Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded by God to keep up, to have hope, and to trust in Him, never to worry or to be afraid, but to be faithful because God Himself will help us and provide for us, and He will bring us out of the darkness and evil into the new life of light and joy. This is what the Lord has promised us and what He will grant us through our faith in Him.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord reassurance to St. Paul as he carried out his mission in the region of Greece as he visited several places carrying out works of evangelisation and preaching the Good News to the people in those places. He had encountered difficulties and challenges from both the pagans who refused to believe in him and ridiculed his revelation to them of the monotheistic faith in the one True God. Some among the pagans were receptive of the truth, but there were many who refused to believe.

In addition, St. Paul also encountered a lot of challenges and problems from the Jewish communities of the Jewish diaspora in many of the cities and towns that he had visited. Some of the Jews, like some among the pagans, were receptive of the Apostle and the message of truth that he brought to them, but many others persecuted the Apostle and the other Christian missionaries as well as the Christian converts in their midst. This was part of the conflicts among the Jewish elites who saw Christianity as an aberration and heresy because of the teachings of Jesus Who had been condemned by the Sanhedrin to death.

Amidst all of these situations, it must have seemed very daunting for St. Paul to continue with his mission, as he was often alone against so many people who were against him, were rude to him, and had his life threatened on not just once, but a few separate occasions. He could have given up and returned to safer places, but God reassured St. Paul and said that He would be with him along his journey and while he might encounter difficulties, but he would not be harmed.

In that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles we heard then the very proof of God’s providence, how God saved St. Paul from trouble when he was faced with all these oppositions and troubles. And when the governor to whom the Jews had complained about St. Paul refused to indict the Apostle based on their complaints against him, they became desperate and even plotted further by trying to incite a riot with the beating of one of the leading man of the synagogue.

Yet, God saved St. Paul and prevented harm from coming to him. The plots and efforts of all those who were against the faithful servants of God could not stop the zeal and the dedication which they showed us through their commitment and devotion. They trusted fully in the Lord because as the Lord Himself reassured them, that their pains, sorrows, sufferings and troubles were merely temporary, and in the end, they would receive the promise of eternal glory and true joy.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord reassuring His disciples using the metaphor and comparison to the woman who was about to give birth, suffering and enduring the bitter pain of the birth process, and yet, once the whole process ended, the woman would be happier and felt more wonderful with the joy that her newborn brought her, helping her to overcome all the pain and sorrow that had come earlier on. In this same way therefore, our faithful predecessors, from the days of the earliest Christians, focused their attention on the reassurances of Christ’s coming glory, enduring the challenges and trials in their path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are now living through a truly unsettling and challenging times, in the midst of great economic crises, societal instability and divisions, brought about mainly by the current pandemic, as well as the conflicts and disagreements between nations and communities among others, it must have been tough for us to remain hopeful and strong amidst all the challenges that we and our families are facing. Some of us have people we know and love who are suffering and sick, and some even had lost our loved ones, or are separated because they are our frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers.

Quite a few people had also lost their means of income and employment, losing what was once stable and certain iron rice bowl of income. Many are still unsure of their future, as although they have retained their employment, but they have faced great pay cuts and reductions, put on no-pay leave for indefinite length among others. We have many people having difficulties in seeking their first-time jobs due to the lack of demand in the job market, and many other problems that may make everything seem to be very bleak.

Yet, we must not lose hope, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must stay faithful in God and give Him our trust, for everything that we are facing now, are indeed truly temporary and will not last forever. We must keep our focus and attention on God and His sure promise of eternal joy and glory with Him, that while we may suffer and face challenges now in this world, all of these troubles and challenges combined cannot compare to the great things we are to receive later.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, one of the saints who had truly difficult life, having married into a difficult family involved in the late Medieval Italian conflicts among feuding families, which led to the murder of her husband. St. Rita of Cascia had a difficult life filled with abuse, insults and humiliation, but before her husband’s murder by a rival family, her steadfastness in faith and efforts to convert her husband bore fruit as her husband had at least become a much better person by the time of his death.

And when her husband’s greater family wanted her sons to take part in revenge action against the rival family for the murder of their father, despite St. Rita of Cascia’s efforts in keeping her sons faithful and away from the wicked activities, eventually, she prayed to God asking Him humbly to take them away from the world. It must have been very hard and painful for a mother to ask God to take her own sons away, but she did so knowing that it would be better for them to be taken away, rather than for them to commit grave sins through revenge and more, and end up in hell for eternity.

