Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us, the members of His Church. Even though the season of Easter is coming to an end with the celebration of the Pentecost Sunday tomorrow, it does not mean that everything that we have celebrated throughout this Easter is coming to an end. On the contrary, Pentecost marked just the very beginning of the Church’s works and efforts that still continues even to this very day.

As we heard in our first reading today from the ending parts of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul reached the city of Rome and began the last step of his ministry in that city. He preached to the local Jewish community and also others who were interested in the Christian faith, establishing the foundation for the Church in Rome, from which also stemmed many other communities all throughout the Roman Empire. Through all of his efforts, many turned to the Lord and were reconciled to Him, and many came to believe in Him and became courageous missionaries themselves.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper speaking about the one who would betray Him as well as St. Peter who wondered about the disciple whom the Lord loved, that is referring to St. John. At that time, there were still disagreements and so-called rivalry between the disciples, just as they had done earlier on when they argued among themselves who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as St. John, his own mother and brother tried to also gain favour and position from the Lord by asking Him directly.

In all these we can see that first of all, the Lord called His disciples among mankind, people who were imperfect, full of human frailties, desires and shortcomings, of pride and jealousy, or any other behaviours and attitudes unbecoming of Christians, as the Apostles themselves had once exhibited. One among the Twelve betrayed the Lord and surrendered Him to the chief priests, and left their number, while St. Peter himself denied the Lord three times and with others, abandoned Him in fear when He was arrested in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

St. Paul himself was a fanatical enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful when he was young, persecuting the Church and the believers, causing untold sufferings and much pain among them. Yet, the Lord called all these to be His followers and witnesses, to be the ones to bear His truth to the people of the many nations that they had been sent to. These Apostles, like St. Paul went forth courageously and wholeheartedly, not worried about themselves but instead ever always concerned about the conversion of many and the salvation of souls.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a holy and devout woman who was a dedicated wife and mother who wanted to join a convent in her early life, but forced to accept arranged marriage to a man who was bad-tempered, immoral and wicked. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered as a pious woman and faithful wife and mother despite all that she had to endure from her husband, his behaviour and temper. She endured all of his insults and abuses, as well as all of his infidelities in their marriage.

In the end, it was told that she was able to convince her husband to be a better person and at least he abandoned some of his past vices. Yet, his actions caught up to him and he was assassinated by a rival family, which led to her husband’s family vowing vengeance and expecting St. Rita of Cascia’s two sons to seek vengeance for their murdered father. Unable to persuade her sons to seek vengeance despite her repeated efforts, she prayed to God, asking that He took them away from the world rather than to have them commit a mortal sin through murder.

True enough, very soon after that, both of her sons were taken by a plague that occurred in that year. And then, having been widowed and left without family, St. Rita of Cascia finally became a religious, dedicating the rest of her life to contemplative prayer and commitment to God. It was not easy for her to do so, as the convent was afraid that her murdered husband’s family and reputation would be bad for them, and hence, St. Rita of Cascia was tasked to resolve the feuds between the families of that town, which she did with great success.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see here, God had called ordinary people, woman like St. Rita of Cascia, who was just an ordinary wife and mother, and yet, by her faith and commitment, she had done great deeds, leading her own husband and two sons closer to God’s grace and salvation, and helping to resolve the feud between the families of her town, among others. Through her life and example, all of us can see what it means to be a true disciple of the Lord, as a Christian.

Therefore, let us all continue to go forth proclaiming the truth of God in our lives from now on. Let us dedicate ourselves and follow the Lord wholeheartedly, as missionaries and genuine evangelisers in all of our words and actions throughout life. Let us all follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit that throughout life we will always be ever dedicated and filled with the strong desire to proclaim God’s truth in the midst of our respective communities, even when we encounter challenges and trials, opposition and persecution. Let us trust in the Lord and not be afraid for He is always by our side. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 20-25

At that time, Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked Him, “Lord, who is to betray You?”

On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until Income, does that concern you? Follow Me!” Because of this the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come.”

It is this disciple who testifies about the things he has written here, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 10 : 4, 5 and 7

The Lord is in His holy place – our God Whose throne is in heaven. He looks down to earth to observe the race of Adam.

The Lord searches both righteous and wicked. He hates those who delight in violence, for the Lord is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 28 : 16-20, 30-31

Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him. After three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews.

When they had gathered, he said to them : “Brothers, though I have not done anything against our people or against the traditions of our fathers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to set me free, for they saw nothing in my case that deserved death.”

“But the Jews objected, so I was forced to appeal to Caesar without the least intention of bringing any case against my own people. Therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I bear these chains.”

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

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.”