Thursday, 7 January 2021 : Thursday after Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded yet again that the Lord has fulfilled His promises to us, the promise of deliverance and salvation that He has made and renewed throughout the history of mankind and the world. The Lord sent His deliverance to us all through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. And as Christians, all of us believe in this truth, the same truth that has been preserved through the Church all these time.

In our Gospel reading today, we heard of the moment when the Lord proclaimed the truth of God and the fulfilment of all the wonderful promises of God’s salvation in the synagogue of His own hometown, Nazareth. At that time, the Lord read the prophecy from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and his words, which specifically mentioned what the Messiah or the Saviour would do in order to save the people.

And the Lord Jesus essentially proclaimed the coming of God’s time of grace, His salvation and liberation to all the people. He did not mince His words or hold back anything as He proclaimed God’s truth. He was the Anointed One and the Holy One of God sent into the world to be its Saviour. Through Him all would once again see the light of hope, and a way out of the darkness of sin in this world.

All of these are what we believe in as Christians, that we hold true and strongly to this same truth that the Lord had proclaimed, and which He had then proven through His loving sacrifice on the Cross. The love of God has been made manifest into this world through Christ, and this love was shown to us by the selfless sacrifice and the life-giving action that the Lord had done, in offering up Himself for our sake, for our liberation from sin and for our salvation.

St. John then spoke of this in our first reading today as he elaborated on Christ as the manifestation of God’s love made flesh just as we celebrate it this Christmas season. He also exhorted all Christians to turn towards the Lord with love, that just as He has loved us so generously at first, then we should also love Him to the best of our abilities with our most sincere love, and then show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters as well.

The Lord has taught us His love and revealed to us what it means for us to love, through His own actions and examples. He has reached out to all of us, especially even to the worst and the most wicked amongst sinners. He has touched us with His love and He has called us to follow Him and His path, but are we willing and able to commit ourselves to this path, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all today therefore look upon the examples of our holy predecessors in how they lived their lives in accordance with God’s ways, such as what was done by St. Raymond of Penyafort, whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Raymond of Penyafort was a Dominican friar and priest who was the Master of the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans.

St. Raymond of Penyafort dedicated himself, his life and his actions to serve the Lord, compiling the teachings of the faith in the many books and writings that he has written for the many years of his dedicated service. St. Raymond of Penyafort was also committed to the reform of the Church, in his efforts in helping the Church and the leaders like the Pope in leading the faithful to the right path.

Through his efforts and most notably through his renowned miracle, St. Raymond of Penyafort turned many souls towards the Lord. When he worked as the confessor of the king of Aragon, James I, who was infamous for his immoral behaviour, he courageously criticised the king and his actions, which was against the Law of God. He sought to call the king back to his senses and return to the true faith.

When the king still insisted to continue his actions and forbade St. Raymond from leaving the island he was ministering in, he miraculously sailed on his long Dominican robe, and witnessed by many, he made the king to realise the depth and severity of his errors, and the king repented from all his sinful ways. Many others became believers through him and many were inspired by his examples long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves to the Lord therefore, filling ourselves with love, the love of God, just as shown by St. Raymond of Penyafort and the many other holy men and women of God. Let us all therefore seek the Lord and do our best as Christians, from now on, that we may lead all souls to Him, Our Lord and most loving Saviour. May God be with us always, and may He bless us in all our good endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 7 January 2021 : Thursday after Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 14-22a

At that time, Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on His return to Galilee, the news about Him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogue of the Jews and everyone praised Him.

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God.

Thursday, 7 January 2021 : Thursday after Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 14 and 15bc, 17

God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

He rescues them from oppression and strife, for their life is precious to Him. May people always pray for Him, and blessings be invoked for Him all day.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him; and He will be praised by all nations.

Thursday, 7 January 2021 : Thursday after Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 19 – 1 John 5 : 4

So let us love one another, since God loved us first. If you say, “I love God,” while you hate your brother or sister, you are a liar. How can you love God, Whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother, whom you see? We received from Him, this commandment : let those who love God also love their brothers.

