Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, remembering the moment when this very important saint suffered and endured martyrdom for his faith, for his never failing zeal and dedication to God to the very end, even at the cost of his life. And St. John the Baptist is one of the few saints in the Scriptures who have more than one feast day celebrated in his honour.

That is because St. John the Baptist played a very important and crucial role in the history of our salvation, as he is the Herald of the Messiah of God, the one who was prophesied to come just before the coming of God’s Saviour, the Promised One, in order to proclaim His coming to the world. St. John the Baptist himself was also a relative of the Lord, having been born to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, and therefore St. John the Baptist is also a relative of the Lord Jesus.

And since his birth and youth, St. John the Baptist had been called by God to do His will, as he went on his journey and went into the wilderness, and when he was ready, proclaiming God’s imminent coming to His people, calling them all to repentance and to turn away from their sins. He brought the people to the River Jordan and baptised them with water, as a sign of their commitment to change their way of life and rejection of sin.

Then, St. John the Baptist had to go up against those who were powerful and influential in the community, beginning from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who doubted him and refused to believe in him, and even doubted and questioned the authority by which St. John the Baptist had performed his baptism and works among the people. And then, he also went up against none other than king Herod himself, the ruler of Galilee.

King Herod had led an immoral life as he took the legally married wife of his brother, Philip, who was still alive then and also likely with a daughter with the brother, as his own. Doing so constituted a very serious adultery and sin, and St. John the Baptist fearlessly confronted the king and Herodias, the wife of the king’s brother whom the former had taken as his own. As a result, Herodias in particular held a grudge against the saint and tried very hard to kill the holy man of God. She managed to get the saint imprisoned for what he had courageously spoke up against.

That was exactly how she managed to plot against the saint, by what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, when during a feast, Herodias tricked king Herod into giving in to her demands to have the saint killed and had his head placed on a platter before her, through the means of temptation and through her own beautiful daughter’s seduction before the king’s presence.

And in enduring the suffering, the imprisonment and eventually martyrdom, St. John the Baptist remained true to the mission which God had sent him into this world for, to the very end. He is truly a role model for all of us, God’s faithful people in how we should live out our lives with faith as Christians. All of us have been called by God to look upon the examples of this faithful servant who gave himself totally to God and devoted his life’s effort to glorify God.

Are we able to stand by our faith and our commitment to God in our everyday lives, even at times when the world itself may be against us? That is what St. John the Baptist had done, devoting himself to the cause and the mission God has entrusted to him. He did not give up despite the challenges and oppositions he had, and put his trust completely in the Lord, just as the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading today was reassured by God that He would be with him throughout the entire journey.

Let us all discern carefully and think in what way we can bring ourselves and others closer to God by our own examples and by our dedication to God. The truth is that, the best way to evangelise is through our own examples and our own obedience to God’s will. It is when others see that in our every words, deeds and actions we show our true faith and commitment, and that we mean our every words and actions, then naturally others will follow in our footsteps, just as the courage of St. John the Baptist had inspired many of us in our faith.

May the Lord therefore strengthen us in our faith that we may be courageous in faith and in life just as His faithful servant St. John the Baptist had done, in enduring all sorts of trials and challenges, and even martyrdom for the sake of his faith and dedication to God. Let us all follow his footsteps and be ever more Christian-like in our daily living from now on. May God bless us all and our good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o YHVH, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me; turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my hope; my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jeremiah 1 : 17-19

But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence! See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land.

They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is YHVH Who speaks.

Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

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.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a special occasion in the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. St. John the Baptist is one of the special saints of the Church, in the important role he played in the history of our salvation being the one to proclaim and herald the coming of the Messiah of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist therefore has this celebration of his birth or Nativity, which commemorates the moment when he was born into the world.

St. John the Baptist has such an important role, that God prepared him and his own coming in such a marvellous and miraculous way, as prophesied by the prophets of old and by what was described in the accounts of the Gospels. It was about him that the prophets had spoken that he had been called to be God’s servant from his mother’s womb, as how his coming had been proclaimed by the Angel of God.

The Angel spoke to Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, speaking of how his son would become a great and dedicated servant of God, the last of the prophets and messengers of God with one very important role, that is to proclaim the coming of God’s salvation and to prepare the people for the coming of this salvation through his own works and ministry among the people of God.

St. John the Baptist was the one who called the people to repent from their sins, be baptised in the waters of the Jordan, as the commitment for them to turn away from their old sinfulness and to be prepared to welcome the coming of God’s kingdom and His salvation. But he also made it very clear to the people who followed him, to his own disciples and to all those who asked it of him, that he was not the Messiah of God.

St. John the Baptist had a lot of following and he was very charismatic and influential. People came to him from all over Judea, Samaria and Galilee and perhaps even beyond seeking him for them to be baptised by him. Had he desired to claim everything he had done for his own glory and benefit, he could have done it easily, as what some of the people at that time had done.

There were some people at the time who claimed to be the Messiah of God, and gathered following among the people and rebelled against the Romans and the authorities. But as they were not the true Messiah, their rebellions and uprisings failed terribly. St. John the Baptist did not choose that path, even though he could have easily done so. Instead, he obeyed the Lord faithfully and committed himself totally to what he has been called to do.

And he humbly accepted his role, even when he himself was eclipsed by the coming of the One Who is the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He revealed to the people and to his own disciples Who the Lord Jesus truly is, and let some of his own disciples to follow the Lord instead. When his disciples complained that everyone was going to the Lord and that He became increasingly even more popular than him, St. John the Baptist said humbly that it was only right that his Master increases while he, who is only the servant, decreases.

St. John the Baptist dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and that means even laying down his own life for the sake of God. When he opposed and stood up against the wickedness of king Herod and his adultery, he was arrested and put in prison, and by the mechanism of Herodias who hated him, St. John the Baptist was beheaded in prison, and therefore died a martyr’s death, for the sake of the Lord and His glory.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, truly we can see in St. John the Baptist a great saint and role model for our own lives. We should heed his examples, his call for us to repent from our past sinfulness and to embrace faithfully the way of the Lord. We should model our own lives and faith based on this holy servant of God’s own faith and dedication, his obedience to the will of God and his humility in service.

Let us all on this Solemnity celebrating the moment of this great saint’s birth recommit ourselves and our own lives to the Lord to honour the memory of the faithful St. John the Baptist, modelling our own lives after his own. Let us all draw ever closer to God and be more faithful with each and every days of our lives. May God bless us all and may He empower us all to live faithfully according to His will, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.