Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 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, we are all reminded of the coming of the end of times which is certain to happen to us and to this world. The Lord Himself, His prophets, messengers and more have spoken about it, of the time when the final triumph over evil shall come, and all the faithful people of God will be gathered together to live forever in God, free from the bondage of sin, evil and death forevermore, and to assume once again the state which they had once lost because of their disobedience and sins against God that also sundered them from the fullness of His grace and love. That is what God has always intended from the very beginning, that is for us all to be with Him in perfect love and harmony, to exist with Him forever in grace and joy.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the vision of the great and triumphant Son of Man, Who is also the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who at the vision of St. John, wore His victorious crown and holding a great sickle by which He would rend the whole world, separating those who are worthy from those unworthy of God and His salvation and grace. That is a premonition of what will happen at the end of time, when the Lord Himself will gather all those who are faithful to Him and bring them to the eternal life and inheritance that He has already promised to them from the very beginning of time. From the time when we first fell into sin, God has promised His salvation to us, and will send us His deliverance through none other than His Son, Jesus Christ, the Triumphant One.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking of the premonition of what would happen to Jerusalem and its Temple, the destruction and all that would be inflicted upon the city and its people in due time. In about four decades after the Lord spoke of it, the rebellion of the Jewish people led to a punitive expedition and siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and conquered by the Romans, and the magnificent Temple built by King Herod the Great was thoroughly looted, destroyed and crushed to its foundations, that nothing of it was left right up to this day. It was a proof that whatever the Lord Himself had predicted would happen, will indeed happen as He has said.

From the perspective of those who lived during those times, they might indeed think that the end of times would be coming soon, well within their lifetimes, and even some of the Lord’s disciples and Apostles also believed so. But the truth is none of them are aware of the fullness of knowledge of what will truly happen, and when everything will come to happen. No one could have predicted when the city and Temple of Jerusalem were destroyed, and when it happened, it came like a whirlwind, suddenly and must have been a real surprise for almost everyone. No one could have expected that the magnificent city and Temple of Jerusalem could have been destroyed in such a way, and at such a time. Yet, all happened as it is preordained by God, and He alone knows the time and the occasion that will happen.

The same therefore will happen to the end of times, which will come at a time we least expect, and no one, not even anyone in the Church, or any of the Apostles know of the exact timing of the Lord’s Second Coming and the end of all as portrayed and revealed to St. John in the Book of Revelations. What was known to us is just a glimpse of what will happen, and the Lord Himself said on multiple occasions as recorded throughout the Gospels, that this will come most unexpected for everyone, and one may be having their daily lives as usual at one moment, and then immediately it happens the very next moment. Thus, what is important for us all to remember is that, we must never take our faith in God for granted, and we have to be ever vigilant, preparing ourselves for this eventuality.

As Christians, each one of us are called to be exemplary in life and to do our very best in answering God’s call and to live our lives in the manner that He has taught us and shown us, by His own examples. Just as He has loved us so wonderfully, in reaching out to us and to those among us who have been forsaken and rejected by others, He has shown us the example of perfect and selfless love that each one of us as Christians ought to have. Unless we make good use of the time and opportunities presented to us, the talents and abilities, gifts and blessings granted to us, we cannot truly be worthy of God, and if we are not careful or vigilant enough, we may end up being caught on the wrong side at the coming of the Lord’s judgment. Do we want to wait until it is all too late for us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Cecilia, whose life, faith and dedication to God should inspire in each one of us as Christians to be better and more committed disciples of the Lord. St. Cecilia was born to a noble Roman family who forced her to marry a young pagan nobleman named Valerius. St. Cecilia had made a solemn vow of virginity, dedicating herself solely to God, and maintaining her sanctity throughout her most pious and chaste life. She is known as the Patron Saint for musicians because according to tradition, she sang from her heart to the Lord at her own wedding, showing her genuine faith and commitment to God. And when her marriage was about to be consummated, she told her husband that an Angel of the Lord stood guard protecting her, and would strike him down should he attempt to violate her sacred virginity dedicated to God.

Her faith and piety was such that her husband and his brother were converted to the Christian faith, as especially her husband having witnessed the aforementioned Angel of God appearing before St. Cecilia and crowning her with a crown of roses and lilies, marking her purity and virginity. They were all eventually persecuted together with many other Christians during one of the intense persecutions against the Church and Christians by the Roman state. They were all martyred for their faith, and they gave their lives for the glory of God, dedicating themselves to the mission entrusted to them, to inspire many more people through their lives and examples. Through St. Cecilia and her faith, and her courage to maintain her purity and obedience to God, all of us can see how we too are called to be faithful to the Lord in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reevaluate our focus and emphasis in life, and see what we can do to make sure that our lives are worthy of God and maybe even be good models and inspirations for one another. Are we willing and able to make the commitment to God and to live our lives ever more worthily from now on? Are we willing to do our best to live in the way that God has shown us and led us to do? May the Lord continue to guide us all through life and strengthen us in our resolve to follow Him, and to distance ourselves from wickedness and sin. May God bless us always, and may He remain with us, by our side, leading us through the path to eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 5-11

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming My title and saying, ‘I am He, the Messiah; the time is at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen.”

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 14 : 14-19

Then I had this vision, I saw a white cloud and the One sitting on it like a Son of Man, wearing a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. An Angel came out of the sanctuary, calling loudly to the One sitting on the cloud, “Put in Your sickle and reap, for harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

He Who was sitting on the cloud swung His sickle at the earth and reaped the harvest. Then another Angel, who also had a sharp sickle, came out of the heavenly sanctuary. Still another Angel, the one who has charge of the altar fire, emerged and shouted to the first who held the sharp sickle, “Swing your sharp sickle and reap the bunches of the vine of the earth for they are fully ripe.”

So the Angel swung his sickle and gathered in the vintage, throwing all the grapes into the great winepress of the anger of God.

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.