Wednesday, 1 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard the readings from the Book of Genesis, telling us how the son of Abraham by his slave, Hagar, was banished together with his mother, the slave Hagar, as there was only one place for the promise of God which would be fulfilled, that is through Isaac, the son of Abraham and his wife, Sarah.

It may be somewhat confusing, given that we may ask why the Lord was so cruel to this young son of Abraham, Ishmael, who was cast out together with his mother, Hagar into the desert to fend off on their own. However, if we read the passages more carefully, we should notice how God cared for them and loved them too, giving them means to survive and live on their own, promising even that the sons of Ishmael would become great nations on their own.

What would be more significant was that the two sons of Abraham by different mothers would represent two different covenants and traditions, a fact which St. Paul himself had noted and stated in his epistles. There had indeed been two covenants, one that was the former covenant, which God had established with Abraham and his descendants, while the other covenant dealt with the covenant that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself established through His death on the cross, the New covenant and promise of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the banishing of the older son of Abraham represented the banishing of the old order, the old covenant that no longer had power and authority, for it had been superseded by the new covenant which God established through Jesus our Lord, by His suffering and death on the cross. The older son of Abraham also represented by the men possessed by the demons in Gadara, for yet another interpretation of its meaning.

Just as God allowed Ishmael to live for a time with Isaac before he was banished, thus the same also applied to the demons who inhabited the men before they were cast out. They were asking Jesus why He came to torture and destroy them before their time came. The dominion of the demons, Satan and all of his angels over us came about because of our sins, and because we have sinned, then we fell under the tyranny of Satan and his angels, through our sins.

And the time which the demons mentioned, was the time of reckoning, when God would reclaim all those who have been lost to Him and reclaim them for His glory. This time would come at the end of time, when God would cast down Satan and his fellow fallen angels, together with all those who have rejected His salvation, into the eternal suffering and destruction in hellfire.

Those of us who believe in the Lord, have accepted Him in the covenant which He had brought to us, the new covenant of our Lord Jesus Christ. No longer would we be under the old covenant which had been broken by our own sinfulness and rebelliousness, represented by the banishment of Ishmael, but we are now the partakers of the Lord’s new covenant which He established with us by His death on the cross.

And therefore, the blessing of God comes to us who belong to this covenant, and the grace of God fills us to the brim, just as God blessed Abraham and his descendants through Isaac. This new covenant has been fulfilled in has and sealed with the Blood and Sacrifice of our Lord. The wholeness of its rich gifts and blessings will be ours, if we keep our end of the covenant, that is by being faithful to the Lord our God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be partakers of the new covenant which our Lord had established with us with His love. Let us all receive the fullness of God’s love and grace, which He offers freely to all those who keep His Law and commandments, and therefore keep their end of the covenant alive and strong. May God bless us all and keep us in faith to Him. God be with us all now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 8 : 28-34

At that time, when Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, He was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What do You want with us, You, Son of God? Have You come to torture us before the time?”

At some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged Him, “If You drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.

The men in charge of them ran off to the town, where they told the whole story, also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their area.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 33 : 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress. The Lord’s angel encamps and patrols to keep safe those who fear Him.

Revere the Lord, all you His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing.

Come, listen to me, my children; I will show you how to fear the Lord. If you desire long life, if you want to enjoy prosperity.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 21 : 5, 8-20

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and on the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. Sarah saw the child that Hagar, the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, mocking her son and she said to Abraham, “Send this slave girl and her son away; the child of this slave must not share the inheritance with my son, Isaac.”

This matter distressed Abraham because it concerned his son, but God said to him, “Do not be worried about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to Sarah and do whatever she says, because the race which is called by your name will spring from Isaac. But from the son of your servant I will also form a nation, for he too is your offspring.”

Abraham rose early next morning and gave bread and a skin bag of water to Hagar. He put the child on her back and sent her away. She went off and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When there was no more water in the skin, she pushed the boy under one of the bushes, and then went and sat down about a hundred yards away, for she thought, “I cannot bear to see my son die.”

But as she sat there, the child began to wail. God heard him and the Angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy crying. Get up, pick the boy up and hold him safely, for I will make him into a great nation.”

God then opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy. He grew up and made his home in the wilderness and became an expert archer.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Church celebrates and commemorates the memory of its first martyrs, the first ones who shed their blood and lives for the sake of the Faith, and for the sake of the Lord. Today is a reminder to all of us, that our faith in God requires not just passivity and lip service, but real dedication and commitment, for all the challenges that we will encounter as part of our faith journey.

In the first reading, we heard about the famous destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities infamous for their immorality and vice, where all their people were filled to the brim with sin and wickedness. God punished them all because they did not repent and change their ways, and they were destroyed and banished from the face of the earth forever, to suffer eternal punishment for their sins.

But God showed mercy on Lot and his family, who were the only ones to be found worthy from all the people in the two cities. They were rescued by the angels who led them out of danger into safety. Lot and his family had been persecuted for their righteous ways, and for sheltering the strangers who were truly angels, whom the sinful people in their lust desired to take upon themselves in sexual perversion.

In the Gospel, we see a parallel with Jesus and His disciples who were travelling through a great storm, and the boat was being rocked greatly by the wind and the waves, that the disciples feared that it would sink with them. They feared because they had little faith and Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith. Jesus showed His power and authority, calming the storm before His disciples.

How does all these relate to what we celebrate today? It is because we have to remember the fact that this world and all its ways are diametrically opposite to that of the ways of our Lord. And Jesus Himself warned His disciples that the world that had rejected Him, will also reject and persecute His disciples and followers. And hence, so many of the faithful had been martyred throughout the ages, since the very beginning of the Church until now.

And what we heard in the readings today are our natural reactions to such difficulties, sufferings and persecutions. Like the disciples who were afraid of the storm, representing our challenges and the temptations of the world, we too have fear in our hearts, uncertainty and doubt. There are indeed times when we lack faith in God, and not understanding that He has the power to save us, we resort to methods to preserve ourselves, but more often than not, causing us to sink deeper into the troubles.

And we also often act like Lot’s wife, who turned and looked back at the city that was burning and being destroyed by the Lord, and she turned into a pillar of salt for her disobedience and inability to detach herself from the city. For it was likely that she enjoyed the life she had in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, and running away into the wilderness seemed for her to be a path to uncertainty.

It is therefore her desire and her inability to part with that desire which led to her undoing, and the same also applies to us as well. We ought to therefore learn from the examples of the martyrs in this regard. They were offered the good offers of safety and goodness in the world, and they were offered good prestige and fame in the world, if only that they would abandon their faith in their God.

But they refused, for they knew that to do so would mean accepting temporary joy and happiness that do not last, and condemn themselves to an eternity of suffering, of having been separated from God. They persevered, and although they suffered, they received great consolation and the promise of eternal life which God had promised to all of us who are faithful. Their examples spurred many others to follow in their footsteps.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow the examples of the first martyrs and the other martyrs of the Church, those who have defended their faith in the Lord to the very end. May Almighty God bless us with faith and be with us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning a fierce storm hit the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

They woke Him and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm. The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”

Tuesday, 30 June 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 25 : 2-3, 9-10, 11-12

Prove me, o Lord, put me to the test; examine my soul and my heart. For Your love is ever before my eyes, and I live in truth and faithfulness.

Let me not share the fate of sinners, nor lose my life with the violent; their hands are guilty of crimes, their right hands are weighed down with bribes.

But I will walk in integrity, redeem me, o God, be gracious to me. My foot stands firm in the straight path, I will praise You, o Lord, in Your assemblies.