Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continued with the discourse of the Maccabees rebellion in our first reading today, this time, we heard of how the representatives of the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to Modein, where the Maccabees family resided, and we heard how the family patriarch, Mattathias, firmly stood his ground and refused to obey the commands of the king, for them to abandon their faith in God and give sacrifices to the Greek gods.

As I mentioned in the previous days, the Jewish people were persecuted and were in a great danger because of their faith, which the Greek king wanted to eradicate, and it resulted in many sorrowful cases of those who were martyred, including yesterday’s story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to listen to the king’s commands and persuasions, and they were martyred one by one.

They would rather suffer for a while and then be worthy of God’s everlasting glory, rather than submitting to the king and enjoying a merely temporary respite of false happiness. That was why they resisted the pressure and the temptations to abandon their faith. All of those things however were not easily done. There were many during the time of the Maccabees who apostasised and abandoned their faith, in exchange of worldly safety and pleasures.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the lamentation that the Lord Jesus made about the city of Jerusalem, because He predicted what would happen to that city under the Roman rule just a few decades after Our Lord’s crucifixion. The city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 A.D., by the Roman legions who were sent there to put down rebellion by Jewish zealots and hardliners who rose up against the Romans. The Temple of Jerusalem and the entire city were ransacked and toppled.

All of these, ultimately came about because those people believed not in the power of God, but in their own power, and trusted in worldly matters more than their faith in God. If many of the Jews at the time of the Maccabees surrendered to temptation and abandoned their faith in God, then during the time of Jesus, as Our Lord Himself mentioned, the people refused to believe in Him or listen to Him, and they rejected Him.

What is the lesson that all of us should take note of today? It is that we should expect if we remain faithful to the Lord and are active in living our faith as we should be, we may encounter difficulties and challenges from those who do not agree with our faith, just as what happened in the Scripture passages that we heard today.

Now we have to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Our Lord, that for temporary suffering and pain, and yet, because of our faith, we merit the eternal glory and happiness with God? Or do we rather seek temporary respite and happiness, because we are accepted by the world through our rejection and abandonment of our faith?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the first Popes of the Church, as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Bishop of Rome and therefore, as the most preeminent bishop and leader of the entire Church. Pope St. Clement I lived and reigned as Pope just a few decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord. He was known to be the first of the Apostolic Fathers, whose writings were highly significant for our faith even though they were not included in the Bible.

Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively and several of his letters and works survived until this very day. He was a very important leader of the early Church, guiding it through the difficult years that alternate between toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman authorities and persecution by the same authorities. He helped to guide the Church through those difficult times, and remained firmly anchored in his faith.

To this very end, he persevered in faith, and remained resolute in standing up to the truth, even amidst difficult times. He of course had the choice to abandon his hard work and enjoy respite from the world, all the persecutions he had to face. Yet, he chose to be with God. This is an example which all of us as Christians should also follow as well. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment to God, in all the things we do.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our endeavours. And may all of us draw ever closer to Him, that we will always endure whatever persecution and difficulty that we may encounter on our way to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

1 Maccabees 2 : 15-29

In the meantime, the king’s representatives, who were forcing the Jews to give up their religion came to Modein to organise a sacred gathering. While many Israelites went to them, Mattathias and his sons drew apart.

The representatives of the king addressed Mattathias, and said to him : “You are one of the leaders of this city, an important and well-known man, and your many children and relatives follow you. Come now, and be the first to fulfil the king’s order, as the men of Judah have already done, and the survivors in Jerusalem as well. You and your sons will be named friends of the king and the king will send you gold, silver and many other gifts.”

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice : “Even if all the nations included in the kingdom should abandon the religion of their ancestors and submit to the order of king Antiochus, I, my sons and my family will remain faithful to the Covenant of our ancestors. May God preserve us from abandoning the Law and its precepts. We will not obey the orders of the king nor turn aside from our religion either to the right or to the left.”

