Wednesday, 29 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Mark 10 : 32-45

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead. The Twelve were anxious, and those who followed were afraid. Once more Jesus took the Twelve aside to tell them what was to happen to Him.

“You see we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be given over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn Him to death, and hand Him over to the foreigners, who will make fun of Him, spit on Him, scourge Him, and finally kill Him; but three days later He will rise.”

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to Him, “Master, we want You to grant us what we are going to ask of You.” And He said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They answered, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You come in Your glory.”

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptised in the way I am baptised?” They answered, “We can.” And Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptised in the way that I am baptised; but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant. It has been prepared for others.”

On hearing this, the other ten were angry with James and John. Jesus then called them to Him and said, “As you know, the so-called rulers of the nations act as tyrants, and their great ones oppress them. But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave of all.”

“Think of the Son of Man, who has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 78 : 8, 9, 11 and 13

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us for the sake of Your Name.

Listen to the groans of the prisoners; by the strength of Your arm, deliver those doomed to die. Then we, Your people, the flock of Your pasture, will thank You forever. We will recount Your praise from generation to generation.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Sirach 36 : 1-2a, 5-6, 13-19

Have mercy on us, Master, God of all, and look on us; make every nation stand in fear of You. Take action against pagan nations.

Give new signs, do fresh wonders, stretch out Your hand and be glorified in Your strength. Kindle Your fury and rouse Your anger, destroy Your opponents, crush Your enemy.

Fill Zion with the fame of Your wonders, and Your people with Your glory. Confirm the promises made to Your people long ago and fulfill the promises made in Your Name. Reward those who wait for You and fulfill the words of Your prophets.

Hear the prayer of Your servants, Lord; hear Your priests giving Aaron’s blessing to Your people. So that all on earth may acknowledge that You are Lord and everlasting God.

The stomach takes in all kinds of food but one food is better than another. Just as the tongue can distinguish the flavour of meat, so does the alert mind detect lies.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God wants us, Christ wants all of us, God’s children, to be truly His own. He wants us to give of ourselves, fully and entirely to God, in love. He wants us to follow Him, and follow His teachings of love, the commandments of love He had given to all of us, through His apostles, whom He first called to follow Him and became His disciples.

God loves all of us, and God wants our love to Him too. That was why, in the Book of the prophet Sirach, we were told that the best offerings are the offering of our hearts, and our full dedication of ourselves to God, in love. This offering of pure love from our hearts is what the Lord truly wants from all of us. Not the animal burnt offerings and fragrant offerings of fats and meat that had been offered by the people of Israel in the past.

God asked the people of Israel to offer animals and their fats to Him, with all the various regulations and types of sacrifice, because He wanted to teach them the need to offer thanksgiving and praise to Him who created all things and who made all life possible. But His true intention is not the offering itself, because an offering given to God, out of ignorance and indifference will not be accepted by God. Rather, it is the love that accompanies the offerings, the true and pure love for God that God desires from all His children.

Remember the earliest record of sacrifice ever made by mankind, in the sacrifice of Cain and Abel to God. Cain and Abel offered their products of the world to God, the fruits of their labour. Cain, a farmer, offered the first fruits of his harvest from his farm, and Abel, who was a shepherd, offered the offering of his best lamb. The offering of Abel was accepted while the offering of Cain was rejected by God. Why? It is because Abel simply offered the very best to the Lord, and was sincere in his offering to God, while Cain did not offer his very best, and kept the best to himself, showing that he is insincere in his love for God.

That shows that God desires exactly not what is being offered by man, but the hearts of the people who offer those gifts themselves, their love for Him, is what He truly desires. That we love Him just as He has loved us, ever since He created us, and saw the perfection that was in us, but was lost because of our rebellion.

But He did not give us up to damnation with Satan in hell. He gave us His salvation, through Christ His own Son, whom He sent into the world to be our Saviour. Through His death on the cross, He redeemed all mankind and brought us into a new hope for salvation, if we accept the ultimate love He had offered us from that cross in Calvary.

Just as Christ had offered Himself in love, and out of His pure and perfect love for all of us, even the greatest of sinners among us, so then we too should love Him who loves us, and who gave up even His life for us that all of us may be saved, and be reunited with Him in the bliss of eternal life with Him. Offer our hearts and our pure, unadulterated love for Him, and show our love for God who has given so much for us, our lives, and our hope.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, do not hesitate, and do not be afraid! Bare ourselves and our heart and let God see within us, the love that we have for Him. Even if we have nothing of value to give to Him, our love for Him is good enough for Him, and in fact is priceless. Strive to always love God with all our hearts, and our whole beings. Do not forget to also love our brothers and sisters, those who are least among us, because by doing that, we also show our love for God. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Mark 10 : 28-31

Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. Do pay attention : many who now are the first will be last, and the last, first.”

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 49 : 5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the judge.

Hear, o My people, for I am speaking. I will accuse you, o Israel, I am God, your God! Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me.

