Thursday, 23 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on what we have just heard and discern in how we can be living our lives in a more Christ-like manner, in following the Lord’s call and devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. God calls on us all His faithful ones to follow Him and to do His will, and this is what we should be doing with our lives, to shine forth with the light of God in our lives and be role models for our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today, taken from either the Book of the prophet Haggai or the Book of the prophet Ezra, we heard of the Lord’s emancipation of His people, as He moved the heart and mind of the Persian King Cyrus to allow the exiled Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their country and cities. However this process took some time, as the ancestral lands of the Israelites had been left devastated and in tatters by the Babylonian and Assyrian conquests a century and more earlier on.

Thus, while the people of God had returned to their lands, as mentioned in the Book of Ezra, but that was merely just the beginning of the restoration of their fortunes and their homeland. It was implied in the Book of the prophet Haggai that took place during the reign of King Darius of Persia, which was one of the successors of King Cyrus of Persia, two or so decades after the emancipation of the Israelites, that the Temple of God in Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt by that time.

Ezra the priest and prophet of God had been instrumental in leading the people and establishing the firm foundation of the faith among the returned exiles. What the prophet Haggai spoke of then was the urging for the people to begin to take their faith seriously, in committing themselves and their resources to complete the rebuilding of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem. Although the foundation and preparation must have begun immediately after the exiles had returned to Judah and Jerusalem, but it seemed that many of the people still hesitated to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and left His House in ruins for many years.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is then related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord spoke of the parable of the lamps and the lampstand. He spoke of how no one would put a lamp hidden, for it would have made it useless and meaningless. Instead, at the time when electrical lighting and other sources of light were still scarce, oil lamps were truly precious commodity and items that were very important for the people’s livelihood. As such, by using that parable, the Lord wanted us all to clearly understand that we cannot be idle in our faith and in living our lives.

Just as the Israelites had been idle in dragging their feet and in delaying the building the House of God, the Lord does not want this to be our approach in life and our attitude towards our faith. Instead, we are expected to be more active in living our lives with faith, and we are all expected to do our part in obeying the Lord’s will, His Law and commandments at every possible opportunities. Are we willing and capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to commit ourselves and our efforts to Him from now on?

Today we all celebrate the Feast of a great saint, whose life and actions may serve as great inspiration for all of us in how we live up our own faith. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, also much better known as Padre Pio, was a great priest and a Franciscan who was greatly renowned for his stigmata, or the appearance of the miraculous wounds of Jesus on his hands and feet, as well as for his great piety and love for God.

Padre Pio was born into a deeply religious family, exposed to the faith and its practices from very early on. Even since youth, it was told that he has received mystical visions and experiences, which he would come to experience more and more throughout his life. He joined the Franciscans since the young age of fifteen, becoming a novice and gradually progressing to be ordained a priest. Even during these early years, there had been credible accounts of miraculous events happening to Padre Pio, as he was once seen levitating and other wonders happening around him.

Suffering from ill health throughout his life, nonetheless despite experiencing the stigmata of the Lord, Padre Pio continued to live very simply and led a rigorous discipline of prayer and fasting, and he was soon visited and followed by many people who wanted to see and to seek confession with this miraculous priest and servant of God. Yet, this popularity also drew concern and censure from the Church authorities, who questioned Padre Pio and even for a time, forbade him from publicly celebrating the Sacraments and ordered him to be secluded from others.

Nonetheless Padre Pio obeyed humbly and committed himself even more deeply through prayer and other actions, that as the years went by, more and more people became inspired by the holiness and the exemplary life led by this holy man of God, who suffered constantly from the physical wounds of his stigmata, as well as from other spiritual attacks from the devil, as it was told that the devil and other evil spirits would often strike at Padre Pio from time to time. He endured faithfully and committed his time and effort to the Lord more and more until the end of his life. And even after his passing, numerous people still devote themselves to the Lord through St. Pius of Pietrelcina.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore emulate the good examples and the faith showed by St. Pius of Pietrelcina, in our own daily lives and actions. Let us all strive to be ever more faithful and dedicated at all times, and seek the Lord with ever greater sincerity and conviction from now on, with the intercession of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, the ever faithful holy Padre Pio. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 7-9

At that time, king Herod heard of all that Jesus and His disciples had done, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.”

Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this Man, about Whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see Him.

Alternative reading (Lectionary of Saints)

Luke 8 : 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, so that people coming in may see the light.”

“In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret, that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces, will be given more; but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.”

