Wednesday, 22 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded to seek the Lord and renew our faith, and to avoid being hypocrites and wicked in our deeds. Each and every one of us are called to holiness in God, and we are all called to be full of the fruits of faith, to bear witness to the truth of God in our respective communities and societies today. All of us are called to be holy and to be good examples to each other in how we live our faith in life. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites and even false prophets, who misled many from the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, taken from the Second Book of Kings, we heard about the rediscovery of the Book of the Law of God during the reign of king Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of the southern kingdom. In that occasion, the Torah and its accounts of the laws and commandments of God, which had likely by then been lost or hidden, not known by the people in the kingdom of Judah. When the king asked the contents of the Law to be read to him, what he heard shocked him very much, as we must understand that by then, the people and the kingdom had been diverging from the path as set by the Law for a long time.

Many among the people had been worshipping pagan idols of their neighbours and did not obey the laws and commandments of God, with the Temple of God and its celebrations neglected for a very long time. It was presumed that ever since the days of Solomon, proper celebrations of the Passover and other festivals as prescribed by the Law had not been carried out, and this, compounded with many other wicked deeds that the people had done, caused the king to be greatly alarmed, as Josiah must have thought that God would soon enact His punishment and retribution on His people because of their many sins.

That was why he ordered a thorough campaign of purification and cleansing throughout the land and the kingdom of Judah, eliminating the vestiges of pagan idols and worship, the pagan priests and practices, and also reinstated the celebrations and the practices as ordered by the Law. He was the first king to preside over the celebration of the Passover after a very long time and also restored the Covenant between God and His people, which had repeatedly been broken and neglected by the past generations of the people of Israel and Judah. That had led to the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Josiah must have wanted to avoid the same fate for Judah.

This is echoed by what we had heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard how the Lord told His disciples and followers to be wary and careful of those who were false prophets and agents of evil, who would try to mislead the people with false promises and other falsehoods, in opposition to the truth of God. Then, as the Lord went on in saying with a parable of how a good tree would produce good fruits and how a bad tree would produce bad fruits, these were all allusions and reminders from the Lord that if their hearts and minds are not set on the Lord and His truth, then it is likely that they will end up doing things that are wicked, sinful and against the Lord and His path.

That is why, through the actions of king Josiah of Judah and what the Lord Himself had told His disciples, each and every one of us are reminded to turn away from the path of sin, from the temptations of disobedience against God. The Lord has called on us all to return to Him and to embrace once again His path, and He has placed many help along the way as He guides us on the path back to Him. The question is now, do we want to embrace God’s ever generous love and mercy towards us? Or do we still continue to stubbornly resist Him and refusing to listen to His call for us to turn back to Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should heed the examples of our predecessors, in how they have lived their lives with faith, rejecting the path of sin, the temptations and wickedness of this world, and in dying to defend their faith in God. St. Paulinus of Nola was a renowned bishop of Nola who was remembered for his dedication to the Lord, in his work for the poor and those who were lost from God, in caring for their physical and spiritual well-being. St. Paulinus of Nola showed us all how we can be dedicated as Christians in following God’s will, proclaiming His truth and love in our world today.

Meanwhile, both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were the saints and martyrs of the English reformation, as they both were persecuted and martyred for their courageous defence of the one true faith and one true Church in God, against the wicked and vile actions of king Henry VIII of England, who for his unquenchable and persistent desire to have a male heir, leading him to break with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and establishing his own national Church, predecessor of today’s Anglican church. St. Thomas More was the king’s trusted chancellor while St. John Fisher was the influential bishop of Rochester, later made as a Cardinal by the Pope for his faith and efforts.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher refused to obey the commands of the king who demanded all of the clergy and the officials of his realm to swear allegiance to his new church. They chose to endure persecution and suffering rather than to betray their conscience and faith in God, not fearing the threats made against them. St. Thomas More also chose rather to surrender his chancellorship and his privileges, suffering and enduring the martyrdom rather than surrendering his Christian identity and faith. St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher hence showed us all the true faith and dedication that we all as Christians should have in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, following the examples set by our courageous and holy predecessors, and remembering God’s call for us to return to Him and to enter into the path towards holiness, let us all therefore seek Him from now on with renewed faith and zeal. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He empower each and every one of us to be ever more committed and faithful disciples of His, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware of false prophets : they come to you in sheep’s clothing; but inside, they are voracious wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Do you ever pick grapes from thorn bushes; or figs, from thistles?”

