Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 5 : 21-43

At that time, Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake, and while He was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around Him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at His feet, and begged Him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.”

Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing from every side. Among the crowd was a woman, who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind Him and touched His cloak, thinking, “If I just touch His clothing, I shall get well.” Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint.

But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched My clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do You ask who touched You?”

But He kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before Him, and told Him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at Him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and His companions into the room, where the child lay.

Taking her by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha, kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old). The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and He told them to give her something to eat.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 21 : 26b-27, 28, 30ab, 30c-32

I will fulfil my vows before all who revere You. The lowly will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise Him. May your hearts live forever!

The whole earth will acknowledge and turn to the Lord; the families of nations will worship Him.

Before Him all those who rest in the earth will bow down, all who go down to the dust.

My soul will live for Him. My descendants will serve Him and proclaim the Lord to coming generations; they will announce His salvation to a people yet unborn, “These are the things that He has done.”

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 12 : 1-4

What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us.

Let us look to Jesus the Founder of our faith, Who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus Who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary.

Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all reminded that God gave strength to His people, His servants and followers, granting them the courage and power to endure challenges, trials and tribulations in their paths, and enabling them to follow Him with faith and commitment. God has given them all His strength, wisdom and guidance, and empowered them to serve Him and His people in great and mighty ways, in various means throughout history, by using the examples that is contained within the Scriptures to remind us of how He has blessed us and our predecessors so much, and how He has also sent His own Beloved Son, into our midst, to be our Saviour and as the One to deliver us from the hands of Satan and his evil forces.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author spoke of the examples of the Judges and Kings, the faithful servants of God who had served the Lord in the past, including the famous King David himself, and pointed out to his targeted audience, the Jewish people or the Hebrews living in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere, that the Lord had called ordinary people, who were from unassuming, unknown background, as shown by where those Judges and King David himself were called from, and the circumstances in which they were called, in which they were empowered by God to carry out magnificent deeds for the glory of His Name and for the good of His people. The Lord had called on the ordinary to do extraordinary deeds on His behalf in this world.

The author of this Epistle also wanted to remind the people of God, mainly the Jewish people, whether converts to the faith or not, and even those who were Gentiles that became believers in the Lord, that each and every one of them had been called to the same mission and path in life as their holy and great predecessors, not withstanding and regardless of their background and origins. What matters is not how great they were or how powerful and influential they were in this life, but rather, how faithful, committed and trusting they are in God’s power and providence, and how faithful they are to His commandments, His Law and teachings. Without all of these and without God to guide and lead us, we are nothing, and we will easily fall prey into the assaults of those who seek to destroy us, Satan and all of his fellow fallen angels and evil spirits, all seeking our downfall and doom.

Each and every one of us as Christians are called to the same mission and calling as those whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had mentioned, to serve the Lord and to follow His path faithfully in our own lives, allowing God to lead us and to guide us to wherever and whatever He wants us to do with our lives in each and every possible moments. He wants each one of us as Christians to be good and righteous, worthy and dedicated to Him, as role models and inspirations to each other in how we live our lives so that we may help one another to remain firm in our faith, and we cannot be idle in living our lives with true, genuine and strong Christian faith, with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with us always ever caring about the needs of others, our fellow brethren all around us.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the famous parable of the Lord driving the evil spirits out of a man possessed by many evil spirits in the region of the Gerasenes. He has been living in the wilderness for a long time because of his possession by those same evil spirits, and the people feared him because of that. He could not return to the community because of his condition, shunned and cast out from the rest of the community. But the Lord willingly came to him and approached him, wanting this man to be healed from his affliction, and authoritatively ordered those evil spirits to get out of him, and sending them to the flock of pigs that were there, grazing for food. The man was therefore healed from his troubles, and could return to his community. But the herders were afraid of him, and with the local populace, begged Him to depart from their lands.

The significance of this account of the exorcism of the possessed man and the casting out of the demons into the pigs are plenty, but first of all, it highlighted the love that God has for each and every one of us, in reaching out even to the most abandoned, ostracised and rejected ones among us, and showing us that even the most ordinary and seemingly unworthy ones among us, like that of the possessed man, is worthy of God’s salvation and grace. We must not give up or thinking that leading a good and holy life is impossible simply because we think that we are not good enough for God, or that others are doing way better than us, and that we are less worthy than they are. God does not judge us based on all that. What is important is our love and desire for ourselves to return to Him, and to love Him, and this is a process that each one of us are going through right now in our lives, together with the Lord by our side.

