Tuesday, 21 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this day, parallel to the presentation of her Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, which we celebrate on the second day of February, we see the venerable custom of the Jewish people, commanded by God in the Law, that all of the firstborn children of the people of God ought to be offered to God, to be sanctified before Him.

Through the Blessed Virgin Mary, God wanted to show all of His beloved people, His love and also hope for our salvation. Through her, the Saviour of this world has been born, the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man through His mother Mary. Mary indeed has been prepared especially for this role, as the Church and our faith believes that she was conceived without sin, immaculate and pure from the moment of her conception.

Why is that so? That is because she was to be the one who bear the Saviour in her womb, as the one who would bear the Master of all the universe Himself, Who is all good and perfect. She is the new Ark of the Covenant, and as the old Ark which is made of precious metals and materials, the new Ark was even better, as compared to the old Ark which was the product of man’s craftsmanship, the new Ark was God’s craftsmanship alone, as all of us have been made in the image of God.

And when Mary was offered at the Temple to the Lord, it also symbolises the complete surrender and dedication to God, which all of us mankind are supposed to be doing with our lives as well. Mary kept herself in the service of God all her life, and she obeyed Him and followed Him in what He wanted to do with her life. She listened to God’s will and allowed Him to perform His wondrous works through her life, the most important of which was her acceptance of the role to be the Mother of God.

In the Gospel passage today, Jesus was speaking to the people about who is truly His brothers and sisters, His mother and His family. At the first glance, it might seem that Jesus was rebuking His own family and His own mother no less, as they were looking for Him and wanted to speak to Him, and yet He apparently refused to even acknowledge them as His family.

Yet, in reality, He was using the opportunity to teach the people and to reveal to them, that because of Himself, Who has come into this world, as the Son of God born of the Virgin and became Man, all of mankind who share in the humanity of Christ have also been called to become God’s children. But many of us have been wayward and refused to obey Him, and instead, we follow other leaders and other ways, falling into sin in the process.

This is where Jesus showed us the way to go forward, that is the best way for all of us to reach out to Heaven. And it is none other than through Himself, by His sacrifice on the cross, which bridged the once unbridgeable gap between us mankind and God, and this way passes through His mother, Mary. Thus, the saying, ‘ad Iesum per Mariam – To Jesus through Mary’, which signifies that Mary, the Mother of Our God is the best and easiest way for us to reach out to the Lord and His saving grace.

When Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today, that those who listen to the Lord and obey His will and commands are considered to be God’s family, He was in fact pointing out that Mary, is the best embodiment of that obedience, for her entire life, as I have mentioned earlier, has been dedicated to God and His service. Mary is the finest example for all of us Christians to follow, on how to be true disciples and followers of the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate together today as the whole entire Church, with joy for the remembrance of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, let us all renew our conviction and commitment to live faithfully, and filled with sincere and wholehearted faith, that in each and every one of our actions, we will always be ever faithful to God, following the examples of Mary, in her obedience and commitment to God.

Let us all also devote ourselves and indeed, resolve to present ourselves to the Lord, even though we are sinners and unworthy, so that through our renewed commitment and effort we will draw ever closer to Him, and be eventually ready to receive His everlasting grace. May God bless us always, and may His loving mother Mary intercede for our sake always. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zechariah 2 : 14-17

Sing and rejoice, o daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says YHVH. “On that day, many nations will join YHVH and be My people, but My dwelling is among you.”

The people of Judah will be for YHVH as His portion in His holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in YHVH’s presence, for He comes, having risen from His holy dwelling.

Monday, 20 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s reading, we begin the discourse from the Book of the Maccabees, in which we heard how the king of the Seleucid Empire, king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, persecuted the Jewish people living in his territory, as the Holy Land was then under Seleucid rule, and he also tried to enforce the Greek customs upon the Jewish people.

