Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the matter of prayer and fasting, two of the practices of our faith which we constantly do all the time and at the prescribed times of the year. And He reminded all of us to pray and fast with the right attitude and intention, or else we are not doing what is right for us to do as Christians.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? First we must understand the context of what the Lord had said to His disciples at that time, as He compared the practices that the Pharisees at that time did, in showing of their piety and prayers in public, not with the intention to glorify God but glorifying themselves and seeking for attention and human praise. And that is exactly what the Lord does not want His disciples and all of us to do.

The Pharisees were influential group of people who were intelligent and educated at that time, who held sway over a lot of the people, highly respected and honoured because of their role in safeguarding and keeping the customs and practices of the Jewish people, which they came to guard zealously and strongly against anyone or anything that might threaten those practices and customs, and all the privileges that they had earned by safeguarding those customs and laws.

But at that time, their preoccupation and excessive focus on maintaining the customs and the practices of the Jewish people ended up on them focusing on the external appearances and the superficial obedience to those laws and customs, rather than truly appreciating the significance and the real substance and intention of the Law of God. They ended up practicing those customs and laws not because they truly had God in their mind, but a lot of time because they had to do them.

As Christians, all of us are reminded by today’s Scripture readings not to follow the examples of many of the Pharisees who have forgotten the true importance of the Law and the customs they practiced, doing it all for appearances and praise rather than for the true purpose that is to worship, glorify and communicate with God. We must remember that as we live through our faith life, we must practice our faith with sincerity and commitment, not just by paying lip service.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us of the gifts that God has given us, His blessings and wonders, and consequently, as those whom the Lord has blessed, all of us should make good use of the gifts He has given to us, that we may truly be fruitful and bountiful in God. He said, those who have sowed meagrely will reap meagrely, and those who sowed generously will reap generously as well.

Therefore, in our lives we should be exemplary in our faith, and in our actions, in how we pray, in what we do in our daily lives we must reflect our faith and dedication to the Lord. We should put God as the focus and attention of our whole lives, and do our best to glorify Him and not ourselves. And today, we also can follow the examples showed by St. Philip Minh and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs.

At that time, the authorities in Vietnam were very hostile to the Christian faith and the missionaries who worked among the people proclaiming the truth of Christ. They were viewed with suspicion of collaboration with the French and other colonial powers. St. Philip Minh was among the first of the local Vietnamese to be ordained a priest and ministered among his own people before he and many others throughout those difficult years were arrested and made to suffer for their faith.

Yet, these courageous saints did not give up their faith despite the many temptations, persuasions, pressures and coercions to do so. They remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord. Had they placed their own safety, well-being and glory before that of the Lord, they would have abandoned God to gain the safety and acceptance of the world. But they showed all of us what it means to be true disciples and followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all be inspired by the examples of the holy saints of God, especially St. Philip Minh and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as they have done and do our best to be true disciples of the Lord. May the Lord bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, “Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family; there, his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness; he is kind, merciful and upright.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-11

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, he gave to the poor, his good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works. Become rich in every way, and give abundantly. What you give will become, through us, a thanksgiving to God.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the importance of understanding and appreciating the true meaning of the Law of God, or otherwise we will end up misunderstanding and misusing the Law as what our predecessors had done in the past, and which the Lord has warned us against through His Apostles, as what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, which is our first reading today.

In that reading, we essentially heard the comparison made between the letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law. What is meant by the letter of the Law? It is the Law as how it had been revealed and written down by first of all Moses, the first one through whom God revealed His Law to His people, but the letter or the text of the Law by itself can easily be misunderstood and misused by those who did not truly understand the meaning and the purpose of the Law.

That was exactly what happened at the time of the Lord Jesus, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced the Law very rigorously and rigidly, down to the letter and the very wordings of the text of the Law, often understanding the Law literally but not knowing or appreciating the context and the purpose for which the Law had been given to us for by God. They made the people to endure the heavy burden of obedience to the laws and customs they imposed on the latter.

But the Lord revealed that even if someone were to fulfil the obligations of the whole Law in letter but not in Spirit, then everything will not be complete. The Law is not complete and life-giving unless we truly understand it fully and completely both in its letter and its Spirit. That is where we need to appreciate what the Law of God is about, in how the Church has kept it faithfully and explained its truth to us.

As what the Lord Himself has revealed to us, the Law is about love, first of all the great and enduring love that God has for each and every one of us. God has loved us all so much, that He did not just give us all life, but also His providence throughout our lives, and guiding us all down the right path, so that we may not be lost to Him because of sin and disobedience. And therefore, it is only right that we should love Him in the same manner.

Unfortunately, many of us, just as how the people of Jesus’ time has behaved, we did not have true love and dedication for God. How many of us carry out the obligations of our faith and the precepts of the Church just because we want to get it over and done with, or because we feel that it is our obligation and duty to do so and therefore we do it? How many of us in fact go for the Mass just because the Church said so?

How many of us go for Mass and for confession because we are afraid of going to hell if we do not do all these? And yet, because we do not truly understand what we are doing, that is why we keep on sinning and disobeying God, as the love of God is not within our hearts and minds. We just do things going through the motions and not because of the strong and living faith that are within us.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives and how we have lived our lives thus far. Are we able to dedicate ourselves with love and devotion for God, and doing everything because we love God Who has first loved us all so tenderly from now onwards? We are all called to be loving and obedient disciples and followers of the Lord, doing all that we can to observe His laws and commandments, not because they are our obligations or because we fear the anger of God, but rather because we love God with all of our hearts.

Let us all renew our commitment to love God from now on, and be ever more dedicated at all times, to be ever closer to God and to follow Him in all of His ways. Let us do our very best to love Him and to serve Him from now on, till the last days of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 17-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the prophets. I have not come to annul them, but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change, until all is fulfilled.”

“So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 98 : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Extol YHVH, our God; worship at His footstool. Holy is He! And mighty!

Among His priests were Moses and Aaron; and Samuel, among those who called on His Name. They called to YHVH, and He answered them.

In the pillar of cloud He spoke to them, and they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them.

O YHVH our God, You responded to them; You were a patient God for them: but You punished their wrongs.

Extol YHVH our God, worship at His holy mountain. Holy is YHVH our God!