Tuesday, 9 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, listening to the words of God, all of us are called to listen to the Lord calling on each one of us to follow and obey Him, to do His will and to embrace His calling and also the mission He has entrusted to us. Each one of us as Christians have been given the opportunities as well as the responsibilities to be examples for one another, to lead more and more people towards God and His truth, and to bring ourselves ever closer to Him and His salvation. All of us should also humble ourselves and be willing to embrace God wholeheartedly, and be willing to listen to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which God spoke to Ezekiel regarding what He was sending him to do among the Israelites in exile in the land of Babylon. The Lord gave Ezekiel a scroll in the vision, and the prophet ate it, symbolising his willingness to walk in the path of God, and how he was willing to let God guide him in what he was called to do. As God’s prophet, Ezekiel would go on to do great deeds among the people, and he continued to labour hard among the Israelites in exile, calling on them to abandon their sinful way of life, which had led to their downfall in the first place.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples, telling them that unless they become like little children, with regards to their faith, they cannot truly enter into the kingdom of Heaven, and they will not be able to truly appreciate what it really means to be a disciple of the Lord. And He calls on them to welcome young children, as otherwise, if they do not do so, then they are not welcoming Him into their presence either. Through this, the Lord wanted to highlight that in order for Him to lead us down the right path, often we need to open our hearts and minds, to be humble and to be willing to let God guide us in our path.

That is because for us to be welcoming to children in our midst, we have to first learn to listen and to communicate, understanding them and their needs. Otherwise, we will find that it is very difficult for us to engage with the children meaningfully and successfully. One must be humble and be willing to communicate sincerely, and not to impose a judgmental and superior attitude vis-a-vis the children, which in fact is one of the reasons why people fail to connect with the younger generation. Many of us are often burdened with the burden of pride and arrogance, thinking that we know it better and hence, we cannot engage in truly meaningful interaction and conversation with others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s readings, all of us are reminded that as Christians, each and every one of us are called to be witnesses of our Lord’s salvation, His truth and Good News. All of us ought to do our very best in whatever capacity and opportunities that we are in, so that we may help to lead others to God and so that they may find their way back to Him. In the same Gospel passage, the Lord also mentioned how He loves us all and how He would go all the way to rescue His lost sheep, through His story of a shepherd who had one lost sheep among the flock of his hundred sheep.

Just as the shepherd went out all his way just to find that lost sheep, so the Lord Himself has also done the same for our sake, reaching out to us and calling on us to return to Him. He patiently called on us, waited for us to change our hearts and minds, giving reminders after reminders, and assistance along the way so that we may find our way to Him. All of us who have known the Lord and received the promise of His salvation therefore are called to be the witnesses of this truth and promise, and do our very best to evangelise and to do what we can in glorifying God by our lives, and by living a humble, virtuous and good Christian way of life.

Today, we all can and should seek the inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, namely that of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also better known by her name of St. Edith Stein. St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith in the early twentieth century, who was drawn by the Catholic faith and decided to be baptised, and was also eventually desiring to be a religious nun, joining the Discalced Carmelite community. She led a devout and virtuous life as a member of the Discalced Carmelites, in the midst of the great hardships which the Church and also the people of Jewish descent faced back then during the intense persecution by the Nazi German regime.

Her faith grew even deeper through the hardships and challenges, and she entrusted herself to her Lord and Saviour. Through the bitterness and hardships of war, St. Edith Stein and many other of the faithful and the martyrs continued to show inspiration and strength for others who were also suffering back then, and for those who lived after her time, and gained inspiration from her patient faith and commitment to God. She was eventually martyred for her faith and commitment to God, when the NAZI regime persecuted and murdered her for the opposition that the Church took against the wicked actions that it had done in Germany and other places.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to follow the path that our holy predecessors had set before us. Let us all humble ourselves before the Lord and do whatever we can to live our lives ever more faithfully in God’s presence, defending His truth and committing ourselves to be witnesses of His truth and love to more and more of our fellow brothers and sisters, and all those whom we encounter in our lives and missions. May God be with us all and may He continue to strengthen us with the resolve to live our lives ever with the commitment as good and devout Christians, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Ezekiel 2 : 8 – Ezekiel 3 : 4

God said to Ezekiel, “Listen then, son of man, to what I say, and do not be a rebel among rebels. Open your mouth and take in what I am about to say.”

I looked and saw a hand stretched out in front of me holding a scroll. He unrolled it before me; on both sides were written lamentations, groaning and woes. He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is given to you. Eat this scroll and then go; speak to the people of Israel.”

