Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that as Christians, it is our primary objective in life to love, and not just any kind of love, but love in a selfless way, to love God with all of our might and strength, and to give of ourselves with love to one another, and not to be selfish and haughty, but rather place ourselves in the way of God’s love.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth reminding all of them of the importance of love to all of them, and how love is at the core of the Christian tenet, virtues and teaching. He highlighted how without love, then no matter whatever gifts and talents, graces and abilities we have received, then everything is meaningless.

And the Apostle also highlighted that true love is pure, and is truly wonderful, and that love is never selfish and is about caring and truly being attentive and concerned about the needs of others. St. Paul essentially exhorted all the faithful to follow the examples of the Lord and His Apostles in love, in being generous in giving and in the sharing of that love, rather than following the selfish ways of the world.

It is by our love that we will be recognised as Christians, as God’s own beloved ones and people, as His followers and those who have lived according to His Law and His ways. That is what is alluded in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking about how the people failed to recognise Him and St. John the Baptist. He elaborated how the people looked down and were judgmental against St. John the Baptist because of his appearance, and the same people also judged against the Lord because He interacted and reached out to sinners.

All of these were caused by their lack of love, their inability to appreciate God’s love and all that He has done for the sake of us all mankind. They were too engrossed and preoccupied in themselves that they have ended up being blinded to the truth and the love of God. That is precisely why, despite their intelligence and great power, but without love, all these were of no use, as these referred to many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who criticised St. John the Baptist and the Lord, being considered the most well-educated and influential among the Jews.

It was those who did not hold on to their pride and ego, their preconceived notion of superiority that came to believe the Lord wholeheartedly and genuinely, for they perceived God’s love in the way that those who had allowed their pride and desires to get the better of them could not. They saw the Lord and all that He had done for the sake of His people, and came to believe in Him not just through words but also through His loving actions.

Meanwhile, the Lord often rebuked the Pharisees and also warned those who listened to Him, not to follow the examples of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who did not follow the Law in the manner that they should have. He told them to listen to these teachers of the faith, but not to follow their examples, as their actions and deeds, their behaviours were done in order to satisfy their own personal desires and greed, and hence, they were misguided and in turn, could misguide others in their journey towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, today’s set of Scripture readings remind us that the Lord has called us to be His faithful witnesses in all things and in all occasions, and the best way for us to do that, is to be His witnesses of love, that is by showing love in each and every one of our daily lives’ actions, being genuine in our love and tender care for each other, in the concern we show towards others who are suffering and less fortunate than us.

And perhaps we can learn a lot and be inspired by the examples set by today’s two great saints, whose lives had been exemplary and filled with God’s love. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were holy servants of God who dedicated their lives to the service of God and for the love of Him and their fellow brethren. Both were martyrs who died under great persecution, firm in their faith and unwilling to abandon the Lord Whom they had served so faithfully.

Pope St. Cornelius was elected as Supreme Pontiff, Pope and Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ at a time when the Church was undergoing great tumult and period of great challenges, both from outside the Church as well as from within the Church itself. The Church was facing great persecutions from the Roman Emperors and their government authority officials, and at the same time, the Church was bitterly divided by those who then supported a charismatic Novatian, an influential priest who was then opposed by those like Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian.

Novatian led those who took a hardline stance on those Christians, known as lapsi or lapsed, because they abandoned their faith in the midst of persecution, either by offering sacrifices to the pagan idols and the Emperor or by publicly renouncing their faith and embracing back paganism once again. Thus, Novatian was the leader of the faction who argued that under no circumstances at all that those who have voluntarily left the faith or even those who had been forced to do so, would be allowed to return to the Church.

But Pope St. Pontian and St. Cyprian were those who argued that those who have lapsed and abandoned the faith, for various reasons and circumstances, and then showed sincere desire to repent and the commitment to be a dedicated Christian once again, then that person can be readmitted to the Church once again. Novatian and his followers argued that the Church did not have the authority to do so, and only God can judge the sinner, but they forgot that God’s love is so great that, if a sinner were to repent sincerely, he will still be forgiven.

And they had also forgotten that the Lord had granted the authority to His Church, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to bind and loosen souls, and therefore the authority to forgive sins as the Lord Himself had explicitly granted to His Apostles, and from them to their successors, to all the ordained priests of the Lord. Any attempts to exclude permanently anyone from the Lord’s grace and salvation, is in fact a great sin for those who did so against God and against those whom they tried to exclude and cast out.

