Sunday, 27 July 2014 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are fielded with a good question, one that asks us and looks deep into the depths of our souls, hearts and minds. It is this question, ‘What is truly precious to us in our life?’ And this asks us exactly what we consider as something precious and to be guarded well in our lives.

There are many things that mankind find precious in life. Yes, some of the examples are wealth, possessions, family, loved ones, and many other things. To different people, these may command different level of preciousness. Yet, it is quire common for many of us to treasure wealth, possession, fame and standing in the society as things truly precious to us. This is especially more so in our world today, which is filled with greed and evil.

In the first reading today, we heard about the story of young King Solomon of Israel, just after he had succeeded to the throne from King David his father. This is a story how King Solomon prayed for wisdom before the Lord when the Lord offered to him all the things that he desired to have. King Solomon is renowned for his incomparable wisdom, in the story how he settled the issue of two mothers who are claiming to be the mother of the same baby.

God did not just give great wisdom, intellect and understanding to King Solomon, but as He Himself mentioned to the king, He granted him more than just what he had asked for, just because in his humility and meekness, he asked not for the wealth or power of the world, but for wisdom and understanding of things good and evil. God saw this and granted him what he had asked for, and in addition to that, all the others that he had not asked for.

But the example of Solomon is an example of how mankind can be corrupted by our desire and our greed. Our pride and desire will come in the way of righteousness, and prevent us from thinking and feeling rationally. Solomon grew wise and great, but he also gained much power and wealth during his long reign as king of Israel. If we read the first part of the Second Book of Kings, it would be clear how much wealth and greatness and fame that King Solomon had attained in his reign.

King Solomon was great, and his reign, together with that of King David his father was seen by all the people as the golden age of Israel, when the people of God were in the peak of their glory and power. However, with great power comes great responsibility, as well as great temptation and corruption. We know the phrase, that power corrupts, great power corrupts greatly, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is what exactly happened to Solomon, as well as many of the kings who followed after him in both Israel and Judah.

When mankind began to gain power and goodness such as wealth and possession, they can be tempted to get more and more, often by means that are wicked and unjust in nature. This is how Solomon also fell into sin and failed to live up to the expectations and failed to follow God in the same way as his father, king David had done.

But this does not mean that this is limited to the case of king Solomon or anyone who is powerful and rich. All of us are prone to this same fault. Mankind are all naturally predisposed to greed and desire, and this is something we really need to put in our greatest effort to escape from. If we are able to resist that wicked desire for more wealth, possession, affluence, fame and many other things that corrupt our hearts, then we can draw closer to God, and avoid those obstacles which Satan had placed on our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we all realise how blessed we are in God. The Lord Jesus had taught us all that the kingdom of heaven is at the end of our path in life, if we remain faithful and devoted to God, without falling inti temptation of this world as King Solomon had done. King Solomon was faithful to God, but over time, his attachments to the worldly goods, and the attachments he had to his numerous wives and concubines, designed to grant him greater power and prestige, had dulled his mind and heart. Great wisdom is of no use if your heart and mind are dulled and confounded by the evils of this world.

It is ultimately not that we should shun all forms of contact with the world or anything of the sort. They are themselves neutral and none are inherently evil in purpose. Money and possessions are in particular capable of both good and bad actions and uses. It is when mankind use them and get hold of them, that they have the choice of either using them for good or bad, more often for bad than good in many cases.

Let us all ponder on all these, and think, on what do we consider or what we can consider as true and genuine treasure in our lives. Is it that all we can get as treasure is only in this world, in all the things we can see, touch, hear and enjoy? If we think that this is so, then we are in the danger of falling into the same pitfall into which Solomon and so many other men had fallen into. Even king David himself fell into this when he was tempted by Bathsheba, and plotted to kill her husband so that she might belong to him, and so committed a sin before God.

Our true treasure is in heaven, the prize which God Himself had prepared for us. Jesus Himself had told His disciples, that He went ahead of them to prepare for them the place which He had made ready and reserved for them in the kingdom of the everlasting life, that is the life to come, in heaven. That is also, brothers and sisters, what is to be our reward. This is the treasure that we have to seek, and not what is in the world.

Seek not the treasures that can rot or be destroyed. Neither seek the treasures that we cannot bring with us into the life that is to come. Our material wealth and goods, and all else do not matter and do not affect what we will be like in the world of the afterlife, when we are either reunited once again with God in eternal happiness or whether we will be cast away forever from His presence and suffer forever in hellfire with Satan and his fellow fallen angels.

God is our true treasure, and the One who we should aspire to gain, that means to be closer to Him and to make Him our own, just as He had resolved to forgive us our sins and trespasses and make us His own. We should do what Jesus told us in His parable of the one who seek a precious pearl, or a precious treasure, and selling all that they have in order to gain the treasure.

Be warned that we should not interpret this literally and sell everything we have. Rather, what it means is that, we should not spare any thought or have any doubt about seeking the Lord and finding our way towards Him. We must put in a lot of effort to do this, as well as to counter any opposition that we will encounter on our way. We must put in our effort, which is through none other by understanding the Lord’s will and teachings, and putting them into concrete practice in our own lives.

