Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 all of us are reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to put our faith and trust in the Lord, seeking Him for His forgiveness and mercy. We must not be afraid or doubtful because we have to know that God has always looked kindly upon us and desiring for us to find our way back to Him, to be reconciled and reunited fully with Him in love.

And that is why we heard the passage from our Gospel reading today, detailing the moment when the Lord had an encounter during a meal hosted by the Pharisees for Him, as a sinful woman, widely known for her vices and sins, came to seek Him and brought an alabaster jar full of perfume before the Lord. She wept and cried on the Lord’s feet, before wiping those feet dry with her own hair, and then she used the perfume to anoint the Lord’s feet.

If we understand her context and background, then we can truly understand how significant this event was to all those who witnessed it. For that sinful woman was likely a prostitute, whom the Pharisees often looked down on and despised. The Pharisees must have been shocked that the Lord Jesus allowed such a sinner to approach Him and less still allowing her to touch Him, as at that time, even coming close to a sinner could be considered as a defilement, and hence people would distance themselves from those considered as sinners.

Yet, that sinful woman humbled herself such before the Lord and everyone present, throwing aside all pride and ego, and using her hair, the crown of her beauty, to wipe the feet of the Lord, using her precious treasure to wipe clean the part of the body considered as dirty. She came to the Lord with tears and sorrow, all because she knew how sinful she had been, and came seeking the Lord for forgiveness and healing. She gave it all to the Lord, anointing His feet with expensive perfume, honouring Him before all who saw it.

Yet, those Pharisees still failed to see the truth of God’s love, and still judged Him based on what they had seen and based on their own prejudices. They refused to see the sinners as their own fellow brethren, and preferred to remain in their arrogant and self-serving attitude, in being proud of their piety and privileged position within the community, looking down on all those who disagreed with them and who did not follow the Law and commandments of God in the manner that they had done.

God told them that He came into this world seeking for sinners, for their redemption and healing, so that they might be reconciled with Him and be forgiven from their sins, saved from the destruction that threatened them. He told the Pharisees the parable highlighting how those who had their debts forgiven more would have been more appreciative of the forgiveness, and that was a way for the Lord to tell them that they must not look down on the prostitutes, or tax collectors, the diseased, those possessed by evil spirits and others they deemed as sinners.

Everyone, after all, were sinners all the same, all equal before God and all deserving the same love from God. God wants us all to know this truth, and as we heard the Scripture passages today, we are again reminded of the grace that we have received from Him, the generous extension of His forgiveness and mercy, the love which He has lavished upon us all. And since we have been loved in such a manner, as God called us all to seek Him and be reconciled with Him, let us all remember what He told the sinful woman, that we ought to go forth in peace and sin no more. In our lives, we have to always be vigilant, resisting the temptations to sin that are always present all around us.

It does not matter how great the sins we have once committed. For as long as we are truly sincere in seeking the Lord, like that of the sinful woman, in being repentant and humble, in allowing God to come and heal us, then we shall be secure in the Lord and in the inheritance that He has promised to us. We should not be afraid to seek Him, as if we seek Him with a genuine heart full of remorse for our sins, and desiring to be reconciled and reunited with Him, God will surely hear us and grant us our longing for Him.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed faith from now on, embracing Him in the manner of our holy predecessors, especially that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, whose feasts we are celebrating today. They were truly great and honourable servants of God who gave themselves wholeheartedly to the missions entrusted to them by the Lord. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage during the difficult years of intense persecution of the Church and the Christian faithful by the Roman state. They were both eventually martyred and died defending their faith.

At that time, the Church was not only facing persecution from the pagan authorities but also in fact suffering from internal divisions, particularly by those who adamantly refused to allow the readmission and acceptance of those Christians who had lapsed from their faith, who disagreed with the stand of the Church fathers, on the forgiveness of sinners. Those were lead by a particular priest called Novatian, who led the Church into schism with his followers on one side, and Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian on the other.

Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian championed the rights of those who had lapsed from their faith, either by their choice or coercion, pressure or other reasons, having abandoned their faith in God only to return later on back to the Holy Mother Church. Both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian supported the rights of those Christians to return, against the Novatianists who argued that once they apostatised, there could be no forgiveness or return for them. Those so-called purists were in fact reminiscent of the attitudes showed by the Pharisees in our Gospel passage today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those two holy men of God, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian had done their all to show God’s love and mercy to repentant sinners. Therefore, we too should follow in their footsteps. First of all, are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord, in turning away from the path of sin and wholeheartedly repenting from our past sins? And are we willing to help one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in seeking God?

