Tuesday, 11 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard about the story of how Jacob struggled with God on his journey back towards the land of Canaan, after he had ended his exile in the land of his ancestors in Mesopotamia. And as he approached the land of Canaan, he heard how his brother Esau came towards him with many men and other people, and he was scared. That was why he sent his family and his servants in a separate group, fearing that his brother Esau was going to seek retribution against him.

What we heard in today’s story from the Book of Genesis is a continuation of what we have heard in the past few days on the story of Jacob and his family, the descendants of Abraham, the faithful servant of God. Jacob tricked Esau his elder brother, into surrendering his inheritance and seized his blessings from him. And thus, he was driven into a self-imposed exile, fleeing from the wrath of Esau for a while. God was with Jacob, and He guided him along the way.

But Jacob doubted, and in his fear, he fell into his own human frailties. That was when God came unto him, and struggled with him. Through that struggle, God reminded Jacob that with Him, nothing can go wrong, and with Him as his source of strength, he would have no need to fear. He is the source of all our hope and our strength. And still, we often doubted Him and did not believe Him.

This was shown in the Gospel passage which we heard today. The Gospel spoke of how Jesus our Lord was slandered by the Pharisees who accused Him of wrongdoing, spreading lies and untruths, charging that He cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons. And yet, despite all of these charges and lies they had made about Jesus, all of them did not deter Him from continuing His work and ministry among the people, caring for the sick and healing them, and bringing joy to God’s people.

The Pharisees did all that they had done because they were jealous of the Lord’s popularity and ability to teach with true authority. They refused to believe in Him because they were too confident and proud to acknowledge that their ways and thoughts had been mistaken, and that the Lord Jesus was right and delivering the truth to them. They have enjoyed many privileges due to their position in the society, and they saw Jesus as a threat to all that they had enjoyed thus while.

Thus they hardened their hearts, and trusted in their own human intellect and strength, refusing to listen to the word of God speaking to them, through what they have heard and witnessed. Even though they had seen all the miracles that Jesus had done in their midst, they still did not believe and continued to resist Him and working against Him and His disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what can happen to us all as well. When we are in the moments of difficulty, it is often that we fear, just as Jacob had had fear in his heart and mind. And when we fear, because our faith and commitment to the Lord is not strong, we end up turning to alternative sources of comfort, that is putting our trust instead in our own human abilities and strengths, preferring to trust our own plans, desires and thoughts instead of discerning what it is that God wants from us.

Yet, we have to realise that God is always with us, no matter how difficult the situation can be. He is always ever faithful and He will not abandon us, for He is always guiding us through various means, even when we do not realise it. We need to learn to put our trust in God, no matter what happens. We should not be quick to abandon the Lord when we are so concerned about ourselves and our own safety, for if it is He Who created us, it is also therefore He Who reigns over us and no lasting harm will come to us.

Perhaps all of us should heed the example of the holy and renowned saint, whose feast day we celebrate on this day. St. Benedict the Abbot, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia is also known better as the founder of the Benedictine Order, one of the largest religious congregations in the world today, and also as the one who came up with the strict regulations of the Rule of St. Benedict, a standard by which many of the religious brothers and sisters lived their lives.

St. Benedict of Nursia was renowned for his deep devotion and piety to the Lord, by his many good works among the people of God, calling them to serve the Lord and to devote themselves with sincere dedication and commitment. St. Benedict of Nursia through his Rule of St. Benedict encouraged all, especially those who have chosen to dedicate themselves in a religious life, on how to live their lives in accordance with the will of God.

St. Benedict of Nursia emphasised before anything else, the importance of obedience and humility in one’s actions, and indeed it is these two virtues which are often lacking among us mankind these days. He emphasised the importance of doing good works and prayer in tandem with each other, in one of his golden rules, Ora et Labora, prayer and work hand in hand, as what all the faithful people of God should do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Benedict of Nursia and today’s Scripture readings reminded us that all of us as Christians are called to be faithful to the Lord, to put our trust in the Lord our God. And we can do this by deepening our relationship with Him, through constant prayer and communication with God, remembering Him in everything we do, in every moment we have in life and indeed, in every breath that we take.

Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and let us seek to serve the Lord with ever greater zeal and love. May the Lord bless us with an ever greater faith and devotion, so that we will draw ever closer to Him and thus be worthy to receive His everlasting grace and love. St. Benedict of Nursia, pray for us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Genesis 32 : 23-33

Jacob took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, and sent them across the stream and likewise everything he had. And Jacob was left alone. Then a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the Man saw that He could not get the better of Jacob, He struck him in the socket of his hip and dislocated it as He wrestled with him.

The Man said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go until you have given me Your blessing.” The Man then said, “What is your name?” “Jacob” was the reply. He answered, “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have been strong-with-God as you have been with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked Him, “What is Your Name?” He answered, “Why do you ask My Name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Penuel, saying, “I have seen God face to face and survived.” The sun rose as he passed through Penuel, limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the hip socket because the sciatic nerve in Jacob’s hip had been touched.

