Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of our Christian obligations to seek the Lord and to remain faithful to Him, and to follow the good examples of faith set by the Lord Himself and His many saints. Each and every one of us are called to devote our time and attention to God, and we are all encouraged to proclaim the word of God in our lives courageously, through our words and actions, and to be genuine in our interactions with one another, so that our lives may become good examples for many others who witness our works and interact with us.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and faithful in Galatia, we heard the Apostle recounting his past experiences, as he grew in the faith and followed what the Lord asked him to do. We heard of the deeds of the Apostles, of St. Paul himself and his companions like St. Barnabas the Apostle and others, as well as with Cephas, that is St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Church and all the Apostles. St. Paul recounted his works and his interactions with the other Apostles, and how the Lord worked through their interactions, as they helped and assisted each other, and St. Paul himself reminded St. Peter in the spirit of fraternal correction, that he should not give in to those who advocated for the imposition of un-Christian rules and regulations on the Gentiles.

Back then, we have to understand that during the time of the early Church, there existed great tensions and divisions among the members of the faithful as they were still maintaining their past distinctions in terms of their race and origin, their prior identities and beliefs, their status and ideologies, among others. The Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, in particular, were often divided in their opinion and ways in the early Church, with some among the Jewish Christian converts advocating the imposition of Jewish laws and customs in their entirety on the entire body of the Christian faithful.

The Jewish people made up a significant proportion of the early Christians as the disciples of the Lord preached first to the Jews and the people in Judea and Galilee before they began their outreach to the Gentiles both in the lands of Judea and Galilee and in distant lands. The Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord were themselves Jewish, and that naturally made many of the early Christians to hold certain ideas and viewpoints, with some among them desiring to impose their will on others. The non-Jewish people however would find adopting such practices and customs to be very difficult, as many of them were difficult to enforce even among the Jews themselves, and some of those customs were also seen as abhorrent by the non-Jewish communities.

As such, St. Paul, who had often reached out to the Gentiles and worked among them, spending many years in ministering to the Gentile converts to Christianity and more, he stood by the Christian Gentiles, that the Church ought to understand their position and difficulties, and also understand better the true wishes of the Lord, Who called on everyone to follow Him, Jews and Gentiles alike. There should be no prejudice or bias in the path of following God, and all the faithful people of God should have been treated equally without certain preferences to a particular race, culture, customs and ways of living.

What is important is for all Christians to embrace the true core of our faith and belief in the Lord, that all of us ought to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength and abilities, and then to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we have loved the Lord and ourselves. What some of the Jewish converts back then tried to impose on the whole Church especially on the Gentile Christians were excessive and unnecessary, and could have even turned many people away from the Lord, and worsen the instances of elitism and self-righteousness among the Christian people, just as what had happened among the Pharisees and the Jewish elites.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray, through the prayer that I am sure all of us know very well, that is the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster. As we listened to the words of this prayer that I am sure we have often prayed for, we are once again reminded of our purpose and obligation as Christians, that is as those whom God had called and chosen, and having responded to His call, each one of us have been made the children of God. And because of this, each and every one of us should do our best to live our lives in the way that the Lord had taught and shown us to do. All of us should not behave in ways that will bring disgrace and dishonour to the Name of the Lord and to His Church.

We should also deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer, just as the Lord Himself had taught us. And praying is one of these ways, as we are reminded to keep in contact with the Lord our God. As in any relationships we have in this world, we have to maintain them through constant contact and interactions, and we cannot be close to the Lord unless we really make the conscious efforts to do so, and to bring ourselves nearer to Him, through prayers and by following His will, obeying His Law and commandments. The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and it is really up to us to renew our relationship with Him and commit ourselves to Him, through our efforts at each and every moments.

Then, we should also be inspired by the examples and good things done by our holy predecessors, just as on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish religious sister who was the visionary and the inspiration for the very popular Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God. St. Faustina Kowalska joined religious life at an early age and began receiving visions of the Lord, especially that of the suffering Jesus, calling upon the people of God to return to Him and to embrace His mercy and love. St. Faustina Kowalska recorded her experiences and mystical visions, especially when the Lord appeared to her in the now famous Divine Mercy form, with rays of red and white light emanating from His Most Sacred Heart.

