Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to turn away from our sins and our wickedness, and once again face the Lord with faith. All of us should do what we can to distance ourselves from the sinful things present in our world today, and resist the temptations to commit such sins and other deplorable actions that are unbecoming and unworthy of us being Christians, God’s own beloved people and children. God also willingly extends to us His forgiveness and grace, but it is really up to us to accept His mercy and forgiveness, and commit ourselves to a new life free from evil and sin.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the Lord telling Ezekiel to do His will, in proclaiming His message to the exiles of Israel in Babylon, regarding the fate of their homeland, Judah and Jerusalem, which at that time was in the last days of their existence. Ezekiel and the other exiles were among those whom the Babylonians had brought to exile in that region in an earlier attack on Judah, and back then, the other king that the Babylonians installed on the throne of Judah was rebelling against them, and therefore, the Babylonians came to besiege Jerusalem once again.

The Lord revealed all that those in Judah and Jerusalem would experience, all because of their disobedience, wickedness and sins. The people of Judah had depended on themselves and on worldly powers, on pagan idols and gods rather than on the Lord their God. All these despite whatever God had done for them and their ancestors for a very long time, in taking good care of them and their needs, in protecting them and providing for them. The Lord has been very patient in showing His people His love and kindness, but the people often refused to listen to Him, rejected Him and His offer of kindness and mercy, His compassion and patience in loving them.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the parable that the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding the servant who was forgiven from his debts and then refusing to forgive another fellow servant the debt that this fellow servant had owned him. The Lord used this parable to highlight first of all, the nature of the Lord’s kindness and mercy, His generosity and love, in His willingness to forgive us all our sins and wickedness, in His desire to reach out to us and to find the way for us to return to Him. The Lord used this parable to also highlight to us the need for us to forgive one another our sins and mistakes to each other, just as God Himself has forgiven us ours.

Related to what we have heard in our first reading today, the Lord has forgiven His people time and time again, as He continued to reach out to them ceaselessly, sending out messengers, servants and prophets to help guide His people on their way back towards Him. He patiently waited on them, hoping that they would repent from their many sins and wickedness, and He called on all of them to turn back towards Him with faith. Although their sins were many and uncountable, but when the people willingly and genuinely wanted to be reconciled with Him, their prayers and petitions would be heard, just as in the parable the master forgave the massive debt of the ungrateful servant.

However, more often than not the people of God had not appreciated or understood the depth of God’s love and mercy for them. The Lord had always been faithful to the Covenant which He had made and established with His people and their descendants, but the people were ungrateful like that of the ungrateful servant in the parable. The ungrateful servant did not follow his master’s example, and chose to persecute one of his fellow servants who owed him a debt much smaller than what he himself had owed his master, much as the people of God chose to walk their own path and lived in wicked ways after the Lord had repeatedly forgiven them their sins.

Today, all of us are therefore called to turn back towards the Lord and reorientate ourselves and our lives once again towards Him. And each and every one of us can do well to follow the example of our holy predecessors that we may better know how we should walk in our path of life, that we do not end up falling down the wrong paths that those people in the past had done. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, one of the early members of the Franciscan religious movement, as a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans. St. Clare was the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic order founded upon the Franciscan charism and way of life.

St. Clare devoted herself to God from an early age, dedicating herself to pious works and charitable actions from her youth. She was born from a rich and noble family, but she endeavoured to leave everything behind to follow the Lord after encountering St. Francis of Assisi and listening to his sermons. St. Clare left everything behind and her family, and despite her father’s attempt to force her to return home, St. Clare persisted and remained firm in her conviction, and eventually continued with her calling and religious life, establishing the Order of Poor Ladies as mentioned and led her community with great dedication and faith.

It was also told that in one occasion, during the time when tumultuous conflicts caused war and much devastation to ravage throughout the land, in what is now the Italian peninsula, an invading army of the Holy Roman Emperor came to the town and the monastery that St. Clare was living in, and ransacked the town before heading to the monastery itself to do the same as well. According to the same tradition, St. Clare defended the monastery, praying before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and holding up the monstrance containing the Real Presence of the Lord when the soldiers came into the monastery, when a great blinding light terrified the soldiers so much that they immediately retreated and left the town in haste.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the story of St. Clare’s examples and life we can clearly see how God was always with those who are faithful to Him, and how each one of us should live our lives in the manner that St. Clare had done, in being committed to God in all things we say and do. Each and every one of us should do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives and to remain faithful to Him, and to the Covenant which He had generously made with us all. May God be with us always and may He empower us to live ever more devoutly in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 77 : 56-57, 58-59, 61-62

But they challenged and rebelled against God the Most High, and disobeyed His decrees. They were unfaithful, like their ancestors, deceitful and crooked, as a twisted bow.

They angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols. Filled with wrath, God rejected Israel.

He lead His glory into captivity, His Ark, into the hand of the enemy. He gave His people over to the sword, so furious was He at His inheritance.

