Saturday, 24 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord speaking about the parable of the fig tree, which told us about a fig tree that was found to be barren and without fruits, and when the owner of the fig tree wanted to cut it down and dispose of it, the gardener asked for the fig tree to be given a second chance, where he would give it more fertilisers and help, hoping that it will bear fruit this time round, or else it will be destroyed.

This is coupled with what Jesus our Lord spoke about the sinfulness of the people of God, how the Jews liked to look down on the Galileans and the other Gentiles for their supposed inferiority in the sight of God, as they considered themselves as justified and saved, while the others were destined for condemnation. For God, there is nothing such as that, as all are equal in the presence of God, regardless of their race, their background and their origins.

God does not discriminate against any of us, just as all of us are equally sinners before Him, for we have all committed sin in one form or another in our lives on earth, and through our sins, we have been made truly barren and fruitless, that is no good fruits of faith and fruits of the Spirit can be found in us. What are these fruits? Hope, love, charity, chastity, and many others, all the good things that are expected to be in us, and yet we have fallen short of having these in our lives.

And when none of these can be found in our lives, how can we then be good and useful to the Lord our God? Our Lord indeed loves all of us, but He also equally hates and despises all of our sins and wickedness without exception. Just like the master or owner of the plantation, who wants the barren fig tree to be chopped off and destroyed. After all, if a tree has no fruit, what can the tree be useful for? Rather than keeping the tree to take up space on a fertile land, another tree should be planted in its place.

That barren and fruitless tree is just like us. If we are filled with sin and wickedness, then definitely we cannot find a place for us in the presence of God. The Lord will not receive us or bless us, for our sins and wickedness are abhorring to Him. Instead, we shall be rejected and cast out into the outer darkness. Only goodness and worthy things can come into the presence of our Lord. And these are the fruits of our labours in faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to heed what St. Paul also mentioned in the first reading today, that is his letter to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome, that we should not succumb ourselves to the way of the flesh, but instead walk faithfully in the path that our Lord had shown us through Jesus. We are creatures of the Light, belonging to God, and yet our attachment to the desires of the flesh and of this world held us back from attaining salvation in the Lord.

It is by resisting and learning to reject these temptations that we will be able to gain fruitfulness in life. If we want to bear fruits of the Spirit, and the fruits of our faith, then it is necessary for us to labour and do hard work, so that in all the things that we do, we uphold as best as possible, and as far as possible, the way of the Lord, and obey the Law of God in all of its entirety.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, known also as the founder of the congregation of religious bearing his name, that is the Claretians. He was a great missionary who spent many years in preaching and ministering to the people on the truth and the teachings of the Lord as espoused by the Church. He revealed to many of the people who have yet to hear the word of God, or have gone wayward in their lives, and helped to bring them to return to the Church.

St. Anthony Mary Claret went on to establish the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as the Claretians after their founder, which he established to continue the missionary and evangelising work that he had done. And he continued on to preach and work hard for the sake of the salvation of many peoples, even when his life was at time threatened and in danger.

The examples shown by St. Anthony Mary Claret are clear indications of what all of us can also do for the benefit of all those who have been trapped in the shackles of sin. It is our duty to help each other, that we help those who have not borne good fruits of faith and were barren, that by the grace and love of God, we may regrow healthily in faith, and in our actions and deeds, may they be filled with many rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, that is love, hope, chastity, honesty and many others.

Let us all commit ourselves to accept God’s generous offer of mercy, His willingness like the master of the plantation to give a chance to the barren fig tree, representing our sinfulness and wickedness, so that by realigning ourselves and by obediently walking in His way, we may be found bountiful and filled with rich fruits that will justify us and bring us to salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 24 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did.”

“And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did.”

And Jesus continued with this story, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it use up the ground?'”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.'”

Saturday, 24 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Psalm)

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

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Saturday, 24 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (First Reading)

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

Romans 8 : 1-11

This contradiction no longer exists for those who are in Jesus Christ. For, in Jesus Christ, the Law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the Law of sin and death. The Law was without effect because flesh was not responding.

Then God, planning to destroy sin, sent His own Son, in the likeness of those subject to the sinful human condition; by doing this, He condemned the sin in this human condition. Since then the perfection intended by the Law would be fulfilled in those not walking in the way of the flesh, but in the way of the Spirit.

Those walking according to the flesh tend towards what is flesh; those led by the Spirit, to what is Spirit. Flesh tends towards death, while Spirit aims at life and peace. What the flesh seeks is against God : it does not agree, it cannot even submit to the Law of God. So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God.

Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him. But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the Spirit is life and holiness.

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to Your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit who dwells within you.

