Monday, 10 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about Jesus our Lord Who rebuked the people, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their lack of faith, for their refusal to believe in the truth that He has brought down upon them, on their stubbornness and adamant refusal to be true disciples and followers of His.

They still refused to believe in Him even after all that He had done for them, all the miraculous deeds and goods He had done in their sight, the healing of the sick, casting out of demons, miracles of the feeding of the many thousands, and many others. These people had seen it all, especially even the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had hounded Jesus and His disciples at every possible opportunities, and yet they still refused to believe.

And yet, God would show them all the ultimate sign of all, when they asked for yet another miracle. He would show them the sign of Jonah, and what does this mean, brethren? The sign of Jonah was a reference to the actions of the prophet Jonah, who had been called by God to preach to the Assyrians in Nineveh about their downfall and yet he fled from the Lord and his duties after refusing to take part in that work.

And when he was on a boat on the way to the faraway lands, a great storm came and engulfed the boat, waves and wind striking against it threatening to sink it, but then the prophet Jonah admitted to the ship captain that he had sinned before God by not listening to His call, and therefore the storm was likely a result of his own actions, and then he asked for the captain to throw him into the sea, of which the captain initially refused to do.

But as the waves and the winds continued to grow stronger, they had no choice, and when the prophet Jonah was thrown into the sea, the very moment they did that, the storm completely stopped and the sea became still. And the prophet Jonah himself was taken into the safety of a big fish’s belly, likely that of a whale for three days and three nights long, before he was released on a seashore.

Jonah would then go on to Nineveh, where he proclaimed the destruction of the city when the Assyrians, from their king to the lowest slaves repented from their sins, and God rescinded His punishment for them, and spared the city and its inhabitants. This is the sign of Jonah, the same sign which our Lord Jesus had brought into the world as well, the sign of His salvation.

Just as Jonah dwelled in the belly of the giant whale for three days and three nights, so would the Lord Jesus descend to the depths of hell for three days after He was crucified and died, so that through that action, He might scour all of hell and free all the righteous people who have long awaited the coming of their Lord and Saviour, much like Jonah who was sent to Nineveh to proclaim the judgment of God, and through repentance, the people of Nineveh and their city was saved.

What is it that each of us can learn from today’s Scripture passages, brethren? It is that our Lord has been so caring and loving towards us that He had done tremendous favours for our sake, His beloved people, His beloved children. Yet it is often that we do not realise just how much God has loved us, much like those people who doubted the Lord despite all that they have seen Him doing in their midst.

Therefore, brethren, let us all not harden our hearts as what those people had done, for if we harden our hearts and refuse the Lord, then our fate may be that of destruction as declared to Nineveh, that is damnation and eternal suffering. Instead, let us all rededicate ourselves to God and follow the examples of the people of Nineveh, regretting our sins and wicked deeds, and sincerely seeking for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us draw closer to our Lord, our loving God and Father. Let us all follow in His footsteps and do all that He had asked us to do, that we may be found righteous and just at the time when He comes again to judge all creation. May the Lord help us and be with us always. Amen.

Monday, 10 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus began to speak in this way, “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah.

As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here there is greater than Solomon.

The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here there is greater than Jonah.

Monday, 10 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of the Lord, praise the Name of the Lord! Blessed be the Name of the Lord now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of the Lord be praised! The Lord is exalted over the nations, His glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, He Who also bends down to see on earth as in heaven? He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap.

Monday, 10 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Galatians 4 : 22-24, 26-27, 31 – Galatians 5 : 1

It says that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman, the other by the free woman, his wife. The son of the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but the son of the free woman was born in fulfilment of God’s promise.

Here we have an allegory and the figure of two covenants. The first is the one from Mount Sinai, represented through Hagar : her children have slavery for their lot. But the Jerusalem above, who is our mother, is free. And Scripture says of her : Rejoice, barren woman without children, break forth in shouts of joy, you who do not know the pains of childbirth, for many shall be the children of the forsaken mother, more than of the married woman.

Brethren, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. Christ freed us to make us really free. So remain firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Sunday, 9 October 2016 : 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day of the Lord we heard about the wondrous healing of the servant and general of the kingdom of Aram or Syria, Naaman, who lived during the time of the division among the people of God, comprising of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. At that time, the prophet Elisha also did his many works among the people, calling the people to repentance and to abandon their sinfulness, but often without much success.

It was then that at that time, Naaman, who had tried to find a cure for his leprosy without much success, looked towards the land of Israel, for the news and words about the prophet Elisha and his miracles had reached even the ears of the king and people of Aram, and thus Naaman set forth for the land of Israel in order to find the prophet and get him to cure him from his afflictions.

And when Naaman had found the prophet Elisha, he was told by the prophet to bathe in the river Jordan seven times, but the general in his pride initially refused to obey the instructions of the prophet, thinking that it was such a menial thing to do, even though he had travelled a long way so that the prophet might heal him by the means of miracles and wonders.