I opened my mouth and He made me eat the scroll; and then He said to me, “Eat and fill yourself with this scroll that I am giving you.” I ate it; and it tasted as sweet as honey. He said, “Son of man, go to the Israelites; speak to them with My words.”

Monday, 9 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to do whatever that the Lord has commanded us to do, in His Law and commandments, and to be righteous and filled with virtue in all things, that we may be exemplary to all people, in everything that we say and do. He reminded all of us how He has patiently cared for us and showed His love towards each and every one of us, seeking us and reaching out to us whenever we falter and were in need of help.

Today, we are all called to remember God Who has shown us so much love that we are indeed very fortunate that we have been beloved in such a way. How else we should do in life then if not to commit ourselves to His cause and to follow Him in everything we say and do. It is our calling as Christians to be the Lord’s true disciples not just in name but also in deeds, and that we learn to commit ourselves to the good works that He has called us to do through His Church. And we are all part of this same Church, that is His Body, as the Body of all the faithful united with God, through Jesus Christ, the visible Head of the Church.

And as we heard in our Gospel passage today, that the Lord also expected all of us to be righteous and just in all things, in the ways and in the sight of mankind alike. For we are all called to be the bearers of His truth and love before all, and He has called on all of us to show true and genuine faith, and for us to obey the laws and the rules of the land, that we do not unnecessarily antagonise those who rule over the land, and perhaps may even persuade them and many others to come to believe in the Lord as well, through our virtues and efforts.

In our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was confronted with the temple tax collectors, who questioned the disciples on whether their Master paid taxes to the temple, the Lord spoke of how in truth the children of the Light, that is God’s children and people owed nothing and are free, and naturally are not bonded to pay anything to worldly institutions like that of the Temple of Jerusalem. Yet, the Lord did not tell His disciples to resist, and on the contrary, in fact told them to obey the rules and to pay their dues, although in a miraculous way, by asking them to obtain it embedded in the mouth of a fish.

Through what we have heard in our readings from the Scripture today, we are all called to be the Lord’s true and genuine disciples in our world today, putting our trust in the Lord and remaining faithful to Him while contending with the pressures and demands of the world. The question is, are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the path that the Lord has shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to turn towards the Lord with an open heart and mind that He may lead us and guide us down the right path?

Today let us all look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors as we look for the path to follow in being faithful to the Lord. The Lord has called St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to follow Him, and she, also known as her more popular name of Edith Stein, responded kindly with faith and dedication, committing herself wholeheartedly to the Lord. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, inspired by the life story of her patron, St. Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Carmelite Order.

She then committed herself to walk in the same path as her inspiration and role model, as she joined the Discalced Carmelites amidst the difficult years of existence for the Jewish population in Germany, then under the dominion of the rising NAZI party of Adolf Hitler, who was very hostile to the Jews and sought for them to be exterminated. St. Teresa Benedicta was sent to the Netherlands with some other sisters to protect them and provide for their safety, but in time, the fires of war caught up to them even to their monastery.

St. Teresa Benedicta dedicated herself to the Lord with her fellow religious sisters, and despite the challenges she encountered throughout the path she walked, she remained firmly in faith, even as she and others were arrested by the NAZI authorities, as they sought to seek retribution against the opposition by the Dutch bishops against the NAZI rules and policies. Eventually, St. Teresa Benedicta herself, as a Jew, was sent to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and was martyred there, as a courageous defender of her faith in God, of her sanctity and virtues. She has always been ready to die for the Lord, in her own words, ‘to offer herself to the Heart of Jesus, as a sacrifice of atonement for the true peace’.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened and remembered the inspiring life examples of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, the ever faithful sister Edith Stein, let us all therefore endeavour to live our own lives in such a manner, committed and dedicated to the Lord. May the Lord continue to strengthen us and empower us all, that we may ever draw closer to Him, and be with Him, in all things, so that we may always trust Him and strive to live Christian lives of virtue and justice in every moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 9 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 17 : 22-27

At that time, when Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, He said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. But He will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your Master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.” Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth : their sons or strangers and aliens?”

Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for Me.”

Monday, 9 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Monday, 9 August 2021 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 10 : 12-22

So now, Israel, what is it that YHVH, your God, asks of you but to fear Him and follow all His ways? Love Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Observe the commandments of YHVH and His laws which I command you today, for your good.

See : the heavens, those that are seen and those that are unseen, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to YHVH, your God. Nevertheless, it was on your fathers that YHVH set His heart. He loved them, and after them, He chose their descendants – you – preferring you to all the peoples, as you can see this day.

Purify your hearts, then, and do not be defiant towards YHVH because YHVH is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is the great God, the strong and terrible God. When He judges, He treats everyone equally; He does not let Himself be bought by gifts. He renders justice to the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing.

Love the stranger then, because you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him, follow Him and call on His Name when you have to make an oath. He is your pride and He is your God, Who has done those amazing things for you. When you went down to Egypt, your ancestors were no more than seventy persons, but now, YHVH, your God, has made you as many as the stars of heaven.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the Scripture passages we heard of the wondrous deeds and works of God Who has performed such great miracles and wonders for the sake of His beloved people Israel, as part of the exhortation which Moses, the leader of the people mentioned to them to remind them to be faithful to the Covenant which they had made and sealed with God, as a lasting promise of faith and commitment.

In that passage from the Book of Deuteronomy in our first reading, we heard of the many wonders of God Who had taken care of the many needs of His people, protecting them from their enemies and guiding them patiently through the many years of their journey in the desert. It is a reminder also of the love and commitment which God has showered His people and which He has remembered for the love He had for them and their ancestors.

Therefore, Moses exhorted the people to remain faithful to the Law of God and to His commandments in all things, so that He would continue to bless them and protect them, and that they would prosper in the land promised to them and their ancestors, to which God was leading them into. At that time, the people of Israel were known to be stubborn and rebellious, refusing many times to obey the Lord and preferred to follow their own ways.

They were reminded that if they remained by the side of the Lord and stayed faithful, they would be blessed and glorified just as God has promised to each and every one of them. And this reflects the same message which our Gospel passage today delivers to us, as the Lord mentioned to His disciples of the reality of being His follower, in what they would have to endure as those who have devoted themselves to His cause, and the promise of true glory and happiness that will come in the end.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, we believe in God and take Him as Our Lord, Master and Saviour. And if we truly have faith in God and are truly devoted to Him, then we should realise that as the members of His Church, we will have to expect challenges and difficulties in our journey of faith, obstacles and barriers that will be in our paths, as we embark on our way to follow the Lord.

The people of Israel crumbled under the temptations of earthly desires and impatience, and they could not remain faithful to God, and instead, desiring quick-fixes and shortcuts to their problems. Essentially they trusted more in their own human instincts and desires rather than putting their trust in God and His providence. As a result, they fell into disobedience and sin, not realising just how much God had done for their sake, out of sincere and genuine love.

We really need to think and spend some time to reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on the words of the Scripture we have received today. The Lord called on us to follow Him, and made it clear to us that following Him means for us to take up our own crosses and follow Him in this journey of faith, and those who follow Him faithfully will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and the fullness of His providence.

And we must realise how fragile our human existence is, and how easily it is that we can fall into temptation as our predecessors have shown us. The people of Israel themselves showed us through their wicked behaviours throughout their journey in the desert. And then, throughout history, we can see just how much wickedness, injustice and suffering have been caused by our attachments and inability to resist the temptation of desire and the pulling power of sin.

Today, we mark the feast day of one renowned saint of the last century, whose life and exemplary faith are reminders for us to turn away from our sinful ways. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also more popularly known as St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, and who took up the religious life as a nun of the Congregation of the Discalced Carmelites during the years in between the two great World Wars.

She was an intellectual who was attracted to the truth found in the Christian faith, and that led her to Christ in accepting the faith and eventually becoming a committed religious nun. She loved God very much and dedicated herself to the rigours of the Discalced Carmelite life, and as at that time, the whole world was about to be plunged into the Second World War coupled with the persecution of Jews by the NAZI regime, she also prepared herself for the eventuality of martyrdom.

Instead of seeking glory and happiness for herself, St. Edith Stein showed us a life of total surrender to God and full trust to the Lord and His will. She was martyred in a concentration camp during the war, having been arrested and imprisoned by the NAZI regime, and placed into the horrible concentration camp and sentenced to death in a gas chamber. Yet, even after her death, the inspiring life story and exemplary faith of St. Edith Stein continue to inspire many Christians right to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the examples set by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, holy woman and holy servant of God? Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves wholly to Him, turning away from our sinful and wicked past? Let us all spend time to reflect on this, and think in what way we can grow ever closer to God and be more faithful to Him, each and every day from now on. Amen.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”