Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.”

“The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, “I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

“For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

“Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God.”

“Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you. For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

“Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you. Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour’s house. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.”

Thursday, 23 July 2015 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how Jesus spoke to the people in parables, using stories and examples that link to the meaning which He wanted to convey to the people. And in the Gospel He explained how He told these parables because of the stubbornness of the people and their refusal to believe, even though they have seen the many great works of the Lord.

And this is linked to what we heard in the first reading today from the Book of Exodus, which told us about the moment after Israel had been brought out of Egypt into the presence of God at His holy mountain, Mount Horeb, where they would encounter the Lord, and renewed the covenant which God had established with their ancestors.

And we know how the people of Israel rebelled against God during that occasion. Moses went up the mountain to speak with God and to receive His commandments and laws, and the people below having seen Moses gone for many days to the mountain, obscured by the clouds of the glory of God, lost faith in the Lord and in Moses, and they forced Aaron his brother to make for them a god of gold, the golden calf.

In direct defiance and disobedience against God, even after they have seen the glorious works and power of God who freed them from slavery in Egypt, the people sinned by abandoning their God and sought for themselves a pagan idol that had done nothing for them. This was a great insult to the Lord, who punished all those who have rebelled against Him and did not repent from their mistakes.

Throughout the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, we see repeatedly how the people of God continued in their sinful ways many, many times, and despite having been shown the works and the blessings of God numerous times, their hearts and minds were often unfazed. God did not cease to call on His people to follow Him, but there were indeed too many times when they did not obey Him and refused to listen to His call.

Thus, for their indignant behaviour and stubbornness, God also refused to reveal the fullness of His truth, and held it back for those who are truly willing to listen to Him and walk in His ways. He only showed the fullness of His truth to those who were willing to commit themselves fully to Him, such as the Apostles, the saints and martyrs of the faith, many of whom had their faith tested in tribulation by sword and fire, by persecution and oppression, and by the pain of death.

We should consider ourselves fortunate, for we have received the revelation of God’s truth through the Church and we received therefore the teachings of our Lord passed down through the Apostles and the disciples. Yet, by our own nature, we can still be wayward, and we can still close ourselves from the love of God and acting in the same way as that of our predecessors.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all reflect on our own actions. Have all of us been truly faithful to our Lord, and have we listened to Him and obeyed His will? Or have we rather followed the pagan idols and gods of wealth, money, possessions and worldly goods? Today let us look at the examples shown by St. Bridget of Sweden, whose feast we celebrate on this day.

St. Bridget of Sweden was born during the Middle Ages, and she was married into a noble Swedish family, and gained a high prestige life during her time as a member of the noble family, whose descendants were counted among the queens and prominent saints of that country. But all these did not get her to be proud and haughty, and instead these made her even more committed to help others around her using what she had to assist those who were poor and suffering.

She joined religious life after her husband was deceased, and she ventured to help many of the poor and less fortunate in the society around her. And she travelled in well-known pilgrimages to sites such as Jerusalem and Rome to garner support for her efforts to help the plight of the poor. She was renowned for her great piety and dedication to the Lord and to her fellow men, even though she was born into privilege and had once lived a life in power.

The examples and the charitable works of St. Bridget of Sweden should inspire us all to live like she had done, resisting the temptations of the flesh and this world, and instead seek to devote ourselves in faith to the Lord our God. The choice is ours alone, whether we would be like the people of God of old, who have seen what great things the Lord had done, and refused to believe, or for us to accept Him as our Lord and God.

God will bless all those who have kept their faith in Him, and He will graciously grant the needs of those who placed their trust in Him. Thus, let us all pray so that He may strengthen in us the faith which we ought to have for Him. Let us all devote ourselves ever more to our Lord and God who had given so much for our sake.

May Almighty God, through the intercession of St. Bridget of Sweden, help us on this path of life, that we may find Him and be blessed by His grace forevermore. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 23 July 2015 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has, will be given more and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has.”

“That is why I speak to them in parables, because they look and do not see; they hear, but they do not listen or understand. In the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive.”

“For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”

“For I tell you that many prophets and upright people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them, and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 23 July 2015 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Daniel 3 : 52a, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You who fathom the depths, who are enthroned on the cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Thursday, 23 July 2015 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Exodus 19 : 1-2, 9-11, 16-20b

Exactly two months after the Israelites had left Egypt, they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai. They arrived there coming from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.

YHVH spoke to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud so that the people may hear Me speaking with you and trust you always.” Then Moses related to YHVH what the people had said. Again YHVH spoke to Moses, “Go to the people and have them sanctified today and tomorrow; let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day YHVH will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled. Moses then made the people leave the camp to meet God and stand at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because YHVH had come down in fire, and the smoke rose as from a furnace. The whole mountain shook violently, while the blast of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke and God replied in thunder. When YHVH had come down to the summit of Mount Sinai, God called Moses who went to the summit.