Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God has sowed the seeds of faith in all of us, and through what He has sown and nurtured in us, He hopes to see all of us to grow wonderfully and to bear fruits, rich and plentiful, and not being barren or unproductive. This is what we are being reminded of as we recall the Scripture readings that we have just heard being proclaimed earlier on.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, as they began their journey through the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, the lands of their ancestors, and a land overflowing in much riches, in milk and honey, in food and prosperity. Yet, at that time, in the desert, where the Israelites were journeying through, there were no food or provisions, in a place where life can scarcely persevere or survive. They were grumbling and complaining against the Lord because they did not have much to eat.

That was where the Lord showed His love and His might before all of His people. Through Moses He told them all that He would provide for them and for all their needs, that they would indeed know who it is that really cared for them, and how He remained with them and would journey with them together to the promised land. He gave them the manna, the bread from heaven, for them to eat on every single day. When the Israelites complained that while they were enslaved yet they enjoyed good and enough food to eat in Egypt, the Lord ‘sowed’ the very desert with the manna.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are to link what we heard from the Book of Exodus to the Gospel passage today, the manner in which the manna appeared before the people of Israel was almost like that of seeds being sown, as the manna were collected from the ground as the morning mist and dew settled, on every single day save for the Sabbath day. Hence, in a way we can see how even the desert itself bore fruits as the Lord sowed the manna there, and through that, the Israelites had food to eat for the entirety of their journey, which lasted a whole forty years long.

In our Gospel passage today, then we have heard the famous parable of the sower, which many of surely have heard and known about. The parable of the sower was used by the Lord to teach the people and reveal to them how He has given them the gift of faith, to each and every one of them, and how He then expects each and every one of them to nurture those gifts. The sower spread his seeds in many places, and the various seeds ended up and landed in different types of soils.

In all those different conditions where the seeds landed in, only the seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow and produce rich and bountiful products, while those seeds that fell by the roadside, or among the thistles and brambles, or on the rocky grounds, all failed to germinate and grow, or failed to stay alive, and were eliminated as a result. This represents all those, according to the Lord’s own explanation, who have received the gift of faith, and yet failed to fully internalise those gifts and failed to do what they ought to do to make those gifts of faith bear fruit.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because too often we depended on our own strength and on our own way of thinking, rather than entrusting ourselves to the Lord and putting our faith in Him. Like the Israelites of old, they were easily swayed by the temptations of hunger and worldly desires, by pleasures and other comforts to abandon and even betray the Lord, for pagan idols like that of the renowned golden calf idol that they made as god over themselves despite having seen and known what God had done for them.

This is why we need to trust in the Lord, as if God was able to provide food and ample sustenance to the whole multitude of over six hundred thousand Israelites through the desert for over forty years without fail, then everything is also possible for us. If we live with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with Him as our God and our source of strength, then we shall not find ourselves failing in the end. We may indeed struggle and face challenges and temptations to give up and to abandon our faith, but if we remain firmly focused on the Lord, we shall be able to persevere, just as how our many predecessors had done.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, one of those predecessors of ours whose life and dedication can become great inspiration and guide for us on how we ourselves can lead a life that is dedicated and committed to God. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a great priest and missionary, who as a Capuchin priest reached out to many of the Jews and the Protestants during the height of the then Counter-Reformation, which through his great piety and charism, managed to lead a great number of people to the true faith and the Church.

He dedicated much of his life and efforts to advance the cause of the Lord, and was renowned for his writings and works, his works on theology and the nature of faith which inspired many others through the subsequent years and centuries. St. Lawrence of Brindisi showed us all how as Christians we can walk in the path of the Lord and remained faithful to Him, and through our examples, we can even inspire many others, our fellow brothers and sisters, to lead a holy Christian life and help many more people in their journey towards God and His salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we may always be ever courageous and committed to Him, to live our lives as Christians to the fullest and to bear rich fruits of our faith, in the manner that the Lord had described in the parable of the sower. Through our efforts, we may inspire so many others to turn towards the Lord, and hence, by those efforts, we bear many multitudes of rich and genuine fruits of the faith, for the greater glory of God. May God bless us all in our every efforts and good endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 77 : 18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

The people of God tested Him, demanding the food they craved. They blasphemed against God, saying : “Can God spread a table in the desert?”