May Almighty God guide us on our journey, and strengthen our faith, so that we may continue to persevere, despite all the difficulties and challenges, that we can eventually at the end of the day, receive our well-earned reward, the treasure of all treasures, that is for us to see and be one with God, our Lord and Father once again. Amen.

Sunday, 27 July 2014 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 44-52

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The one who finds it buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish in buckets, but throw the worthless ones away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.

Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So He said to them, “You will see that every teacher of the Law, who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 44-46

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The one who finds it buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.

Sunday, 27 July 2014 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 8 : 28-30

We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him, whom He has called according to His plan. Those whom He knew beforehand, He has also predestined to be like His Son, similar to Him, so that He may be the Firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

And so, those whom God predestined He called, and those whom He called He makes righteous, and to those whom He makes righteous He will give His Glory.

Sunday, 27 July 2014 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 57 and 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

You are my portion, o Lord; I have promised to obey Your word. Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant. Let Your mercy come to give me life, for Your law is my delight.

I love Your commandments more than gold – the finest gold. Because my steps are guided by Your precepts, I hate all false ways.

Wonderful are Your decrees; my soul cannot but keep them. As Your words unfold, light is shed, and the simple-hearted understand.

Sunday, 27 July 2014 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 3 : 5, 7-12

It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want Me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “And now, o YHVH my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything.”

“Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted. Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?”

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.”

Saturday, 26 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of two saints, St. Joachim and St. Anne. And in case you do not know who they are, they are actually the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the father and mother of the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus, they are the grandparents of our Lord. They truly had a great significance, especially in moulding Mary, born immaculate without sin, into the great servant of the Lord she is now.

In an age and time when mankind lived in sin, and lived in a world filled with uncertainty, greed and endless desires, St. Joachim and St. Anne were simple people, who lived humbly and righteously before God, following Him in all of His precepts and were totally obedient to His will. The light that was in them, was truly crucial, as this light became a guiding light for the one whom they bore into this world, the Mother of our Saviour.

It is perhaps that St. Joachim and St. Anne themselves did not realise how great an impact they would have on the world through Mary their daughter. However, it is through their commitment and devotion to God, and in their loving and tender care for their daughter Mary, that they imparted the love of God to her, and from her, eventually to Jesus, her Son, and eventually to all of us.

The role of St. Joachim and St. Anne cannot be diminished or be ridiculed or be made less important, for we all should know what kind of responsibilities that parents may have, or are expected to have. It is through their careful and dedicated work on Mary their daughter, that our Blessed Mother grew great in her faith. She was conceived without sin and any taints of darkness like that of her Son, Jesus, but this alone will not be good, if she did not have loving parents as that of St. Joachim and St. Anne to care for her and to provide for her spiritual growth and well-being as she grew up.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is imperative now that we talk about the family, and yes, the family itself as a sacred and crucial unit of the Christian society and the Church, and the dangers that are facing the family as an institution of the Christian faith. We all know that our world today and the currents of our times are not exactly favourable or friendly to the family. In fact, it was an outright hostility, if not direct conflict between the family and its values, and the contemporary ways of this world.

All of us have to understand this, by first understanding the importance of marriage, and its sanctity, being a Holy Sacrament of the Church. Marriage is a holy occasion, when a male and a female adult are joined together in matrimonial agreement and Sacrament before God, and promised to be together till death separates them. And remember that, in marriage, God made man and woman into one, one in body and spirit, and no bond that God had made sacred, man may divide.

And yet, marriage is increasingly becoming a plaything and a ridicule for the world. Marriage is no longer considered by many as sacred and holy, and many have forgotten that it is not something to be taken lightly. We have to look at how many people had decided to dissolve their marriage because of various reasons, but if we look at all those reasons, they are truly mankind’s selfish desires and their inability to reject the temptations and the lies of Satan.

Marriage inevitably leads to family, for marriage is not just for the sake of pleasure, and in particular, it should never be seen for the sake of the pleasures of the flesh and for the enjoyment of this world. If this is the case, then we have truly failed to understand the value and importance of marriage. Marriage is to bring about a holy union intended towards the creation of life. Yes, marriage inevitably leads to family, with child-bearing the grace of God to all mothers.

Therefore the family itself too is an important institution, especially because we have to realise that in our faith, we need a strong and firm foundation from the very beginning, if we are to be able to resist Satan and all of his advances on us. Without a strong foundation of faith in the family, we will not be able to reject him with full certainty, and may end up failing miserably and fall into sin.

Following the examples of St. Joachim and St. Anne, and in how they brought up Mary, the mother of our Lord, let us all remember, those in the family and with children in particular, that our familial bond must be strong, and that it must be based on love, as well as on faith in God. We have to always remember the saying, that a family that prays together will stay together.

Therefore, let us all renew our commitments to the Lord, beginning from our own families, making the effort to come together, pray together and glorify the Lord together through our actions as a family. Let us keep holy our family, respect one another in the family, and together let us help one another, as well as in the great family of the Church of God, to come ever closer to the Lord our God, seeking Him always at all times.

May God bless all families, keep them holy and in love, so that all peoples may grow forever stronger in love, in hope and in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 26 July 2014 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 24-30

Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

“When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then the servants of the owner came to him and said, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”