That is why Pope St. Cornelius and St. Pontian tried very hard and went up against all those supporters of Novatian who held that elitist, erroneous and dangerous view of self-righteousness and exclusion of those who could have been saved. They laboured hard to restore unity in the Church and also to reach out to all those who have been separated from the Church, reconcile the people on the two sides of the schism caused by Novatian and his supporters.

In the end, they were persecuted and remained faithful, and under the great persecutions of Christians mentioned earlier, both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were martyred for their faith, and suffered great trials and pains during all these. Yet, we all certainly remember the love and zeal with which they had dedicated themselves to God and to their fellow brethren, showing with concrete action the love of God, by fighting for the cause of those who believe in the power of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards God, inspired anew by Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, that we may grow ever stronger in faith in Him and grow ever deeper in our love, commitment and dedication to serve Him and glorify Him by our every actions, in each and every moments of our lives. May God be with us always, at every stage of this journey of faith we have through life. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 12 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 13 : 13

Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

If I could speak all the human and Angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things, with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burnt, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways. Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Friday, 16 September 2016 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we become witnesses of the Lord’s Word spoken to us through His Scriptures, where He spoke of how He had brought healing and salvation upon the world, and He did that through His wonderful works, the primary of which is the death of Himself on the cross, and then how He wondrously rose up from the dead, and was risen in glory, defeating and conquering death.

And we are His witnesses of His resurrection from the dead, as those who have been entrusted with the knowledge and the faith in the One through Whom God had justified the whole world, the whole race of mankind. And that is the essence and the core of our faith, that we believe in our loving God, through Whom we have all been saved by His actions, descending upon this world to be one like us, that by sharing our humanity, He may share with all of us as well, the glory of His death and resurrection.

That is the key message which the Scripture passages we heard today are trying to tell us. We as Christians are people of the Gospel, the Good News of the Lord’s salvation. And we all know that Christ had willingly agreed to shoulder the burden of our sins and wickedness, all the consequences and punishments that come with them, so that we may be saved and not perish in the darkness.

But the offer of Christ’s mercy, forgiveness and love will only be fully realised within us if we all accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, and agree to fully walk in His path, that is to become a real and genuine Christian. And what is the relevance of these all to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because, we who follow the Lord as the Apostles and the holy women mentioned in the Gospel today, we are the workers of Christ, those through whose good works, we bring upon many the salvation of the Lord.

That is the mission entrusted by the Lord Himself to His Apostles and disciples before He left them to ascend to His heavenly glory. But He did not leave them behind, for He was indeed still with them, and He sent them the great Helper, the Holy Spirit to guide them and to help them in their missions and works. And we are their successors, the ones to continue the good works of the Apostles of the Lord.

What does this mean to us? It means that all of us as Christians should really value our faith and truly commit ourselves to living as Christians and as how Christians are supposed to be. And that is how we can best preach about the Lord to others around us. If we show how we live as an example to them, then surely through our works and actions, many will come to believe in the Lord and be converted to His cause.

Now the challenge for us is that we are called to do all these, which many of us certainly have not done thus far. We as members of the Church of God and as Christians ought to devote ourselves to the way of our Lord, that many more people would come to believe in Him, and therefore we may together gain the salvation in God and liberation from our sufferings and sins.

Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, the holy saints whom the Church celebrates today, were also devoted and committed in their actions, serving the Lord and His Church to the best of his abilities. Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian served the Lord with great zeal, and although they often did not agree on certain matters, as evident in how once they came into a bitter conflict over the matter of the forgiveness and acceptance of those who have abandoned the faith and then later returned, but they were able to come together and resolved their differences for the good of the faithful.

Persecution of the faithful was particularly vicious at that time under the Roman Emperor Decius and his successors. Many of the faithful were under attack and under great trouble because of their faith. And both of these faithful saints were also part of the persecution, exiled to hard labour and to great tribulations. Yet, they never ceased to do great works, writing commendations and encouragements to their flock even from exile, to strengthen them amidst the difficult moments.

May God help us all in these endeavours in following the examples of these great saints. May the Lord help us in our works and commitments to bring our fellow brethren to Him, that all of us may be together saved in Him. May God with His holy saints show us the way to lead many to Him, that eventually all may receive grace and righteousness in God. Amen.

Friday, 16 September 2016 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna, and others who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 16 September 2016 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 16 : 1, 6-7, 8b and 15

Hear a just cause, o Lord, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer for there is no deceit on my lips.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Friday, 16 September 2016 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
1 Corinthians 15 : 12-20

Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty and our belief comes to nothing.

And we become false witnesses of God, attesting that He raised Christ, whereas He could not raise Him if indeed the dead are not raised. If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin. Also those who fall asleep in Christ are lost.

If it is only for this life that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep.