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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of YHVH; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone, are the God Who works wonders, Who has made known His power to the nations.

With power, You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people, as a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 4 : 32-40

Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of the world to the other : Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire?

Never has there been a God Who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm. Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by YHVH in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes.

You saw this that you might know that YHVH is God and that there is no other besides Him. He let you hear His voice from heaven that you might fear Him; on earth He let you see His blazing fire and from the midst of the fire you heard His word. Because of the love He had for our fathers, He chose their descendants after them, and He Himself made you leave Egypt with His great power.

He expelled before you peoples more numerous and stronger than you, and He has made you occupy their land : today He has given this to you as an inheritance. Therefore, try to be convinced that YHVH is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today, and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which YHVH, your God, gives you forever.

Thursday, 9 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the readings from the Scriptures today remind us of the renewal of God’s loving Covenant with all of us, His people, through what He has spoken via the prophet Jeremiah. The prophet mentioned about God having shown His mercy to His people whom He would gather and forgive, as He is their God and He no longer remembered their sins.

That is precisely just how wonderful is His love for us, and how great His mercy is for us. He has shown all of us, each one of us His magnificent and compassionate heart, always filled with love for us and desiring to forgive us from our sins and disobedience. God has given us this great grace through none other than His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Saviour and our Hope.

And in today’s Gospel, we heard of the account of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles, in which He asked them Who they heard the people thought He was. And they all gave many answers, of the prophets and various holy people God has sent into the world. Then, Jesus asked them again, personally, Who they thought He truly was, and St. Peter answered with courage and faith, that He is the Son of God, Messiah and Saviour.

The Lord Jesus saw the faith in St. Peter and through that faith, He entrusted to him the governance and shepherding of His whole Church, as the foundation of that same Church He established in this world. St. Peter and the other Apostles are the strong base and foundation of this Church through which God exercised His authority and power to bring all mankind away from damnation because of their sins.

He gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and by this act, He gave His Church the authority and the ability to bring souls towards salvation and liberation from the bondage to their sins and disobedience. He has given all of us the obligation and duty to help our fellow brethren, all those who are still lost to the Lord and separated from His grace and love.

Therefore, each and every one of us are called to live our lives with faith and devotion to the Lord, so that by our exemplary attitude and actions, we may inspire many others to live their lives with faith to the fullest as well. And today, we celebrate the feast of one of our holy and good predecessor in faith, who has shown great faith in her life and in her actions. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also better known as St. Edith Stein, is truly an example for all of us.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was once a Jewish woman and later on atheist, who was a philosopher, and having the chance to encounter the Christian faith and truth, and eventually having found the truth in the Christian faith, she turned to the faith and became a Christian. Her pursuit of the truth and the knowledge of God eventually inspired her to join a religious order, and she became a Carmelite nun.

She lived her vocation faithfully and was involved in educating the young in the community. However, at that time, in Germany where St. Teresa Benedicta lived, rising anti-Jewish sentiments stoked by the NAZI party was growing stronger and stronger, eventually culminating in their takeover of power in Germany. Thus began the infamous persecution and genocide of the Jews that in the end caused millions to perish throughout Europe and beyond.

St. Teresa Benedicta, being born racially as a Jew, did not escape this fate, and she together with many others were arrested and eventually brought to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp and was martyred just days later through gassing in the gas chamber. The story of her piety, courage and commitment to the cause of her faith even amidst persecution and challenges continue to inspire many people right down to this time and era.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if St. Teresa Benedicta was able to commit herself to live faithfully to the message of the Gospel of Christ, why can’t we then do the same with our own lives? Why can’t we devote ourselves in the same manner as those who have gone before us, and showed us what it means to become a holy disciple and follower of God? We must realise that all of us have an obligation to do what the Lord had told us to do, and to live our lives to the best of our abilities, as those who walk in God’s path.

May God be with us in this journey of faith and life, may He empower each one of us to live ever more in accordance with His will, day after day. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 9 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”