Thursday, 23 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to YHVH a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name; and make music for music for Him with harp and timbrel. For YHVH delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night, on their couches, let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Alternative reading (Lectionary of Saints)

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH has done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Thursday, 23 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Haggai 1 : 1-8

In the second year of the reign of Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, a word of YHVH was directed to the prophet Haggai, for the benefit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

So says YHVH of hosts : This people claim that the time to rebuild the House of YHVH has not yet come. Well now, hear what I have to say through the prophet Haggai : Is this the time for you to live in your well-built houses while this House is a heap of ruins? Think about your ways : you have sown much but harvested little; you eat and drink, but are not satisfied; you clothe yourselves, but still feel cold; and the labourer puts the money he earned in a tattered purse.

Now think about what you must do : go to the mountain and look for wood to rebuild the House. This will make me happy; and I will feel deeply honoured, says YHVH.

Alternative reading (Lectionary of Saints)

Ezra 1 : 1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, YHVH willed to fulfil the word He had said through the prophet Jeremiah. So He moved the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom : “Thus speaks Cyrus, king of Persia : YHVH, the God of heavens, Who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah.”

“To everyone belonging to His people, may his God be with him! Let them go up to Jerusalem with the help of their God and, there, build the House of YHVH, the God of Israel; the God Who is in Jerusalem. In every place where the rest of the people of YHVH live, let the people of those places help them for their journey with silver, gold and all kinds of goods and livestock. Let them also give them voluntary offerings for the House of YHVH which is in Jerusalem.”

Then they rose up – the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and all those whose spirit God had stirred up – and they decided to go and build the House of YHVH. And all their neighbours gave them all kinds of help : gold, silver, livestock and precious objects in great quantity, besides every kind of voluntary offering.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through the word of God in the Scriptures that we need to put our faith and trust in the Lord. And we have been called by God to be His witnesses and to reach out to others to proclaim His truth, His love and kindness to all. We are called to follow the examples of His disciples, all those whom He had called earlier on to be His witnesses.

The calling to be a disciple is not an easy one, and the Lord told them as described in our Gospel today, to bring nothing with them, no money, no food, no spare tunic and all other comforts, and to be prepared to face rejection and hardships, because there were bound to be failures and trials that they would have to endure during their journey and mission.

The Lord told them this so that they will depend not on their own strength and on the providence of the world, but rather to draw their strength from Him, from their faith in Him and their commitment to follow Him. And they faithfully followed the Lord and what He had tasked them to do. They endured all sorts of trials and difficulties in their mission, preaching the Good News of salvation and showed God’s love by their actions.

It was definitely a tough and yet fulfilling experience for many of the disciples of the Lord, the missionaries who have dedicated their lives to God. They strived for the Lord and not for themselves, and God guided them in their path, and led them on where they were to go. And more and more people came to believe in God because of them and their works, and in turn, many among these themselves became missionaries and witnesses of the faith.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today, there are many who have yet to believe in God, and there are many others who have also abandoned their faith and their God. And it is indeed up to us, as God’s followers, as Christians, to be the bearers of His truth and love in our world today, to be His witnesses and bear forth the love with which He has passed on to us, in our daily actions and living.

And how do we carry out this faithfully, brothers and sisters? Perhaps we should look up to the examples showed by the famous St. Pius of Pietrelcina, also more well-known as Padre Pio, the Franciscan priest and famous bearer of the stigmata renowned for his great piety and love for God as well as for his fellow brethren. St. Pio was a humble man who was dedicated to his calling as priest.

St. Pio had been pious since his youth and it was told that he had begun having spiritual visions and experiences since the early age, and he eventually joined the Capuchin Franciscans and became a priest. St. Pio was often sickly, but he devoted much of his time to serve the people in the community at San Giovanni Rotondo, where his great shrine is located at today. He spent many hours listening to the confessions of many who flocked to see him, day after day.

Story of miracles and wonderful supernatural experiences came to make St. Pio even more famous as time went on, and even more people flocked to see him and seek healing through him. Through well-attested testimonies, some had been freed from possession of demons when St. Pio performed exorcism on them, and others received much strength in their faith through their consultation with the saint.

St. Pio did not have it easy, as not only that he had to experience difficulties at times, having even his faculty of hearing confessions taken from him during the time when the authorities were against him for his spiritual experiences and even some thinking that he was a fraud. On top of all these, he also experienced attacks from the devil in several occasions, suffered from the pain of his stigmata.

Nonetheless, St. Pio remained faithful to his mission and committed himself wholeheartedly to what God has called him into. He remained pious and devoted, each and every day, ministering to the people and in being an exemplary person in faith. Many came to believe in God through him and many were strengthened in their faith through his works and piety. And he converted many through his efforts. Until his death, St. Pio never ceased his efforts in working and striving for the greater glory of God.

