Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God has sowed the seeds of faith in all of us, and through what He has sown and nurtured in us, He hopes to see all of us to grow wonderfully and to bear fruits, rich and plentiful, and not being barren or unproductive. This is what we are being reminded of as we recall the Scripture readings that we have just heard being proclaimed earlier on.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, as they began their journey through the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, the lands of their ancestors, and a land overflowing in much riches, in milk and honey, in food and prosperity. Yet, at that time, in the desert, where the Israelites were journeying through, there were no food or provisions, in a place where life can scarcely persevere or survive. They were grumbling and complaining against the Lord because they did not have much to eat.

That was where the Lord showed His love and His might before all of His people. Through Moses He told them all that He would provide for them and for all their needs, that they would indeed know who it is that really cared for them, and how He remained with them and would journey with them together to the promised land. He gave them the manna, the bread from heaven, for them to eat on every single day. When the Israelites complained that while they were enslaved yet they enjoyed good and enough food to eat in Egypt, the Lord ‘sowed’ the very desert with the manna.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are to link what we heard from the Book of Exodus to the Gospel passage today, the manner in which the manna appeared before the people of Israel was almost like that of seeds being sown, as the manna were collected from the ground as the morning mist and dew settled, on every single day save for the Sabbath day. Hence, in a way we can see how even the desert itself bore fruits as the Lord sowed the manna there, and through that, the Israelites had food to eat for the entirety of their journey, which lasted a whole forty years long.

In our Gospel passage today, then we have heard the famous parable of the sower, which many of surely have heard and known about. The parable of the sower was used by the Lord to teach the people and reveal to them how He has given them the gift of faith, to each and every one of them, and how He then expects each and every one of them to nurture those gifts. The sower spread his seeds in many places, and the various seeds ended up and landed in different types of soils.

In all those different conditions where the seeds landed in, only the seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow and produce rich and bountiful products, while those seeds that fell by the roadside, or among the thistles and brambles, or on the rocky grounds, all failed to germinate and grow, or failed to stay alive, and were eliminated as a result. This represents all those, according to the Lord’s own explanation, who have received the gift of faith, and yet failed to fully internalise those gifts and failed to do what they ought to do to make those gifts of faith bear fruit.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because too often we depended on our own strength and on our own way of thinking, rather than entrusting ourselves to the Lord and putting our faith in Him. Like the Israelites of old, they were easily swayed by the temptations of hunger and worldly desires, by pleasures and other comforts to abandon and even betray the Lord, for pagan idols like that of the renowned golden calf idol that they made as god over themselves despite having seen and known what God had done for them.

This is why we need to trust in the Lord, as if God was able to provide food and ample sustenance to the whole multitude of over six hundred thousand Israelites through the desert for over forty years without fail, then everything is also possible for us. If we live with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with Him as our God and our source of strength, then we shall not find ourselves failing in the end. We may indeed struggle and face challenges and temptations to give up and to abandon our faith, but if we remain firmly focused on the Lord, we shall be able to persevere, just as how our many predecessors had done.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, one of those predecessors of ours whose life and dedication can become great inspiration and guide for us on how we ourselves can lead a life that is dedicated and committed to God. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a great priest and missionary, who as a Capuchin priest reached out to many of the Jews and the Protestants during the height of the then Counter-Reformation, which through his great piety and charism, managed to lead a great number of people to the true faith and the Church.

He dedicated much of his life and efforts to advance the cause of the Lord, and was renowned for his writings and works, his works on theology and the nature of faith which inspired many others through the subsequent years and centuries. St. Lawrence of Brindisi showed us all how as Christians we can walk in the path of the Lord and remained faithful to Him, and through our examples, we can even inspire many others, our fellow brothers and sisters, to lead a holy Christian life and help many more people in their journey towards God and His salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we may always be ever courageous and committed to Him, to live our lives as Christians to the fullest and to bear rich fruits of our faith, in the manner that the Lord had described in the parable of the sower. Through our efforts, we may inspire so many others to turn towards the Lord, and hence, by those efforts, we bear many multitudes of rich and genuine fruits of the faith, for the greater glory of God. May God bless us all in our every efforts and good endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 77 : 18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

The people of God tested Him, demanding the food they craved. They blasphemed against God, saying : “Can God spread a table in the desert?”

