Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the message of the Lord through the Scriptures, telling us first of all from the prophet Amos, who was the prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, the people of the kingdom of Israel have disobeyed God and worshipped the pagan gods and idols of their neighbours, and desecrated His law and commandments.

The Lord was calling them to repent from their sins and from their disobedience through the prophet Amos. But they hardened their hearts and shut off their ears from the word of God. They continued to sin against God and persecuted His prophets, one after another. And that was how the Lord Jesus was also treated by the people, rejected and shut out by His own people.

The state of the people of God was indeed like the two men possessed by the evil spirits. In the Gospel passage we saw how the Lord Jesus healed the two men beset and enslaved by the evil spirits, casting those evil and wicked spirits out of them into the pigs. The men possessed by the evil spirits were cast out from the society and they wandered off in the wilderness, like how the Israelites themselves had wandered off in the desert for forty years because of their sins, and how they endured decades in exile because of their disobedience.

The people of God, like the two possessed men, had been cast out from the grace of God, and while the two men were in the physical desert where the Lord Jesus encountered them, the rest of the people were in the state of a spiritual desert where God was far away in their lives and He was not having the first and foremost place in their hearts and mind. They had shut Him off and distanced themselves from Him.

What we should realise from today’s readings, is that we are also sinners like them, who have, at times, fallen and stumbled along the way in the journey. We are now also in the midst of this spiritual desert, lost and struggling in this journey of life. But what we must also realise is that as we heard in the Gospel today, that God cares for each and every one of us.He went to seek those who have been abandoned, those who have sinned and been corrupted by sin. He went to heal the sinners, the prostitutes and tax collectors, and call them to repentance just as He cast out demons and evil spirits from those who were possessed. Therefore, God is also looking for our salvation and liberation from the sins and wickedness which have chained and enslaved us all thus far.

Now, the question is, how willing are we to receive God’s healing and mercy? God offers us His forgiveness and love very generously, and He will not withhold them from us. He is ever generous in giving, and especially because He had created us out of love, and He does not want even a single one of us to be lost or separated from Him. Yet, there were still many of us who stubbornly refused to accept the Lord’s offer of love, mercy and compassion.Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often due to our stubbornness and pride that we fail to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. We cannot bear to bend down and humbly recognising our sinfulness and shortcomings before us. Many of us would rather perish in sin rather than to lower ourselves and humble ourselves before God. A very sad state of life indeed!

This is perhaps the time for us to emulate the example of the holy woman whose feast we celebrate today, namely the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a renowned queen of Portugal, who was remembered greatly for her piety and faith, her charity and generosity, her holiness in life and her exemplary and inspirational life. Many of the people were touched by her during her life and they repented to the true faith in God.

Now, are we able to live our lives in the same manner as St. Elizabeth of Portugal? She may be a royalty and born a noble, but in her heart and mind, she got her priorities right, by focusing on the Lord and putting Him at the centre of her life. Shall we all also follow in her footsteps, and seek to accept the will of God for us in our lives, and embrace His rich and generous mercy?

May the Lord open our hearts and minds, so that we may come to the fullness of understanding of the love and mercy of God. May He continue to bless us each and every day of our lives, that we may be able to do our best to love Him more, and to commit ourselves more closely to Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 8 : 28-34

At that time, when Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, He was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged Him, “If You drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned.

The men in charge of the pigs ran off to the town, where they told the whole story; and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 49 : 7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, 16bc-17

“Hear, o My people, for I am speaking. I will accuse you, o Israel, I am God, your God!”

“Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.”

“For I own all the beasts of the forest and the animals of My thousand hills. All the birds of the air I know; all that move in the fields are Mine.”

“I need not tell you if I were hungry, for Mine is the world and all that it contains. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

“What right have you to mouth My Laws, or to talk about My Covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.”

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Amos 5 : 14-15, 21-24

Seek good and shun evil, that you may live. Then YHVH, the God of hosts, as you have claimed, will be with you. Hate wickedness and love virtue, and let justice prevail in the courts; perhaps YHVH, the God of hosts, will take pity on the remnant of Joseph.

YHVH said, “I hate, I reject your feasts, I take no pleasure when you assemble to offer Me your burnt offerings. Your cereal offerings, I will not accept! Your offerings of fattened beasts, I will not look upon! Away with the noise of your chanting, away with your strumming on harps. But let justice run its course like water, and righteousness be like an ever-flowing river.”

