw how God’s anger became manifested against all those who had done that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today all of us are reminded of this fact and are called to live upright and virtuous lives, turning away from sin and from all sorts of temptations that can cause us to fall and to defile the sanctity of these Holy Temples of ours. And today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Cecilia for inspiration and strength.

St. Cecilia, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a well-known patron for musicians and choirs. Yet, she was also a dedicated servant of God, who remained true to her faith in God despite the challenges that she had to encounter because of her faith, that she had to suffer and eventually die for the sake of her faith. St. Cecilia dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity, and although she was forced to marry a pagan noble by her parents, she remained a holy virgin and persuaded her husband, who was touched by the miracle he had seen and became a Christian as well.

St. Cecilia met her martyrdom with faith, as she was executed following her husband and her brother-in-law, both having become Christians through her. She remained adamant and strong in her faith, and no amount of suffering could have convinced or pressured her to abandon her faith in God. Truly, her dedication and commitment to God is an inspiration to all of us who are still struggling in this world in our own journeys of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to be virtuous and righteous, maintaining our purity from sin as St. Cecilia herself had done in her way. We do not have to follow her in her vow of chastity and virginity, but rather, we should imitate her love for God, and as a result, keep ourselves away and free from sin as best as we can that the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, our bodies and our whole beings may remain pure and worthy of Him. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord in all things and devote our whole lives to Him from now on. May God bless us all, our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH.

You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Thursday, 22 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to approach the end of the current liturgical cycle, we listen to more and more apocalyptic readings from the Scriptures that speak about the coming of the end times, from the revelations of St. John the Apostle, to the accounts of the Gospel recounting the moment when the Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of all the things that would happen to that city.

First of all, the first reading today from the Book of the Revelations of St. John we heard about a vision that St. John received of the heavenly kingdom, in which, a Throne was surrounded by multitudes of Angels and elders, and a Scroll was laid on the Throne, which no one was worthy of opening. Within that scroll lies the truth of God and the salvation of all mankind. And in the end, only the Lamb of God, Who has sacrificed Himself, was worthy to open the scroll.

All of the elders and the Angels worshipped the Lamb Who came to take His rightful place at the Throne, and proclaimed His glory and majesty, by all the things and deeds He had done, through His loving and selfless sacrifice on the Cross. He is a King, Who has come into the world in order to save His beloved people, but the same people whom He wanted to save, many of them refused to believe in Him, rejected His message of truth, and in the end, put Him to death on the cross.

The reading from this Book of the Revelations, coupled with what we heard on the lamentations of the Lord for the heinous things that in therefore present us with the realities of our faith, that there would be persecutions and challenges awaiting all those who are speaking the truth and bearing what the Lord Jesus Himself has brought into this world, that is, the message of His salvation for us all.

The lamentations which Jesus made over the city of Jerusalem are linked to what the people of Israel had done to the prophets and messengers of God throughout history, in how they rejected God’s truth and revelations, persecuted the prophets and messengers of God, exiling them and even killing them for speaking the truth. The people hardened their hearts and minds, and refused to believe in the message of truth.

This presents to us how persecution and martyrdom have been part of our faith for countless years, how the faithful had to endure various challenges and difficulties in order to remain true to their faith. Throughout the history of the Church, innumerable martyrs have been made due to the persecution of Christians by various groups and authorities, including St. Cecilia, whose feast day we are celebrating today.

St. Cecilia is one of the most famous of the saints and the martyrs of the Roman persecution era, as the patron saint of musicians. St. Cecilia was a devout Christian and made a vow of virginity to the Lord. But despite that, her parents forced her to marry Valerian, a pagan nobleman. She continued to devote herself to the Lord nonetheless, and managed to persuade her husband to let her remain chaste and virgin, and showed him the proof of what she said, and an Angel appeared to her husband.

In the end, even her husband became a believer and was baptised as a Christian. But that was a particularly difficult time to live as a Christian, when Christians throughout the Empire were going through a particularly brutal and vicious persecution. That is why St. Cecilia and her family went through martyrdom for remaining faithful to the Lord despite the sufferings they had to go through.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our own Christian living. Have we been probably too complacent or too lax in how we live up our lives in faith? Have we been true witnesses of the Lord in how we conduct our actions and in how we lived our lives? What we heard from the Scripture passages today and from the life of St. Cecilia should inspire us to be more active in living our faith, in devoting our time, effort and attention to the Lord.

May the Lord bless us all, and may He continue to remind us to be faithful to Him, each and every single moments of our life. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 22 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city of Jerusalem, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”