Yet, He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; He rained down manna upon them, and fed them with the heavenly grain.

They ate and had more than their fill of the bread of Angels. Then, from heaven He stirred the east wind, and, by His power, let loose the south wind.

To rain down meat on them like dust. Birds as thick as the sand on the seashore fell inside their camp, lying all around their tents.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!”

YHVH then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.”

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints.” It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat.”

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures in which we are being reminded again of God’s amazing and most generous mercy and His desire to forgive all of us our sins. He has always been loving and kind towards us, but unfortunately it has been us who have been constantly stubborn and refused to listen to Him and His truth. We have ignored His reach towards us in love, and we have ignored His compassion and chose to remain enslaved to sin.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, we heard the words of the prophet Micah uttering a prayer before God, the prayer for God’s love and mercy, for Him to show kindness to His people and forgiveness to the trespasses and the mistakes that they had committed. The prophet Micah was particularly known and remembered for his words calling on the Israelites to reevaluate their lives and to be good and righteous once again in their lives.

That is why the prophet Micah reminded the people of just how kind and loving God has been, how patient He had been throughout all of their history even when they have disobeyed Him and rebelled against Him for so many times and on so many occasions. God has always been willing to be reconciled with us. And through all these, His love for us has been unwavering even to the point of giving Himself for our sake.

God has even then given Himself to us, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. He, the Divine Word Incarnate, was conceived and born through His mother Mary into this world, and by that, all of us have shared in His humanity, and we became, through our baptism, His brothers and sisters, and members of His Church, the parts of the same Body of Christ, of which Christ Himself is the Head.

In our Gospel today, we are reminded of this fact further as the Lord mentioned before the disciples and the people, how all those who follow Him, obey Him and His father’s will, are His brothers and sisters, parts of His family. This reminds us again and again how all of us are truly beloved by God, for God Himself had adopted us all as His own sons and daughters through Christ, in Whose death we share the death to our past sins and in Whose resurrection, we share the new life of our resurrection into this new existence in Christ.

However, we need to remember again what the Lord said, that those who have done the will of God are the mothers, brothers and sisters of the Lord. This means that each and every one of us are truly called to walk with God, to go forth with Him in faith, to obey Him and His will, and to be genuine and truthful in how we devote ourselves and commit ourselves to the Lord, in each and every moments of our lives.

However, it is important for us to take note that, there are many obstacles and challenges we are facing in our path, as we encounter many temptations, distractions and pressures in life to disobey God, to follow and conform to the accepted ways and norms of the world, the path of sin, of selfishness and evil, those ways that lead us to seek the pleasures of life and the pursuit of material wealth and goods. It is a challenge for all of us to resist these temptations, and remain focused to walk down the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can be inspired by the example and faith showed by St. Lawrence of Brindisi, an Italian priest and member of the Capuchin Franciscan religious order. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was remembered for his scholarly work and contributions to the Church that made him to be recognised as one of the Doctors of the Church. He was remembered for his brilliant talent in language learning and his role therefore in diplomacy at that time, as papal nuncio, emissary and diplomat in various occasions.

However, it was often overlooked that the brilliance of his works was also brought about by the amazing sensitivity and care that he showed to his fellow men, the sensitivity and connection which he had towards his fellow brothers and sisters, that in all of his efforts and works, he always had the Lord and his fellow men first and foremost in his minds and thoughts. His role as a diplomat helped to defuse tensions and troubles between nations and peoples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us heard all these wonderful reminders of God’s love and kindness, and how all of us have been so blessed to be considered as the Lord’s own sons and daughters. But are we willing to commit ourselves to Him as we should? To walk with Him and to devote ourselves to the path that He has shown us? Are we willing to embrace Him fully and to put Him first and foremost in our lives?