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard from the Sacred Scriptures the tale about God’s providence and help for those who are faithful to Him. In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Genesis, we heard about how the Lord rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were known to us as places where hideous and grievous sins had been committed by the people there, but Lot and his family were righteous in the sight of God, and God wanted to rescue them from harm.

To that extent, God sent His Angels to Lot and his family, warning them about the impending catastrophe, protecting them from the wrath of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and led them out of the city into the wilderness so that they could escape the destruction and live. This was what He has also done for His disciples as they laid in fear in the middle of the lake, battered by strong wind and waves. He chastised the waves and the wind, and all quietened down.

In the end, God helped His faithful ones and saved them from their distress, but it is we, His people, who have often panicked and became worried, having doubts in the Lord’s providence and love for us. The disciples panicked and became worried in the boat, worried that the wind and the waves would knock the boat off and cause it to sink. They were worried because they feared for their lives, and their faith in the Lord were shaken.

In a similar manner, as Lot and his family fled in a hurry away from Sodom and Gomorrah, while they were specifically instructed by the Angels of God not to look back towards the city, the wife of Lot hesitated, and looked back at the city, and ended up turning into a pile of salt, a punishment for her disobedience. Why did she do so? It was the same with that of the disciples’ reasons for their fear and panicking in the boat rocked by the wind and the waves. They had fear in their hearts, and attachment to worldly things that they were not able to overcome.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, have we acted in the same manner as the wife of Lot and as the Apostles had done? Certainly at some points in our lives we have done so. It is in our human nature for us to worry and to think about our lives, and therefore, we end up losing sight of God’s providence and protection for us all His faithful ones. We are entangled amidst our worldly concerns and worries, and we cannot detach ourselves from those concerns.

How many of us, for example, spent so many hours busily working and preparing for our daily schedules and careers? And then how many of us spent so much time in our daily busy schedules that we end up spending close to nothing or indeed nothing for the Lord? Can we not even spend some time with the Lord, for all that He has done for us, for all that He has blessed us with?

Our Lord has done so much for us, that even though we are sinners and unworthy of Him, He resolved to make us worthy again through reconciliation with Him. Do we realise this fact? Do we realise that He has done so much for us to the point of bearing the cross and suffer great injustice and persecution, just so that through His suffering and death, all of us may have new life in Him?

Perhaps all of us should follow the example of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, the holy woman and saint whose feast we celebrate today. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was the Queen consort of the kingdom of Portugal, who was remembered for her great piety as queen and mother for her people, caring for the poor and the sick, giving herself to a prayerful and charitable life, dedicated to the service of God and to His people.

She maintained peace between the feuding factions in her family and in her country, at the time when a civil war broke between those factions. She made the feuding parties to reconcile with one another, and in other occasions, ensuring the peace between the nobles and the lords of the nation. And when her husband, the king of Portugal passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal decided to devote the rest of her life joining the religious nuns in a convent, and continuing to do what she had done for most of her life, caring for the people of God who are in need.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of St. Elizabeth of Portugal should remind us that each and every one of us, whom God had called to become His children and His people, all of us are beloved by God, and God will protect us from harm, and provide for all of us in our times of need. However, all of us need to devote ourselves in the same manner that God had devoted Himself to us, by loving Him with all of our hearts, and therefore by loving one another, fellow brethren in Christ.

Shall we follow in the footsteps of St. Elizabeth of Portugal and all of our holy predecessors? Shall we walk in their path, which God had shown them and now also show us, so that we may come closer to Him, and thus making us ever more beloved children of His? Let us all commit ourselves anew to God, and seek to do His will in our respective lives and actions. May God continue to love us and bless us, and may He continue to give us His grace and protection. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)
Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

The disciples woke Him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm.

The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)
Psalm 25 : 2-3, 9-10, 11-12

Prove me, o YHVH, put me to the test; examine my soul and my heart. For Your love is ever before my eyes, and I live in truth and faithfulness.

Let me not share the fate of sinners, nor lose my life with the violent; their hands are guilty of crimes, their right hands are weighed down with bribes.

But I will walk in integrity, redeem me, o God, be gracious to me. My foot stands firm in the straight path, I will praise You, o YHVH, in Your assemblies.