Wednesday, 9 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the words of the Scripture which we heard of God’s abundant love and mercy for us all His people, as He is truly our loving Creator and Father, just as the Lord Jesus called Him Father, by virtue of Him being the Son of God. Through the sharing we have in the humanity of Christ, we all, who are His brothers and sisters, share in the same fatherhood we have in God.

Through our first reading today, which is a continuation of yesterday’s account on the mission of the prophet Jonah, who had been tasked to deliver the message and warning from God to the people of the city of Nineveh of their impending destruction, when God saw just how repentant the people of Nineveh were, and how all of them from their king to the slaves humbled themselves and mourned, He spared them all from their fated destruction.

But in our passage today we heard then how the prophet Jonah became angry with God because He spared the whole city of Nineveh from destruction. The context of this is that Jonah must have been angry and frustrated because first of all, there was a prejudice that the Assyrians who inhabited Nineveh were sinful people, wicked and godless, pagan worshippers and idolaters who did not deserve God’s love and mercy.

And then, secondly, on a more personal level, Jonah had been called by God for this particular mission, he fled from God and refused to accept the task, fleeing by a ship to a faraway place hoping to hide away from God. Yet, God made a great storm to strike at the sailing ship and Jonah had no choice but submit to God’s will and asked to be thrown into the sea. A great whale swallowed Jonah for three days and nights before he was sent ashore to continue His mission.

Jonah’s story is in fact a representation of Christ, Who would go on to bear the burden of the Cross, suffered and died, and went down into hell for three days just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the whale. The Lord sent His Son into this world with a mission to deliver His people from death and eternal damnation by delivering them from their sins, just as much as Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh to bring to them the news of their upcoming doom.

The difference is such that while Jonah was angry when the Lord forgave the people of Nineveh their sins and wickedness when they sincerely repented from those sins and humbled themselves before Him, the Lord truly wanted His people, whoever they are and whatever they have done, to be saved, even the worst of sinners, as long as they are willing to make the effort to reject sin and embrace Him and His loving mercy.

God has always been willing to welcome us back because He truly loves each and every one of us, and no one is truly far away from the reach of God’s love and mercy, and as long as we are willing to open our hearts and minds to welcome God into our lives, we can be transformed, redeemed and forgiven just like what happened to the people of Nineveh. And that is why, today we are all called to seek God with a new commitment.

And one very good way for us to do it is through prayer, just as Our Lord Himself has shown His disciples in our Gospel passage today. For prayer is an intimate communication between us and God, and it can be either personal, communal or even both. Essentially, prayer opens the channel and link between us and God, allowing us to have a meaningful communication with God. But we must be careful and not end up making prayer into a channel of seeking things from God as what many of us often did wrongly with our prayer habits.

Many of us mistook prayer as a means for us to gain something quickly through God, and we mistook God as someone that can be at the whim of our desires. No, brothers and sisters in Christ, for the true essence and meaning of prayer is for us to be more attuned to God and be more understanding and knowing what God, Our loving Father has willed for us and wanted us to do with our respective lives.

That is why today perhaps we should look at the examples shown to us by the saints whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Denis, holy martyr and bishop and the Patron Saint of France, as well as St. John Leonardi, a holy priest of God. St. Denis was martyred during his mission as bishop at the time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, while St. John Leonardi was remembered for his establishment of the religious order known as the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God.

St. Denis worked hard in ministering to the people of God, the small yet growing community of Christians in the region now known as Paris, the capital of France. He was persecuted, arrested and condemned to death during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius, who carried out a brutal persecution of Christians. He was sentenced to death by decapitation or beheading.

Yet, miraculously, St. Denis continued on preaching after he was beheaded, picking up his head and walking for many kilometres while preaching before he eventually died and was buried. Many people and pagans who witnessed such a miraculous occasion believed in God and became Christians. The faith and commitment of St. Denis in loving God should be an inspiration for all of us to follow.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi was remembered for his great love for God and pious devotion, his courage and dedication in serving God even when he was faced with great odds and opposition from the local secular authorities who disliked his works in establishing the religious congregation among others. Yet, all these obstacles did not stop this courageous saint from continuing his ministry and works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed earlier, and let us all discover in our hearts that deep and strong, genuine love that each and every one of us should have for God, just as He has loved us all so much and so great a compassion that He is willing to forgive us our many sins if we repent wholeheartedly. Let us all thus turn towards the Lord with renewed faith, hope and love from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 11 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

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

Psalm 85 : 3-4, 5-6, 9-10

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

All the nations You have made will come; they will worship before You, o YHVH, and bring glory to Your Name. For You are great, and wonderful are Your deeds; You alone, are God.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (First Reading)

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

Jonah 4 : 1-11

But Jonah was greatly displeased at this, and he was indignant. He prayed to YHVH and said, “O YHVH, is this not what I said when I was yet in my own country? This is why I fled to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and full of love, and You relent from imposing terrible punishment. I beseech You now, YHVH, to take my life, for now it is better for me to die than to live.”

But YHVH replied, “What right have you to be angry?” Jonah then left the city. He went to a place east of it, built himself a shelter and sat under its shade to wait and see what would happen to Nineveh. Then YHVH God provided a castor-oil plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade over his head and to ease his discomfort. Jonah was very happy about the plant.