Let us all reflect on these as we continue to progress through life. Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed faith and conviction. May the Lord also be our guide and our strength throughout this difficult and challenging journey, that hopefully, we will be able to remain faithful and remain firm in our love for Him with each and every passing moments in life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 84 : 2-4, 5-6, 7-8

You have favoured Your land, o YHVH; You have brought back the exiles of Jacob. You have forgiven the sin of Your people; You have pardoned their offences. You have withdrawn Your wrath and turned from Your burning rage.

But restore us, God our Saviour; put away, altogether, Your indignation. Will Your anger be ever with us, carried over to all generations?

Will You not give us life anew, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us, o YHVH, Your unfailing love, and grant us Your saving help.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the reading from the Scriptures telling us about the lamentation of the prophet Micah who spoke against the wickedness of the people of God, who have sinned against Him and acted wickedly against His laws and commandments. This come at a time when the prophet Micah was going up against the whole nation of Israel.

In the Book of Kings, the prophet Micah was also mentioned, speaking up against the King of Israel, Ahab going to a battle against his enemies. There were other, false prophets who were with him, who spoke favourably of the king’s plan and assured him that God was with the king, while in fact, they were lying to him. Micah spoke the truth before the king and was rebuked harshly by the false prophets. Yet, in the end, it was Micah’s prediction that came to reality.

Therefore, this is in fact one way in which what we heard in the first reading passage today was fulfilled. God gave those who have disobeyed Him and betrayed Him to the pagan gods, the just and rightful consequences for their sins and disobediences. He wanted them to be reconciled to Him, and He wanted to forgive them from their sins, but it was the people themselves who were the difficult stumbling blocks in the path of reconciliation with God.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the same issue which the Lord Jesus had encountered with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who opposed Him and His works. They stubbornly hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord, just as those false prophets during the time of Micah hardened the hearts of the people of God because of their lies and falsehoods.

Yet, in all of these, we can see just how much the Lord cared for us all, despite our sinfulness, and despite how rebellious and unreasonable we have been. We have hardened our hearts against God for generation after generation, but God has always been ready to reconcile us to Himself, as long as we come to realise the extent of our wrongdoings and sins. This is why God kept sending to us so many of His messengers and servants, to call us to Himself.

And He sent us, as the Gospel today mentioned, the One Whom the prophets including Isaiah and many others had prophesied about, the Messiah or Saviour Who was to come into the world in order to save us all, God’s beloved people. This is why He sent us Jesus, His own Beloved and only begotten Son, to be that Saviour, to bring unto us the salvation which He has promised to us, to bring a new and everlasting Covenant to us.

And He gave us His all, to the point that He surrendered all and emptied Himself, and let Himself to be raised on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary. He became for us the source and hope of our salvation. What He wants from each one of us is that we may have a change of heart and mind, and be open to His love and compassion, to the forgiveness which He offers freely to each and every one of us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to accept this great love which God has given us so freely and willingly? Or do we rather continue in our path of rebellion against God? What is the choice that we want to make for ourselves? This is what we must decide, as the Lord has given us free will, to choose our path in the time to come. He has offered us His forgiveness, mercy and love freely, but ultimately, it is up to us, to collaborate with God in His mercy.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a renowned Capuchin priest who was a great theologian, who produced a lot of works on theology and various other areas of the Church teachings and the faith. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, in how he worked among the people of God and inspired many others, both through his actions and writings, to return to a life of holiness in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the holiness and inspirational life of St. Lawrence of Brindisi should also be our inspiration, in how each one of us should live our lives from now on. Are we able to turn towards the Lord with faith, with all of our hearts and minds, opening ourselves fully to His love? And are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Lawrence, whose work and ministry among the people caused many who have fallen into heresy and falsehood to return to the true faith?

May the Lord be our strength and our Guide, that each one of us will always look up to Him as we continue to carry out our actions in our daily living. May the Lord bless us all and our every work, that in all things, we will always remember to glorify His Name and to be filled with grace at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. But He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : Here is My Servant, Whom I have chosen; the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him; and He will announce My judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick until He brings justice to victory, and in Him, all the nations will put their hope.