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.”

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 (Psalm)

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

Psalm 59 : 3, 4-5, 12-13

O God, You have rejected us and have broken our defences; You have been angry; but now turn back to us.

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its cracks, for it totters. You have made Your people suffer; You have given us wine that makes us stagger.

Have You not rejected us, o God? You no longer go with our armies. Give us aid against the foe, for human help is not worth a straw.

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 (First Reading)

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

2 Kings 17 : 5-8, 13-15a, 18

The army of the king of Asshur subjected the whole of Israel, coming to Samaria and laying siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, exiled the Israelites to Asshur and made them settle in Halah, at the banks of Habor, the river of Gozan, as well as in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the children of Israel had sinned against YHVH, their God, Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they were subject to Pharaoh. But they had turned back to other gods. They followed the customs of the nations which YHVH had driven out before them.

YHVH warned Israel and Judah through the mouth of every prophet and seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments and precepts according to the laws which I commanded your fathers and which I have sent to you by My servants, the prophets.” But they did not listen and refused, as did their fathers, who did not believe in YHVH, their God. They despised His statutes and the Covenant He had made with their fathers.

So YHVH became indignant with Israel and cast them far away from His presence, leaving only the tribe of Judah.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, 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 listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us all about the need for us to trust not in our own human power, abilities, greatness or achievements, but rather, in the power and providence of God. Many of us have not trusted enough in God and prefer rather to take matter into our own hands, being concerned and worried about our daily living and focusing on all the wrong things.

In our first reading today we listened to the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in Corinth, that if one were to boast, it would be best for that person not to boast of his own greatness or power, but rather, of the greatness and glory of God. St. Paul himself gave an example, through his own tireless ministry and hard work among the people he did not glorify himself or his own achievements, in the many miracles he performed and in the many things he accomplished, but he continued to glorify and praise God.

Of course, St. Paul also mentioned the temptations and difficulties he faced, the temptations of pride and greed in his heart. After all, he was still just a human being, prone to being tempted by all these wicked and negative feelings, emotions and desires just as we are. But he did not let those things to become obstacles in the way of his faith. On the contrary, he remained firmly convinced and strongly dedicated in his faith in God.

He trusted the Lord rather than his own power, for in the end, none of the means of this world, be it power, money, prestige, fame, glory or whatever it is that we mankind often seek and desire in this world, could have gained him anything that is true and lasting. In our Gospel passage today, this was exactly what the Lord mentioned to His disciples, when He revealed the folly of those who worry and are concerned about their daily needs and wants, be it for things to eat or for things to wear.

And today we celebrate the feast of a few saints, whose lives have been exemplary and filled with great examples of dedication and commitment to God. They are St. Paulinus of Nola, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. All of them put their trust in God and believed firmly in the providence and the power of God rather than in their own human power and capabilities. St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop and one of the influential leaders of the Church in the final days of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, while St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are the two saints and martyrs of the English Reformation and persecution.

St. Paulinus of Nola was remembered for his dedication to the Lord and for his renunciation of wealth and worldly glory for asceticism and simple living, having been born as a senatorial class member and a privileged noble. He was once an influential governor of the province in Northern Italy and a trusted confidant of the Roman Emperor, before an occasion when after he has been baptised as a Christian and losing his child, he chose to withdraw from the world.

Eventually he became a bishop and served the faithful in the region of Nola, dedicating himself for over twenty years to the flock he had been entrusted with, spending his money, time, energy and effort for the good of the faithful and the Church there. St. Paulinus of Nola truly showed us all what it means to be a faithful Christian, trusting completely in God and doing everything to glorify God and not himself.

And today we also then celebrate the feast of two martyr saints of the English Reformation, the famous St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. St. Thomas More was the Chancellor and right-hand man to King Henry VIII, the one who unilaterally initiated the English Reformation due to his insistence to remarry another woman despite still being legally and lawfully married to his Queen, and thus separating the English Church from the Universal Church.

