Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 10 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

“And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.”

Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hosea 11 : 1-4, 8c-9

I loved Israel when he was a child; out of Egypt I called My Son. But the more I have called, the further have they gone from Me – sacrificing to the Baals, burning incense to the idols. Yet, it was I Who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; yet, little did they realise that it was I Who cared for them.

I led them with cords of human kindness, with leading strings of love, and I became for them as One Who eases the yoke upon their neck and stoops down to feed them. My heart is troubled within Me and I am moved with compassion. I will not give vent to My great anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not human. I am the Holy One in your midst; and I do not want to come to you in anger.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the coming of God’s salvation and liberation because of His love for each and every one of us, and He has been calling on us to return towards Him, seeking His mercy and forgiveness, that we will not end up in destruction due to our sinfulness and rebelliousness. For the path of sin leads only to damnation, and all of us must be fully aware of that.

In our first reading today, all of us heard about the words of the prophet Hosea in which continuing from our previous weekdays’ discourse, we heard of the Lord reminding the people of Israel of just how they had sinned against Him, and how they had committed sin by their refusal to obey God’s laws, and by following the lead of their kings who disobeyed God and did not act in the way that God had wanted them to act.

For those kings ruled over Israel in truth only as regent for the one true King, that is the Lord Himself. Yet, their greed and ego, their pride and worldly desires led them to crave for power and glory, and it all ended up with them following the desires of their own hearts rather than obedience towards God and His will. Instead of following God and leading the people towards Him, the kings instituted pagan idols and worship, committed sins like that of king Ahab in murdering the innocent Naboth the vineyard owner, among many others, and in their constant refusal to accept the words of the prophets.

That was why, the Lord sent the prophet Hosea, right about at the end of the kingdom of the north in Israel, just approximately a mere twenty years or so before its destruction, to remind the people of all the sins they had committed, telling them of their impending suffering and destruction for all those sins they had done, and yet, at the same time, God also still showed His most amazing patience and love for His people, that despite all the wickedness and sorrow they had brought Him, He was still yet faithful to the Covenant that He had made with them and their ancestors.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus called His Twelve Apostles from among His many disciples, and together all of them were sent out to evangelise and to proclaim the words of the Lord, first of all to the descendants of the Israelites, again as a sign that God was indeed still faithful to the same Covenant which He had established with their ancestors so long ago. And He sent them their salvation through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the concrete example and evidence of His love for them.

But just like the prophets of old, the Lord and His disciples encountered many difficulties and obstacles, their paths faced with opposition and stubbornness from the people. There were many of those who were willing to listen to the truth and be converted, but there were equally many of those who insisted with their own paths and refused to convert. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular made the Lord’s work difficult and arduous.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore first of all each and every one of us are reminded to open ourselves, our hearts and minds to the Lord, listening to Him and His words of truth that we should not harden them against Him. Are we willing to do this, brethren? Are we willing to turn away from sin and make God once again the true Lord and King over our lives? This requires commitment and dedication from our side, and as we have been called and chosen, then we must also realise just how we have a lot of things to be done.

We have been called like the Twelve Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord. And to us have been given the grace and blessings of many talents and abilities, and the Lord has provided us with ample opportunities in which we are able to make good use of those talents and abilities for good use. Are we open and ready to become God’s own wonderful instruments and to show His love and truth in the midst of our own communities? Are capable of being genuine witnesses for the Lord?

Let us all show by our words, faith and action, in our every living moments so that through us, many more will come to believe in God and be saved through the same Christ, our Lord, King and Saviour. May all of us be wonderful instruments of God’s love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness in our world today. And particularly, amidst the difficult challenges we may be encountering during these dark and challenging times, as the whole world is still reeling from the terrible effects of a great pandemic, economic chaos and collapse, conflicts between nations among others.

May the Lord be our guide and may He inspire us to do ever more diligently, to be more committed to following Him in each and every moments of our lives, that we may indeed become shining beacons of God’s hope and light in this darkened world, calling more and more people to trust and have more faith in the Lord, through us. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 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.”

Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hosea 10 : 1-3, 7-8, 12

Israel was a spreading vine, rich in fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; the more his land prospered, the more he adorned his sacred stones. Their heart is divided! They shall pay for it. Their altars will be thrown down and their sacred stones broken to pieces. Now they say, “We have no king (because we have no fear of God) and what good would a king do us?”

As for the king of Samaria, he has been carried off like foam on water. The idolatrous high places – the sin of Israel – will be destroyed. Thorn and thistle will creep over the altars. Then they will say to the mountains : “Cover us,” and to the hills : “Fall on us.”