After the deaths of both of her sons due to sickness, St. Rita of Cascia became a religious and dedicated the rest of her life in prayerful service to God, living a virtuous and piety-filled life as she had done earlier on in her life. Her great and exemplary life inspired many others, and eventually made her to be venerated as a great saint many years after she has passed on. And now, all of us can also emulate her virtues and good examples in each and every one of our lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to trust in God more and focus ourselves more to Him, entrusting ourselves so completely like St. Paul as well as St. Rita of Cascia had done? There will indeed be lots of trials and pains we may have to endure in our respective journeys of life, but unless we have that firm faith in God, then it will be very easy for us to fall into despair and darkness, to give up on our lives and everything just because we lose sight on God and His love.

Let us all discern on this and spend some time reevaluating our lives, our choices of action and our direction as we progress on in our lives. Let us all be more faithful from now on, trust God more, and every importantly, deepen our relationship with Him, spending more time with Him in prayer, through charity and action, loving our fellow men and understanding more what our role is as Christians in our world today. May the Lord help us all to be strong in our faith, and may He give us the courage to go on and strive harder despite the trials and challenges we may face going forward. Amen.

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 20-23a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy : a human being is born into the world.”

“You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask Me anything.”

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

He brings peoples under our dominion and puts nations under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us – the pride of Jacob whom He loves!

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

Friday, 22 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 9-18

One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but continue speaking and do not be silent, for many people in this city are Mine. I am with you, so no one will harm you.” So Paul stayed a year and a half in that place, teaching the word of God among them.

When Gallio was governor of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the court. And they accused him, “This man tries to persuade us to worship God in ways that are against the Law.”

Paul was about to speak in his own defence when Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of misdeed or vicious crime, I would have to consider your complaint. But since this is a quarrel about teachings and divine names that are proper to your own law, see to it yourselves : I refuse to judge such matters.”

Then the people seized Sosthenes, a leading man of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal; but Gallio paid no attention to it. Paul stayed on with the disciples in Corinth for many days; he then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. And as he was no longer under a vow he had taken, he shaved his head before sailing from Cenchreae.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the message of the words of the Scripture which speak to us about the importance for us all to be firmly attached to the Lord, as we cannot be separated from Him and hope or expect to be able to receive His graces, much as a branch separated from the vine or the tree cannot survive on its own, having depended on the tree and the vine for nourishment and support.

That was why the Lord Jesus used the parable of the vine in order to bring His point across, as He revealed to them just how each and every one of us who believe in Him must be united to Him and with Him, so that we do not act in ways that create division, separation, dissension and cracks in the Body of Christ, the Church. We must not allow our own pride, ego and stubbornness from causing us to be divided against each other.

It is when we begin to put our own desires, our own wants and desires ahead of the commitment we have as Christians that we become detached from God and from His love and grace. It was never God Who cast us out from His presence as His great love and compassion for each and every one of us would not have allowed that to happen. Rather, it was our own conscious and persistent choice to sunder ourselves from God that had caused this to happen.

In the first reading today, we heard an example of this action happening as the Acts of the Apostles recounted to us what happened when a bitter friction and factional dispute arose between the disciples and the communities of the faithful, with the hardline Jewish Christians who wanted to adhere strictly and closely to the laws of Moses on the other side, and other Jewish Christians and those sympathetic to the Gentiles or non-Jewish people who wanted to relax the rigorous application of the Mosaic law.

Those who wanted to impose the whole laws of Moses and its rigorous practices as encapsulated within the traditions of the Jewish people refused to back down and insisted that all those who believe in Christ must also obey the laws of Moses in their entirety, or else they could not be members of the Church. But this created a lot of problems for those who wanted to be believers, and yet did not practice the Jewish customs.

In order to better understand the context and circumstances we should understand first that at that time, the Jewish customs were seen as strange and even abnormality by many of the people in the Roman Empire, especially the Greeks and the Romans who abhorred the practice of circumcision as well as the religious dietary prohibitions among many others that would very well have prevented many from being able to openly live as Christians should the laws of Moses be imposed on all Christians.

It was sadly however, the insistence and stubbornness of those who refused to back down from their argument and wanted their way to be pushed through that caused such bitter division and disagreement within the Church. And if we look through the whole history of the Church, the divisions and disagreements we see in the Acts of the Apostles is just one of many other disagreements and divisions within the Church.

And these divisions and disagreements cause the faithful to be separated from the True Vine that is God, as they began to focus on their own selfish desires and thoughts, their own ideas and their own ways rather than listening to and following the will of God. And this is where the devil will indeed have rich harvest, as those who have been separated from God will be easy picking for him to attack and conquer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us should reflect instead on the life and examples of St. Rita of Cascia, a notable saint and holy woman whose life has precisely shown that all of us should put aside our differences and learn to find the path of peace and reconciliation with God and with one another. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered for her patience and dedication to her family.