Friday, 23 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard about God who chastises us and challenges us to live according to the way of the Spirit and not according to the way of the flesh. This may be easy to be said, but much harder to be done in reality. This is because we mankind are always vulnerable to the assaults of the devil through the flesh, through his many lies and temptations designed to turn our hearts and ways against God.

And if we are not careful, we may be drawn deeper and deeper into the trap that is our sins, and we will be trapped further and further into the trap of sin. And the more we succumb into it, the more and greater we shall fall. This is just as what St. Paul had mentioned in his letter to the Church and the faithful in Rome, our first reading today, that the evils in our heart assert themselves first.

In today’s reading, it was made clear of the conflict and clash between the way of this mortal world and the mortal life we have on this earth, our mortal flesh, with the way of the Lord, the way of the Spirit of God as revealed through Jesus and through His Law. The Law of God is something that easily attunes itself to us as all of us were indeed created good, righteous and just, but sin marred all of these.

This is why we have the tendency to seek things of the flesh, to fulfil our own desires first, as our desires and the temptations of our flesh prevented us from seeing the truth and the wonders of the Lord found only in righteousness and obedience to His Law. Instead, we find joy and pleasure in entertaining our own human emotions and needs, and we cajole ourselves in the pursuit of earthly glories and greatness.

And we tend to place great pride and confidence in our own human abilities and intellect, so much so that this resulting in the inability for us to recognise God’s truth when it comes upon us, because we take great pride in maintaining our own ways and customs, and we refuse and we are unwilling to change our ways for the better. And this also led to the conflict between peoples, between mankind, for the needs and wants of one person will inevitably clash and overlap with that of the needs of others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us need to understand that in order to truly become followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus, in order to be able to attain salvation through Him, we have to discard our earthly ways and resist the temptations of our flesh. Otherwise, as we have just discussed, that the flesh will assert itself first, therefore, our sins and wickedness will assert themselves and block out all the good things that we are actually capable of doing.

Let us instead, look up to the example of the saint whose feast we are celebrating today, namely that of St. John of Capestrano, or also known as San Giovanni di Capestrano, an Italian saint and Franciscan priest who lived about more than five hundred years ago, who was a famous preacher and a dedicated servant of God, who committed himself to the conversion of heretics and pagans, and to the purification of the ways of the faithful from all the taints and impurities of sin.

St. John of Capestrano laboured hard in all situations and conditions, as well as in many places and among many peoples, against all sorts of heresies and perversions of the faith among the faithful. And he did not fear even the strong, mighty and powerful in his missions, for to him, his mission was to bring as many souls as possible, out of the misery and the quagmire of their sins.

He even joined a great Crusade against the godless and the heretics, and fought as a brave and courageous defender and champion of the faith, showing his dedication to the very end, dying of a disease contracted during the Crusade, that he adhered strongly and faithfully to the ways of the Lord and to His Law, and rejected the ways of the flesh, of this world and Satan completely.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we not also follow in his footsteps, and learn how to reject Satan’s temptations through our mortal flesh and bodies? Shall we strengthen our spiritual defences by strengthening our prayer life, devoting ourselves ever more to the Lord and spending more time with Him in prayer, and also by committing ourselves to works of love and charity, especially to our brethren around us?

May Almighty God be with us always, and may He ever guide our path in the way of His love, and may He ever strengthen us that we can resolutely reject all the lies and falsehoods of the evil one. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 23 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Luke 12 : 54-59

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when the wind blows from the south, you say, ‘It will be hot’; and so it is. You superficial people! You understand the signs of the earth and the sky, but you do not understand the present times.”

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is fit? When you go with your accuser before the court, try to settle the case on the way, lest he drag you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the jailer, and the jailer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Friday, 23 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 118 : 66, 68, 76, 77, 93, 94

Give me knowledge and good judgment for I trust in Your commands.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Let Your mercy come to give me life, for Your Law is my delight.

Never will I forget Your precepts, for with them You give me life.

Save me for I am Yours, since I seek Your statutes.

Friday, 23 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Romans 7 : 18-25a

I know that what is right does not abide in me, I mean, in my flesh. I can want to do what is right, but I am unable to do it. In fact I do not do the good I want, but the evil I hate. Therefore, if I do what I do not want to do, I am not the one striving towards evil, but Sin which is in me.

I discover, then, this reality : though I wish to do what is right, the evil within me asserts itself first. My inmost self agrees and rejoices with the Law of God, but I notice in my body another law challenging the Law of the Spirit, and delivering me as a slave to the law of sin written in my members.