The suffering and dilemma faced by the Israelites at the time was truly great, as they were forced to choose between obeying God’s Law and suffer to the point of death, or to abandon the customs of their ancestors and the Law of God and live, receiving great honours and favours from the king and his court. Many of the Jewish people at the time were unable to resist the temptation to avoid suffering, and they abandoned their faith.

The Greek king even led his forces to capture the Temple of God in Jerusalem, desecrating it and built pagan idols within its compounds. Many were forced to worship those pagan idols and abandon their old faith to God. And such were the Jewish people scandalised by the great sins committed by the king, yet, there were many of those who resisted and persevered through the difficult times.

And the ones who led them in resistance were the namesake of this book, the Maccabees family, led by their father, Mattathias, who refused firmly against the king’s order to abandon their faith in God. Led by his sons, the people of Judea would rise up against the king, and through the help and grace of God, through many difficult years, persecutions and further troubles, they succeeded and triumphed against their enemies.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord healed a man who was blind, who begged Him many times as He passed through near his place, that He might want to heal him from his blindness. He kept on trying and shouted begging for Jesus to have mercy on him, despite many people around him who told him to shut up.

Jesus had mercy on the man, and with His compassionate love, He healed the blind man from his affliction. In this we can see, as we relate it to the first reading, the story of the Maccabees rebellion, that God never abandoned His people. He is always ever faithful, even though we have often been unfaithful to Him. He always loved us no matter what.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there will be plenty of times when we will feel that we are alone against the world, and that no one is around to help us, and not even God. That is why we give up on God, give up on everything, on our faith and all else, and give up to the demands of the world, much as how many of the Jewish people gave up to the demands of king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who demanded that they abandon their God.

Let us remember what we have heard this day, and keep in our minds and our hearts at all times, that we are always beloved by God, no matter what. He is always around for us, and He will guide us and help us according to His will. Sometimes, yes, we did have to suffer for a time, but if we remain faithful, our reward in God will be great.

Shall we strive to look for eternal joy that we can find in God alone, and not in the temporary and illusory false joy that this world offers? Let us remain true to our faith, and commit ourselves, our whole lives to God, by doing what He has asked us to do in our loves. May the Lord be with us always, for we are all His beloved children, those whom He will bless and protect at all times, against all evils. Amen.

Monday, 20 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 18 : 35-43

At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what was happening, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by. Then he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The people in front of him scolded him, “Be quiet!” they said, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped, and ordered the blind man to be brought to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!”

Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Monday, 20 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158

I feel indignant at the wicked who have forsaken Your law.

The wicked have me trapped in their snares, but I have not forgotten Your laws.

Rescue me from human oppression, and help me keep Your precepts.

My persecutors close in with evil intent; they are far from Your law.

Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.

I look upon the faithless with loathing, because they do not obey Your ruling.

Monday, 20 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Maccabees 1 : 10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64

From their descendants there came a godless offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of king Antiochus, who had been held as hostage in Rome. He became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Greek era, in the year 175 B.C..

It was then that some rebels emerged from Israel, who succeeded in winning over many people. They said, “Let us renew contact with the people around us for we had endured many misfortunes since we separated from them.”

This proposal was well-received and some eagerly went to the king. The king authorised them to adopt the customs of the pagan nations. With his permission, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the pagan style. And as they wanted to be like the pagans in everything, they made artificial foreskins for themselves and abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased.

Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. All the people of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one people. All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and, even in Israel, many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, in the year 167 B.C., Antiochus erected the “abominable idol of the invaders” on the altar of the Temple. Pagan altars were built throughout the whole land of Judea; incense was offered at the doors of their houses and in the squares.

There wicked men tore up the books of the Law they found and burnt them. They killed anyone they caught in possession of the book of the Covenant and who fulfilled the precepts of the Law, as the royal decree had ordered. But in spite of all this, many Israelites still remained firm and determined not to eat unclean food. They preferred to die rather than to make themselves unclean with those foods prohibited by the Law that violated the Holy Covenant. And Israel suffered a very great trial.