Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to follow the Lord and be His disciples in the most sincere way possible. We should commit ourselves to Him just as His disciples and followers had done, as we heard how the Lord’s disciples, the Twelve and the women who always kept the Lord company followed Him wherever He went, doing His will and all the works for His glory.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy of the reminder that St. Paul the Apostle gave to his godson, St. Timothy, one of the earliest successors of the Apostles as the first of the bishops with regards to the concerns on the false teachings and false guidance from those who had promoted their own distorted ideas, as there were, even then, in the earliest days of the Church, the seeds of divisions and dissensions placed by the devil and his forces, in trying to destroy the Church and the faithful people of God.

St. Paul spoke of how there were those who pursued their own agenda and promoted their own flawed ideas that did not have the fullness of truth or Divine inspiration as the Lord’s disciples, the Apostles and their fellow co-workers had received. They instead caused confusion and divisions for their own glory and worldly pursuit, masquerading as a teacher of the faith while being the agent of the evil one, who used them to spread these divisions and confusion, and strike at the most vulnerable among the Lord’s flock.

Hence, St. Paul through his words reminded us that we have to be vigilant against all those that sowed dissension and divisions among us, and all those who sought to have personal gains over that of the people of God. All of us should be careful and do not easily allow the devil to have his way over us. We must remain true to our faith and understand what we believe in so that we will not be swayed by those false teachings and ideas. And it is also a reminder for us that we should not be tempted by worldly desires and end up corrupting others for the sake of our own personal glory.

Today all of us are called to remember the commitment which all of us are called to make as the disciples and followers of the Lord. Looking upon the examples that the Holy Apostles and disciples of the Lord had shown, we can see how they had given their all in serving the Lord, in preaching the truth of God and in delivering His love to all, even at times disregarding their own safety and comfort. They laboured for many years in proclaiming the words of God and enduring many persecutions, and at times they also had to go against the false teachings and heresies as St. Paul himself had to contend with.

Nonetheless, they persevered and committed themselves to the Lord without hesitation, spending a lot of effort and time, keeping their focus on the Lord throughout. They might falter and fail, but with the help, strength and grace from God, they went up again, and again, never giving up the works and efforts for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of their fellow brothers and sisters. It is this spirit and faith that our holy predecessors had, which we all should also have in our own lives, in our own faith in God.

Today, we also remember the memory of two great saints and Doctors of the Church, whose lives have been exemplary and works great and numerous, in leading so many people towards the Lord. First of all, St. Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit Cardinal, as a great reformer of the Church, and had a great and immense contribution to the Church teachings and theology. As a great teacher of theology, he inspired and spearheaded a great part of the efforts of the Counter-Reformation against those who divided the Church with their false and heretical teachings.

His great knowledge, wisdom and intellectual understanding of theology and other aspects of the faith were very notable, and the Pope himself took note of his efforts and achievements, making him the Rector of the Roman College and eventually as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and as a Cardinal Inquisitor was instrumental in leading through many aspects of Church reforms and in maintaining the integrity of the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition of the Church amidst a period of confusion and division among the faithful.

Then, the other saint whose memory we remember today, namely St. Hildegard of Bingen was canonised just less than a decade ago by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and then declared as a Doctor of the Church in that very same year. Her feast was added definitively to the Roman Calendar this year by Pope Francis, to celebrate her great faith and piety, her deep spiritual relationship with God and numerous works through which she inspired many who came to read of her works in remaining faithful to God.

St. Hildegard of Bingen was remembered as a great mystic and a theologian, who received visions of God throughout her life, as a monastic nun, dedicating her whole life to God. Even since a very young age, St. Hildegard of Bingen had received her visions, and later on in life, she wrote of her visions and experiences, which were widely known later after her passing. In her visions, St. Hildegard experienced the vision of God, in her various senses, experiencing the Light of God, which she described as the Three Shades of the Light of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each of these two wonderful saints served the Lord in their own unique ways, and they followed in the path set by the Lord before them, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. Are we also able to follow in their footsteps and examples, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to embrace the Lord in the same way that they had done, and giving our time, effort and attention wholeheartedly to God? Let us all reflect on this and discern how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on, in our every words, actions and deeds.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us with His truth that we may always remain true to Him, and remain committed to His truth, and do not fall into the trap of falsehoods and lies that the devil placed all around us. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

Psalm 48 : 6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life; there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

Fear not, when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great; for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Friday, 17 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Holy Virgins)

1 Timothy 6 : 2c-12

Teach and stress these things. Whoever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus, and true religious instruction, is conceited, and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions, that result in envy, insults, blows and constant arguments between people of depraved minds, and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain.