But in the end, after he had been persuaded by his retainers, he relented and obeyed the prophet’s commands, and even as he bathed in the river as he was told to do, he was healed from his leprosy, and his skin became as good and smooth as that of a baby. And realising that he had been healed, the general Naaman hurried to find the prophet and thanked him profusely for having exercised such a miraculous sign to him.

And Naaman wanted to reward the prophet for what he had done, but the prophet refused it, and instead, Naaman who insisted that the gifts he brought were not wasted, then offered it to the One Who made it all possible, that is to YHVH, the One and only True God, the God of Elisha, the God of Israel, and the God of Naaman. It was God Who had healed Naaman from his sickness, and he had been made whole and perfectly healthy again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have pointed out earlier on, the prophet Elisha and his predecessor Elijah did not have much success in their works among the people of God, and they were often rejected, ridiculed, harassed, and even threatened with death by all those who refused to reject and cast aside their sinful ways, such as the worship of Baal and the other pagan gods, as well as their debauched lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Naaman the Syrian sought for healing in the Lord and he found it, and while the people of God refused to accept the rich offerings of God’s grace and mercy, which He had made clear and offered through His many prophets, this foreigner would come and thank the Lord for all that He had done for him. This despite the Israelites’ attitude over the ages and times that they were the chosen people of God and others were treated as pagans and damned before God.

The reality is very clear, that while the people of Israel at that time had no leprosy on them, and that their bodies are clean and without blemish, but the same could not be said of their inner beings. They had sinned and committed wickedness before God and men alike, and therefore sin had corrupted their hearts, minds and souls. Yes, they were sick with leprosy, that is sin, the leprosy of the soul.

Naaman might have been inflicted with the leprosy of the flesh, but eventually his faith and obedience to God, his gratitude and thankfulness to the Lord had saved him and God had made him whole, not just from the leprosy of his flesh, but also from the leprosy of his soul. Certainly, even though it was not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, God would have forgiven Naaman’s sins as well, and if he continued to live in grace after that, he would be counted among those who have been saved from the world.

The same point is also reiterated in the Gospel today, where we heard how God healed ten lepers who came to Him, begging that He showed mercy to them and desired for Him to heal them from their afflictions. He did not heal them straight away, just as Elisha once did with Naaman, but instead sent them away to see the priests that they would be healed.

And on their way, the ten lepers were healed from their leprosy, and when they all realised it, they were all rejoicing and were very happy about it, but only one of the ten healed lepers realised entirely what had happened, and went back to Jesus to thank Him and indeed, worshipped Him as his Lord and Saviour. The other nine lepers were too happy that their leprosy had been healed that they forgot entirely about the One Who had made it all possible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson which all of us can learn from these Scripture readings, from the examples of Naaman and also from the ten lepers healed by Jesus is that firstly, we should not be discriminatory in how we look on others, and especially not in terms of how and who should be saved in this world. God does not look upon our backgrounds, races, or other identities, and neither is He biased against anybody. To Him, all of us mankind, be it great and powerful or weak, rich or poor, famous or unknown, each and every one of us are equal in His sight.

The people of Israel often looked down on their pagan neighbours, thinking that these had no place in God’s kingdom and that they were hopeless cases unworthy of salvation. However, from all that we have heard in the Scriptures certainly and completely refuted this claim. God had made it clear that all has a chance to attain His salvation, and all that is important is that those who desire to find Him must repent and change their ways.

And then, secondly, sin as I mentioned is like leprosy, but unlike the leprosy of the flesh and body, it is the leprosy of the soul, that is our inner being. Sin corrupts all things, and it corrupts our hearts and minds as well. And eventually, it will also corrupt our physical bodies as well, for if the heart and soul is corrupt, these will show in the physical appearances and actions as well.

The danger for many of us is that, because sin can cause us to grow and become ignorant of it, as we are desensitised to our own sins, then we tend to ignore our wrongdoings and even perhaps embrace them as something we like and want to do. This is what led many to their downfall and ultimate fate, that is condemnation and eternal suffering in hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listen to the readings today and reflect on them, let us all think about how we as Christians can resist the temptations of sin and the temptations of worldly pleasures. These things, these temptations will always be there, and indeed, they will always threaten us all. But are we doing anything about it? Or do we just let these come and corrupt us all body and soul?

Let us all ponder on this even as we continue and go back to our own daily lives. Let us all seek to be ever more righteous, just and be more devoted to God and His ways, following the path of sin no more. Let us all stop the corruption that sin has caused in us, and seek to purge these corruptions from us, by leaning ever closer and devote ourselves ever more to the Lord. It is in God alone that we will find our succour and salvation.

May God help us in this endeavour, and may He forgive us all our sins, and heal us from all of our afflictions, just as He had healed Naaman and the lepers, that we may be freed from sickness, both of the body and of the soul. Amen.