St. Faustina Kowalska spent a lot of time in prayer and devoted herself in humble submission to the will of God. She also related her visions and told them to her superiors and others, as per instructed by the Lord Himself in her visions. Despite the challenges and oppositions that she encountered throughout her life, and in her work of spreading the message and truth of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God, St. Faustina continued to persevere nonetheless, and eventually, this Devotion gained tract and popularity among Christians worldwide, especially after her passing not long after she received those visions of the Divine Mercy. This Devotion is now among the most popular among Christians all over the world. St. Faustina Kowalska might have lived just a short life, and yet, in that short moment, she had touched the life of so many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all emulate the good faith and examples as shown by St. Faustina Kowalska and many other saints, our holy predecessors, holy men and women of God. Let us all live up to our faith and do whatever we can to fulfil our obligation and calling as Christians, living our lives to the fullest as role models and the good examples of Christian discipleship, loving God and loving one another with all of our strength and might. Let us all inspire one another and be the good examples to help more and more people to find their way to God, to embrace the Divine Mercy and His love for us, that we may be forgiven from our multitudes of sins.

May God be with us always and may He continue to empower us all, that we may always persevere with faith. May God be glorified through our lives, our actions and deeds, and may our every interactions help to proclaim His truth and love to others, and bring more souls ever closer to God and His loving embrace. In the words of the prayers to the Divine Mercy, ‘Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’ Amen.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Luke 11 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Galatians 2 : 1-2, 7-14

After fourteen years, I, again, went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and Titus came with us. Following a revelation, I went, to lay before them the Gospel that I am preaching to the pagans. I had a private meeting with the leaders – lest I should be working, or have worked, in a wrong way.

They recognised that I have been entrusted to give the Good News to the pagan nations, just as Peter has been entrusted to give it to the Jews. In the same way that God made Peter the Apostle of the Jews, He made me the Apostle of the pagans. James, Cephas and John acknowledged the graces God gave me.

Those men, who were regarded as the pillars of the Church, stretched out their hand to me and Barnabas, as a sign of fellowship; we would go to the pagans, and they, to the Jews. We should only keep in mind, the poor among them. I have taken care to do this.

When, later, Cephas, came to Antioch, I confronted him, since he deserved to be blamed. Before some of James’ people arrived, he used to eat with non-Jewish people. But when they arrived, he withdrew, and did not mingle anymore with them, for fear of the Jewish group. The rest of the Jews followed him in this pretense, and even Barnabas was part of this insincerity.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas publicly : If you, who are Jewish, agreed to live like the non-Jews, setting aside the Jewish customs, why do you, now, compel the non-Jews to live like Jews?

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not be easily swayed by sins and disobediences. Each one of us should not be ignorant of our calling and mission to be good and dedicated disciples and followers of our God. To all of us, we have been entrusted with the mission and calling to serve the Lord in whichever opportunities and chances that He has presented us with, and all of us as Christians have been called to do the will of God at all times, to be His faithful followers and disciples, becoming the beacons of His light and truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job the words of Job, a suffering man of God who was struck by many unfortunate losses and calamities because Satan was testing him before God to see if Job would abandon his faith in God and betray the Lord. But Job remained firmly faithful to God and refused to be swayed or coerced by Satan’s efforts, and even when his own wife and friends blamed him and told him to abandon the Lord, he also refused to do so. Nonetheless, he did suffer and despaired, thinking of just how insignificant he and his human nature was before God.

What Job spoke of in our first reading today essentially pointed out the limitations of our humanity and our mortal existence. He spoke of the greatness and the glory of God, and how everything happened in this world by God’s will, and nothing can happen in all unless it has been willed by God and unless God had deemed it right to happen. God had dominion over all things and over all of our lives, and we must realise just how small and insignificant we are in truth as compared to the greatness and the vast majesty of God, Who rules over all the whole entire Universe and over all existence.