In reality, religion is a treasure, if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us, then, be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps. A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wondered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life, to which you were called, when you made the good profession of faith, in the presence of so many witnesses.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded of the faith and the teachings which we have received from God, and to which we have been called, just as St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading reminded us, that we need to cling closely to the Good News and the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles, their successors and the Church.

And what is this truth and Good News, brothers and sisters? It is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, the essence of our Christian faith in how the Lord treated the sinful woman, a prostitute who came to the feast hosted by the Pharisees for the Lord. When the Pharisee host saw this he was evidently hoping for a chance to catch the Lord off His guard by this opportune moment, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and large segments of the Jewish society then looked down on prostitutes whom they considered as sinners and unworthy.

Therefore, as the sinful woman came to the Lord, they would perhaps hope that the Lord would either cast out the woman and condemn her, therefore affirming their own position and practices of the faith, by showing that even the Lord Jesus was on their side supporting their way of interpreting the Law, or else, by allowing her to touch Him without resistance, the Pharisees could then discredit the Lord and condemn Him for allowing a sinner to taint Him among other things.

But what the Lord did to the woman, just as what the woman also did to Him were surely beyond belief of all those who witnessed the occasion. The woman took a very expensive jar of alabaster with best perfumes inside, and used the perfume to anoint the feet of the Lord with great love, and she humbled herself, most likely kneeling down low in doing so, and then dried the feet of the Lord with her own hair, the crown of her beauty and her pride.

In doing so, the sinful woman lowered herself and humbled herself such before God, with tears and sorrow, repenting for her sins with great sincerity. She must have heard of the Lord’s coming, and His fame and works, which preceded Him, must have stirred the woman, who wanted to be forgiven from her sins and faults. And that was how the woman came to the Lord and humbled herself before Him, begging for His mercy and forgiveness. And God gave her the forgiveness for the sincere repentance she had shown.

The Lord then pointed out immediately to the Pharisees who were baffled by what the woman had done and by what the Lord had told her, that the Lord is loving and forgiving, generous with His mercy and compassionate forgiveness. He used the parable of a creditor who had two people owing him money at the same time to explain this, and highlighted how the forgiveness of those debts made the indebted ones felt so thankful and appreciative of the forgiveness.

Thus, the woman, who was sinful and had done many wicked things earlier on, would naturally be more grateful for the mercy shown to her, rather than the Pharisees for example, who did not appreciate this mercy and love of God. And the Lord made this to point out that, after all, every one of us are sinners, regardless whether we are great sinners or whether we have only sinned a lot less against God, and sin is still sin to be forgiven.

Unless the sinner seeks the Lord’s forgiveness with an open heart and with the genuine desire for repentance, the sinner will not be forgiven. And as the example showed has clearly been presented to us, for each and every one of us to be forgiven, we need to get rid from ourselves pride and arrogance, hubris and ego, and be open to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to seek Him with a remorseful and repentant heart.

We are truly so fortunate to have such a loving and merciful God, and we often do not appreciate this opportunity presented to us, spurning the chances that God has given to us, in His generosity and kindness, and therefore, we should embrace this love and mercy wholeheartedly and not wait until it is too late for us. And today we should follow the good examples of the saint whose feast we celebrate, namely St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and servant of God, declared Doctor of the Church for his works.

St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the most prominent leaders of the Church at the height of the Counter-Reformation, in his many writings and works, and in his role as a bishop and Cardinal in assisting the Pope in the governance of the Universal Church, particularly in the struggle against the many heresies and divisions, various conflicts and disagreements among the members of the faithful at the time.

