Thursday, 11 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to two stories from the Scriptures, beginning with the Book of the prophet Samuel, from which we heard about the time when Israel went to war against the Philistines, who were hostile against the Israelites and frequently carried out raids against them. As mentioned in the Scripture passage, we heard how the Israelites brought the Ark of God with them, because they thought that God would be with them and would help them win the war against their enemies.

But as we heard in the same reading, even though the Ark of the Covenant was with them, but the Philistines inflicted a serious defeat upon the Israelites, killing the two sons of Eli, the judge and high priest of Israel at the time, and capturing the Ark of God itself, they brought the Ark to their own land. It was truly a very humiliating and disastrous moment for the people of Israel.

We may be wondering, as we listen to this story, as to why the Lord would abandon His people in such a manner. If you heard the story, you must have seen how they believed that God would be with them in the battle, and that He would lead them to win against their enemies. But He did not do so, as if He had, the Israelites would have won the battle and the Ark would not have been captured by the Philistines.

In order to understand the passage better, let us all look to the Gospel passage which we have heard just now as well. In today’s Gospel, we heard of Jesus Our Lord healing a leper, who asked Him to heal him from his sickness. Our Lord was moved with pity and love for the leper, and He healed him from his leprosy. But the Lord also mentioned to him, that he must not tell others of what had happened to him, that Jesus healed him. Instead, he must go to the priests as prescribed by the Law, and follow the necessary procedure.

Yet, the man healed of his leprosy disobeyed Jesus and went on to tell many others of what He had done to him. As a result, Jesus ended up suffering many difficulties and persecutions, and He could no longer enter any town openly, lest He became the object of criticism and harassment. And the reason for this is truly multifaceted, but if we are to understand it deeper, we should be more careful in our reading of what had happened at that time.

Jesus healed the leper by stretching out His hand and touching him. Instantly, the leprosy left the man and he was completely healed. However, according to the Jewish laws and customs, it was forbidden for someone to come into close contact, less still touch, those who have contracted leprosy. If anyone has come into close contact with someone who had leprosy, then they would also be considered as a leper, and would be cast out of the society.

This shows us that if we are faithful to the Lord, and if we truly love Him, then we should obey Him in all that He had commanded and told us to do. Because of what the healed leper man had done, Jesus and His disciples encountered much difficulty and challenges, and their good works were hampered in various ways. And this is how it is indeed related to what we have heard from the first reading today, of the time when the Philistines defeated Israel even when they brought the Ark of God with them.

If we read through the Book of Judges and the Book of the prophet Samuel, we will realise that after the people of Israel had reached the Promised Land from their Exodus from Egypt, they had not always been faithful to God. They frequently disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him and His judges, despite the Lord having frequently sent help along the way to rescue His people from their troubles and from their enemies.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we listened to God’s words in the Scriptures and as we reflect on what had happened to our predecessors, let us all therefore commit to renew our faith in God, and devote ourselves more faithfully and more wholeheartedly to Him, to love Him genuinely with all of our hearts, and to obey Him in all the things we do, and in all that He has commanded us to do. Let us not be halfhearted or superficial in our faith.

Let us remember the Lord always in good times and in bad times. He will always be faithful to the Covenant which He had established and renewed with us through Christ His Son, that He willingly died for us on the cross, a show of His ultimate and pure love for each one of us. Let us show Him the love that He therefore deserves. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

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