“A good tree always produces good fruit. A rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; and a rotten fruit cannot bear good fruit. Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruit.”

Wednesday, 22 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 118 : 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40

Explain to me, o YHVH, Your commandments, and I will be ever faithful to them.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law with all my heart.

Guide me in obeying Your instructions, for my pleasure lies in them.

Incline my heart to follow Your will and not my own selfish desire.

Turn my eyes away from vanities and direct them to Your life-giving word.

Oh, how I long for Your precepts! Renew my life in Your righteousness.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Kings 22 : 8-13 and 2 Kings 23 : 1-3

At that moment Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan, the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the House of YHVH.” And he entrusted the Book to Shaphan who read it. Then Shaphan went to the king and said, “We have gathered the money in the House, and this has been turned over to the caretakers of the House to make the repairs.”

And Shaphan added, “The priest Hilkiah has turned over a Book to me.” And Shaphan read the Book to the king. When the king heard the contents of the Book, he tore his clothes and commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, the secretary Shaphan, and Asaiah, his minister, to do the following, “Go and consult YHVH about the threats in this Book which you have found. Consult Him for me, for the people and for the whole of Judah, since our fathers did not listen to what this Book says nor its ordinances. This is why the anger of YHVH is ready to burn against us.”

The king summoned to his side all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then he went up to the house of YHVH, followed by all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The priests with the prophets and all the people went with him, from the youngest to the oldest. When all were gathered, he read to them the Book of the Law found in the house of YHVH.

The king stood by the pillar; he made a Covenant in the presence of YHVH, promising to follow Him, to keep His commandments and laws, and to respect His ordinances. He promised to keep this Covenant according to what was written in the Book with all his heart and with all his soul. And all the people promised with him.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we heard first from the Book of Genesis, the story between Abraham and Lot, and we heard about their disagreements and the conflicts between their employees and shepherds, who vied for the rich and fertile lands for their flocks and possessions. In the end, Abraham and Lot decided to part ways and divide the land among them.

God would then continue to guide Abraham, while at the same time also still watching over Lot, as we know in how Lot would later be involved in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham meanwhile would continue to grow in God’s grace, and he continued to remain faithful and obedient to the path and guidance that the Lord has shown to him. As the Lord called him, Abraham responded with faith and gave his all to follow his Lord and Master.

Then in our Gospel today, the Lord spoke to His disciples, with regards to the matter of how they all should seek what is holy and not to throw all those things because of the temptations that they might face along the way. He told them all that the path towards the kingdom of God is not one that is easy and simple. Instead, there would likely be plenty of obstacles and challenges that would face them as they proceed forward with faith.

All of these serve as reminders for all of us brothers and sisters, that we should not allow ourselves to be swayed by the many temptations and allures of worldly glory, fame, wealth and many other tempting desires that can lead us astray from our path and distract us from our focus and faith in the Lord. That is why today we should seek the inspirations from the saints, our holy predecessors whose memory we recall this day at their feast.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop in the early Church, who was remembered and renowned for his great piety, steadfast faith in the Lord, and the dedication with which he devoted himself to the members of his flock. While he was born into an influential senatorial family, he chose to follow the Lord and leave behind everything, all the glory and all the opportunities that he had, and committed himself fully to the Lord.

St. Paulinus of Nola spent much time in furthering the studies of the faith, writing extensively on many matters of the faith, and he was also deeply involved in serving his community, spending the time and effort to reach out to more and more of the people in his community, and doing all that he could in order to bring more and more people to believe in the Lord. He devoted himself wholly to this calling, and this is something that we can be inspired from.

Then, we also celebrate the feast of the two courageous and holy martyrs of the ‘reformation’ in England, when King Henry VIII forcefully sundered the Church there from the Universal Church in personal pursuit of family matter and succession, in satisfying his ego and desire for dynastic success, which led to the painful splintering and division of the Church, which effects still lasted to this very day, even after hundreds of years.

Back then, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were among the few who stood against the king’s corrupted desire and efforts to separate the Church in England from the Universal Church. St. Thomas More himself was the trusted Chancellor of the King, who enjoyed close confidence from the king, while St. John Fisher was the influential Bishop of Rochester and one of the preeminent bishop in all of England. He was eventually made a Cardinal for his faith and dedication to the Church.