All those, who believe that Jesus is the Anointed, are born of God; whoever loves the Father, loves the Son. How may we know, that we love the children of God? If we love God and fulfil His commands, for God’s love requires us to keep His commands. In fact, His commandments are not a burden because all those born of God overcome the world. And the victory, which overcomes the world, is our faith.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020 : Tuesday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture starting from the Gospel passage that told us about the wonderful work that the Lord had performed among His people as highlighted in His miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and more people, as the women and children accompanying the men were not included in the count. He provided for them and gave them all food to eat.

And then, we also heard from the Epistle of St. John in our first reading today that spoke about God’s love for us mankind and how that love has manifested perfectly in the person of Jesus, the beloved Son of God, Who was sent into the world to redeem us, to help us, to show us just how much God loves each and every one of us, that each and every one of us may not perish because of our sins but have eternal life. The Lord Jesus Himself said this, and St. John reaffirmed it in his Epistle.

We are reminded therefore how each and every one of us as Christians are God’s own beloved sons and daughters, and we are made into such a privileged position because of none other than the Lord Jesus Whose birth we celebrate during this Christmas season. His birth and arrival into this world marked the beginning of the reconciliation between God and mankind, once separated by the wickedness of our sins and disobedience.

Christ has entered into this world as a unique Being, both a Divine being, because He is the Word of God and the Son of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also a Human being, because He was conceived in the womb of a woman, Mary, His mother, taking the fullness of our human existence and qualities. He has two natures, Divine and Human, both united in His one single person though the two natures remained distinct, but inseparable. This is why through Christ, we have been adopted as God’s children.

Because if Christ is the Son of God, then all of us mankind who share in His humanity is also the sons and daughters of God, by this adoption through Christ. All of us who believe in Him and become members of the Church are adopted as children of God. And we are all truly privileged to have been granted this honour and opportunity, that we really should not waste it. We should appreciate just how God still loves us so dearly even when we have erred against Him and should have been exterminated instead of being forgiven.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them with faith. We are called to think of whether we have reciprocated God’s generous offer of love and mercy, and how we can draw close to Him, entrusting ourselves to this love, which He has shown us through His Son, Who fed the multitudes of five thousand men and more, and even more so, gave us all spiritual sustenance through His truth.

Have we been faithful and loving towards Him, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we been too preoccupied and busy with ourselves that we end up distancing ourselves from Him and getting trapped deeper and deeper into the path of sin? This is where perhaps we should look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. Raymond of Penyafort, whose feast day we celebrate today, who was a Spanish Dominican friar living in the twelfth and thirteenth century.

St. Raymond of Penyafort was renowned for his lifelong dedication to God, and although he was remembered more for his important contributions in the compilation of the canon laws of the Church, which eventually became the version of the Canon Law used for many centuries, but actually St. Raymond of Penyafort was also known for his steadfastness in faith and dedication, in how he persistently opposed the King of Aragon in today’s Spain because of his immoral behaviour with a supposed mistress.

St. Raymond of Penyafort was punished and put under arrest and watch by the king for his criticism and opposition to his immoral and wicked attitude, but the saint remained steadfast in faith and in his opposition. In a well remembered miracle, it was told that St. Raymond sailed away from his island exile on a cloak and this miracle, witnessed by many caused the king to renounce his wicked behaviours and turn back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have heard how St. Raymond of Penyafort loved God and had great faith in Him to the point that he was willing to oppose a king in doing so, and to do what he has done in his many contributions to the Church for so many years. Are we able to follow in his footsteps? It is something that we should perhaps think about as we continue living our lives with faith from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, and help us that we may grow ever stronger in our faith, love and devotion towards Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020 : Tuesday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 6 : 34-44

At that time, as Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things. It was now getting late, so His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is now late. You should send the people away and let them go to the farms and villages around here, to buy themselves something to eat.”