St. John Fisher meanwhile was one of the influential leaders of the Church in the Kingdom of England, as the Bishop of Rochester and a close confidant of King Henry VIII’s father. He was also the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and tutor to King Henry VIII. It was widely told that King Henry VIII’s highly acclaimed treatise ‘Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’ or the ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’ against the heresies of Protestantism was actually written by St. John Fisher.

Both St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were strong opponents of the King’s efforts to remarry another woman according to his desires, and worked very hard to resolve the issue and preventing the rupture in Christendom due to the king’s continued insistence to follow his will. And when the King decided to break away the relationship and Communion with the Universal Church of Rome, the two men remained steadfast in their dedication to the true Church.

Despite the challenges, the persuasions, the coercions and pressures for them to abandon their steadfastness to their faith and to obey instead the demands of the King, amidst the promises that they would continue to enjoy the favour of the King and all sorts of good things and worldly goodness they had thus enjoyed then and more, should they abandon their opposition to the King. But they remained firm in their faith, and as such, died as holy martyrs of the faith.

Through all the examples shown by these great saints, surely all of us should be inspired to live as better Christians, more and more devoted to the Lord, and putting Him above all else in our lives. Let us all not worry about worldly things and concerns, things that are not permanent and things that cannot bring real happiness to us in the first place. Let us turn to God from now on, inspired by the good examples of His holy servants, our holy predecessors from now on. Amen.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 6 : 24-34

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate one and love the other; or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot, at the same time, serve God and money.”

Therefore, I tell you, not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food; and is not the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest, and do not store food in barns; and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more worthy than they are?”

“Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it? Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at how the flowers in the fields grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field, which blooms today and is to be burnt in an oven tomorrow, how much more will He clothe you? What little faith you have!”

“Do not worry, and say : What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or : What shall we wear? The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart, first, on the kingdom and righteousness of God; and all these things will also be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 33 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Come, listen to Me, My children; I will show you how to fear YHVH. If you desire long life; if you want to enjoy prosperity.

Saturday, 22 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Thomas More, Martyr (First Reading)

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

2 Corinthians 12 : 1-10

It is useless to boast; but if I have to, I will go on, to some visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a certain Christian : fourteen years ago he was taken up to the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows. But I know that this man, whether in the body or out of the body – I do not know, God knows – was taken up to Paradise, where he heard words that cannot be told : things which humans cannot express.

Of that man I can indeed boast, but of myself I will not boast except of my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, it would not be foolish of me, for I would speak the truth. However, I better give up, lest somebody think more of me than what is seen in me, or heard from me. Lest I become proud, after so many and extraordinary revelations; I was given a thorn in my flesh, a true messenger of Satan, to slap me in the face. Three times, I prayed to the Lord, that it leave me, but He answered, “My grace is enough for you; My great strength is revealed in weakness.”

Gladly, then, will I boast of my weakness, that the strength of Christ may be mine. So I rejoice, when I suffer infirmities, humiliations, want, persecutions : all for Christ! For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, 22 June 2018 : 11th 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 listened to the Scripture passage from the Book of Kings, in which the story of queen Athaliah of Judah was highlighted. Queen Athaliah was the wife of king Ahaziah of Judah, who was killed with the descendants of Ahab, as Elijah and Elisha had prophesied, by Jehu, the new king of Israel. And having heard that her husband was dead, Athaliah went on to seize power for herself, and eliminated all the immediate relatives of the king.

Yet what Athaliah had done was unjust and unlawful, as she was not supposed to gain the crown and rulership over Judah and Israel for herself, as she did not belong to the House of David. God had decreed that the house of David alone shall have the kingdom of Israel for theirs and their inheritance, forever and ever. But Athaliah did not hesitate to take action, and commanded a brutal massacre of all the possible threats to her rule.

It is likely that she was overcome with her ego, pride, and most importantly greed and desire for power. It does not explain otherwise why she would do such a vile action for the sake of gaining the rulership over the kingdom and worldly power. And indeed, it is such a dangerous desire, that ended up in her committing the killing of so many people, even young children.