Instead of looking down on others and thinking that we are in any way better, holier or more worthy than them, let us all reflect on our own sins and all that we have done in our past, all that we have failed to do in obeying the will of God, and in extending our love to one another, just as the Lord has called us all to do. Let us all reflect on this, and strive to become better Christians from now on. Let us all be exemplary in our way of life and show better care and concern for our fellow brothers and sisters in our every living moments.

May the Lord be with us all and may He guide us in our journey, so that each and every one of us will be more willing to be more committed to God, and strive to abandon our past sinfulness, embracing instead the path of God while inspiring others to turn away from their sins, by our own virtuous life examples, through which God may be glorified, and more may come to know of Him and His love for each and every one of us. Amen.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 110 : 7-8, 9, 10

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverance and made with them a Covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered!

The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are those who live by His precepts. To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 : 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 Timothy 4 : 12-16

Let no one reproach you on account of your youth. Be a model to the believers, in the way you speak and act, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourself to reading, preaching and teaching, until I come.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words, when the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about it, and practice it, so that your progress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself, and attend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this, and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 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 we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us and reminding us about faith that each and every one of us should have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between us and God, through what He has done lovingly for our sake, by His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross. We must have that trust in His love and providence as what we have heard the army centurion had done in our Gospel today.

For the context, the army centurion or commander who was mentioned in the Gospel today and met the Lord Jesus on the way, asking for His help in healing his very sick servant, was likely a non-Jewish person or a Gentile. That was because the whole region of Judea, Galilee, Samaria and indeed the entire Mediterranean region were under the power and rule of the Roman Empire. Even though at that time parts of the Israel was still somewhat autonomous under the rule of the descendants of King Herod, but many of the state apparatus and the military had been subsumed by the Romans.

It was likely that the army centurion was either a Roman or at least a Greek. And in that context, we can see an even greater surprise and astonishment that would have happened among all those who followed the Lord. The disciples of the Lord definitely would not have expected that an army centurion of such a high rank, feared by many and considered as a pagan would act in such a way that showed just how great his faith was in God and how firm he was in his belief.

The Jews at that time held firm in their pride of being the descendants of God’s chosen people, the Israelites and looked down upon the Gentiles as pagans and unworthy people, and in particular, the many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law exhibited this bias in the strongest manner. Imagine their astonishment if they can see just how strong the faith and how genuine the dedication that army centurion had in the Lord.

And the irony was such that those same people who took great pride in themselves being God’s chosen people, refused to believe in the One Whom God Himself had promised since the beginning of time, the Saviour Whom He had promised to send into the world to bring about its salvation. Instead of welcoming Him and listening to His truth, many of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and the Jewish people rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him.

Yet, it was that army centurion, supposedly pagan and unworthy in the eyes of the Jews who truly welcomed the Lord into his heart and mind, putting his whole trust to Him without condition and hesitation. And when the army centurion asked of the Lord for a favour saying that he is not worthy to have Him in his place and just by His words alone that his servant would be healed. That in fact showed just how much he trusted in the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is often that we need to see and to experience something directly in order for us to believe in something. For someone to be able to trust just by the weight of words alone means someone must have really trusted in the other person, and that is exactly what the case is for the army centurion in his belief in the Lord. Are we able to have this kind of faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we have to ponder on the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church during the particularly vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. St. Cyprian meanwhile was the influential Bishop of Carthage and Church leader whose works with Pope St. Cornelius were important for the strengthening of the Church through the turbulent times and for the salvation of many souls.

At that time, there was a bitter division in the Church led by the influential Novatian, who held the position that Christians who have left the Church or obeyed the state’s commands of offering sacrifices to the pagan gods and idols could not be welcomed back into the Church and that the Church remained shut off to those people. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian vehemently opposed this argument and strove to show the Church that welcomed sinners who returned to the faith.

Eventually, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian would be martyred for their faith, but this is not before they had worked hard to convince the Church and the Christian communities to remember how each and every one of them were sinners before God, and also for us, remembering what we have listened from the Scriptures, that we must never be proud or be exclusive in our attitudes in faith.

Just as the army centurion was able to show such a great and wonderful faith in God despite being supposedly a pagan and most unlikely to have faith, therefore, we cannot take the position of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or that of Novatian, who took pride in their status as God’s chosen people to the exclusion of others whom they thought to be less worthy or inferior.

