Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s call for us to repent from our sinful ways, to turn away from our wickedness, all the selfish attitudes we have shown all these while we embraced the ways of worldliness and sin. Through His prophets and messengers, His saints and the Church, God has called us and reminded us yet again and again to be faithful to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s intentions and will to His people, which can be summarised as such that He sought not the sacrifices and offerings, festivals and customary celebrations from His people, but rather, real love and genuine faith. He essentially wanted His people to be truthful in their faith and dedication to Him, and not be hypocrites who claimed to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways totally contrary to His teachings and ways.

The Lord has told them that what He wanted from them was real love, dedication and commitment, and not merely just empty show of faith, for it is indeed possible for one to obey the precepts of the Law but without the right intentions, or because it was merely done out of obligation and fulfilling what we considered as a mere formality. These are not what the Lord wanted, and He made it clear to His people through His prophet Isaiah, and this was because many among the people still committed sin against God and lived in state of sin despite outwardly obeying the Law.

This is similar to what the Lord Jesus also saw and encountered among the people when He came into the world, bearing the truth and Good News of salvation. Many among the people paid just lip service for God, and some among them like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became distracted with their role, misunderstanding the intention of God’s will and Law, and they made a show of their faith for praise and respect from the other people, and not because they genuinely and wholly loved God from their hearts.

And the disagreement that rose out of these led to friction and difficulties, challenges and trials facing the followers of God, that had begun even since the time of the ancient prophets, as they faced stubborn people who refused to change their ways, and ended up with them being persecuted and troubled by those who refused to accept them and listen to their truth. The same treatment would be faced and endured by the Lord and His Apostles, His disciples and followers, even as the Lord Jesus performed His ministry, and afterwards as the early Christians continued the Lord’s works.

And the Lord in today’s Gospel passage also told His disciples a kind of jarring message as He told them that whoever loved father, mother, brothers or sisters, or their loved ones and spouses more than they loved God, were not fit to become His followers. Actually what the Lord wanted to tell them and all of us was really that, not that He wanted us to abandon our family and loved ones or to hate them. On the contrary, He definitely wants us all to love our parents, our brethren, our loved ones and family members, our friends and other people. But, what is important that, beyond all these, we must love God even a lot more.

And through what He had explained and revealed, and what we have discussed today, through the readings of the Scripture we can see that being followers of Christ is not necessarily easy for us to do. There will be plenty of challenges and trials ahead, and often we may have to make choices that will put us in quandary of having to choose between God and those whom we know. But if our faith in God is genuine and strong, our commitment to Him and dedication are pure, then we will surely have the right focus and attention, that is on God and not on other things.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Henry, a great leader and a humble man before God, whom as Emperor Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was the secular leader of Christendom ordained by God, and by influence, power and prestige, were probably second throughout Christendom just after the Pope, the Vicar of Christ himself. He was a great leader who was dedicated to his people and kingdom, and responsibly carried out the duties of Christian leadership placed in his hands.

He generously gave to the poor and strengthened the foundations of his realm, while at the same time, supporting the Church and its works, spreading the Christian faith far and wide, sending missionaries to pagan areas and converting many to the true faith, while consolidating the areas already under Christian rule. He established a strong relationship with the Pope and the Church, and in the meantime remaining humble and virtuous, with strong personal piety and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Henry the pious and God-loving Holy Roman Emperor is our great inspiration on how we ourselves can also be righteous and just, dedicated and committed to God. Are we willing and able to follow in his footsteps and be dedicated to God through our daily actions and interactions with one another? Let us all reflect on these, and let us be truly faithful from now on, not just merely paying lip service and empty formality, striving to be good and genuine Christians moving on with our lives.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all with our faith, and may He grant us His providence and with much courage to carry on living as good and faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, especially St. Henry, our role model in faith. Amen.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

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.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Isaiah 1 : 10-17

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says YHVH, “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before Me and trample on My courts. Who asked you to visit Me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense.

Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts. They burden Me. When you stretch out your hands I will close My eyes; the more you pray, the more I refuse to listen, for your hands are bloody.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.

