Friday, 18 August 2017 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Joshua 24 : 1-13

Joshua summoned all the tribes of Israel in Shechem, and assembled the elders, leaders, judges and secretaries. And together they presented themselves before God.

Addressing the people, Joshua said to them : "YHVH, the God of Israel, commands me to say to you : Your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River – Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor – serving other gods. But I brought Abraham your father from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan."

"Then I gave him a son Isaac, that he might have numerous descendants. And to Isaac, I gave two sons : Esau and Jacob. Esau received the mountains of Seir as his inheritance, while Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron to punish Egypt in the way that you know, that you might leave."

"Then I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and you came to the sea. The Egyptians pursued you with chariots and horses as far as the Red Sea. Then you cried to YHVH, and He put immense darkness between you and the Egyptians. He made the sea go back on them and they were drowned. You have witnessed all the things He did in Egypt, and then you lived in the desert for a long time."

"Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites who were on the east of the Jordan. You fought them but it was I Who gave them into your hand; you destroyed them and you seized their lands. Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab, declared war on Israel and commanded Balaam son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to him, so Balaam blessed you and I saved you from the hands of Balak."

"Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the landlords of Jericho fought against you : the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites declared war on you, but I gave them to you. The two Amorite kings fled from you because of the swarm of hornets that attacked them and not because of your sword and bow."

"I gave you lands which you have not tilled, cities which you did not build but in which you now live. I gave you vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant but from which you now eat."

Thursday, 17 August 2017 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Word of God speaking to us, in the Gospel passage today, about the parable of the servant who was forgiven his debts and yet refused to forgive others their debts to him. This is a reminder for all of us Christians that we must be ever generous and rich with mercy, forgiveness and compassion in all of our actions, in how we interact and relate with one another in our daily lives.

God is ever merciful, and in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus compared Him with the lord of the servants, who forgave his servant who owed him a great debt, when the servant begged to be forgiven and given more time to pay off his debts. The lord had pity on his servant despite the debt being one that was substantial in size, and erased the entirety of the debt from him.

That was what the Lord had done with His people Israel, whose story we listened to in our first reading taken from the Book of Joshua. The people of Israel, led by Joshua, finally reached the Promised Land and crossed through the River Jordan to enter into the land promised to them and to their ancestors. But they did not reach that stage in their journey without much pain and suffering, as the disobedience of their parents' generation had led to the forty years journey through the desert, as the people of God received a just punishment for their lack of faith in God.

Yet, God still loved them and cared for them, or otherwise He could just have destroyed them without mercy, as He created all of them, and just as easily as He had made them, He could have also unmade them and destroyed them with the mere thoughts of His will. That was not however what the Lord had chosen to do with Israel, and certainly not what He had also chosen to do with all of us mankind, all of us sinners who have disobeyed Him from the time when Adam and Eve first sinned against God.

For all of us are like the servant whose debts had been forgiven by the master and lord of the servant. We have sinned against God, and sin is the debt which all of us have owed the Lord our God. With the debts of sin which we have, we have been sundered from the grace of God and made unworthy, and those debts of sin demanded our payment, and the punishment of the debt of sin is death. But God is merciful and loving towards us, forgiving us our sins through none other than by the loving sacrifice of Jesus our Lord on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if God has forgiven us so great as sins as what we have committed before Him, just as the lord of the servant who have erased the huge debt of the wicked servant, then all of us should also forgive the same debt which others owe unto us. We must not walk in the footsteps of the wicked servant, who had been forgiven from his huge debts but refused to forgive another who owed him a much smaller debt.

Brethren, I invite each and every one of us to look deep into our hearts and remember in our minds, of each of the moments and times when we were angry at others around us, at our fellow brothers or sisters, when we fail to forgive each other, because of the grudges that we keep in our hearts and the hatred that we preserve in our minds. We easily become angry at each other and hate our brethren over simple and trivial matters, over worldly possessions and goods.

This is why many of us Christians cannot move forward in our journey of faith, simply because we are like the wicked servant who cannot learn to forgive and to let go the slights and the inconveniences which others have caused us. We have not followed the examples of the Lord Who have forgiven us our many trespasses and faults, and therefore, we end up failing in our faith life like that of the wicked servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, so what is it that we need to do in order to overcome this issue? All of us need to learn to forgive just as the Lord had forgiven us, and learn to show mercy and compassion as the Lord had first shown us His mercy and compassion. We have to mean it when we pray the Lord's Prayer, as we say the words, 'Forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive those who trespassed against us.'

Therefore, brethren, let us all draw closer to the Lord and imitate ever more closely His love and mercy in our words, actions and deeds, so that in everything we say and do, we will always do what the Lord had taught us to do, and be true Christians in all things. May the Lord bless us all in our endeavours and bring us to righteousness and eternal glory with Him. Amen.