Thursday, 11 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 12 : 1-12

This word of YHVH came to me, “Son of man, you live in the midst of a house of rebels : they have eyes for seeing but do not see; they have ears for hearing but do not hear; for they are a house of rebels. Because of this, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage in their sight, as an exile does; and go as an exile, to another place, in their sight. Would that they might understand, because they are a house of rebels.”

“You will gather your things, an exile’s baggage, by day, to be seen by them; and you will leave in the evening, as for a departure of deportees. While they look on, dig a hole in the wall and leave from there. As they look on, shoulder your baggage and leave in the dark. Veil your face and do not look at the land, for I have made you a sign for Israel.”

I did as I was ordered, gathering my things by day, an exile’s baggage, and, in the evening, I made a hole in the wall with my hand. I left in the dark, in their presence, shouldering my baggage. In the morning, the word of YHVH came to me : “Son of man, did not the Israelites, these rebels, ask you, ‘What are you doing there?’ Answer them on behalf of YHVH : This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites remaining in the city.”

“Say, ‘I am a sign for you,’ for what I have done will happen to them : They will be deported, exiled. The prince among them shall shoulder his baggage in the dark and depart. They will dig a hole in the wall to let him leave by it. He will cover his face because he must not see the land with his eyes.”

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded to be faithful and to be humble in our everyday lives, to be obedient to God and follow His ways. And this is what we need to do so that we may find the path towards the salvation in God, just as the Lord has done plenty in reaching out to us and calling on all of us to return to Him, seeking out for us and guiding us on the path towards reconciliation and redemption.

Unfortunately, we are often too busy with our lives and too proud and filled with ego to be able to live with genuine faith. And this is what we have been reminded through our Gospel passage as well, as we heard of the Lord’s words to His disciples, that unless we have the faith of children, be like them and welcome them into our midst, then we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven and be part of the inheritance and glory promised to all of us.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because unlike adults and those who have grown up, children are still innocent and pure, blameless and committed in whatever they believe in. When children believe in something, they will believe it wholeheartedly without doubt and without being distracted by various considerations, as what adults often do. When they believe in the Lord therefore, they will believe with all of their hearts, and given the right guidance, they will all be strong in their faith and love for God.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many of us are lacking, as we live our lives filled with worldly desires and temptations that distract us and prevent us from finding our way towards God. We have often been swayed and tempted by the false promises of glory and pleasure by the devil and his allies, and as a result, we end up being lost from God. We fall into sin and sin led us further astray, away from the right path.

As long as we continue to be stubborn and persist in the path of sin, we will find it difficult to be reconciled with God. In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel the words of the Lord that He spoke to His people through Ezekiel, as He called on them all to stop their rebellious ways and return to Him, and how wicked and terrible their rebellion had been. And yet, God still wanted to call on them and reach out to them, and through Ezekiel, He made His salvation known to them, the words of God’s salvation that is sweet as honey against the bitterness of the rebellion of those who have disobeyed God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings all of us are reminded to be faithful, to turn towards God with heart full of faith and love for Him, to seek Him with all of our hearts, and to be dedicated to Him once again, turning away from all forms of sin and disobedience against Him. We are God’s lost sheep, and we are truly fortunate that the Lord, our Good Shepherd, is willing to reach out to us, find us, and call us back towards Him.

And we need to learn to be humble and faithful once again just as the Lord had taught us all to do, and today we can look upon the examples shown to us by the holy servant of God, St. Clare of Assisi, a great example of faith for each and every one of us. St. Clare of Assisi was remembered for her great piety and love for God, was inspired by a life of prayer since early in her life and was called to follow the path showed by St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Clare dedicated herself to God and gave herself to His service, and despite the attempts made by her father to force her to abandon her commitment and new life, she refused to be dissuaded and remained firm in her conviction to lead a holy life dedicated to God. Eventually together with other women who wished to dedicate themselves to God’s service through prayer and holiness, they became the foundation of the religious order of the Poor Clares, as the group established to channel the women who wanted to follow in the charism and life of the Franciscan spirituality and way of life.

Eventually, St. Clare would become the abbess of the community of San Damiano where the sisters of Poor Clares were gathered and established in, and she was essential in maintaining the spiritual rigour of her congregation and inspiring all of them to live in poverty and in commitment and dedication to God. And miraculously, St. Clare also repelled the invasion of armies that tried to ransack the city and the monastery she and her fellow sisters were living in, by praying before the Blessed Sacrament and presenting the monstrance before the invading forces, that fled in fear witnessing great light that shone on them.

From the examples of St. Clare of Assisi, all of us are called to follow her inspiration to live her life filled with virtue and faith, to be pure in our love for God and to be sincere in our commitment, free from the taint of greed and worldly desires, free from the shackles of sin and evil, from pride and ego and worldly ambitions. But this path will not be an easy one for us, and we will need to resist the constant temptations present all around us.

Let us all have the faith of a child, a genuine faith and dedication, filled with love and the desire to seek God at all times. Let us all pray that the Lord will strengthen us and guide us in this journey, and give us the strength and the courage to serve Him wholeheartedly from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 2 : 8 – Ezekiel 3 : 4

God said to Ezekiel, “Listen then, son of man, to what I say, and do not be a rebel among rebels. Open your mouth and take in what I am about to say.”