When he finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward, in the sight of everyone, to offer incense on the altar that was built in Modein, according to the king’s decree. When Mattathias saw him, he was fired with zeal. His heart was stirred; and giving vent to his righteous anger, he threw himself on the Jew and cut the man’s throat on the altar. At the same time, he killed the king’s representative who was forcing the people to offer sacrifice; and then tore down the altar. In doing this, he showed his zeal for the Law, as Phinehas had done with Zimri, son of Salu.

Mattathias then began to proclaim loudly in the city : “Everyone who is zealous for the Law and supports the Covenant, come out and follow me!” Immediately, he and his sons fled to the mountains and left behind all they had in the city. Many Jews who looked for justice and wanted to be faithful to the Law went into the desert.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the continuation of the story of the Maccabees rebellion against the Seleucid Empire as part of our first reading, and we also heard another story, from our Gospel passage, when Jesus told His disciples and the people about the parable of the silver pounds or silver talents according to the other Gospels.

In the first reading, we heard a particularly sad and tragic story of a family, specifically a mother with her seven sons who were arrested because they refused to abandon their faith and Jewish traditions, and were brought to the king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ordered that all the Jewish people in his kingdom must abandon their faith and belief in God, and instead, obey the king and follow his religious customs.

The mother and her seven sons persisted in their adherence to the faith, and steadfastly refused to follow and obey the king’s commands for them to do what were against the commandments of God. Even though the king offered the brothers many generous gifts and the lucrative promises of position, prestige and honour as friends of the king, they still refused to listen to him.

As a result, they were martyred one by one, and to the very end, to the last of the seven brothers, and then to the mother herself, they remained true to their faith in God, and they did not abandon Him by sinning and submitting to the temptations of worldly power and pleasures. They had become examples for all the other Jewish people of their time, of how they should live faithfully even in the midst of great persecutions and tribulations, and remain true to their faith.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about the parable of the talents in which three servants were given different amounts of silver talents depending on their respective abilities as judged by their master. The master left for a long journey, and found that upon his return, two of the three servants had been investing the silver talents, and thanks to their hard work and acumen, they managed to double the silver talents attained in return.

On the other hand, the lazy servant who refused to do anything with the silver talent hid it, and returned it to the master exactly as how it was given to him. As a result, he was severely punished by his master for his laziness and lack of action, while the two servants who had worked hard with the silver given to them were rewarded and entrusted with the master’s great favour and inheritance.

Then, what is the lesson which we can learn from the Scripture passages that we have heard today? First of all, the silver talents that the master granted his servants, are representative of the faith which God, Our Lord and Master has granted to us, His people. And it is our responsibility and duty, that we use that faith, and live according to that faith, or else, like the lazy servant, that faith will do nothing good for us at all.

The mother and her seven sons in the first reading today showed their way of being faithful to God, remaining true to their faith amidst persecution and challenges, refusing to sin rather than earning the wrath of God. They showed all of us the inspiration of how to be true disciples of the Lord, that is by no longer being ambivalent or ignorant about our faith, and doing what the Lord had commanded us to do in our lives, that our faith is really alive and not merely a formality.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cecilia, a faithful woman and a holy servant of God, who chose to die for her faith rather than to abandon her faith in Him, and she exemplified the true nature of God’s faithful disciples, that is complete and total surrender of oneself to the will of God. She gave herself and dedicated herself to God, and maintained a state of holy virginity despite being forced to marry a pagan nobleman, who she managed to convert to the faith through her zeal and piety.

She was martyred for her faith during one of the great persecutions of the faithful, choosing to remain faithful to God rather than to surrender to the temptation to sin, much like the mother and her seven sons from the time of the Maccabees. All of these have shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we must be truly faithful to God, and this does not mean that we must lay down our lives like theirs, but we must give our all to God.

Let us therefore draw closer to God, and seek to be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on. Let us grow stronger in our faith, and learn from the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs, St. Cecilia and many more, how to be ever true to our faith in God, and how to bear rich fruits of God’s grace, and be rewarded as the master rewarded his two diligent and hardworking servants in the Gospel passage today. May God bless us always, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country in order to be crowned king, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

“The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.’ The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.