Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the Scripture readings, all of us heard about the descriptions of who are considered as true Christians, as those who are not Christians just in name or in the official records only, but also Christians in their hearts and souls, and all who see these people, will truly know and recognise their Christian faith, not because they show off any records or cards stating that they belong to the Christian faith, but because of their own actions and deeds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on the words of our Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes which He taught to the disciples and to the people who heard His teachings on the mountain, as we also heard it in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes are the eight good virtues which all of us should have in our own lives, as Jesus had gone through each of them, which are then expected from us Christians. Let me now go through each of them from the beginning to the end.

We have to be poor in spirit, which does not refer to material poverty, or being poor because we have no money or worldly possessions in order to sustain ourselves. This is a misconception that many people often have with regards to the term ‘poor in spirit’. Jesus was not supporting those who were materially poor against the rich, and neither did He condemn the rich just because they were rich or had more material possessions than others.

Rather, it means that we must recognise our spiritual poverty, understanding that we are all sinners before God, delinquent and rebel, having been cast away from His presence because of our disobedience and sinfulness. It is the recognition and awareness of one’s own sins and weaknesses which is something that we do not commonly see among ourselves. We are often too proud and feeling too self-righteous to be able to see our own faults and therefore we are incapable of taking the steps to rectify this situation.

The kingdom of God truly therefore belong to those who are humble and willing to be forgiven, those who are able to open themselves to receive the loving grace of God. Which then comes to the next Beatitude, about those who mourn. This mourning is often associated with those who are sad and sorrowful because they lose something or someone precious, such as when someone they love passed away. But even more importantly, someone who is poor in spirit will also be sorrowful.

Why is this so? That is because if we are aware of our sins, and just how terrible those sins are, we will be sorrowful indeed, knowing that God surely would punish us for all the heinous and wicked deeds we have done. It is the regret that accompanies one’s actions, knowing regret for one’s sins which many people of our time are unable to do. Many of us are ignorant of our own sins, and how bad they are for our own souls.

This world is filled with sin and darkness, and many of us are trapped in the darkness. We fill ourselves with acts of hatred, jealousy, greed and all other things unbecoming of ourselves as those who call themselves as Christians. We cause harm, pain and sufferings upon others just so that we can gain things for ourselves, that we will benefit on top of others’ inconvenience and sufferings. This will happen when each person only cares about themselves and not about others.

This is where we need to be gentle, to be loving and caring, not to be quick to anger but be calm and be compassionate. We must have that desire to love one another, and to shown concern and care for our brethren, especially when we see someone being treated unjustly, being bullied and having their rights taken away from them. It is un-Christian for us to ignore the plight of our brethren, of those who have need for help, but having no one listen to them.

We are all called to be those who are ready to help these brethren of ours, helping them and comforting them, showing them mercy and love. That is why God blesses all those who have pity and mercy in their hearts, all those who are incapable of sitting still while they see someone being mistreated, bullied and persecuted against. It does not just mean that we should do our best to overcome our sins, but we must also help one another through our actions.

It is only when we have the right intention, the right attitude and the right understanding of things that we will be able to proceed on in a Christian manner. And indeed, a Christian person is a man of peace, who seeks the betterment of his or her brethren. A peaceful person inspires one another to rule out conflict in dealing with matters. They would try their best to bring harmony and peace in all situations. It is when love should trump over hate, where justice should trump over injustice.

Ultimately, let us all ask ourselves, are we able to do what the Lord had instructed us all to do? We do not have to worry or fear, because in the second reading today, in the Epistle which St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth in Greece, he said that God chose the ordinary and the common people, not those who are considered strong and mighty in the sight of the world, but all of us with our weaknesses and with our faults, have been chosen by God.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that by calling us all, God wants each and every one of us to be changed, transformed by our actions, which should be filled with love, with mercy, with kindness, compassion and grace. We should be following in the examples of our good predecessors, the holy saints who have led a life of virtue, a true Christian life which we all ought to follow as well.

That also means that as Christians we must not participate in acts that are un-Christian in nature. We should not sow division when we are able to unite instead. We should not bring about harm and injury to our brethren when we are able to bring peace and harmony, and also love and mercy. We must not act unjustly on our brethren, but instead we should uphold justice and honesty in all of our dealings.

Indeed, all of these will not be easily done, as often things are easily said but difficult to be made a reality. But that is precisely what Jesus Himself had told His disciples and all of His followers. That there will be opposition, persecution and challenges from many sources, but those who persevere through, will receive great rewards in the end.

Yes, temptations and persuasions to do otherwise will be great, but this is where we can help one another to pull through those difficult moments, and show one another with good examples of our own actions. Let the eight Beatitudes be our guide, in our conduct and in our actions, so that all those who see us will immediately recognise God being present in us and our works, and therefore many more people will come to understand God and His ways, and be saved together with us all.