Monday, 10 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of the Lord Jesus and how He healed the woman who had suffered from continuous bleeding for the past twelve years of her life. The Lord healed her because she believed in Him and in the power of healing which came from Him, and she went to great length in order to seek out that healing.

Then in the first reading today, God showed Himself to Jacob in a dream, showing him a vision of a great stairway to heaven, revealing His glory to him. He introduced Himself as the God of his fathers and forefathers, as the One Who had established a covenant with Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather. He reiterated the covenant which He had established with His servant Abraham, that He would bless him and his descendants forever, and would grant them the promise of the land in which he and his descendants were living in.

In this story, God showed His faithfulness and adherence to His covenant and promise which He had made with His faithful servant. In return, He wants us to also be faithful to the covenant, for all of us are the descendants of Abraham by faith. Jacob was touched by God’s love and kindness, and he promised that if God would bring him back to the land, he and his descendants will serve Him forever. Jacob was then fleeing the land because he has tricked Esau his brother, and stole his inheritance and blessing.

And if we read on the next part of the Book of Genesis, we can see how God guided Jacob through those difficult times, giving him not just many wealth and cattle, livestock and property, but also giving him a family and his many children, eventually guiding him back to the land of his forefathers and reuniting him with his father Isaac as well as his brother Esau.

Through these stories, all of us ought to realise just how much God loves each and every one of us. He is always ever faithful to us, even though we have often betrayed Him, wronged Him and left Him behind for other gods, idols and all the other distractions which kept us away from being able to be faithful to God. From time to time, He always seek to reconcile Himself with His people, calling them to repentance and to be forgiven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to realise that every one of us are afflicted with disease, the disease of our souls, and this is the disease of our sins. Even though all of us may be perfectly healthy in our physical beings, flesh and bodies, but sin has corrupted us, in our souls, hearts and minds, essentially our whole being. Sin is caused by our disobedience against God, and by our refusal to be faithful to His covenant with us.

And thus, that is why we suffer, brothers and sisters in Christ. We suffer as how the woman had suffered from her physical bleeding, filled with pain and sorrow. For us, it is a spiritual bleeding, the spiritual suffering caused by our sins, which led to a separation from God’s love and grace. But God is willing to welcome us back, and He did nothing less than giving Himself to us, making Himself available to us, through Jesus Christ, His Son.

He has touched many people, healing them from their afflictions, including that of the woman with bleeding problems. He has saved Jacob from his troubles and helped him to go through the difficult years of his life, and brought him back to his homeland with joy. In the same manner therefore, He has also endeavoured to heal us from the afflictions of our sins.

How did He do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? He has come into this world in order to save us, by nothing else than His sacrifice on the cross. He bore with Himself all of our afflictions, all of our sins and faults, and took them all up to the cross. As He hung from the cross, He showed us all the ultimate love and commitment which God had for us all, establishing a new Covenant of love with us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, if our God has loved us so much, and has done so much for us mankind, then should we not indeed seek Him with all of our efforts and strength? Should we not spend our lives and effort to be reconciled with Him and to be forgiven for all of our sins which have caused us to be separated from Him? Let us be inspired by the example of the woman with the bleeding problem, whose faith in the Lord was so great that she tried her best to look for Him for healing, and indeed, she was healed because of her great faith.

Let us all go towards the Lord, our ever loving and merciful God, with a contrite heart and a sincere desire to be forgiven and to be healed from our sins and wickedness before it is too late for us. Let us not wait until the time of our death, which we will never ever know, before seeking God’s mercy, and then realising that it is already too late for us, and hellfire is our only future. May God continue to remind us of this fact, and may He forgive us our sins when we seek Him with genuine, contrite hearts. Amen.

Monday, 10 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 10 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 90 : 1-2, 3-4, 14-15ab

You, who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who rest in the shadow of the Almighty, say to YHVH, “My Stronghold, my Refuge, my God in Whom I trust!”

He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions and give you refuge under His wings.

“Because they cling to Me, I will rescue them,” says YHVH. “I will protect those who know My Name. When they call to Me, I will answer; in time of trouble, I will be with them.”

Monday, 10 July 2017 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Genesis 28 : 10-22a

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place the sun had set and he spent the night there. He took one of the stones that were there and using it as a pillow, he lay down to sleep.

While Jacob was sleeping, he had a dream in which a ladder stood on the earth with its top reaching to heaven and on it were Angels of God going up and coming down. And YHVH was standing there near him and said, “I am YHVH, the God of your father, Abraham, and the God of Isaac. The land on which you sleep, I give to you and your descendants.”

“Your descendants will be numerous like the specks of dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and the east, to the north and the south. Through you and your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. See, I am with you and I will keep you safe wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land and not leave you until I have done what I promised.”

Jacob woke from his dream and said, “Truly YHVH was in this place and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How full of awe is this place! It is nothing less than a house of God; it is the Gate to Heaven!” Then Jacob rose early and took the stone he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He named that place Bethel although before that it was called Luz.

Then Jacob made a vow, “If YHVH will be with me and keep me safe during this journey I am making, if He gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then YHVH will be my God. This stone which I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house.”