Plow new ground, sow for yourselves justice and reap the harvest of kindness. It is the time to go seeking YHVH, until He comes to rain salvation on you.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are being reminded by the Scripture passages we heard, to be truly dedicated to God and not just paying lip service and empty, meaningless gesture to the Lord, as those whom He has called to be His followers. Each and every one of us share in this responsibility that we have received from God, to be genuine in our faith and to be fully committed to Him at all times, offering our heart, mind and our entire being to Him.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Hosea in which the Lord condemned the actions of those who have disobeyed Him and led the whole people into sin, in retrospective from the founding days of the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, during the time of the prophet Hosea’s ministry, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah had been divided from each other for almost two centuries, and the people of Israel had been led away to sin, by the decision of its first king, Jeroboam, who established a parallel and separate worship in Bethel.

The united kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon was torn apart after Solomon’s death by his disobedience and sins at the end of his life, and Jeroboam was chosen by God to be the king over the ten northern tribes of the Israelites, and Jeroboam was of course expected to reign responsibly and with faith. However, that was not the case, as soon after he was made king, feeling insecure of his own position and fearing that he could lose all that he had gained, he committed a great sin before God.

That was because despite the division of the kingdom, the people of Israel were still one people, and although they were administratively divided into the northern and southern courts in Ephraim and Judah, but they were still the people of God, and they ought to worship the one and only True God, and that was why they were still obliged to come to Jerusalem, to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon had built for the Lord.

Instead, king Jeroboam, without consulting God or His prophets, and fearing that the people’s loyalty would return to the House of David if they were to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship God, decided to establish his own separate worship in Bethel, in his own kingdom, making a golden calf idol and altar, stating that all of his people ought from then on worship only in the places approved by the king, no longer to Jerusalem. He also established his own priesthood in contravention to the Law.

By his own pride and ego, his own fears and insecurities, his lack of genuine faith, Jeroboam had led the people to sin, and in time, pagan worship and idols were to be common throughout Israel. Jeroboam and many if not most of his successors were unfaithful to God, and as described in the Scriptures, committed what were wicked in the eyes of God and men alike. All their illegal and unworthy priests offered sacrifices on the altars in Bethel and other places, but their offerings and sacrifices were meaningless as they were not made with faith.

Are we then willing to take note just how it is important for us to love God with all of our hearts, to give our all to serve Him and to follow Him, and not to be distracted by the many worldly concerns and matters we may encounter in life. In our Gospel today, we heard of the Pharisees criticising and opposing the Lord Jesus and His works, because they accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons in His miraculous casting out of demons, and they accused Him of blasphemy and fraud, refusing to accept His teachings and works, or believe in His words.

All of these were caused by the jealousy and fear in their hearts and minds, as they saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat to their own power, privileged existence and position in the community, and they did what they could to try to stop the Lord, plotting against Him and making false accusations against Him. In this regard, they committed great sins against God, and they did nothing differently from king Jeroboam who led the people to sin by his fear that his kingdom would be snatched away from him.

That is why, for all of their pious actions and many shows of faith in public, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often subjects of the Lord’s rebuke, as they offered their prayers and made their sacrifices for meaningless purpose, as their attention was not on God, and they were distracted, serving their own selfish desires and wants, rather than to obey the Lord wholeheartedly as they should have done. And they led the people into sin by their own lack of faith and true, genuine love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be truly faithful to God and to be genuine in our faith and devotion to Him. We are called to be His genuine followers, giving our whole heart in following Him, working for His greater glory and to devote our time, effort and attention to serve Him. He Himself had said, that the ‘harvest are plentiful, but the labourers are few’ and how there are great need for more workers and labourers to work in the gathering of the harvest of the Lord.

This means that all of us are expected to give our best in serving the Lord, in following Him and in walking in His path, to be good inspiration of faith, and to be righteous and just, obedient and genuine in our actions to one another. Are we able to do these, brothers and sisters? Are we able and willing to give ourselves to Him as many of our holy and dedicated predecessors had done? Let us not be distracted any longer by the various temptations that we may have, and let us renew our focus and faith, our commitment to God from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 7 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 113B : 3-4, 5-6, 7ab and 8, 9-10

There in heaven is our God; whatever He wishes, He does. Not so the hand-made idols, crafted in silver and gold.

They have mouths that cannot speak, eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, noses that cannot smell.

They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. Their makers will be like them; so will all who trust in them.

O Israel, trust in YHVH; He is your Help and your Shield! You, family of Aaron, trust in YHVH; He is your Help and your Shield!