Yet offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfill your vows to the Most High. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Sirach 35 : 1-15

Keeping the Law is worth many offerings. Being faithful to the commandments is like a peace offering. Returning kindness is an offering of fine flour; giving alms is a sacrifice of praise.

Renouncing sin pleases the Lord, and shunning injustice is a sacrifice of atonement. Do not appear before the Lord with empty hands. The commandment requires that you bring an offering.

When the offering of the righteous is burnt on the altar, the fat drips down and a fragrant aroma rises to the Most High. The sacrifice of the just man pleases God and will not be forgotten. Honour the Lord with a generous heart and do not be stingy with the first fruits of your harvest.

Offer your gifts with a smiling face and when you pay your tithes do it gladly. Give to the Most High as He has given to you; give generously to the Lord according to what you have; the Lord will repay, He will reward you sevenfold.

If you attempt to bribe Him with gifts He will not accept them; do not rely on offerings from dishonest gain. The Lord is judge and shows no partiality. He will not disadvantage the poor, He who hears the prayer of the oppressed.

He does not disdain the plea of the orphan, nor the complaint of the widow. When tears flow down her cheeks, is she not crying out against the one who caused her to weep?

Monday, 27 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is our Lord, and He is our Creator. He is everything to us, for without Him, we cannot live, and we cannot survive. Only by being with God can we be saved, and only by staying in His presence and favour, we can gain eternal life, which He rewards to all those who remain faithful in Him and who prove that they love Him with all their hearts, their minds, and their souls, with their entire beings.

If we want to follow the Lord, and become His disciples, we cannot be half-hearted, and we cannot be hesitant. Instead, we must be very certain in our hearts, and be very conscious that we choose the Lord over everything else in this world. We have to put God foremost in our hearts and in all our daily dealings, before other things that may corrupt our hearts and sway our attention away from the Lord.

Wealth and worldly material possessions are some of such things that most easily turn the hearts of mankind away from God who loves them. Countless people across the different ages had spurned the love of God, and the salvation which He had offered freely to all, all just for the sake of money and possessions.

But be careful brothers and sisters, because we cannot misinterpret the Lord’s true intention and desire for us. The Lord is not hostile against wealth or His children having worldly possessions and material goods, but what He warned us all against is the danger of excessive wealth and the corrupting influence such things can have on us, that it turn us away from the Lord and bring us damnation in the end.

Wealth itself is not evil, brothers and sisters in Christ, and when wealth is used correctly, it can be indeed a great tool for love and for the advancement of the cause of Christ in this world. For wealth can feed many who hunger for basic nutrition and food, and those who lack basic needs required for survival. Wealth also can sponsor many of our Church’s charitable actions spread throughout the world, dedicated to the service of the poor, the ones who hunger, both physically and spiritually.

The true evil itself lies in our weakness, ever since the day of our rebellion against God’s will and our disobedience since the day of Adam. We had been exposed to sin ever since in our hearts. Greed in particular is our weakness, and desire to have more goods, more money had caused mankind to do much evil in the history of mankind, even within the Church.

That is why brothers and sisters in Christ, do not shun wealth! and do not hate the rich! but instead do our own part to help those who are less fortunate, especially those among us who have more, in terms of goods, money, or even if we have particular skills or even love, which we can indeed share to those around us who need them more. Indeed, this world has many people who does not just need the food for our stomach, but also food for the heart, that is love. For there remains many who are unloved in this world.

Today, we commemorate the feast of a great saint, Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who first established the Church hierarchy in the chaotic England of the Dark Ages. He established the first diocese in that country, what is to be known as the Archdiocese of Canterbury, and Saint Augustine was its first bishop

Saint Augustine converted many of the Anglo-Saxons who ruled England and much of the rest of Britannia at the time, in the region we know now as the United Kingdom. He established the Church in England. He served the Lord with zeal and strong faith, and through dedicated service, especially to the weak and to the poor. He convinced the rich and the powerful to follow Christ and abandon their old pagan and sinful ways, including even the king, whom he converted to Christianity.

Sadly, now the Church in England had been divided, by irresponsible act of men throughout history, which had brought division in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I am certain that Saint Augustine is sad that his successors have not kept the faith of the Apostles. Let us pray that the Church in England will be reunited once more, and be one with the Universal Church, keeping alive the faith of the Apostles, and fall not into the evils of the world.

Then for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to do our own best in giving our all to our less fortunate brethren, be it through material donations, skill donations, and even more importantly, by donating the love that is within us. Not that it will lessen the love that is within us. On the contrary, if we share our love to others who lack them and long for love, our own love will grow and strengthen us. May God be with us, in all our deeds, and strengthen our resolve, to do good for the sake of all mankind. Amen.

Monday, 27 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Mark 10 : 17-27

Just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.”

The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.” Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and he said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.”

On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Monday, 27 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Psalm)

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 6, 7

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom the Lord sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To the Lord I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin, You removed my guilt.

So let the faithful ones pray to You in time of distress; the overflowing waters will not reach them.

You are my refuge; You protect me from distress and surround me with songs of deliverance.