Jesus replied, “You, yourselves, give them something to eat.” They answered, “If we are to feed them, we need two hundred silver coins to go and buy enough bread.” But Jesus said, “You have some loaves; how many? Go and see.” The disciples found out and said, “There are five loaves and two fish.”

Then He told them to have the people sit down, together in groups, on the green grass. This they did, in groups of hundreds and fifties. And Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish and, raising His eyes to heaven, He pronounced a blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to His disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them.

They all ate and everyone had enough. The disciples gathered up what was left, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces of bread and fish. Five thousand men had eaten there.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020 : Tuesday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 2, 3-4ab, 7-8

O God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Let the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills justice. He will defend the cause of the poor, deliver the children of the needy.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020 : Tuesday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 7-10

My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves, is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love have not known God, for God is love.

How did the love of God appear among us? God sent His only Son into this world, that we might have life, through Him. This is love : not that we loved God, but that, He first loved us and sent His Son, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures, telling us about the need for us to discern carefully the path of our life, and listen to the right words of advice, that is the truth of God and not instead the lies and falsehoods of the devil. Otherwise, we may end up walking in the wrong path and fall to the trap of sin, which the devil has prepared laboriously to bring us into our doom.

In the passage taken from the Epistle of St. John, our first reading today, we heard of the distinction between the path of God and the path of the world, those who side with the antichrist. Those who reject the way of the Lord are those who side with the devil, the enemies of God, because they do not agree with the Lord’s way, and do things in manner that is against the commandments and the Law of God, as mentioned by St. John.

How should we then discern so that we will not end up going down the wrong path? Then we need to realise that we have to deepen our understanding and knowledge of God’s ways, by delving deeper into the teachings of the Church, and rediscover the richness of the bounties of God’s truth, which have been preserved well by His Church, and taught to us by His bishops and priests, all those who have been tasked with the preservation and the propagation of truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the way of the Lord is one of love and compassion, of obedience to God and adherence to His ways. And the Lord Himself has summarised the Law into two main, essential laws. First of all, we ought to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with every ounce of our strength. And then, we ought to show the same love towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours, those in our families, and even the strangers whom we encounter in our respective lives.

But as we can easily see and witness all around ourselves and our livelihood, it is not easy to walk in the path that God has set before us, as there will inevitably be conflict and misalignments with the ways and the expectations that come from the world, from the society around us. By our human nature and tendencies, we are often selfish and egoistic, prideful and harbouring hatred in our hearts. We are often jealous of each other and desire what others have but we ourselves do not have.

That is why, it is not easy for us to be faithful to God and to follow His ways. There will be many temptations and even pressures for us to walk away from His path. But if we remain strong in our conviction to love God and persevere in walking down the path He has shown us, then we are assured of the salvation and liberation which God has brought down upon us. We will be deemed worthy of the glorious kingdom and eternal life and joy which will be ours by faith.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort, a renowned Dominican friar and preacher, who lived during the High Middle Ages. He was remembered for his important role in the codification and formalisation of the Canon Law in the Church. But more importantly, he also stood up for his faith and the teachings of the Church, even when his king was against him, who though faithful but ensnared with the temptation of lust with a concubinage relationship.

St. Raymond of Penyafort insisted repeatedly that the king must dismiss his concubine, and the king persistently refused to do so. Eventually, it was told that a miracle happened, when St. Raymond of Penyafort wanted to leave the king behind, having no longer been able to tolerate his wicked behaviour, and when the king insisted that he remain, St. Raymond warned the king of the fate awaiting those who refused to listen to God’s will and repent from their sins, and casting his cloak to the water, he sailed on the cloak as if it was a ship. Having heard of this, the king repented from his sins and became a good Christian from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the faith and virtues of St. Raymond of Penyafort, let us all be inspired by him and the courage he had in resisting wickedness of the world, and in how he had stood up for his faith in God. Let us all also be courageous in how we live up to our faith, by our actions, and be willing to commit ourselves, from now on, to love God with all of our strength, and be courageous in living a life in accordance with God’s will and grace. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.