Alas, for me! Who will free me from this being which is only death? Let us give thanks to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Thursday, 22 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate for the second time, the feast of a great Pope of recent memory, whose long reign and many contributions to the Church had helped it to stay strong and united amidst the challenges and difficulties that came to assault and bombard the Church and the faithful. He is Pope St. John Paul II, also known as Pope St. John Paul II the Great, the first ever Polish Pope, and the victor against the threat and tyranny of Communism.

And today we heard about how mankind had been afflicted by sin, and how sin has adversely affected us, in a way that we all have walked in the path of wickedness and vileness, by our actions and deeds because we were unable to detach ourselves from our sins. We were enslaved to our sins, to our greed and desire, to all the things that separated us from the love of God.

And this is in parallel of what had happened during the lifetime of Pope St. John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla in Krakow, part of Poland. In his lifetime, he experienced and saw how his country experienced hardships and challenges, and were brought under one conqueror to another, and from one tyranny to another. He saw how his country was brought under the rule of NAZI Germany and then a long period of persecution under the Communists led by the Soviet Union.

And the country of faithful and devoted servants of God, was enslaved by the ungodly forces of fascism and later communism. The faithful people of God were persecuted and tortured, and even they had to lose their lives solely because of the fact that they believed in God and walked in His ways. The enemies of the faithful tried to snuff out the light of God’s Church and envelop everything in darkness.

But the Psalm today gave all a new hope and encouragement, as God spoke of the blessings that all the righteous shall receive, and the curse and destruction that await all those who have not walked in the path of the Lord. God shall look kindly upon all those who stood up faithfully for their faith, and who did not give in to the temptations and the pressures of the world.

Those who have followed what is wicked before the Lord shall be destroyed and rejected from all the glory and the favour of God. And they shall have no part in the Lord and His wonderful inheritance. God shall cast them out of His presence, just as He had cast out Satan and his fellow fallen angels out of heaven and down into hell. This is the hope that God has given us, and which many of the faithful people of God hoped in, even in the midst and height of persecution and challenges.

And our Lord Jesus Himself reminded us in the Gospel today, that His coming would not herald peace and prosperity as some people falsely believed. Some people thought that the coming of the Messiah would usher in the rule of eternal peace, glory and prosperity, and the Messiah would become someone like a model King who would rule all the people in justice and honour, and all sadness shall go away.

But we have to remember that this world is still filled with much darkness and wickedness, and there is no way that Satan who ruled this world with an iron fist shall just let it go without a fight or confrontation. When the Lord came to save His people, that was why Satan and his fellow fallen angels did all that they could do, in order to disturb and derail God’s works of salvation and mercy, by putting his lies and discord in those who opposed Jesus and His works.

It was not because God is a hate-bringing God or a warlike God that He would purposely stir up conflict and disharmony among His people, but rather, it was the opposition of Satan and his forces, the unwillingness of those who have followed the rebellion of the devil to renounce their ways which led to the conflict between the righteous and the just on one side, and the unrepentant and the wicked on the other side.

Thus, it was this same conflict that Pope St. John Paul II and many other brave and courageous defenders of the faith had encountered as they stood up for the Lord and for their fellow brethren in faith, against all those who seek the downfall, corruption and destruction of men, the beloved people of God. Many priests, bishops and laity alike suffered persecution and even martyrdom, just as one priest, now Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, a close friend of Pope St. John Paul II would encounter.

Priests and laity staying true to the faith were arrested and tortured, and not few had to give their lives in the defence of their faith. But they continued to resist, and led by the future Pope St. John Paul II, they were vocal in withstanding the attacks directed against them by the communist and atheistic government, and while resisting without violence, they prayed to God together for a deliverance.

And God did deliver them from harm, by giving them a great gift in the unexpected election of the very first Polish Pope, and one who would lead the people of God in the resistance against those who were wicked and who have oppressed the people of God. And indeed, by his hard and courageous works, Pope St. John Paul II helped to topple communism and returned liberty and freedom to all those suffering from it.

Let us all today reflect, on what all of us can do as well, following the examples of Pope St. John Paul II, standing up for the Lord and for our faith, and proudly and courageously defending what we believe in the Lord and in all that He had taught us. Let us all not give in to the temptation of worldliness and all the lies of Satan, but instead cling tightly and strongly to the truth which God alone can give.

May Almighty God our Father guide us always in our path, so that as we walk in this journey of life, we may be ever more faithful and devoted to Him, and in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, let us never be afraid to open wide the doors of our heart, to welcome Him into ourselves, that by our actions, we may also open wide the doors to salvation to many who still dwell in darkness. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 22 October 2015 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 12 : 49-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is over!”

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided : three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”