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."

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of YHVH; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone, are the God Who works wonders, Who has made known His power to the nations.

With power, You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people, as a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 4 : 32-40

Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of the world to the other : Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire?

Never has there been a God Who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm. Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by YHVH in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes.

You saw this that you might know that YHVH is God and that there is no other besides Him. He let you hear His voice from heaven that you might fear Him; on earth He let you see His blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard His word. Because of the love He had for our fathers, He chose their descendants after them, and He Himself made you leave Egypt with His great power.

He expelled before you peoples more numerous and stronger than you, and He has made you occupy their land : today He has given this to you as an inheritance. Therefore, try to be convinced that YHVH is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today, and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which YHVH, your God, gives you forever.

Thursday, 11 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the clear theme of today’s Scripture readings is compassion and forgiveness, which God has shown unto us His people, and therefore, we too are expected to show the same compassion and forgiving nature as the Lord had done, in our own dealings with others around us. That is the key message that I want all of us to heed today, especially when we live in a world that is increasingly unforgiving in nature.

In the first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, God spoke to Ezekiel that he might convey His intention to His people, that because of their sinfulness and wickedness, they have brought ruin upon themselves and brought about their exile and humiliation among the nations. They have been shamed and brought low and their enemies took advantage on them.

At that time, the prophecy would come true, as Ezekiel and his fellow exiles went ahead of the rest when the king of Babylon first ransacked Jerusalem and Judah and brought part of the people to exile. The remainders led by king Zedekiah of Judah and his people held onto Jerusalem for a while longer, and when they rebelled haughtily thinking that they could trust in the power of men rather than God, they were crushed.

Thus ended the glorious kingdom established by Saul and made strong by David and Solomon, the faithful kings who followed the Lord and devoted themselves in faith to lead the people of God. For the waywardness of the people and their kings that followed after, the sins of Jerusalem and Judah piled up to such an extent that in the end, they suffered the consequences of their sins and disobedience.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to listen to what Jesus our Lord mentioned in the Gospel. He told His disciples about the servant who was indebted to his master, and who was about to pay the consequences of his debt, by being sold into slavery with all of his family and his possessions. But the servant begged the master for mercy, and the master did have mercy on him, not only forgiving him from all his debts, he also set him free.

Yet, that same servant, after he had been set free and forgiven from his heavy debts, went to another servant who in turn owned him some money, albeit far less than what he himself ever owed his master. And when that servant begged for mercy and forgiveness, for him to be patient while he tried to gather the money to pay him back, the wicked servant refused and sent the other, poor servant to be tortured and to suffer.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, Who shows mercy to all those who beg Him to forgive them, as long as they are sincere in desiring the mercy and the forgiveness of God. And the servants represent us all mankind, of all our various needs and kinds, who serve the Lord, and then who committed mistakes and sins in our lives, that is our debt to our true Lord and Master.

And just as that servant did not forgive the debt of those who were indebted to him, we mankind also often keep grudges and vengeance, and we also found that it was not easy to forgive those who have wronged us. We tend to keep our negative judgment and prejudice on others, and that resulted in our inability to appreciate the greatness of God’s love and compassion for us.

We cannot just profess that we believe in God, and yet in our actions, our very deeds and dealings, we have too much ego in us and we have too much pride and hate in us to be able to learn to forgive each other and to love one another without ulterior motive, resulting in the Lord condemning our own actions and deeds because through them we have not followed what our Lord had done to us.

God has forgiven us, but yet we do not forgive our brethren? Let us then take note at what we often pray as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster. There is that part which mentioned the petition we gave to the Lord, for Him to forgive us our sins and trespasses, just as He has forgiven us first our own sins and trespasses before Him. If we want to be forgiven, then we must forgive those who have sinned against us first, and also to ask for forgiveness if we have wronged someone else.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, a renowned holy woman and one of the greatest saints of her time. St. Clare was a pious and devoted woman who gave her life to serve the people of God and the Church, as a member of the Franciscan order, as one of the first followers of the renowned St. Francis of Assisi, sharing in his passion and desire to help the poorest and the weakest in the society.

She helped to establish the Order of Poor Ladies, the female counterpart of the Franciscan order, helping to gather like-minded and devoted young ladies who wanted to give their lives in commitment to the service of the people of God, grounded on faith, charity and service. And she led the efforts of the new order, by leading the devout women in the service to the poor, in evangelising the word of God to the sinners, and to serve God in all possible ways.

It was told in what is now a very famous and renowned story that once the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II during one of his many wars in Italy, came to the convent where St. Clare and her followers lived and worked. And St. Clare, not fearing for her life in the face of the bloodthirsty and angry soldiers, picked up the holy monstrance bearing inside it the Most Precious Body of our Lord, lifted it high up above her head just as the soldiers barged into the chapel.

And so terrified the soldiers were at the Real Presence of our Lord, that they fled the place and left the city unharmed without striking at the people. And thus, we saw how God showed His love and mercy to His people, for He will care for those who kept their faith in Him, and He will never abandon them. Therefore, let us follow the examples of St. Clare and the other holy saints, and devote ourselves anew to the Lord.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, and may He strengthen our faith that we may find our way to Him, with the strong belief and conviction that He will always be with us to the end, never leaving us in the darkness. May He bring us into the light and bless us forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 August 2016 : 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 the accounts of his servants. Among the first 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 companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants 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 when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

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