Yet, He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; He rained down manna upon them, and fed them with the heavenly grain.

They ate and had more than their fill of the bread of Angels. Then, from heaven He stirred the east wind, and, by His power, let loose the south wind.

To rain down meat on them like dust. Birds as thick as the sand on the seashore fell inside their camp, lying all around their tents.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!”

YHVH then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.”

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints.” It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat.”

Wednesday, 14 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us about the revelations of God’s truth and love for His people which He has done throughout history at the time of the Old Testament and then in the New Testament. In our first reading we heard about how Moses was called by the Lord at Mount Horeb through the famous miraculous burning bush, while in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord Jesus, Who as the Saviour of the world and the Son of God, revealed Himself and His Father to all the people.

In our first reading from the Book of Exodus we heard how Moses was called by God to be the leader of His people, at Mount Horeb in the midst of shepherding his flock in the land of the Midianites. Moses was on the run from the land of Egypt after having killed an Egyptian in defending his fellow Israelite. Back then, he had been adopted by the daughter of the Pharaoh after having been rescued from the River Nile. That incident led Moses to choose to hide in exile away from Egypt, in the land of the Midians, and thereafter married his wife and had a child.

It seemed that Moses would be forever separated from the rest of his people, in exile in Midian. But God had a different plan for him, as He called Moses to follow Him and to do His will, as he was about to be sent back to Egypt, in order to save His whole people, the whole nation of the Israelites, all the hundreds of thousands of them from their enslavement in Egypt. God never forgot about them, and He called Moses back from among the Midians that He might rescue the whole multitude of the people of Israel from their sufferings.

God therefore revealed Himself before Moses at the top of Mount Horeb in the vision of the burning bush, as Moses saw in wonder how a bush was burning with fire and yet, at the same time, was not harmed by the fire. God spoke to Moses from within the flame, and revealed to him all that He would do for the sake of His people, and how Moses would be His instrument in the deliverance of all Israel. Moses was unsure of this, but God reassured him and instructed him on what to be done as he was to go to Egypt and lead God’s people out of their slavery.

In that first reading passage, we heard God’s revelation of His salvation for His people, and then, in the similar way, God revealed His salvation to everyone through none other than Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world and Son of God, born into this world to be its Saviour and Light, Hope and Strength. Christ has come into this world to save us all mankind, just as Moses had come into Egypt to save the people of Israel. Hence, we can see how the two stories are related to each other, and how God made known to us His wonders.

In that Gospel passage we heard today, we the Lord revealed Himself before His disciples, more and more of the truth about Himself, Who He was and what He had been sent into the world for. Christ indeed is the Son of God, sent into the world by the will of God the Father, that through Him all the whole world, all of mankind may be saved and delivered from their slavery. What slavery is this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the slavery to sin. Just as the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, sin has enslaved us all, every single one of us who have disobeyed God and His will, and therefore sinned against Him.

Hence, we really should be thankful that God has loved us so wonderfully and so generously, that He has ever patiently reached out to us and cared for us, even as we still stubbornly sinned against Him, refusing to listen to Him and time again and again, falling into the many temptations in life. This is why we must be grateful of God’s ever generous love, and we must never take Him for granted. If not for God’s mercy, compassion and love, the Israelites would have suffered much more and much longer at the hands of the Egyptians, and we too would have suffered more and will suffer more in the hands of sin and death.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis, whose life and examples can serve as good inspiration for us to follow on how we can be good servants and followers of the Lord. St. Camillus de Lellis was born into a relatively broken family and grew up much neglected due to his father’s relatively frequent absence and his aged mother not being able to control his temper. Joining the military at a young age, he then gave in to gambling and other vices, leading a terrible life after he left the army, still relatively young at the time.

Yet, his encounter with friars at the Capuchin friary he was working in as labourer converted St. Camillus de Lellis, as he began to embrace God’s calling earnestly and turned away from the sinful and wicked ways with which he had lived his life previously. Eventually, he endeavoured to join the priesthood after encountering several obstacles, and gave himself to the care and the service of the poor, dedicating himself to his task, and also establishing the order known as the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm, also better known after him as their founder, as the Camilians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see here the example of how one’s openness to allow God to enter his life caused a great conversion and change, as what had happened to St. Camillus de Lellis showed us. And through that change, St. Camillus de Lellis had not only changed himself for the better, but also impacted many others, to whom the saint and others he helped to inspire, had pledged to serve, care and show God’s love and compassion on, especially the sick and the dying.

