Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today you may think that Jesus was being uncharacteristically rude towards His own family, and His own mother in particular. After all, how could such a great Teacher of the faith disown and ridicule His own mother in front of the public He was teaching? Such are the thoughts that may circulate among many of us.

But in fact, Jesus was praising His own mother, Mary, with what He said, because  Mary as the obedient and faithful servant of the Lord, His handmaiden, was the perfect example of what Jesus referred to, as those who were considered part of His family. It is indeed her example of devotion to God that we all should follow.

We are all indeed one big family in Christ, for through baptism, on the day when we were sealed with the Sacrament of Baptism, that we were made to be children, the sons and daughters of God who is our Father. And therefore, Christ His Son, the Divine Word of God, also made us to be His brothers and sisters, to be part of the community of the faithful, which is called the Church, symbolised as the unity of the Body of Christ, as the body of all the faithful ones in God.

Today’s first reading also told us about King David of Israel, when he brought in the Ark of God into the city of Jerusalem. In king David’s example, much like that of Mary, he devoted himself to the Lord, so devoutly that he went straight to praise the Lord with dance and song ahead of the Ark of God, showcasing and representing the joy of the people in the coming of the Lord to them in the Ark.

God did not ask much from us, brothers and sisters in Christ. What is referred to by our Lord Jesus when He told the people about obedience to the will of God, is all about love. Yes, the love that we should have for our brothers and sisters, and the love we have to have for God our Lord and Father. It is pure, genuine, and undivided love and attention that God desires from us, and this is true faith.

What this highlights is that, as mentioned, that we were made sons and daughters of God our Father when we were welcomed into the Church upon our baptism. However, we cannot then just remain at that stage and do nothing. Our faith cannot be just a one-off thing, as our faith must keep growing and must be alive and vibrant.

That means our faith cannot be stagnant or mere lip-service, but like what David and Mary in their actions had shown, faith in God must be made through concrete action and real devotion. God wants from us our love and our devotion, in the same way that had been shown by David and Mary, as well as many other forms of love. Love for God must be genuine and pure, and not be mere incantation of prayers and rituals. Those are important, but they must be done with true understanding and genuine love for God.

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the greatest and well-known saints of Christendom, that is St. Thomas Aquinas, the renowned theologian and avid writer of the faith, in the many volumes of his works, he had inspired countless faithfuls, and inspire them to grow deeper in their faith and devotion to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas wanted to join the religious life from an early age, but was faced with strong opposition from his family. Nevertheless he managed his way to become a devotee in the end despite many attempts from his family to bar his way. St. Thomas Aquinas became a Dominican, the order of Preachers, and yet he was known to be a quiet man.

Nonetheless, as another saint was to announce prophetically about St. Thomas Aquinas, his quiet nature hides the true wisdom and greatness that is inside of him. St. Thomas Aquinas was a well educated person and helped to bring the faith to a clearer light through his various writings and works, as well as through his various evangelisation works as part of the Dominican order.

Of course, St. Thomas Aquinas did not have things going his way all the time. There were numerous oppositions from different sources as he went about doing his works. His teachings were even condemned at times and he was harassed at times too. But he did not budge, and St. Thomas Aquinas continued with his works for the sake of the Lord and His people.

His wisdom was eventually recognised and his piety became an encouragement and a model to everyone. And therefore, brethren, let us follow the examples of St. Thomas Aquinas and that of the other saints, that we may truly shine in our faith, through greater understanding of the faith itself, and that is why it is important for us to read great works of the faith, including that of St. Thomas Aquinas. And also to put that faith into practice, by loving one another, practising the same love that God had shown us through Jesus.

May our loving God continue to be with us and guide us, and bless us that we may continue to be faithful and loving till the end of our days. God be with us all, brethren, and may He bless you richly. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 31-35

Then Jesus’ mother and His brothers came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.”

He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 7, 8, 9, 10

Lift up, o gateways, your lintels, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is this King of glory? The Lord, the strong, the mighty, the Lord, valiant in battle.

Lift up your lintels, o gateways, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 6 : 12b-15, 17-19

So David went to bring up the Ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David, rejoicing. After those who carried the Ark of YHVH had walked six paces, they sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.

David whirled round dancing with all his heart before YHVH, wearing a linen ephod, for he and all the Israelites brought up the Ark of YHVH, shouting joyfully and sounding the horn.

They brought in the Ark of YHVH and laid it in its place in the tent which David had pitched for it. Then David offered burnt and peace offerings before YHVH. Once the offerings had been made, David blessed the people in the Name of YHVH of hosts, and distributed to each of them, to each man and woman of the entire assembly of Israel, a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a raisin cake.

With this, all the people left for their homes.

