Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the promises of God’s salvation which He made to His servant Isaiah, in our first reading passage today, with the comforting words that God will once again cherish and bless His people, which by the time of Isaiah had faced much difficulty and many trials, and how God will bless them all and make them whole again.

And the fulfilment of these prophecies had been made through Christ, the Saviour of the world, of whom Isaiah spoke extensively about. And God has called on all of us to come to Him and to gather in His presence and receive from Him grace and peace forever. But unfortunately, many of us rejected Him, ignored His call and turned a deaf ear to His pleas to seek our reconciliation with Him.

That is why, in our Gospel today, we heard the Lord gathering little children to Himself and told all of His disciples that unless they were to be like those little children in their faith and in their lives, they would have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. And this came right after the disciples were arguing and debating among themselves on who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven and amongst Christ’s disciples and followers.

The Lord therefore reminds them all that to be His followers we must be humble, make ourselves small and insignificant, for it was our hubris and ego that had led us to our downfall. It was our desire for power, influence, worldly glory, fame, wealth that led us to a path of disobedience and wickedness, and thus these made us to commit sin against God.

And it is not easy for us to be faithful as the Lord had called us to be, to be like little children in our faith, whose faith are pure and without strings attached to worldly desires and temptations. Often, we have too much in mind to be able to focus our attention on God, unlike those little children, whose attention can be wholly centred on Him, as they have not yet been affected by all sorts of worldly matters and concerns.

This is where perhaps we should look upon the examples set by our famous saint of the day, whose life and philosophy embody exactly this call for us to be ‘childlike’ in our faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of Child Jesus and as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’, was a Discalced Carmelite nun who has been very popular during her life and especially more so after her passing. She inspired many people by her virtuous life and was renowned for her ‘Little Way’.

St. Therese certainly did not have an easy life or vocation as a religious, as she was often sickly in her youth, although she was indeed brought up in a loving and devout family. Family tragedy struck early as her mother passed away when she was still a very young child. And St. Therese was also bullied and often suffered in school. She endured all these patiently and with faith.

When one of her elder sister joined the Carmelite nuns, St. Therese was devastated but this in itself led her to desire to join the Carmelites as well. She was often told that she was still too young and her poor health also made it difficult. St. Therese also began to experience spiritual visions which would be more frequent later in her life. It was then on the Christmas Eve of the Year of Our Lord 1886 that she experienced a complete conversion of her soul.

From that point onwards, St. Therese began a new journey of faith, overcoming her sensitivities and self desires, a victory over the desires of the flesh and body, and dedicating herself ever more to God. As she eventually entered the Carmelite monastery after several more years of trials and struggles, and throughout her later time as a postulant and novice religious sister, being devoted and dedicated to the Lord.

And the hallmark of her faith and idea is known as the ‘Little Way’ in which St. Therese put forward the view that in order for us to follow God, what we really ought to do is to be faithful to Him in all things, even in the simplest and smallest of actions. We are called to be faithful through simple and little actions in life. This is what we all need to do, in order to be faithful as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have just heard about St. Therese of Lisieux today, and from the reflections of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to be faithful to God at all times, and to do this through our lives, each and every day of them. Often we have ignored these as we are too busy pursuing worldly ambitions and desires, and by temptations we faced, we have been lured away by desire to walk down the wrong path in life.

This is why we are called to be like little children in our faith, to be genuine in our faith and dedication in God, be more humble and reject all the temptations of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire among others. This is not something easily done as we are often surrounded by all these every moment of our lives, and unless we make a concerted effort to resist those temptations we will falter and fall into sin.

And in addition to that, we often remain passive and inactive in our Christian life because we thought that we cannot do anything significant in the matter of our faith. And this is where we are wrong, as even little actions and commitments are part of that journey of faith, and all of our little actions and contributions combined together, will become a great effort indeed. That is why we really have to embrace God’s call to be witnesses of our faith and as missionaries to spread the Good News of God by our dedication and actions in life.