She did not have an easy life, and from her youth, she had endured many forms of sufferings and troubles, and she had to witness her own husband killed by another family his husband’s family was feuding with, and left to care for her children on her own. She dissuaded her sons from taking revenge on her deceased husband, even though her husband’s family was trying to goad her sons to do so.

When her sons was seemingly set on seeking the path of revenge following what her husband’s family had demanded, St. Rita of Cascia prayed fervently to God asking for them to be taken away from this world rather than for them to sin because of violence and murder. And indeed, miraculously, both of her sons passed away within a year from a terrible disease that struck the place, saving them from mortal sins that could have made them to end in hell.

This is a reminder to all of us that we should seek to be united to God and to be reconciled with each other, following the passionate example of St. Rita of Cascia who tried to overcome the bitter divisions that affected her own family, and also of the Apostles who tried to unite the bitterly divided factions and groups in the early Church as mentioned in our first reading today.

Let us all draw closer to God and do our best in order to serve Him and put Him at the centre of our lives so that instead of being divided because of our own ego and pride, we can grow instead in the love of God and be more united with one another through Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinegrower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burnt. If you remain in Me and My words in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 1-6

Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the Apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them.

Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the Apostles and elders met together to consider the matter.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord wants to remind us through the Sacred Scriptures, that the way for us to take if we want to be faithful and committed disciples of His, is for us to embrace humility, to be steeped in faith and love, and to be devoted wholeheartedly to God. We should not be tempted by the many temptations of power and worldly glory.

There are indeed numerous ways by which the devil is trying very hard, in order to bring about our downfall. One way is through the temptation of worldly riches, glory and power. In the first reading today, from the Epistle of St. James, we heard how we crave and desire for things, that even lead to us hurting one another, or even leading to murder and killing.

That is the extent in which we are ready to go, in order to satisfy what we want, to fulfil our desires and to please ourselves, our physical bodies in particular. We bicker without end and strive to gain more things and more pleasures for ourselves, as we cannot be satisfied easily, and our desires will only end up growing more and more, and our ego also end up getting more and more bloated.

And the more we are influenced by our desires, pride and ego, the more likely we will end up hurting and causing harm to others around us. The Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples for precisely this reason, as they were bickering and fighting among themselves for favour and influence in the Lord’s inner circle. They were fighting over who should be the greatest among His disciples, and hence, the greatest in the kingdom of God to come.

But they did not realise that all sorts of worldly power, grandeur, fame, greatness, influence and indulgences are nothing and meaningless in God’s sight. God does not seek or value all these fleeting things, which are merely temporary and which are perishable. None of those things will last forever, and we will not have them with us forever. Instead, the Lord called upon us all to follow His way, that is, to be like little children in our faith.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord Jesus alluded to the children and why we need to be like them in our faith, as those children, at that age, are still innocent, and they will believe with a pure heart, without the taint of ambition, ego, desire, pride and greed. Unlike many of us, we have been tempted with the temptations of power, of fame, of glory, of wealth and all sorts of things that distract us from our faith in God.

Thus, we are all called to resist the temptations of the world, and to believe in God wholeheartedly as a child would have. We should listen to the Lord and purge from ourselves, all sorts of pride and ambition, and all sorts of greed and desire, indulgement in which is unbecoming for us all as Christians. Instead, we are called to a holier life, based on active faith and devotion to God.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a faithful and devout woman, and a dedicated religious, who have given her entire life to the service of the Lord in prayer. St. Rita of Cascia was a prayerful and dedicated woman and mother, who loved her family greatly, and having encountered tragedy in the family, as her husband was assassinated by a rival family, she remained resolute in her faith and commitment to her family.

Her sons wanted to have a revenge at those who have murdered their father. However, St. Rita of Cascia strongly dissuaded them from doing so, with words of love, care and compassion. And when they were at risk of committing sin because of their impulsiveness and desire for vengeance, she prayed to God, asking Him to take them away from this world, rather than to have them commit sin and then fall into hell. Her prayers were heard in the end.

After her family’s passing, she dedicated herself further to the Lord by joining a convent, as a religious woman dedicated to a life of prayer and service to God. St. Rita of Cascia showed such an exemplary life and faith, that she was eventually raised to the Altar as a saint after her passing, and she continued to inspire many generations of the faithful up to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should reflect on the examples that the faithful St. Rita of Cascia had shown us. Let us all then seek to live a good and devout Christian life, that we endeavour to gain for ourselves, not for the glories and the goodness of this world, that is wealth, fame, pleasures of the body, and all sorts of temptations we often encounter in life, but instead, know how to seek God, and place Him at the very centre of our lives. May the Lord be with us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”