But the next day, at dawn, God sent a worm which attacked the plant and made it wither. When the sun rose, God sent a scorching east wind; the sun blazed down upon Jonah’s head, and he grew faint. His death wish returned and he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Then God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?” Jonah answered, “I am right to be angry enough to wish to die.” YHVH said, “You are concerned about a plant which cost you no labour to make it grow. Overnight it sprang up, and overnight it perished. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish right from left and they have many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned for such a great city?”

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first of all we heard about the persecution of Christians as mentioned by St. Paul the Apostle, who recounted what he had done when he was still know as Saul, when he hunted down all Christians, all those who believed in God and followed the teachings and the truth as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world and Son of God.

Saul was once thought to have the potential to be a very influential and powerful Pharisee, as he was born into privilege, an educated and bright young Jewish man from Tarsus, having many close connections to the other Pharisees and the influential members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and High Priesthood. Saul seemingly was destined for a life of glory and greatness, of power and privilege among the Jewish people, being an elite among the elites of the society.

But God had a very different plan for Saul, and He called him to be His disciple, through the dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus, where He revealed Himself and the truth to Saul, calling him to turn away from evil and from his misguided past ways, and embrace the truth of God, and follow Him just as the other disciples of His had done. Saul eventually became a believer, was baptised, and from then on, became a great champion of the Christian faith.

Yet, in accepting the role into which God had called him to, Saul, who take up the new name of Paul to mark his conversion and acceptance of the Lord, he had to abandon all the worldly glory and power, influence and privileges he once enjoyed, and instead, having to endure all sorts of insults and difficulties, challenges and rejections. He had to endure torture in prison, and even almost being killed on many occasions.

Nonetheless, to the very end, as St. Paul showed throughout his travels as recorded in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, he endured all of those challenges and sufferings with patience, hope and faith, because he trusted in God wholeheartedly, and placed himself completely under His care. He went to wherever God called him to go, and did what the Lord had asked him to do. He endured it all, until he met his martyrdom in Rome.

St. Paul showed us that to be a disciple of Christ we must be thoroughly focused on Him, if we are to resist the temptations to do otherwise. This is shown in the Gospel passage today, in what we heard about the encounter between the Lord Jesus, and His friends, Mary and Martha. When the Lord came into their house, both of the sisters were so happy to welcome Him, and while Mary listened attentively on what the Lord told her, Martha instead was busy preparing all the food and all the hospitality work.

Martha became too engrossed in her works, and seeing her sister attending by the Lord’s side without helping her, she became annoyed and asked the Lord to tell her sister to give her a hand to help. But the Lord Jesus then reminded Martha, that Mary had in fact done what is right, that is, to focus her attention to the Lord, and not to all the hectic and busy matters of the world. Martha wanted to please the Lord by her actions, but in her choice of action, she ended up losing her focus on Him and instead on all of her chores.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us mankind, even among us as Christians, we have not been truly living our faith as how we should have, as we are too busy and preoccupied by our worldly concerns and desires, for wealth, for glory, for human praise and for all sorts of pleasures of the body and joy of the world. That is why we end up drifting further and further away from the Lord, because of the pull of these temptations.

Today we mark the feast of two holy servants of God, whose lives should become inspiration for us on how we should live out our own lives. First St. Denis, bishop of Paris, was a holy martyr of the faith, during the years of persecution of Christians by the Romans. St. Denis was a great missionary and evangeliser, who together with some other bishops and priests managed to gain so many followers and converts, that they earned the anger of the pagans.

Thus, St. Denis and his companions were arrested and tortured for their Christian faith. But they refused to let go of their faith or to betray their Lord for the pagan gods and the worship of the Emperor. He was beheaded with a sword, but miraculously, even after the beheading, the head of St. Denis continued to preach about the truth of God, and his hand carried his own head up, and walking down on a few miles from the place of his execution, he continued to preach, until he eventually stopped and passed on, a place marked with what is now the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.

The examples and the miraculous occasion which accompanied St. Denis’ martyrdom inspired many of the Christians then suffering from persecution, and many others who witnessed his courage and faith, and the astounding spectacle of the miraculous talking head became believers in the faith and converted to the true faith. Many of them would also eventually became martyrs themselves.

Then, today, we also celebrate the feast of St. John Leonardi, a holy and devout priest who lived in the late era Renaissance Italy, remembered for his great piety and encouragement of many others to live a more devout and holy life, especially in the devotion he fostered for the Blessed Sacrament and to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. His work inspired many others to follow his example, and eventually they began a religious order together.

St. John Leonardi dedicated himself to the Lord thoroughly and spent his efforts trying to be more and more committed to serve the Lord, in each and every days of his life. His examples should also therefore, inspire us to live a more dedicated and pious life, just as St. Denis and his companions have inspired us to remain faithful and courageous in living our faith, even despite the challenges we encounter in life, one day after another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore turn towards God with a renewed heart and with a new commitment. Let us spend more quality time with Him, to know what is His will for us, and what we can do more, in order to live our lives with faith, imitating what St. Paul the Apostle had done in his life. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14, 15

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You, for Your marvellous deeds.

Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.