Let us all therefore strive to be faithful to God at all times, in every little actions we do in our lives, that by following the examples of St. Therese of Child Jesus, the Little Flower of Carmel, we may indeed become truly committed to God and no longer ensnared by the temptations in life. May God help and guide us in this journey, and bless us in our every good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us all! Amen.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 18 : 1-5

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.”

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 1-3

O YHVH, my heart is not proud nor do I have arrogant eyes. I am not engrossed in ambitious matters, nor in things too great for me.

I have quieted and stilled my soul, like a weaned child, on its mother’s lap; like a contented child is my soul.

Hope in YHVH, o Israel, now and forever.

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 66 : 10-14

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

For it shall be known that YHVH’s hand is with His servant, but His fury is upon His enemy.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded that in God alone we ought to trust and put our faith, and not in any form of worldly powers, wisdom and greatness, not in any mortal man but in God, Who has revealed Himself, His love and salvation by sending unto us His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. It is futile for us to put our trust in the world and not in God, Who has created the world Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes beginning with a dramatic proclamation, ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! All things are meaningless!’ And the author of this Book of Qoheleth went on to say how there are many things out there in our world, that are beyond our comprehension and understanding. And God’s ways are indeed beyond our human ability to understand fully, and that is why we need to have faith and put our trust in Him.

In our Psalm today, we heard this presented with the words ‘Return o mortals! A thousand years in Your sight are just like a passing day’, highlighting just how small we are in the greater scheme of things, how many things that are elusive to our human perception and ability to understand. And yet again in our Gospel today, we heard how king Herod, who had killed St. John the Baptist in prison, was incredulous when he heard of the exploits of the Lord Jesus, trying to perceive this seeming return of John the Baptist, as if he had returned to life again.

This is what happened to those who try to put themselves above God, or those who have sidelined Him in their indulgence in worldly matters. They could not comprehend just how small they actually were in the greater scheme of things. To Herod, born into the family of kings, used to living in riches and excesses, it must have been incomprehensible that St. John the Baptist, and later on the Lord Jesus Himself would do so much for others, even to the point of sacrificing themselves for the greater good of the people and in obedience to God’s will.

Yet, unfortunately, this is what many of us are suffering these days, many of us who put worldly matters above all else, our pride and ego, our selfish desires, the desire for self-fulfilment and satisfaction above all else. And because of these, we forget that we live for God and it is by the grace of God that we have had our blessings in life. Instead, we become self-centred and desire everything for our own benefits regardless whether others suffer by our actions.

And this is also the reason why there are so many conflicts in this world today, people set up against one another, brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters, families torn apart and conflict raged within our communities. All of these were caused by our conflicting desires, the desires for worldly power and glory, for wealth and material possessions, for lust and comforts of the flesh among others.

In the end, what is the purpose and meaning of our pursuit for all these things, brothers and sisters? No matter how rich and powerful we are, none of these riches, power and glory would be brought with us when we die and depart from our earthly existence. That is why, we are constantly being reminded that we must not indulge on all those, but instead, trust it all in God, and do what we can in our lives, to serve His greater purpose rather than our own purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives daily, let us all discern what we can do and what we should do to be faithful to our identity and calling as Christians. Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards God, with a renewed faith and zeal that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God, at all times. May the Lord bless us all and our efforts, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 9 : 7-9

At that time, king Herod heard of all that Jesus and His disciples had done, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.”

Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this Man, about Whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see Him.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 89 : 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, a dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 1 : 2-11

All is meaningless – says the Teacher – meaningless, meaningless! What profit is there for a man in all his work for which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, a generation comes and the earth remains forever. The sun rises, the sun sets, hastening towards the place where it again rises. Blowing to the south, turning to the north, the wind goes round and round and after all its rounds it has to blow again.

All rivers go to the sea but the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers come from, there they return again. All words become weary and speech comes to an end, but the eye has never seen enough nor the ear heard too much. What has happened before will happen again, what has been done before will be done again : there is nothing new under the sun.

If they say to you, “See, it is new!” know that it has already been centuries earlier. There is no remembrance of ancient people, and those to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

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!”