I looked and saw a hand stretched out in front of me holding a scroll. He unrolled it before me; on both sides were written lamentations, groaning and woes. He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is given to you. Eat this scroll and then go; speak to the people of Israel.”

I opened my mouth and He made me eat the scroll; and then He said to me, “Eat and fill yourself with this scroll that I am giving you.” I ate it; and it tasted as sweet as honey. He said, “Son of man, go to the Israelites; speak to them with My words.”

Friday, 11 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages, beginning with the Book of Deuteronomy, from which a passage was taken out as our first reading today. In that passage, we listened as Moses told the people of Israel during their journey towards the Promised Land, as they endured the long period of waiting, forty years, about how God had cared for them and provided for them all those while, despite all of their lack of faith in Him.

Moses was reminding the people with a long exhortation, telling them just how fortunate they have been, for them to have been loved by God, to be chosen by Him to be His people. For indeed, what Moses said was true, as there was never anything like what the Lord had done for His people, Israel, in how He had personally done wonders to free His people through the works of His mighty hands, by the ten great plagues that oppressed the Egyptians and forcing them to let the Israelites go.

And God had opened the Red Sea before His people, a deed never done before by any, allowing them to pass through safely and destroyed their enemies behind them. He established a Covenant with them, renewing the Covenant which God had made with Abraham, their forefather. He gave them His own Laws and commandments, with which He wanted to guide them to live faithfully according to His will, and then delivered these to them through Moses, His servant.

He fed His people with the bread from heaven itself, the manna, which He gave them daily except on the Sabbath day, before which He gave them twice the amount to fend for the day of the Sabbath. Everything was taken care of for them, and God loved them day after day. He destroyed their enemies, the Midianites and the Amalekites as they journeyed through the desert. However, the Israelites refused to believe in God wholeheartedly, and repeatedly, they betrayed Him for other gods, and made constant complaints against Him.

They demanded more and more things, even though God had been so generous with them. They complained that they had not enough to eat or drink, even though God had given them and provided them with what they needed. And that is precisely what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. We may not immediately see the link between the two passages, but what the people of Israel had done, was that they seek to preserve themselves and settle their personal desires and interests, above that of the interests of God.

Jesus our Lord said that those who would preserve their lives and refuse to take up their crosses in life will perish, while those who are willing to accept and take up the crosses of their lives, following the Lord Jesus, while they would suffer and be threatened with destruction, they will triumph in the end, and eternal life and grace will forever be theirs. This is the promise which God had made to all those who are faithful to Him.

Sadly, however, the attitudes shown by the Israelites can be found too often among us mankind, as many of us often succumb to the temptations of worldly goods, pleasures and wealth, and we often think of ourselves first, and how we can advance our own power, prestige and status in the society, ahead of our obligations to the Lord. And that is why so many of us have fallen into sin, because we are incapable of letting go of all these human desires that we have.

We put our desires for pleasure, for money, for worldly fame and glory, for recognition and renown ahead of our obligation to love and serve the Lord with all of our hearts. And that was what happened to the Israelites, who have been swayed away from their faith in God, and what had also happened to our predecessors throughout the ages.

Satan is always ever active, seeking for new preys to hound upon. He is actively seeking our downfall, by putting in our path many obstacles and hurdles, all sorts of temptations, persuasions and pressure, in order to force us to walk down the path of sin. This is where we truly must be careful, lest we are dragged down to the fires of hell with him, as we disobey God through sin.

We should instead seek and strive to do our best, to overcome those temptations and pressures, and follow what the holy saint, St. Clare of Assisi had shown in her life. Today we mark her memorial and feast day, and all of us Christians should learn from her examples. St. Clare was among those who sought to join the society founded by St. Francis of Assisi, when she was moved by his preaching and works.

It was told that St. Clare gave up everything and followed the Lord, joining the religious nuns in their convent. And when her family tried to force her to return with them, she refused to do so, as she had committed her whole life to the Lord, and adamantly holding fast to her commitment to God. And eventually she continued in her life in the secluded convent, dedicating herself entirely to God through prayer.

And it was told that in one occasion, when the armies of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II came upon the city with the intent of pillaging, St. Clare took up the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance and held it up high above her. Amidst the rushing and the terror of an invading army, one should have run away in fear, but not for St. Clare. She placed her trust in God, her Protector. It was told that the armies who wanted to pillage the city fled away in fear because of what St. Clare had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Clare of Assisi, and emulate her in her deeds and choices in life. She had decided to give herself completely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, and it is that dedication and commitment which we ourselves should imitate in our own lives, and in how we live our faith to the Lord.

Let us all renew our commitment to Him, and let us no longer be swayed or be tempted by worldly temptations, but instead from now on, let us live in accordance with the will of God, and obey all of His laws. May the Lord bless us all, and may He be with us throughout this journey of our faith. Amen.

Friday, 11 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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."