Thursday, 6 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through the Scriptures on the importance of unity among us Christians, in our Church and in our faithful communities, all those who profess the faith in God, and all of us who believe that Christ is truly our Lord and Saviour. If there is no unity in us, then division and conflict will quickly come into our midst, and as we have seen throughout the history of man, we ended up raising up against one another.

In the first reading today we heard of the moment when St. Paul was tried by the Sanhedrin as he was being brought to answer for the charges levied against him by the Jewish authorities. This was to be St. Paul’s last journey, just before he embarked on his last trip to Rome where he would be martyred. The Sanhedrin were divided among themselves, between the faction of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Both of these factions were very influential and powerful among the Jewish people, as the Pharisees represented the priestly and spiritual caste who preserved the traditions, laws and customs of the people while the Sadducees represented the intellectuals and all those with secular power, and both of them were diametrically opposite to each other in the way they think and argue.

As a result, the moment St. Paul made use of the opportunity to expose the bitter division among the two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees immediately ended up in a very vicious and brutal conflict with each other. They were so divided amongst each other that they were unable to overcome their differences even against a common enemy, St. Paul himself. We see how the two groups bickered and fought, ultimately because of their own ego and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, division is something that did not come from God, for in God lies nothing less than the perfect Unity, the Unity and Harmony between Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God in the Three Divine Persons but One Godhood. This is what all of us firmly believe in, the believe in the Most Holy Trinity of God, the Unity that He reflects on His own Church and therefore, all of His beloved ones, all of us.

Therefore, that is why the Lord Jesus prayed that there would be unity in the Church and among His disciples and followers, just as He and His heavenly Father are One. Unity comes from God but divisions come from the devil. And ever since mankind first sinned and disobeyed God, and preferred to follow the temptations of evil, they have lost that perfect unity with God and became divided among themselves and divided away from the harmony and unity of God.

All these divisions came about because of our pride and ego, our selfishness and greed within us, which prevented us from being able to appreciate God’s harmony and unity in our midst. Instead of God being at the centre of our lives, we put ourselves and our own selfish desires as the focus of our lives, as the aim and the ambition of our lives. That is how we become divided among ourselves, as our ambitions, ego and pride clash with one another and we refuse to give in.

That is why, today all of us are called to break away from the lure of these temptations to ambition, ego and pride that cause divisions among us, and re-centre ourselves to God, focusing ourselves on Him and His love from now on. That is how we regain the unity among ourselves, bitterly divided and conflicted among ourselves as Christians, in what we have seen in the many splinters and breakaways in the Body of Christ, the Church all these while.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Norbert, a great bishop and a renowned preacher and servant of God who devoted his whole life to God, in the love he showed to the poor and the needy. St. Norbert worked tirelessly among the people of God, devoting all his effort, time and attention to serve the good of the Lord’s people. St. Norbert gathered like-minded men who wanted to serve the Lord in what was to become the Canons Regular of Prémontré. He was also instrumental in the ending of some bitter divisions and troubles in the Church at his time.

In what St. Norbert has shown, by focusing ourselves on God and by putting Him ahead of everything else, and by our dedication and commitment, we can bring true unity, harmony and peace to ourselves, and to get rid from ourselves the divisions and troubles that come with our selfishness, ego and pride. Let us all turn to God from now on, and commit ourselves to serve Him from now on, each and every day. Amen.

Thursday, 6 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 6 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 6 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishop)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us about the need for us to stand up for our faith in God, against any opposition that may come our way. In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy, we heard how St. Paul reminded St. Timothy of the need for the faithful to testify for their faith before others, even though it may lead them to persecution and troubles.

St. Paul made this comment based on his own real experience, as he encountered many oppositions throughout his journey, and having both Jewish leaders and the Gentile pagans struggling against him and his works, all the time. St. Paul had to endure incarcerations in prison many times, and he had to endure humiliation and persecution in public, suffering even physical injuries and pains for his dedication to God.

Yet, St. Paul did not give up the struggle, and on the contrary, he gave everything for the sake of the Lord, and dedicated himself completely, knowing that all the sufferings he experienced, all the struggles and oppositions he encountered, it was because of his faith in God, and not only that, but he was experiencing what the Lord Himself has experienced. St. Paul knew that for all the pains he had suffered and endured, all of them were nothing compared to the suffering that the Lord Jesus had endured.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord encountered opposition from the group called the Sadducees, a very influential and powerful group in the society, who opposed the Lord because of His teachings and the truth He brought, which were against their ideas. The Sadducees were those intellectuals and academics who were pragmatists and progressives in the society.

Just in yesterday’s Gospel passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus encountered difficulties with the Pharisees, another powerful group of priests and intellectuals whose ideas were almost diametrically opposite to that of the Sadducees, with whom they often bickered with. However, both the Sadducees and the Pharisees were united in their opposition against the Lord Jesus and His disciples, because they were great threats against their influence and power.

As mentioned, the Sadducees opposed the Lord because they refused to follow the more mystical and supernatural aspects of the faith, just as they refused to believe in the presence of Angels and spirits, and the concept of resurrection and life after death. They lived for the world and in the world, and they saw the Lord’s promise of a life of eternity after death, as a threat to their authority and beliefs.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout the entire Gospels, and the New Testament, we can see just how there were plenty of opposition against the Lord and His disciples, because of mankind’s refusal to believe in the truth and their refusal to accept what He had taught them. As a result, there were so much difficulty and suffering facing all those who are faithful to God.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of those faithful servants of God, St. Norbert of Xanten, a renowned German bishop, who was remembered for his great intellect and devotion to the Lord. He devoted himself so thoroughly to the Lord, as an ascetic and holy man, by whose work, many of the people turned towards the Lord.of course, he did not have it easy, and he had to encounter difficulties and troubles, especially from the powerful and influential.

Nonetheless, his dedication, which is similar to the dedication shown by the other Apostles and saints, St. Paul and all those who did the good works of God, is an example for all of us. Now, are we able to dedicate ourselves in the same manner? Are we able to devote our time and attention to God as best as it is within our capabilities? Let us all learn to be ever more faithful, and seek to be ever closer to God, with each and every passing day.

May God be with us, as we walk along this journey of faith, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly, seeking to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, following the examples of our holy predecessors. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishop)

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the women died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Norbert, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishop)

Psalm 122 : 1-2a, 2bcd

To You, I lift up my eyes; to You, Whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master.

As the eyes of maids look to the hand of their mistress, so our eyes look to YHVH our God, till He shows us His mercy.