Through his many actions, writings and efforts, St. Robert Bellarmine was instrumental in the efforts of the Church at the time to bring many segments of the people and the communities to return to the true faith in God, to abandon the false ways and all the false heresies and divisions, and to be reconciled to God. And as we celebrate his feast day today, we ought to recall our own sinfulness and imperfections, all the obstacles that had prevented us from being reconciled to God.

Let us all atone for our sins, turn our hearts, minds and indeed, our entire beings to God, our loving and most merciful Lord and Master, that He may forgive us our sins, and forgive our great transgressions and sins. Let us all be genuinely repentant and regret fully our sins, and endeavour not to sin any more, and to be righteous and worthy of God, from now on. May God be with us always, and guide us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 7 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16ab and 17, 28

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of the Lord is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

You are my God, and I give You thanks. You are my God, and I give You praise.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-11

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me. For I am the last of the Apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although, not I, rather the grace of God, in me.

Now, whether it was I or they, this, we preach, and this, you have believed.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Word of God in the Scripture passages we heard, we are reminded of what it truly means for us to be Christians, and in particular, those among of us who have been called to a greater purpose through the service of God, the expectation of their actions and righteousness in life because ultimately all of us Christians must be role models in faith for one another, and those who have been called to the greater service of God are examples and role models for us to follow.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy went through a series of characteristics and attitudes which the elders and leaders of the Church ought to have. These elders, also called as overseers, of which St. Timothy also belonged to, eventually became the successors of the Apostles as the bishops of the Church. St. Paul who helped to establish the Church and firming its foundations throughout the Mediterranean therefore wanted the elders and leaders of the Church to be as devoted and righteous as they can be to inspire and strengthen the rest of the faithful.

This is important because while all of Christians at that time believe in God and profess their faith in the salvation in Jesus Christ, but it is through their leaders, the Apostles and all those whom God had called to be the deacons, the priests and the bishops of the Church that they remained strong and rooted in their faith despite the many persecutions and challenges that they had to go through especially in those earliest years.

If those leaders and servants of God’s people did not live their lives with good faith and with good actions, then it would not bode well among the faithful and in fact could cause scandal of the faith that would end up pushing the people away from God or causing bitter divisions and further challenges within the Church that was already under quite an intense persecution at that time.

From among the deacons themselves, very early on we have heard of St. Stephen who was the very first martyr of the Church, martyred and killed just because he stood up for his faith with courage and spoke with the strength of the Holy Spirit when he was persecuted and accused wrongly of blasphemy by his enemies. And yet, at the same time, he followed Christ’s example in loving even his enemies and forgiving them with his dying breath.

And amongst the priests and bishops there were also innumerable martyrs, all those who have given their lives and all for the greater glory of God and for the love they had for the people entrusted under their care. All of these faithful servants of God had exemplified well what true Christians should be like and how they have followed Christ with all of their hearts and minds, and with all of their strength.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also expected to do the same with our own lives, in how we should follow the footsteps of the Apostles, all those holy bishops, priests, deacons and martyrs of the faith who have given their all for the service of God and His Church. And today, we celebrate the feast of yet another one of these many faithful servants of God, namely St. Robert Bellarmine whose life and devotion to God can be yet another inspiration for us all to follow.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a renowned Italian Cardinal and member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. He was also one of the Church’s few Doctors of the Church for his many contributions to the faith and to the Church, in his courageous stand for his faith amidst the turbulent years in the Church’s history beset by many problems in particular that of the reformation heresy and divisions. He was one of the most important contributors to the Counter Reformation efforts.

St. Robert Bellarmine was remembered for his great many works on theology and other aspects of the faith, and his many devout contributions that eventually made the Pope to decide to elevate him to the Cardinalate in which capacity he continued to serve the Church in various efforts he undertook to purify the Church from corruptions and worldly influences. He worked hard all the time despite the oppositions and challenges he faced from various sources.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Stephen and all of the other holy saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives to the service of God should become our sources of inspiration in how we should live our own lives with faith from now on, that in each and every days of our lives and in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the greater glory of God.

Let us all grow ever deeper in our commitment and faith towards God, and let us all grow ever closer in our relationship with Him, and be ever more courageous and strong to stand up for our faith especially when we are faced with challenges and difficulties in life. Let us all be good examples of our true Christian faith and our genuine devotion to God, that many others may also follow in our footsteps. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.