Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us to be faithful to the Lord, in our every day living moments and in all things. We are all called to remember the Lord’s commandments and Law, and the need for all of us as Christians to love God first and foremost, and then to show that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to everyone without exception.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s commands to His people as recorded in the Book of Leviticus, detailing the celebration of the fiftieth year or the year of the Jubilee, which was marked as a year of celebration and healing, of reconciliation and love, where people forgave their enemies and those who had been indebted to them from their debts. It is a year set aside to remind the people of God that they ought to give thanks to God and at the same time also show care and love for one another.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the martyrdom or the death of St. John the Baptist in prison, at the hands of king Herod, and at the instigation of his wife, Herodias, who held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist as the saint did not hesitate to rebuke and criticise both king Herod and her due to the adultery they had committed by their marriage when Herod’s brother, Philip, the legal husband of Herodias was still alive.

We all know how Herodias tricked Herod through her beautiful daughter, tricking Herod into ordering the execution of faithful servant of God as likely under the influence of alcohol during a party, and overcome by his lust and desire for pleasure and human beauty, he made a commitment before all the assembled guests that he could not deny or retract. Hence, through that act, he had condemned himself to an act of great sin in murdering a faithful servant of God, even if he did not intend for it to happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that it is not easy for us to be faithful as Christians, to live our lives as those who follow the path of the Lord and obey His Law and commandments. Those who have been faithful may encounter the fate of St. John the Baptist, who was imprisoned and killed for his steadfast defence of his faith, and we may be persecuted and face difficulties for all that we have done for the Lord’s sake. Yet, we should not give up just because of the obstacles we may encounter in our journey.

That is why we should follow the examples of our predecessors, one of whom today can show us what it means to be truly devout Christians, in all things, for the greater glory of God. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a faithful servant of God and the famous founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, which is now the largest of all religious orders and congregations. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier and nobleman, who had a life-changing experience and decided to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

Early in his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola sought worldly glory, fame and achievements in life, enrolling as a soldier to get that much sought fame and glory, only to get himself seriously injured during one of the siege battles, where his legs were severely injured in the heat of the battle. During his recuperation period, he had a spiritual encounter with God and a period of discernment, in which he came to realise that the true purpose of his life and true glory came not in the pursuit of worldly glory, fame and ambition.

Instead, from then on, as what would be famously known as his motto and the motto of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola would seek nothing else but the greater glory of God, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. It is with this spirit that St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered like-minded men and sought the Pope’s permission to establish a congregation dedicated to the mission of the Church, to proclaim the greater glory of God in various opportunities, from missionary efforts to involvement in proper Catholic education.

To this end, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his many fellow Jesuits such as St. Peter Canisius and St. Peter Faber were involved deeply in the Counter-Reformation efforts, establishing schools and seminaries, and other faculties involved in the dissemination of the true essence of the Christian faith. Others like St. Francis Xavier and many others involved themselves in missionary work, travelling far all over the world to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and truth, bringing many more people to the Lord. Many Christian communities today could trace their faith to the efforts of those courageous Jesuit missionaries back then.

This year we mark the five hundredth anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, marking the moment when St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind his former dream of worldly glory and fame, and embracing fully the Lord’s calling to seek for His greater glory, through which countless graces and wonderful things had come about, not least through St. Ignatius’ foundation of the Jesuits, as well as his hard works and efforts all throughout his life for the betterment of the Church and the faithful.

Let us all be inspired therefore by his examples and learn to commit ourselves to the Lord ever more wholeheartedly, resisting the temptations of worldly vices and ambitions, and instead, learning to love the Lord ever more and commit ourselves with ever greater conviction and commitment from now on. May the Lord be with us all and continue to guide us and bless us in all of our every endeavours and good works. May God bless our every good efforts and remain with us always, that we will always strive to do our best for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 7-8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us; that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation, among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice; and guide the nations of the world.