This is related very well, then, to what we are hearing in our Gospel passage today. In that passage, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about the futility of the treasures of the world that can perish and be destroyed, and how we mankind often seek to try to gain them all for our own use. And He also told them indirectly how those things could end up corrupting us, ending up with us engulfed by sin and darkness.

Perhaps we should examine today’s readings more closely in conjunction with the lives of the three saints whose feast we celebrate today. St. Paulinus of Nola was born into a rich Roman senatorial family, with bright prospects in the future, and he was well educated and intellectual, promising a good career in life. He was appointed as governor and ruler of a province, but slowly, the attraction of the faith was growing in him. He was still a pagan in his early years.

Eventually he was baptised and grew more and more religious and devout day after day. After he and his wife lost his only child at a young age, both of them dedicated themselves to God, and eventually St. Paulinus of Nola was ordained to priesthood, and later on became the bishop of Nola. He devoted much of his energy, time and effort to serve his flock and to improve their faith. He is truly the example of what the Lord mentioned in today’s Gospel, that is to seek a greater treasure than the worldly treasures.

Now, if St. Paulinus of Nola showed us the model of Christian living faithfully to the Gospel and to the Lord’s way, then the other two saints showed yet again, how mankind’s greed and desire could have wrecked such havoc due to their relentless pursuit of worldly treasures, influence, power and all sorts of wickedness, and then, they showed us, that as Christians we should remain firmly rooted in our faith despite the temptations to do otherwise.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher were the martyrs of the so-called ‘English reformation’, when king Henry VIII of England forcibly removed the Church in England from their obedience to Rome and from their part within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For a background, king Henry VIII used to be a great defender of the faith, even defending vigorously the holy Catholic faith and the seven Sacraments from the heretics.

However, what led the king to commit such a heinous act? It was his obsession with the preservation of his dynasty and therefore legacy, and at that time, the measure of a man’s success is how much wealth and fame one could attain and amass, and most importantly, how lasting one’s family and dynasty is. King Henry VIII could not have a son from his first marriage, and he desperately wanted a son, as at that time, only a son could be seen as a successful heir, and not a daughter, although daughters were indeed allowed to inherit the kingdom.

He tried very hard to have his first marriage annulled so that he could remarry and produce a male heir to the throne of England. However, due to the complicated historical condition at the time, the Pope was unable to grant him the permission to do so. And in truth, such an action would have also scandalised the faith, as marriages could only be annulled for valid reasons, and not being able to produce a male heir was not one of those valid reasons.

But king Henry VIII persisted in his attempts, and eventually, he took the drastic and wicked action of sundering the entire Church in England from their part in the Universal Church. There were many who remained true to their faith and obedience to the Pope and the Universal Church, including St. Thomas More, who was actually king Henry’s Chancellor and St. John Fisher, the influential Bishop of Rochester and the former tutor of the king.

St. John Fisher defended the marital rights of the Queen and opposed the king, and while St. Thomas More was persuaded to give his support to the king’s cause in exchange of even greater wealth and power, he refused to do so. He would rather, with St. John Fisher and many other martyrs of the faith at that time, choose to suffer rather than to betray his faith in God and abandon the true Church.

Now, once again, we see how the actions of men who were overcome by greed and worldly temptations led to such great sufferings and tragedies for the faithful. And it also proved the Lord’s point about the futility of human and worldly material goods, as in the case of king Henry VIII, who would go on to marry a total of six times, had only one sickly son in the end, who eventually died at a young age after succeeding Henry, without any heir, ending the dynasty. But the harm had been done, and many were martyred defending their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have discussed and heard, let us all reflect on our own lives. Have our lives been filled with holiness and faith in God, or have we rather been filled with desire, greed, pride, ego, hatred and all sorts of things that often tempt us in this life? As Christians, all of us must make the conscious effort to reject those temptations, especially for false worldly treasures, and turn to the Lord with all of our hearts.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we will be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, following the examples of His holy saints, St. Paulinus of Nola, and the holy martyrs, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Amen.

Friday, 22 June 2018 : 11th 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 6 : 19-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not store up treasures for yourself here, on earth, where moth and rust destroy it; and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it.

For where your treasures are, there, also, will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!