Saturday, 19 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate together the feast of a famous saint and martyr, St. Januarius, also commonly known today as San Gennaro in his native region of Naples in southern Italy, where he was Bishop during the time of the Roman Empire in the early days of the Church. St. Januarius was renowned especially for the miraculous appearance of his blood, which is his most precious relic housed in today’s Cathedral of Naples, which liquefy every year during his feast day, that is today and on other special occasions.

St. Januarius was a bishop of the Church supervising the area around Naples today in Italy, who died during the intense persecution of the faithful and the Church by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, in one of the most severe and terrible oppression against the Christians at that time. Many countless thousands, tens of thousands and even more of the faithful suffered grievously for refusing to betray their faith to the Lord.

But St. Januarius did not fear the persecution and opposition of the world. To him remaining faithful to the Lord was far more precious and worthy than to succumb to the demands and wishes of the world and to save one’s life. For him, he rather remained faithful and true to God and suffer, and he did his best to help the flock of the faithful which had been entrusted to him as their shepherd and guide.

He hid many Christians and helped them to get away from their pursuers and prosecutors. He did so even though doing that would mean risking his own life to help many others to escape from suffering and death. His actions represented true and genuine Christian love which many of us would do well to follow and emulate in our own lives. He eventually was arrested and tortured, put to great suffering and eventually dying for the sake of the Lord and His faithful.

The examples, the courage and the good works of St. Januarius continue to inspire many people throughout the ages, even until this very day. Many aspired to be like him in their faith and in their dedication and commitment to the Lord. St. Januarius showed us how to be a good follower and disciple of the Lord, that is not just through words and proclamation of faith, but also through deeds and actions anchored upon God’s love.

In today’s Scripture readings, we heard about the faith that Christ our Lord had shown and which He had testified before all the peoples, even before all those who had betrayed Him and considered Him their enemies. And in this, Jesus showed us how His great love and faith has brought upon so many good fruits that benefit all of us. This is related to the parable of the sower, which our Lord Himself revealed to His disciples to teach them about the faith and what we ought to do about it.

The seeds represent the word of God, the faith that had been given to us, planted in each one of us as a soil for the growth of that faith. But, as we heard in the parable, there were many different outcomes for the seeds that were sown. Some of the seeds fell on the roadside, and immediately many birds of the air picked them up. These represent the faithful who received the faith, and yet they did not internalise them, and therefore, when Satan came to tempt them, they easily fell into temptation and sinned.

Then, there were those seeds that fell on the rocky ground, where the seeds failed to grow roots and die, and also those seeds that fell on the ground and grew, but they grew with the weeds and thistles that choked the life out of them, and those seeds eventually died too. These represent those whose faith have not found great roots in their hearts, and the concerns and worries of this world, the temptations of wealth, possessions, fame and worldly glory overcome the faith they had, and they fell into sin and darkness once again.

Only those seeds that fell onto the rich and fertile soil that ended up growing healthily and generously, until they bore so many fruits, and produced many, many more times than what had been planted before. This is because, when the words of the Lord landed on the rich soil of someone’s faithful heart, it blossomed and went out with a great force, and we know how even a small ripple of water can trigger many other ripples of water, as a small action of love, by one who is faithful can result in so many people that can be touched and saved.

Such was indeed what St. Januarius had done. By his courage and bravery to stand up for his faith, and by his dedication to his flock of the faithful, through his martyrdom, even though he died for his faith, but through his examples and life, he inspired countless others to be righteous and just in their own way, abandoning sin and living righteously according to the will of God.

The saying is indeed true, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. With the inspiration from the undying and strong faith of the martyrs of the faith, many were inspired to take up their own crosses and followed the Lord to their salvation. We too should walk in their footsteps and follow them on the path towards God and His salvation for us. May Almighty God be with us always, and may by the intercession of St. Januarius and his fellow saints and martyrs, all of us may be brought closer to God and to His grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 19 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Luke 8 : 4-15

At that time, as a great crowd gathered, and people came to Jesus from every town, He began teaching them with a story : “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.”

“Some seed fell on rocky ground, and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked Him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that seeing they may not perceive, and hearing they may not understand.”

“Now this is the point of the parable : The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it, but immediately the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he does not want them to believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are people who received the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial.”

“Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it in a gentle and generous mind, and persevering patiently, they bear fruit.”

Saturday, 19 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 19 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

1 Timothy 6 : 13-16

Now, in the presence of God who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ who expressed before Pontius Pilate the authentic profession of faith : preserve the revealed message to all. Keep yourself pure and blameless until the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, which God will bring about at the proper time, He, the magnificent Sovereign, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

To Him, alone immortal, who lives in unapproachable light and whom no one has ever seen or can see, to Him be honour and power forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 18 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard about the exploits and the works of Jesus our Lord, who with His disciples and followers went about from place to place, seeking people who were downtrodden, broken, sinful and filled with darkness, so that He might succour them and bring light unto them. This was what He had done, to awaken the people of God from their slumber of sin and darkness, and from all the allures of the world that kept them from becoming righteous in the sight of God.

Many of us are often distracted from our true goal in life because of the various things and obstacles which Satan had put on the way for us, so that we stumble and fall along the way, and fall back into sin and darkness, losing our way and he hoped that we might be condemned because of our failure to stick to the path towards salvation. That is what Satan wishes for us, and certainly, none of us should want him to succeed in what he had worked for us.

Thus we come to the moment when we heard about how St. Paul mentioned to Timothy how we all ought to live our lives in God, abandoning all sorts of worldliness and all temptations of evil. In that letter which St. Paul wrote to Timothy, he mentioned how there were people who took advantage of religiousity and religions to serve their own purposes and satisfy their wants and wishes.

And this is a clear reference to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who used and manipulated the Law of God, the laws of Moses to serve their own needs. They opened the Temple to the money changers and merchants who filled their coffers with unlawful and sinful silver and money, and they even sold their Lord and Saviour for a mere thirty pieces of silver coin to Judas Iscariot.

These people were concerned primarily about their own status and standing in the society, doing everything they could to preserve their own power and dignity, and in the process, their actions became ever more self-serving and deviating from the path that they were supposed to take. They were unable to resist the temptation of their hearts, falling into the trap of pride and ego, as well as into their greed, for more power, human praise and for more wealth.

We must learn to resist these temptations or else they will grow greater and greater, and eventually they will overcome us and swallow us, bringing us into eternal suffering and annihilation that await the wicked and all those who were not able to resist those allures of the devil. Thus, what we need to do is to heed what the Church is teaching us, that is the truth revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ and passed down to us through the Apostles.

The truth is that we have to learn to be content with what we have, as after all, all of us have been blessed greatly by our Lord in many things, even if we do not realise it. It is important for us to resist the temptations that will lead us into ruin if we walk in the same path that was taken by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. We have to learn through our faith, how to be rather humble and dedicated to the Lord through love, by loving Him with all of our hearts and then loving our brethren, all those who are around us with the same fervour and love.

This will not be easy, as all of us by our human nature enjoy to be tempted and our flesh is by nature weak against all these corruptions. We have to therefore make the effort to resist and to win over all these things that are obstacles on our way to righteousness and salvation in God. Let us all deepen our faith in the Lord and strengthen our spiritual lives, so that all of us may grow stronger in faith and be more capable to strive for righteousness just as St. Paul had mentioned in his letter that we heard today in our first reading.

May our loving God and Father be with us always in all things, and bless us that we may always remain in His grace, so that in all things, we may always live graciously and righteously in His presence and be worthy to receive His everlasting inheritance. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 18 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna, and others who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 18 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 48 : 6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

Fear not when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great, for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.