The land has given its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Saturday, 31 July 2021 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Leviticus 25 : 1, 8-17

YHVH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai : “When seven Sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land.”

“Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation.”

“In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbour or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbour and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you.”

“When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am YHVH, your God.”

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listen to the words of the Scripture we are reminded that we have often been stubborn and rebellious before God, and we have often ignored the Lord’s genuine love and call for us to return to Him, as history and Scriptural records and truth had revealed to us. As it had once happened at that time, so it has happened again at present and will happen again in the future.

In the first reading today, taken from the passage of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord that He spoke through Jeremiah and which He asked of the prophet to convey to the people of Judah, calling them all to repent and turn away from their sins, that He might forgive them and stay His wrath from them all and rescind the punishments for the many sins that the people had committed all those while.

And the Lord also reminded His people that unless they repent from their sins, then what happened to the sanctuary of Shiloh would also happen to them all, as a kind and loving reminder that God still yet gave more and more chances to His people to repent and turn away from their sins. For the context, the sanctuary of Shiloh historically had been important religious centre for the Israelites since the days of the Judges before the rise of the kingdom of Israel.

And Shiloh was likely the place where the then Judge and High Priest Eli had his seat and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept under the Holy Tent. When the two wicked sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas led the Israelites against the Philistines who raided and attacked them, they brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, thinking that they would win and triumph over the Philistines. On the contrary, they suffered a terrible defeat, the wicked Hophni and Phinehas were killed and the Ark of God was taken away by the enemy.

The story of the sanctuary of Shiloh was a great tragedy and humiliation for the Israelites, and the utterance of the place was the way for the Lord to convey the message to the Israelites that if they continued on in their path of wickedness and sin, just as it had happened before, then it would happen again. And this was proven correct later on, as within about two decades, both Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the Temple destroyed and the Ark went missing since then.

It was a humiliation on a perhaps much greater scale than the humiliation of Shiloh, but it could have been prevented had the people then been more humble and accepting of God’s love and mercy. But they hardened their hearts as we heard from our first reading today, opposing Jeremiah and protesting publicly against him and whatever he had said and done, while refusing to reinspect and relook once again at their own lives and actions, their lack of faith and sin.

In the Gospel today, we heard a parallel story in how Jesus was doubted and rejected by none other than His own townspeople, those who had seen Him grow up in their midst, His neighbours and even perhaps friends. Those were the same people who expressed doubt and disbelief at the Lord after hearing Him speak and performing miracles. They had seen Him grow up in a poor carpenter family just like many of them, in a poor backwater village in Galilee. Therefore, it could even be seen as the people being jealous and refused to believe that the Lord Jesus could have been genuine.

It is sad how these attitudes are leading people away from God, and they kept so many people in their ego and pride, their hardened hearts and closed minds that they ended up being ever more and more distant from God. Yet, God has always been patient in reaching out to us and calling on us to follow Him despite our many transgressions and disobedience. And just as the path of disobedience leads to our downfall and annihilation, should we turn away from sin and be reconciled with God, then a bright future awaits us.

Today, we remember the memory of one of such converts, a great saint and holy man of God, devout as priest and champion of Christendom against its many troubles and enemies. Yet, when this holy man of God was young, he was not at all devout, and treated God as someone insignificant and distant, preferring to seek worldly ambitions and dreams of glory and might, as the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits can tell us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born into a minor noble family in northern part of what is now Spain. He was brought up in the common norm of the time as part of the nobility, surrounded by wealth, power and privileges, and the young St. Ignatius of Loyola dreamt of great pursuits and noble, chivalrous deeds as was expected of many among the nobles then. To that extent, in the pursuit of glory and power, St. Ignatius of Loyola joined the military, and at that time, wars and conflicts characterised many parts of Christendom as kings fought for power and influence.