All of the entire kingdom, all the people and especially the high officials had been made to obey the king’s new decision and ruling in breaking ties from the Pope in Rome, as well as for various other changes and actions that the king had decided and taken. This was often done so under the certain threat of suffering and death. Some would eventually abandon their faith in exchange for guarantees of safety and comfort in life, while many others remained faithful.

St. Thomas More remained faithful to the true Mother Church and opposed the king, even while knowing that such a choice and action could not only just cause him to lose his role as Chancellor, but that could very well end up with his death. Yet, he chose to remain faithful, and resigned his chancellorship rather than betraying the true Church and faith in God. He was arrested and imprisoned, and eventually was put to death, faithful to the end. The same fate faced St. John Fisher, who also courageously spoke out in defence of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by all these examples showed by our holy predecessors, and let us all follow their actions and faith, that we too may glorify the Lord by our lives, and be inspiration ourselves to many more other people, many of whom had not yet known the Lord, and are still living in the darkness of sin and ignorance of God’s truth. May the Lord continue to guide us, and may He strengthen our faith at all times, that we may walk ever more faithfully in His path. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 6, 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls before pigs. They might trample on them, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there, you have the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life; and how rough, the road; few there are, who find it.”

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words, who do no harm to their neighbours.

Those who cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will not be shaken.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Genesis 13 : 2, 5-18

Now Abram was very rich in flocks, silver and gold. Lot who went with Abram also had flocks, cattle and tents. The land was not sufficient to allow them to stay together, for their possessions were too great for them to live together.

A quarrel arose between the herdsmen of Abram’s flock and those of Lot. (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at the time.) Abram said to Lot, “Do not let there be a dispute between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and yours, since we are brothers! Is not the whole land before you? Let us part company. If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”

Lot looked up and saw the whole valley of the Jordan : how well it was watered! Before YHVH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, this was like one of YHVH’s gardens, like the country of Egypt, on coming to Zoar. Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley and journeyed eastward. In this way they separated from each other.

Abram settled in the country of Canaan while Lot lived among the towns of the plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked, sinning greatly against YHVH. YHVH said to Abram after Lot had left him, “Raise your eyes and look from where you are, towards the north, the south, the east and the west; all the land you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.”

“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; if the grains of the dust can be counted, then your descendants may be counted. Come, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for it is to you that I am giving it.” So Abram moved his tent and came to live by the oaks of Mamre at Hebron. There he built an altar to YHVH.

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Lord through the Scriptures speaking to us on the matter of judging of one another, and how we should not judge each other as we ourselves shall be judged by our own actions and for our own failures. In fact, it is often that when we judge others, we ourselves are doing what we are judging or being prejudiced against others for, and as saying goes, it is the fact that our insecurities due to our shortcomings that lead us to be judgmental on others.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we are people often controlled by our ego and pride, our human ambitions and desires, and we do not like it when we are wrong or are not in control over our actions and path in life. And that is why, in our Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke of this matter referring to the improper and prideful attitudes of many of the Pharisees, the scribes and teachers of the Law and many among the priestly clans and caste.

Those people often criticised and opposed the Lord Jesus and His works, quickly being judgmental and prejudiced against Him, firstly because He was a Galilean, from the very corners and fringes of the Jewish community and sphere of influence at the time, of His humble birth and origin, born into the family of a poor carpenter in the poor and relatively unknown village of Nazareth in Galilee.

And that His followers were also mostly poor, uneducated like poor fishermen of the lake of Galilee among others, and people belonging to the fringes of society like the members of the Zealots and tax collectors, added even more to the prejudice and the judgmental attitude levied against them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law despised how the Lord often walked alongside those whom they looked down upon, those condemned as sinners and unworthy, the tax collectors, prostitutes, those who were sick and diseased, among others.

But little they realised that in their hubris and pride, they had failed to realise that they themselves had erred and sinned against God, and their sins in fact were equally as bad and serious as those who they have condemned as sinners and unworthy of God. They had been too engrossed in maintaining their prestige, status and privileged conditions, shoring up their ego and desires that they ended up forgetting their important responsibilities and obligations to bring God’s lost people back to Him. Instead, they shut the path of salvation to the lost ones, and turned their backs on those who were seeking God.

In what they had done, not just that they had done sins of deeds, but also the sins of omission by their failure to reach out to those who need God’s love and help. And this was no different from their ancestors, the Israelites who had neglected their obligation to serve and follow God, to be faithful to their Covenant with Him. Instead, they chose to worship foreign idols and pagan gods and sought all sorts of worldly glory and pleasures, and they criticised the prophets and messengers God had sent to their midst, again not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.