In essence, Job reminded us all that God Who is our Lord and Master has control over all things, and truly, if we are able to put our trust in Him, there is nothing that we have to worry about. God will provide as long as we do our best to live our lives in accordance with His will, and He will help and guide us in our journey through life. We have to follow Him and entrust ourselves to His cause, and allow Him to guide us down the way. We all have to commit ourselves wholeheartedly and not be distracted by the many other attachments and temptations of the world. Otherwise, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, we may not be truly worthy for the kingdom of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples regarding their calling and mission, and responsibilities as one of His disciples and followers. He laid it clearly to them how being His followers will often mean that they had to leave behind the comforts of the world, the attachments to their many worldly matters, just as He Himself, the Son of Man, did not even have any place or home to lay His head on. What the Lord told those whom He called to be His disciples, is that in following Him, they have to put their whole attention and focus on Him, and not to let the distractions of the world to be obstacles in the path of their journey towards God and His salvation.

Often times, we allow our preoccupations and attachments to the world to put God aside, ignoring Him and His call for us to follow Him. We often put our many worldly matters, preoccupations, considerations and other things as excuses why we cannot follow the Lord with all of our commitment and heart. When we always make excuses like this, then it is little wonder if we can be easily swayed or tempted, persuaded or coerced to abandon the path that the Lord has shown us in exchange of the path which we may find to be more agreeable or more convenient to us. It is always about us, about our selfish desires and wants, and not about what we should do as a follower of God.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the saints, St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, a great servant of God and martyr of the faith, as well as the Holy Martyrs in Japan, St. Lorenzo Ruiz or St. Lawrence Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, as well as his companions in martyrdom who perished during the intense persecution against Christians in Japan back then. Hopefully the examples shown by these saints and martyrs can become inspiration and good examples for all of us in how each and every one of us ought to live our lives as Christians from now on, in doing God’s will and in obeying His commandments, and in staying true to our faith, and our respective mission and calling in life as Christians.

St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia was the Duke of Bohemia during the Middle Ages, who was renowned for his great faith in God, his dedication for his people and hard work, committing himself for the betterment of his realm and people. He helped the development and expansion of the Church, which flourished greatly during his reign. He also encountered opposition particularly from the ones who still subscribed and followed the pagan faith of their ancestors, and who plotted with the Duke’s brother, Boleslav. That culminated with the assassination and murder of this holy and devout man of God, out of jealousy, rivalry and politics.

Meanwhile, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions were persecuted greatly by the Tokugawa Shogunate government in Japan, who severely persecuted the Christian missionaries and local Christian converts at that time. Thousands were arrested, tortured and martyred, and many others were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain firm in their faith and perish in great suffering. St. Lorenzo Ruiz himself was not in Japan then intentionally, as he was on the run from those who accused him wrongly of murdering someone. He was on the refuge on a Spanish ship loaded with missionaries bound for Japan, which was then closed to all foreigners and missionaries.

As he ended up in the midst of the intense persecutions of the Christian faithful at that time, St. Lorenzo Ruiz did not give up his faith, even when he was forced to do so, amidst the most painful torture and treatment that he was made to go through. Many other of his fellow Christians also endured the same kind of fate, and many among them all including St. Lorenzo Ruiz chose to suffer and die rather than to betray and abandon the Lord. And in their courageous life and dedication to God, each and every one of them, just as St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia had shown us, have inspired us all to live our lives ever more worthily and with ever greater commitment as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to live our lives faithfully from now on, so that in our every actions, words and deeds, we will be good witnesses of the Lord and the bright, wonderful beacons of His light and truth. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless us in our every efforts and good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, holy men and women of God, martyrs of the Church, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 57-62

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

To another, Jesus said, “Follow Me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for, first, I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said to Him, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 87 : 10bc-11, 12-13, 14-15

I spread out my hands to You, I call upon You every day, o YHVH. Are Your wonders meant for the dead? Will ghosts rise to give You thanks?

Is Your love and faithfulness remembered among those gone to the netherworld? Are Your wonders known in the dark; Your salvation, in the land of oblivion?

But to You, o YHVH, I cry for help; every morning I pray to You. O YHVH, why do You reject me; why do You hide Your face?

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Job 9 : 1-12, 14-16

Then Job answered : “Very well I know that it is so. But how can a mortal be just before God? If one were to contend with Him, not once in a thousand times would He answer. His power is vast, His wisdom profound. Who has resisted Him and come out unharmed?”