Let us all then be open to God’s love and also be open-minded in our interactions with one another, with the intention for the good of one another’s condition in life and faith. Therefore let us all together as one people be more committed and be more faithful, looking upon in particular, the faith of the army centurion which is so genuine and real, and aim that our own faith and devotion to God may be like his. May God bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 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 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 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 Timothy 2 : 1-8

First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for rulers of states, and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For He wants all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth.

As there is one God, there is one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, Who gave His life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me Apostle and herald. I am not lying, I am telling the truth : He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth.

I want men, in every place, to lift pure hands, in prayer, to heaven, without anger and dissension.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd 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 we heard the message from the Scriptures telling us all as Christians to be true disciples of the Lord, that in all things we do, we must be truly faithful to the Lord, and not just having superficial faith. That is the essence of what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people His parables.

He began with the parable of the good tree producing good fruits, and vice versa, the bad trees producing bad fruits. What the Lord said was that if the trees were healthy and in good condition, they would not have produced poor quality or rotten fruits. Similarly, if the trees are bad and rotten, it is unlikely for them to produce good quality fruits. And all these trees in fact represent all of us mankind, God’s people.

Jesus our Lord then also elaborated on another parable, the parable of the foundations, where He mentioned two types of foundation, firstly the strong and solid rock foundation where a house would remain sturdy and strong even when battered by strong winds, rains or waves. And then, He mentioned about the house built on the weak foundation of sand, were although it was quickly and easily built, but when strong winds and rains batter it, it quickly fell down and collapse.

In these two narratives that Jesus had taught His people, He wanted to show them, and therefore to all of us that as Christians we cannot resolve to cut corners and take it the easy way out, or to make compromises if we are to truly become good disciples of the Lord. Much effort and hard work will be required from each one of us, and from time to time, there will be challenges and difficulties that will come to assail us, just like the winds and waves that assailed the houses in the parable.

It also takes a long time and a lot of effort to grow a healthy and productive plant such as a fruit tree. It requires a lot of hard work to produce a good tree, which we can know that it is good because it produces good fruits. If the tree is not properly taken care of, then it is highly likely that it will end up bad and rotten, and the fruits it produces will be of bad quality and rotten too.

In the same manner, therefore if our faith is not strong, and if we do not put the necessary effort required for us to remain faithful to the Lord, then we may end up losing our faith when the troubles and challenges of life come upon our path. We may end up like the house built upon the foundation of sand, shaky and weak, because we have chosen not to strengthen the foundation of our faith, and when challenges come our way, everything end up collapsing.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must be strong and courageous in our faith, that we may remain true to our faith despite all the difficult times and moments we may encounter, and despite the opposition and troubles that may come from even those who are dearest and closest to us. Remember that Satan and his allies have many things in their power and ability in order to try to bring about our downfall, and we must be ever vigilant.

Let us all look up to the examples of the holy saints whose memory we remember today, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, holy martyrs who have stood faithfully by their faith despite the difficult and challenging times of the early days of the Church, when being Christians was considered as equivalent to having a death wish upon oneself. Christians and the Church were persecuted and many were arrested and put to death for remaining true to their faith and refusing to abandon the Lord.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Church throughout the years of difficult persecution under the Roman Emperors, while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage, the contemporary of the Pope, who was one of the leaders of the Church. There were great divisions within the Church at the time, as there were those who under the famous Novatian, who refused to allow the re-baptism of those who have lapsed from their faith, disagreeing with Pope St. Cornelius, St. Cyprian and many other of those who remained to the true faith.

As such, it was truly a difficult time for the Church and for the faithful, and yet Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian remained strong in their faith and commitment to God. They showed their faith and commitment through their never ending dedication that inspired many others to remain strong in their faith to God, despite all the challenges and persecutions. And to the very end, unto their martyrdom, they did not give up their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples of these holy saints and devoted servants of God. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord following their footsteps. Let us walk faithfully through the journey of our lives, and let us all draw ever closer to God’s love and mercy. May He bless us and guide us all as we continue to struggle daily in our respective lives, trying our best to remain true to our faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 43-49

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears : you do not gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, the good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart.”

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what the one is like, who comes to Me, and listens to My words, and acts accordingly. That person is like the builder who dug deep, and laid the foundations of his house on rock. The river overflowed, and the stream dashed against the house, but could not carry it off because the house had been well built.”

“But the one who listens and does not act, is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. The flood burst against it, and the house fell at once : and what a terrible disaster that was!”