Monday, 27 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s theme is again continuing from the past few days’ theme on unity. That the words of Christ ring very true, how something divided against itself and each components opposed against each other, cannot survive or stand. He meant that for the devil, to show the Pharisees, how it was not possible for devil to exorcise evil spirits as they had accused Jesus of doing.

But He also meant it for us, for His faithful, that, we all should also not be divided against each other. We should seek on what unites us, or what may unite us rather than focusing on our differences and enmities. This ties in perfectly woth the theme of yesterday’s sunday readings, which focuses quite a lot on the avoidance of division and the importance of unity.

It is very true what Jesus had said, that a house divided against itself will not be able to stand. And our Church, that is the combination of all the faithful ones of God, will not be able to stand, if the faithful community is divided within, and divided along different lines of confrontations, we will end up be like that divided house, and we will not be able to stand against the forces of evil arrayed before us.

The first reading today from the second book of the prophet Samuel also took on a distinctive tone on unity, telling the story of what happened after the civil war that divided Israel after the death of their king Saul, and the ascension of David as king of Judah in Hebron. The people were divided between the descendants of Saul, and David who had been chosen by God Himself to be the new, rightful king over Israel.

That civil war for the kingdom of Israel was bitter, and they cost many lives. Some good warriors of both Judah and Israel were killed, and the war disadvantaged both sides. Today we saw how at the end of the conflict, the people of Israel came together to accept David as their king, and to recognise his kingship over them, and ultimately to overcome the bitterness of division which had taken its toll over them.

The kingdom of Israel would not be strong before the unity was achieved, and it was only after that civil war was ended that the nation would grow strong, and under the rule of both King David and Solomon, his son, that kingdom would grow to be very powerful, wealthy, and influential indeed. But, the bitter lesson of division continued to apply, and after another round of conflicting interests and feuds, the kingdom was split permanently in two, and the two halves were greatly weakened, ending with their subsequent destructions at the hands of their enemies, and the scattering of the people of God among many nations.

That is exactly what division can do to us, the faithful ones of God, if we are not careful. And Jesus also rightly pointed out that the devil cannot be divided among itself, and it means that the devil’s forces are united, against us! And they are united against us for a singular purpose, that is to bring about the fall of God’s people and to keep them away from the salvation awaiting them and instead join these forces of darkness in the eternal damnation that awaits them.

That is why it is important, and also appropriate, for us to avoid being divided ourselves, and for all of us to present a united front against the forces of Satan arrayed against us. That is why it is important, and very important for us, indeed, that we seek and fight for unity among us and put this as the first priority before everything else. Only when our house is in order, then we can go ahead and confidently fight the force of darkness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Angela Merici, a dedicated religious and virgin, who lived her life in great holiness and purity. St. Angela Merici was apparently very distressed when her sister passed away not in a state of grace and peace. She prayed and prayed hard to the Lord, and she saw a vision in which she saw her sister being in heaven among the saints.

St. Angela Merici also devoted her life to prayer and a devoted religious life, and she established a community of similar minded people, called the Company of St. Ursula, of women dedicated in a celibate life and pure virginity before God while committing themselves in service towards their brethren and neighbours around them.

St. Angela Merici might not have done great deeds in human terms, but her contributions to the faithful were indeed invaluable and great. St. Angela Merici showed us the model of Christian life, of how we should live our lives according to the precepts of the Lord. Yes, first is prayer, genuine and constant prayer, so that we will be ever attuned to the will of God and will remain true to His ways.

And secondly, that is to give of oneself in love and dedication, both to God and to the community of the faithful. This means to follow what the Lord asks of us, that is to love one another just as we should also love the Lord our God. In doing so, we will share God’s love with all those around us and make our communities and societies a more beautiful and loving ones.

And in order to tie this with the theme of today’s readings and reflections, as I often mentioned that divisions and feuds rose frequently because of our natural human tendency and vulnerabilities for sin. It is in our nature to be fearful, to be jealous, and to have pride and arrogance in our hearts, as well as greed and desire, that we tend to disobey the precepts of the Lord, and seek for our own greater glory.

In the history of the Church, divisions and conflicts most widely happened when the people of God, one or many among them, chose to ignore the true teachings and wisdom of the Lord, and instead rely on their own feeble and corrupted human mentality and emotions, resulting in conflicts of interests that often ballooned to conflict, not quite unlike what had happened in Israel during king David’s time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, following the example of St. Angela Merici, let us first dedicate ourselves ever more strongly to our God, and promise to lead more holy lifestyle from now on, abandoning our human jealousies, pride, greed, and anger, and in exchange, receive the love and peace from God. Then, let us continue to persevere and seek the unity of all the faithful ones of God, that our Church will stand united again and will not be divided against itself, such that we may be able to stand against Satan and his forces. God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 27 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Mark 3 : 22-30

Meanwhile the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 27 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will ever be with him and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.