Thursday, 27 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand."

"In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them."

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them."

Thursday, 27 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 3 : 52a, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory; Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You, on the throne of Your kingdom; honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You, Who fathom the depths, Who are enthroned on the Cherubim; praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You, in the firmament of heaven; praised and glorified forever.

Thursday, 27 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 19 : 1-2, 9-11, 16-20b

Exactly two months after the Israelites had left Egypt, they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai. They arrived there coming from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.

YHVH spoke to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud so that the people may hear Me speaking with you and trust you always." Then Moses related to YHVH what the people had said. Again YHVH spoke to Moses, "Go to the people and have them sanctified today and tomorrow; let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day YHVH will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people."

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast was heard. All the people in the camp trembled. Moses then made the people leave the camp to meet God and stand at the foot of the mountain.

Mount Sinai was completely covered in smoke because YHVH had come down in fire, and the smoke rose as from a furnace. The whole mountain shook violently, while the blast of the trumpet became louder and louder. Moses spoke and God replied in thunder.

When YHVH had come down to the summit of Mount Sinai, God called Moses who went to the summit.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to two stories from the Sacred Scriptures, namely the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and how the people of Israel grumbled and rebelled against God in our first reading today taken from the Book of Exodus. Then, in the Gospel today we heard about the parable which our Lord Jesus mentioned, the parable of the sower, in which He told His disciples about what happened to the various seeds which were scattered and fell onto different types of soil.

In the first reading, we heard how the people of Israel journeyed through the desert, after they had been liberated from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, and after they had witnessed firsthand the great and mighty power of God, Who crushed the Egyptians with ten great plagues and opened the Red Sea right before their very eyes, allowing them to walk safely and dry-footed through the sea itself. But despite all of these things they had seen, they became stubborn and complained against God.

They complained that in Egypt, they would at least have food and drink to satisfy themselves rather than what they endured then, walking through the desert without sight of food or drink, and the sight of the endless desert discouraged them and made them to lose faith in God. That was because their faith in God did not have a strong root in them, just as what the Lord Jesus mentioned in today's Gospel passage, the parable of the sower.

In that parable, the Lord mentioned how some of the seeds scattered fell onto the roadside and were picked up by the birds of the sky. And some others fell onto the rocky grounds and were not able to grow deep roots, ending up scorched and destroyed by the sun. The seeds represent the Word of God which became the seeds of faith inside each and every one of us, but as all farmers and those who have planted a plant before, a seed will not germinate without the right conditions.

The Israelites were showing exactly this kind of attitude, the failure to allow the faith to grow in them, and as a result, the devil came to snatch away the Word of God from them, just as the birds came to snatch away the seeds that fell by the roadside. And like the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, the stubbornness of the people of Israel and their adamant refusal to trust in the Lord and in His providence made it difficult for the Word of God and for faith to grow in each one of them.

They refused to believe that God would care for them and provide for them what they needed as they journeyed through the desert. That is again because of their lack of faith. They trusted much more in what mankind could provide, to the point that they would rather suffer at the hands of their former Egyptian slave masters, who could provide them with bread to eat and water to drink, rather than to trust in God.

That was when God showed again His power and might, by proving His people wrong, those who doubted His ability to provide for them. He sent them countless birds as food, and gave them clear and sweet water to drink in the middle of a vast desert, flowing out from the rocks itself, and ultimately He also gave them bread from heaven, the manna, coming to them daily in the morning from God.

If only that the people could find in themselves the courage to have faith in God, and not to fall into the temptation to seek alternative sources of comfort and happiness. That moment when the people veered away from the Lord because of their lack of faith and trust in God, is when they fell away into sin and become lost to the Lord. Certainly, this is not the fate which we want to happen to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must instead strive hard to provide the best conditions and situations in our respective lives, that through our efforts, we may find ourselves to be a rich soil for the Word of God to grow inside each one of us, that we may become fertile grounds for the Word of God and our faith to blossom within us. And we have to make a conscious effort to ensure that this happens.

Today, all of us celebrate the Feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. St. Joachim and St. Anne brought up the Blessed Virgin Mary since her birth and young age, and it was under their tutelage and guidance that she grew up into a fine, faithful and devout young woman whom we knew in the Gospels, betrothed to St. Joseph and eventually became the Mother of our God and Saviour.

St. Joachim and St. Anne had shown Mary how to be a faithful and devoted follower of God, and taught her all that they knew about the faith. They inculcated the faith in her and allowed it grow by giving her the most appropriate environment in which that faith could grow, that is the environment of love and care. It is through this that the faith and the Word of God could grow well and produce bountiful harvest of fruits.

That is what all of us can do as well in our own respective lives, by doing what the Lord had taught us to do, providing loving and caring environment. We ought to show love and care for our fellow brethren, and kindness to all of our fellow men. It is through actually living out our faith that we can help one another to live and persevere in faith, so that in all that we do, say and act, we will always bring glory to God.

May the Lord bless us all and may He empower us to live our lives with commitment and be able to give our all to Him, trusting Him and placing ourselves under His loving care. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.