In one of the sieges, St. Ignatius of Loyola was badly injured and he had to stay in the hospital to treat his terrible wounds. As he was bedridden for a while, he was initially restless and wanted to resume his previous military career. But his almost life-threatening injury ended his military life, and he went through profound spiritual conversion through reading the lives of the Lord and the saints. As he continued to explore this newfound interest and passion, St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind the worldly pursuits and desires he once had, and instead, he sought to imitate the holy lives of the saints and serve the Lord.

To this extent, St. Ignatius of Loyola came to practice spiritual discernment and experiences that he would later also be famous for, as the Ignatian spirituality. And as he met and gathered like-minded people, who wanted to serve the Lord and the Church particularly during the troubled times at that time when the Church and the faithful were threatened from both the outside by the rising power of the Ottomans that persecuted Christian communities and conquered many nations, to the rapidly growing heresy of Protestantism that divided many communities of the faithful and led many astray from the true faith.

Therefore, St. Ignatius of Loyola together with several other men founded the Society of Jesus and became in time, the spearhead of the Church’s efforts in countering the threats faced at that time by the faithful. Led by St. Ignatius of Loyola, many Jesuits would go to various places throughout Christendom and through many years of labour and loving commitment, brought countless souls back to salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how St. Ignatius of Loyola had been transformed by the chance experience he had when he was injured, and how he opened himself to the Lord and desired to seek Him as he went on to learn more and more about Him. And this is what we should all be doing as well in our lives. This is what each and every one of us have been called to do, to allow God to lead us in our lives to the right path, and for us to follow Him wholeheartedly, rejecting sin and evil for good and righteousness.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and remember his motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ meaning ‘For the greater glory of God’. Let our lives and actions be transformed and changed by God, that in everything we say and do, in our every interactions, we will glorify God and be inspiring role models for one another, that we all may become ever closer to God and His salvation. May God bless us always in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? How did He get all this?” And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 5, 8-10, 14

More than the hairs of my head are those who hate me for no reason; mighty are those who attack me, many are my enemies without cause. What I did not steal I am forced to restore.

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s sons. Zeal for Your House consumes me, as fire, and those who insult You, insult me as well.

But I pray to You, o YHVH. At a time most favourable to You, in Your great love, o God, answer me, with Your unfailing help.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 26 : 1-9

At the beginning of the reign of Judah’s king Jehoiakim son of Josiah, the word of YHVH came to Jeremiah : YHVH says this, “Stand in the courtyard of YHVH’s House and say to all who come from the towns of Judah to worship in YHVH’s House – all that I command you to say; do not omit anything! Perhaps they will listen to you. Perhaps each one will turn from his wicked ways. Then I will change My mind and forget the destruction that I have planned to inflict on them because of their wicked deeds.”

“Tell them : This is what YHVH says : ‘You have not obeyed Me and you have failed to walk according to My law which I have set before you. You have not heeded My servants, the prophets, whom I have persistently sent to you. If you stubbornly close your ears to them, I will treat this House of Mine as I treated the Sanctuary of Shiloh and let all the nations see that Jerusalem is a cursed city.’”

The priests, the prophets and all the people heard what Jeremiah said in YHVH’s House. When Jeremiah finished saying all that YHVH had commanded, he was besieged by the priests and prophets saying, “You are bound to die! How dare you speak in YHVH’s Name telling us that this House will be treated like Shiloh and this city is to become a deserted ruin.” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the House of YHVH.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Sacred Scripture speaking to us about the moment when Moses came down from Mount Sinai where he encountered and spoke with God Who gave him the new two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments which He had given to His people Israel, after the first stone tablets were destroyed when Moses in his anger broke them at the moment when Israel rebelled against God by erecting a golden calf idol over themselves as their god.

Moses appeared before the people bearing the Law of God in the Ten Commandments, showing all of them what the Lord has revealed to him, and they all saw that his face was radiant, full of the glory of God, having seen God Himself face to face. Perhaps this also refers to the great joy and happiness that Moses has experienced when he stood in the presence of God, listening to the wonderful truth and the love which God has for His people.