Saturday, 13 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures speaking to us about living faithfully in God’s loving care and providence. God will never abandon those who are faithful to Him, and in fact, as we all should know, God will seek out even those who have fallen away from Him and left Him. If only we mankind realise just how great is the love which God has for each and every one of us.

In the first reading today first of all we heard of the last instruction which Jacob, the father of all Israelites told his twelve sons just before he passed away, and then followed by the worries that the brothers of Joseph had, when they saw that their father had passed away. They were worried that Joseph would take revenge on them for the terrible treatment he had suffered in the days of his youth, when they plotted and almost killed him and abandoned him to the slavers of Midian.

But Joseph reassured his brothers that it was far from him from desiring any form of revenge on his brothers, as it has been the will of God that everything happened as it had happened. Joseph was meant to go before his brothers to Egypt, to prepare the way for his entire family and to save all of them when the time of the great famine came. If it was not for Joseph suffering all those years, the whole family of Israel might have perished.

Of course, it had been tough for Joseph, but Joseph remained faithful throughout those turbulent and difficult years. He did not forget the Lord’s hands guiding him through the difficult times, and by the gift which God gave him in interpreting dreams, he managed to get himself out of slavery and prison, and even became the Regent and second most powerful man in Egypt after the Pharaoh himself.

That was what happened when someone kept his faith and trust in God rather than resorting to using one’s own ways and powers. God will not abandon us to destruction, and even though it may seem at times that we have a lot of trials and challenges ahead of us, with little hope and light in our path, but God will give His aid to us in His own mysterious ways, through mysterious venues and people we meet along our journey.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the same reassurance that Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown to His disciples as He told them that they were truly beloved by God and has nothing to fear from those forces of the world that can bring about our destruction. For nothing in this world can destroy us completely and totally, except for the judgment of God. God alone has the power to judge us and our eternal soul into damnation.

And God does not willingly cast us out into the eternal darkness, unless it has been by our own conscious choice that we reject God’s love and kindness, compassion and mercy willingly without regretting and being ashamed of our sins and wickedness. Yet, are we aware of this love which God has for each and every one of us, or have we been so busy and preoccupied with ourselves and our worldly desires that we fail to recognise this?

On this day, we celebrate the feast of St. Henry, who was the Holy Roman Emperor and therefore the greatest ruler of Christendom approximately one thousand years ago. He was remembered for his great holiness and leadership, in his commitment to serve both God and His people, in his countless efforts to improve and grow the Church of God in supporting the expansion of dioceses and in building of many Church infrastructure, as well as in his commitment and service to His people.

He devoted his whole reign and life to the good of the Church and the people entrusted to him, and for his great love for God and for the trust that he has shown in the Lord and His Church, St. Henry, holy servant of God and Holy Roman Emperor should be our inspiration in how we ought to live our own lives in this world as well. We should be inspired by his zeal and piety, his dedication to God and for his love to his fellow men.

Let us all therefore also put our trust in God from now on, turning to Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, living our lives with a renewed purpose, that is to love Him and to serve Him ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all and our good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 13 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 13 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 104 : 1-2, 3-4, 6-7

Give thanks to YHVH, call on His Name; make known His works among the nations. Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.

Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek YHVH rejoice. Look to YHVH and be strong; seek His face always.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is YHVH our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Saturday, 13 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Genesis 49 : 29-32 and Genesis 50 : 15-26a

Jacob then gave his sons these instructions : “I am soon to be gathered to my people; bury me near my fathers, in the cave in the field of Ephron, the Hittite; in the cave in the field of Machpelah, to the east of Mamre in Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place. It was there that Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried. There they buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were purchased from the Hittites.”

When Joseph’s brothers realised that their father was dead they said, “What if Joseph turns against us in hate because of the evil we did him?” So they sent word to Joseph saying, “Before he died your father told us to say this to you : Please forgive the crime and the sin of your brothers in doing evil to you. Forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.”