May the Lord bless us all and our works, and may He awaken in each and every one of us the desire to live a true and blessed Christian life. May all of us be ever righteous, just and honest in our every dealings, and be caring and loving, merciful and kind towards one another, fellow brothers and sisters in our Lord. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become our wisdom from God, and Who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Zephaniah 2 : 3 and Zephaniah 3 : 12-13

Seek YHVH, all you poor of the land who fulfil His commands, do justice and be meek, and perhaps you will find refuge on the day YHVH comes to judge.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.

Saturday, 28 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about faith in God, and what our predecessors have shown to us regarding that faith which they had. Beginning from the days of our early forefathers, from the days of Abraham, to his son Isaac and then to the latter’s own son Jacob, and down to the days of the Apostles, when Jesus was with them.

In the Gospel today, we heard the well known story of how Jesus calmed the waters and rebuked the storm. The disciples were in the same boat as the Lord, and while He was sleeping calmly in the boat, the disciples, seeing the strong winds, terrible thunderstorms and the strong waves feared for their lives and became panicked. They were afraid that the boat would be overturned and then they would sink into the lake and die.

Their faith in the Lord was then not strong, and they were wavering. They were having so many concerns about themselves that they were not able to think rationally and they were not able to appreciate what they have amongst them, the Lord Himself, Whom they could really trust. But they instead worried and panicked, and they doubted. This was where Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith.

If only that they would look and remembered at how God had cared for His people in the ages past, with mighty deeds, then they would not have panicked, or doubted, or be worried about themselves, because God Himself will not abandon His people. Throughout time, again and again, even when we mankind had been unfaithful to Him, He is always ever faithful, as He was, and as He will ever be.

During the days of Abraham, when many had not yet known the Lord, for many who saw and witnessed what Abraham did must have been a folly and crazy deed indeed. After all, what would a man gain by leaving his entire family, possessions, inheritance behind? What would Abraham, then known as Abram, gain by leaving his ancestral lands of Ur behind and travel to Canaan as the Lord had instructed him?

Certainly, his own family, his own friends and all those he knew must have laughed at him, mocked and ridiculed him for what he had done. And all others who heard his tale must have also thought that he was out of his mind. After all, in the reckonings of this world, who in his or her right mind would just abandon all of the earthly goods he or she had, or what he or she was bound to receive?

And on top of that, he and his wife Sara had been barren without a child. This would have been considered a curse for a people at that time, as a sign of divine displeasure and wickedness. But I am sure that all of these must not have deterred Abram from obeying God and listening to His will. He ventured on to the land which God had showed him, and listened to God as he went along with his life.

We know the rest of the story. God did not just give him a child as He had promised, even through Sara who was already at an advanced age. In the Psalm today, taken from the Gospel of St. Luke we have the Magnificat, the song of Mary, who thanked the Lord for His great graces, having blessed Elizabeth her cousin with a child at her own very advanced age, and the greatest of all, God Himself had been willing to enter into this world through her.

Those who are faithful will never be disappointed by God, for He is ever faithful. Abram, whom He renamed Abraham, did not just get a new name, but also a new life, as the father of many nations, and also as our father in faith. He was blessed among all the nations, and from a man, certainly ridiculed by his friends and relatives, who was barren without a child, had come a great and many nations, blessed and chosen by God to be His people.

Without Abraham’s faith, there would not have been Israel, and without Mary’s faith, the work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ would have been thwarted. And no salvation would have come into this world, and we would all have no hope. It was because of God’s faithfulness, and our human responses and readiness to accept that faith which allowed God to work His great wonders among us.

Today, we also commemorate the feast of the great and renowned saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, the great confessor, theologian par excellence and Doctor of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas was truly known for his brilliant and intellectual mind, through which he did many works and writings trying to explain to us the nature and the love of God.

St. Thomas Aquinas was a devout and truly committed person, teaching many others about the Lord and about having faith in Him. This is the perfect opportunity for us to read up more about this holy and devout saint, a role model for all of us, just as our holy forefathers had shown us how to be faithful to God. Having faith in God is not such an easy task, as even the disciples themselves wavered in their faith in the midst of great difficulties, but it is possible if we have the will and the strength to have that faith in God.

Now, what we all need to do is ask ourselves, have we been faithful to God? Have we all been faithful to God even though the world may be against us, and even when they may be mocking us, reviling us and humiliating us for believing in God, and keeping our faith in Him? Let us never forget what God had done for Abraham, our father in faith, for Israel, when they were enslaved in Egypt, and for ourselves, when He chose to send His own Son to us to be our Saviour.

Let us be ever faithful in all of our ways, and grow ever stronger in the way of faith. Let us inspire one another and help guide each other so that we will always remain true to our faith in God, and be completely devoted to Him in all of our ways. Let us also ask for the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, that his devotion and dedication to the Lord will inspire us all to do the same as well in our own lives. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

So they left the crowd, and took Him away in the boat He had been sitting in, and other boats set out with Him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke Him up, and said, “Master, do You not care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”