Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of the Lord, as we gather together as one people, we heard about that familiar parable from our Lord Jesus, about a Pharisee and a tax collector, who went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray to God. The Lord contrasted the attitudes of the Pharisee who prayed with pride and haughtiness, clamouring and revelling in his achievements and supposed piety, looking down on others who were not like him, including the tax collector.

Meanwhile the tax collector prayed with great humility, bowing down himself and lowering himself before God and before others, for surely those who came to the Temple would be able to see that tax collector bowed and humbling himself, although tax collectors at that time were feared because of their money, their wealth and influence. But unlike the equally influential Pharisees, the tax collectors were often negatively seen as traitors to the country.

And the prevailing opinion then were obviously stacked against the tax collectors, prostitutes and all others whom were considered as unclean, outcast and unworthy of God’s salvation. And the people, the Jews became elitist in their attitudes, thinking that as the heir of Abraham and God’s covenant, they alone deserved to receive the love and the salvation of God. And chief among those who exhibited this attitude were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

But as the Lord Himself made it clear to one of His prophets, Jesus son of Sirach, also known as the prophet Sirach, our first reading today, that all mankind are equal before Him, in His presence. No one can claim to be better than any other based on their race, background, skin colour, appearances, wealth, status, fame or any other parameters that this world often used in order to distinguish how each one are treated.

God did call Abraham to be His servant, and by his obedience, God rewarded him and his descendants with favour beyond that was given all the other nations. But that does not mean that God favoured the Israelites alone, and condemned the other nations, the other peoples. After all, if God did not love those people whom the Israelites often called as pagans and barbarians, then why would He even bother to create them in the first place?

God created us mankind because He loved us all, and He has loved us all so much that His intention for us was that all of us may dwell for eternity in perfect bliss and happiness, knowing true joy and love in what He has prepared for them since the beginning of time. Alas, all of that were not meant to be, as in our disobedience, sin has become a part of us, corrupting us and made us to be unworthy.

Yet, God Who still loved us all so much, each and every one of us, would not give up on us. If He no longer loved us, then there would be no reason at all for Him to prolong our existence, and just as He had willed us to being, He could have destroyed us all and wiped us out from this world. Instead, He gave us another chance, one after the other, help and assistance, guidance and hope through His prophets and servants, and ultimately, by sending His own Son to be our Saviour.

God loves all of His children very much, and He desires for all of these to be reunited with Him in perfect harmony. And this require these same children, that is mankind, to be changed, transformed and altered completely in their ways, that they abandon their past ways of sin and be converted into the light and truth of our Lord. And that is indeed the essence of the Scripture readings that we heard today.

God does not look at hubris, pride and arrogance, and neither does He need any abstract and fake faith that was not founded upon true and genuine commitment and devotion to His ways. That was why He rebuked the action of the Pharisee both in the parable and in reality, because they were so full of themselves, that they had forgotten their true purpose, the purpose entrusted to them as the leaders and guardians of God’s people.

They forgot that they themselves were sinners too, just as the tax collector, all the other tax collectors, prostitutes and those who have been shunned from the society were sinners too. All of us have sinned before God, and regardless whether they are small or big, minor or major, all of us have been equally tainted by sin and therefore had been rendered unworthy before the Lord.

And unless we are reconciled with our God, we shall be doomed to eternal damnation and oblivion, in hellfire reserved for Satan and his fellow fallen and rebel angels. Certainly, this is not the fate that we want for ourselves, but unfortunately, as we have often witnessed, there are many distractions and temptations that kept us from finding the path to our salvation in God.

And one of the major distraction is that pride and prejudice we have within us, as the Pharisees and their fellow allies have exhibited. As Christians, we cannot follow down this path, as we cannot become enclosed within ourselves, trapped in the quagmire of greed and human pride. Rather, as Christians, we should open ourselves to love and to show care and concern for our brethren, all those who need our help.

And rather that condemning others for their sins, perhaps we ourselves should reflect on our own sinful ways first. Jesus told the Pharisees and all those whom they have gathered in one occasion to test Him by condemning a woman caught with committing adultery, that those who had no sin, ought to cast the first stone against the woman. It is yet another reminder that we have to be humble before God, and not to judge others before we look at ourselves.

Instead, let us offer a helping hand to our brethren in need, and all the more this is necessary because we have received the fullness of God’s truth and revelations through the Church, and thus, as the Apostles and the saints before us, we have that same obligation and responsibility given to us by the Lord Himself, that we ought to help and lead and guide each other that all of us may be saved together in God.

May the Lord help us in our endeavours, that through faith, commitment and devotion to the ways of the Lord, through humility and awareness of our own sins, we may discover the path to reach out to the Lord and find salvation in Him. May He guide us as we walk through this challenging path of life, and may He bless us always in all things, that we will persevere and not give up as we approach His merciful and loving embrace. Amen.

Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Luke 18 : 9-14

At that time, Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others : “Two men went up to the Temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like the other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give the tenth of all my income to the Temple.'”