“He moves mountains before they are aware; He overturns them in His rage. He makes the earth tremble and its pillars quake. He commands the sun, and it does not shine; He seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the skies and treads on the waves of the seas. He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and every constellation. His wonders are past all reckoning, His miracles beyond all counting.”

“He passes by, but I do not see Him; He moves on, but I do not notice Him. If He snatches away, who can stop Him? Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’ How then can I answer Him and find words to argue with Him? If He does not answer when I am right, shall I plead with my Judge for mercy? Even if I appealed and He answered, I do not believe that He would have heard.”

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church and all the faithful people of God rejoice together in the great Feast of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and who is also one of the Four Evangelists. St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist was the author of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which is chronologically usually the first Gospel listed in the New Testament, as the first of the four Holy Gospels. He was once known as Levi, a tax collector in Judea, who was called by God and who responded to that call with faith, leaving behind his past life and work as tax collector in order to follow the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul spoke to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus regarding the many gifts and graces of God given to them, that each one of them have been called by God and granted with various gifts, abilities and opportunities to be His disciples and followers, to be His witnesses and the ones to deliver His truth and love to the people of all the nations. The Lord has reached our to us all and sent us forth with His message, His words and wisdom, and told us all to deliver them through our lives and faithful witness by our actions and deeds, our role model and examples each day in life.

Each one of us are called to be faithful disciples of the Lord like that of St. Matthew the Apostle but at the same time we are also reminded that we have been given unique opportunities and we should not be worried about our backgrounds and origins, for the Lord called His disciples from all walks of life and various origins. Many of the greatest ones among His saints, like St. Matthew himself were once sinners who were unworthy and unlikely to be saved, at least in the eyes of the world, but yet proved them all wrong because they had a change of life and direction, and dedicated themselves to the Lord, embracing Him wholeheartedly and making Him the centre and focus of their lives.

St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist for example was a tax collector, and back then, a tax collector was often seen with great suspicion and disdain, and sometimes even with great hostility as they were often considered the scum of the society, and they were often treated as outcasts due to the nature of their work. They were seen as traitors to the nation and the Jewish society, as they were collecting taxes on behalf of either the Romans who were overlords of the lands of Judah, Samaria and Galilee, or on behalf of the Herodian kings, whom some of the people considered as foreigners as well.

Regardless of the circumstances, the tax collectors had often been reviled simply because they did what others hated, collecting taxes and no one really liked to be taxed for their wealth, property or income, be it those who were rich or those who were poor. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often categorised them together with those like the prostitutes, criminals, the sick and the diseased, the possessed and all others whom they often deemed and labelled as being unworthy of God and His grace. Hence, they were often hated and despised by many, ostracised and treated like outcasts.

But the Lord proved them all wrong and showed us all how even great sinners can become great saints and servants of God. That is because what matters is how each one of those sinners reject the sins and wickedness they had committed, and endeavour to free themselves from the bondage and attachment to sin. And it requires our conscious efforts and dedication, to turn away from the path of sin and evil, and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, as well as allowing God to lead us down the right path as St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist himself had shown us by his life and dedication.

St. Matthew embraced a new life after abandoning his past life as Levi, following the Lord and making that change of name as a sign of his dedication to God and to his newfound faith. He wrote his Gospel targetted on the Jewish community and spent a lot of time and effort in his writings in order to reveal the truth of God to the Jewish community. He also ministered to the faithful and others in Judea and other parts of the region according to Apostolic and Church traditions, and he went through many hardships in proclaiming the Good News of God. He was martyred in the end, and faced death with faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the faith, dedication and commitment which St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist had shown us serve to remind us that each and every one of us, though sinners, but we are all capable of great deeds in God. What we need to do is to embrace God’s love and mercy, and answer His call as St. Matthew and many other saints turned sinners had done. We must realise that the Church is not reserved only solely for the righteous, but is in fact a hospital for sinners. Through the Church and all of our efforts, many sinners may hopefully find their way towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the good faith and examples showed by St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist and so many other holy men and women of God be the sources of inspiration for all of us that we may always be ever faithful and committed, and be righteous and full of virtue in our every words, actions and deeds from now on. May we all no longer live in sin, but strive to be truly good in our lives, and be worthy of God and His grace. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”