The Lord has called us all to follow in the examples of St. Pio and all the others who had given their time, effort and even lives for the greater glory of His Name and for the salvation of many souls through the Church. Are we willing and able to follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all be exemplary in how we live our lives with faith, so that others may be touched by our faith and believe in the Lord as well.

May the Lord help and guide us in our mission in life that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him, be ever more faithful in reaching out to our fellow men with faith. Let us be the courageous witnesses of our faith at all times. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 1-6

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even take a spare tunic.”

“Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet : it will be as a testimony against them.”

So they set out, and went through the villages, proclaiming the Good News and healing people everywhere.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 29, 72, 89, 101, 104, 163

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your Law.

Your Law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

O YHVH, Your word stands forever, firmly fixed in the heavens.

I turn my feet from evil paths, that I may keep step with Your word.

Your precepts have given me knowledge, and I hate all that is false.

I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love Your Law.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Proverbs 30 : 5-9

Every word of God is true, He is a shield in Whom man can find refuge. Add nothing to His words lest He rebuke you and take you for a liar. O God, two things I beg of You, do not deny me them before I die. Keep lying and falsehood far away from me, give me neither poverty nor riches.

Give me just as much food as I need lest, satisfied, I deny You and say, “Who is YHVH?” Or else, out of necessity, I steal and profane the Name of my God.

Monday, 23 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through the readings of the Scripture we have heard today to become God’s true disciples, to follow Him wholeheartedly and to be free from the bondage and slavery to sin, as symbolically represented in our Scripture passages, beginning from the Book of Ezra in our first reading where we heard about the moment when the Israelites in exile in Babylon were liberated by King Cyrus of Persia.

At that time, the people of Israel have endured many decades of exile after their kingdom of Judah had been destroyed by the Babylonians, having the city of Jerusalem and its Temple, built by King Solomon, destroyed and razed, and their Ark of the Covenant being lost. They were brought into exile, in a humiliating reminder of their slavery in Egypt, and all because of their own refusal to obey God and His will.

But God did not abandon them to suffer and die separated from Him. Rather, His love for them remained strong and true despite their constant rebelliousness and stubborn refusal to believe in Him. He wanted them to be redeemed, forgiven and reconciled with Him, to be liberated from sin and from all things that separated them from Him. And that was how He moved the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to free the Israelites and let them go back to their own homeland.

God has been so kind and loving to His people and He has always been so patient towards them even when they have caused so much trouble. But He does not want them to remain like that forever. He is calling on the people to change their mindset and way of life. He wants them to be His true children, those who are truly righteous and just in their ways, following God with all of their hearts and minds.

God wants us all to have a change in heart, to be holy and good in all the things we do, in walking with Him faithfully. God has always been patient in guiding us all towards Him. In what He has revealed through the parable in our Gospel passage today, God wants us all to be true to our faith and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly. He made use of the example of a lamp that ought to be put on a lampstand and not hidden in the darkness.

What does this mean? It means that all of us who have been created by God good and wonderful, as children of the light and as God’s own children should therefore not remain in the darkness of this world, that is sin. We should not allow sin to bind and enslave us any longer. As long as we remain bound to sin, we are not free and we are in danger of being lost from God. That is why we should try our best to free ourselves from this darkness in our lives.

Today, all of us should reflect on our lives and how we should live it better and be more faithful as we should. Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, who was also better known as Padre Pio, a Franciscan priest who lived in the last century and was remembered for his great faith and dedication to the Lord, his holy and pious life, his commitment to the Lord and to the people, hearing confessions and casting out evil spirits from many.

St. Pius of Pietrelcina also suffered a lot throughout his life and his ministry as a priest. He encountered much opposition from various sources, even from the authorities within the Church. He was once restrained and prevented from speaking publicly or exercising his priestly ministry due to doubts over the veracity of his actions. And at that same time, he was also suffering from the miraculous stigmata on his body, in which the wounds of Christ Our Lord appeared on his hands and feet.

But despite the physical, mental and spiritual sufferings and struggles that he had to face constantly all the time, St. Pius of Pietrelcina continued to dedicate himself, his time and effort for the sake of God’s people, for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of many souls. He has shown us exactly what it means for us all to be those who shine the light within us, like that of a lamp being placed on a lampstand.

St. Pius of Pietrelcina has shown us all what it means for us all to be truly faithful to God in all things, and in being role models and examples for our fellow men. Let us all be inspired by his examples and dedicate ourselves thoroughly from now on, and seek to glorify God by our every words, actions and deeds from now on. May God bless us always and may St. Pius of Pietrelcina intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 23 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 8 : 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, so that people coming in may see the light.”

“In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret, that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces, will be given more; but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.”