“In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
2 Timothy 4 : 6-9, 16-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me on that day; and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

Do your best to come to me quickly. At my first hearing in court no one supported me; all deserted me. May the Lord not hold it against them. But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!

Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 33 : 2-3, 17-18, 19 and 23

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

But His face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.

Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Sirach 35 : 15b-17, 20-22a (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 35 : 12-14, 16-18)

The Lord is Judge and shows no partiality. He will not disadvantage the poor, He Who hears the prayer of the oppressed. He does not disdain the plea of the orphan, nor the complaint of the widow.

The one who serves God wholeheartedly will be heard; his petition will reach the clouds. The prayer of the humble person pierces the clouds, and he is not consoled until he has been heard. His prayer will not cease until the Most High has looked down, until justice has been done in favour of the righteous.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 : 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of our Lord, we listened to several different discourses from the Holy Scriptures, telling us firstly from the Book of Exodus, the tale of the time when the Israelites defeated the people of Amalek, the greatest enemy of the people of God by the guidance of the Lord through Moses, His servant.

Then, we heard about how inspiration and true wisdom comes from God in the form of the Scriptures itself, as St. Paul mentioned in his correspondence letter to St. Timothy. The Scriptures are the words of the Lord, His servants and His prophets who all delivered the word of God to us all and made known to us all His will. By reading through the Scriptures we will then come to understand the way that God wants us to walk and tread on.

In the Gospel then we also heard about Jesus our Lord Who taught the people using the parable of an evil judge and a widow who harassed him day and night, from time to time, so that the evil judge who did not bother about anyone, would come to her rescue by giving what she righteously desired for, the protection and guarantee over her share of inheritance.

In the end we heard how the evil judge acquiesced to her demands and fulfilled what she had asked him, just so that he might be spared from her constant nagging and demands. In all these three readings and the Psalm which we heard, we can see a theme that is arising to us, telling us to look towards the One and the only One indeed Who can be the freedom and the liberation from our troubles.

God stood by His people on that day when Amalek unexpectedly and unprovoked launched an attack on the people of God, Israel. He stood by them faithfully as they fought against this ferocious and dangerous enemy, and eventually they triumphed, not by the might of their own arms, but because God was with them. This was shown to us through Moses who was told to raise his hand holding the staff of God in his hands. Whenever he lifted up his arms, the people of God would be winning, and when he became tired and lowered his arms, the people of God were losing against the Amalekites.

How is this relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is relevant because we ourselves are always in a constant struggle and conflict, not just within our own lives in this world, with all of its goods and troubles, but even more importantly, the battle and conflict over our souls, the eternal soul within us that will determine our fate for eternity, whether it will be in glory with our God or in agony suffering torment for the consequences of our wickedness.

And we are not in this conflict alone, brethren. Satan is more than willing, and indeed wanting and desiring to claim us all, our souls, and bring all of these with him as he descends into hell with all of his fellow rebel angels. But on the other side, we have our guardian Angels, whom God had sent together with His many other Angels, all the servants and holy men and women He had called and inspired to lead us to the right path and to resist the pull of evil.

God protects us from the depredations of these demons and all those seeking to destroy us with themselves. However, it does not mean that we do not have to do anything and just wait patiently and quietly for salvation to come to us. In that same second reading, St. Paul as mentioned earlier on told St. Timothy about the importance of the Holy Scriptures for us.

It is therefore that by adhering and understanding the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures that we are able to appreciate better what our Lord wants from us, and which is the way that we need to take as we embark on this life. Otherwise we may lose our path and ended up committing ever more sins and wickedness that will eventually be held accountable against us.

How many of us spend time to read the Bible and its contents, trying to understand the Word of God contained inside it? How many of us attempted to comprehend the examples of the holy saints and the servants of God as written and recorded in the Old Testament, and the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord in the New Testament? There are truly many examples of their courageous faith, and also some other examples of wickedness that we should avoid.

But we must also be careful lest we fall into another trap of the devil. Never think that the devil cannot use the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures against us, as he had shown when he used the Word and twisted its meaning against Jesus Who was fasting in the desert just after He was baptised in order to test Him and made Him fall. But he did not meet any success at all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to spend time reading through the Scriptures, for the Word of God is key to our ability to keep the faith and understand the Lord and His will, His commandments and ways. But we have to understand it and read it through the guidance and help from the Church and from our Faith. That is why we should not allow ourselves to have our own interpretation of the meaning of the Word if these are not in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

Let us all from now on devote ourselves to be ever more devoted and committed people and servant of our God, spending time to read the Scriptures and then commit ourselves to do what the Lord had told us to do through His words in the Scriptures, loving our brethren who are in need, be charitable and be loving to our unloved, hated and ostracised brethren, being merciful and forgiving to all those who have slighted or angered us whether intentionally or unintentionally.

May the Lord bless us all and keep us always in His grace, that we may draw ever closer to Him and at the end of our days, He may bless us and strengthen us, and consider us all worthy of His salvation and eternal life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 : 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my opponent!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”