Then, the symbolism of the evil spirits being cast out into the herd of pigs is also significant in that, in the end, our human lives and existence, even just a single one, is far more worth than any other worldly and material things. Those pig herders and others rightfully feared the Lord and begged Him to leave their lands because He had just caused them a lot of monetary losses. However, all these happened so that the man, who had been cast out, abandoned, rejected and feared by everyone else in that area, could be saved, and could be returned to his community, and not wander off in the wilderness, treated way less than even those animals and herds. It is a reminder that our human existence and lives, each and every one of us are important and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

That moment was also a symbolism that in the end, Satan and all of his wicked forces, the evil spirits and demons, all will face their downfall and ultimate defeat just as the pigs were all running down the cliff and perished. It is a reminder for all of us that no matter how challenging and tough our lives may be, and how difficult it may be for us to remain faithful to the Lord, in the end, if we remain truly faithful to Him and remain committed in Him, we shall be triumphant with Him in the end, and we should not worry about the persecution, trials and challenges from the world, and from all those wicked forces and evil spirits. Again, that is because all of us are truly precious to the Lord, and each one of us are important to Him. We must never underestimate ourselves and our capacity and the opportunities we have been given for conversion and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now what matters in the end is our desire to live our lives worthily of the Lord and the drive in our hearts and minds to obey the words of the Lord and to walk in His path at all times. We are reminded that all of us are truly precious in the eyes of the Lord, and all of us will be strengthened and guided by God if we continue to put our trust in Him, and if we allow Him to lead the way for us, and if we steadfastly continue to follow Him despite the many pressures, temptations and challenges that try to keep and distract us from following the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly. Let us all assist each other and help one another in doing our best to keep us all aligned and rooted in the path that God has led us through, and may all of us continue to strive to do our best in living our lives faithfully, in each and every moments of our lives.

May God be with us always and may He continue to bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. May He help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and devotion, in our righteousness and virtues, and in all of our qualities as good and faithful Christians, at all times. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains, but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him.

Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with Me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!”

He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Come out of the man, evil spirit!” And when Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region.

Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff, and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and the countryside, so all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 30 : 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

How great is the goodness which You have stored for those who fear You, which You show, for all to see, in those who take refuge in You!

In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling, safe from the intrigues of wagging tongues.

Blessed be the Lord for His wonderful love! He has strengthened my heart.

I said in my fright : “I have been cut off from Your sight!” Yet when I was crying, You heard; when I called for mercy, You listened.

Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves His faithful, but He fully requites the arrogant.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 11 : 32-40

Do I need to say more? There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfilment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the sword, were healed of their sicknesses; they were weak people who were given strength to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders.

Some women recovered their dead by resurrection but there were others – persecuted and tortured believers – who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them. Others suffered chain and prison. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They fled from place to place with no other clothing than the skins of sheep and goats, lacking everything, afflicted, ill-treated.

These people of whom the world was not worthy had to wander through wastelands and mountains, and take refuge in the dens of the land. However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise because God had is in mind and saw beyond. And He did not want them to reach perfection except with us.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us as Christians we are all reminded to be ever more righteous and committed to the path which the Lord has shown and taught us all, and each one of us are called to embody what the Lord taught His disciples and hence all of us, as He laid out for us in the Eight Beatitudes that we heard in our Gospel passage today. Each one of us as Christians are expected to be exemplary in our lives and we are all reminded that our actions and way of life do affect others and can either be an inspiration to one another to follow or can instead be a source of scandal for the Lord and His Church.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the about the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah, a prophet who lived and ministered during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of that kingdom and in the last decades of Judah as an independent entity. Zephaniah called on the people of the Lord to be meek, humble and just, as well as to seek refuge in the Lord so that on the Day of Judgment, they may truly find rest and consolation in God, their Hope and their Strength. Zephaniah spoke of these in the context of how the people of God in the past centuries before that time had often refused to obey the Lord and His words, and had acted proudly and with ambition, seeking worldly glory and satisfaction, all of which led them down the path of sin.

And due to their sins, they had been sundered from God’s grace and love, and suffered the consequences of their sins. They had been defeated, crushed and conquered by their enemies, their cities and towns destroyed and burnt, their houses and dwelling places turned upside down and occupied by the others brought in to dwell in their lands. Many of the people of God themselves were also brought into exile as what happened when the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of the people of God, were destroyed by the Assyrians, and many of its people were brought away to distant lands by the victorious Assyrians. This happened just a few decades before the time of the prophet Zephaniah and his ministry.

