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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 100 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3ab, 5, 6

I will sing of Your love and justice; to You, o YHVH, I will sing praise. I will walk the way of integrity – o YHVH, when will You come to me?

With a blameless heart, I will walk within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the deeds of faithless people.

He who deals with others treacherously, I will silence. He who talks and acts arrogantly, I will not endure.

I will choose from the faithful of the land, those who may dwell with Me; only the upright shall be My servant.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 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 Timothy 3 : 1-13

If someone aspires to the overseer’s ministry, he is, without a doubt, looking for a noble task. It is necessary, that the overseer (or bishop) be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, responsible, judicious, of good manners, hospitable and skilful in teaching.

He must not be addicted to wine, or quarrelsome, but be gentle and peaceful, and not a lover of money, but a man whose household is well-managed, with obedient and well-mannered children. If he cannot govern his own house, how can he lead the assembly of God? He must not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must enjoy a good reputation among the outsiders, lest people speak evil about him, and he fall into the snare of the devil.

Deacons, likewise, must be serious and sincere, and moderate in drinking wine, not greedy for money; they must keep the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them be first tried and, if found blameless, be accepted as deacons. In the same way, the women must be conscientious, not given to gossip, but reserved and trustworthy.

A deacon must be husband of one wife, and must know how to guide his children and manage his household. Those who serve well as deacons will win honourable rank, with authority to speak of Christian faith.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 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, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about the moment when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, as recounted by St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth. And then in the Gospel today, we heard of the Lord healing the servant of a Roman army centurion, by the great faith which he showed before all.

At that occasion, the Roman centurion, which was quite a senior leader within the structure of the Roman army, came to Jesus and begged Him to make his servant better and recover from the illness that affected the servant. He had a great faith in the Lord, as well as astute understanding of the socio-political landscape at the time.

Why is that so? That is because of what the Roman centurion told Jesus when He was about to go to his house in order to heal the centurion’s servant. The centurion spoke the words which each and every one of us now regularly recite during the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

These words showed to us that the centurion understood well the possible negative implications and repercussions should the Lord Jesus came to his house. The Jewish customs and traditions of that time prescribed against entry or visit into the house of a pagan. If one was to enter the house of a pagan, then he or she would be considered as unclean.

As such, the centurion simply asked the Lord to say the words, and he believed that his servant would be healed within an instant. And this ought be contrasted with what we heard of the attitude of many of the people to whom the Lord had come for. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, many of the people and even Our Lord’s own hometown neighbours rejected Him, despite having seen directly with their own eyes the Lord’s wonders and miracles.

The centurion believed with all of his heart, and for his faith, his prayers were listened to by God, and were fulfilled. The Lord praised him for his faith, which not many people in Israel at that time possessed, as we have just discussed. Now, let us ask ourselves, do we have the same faith as what the Roman centurion had?

As we see in our first reading today, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He had with His disciples, just before He was about to suffer and die and fulfil completely the mission He was sent into this world. And it was also to fulfil what He Himself had said earlier on to the people, that He is the Bread of Life, and all who eat of the Flesh and drink of the Blood that He gives, will have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord are the very focus and centres of our Christian faith. Yet, unfortunately, the reality is that there are still so many of us Christians who have not taken this seriously, or even acted in ways that scandalised this essential Christian truth.

This is evident from how we lack the respect and reverence for the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, treating the Eucharist not as the Lord Himself present in His full and complete Presence, in the Body, Soul and Divinity. Our core Christian faith is that we believe that even though the bread and wine remains as such in appearance, but in reality, in substance and in truth, they have been transformed into the very Presence and Reality of Our Lord Himself.

Then, we cannot do what we have done so far any longer, all of our irreverent attitudes, our lukewarm faith and attitude towards the Holy Mass, our refusal to put our whole heart and indeed, our whole being to be with God, and our failures to put God to be at the centre of our lives.

Let us today follow the example of the Roman centurion, as well as that of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, devoted servant of God and dedicated reformer of the Church. All of them have shown us what it means to be true disciples and followers of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a great intellectual and theologian remembered for his many beautiful works and writings, through which he helped to rejuvenate the Church battered and assailed both from inside and outside by divisions, heresies and external threats. He drove the reform of the governance of the Church, taking issue with the bishops and ordinaries who did not commit themselves or reside with their flock.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the many other saints of his era, and past and present holy men and women have shown us that we must have that strong faith in God, and dedication in order to be worthy of God. Indeed, as the army centurion said, ‘I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof’, for he and all of us are sinners. Our sins have made us to be unworthy of God. But are we willing to allow God to exercise His wonderful work of mercy in us?

Remember that the army centurion also asked the Lord to heal his servant, and let us link it with what we always utter during the Mass, ‘but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed’. This is a calling for us all to put our trust in God and turn towards Him, looking forward for His mercy and love. We have to remember that ultimately, each and every one of us are God’s beloved ones.

May the Lord be with us, and continue to shower us with His love. May He empower each and every one of us, that we may continue to grow in faith, modelled after St. Robert Bellarmine, the faithful Roman centurion and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 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 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.