Are we also able to commit ourselves in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all called therefore to turn towards the Lord with total faith and conviction, to be free from the chains of slavery of sin, by following Christ, our Lord, and what He has told us about His truth. Let us allow the Lord to lead us out from the slavery of sin into the freedom of eternal life with God, and remain faithful to the Lord to the end. May God also be with us all the time, throughout this journey in life, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 11 : 25-27

At that time, Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I praise You; because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to simple people. Yes, Father, this was Your gracious will.”

“Everything has been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Wednesday, 14 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 6-7

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH restores justice and secures the rights of the oppressed. He has made known His ways to Moses; and His deeds, to the people of Israel.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 3 : 1-6, 9-12

Moses pastured the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. One day he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. The Angel of YHVH appeared to him by means of a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that although the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

Moses thought, “I will go and see this amazing sight, why is the bush not burning up?” YHVH saw that Moses was drawing near to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He replied, “Here I am.” YHVH said to him, “Do not come near; take off your sandals because the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

And God continued, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face lest his eyes look on God. YHVH said, “The cry of the sons of Israel has reached Me and I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Go now! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God replied, “I will be with you and this will be the sign that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Wednesday, 7 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard the reminder for us to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters, that is we all need to share the love of God to those whom we encounter in life, and commit ourselves to follow the Lord with faith, with dedication and the desire to spread His message and truth, to all the people of all the nations, in the footsteps of the Apostles.

The Lord showed His love to His people when He sent Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob, or Israel, into Egypt ahead of his brothers and family. This happened as Joseph was despised earlier on in his youth by his elder brothers, as he was one of their father’s favourite, being born of his beloved wife, Rachel, in his old age, besides Benjamin, the youngest son. As Jacob showered Joseph with lots of affection, this made many among the older brothers jealous and angry. His dream in which he saw his elder brothers and his own father bowing before him made them even angrier.

This resulted in them plotting for Joseph’s death, which was also thwarted by the efforts of Ruben, his elder brother, who tried to convince them otherwise, and by the suggestions that they sold him to a Midianite slaver instead of killing him. And that was how Joseph ended up in Egypt, and became a slave in the household of Potiphar, one of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s officials. When he was falsely accused of trying to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, he was arrested and put in prison.

But by God’s grace, Joseph became a very successful man in Egypt, as he was rescued by the Lord, and his ability to interpret dreams came to the attention of the Pharaoh, who after hearing the interpretation of his dreadful dream, made him no less than the Regent of the entire kingdom, as the second most powerful man in the whole realm just after the Pharaoh himself. And it was before this Regent of Egypt, whom Joseph’s brothers came to as described in our first reading today.

The whole land, the whole earth suffered from a great famine just as predicted by the dreams of the Pharaoh, after years of great bounty. But Joseph was there in Egypt to advise the Pharaoh by God’s guidance, to save up plenty of food during the years of prosperity, and that was how God blessed His people and saved them even many years beforehand, as Joseph would later on say upon revealing himself eventually to his astounded brothers.

This is what we have heard of God’s love for us, how even when we mankind plotted bad things against others, He changed what was bad and terrible into something that is good instead. He still patiently leads us and guides us through the right path, despite our disobedience and wickedness, all these while. And He sent His disciples to go before Him, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, to bring forth the message of His truth and love to everyone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these readings from the Scripture, we are reminded that we should be more obedient and faithful to the Lord, learning to entrust ourselves to Him and walk faithfully in His path. We should not allow worldly temptations and desires to be hurdles and obstacles that distract us and prevent us from reaching this goal of finding the Lord and reaching His salvation and grace. God wants us all to listen to Him and to follow Him with all of our heart and might.

Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those whom God had sent into this world to bring more and more of His beloved people back to Him. We are the successors of the works of the Apostles, and there are many things that we can do in reaching out in our daily living, to our fellow brothers and sisters, that through us many more people may come to the Lord and be saved, together with us. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near.”