And we knew how it all ended, as the northern kingdom of Israel were swallowed by the forces of the Assyrians who came and conquered their whole lands and destroyed the capital of Samaria, bringing many among the people into exile in faraway lands. Their brethren in the southern kingdom of Judah would also come to suffer the same fate in the later time, as the Babylonians came to conquer and destroy Judah and Jerusalem.

All of these are reminders not that God is an angry and wrathful God as what some of us might have thought of Him. Rather, it was our own willing and conscious rejection of God’s love, mercy and compassion, our constant refusal to abandon our sinful ways and our wickedness that had led us into sin, and therefore, from there, into damnation, because of our rejection of God’s most generous offers of mercy. We have to remember that while God is ever merciful and forgiving, but He is also a just God, and no sin can exist before Him, without repentance and forgiveness.

Today all of us are reminded of all these that each and every one of us may truly live up to our Christian calling to live a most faithful and dedicated life filled with genuine devotion to God, following Him faithfully each and every moments of our lives. We are all called to glorify God through our every little actions and words, our deeds and interactions in life. But in order to do this, then we must first be willing to accept the fact and truth that we are vulnerable, weak and easily tempted, sinful and unworthy people.

Instead of pointing out what is lacking in others, we must look into ourselves, and find ways how we can make good use of the opportunities that God had given us in order to return to Him and to rend our hearts and cleanse all the impurities within, to discard all the sins and wickedness and replace them with faith and genuine love for the Lord, with a newfound zeal and commitment, to walk in God’s path from now on.

Today, we should draw inspiration from our holy predecessors, whose lives can be great examples for us to follow, whose faith have been great and can show us the way in following God. First of all, St. Paulinus of Nola was once a great and influential Roman governor of the region of Campania in what is today Italy, who converted to the Christian faith under the influence of his wife, and who eventually left his office behind and chose to dedicate himself to God, eventually becoming the Bishop of Nola.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a great and committed shepherd, who cared greatly for his faithful flock, always ever seeking to bring them closer to God. Despite St. Paulinus of Nola’s privileged birth and previous powerful position in the world, that did not lead him to be swayed and engulfed in his personal desires, ego and whatever temptations the world might have brought him, and as a result, through his ministry and commitment, St. Paulinus of Nola is a great example for all of us.

Then, the two holy martyrs and saints of the English ‘Reformation’ namely St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, were truly courageous and great examples of faith for each and every one of us, for their brave and fearless opposition to the faithlessness and immorality of the then king of England, Henry VIII, whose unbridled desire to secure for himself a son and heir for his kingdom and house, had led to the separation of the Church in England from the Universal Church, a terrible deed and injury to the unity of the faithful that last until this very day.

At that time, St. Thomas More was the powerful Chancellor of the kingdom, the right hand man of the king, well trusted by the king. Meanwhile, St. John Fisher was the pious and faithful Bishop of Rochester and also Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who also enjoyed the strong favour and support from king Henry VIII. Unfortunately, the king, who was once faithful and remembered for his defence of the true faith against the heresy of Protestantism in his famous Treatise of the Defence of the Seven Sacraments, turned against the Church when his desire to annul his marriage to his lawfully married wife, was rejected by the Church.

As the king showed his strong hand in severing the Church in England from the Universal Church and the true authority of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher stood out among other bishops, priests and laypeople who chose to remain loyal to the true Church. Although it must have been difficult for these two men to go against the king who had favoured them so much and also allowed them both to rise greatly in power, but they did not allow worldly desires and temptations to turn them away from their faith in God.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher opposed the king and his continued efforts to become the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and when things and situation continued to worsen, St. Thomas More chose to resign his position and together with St. John Fisher continued to resist the king’s unfaithful and wicked actions, which eventually led them to be arrested and suffered greatly, but these did not dampen their faith and desire to return England to the true faith and the true Church. Eventually they were killed in martyrdom, and their faith continued to inspire people to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great inspirations showed to us by St. Paulinus of Nola, as well as by the courageous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, let us all then live our lives from now on with renewed desire to seek God and to be faithful to Him, to be good in life and rather than focusing on the lack and faults in others, wondering who among us are more faithful and good, let us instead be exemplary in our own lives, and lead one another to God through our own dedication and actions in faith. Let us all glorify the Lord, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 22 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, and St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 1-5

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you.”

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as the plank is in your own?”

“Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”