Hence, what Zephaniah delivered before the people is a reminder to the people that each one of them ought to return once again to the path that God has shown them, to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide and lead them down the right path instead of insisting on walking down the path of rebelliousness, pride, greed and ambition that many of their ancestors had taken. Zephaniah assured them of the Lord’s guidance and that if they remained faithful in God, then the Lord would provide for them and that they would be preserved and protected. They would once again be God’s people and they would be restored once again to their honourable state and position. Unfortunately, the people of God lapsed again into sinful ways after King Josiah passed on, rebelling against God and hardening their hearts against Him, eventually leading to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, much like how the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel earlier on.

In our second reading passage today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth, in which he told them how God chose the seemingly weak and unimportant people to receive His grace and salvation, and how God will strengthen and give His grace, wisdom and strength to the weak and the humble, all so that they can indeed gain glory through the Lord, and be saved, as opposed to the proud and the haughty, all those who trusted in their own power and greatness more than they trust in the Lord and His providence. The Apostle hence reminded the people of God not to follow the path of worldliness, greed, pride and ambition, which the world advocates, but to follow the Lord and the path He has shown us all and taught to us.

That brings us now to the Eight Beatitudes itself, which the Lord pointed out in His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as detailed in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes highlighted to us some of the great virtues that all of us as God’s faithful and righteous people ought to have in our lives. Unless we live our lives according to the Beatitudes, we cannot truly call ourselves as true and genuine Christians, as if we profess to have faith in God and yet, our actions are otherwise, and in opposition to what He has presented in the Beatitudes, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. Through His presentation of the Beatitudes, the Lord is exhorting and reminding us all to model our lives based on the Beatitudes, to be good and righteous just as He is good and righteous.

As we heard from the Beatitudes, the virtues of being a Christian is essentially to be able to put God as the focus and centre of our lives and existence, and removing from ourselves the taint of pride and ego, to put the need of others and our fellow brothers and sisters around us ahead of our own selfish desires, ambition and greed. A good Christian and a good follower of the Lord is someone who seeks the Lord with all of his or her heart and strength, who loves Him and who desires to obey Him and His will, and who wants to walk with Him in the path of righteousness, justice and peace. That is what is meant by being poor in spirit, as it refers to our internal desire to let God come into our lives and transform us to be His righteous and good servants, realising the limitations of our own human power and ability.

And allowing God to lead us, all of us ought then to seek for a good and holy life, one that is filled with the same love that God has for each one of us, in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, in seeking peace and harmony between all the peoples, and in doing what is right and just in every opportunities available to us, and in enduring the persecutions, challenges and trials that may come our way in the midst of our journey as Christians wandering through this world filled with sin, evil and darkness. We should be good examples and role models for one another, living our lives faithfully and commit ourselves each day with faith, so that all others who witness our actions and hear our words, see our way of life, may all come to believe in God and know Him as well through us.

The Lord Himself has said and reassured us that if we live in the way that He has taught and shown us, in the way of the Beatitudes, then we truly will be blessed and be filled with His grace, and on the Day of Judgment, mercy and love shall be shown us, as the gates of Heaven and eternal life will surely be opened to us. However, if we continue to persist in our state of sin, in our disobedience and rebellion against God, then we will end up falling deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation and destruction, as what had happened to many among our predecessors. And if we recall what we have just discussed earlier on, all these were caused by their failure to adhere to the values and virtues espoused in the Beatitudes. As good Christians, we truly need to live our lives according to the Beatitudes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best (if we have not done so yet) to live our lives according to the Beatitudes. Let us all be that examples of virtue and love, of righteousness and justice in our daily actions and living, so that by our faith and dedication to God, we may continue to inspire one another in living our Christian lives faithfully, and we may also remain humble and committed to the Lord, and not be easily swayed by the many worldly temptations all around us, which can indeed mislead us down the wrong path in life. Let us all resist those many temptations and attachments we may have to worldly vices and evils, and get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly matters and desires, so that we may indeed grow ever closer to the Lord and be ever more worthy of Him and His grace and salvation.

May God be with us all and may He empower all of us with the strength and courage, the virtues and the goodness in us so that we may truly walk in the path of His Beatitudes, ever reminding ourselves to be good and righteous in all things and at all opportunities available to us. May He show us His love always and may all of us continue to live worthily in His Presence, loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may all inspire one another to get ever closer to the Lord, our Saviour and loving Father. May God bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all of our actions and dealings, interactions and more. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become our wisdom from God, and Who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.