When he was given the message, Joseph wept. His brothers went and threw themselves down before him, “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph reassured them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? You intended to do me harm, but God intended to turn it to good in order to bring about what is happening today – the survival of many people. So have no fear! I will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he touched their hearts and consoled them.

Joseph remained in Egypt together with all his father’s family. He lived for a hundred and ten years, long enough to see Ephraim’s great-grandchildren, and also to have the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, placed on his knees after their birth.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am going to die, but God will surely remember you and take you from this country to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Joseph then made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “When God comes to bring you out from here, carry my bones with you.” Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten.

Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture beginning with the book of the prophet Hosea, in which the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet, calling in them to repent from their sinful ways and from their wicked paths. They have abandoned the Lord and His ways, and they have not been faithful, as they chose the pagan idols and the wicked false gods instead of God, Who has loved them and cared for them.

God was indeed angry at His people, and because they abandoned Him and placed their trust in things that did not come from God, they also encountered great sufferings in life, having to endure humiliation and persecution, exile and slavery in foreign lands. But God did not forget about His people, and in truth, He continued to love them regardless of their infidelity and rebelliousness.

That is why, through the prophet Hosea, God wanted to let His people to know that He loved them, and He cared for them very much, so much so that, should they repent from their sins, turn towards Him and embrace Him once again as their Lord and Master, He will bless them again, provide for them again, and return to them all that they had lost, their dignity and their livelihood.

Yet, if we read throughout the entirety of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, we can see, just how the people of God have repeatedly disobeyed God, they fell back into their sinful ways many times, again and again. They fell because of their inability to resist the temptations of the flesh and the many allures of worldliness present before them. They were overcome by their unbridled desire and pride.

It is to these people that the Lord Jesus sent His disciples, to do His works among them and to establish the foundations of the good work of salvation, which is now in the Church. He told them that He was sending them like sheep sent to be amidst the wolves. It was an analogy and metaphor for the kind of persecution, rejection and hostility that the Apostles would have to encounter during their mission and work.

But without these courageous people, who served the Lord wholeheartedly and with passion, there would not have been salvation for those many souls who have been lost and misguided into opposing God’s works. Those souls would have been condemned to eternity in hell, and many more would have been lost forever to the Lord. It was thanks to the hard work and perseverance of these faithful Apostles and disciples of the Lord, that this did not happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to realise that the works of the Apostles have not yet been completed. Instead, it is an ongoing process, as there are always more souls out there waiting to be saved, by receiving the truth and the Good News. And we are the successors of the good works of the Apostles, that by our contributions and works, we may continue to propagate the truth of God and His salvation to many more people.

And as mentioned, just as the Apostles had encountered obstacles, difficulties and opposition throughout their ministry, therefore, we will also likely encounter the same kind of trials and difficulties in our own. But this should not dissuade us from continuing to live our lives with faith, and from caring for those who have been lost and are sundered from God. Rather, it should in fact be an inspiration for us to do even more for the sake of our fellow brethren in need of our help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate together the feast of St. Henry, Holy Roman Emperor as Henry II, the pinnacle and most supreme ruler of the Christendom aside from the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. St. Henry, although a powerful ruler, but he was also remembered for his great piety and dedication to the Lord, and through his rulership, he helped to introduce important reforms that had far-reaching effects throughout the whole Christendom.

St. Henry lived with great piety, carrying out a celibate lifestyle, and devoted his whole life to the service of God. He supported the good works of the Church and helped in the process of the reform of the Church, particularly in the imposition of clerical celibacy and the enforcement of piety and good conduct among the clergy. He was also instrumental in encouraging missionary activities, leading to the conversion of many to the faith.

St. Henry is truly an inspiration to each and every one of us, showing us how to live honourably in faith, and filled with commitment and devotion to the Lord, even amidst difficulties and challenges, and all the obstacles that we will encounter in life. Even as a mighty Emperor, St. Henry also had to face many opposition, and he did so, with great piety and humility, devoting himself wholeheartedly to God.

Therefore, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and let us all seek to be ever closer to God and ever more committed every day of our lives, in serving Him through our every words, actions and deeds. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 13 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 10 : 16-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.”

“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”