How is this related to our Gospel passage today? In fact, what we have heard in our first reading today on Moses and his reception of God’s Law at Mount Sinai is the moment mentioned in the Gospel, of how he has found and discovered the true treasure of mankind, that is God and His Law, His truth and His ways. The Lord Jesus mentioned to His disciples the parable of the true treasure that is the kingdom of heaven.

In that parable, He compared the kingdom of heaven with a great treasure that a person has discovered, likened to to a great treasure and to a pearl of great value that a trader has discovered in the sea. And using these approximations and comparisons, the Lord wanted us all to know that just as Moses was radiant and most likely joyful of having known God Himself that time, all of us too should seek the true treasure of our lives.

And what is this treasure, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is the treasure of our lives? Is it wealth? Is it prestige? Is it worldly glory? Is it fame? Is it human achievements and praise? Is it pleasures of the flesh? If these are the treasures that we seek in life, then I am afraid that we have not managed to find the true treasure that we ought to seek, which can be found in God alone.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the famous saint who is the founder of the Society of Jesus, also popularly known as the Jesuit Order. St. Ignatius of Loyola together with several like-minded men like St. Peter Faber, St. Francis Borgia, St. Francis Xavier among many others founded the Society of Jesus during the time of the Counter-Reformation where they were at the forefront of action.

But St. Ignatius of Loyola had a very different beginning, and it was probably most unlikely for him when he was young to have foreseen what he would eventually become, especially when he was born and raised with intense expectation for glory and fame. St. Ignatius of Loyola was particularly attracted to martial combat and the ideals of chivalry, and that was why he joined the military at a young age, seeking worldly glory and fame.

Initially he had great success and acclaim, but an unfortunate accident changed his whole life forever, when during a battle, one of his legs was shattered by the force of the explosion of a cannonball. He had to go through a painful process of healing and recovery, and from then on, physically disabled and never fully regaining the strength in his injured leg, his path of worldly glory through combat was over.

This was the beginning of a period of spiritual conversion and change in the young St. Ignatius of Loyola’s life, in which the future saint began to read up on the Scriptural texts and the lives of saints, gaining more understanding and comprehension of what his true treasure and purpose in life were. From then on, St. Ignatius of Loyola would no longer dream on pursuing worldly ambitions and chivalrous ideals, and instead, he sought to imitate the saints.

He embarked on intensive study of the faith and as mentioned earlier, gathered like-minded men to begin the foundation of the Jesuits. At that time, the whole of Christendom was in turmoil due to internal divisions and heretical ideas, and at the same time the threat of external invasions and conquest by the forces of unbelievers brought about a truly dark time in the history of the Church.

But St. Ignatius of Loyola and his fellow Jesuits devoted themselves to be at the forefront of the concerted efforts to bring about a change in the direction of the Church, the conversion of many sinners and all those who have been swayed away or left the Church and the faith, as well as for the evangelisation of more people both within Christendom then and also in faraway mission lands.

Through the examples shown by St. Ignatius of Loyola, his change in mindset and spiritual conversion, all of us should be inspired to look deep into our own lives and see in what way we ourselves can change and be converted spiritually and indeed, wholly in our entire beings, from those who seek after the worldly treasures of fame, human achievements and glory, wealth and pleasures of the flesh, into those who seek the true treasure found in God alone.

Let us all therefore refocus and redirect our attention and efforts from now on, that gradually we may grow stronger in our faith as well as becoming ever closer to God, our loving Lord and Master. As St. Ignatius and the Jesuits’ motto says, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’, let us all live our lives from now on with the intention to glorify God. May God continue to guide us in our path and bless our lives, that we may be ever closer and be more faithful to Him, following the examples of St. Ignatius of Loyola and many other holy saints, holy men and women of God. Amen.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.”