Monday, 15 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages relating to us about a change in life attitude necessary for us to be able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and with sincerity. From the first reading today we heard about the prophet Samuel who rebuked Saul, the first king of Israel, who disobeyed the Lord’s command to follow his own way. And then, from the Gospel we heard a parable taught by Our Lord Himself, about something related to what we heard in the first reading.

Beginning with what we listened to at the first reading today, we witnessed how king Saul, the first king chosen by God to rule over Israel, His people, had not been obedient to Him, but rather, he preferred to follow his own judgments and ways. He was told to destroy the Amalekites, a longtime enemy of the people of God, without sparing anyone and without sparing any of their possessions.

Instead, king Saul chose to spare Agag, the king of Amalek, as well as the Amalekites’ numerous possessions, their wealth and animals, their riches and all of their goods. The Lord knew the disobedience of Saul, which led Israel to sin against Him, as by disobeying the Lord’s direct commands, Saul had chosen not to obey Him but rather trusting in his own flawed human judgment and ambitions.

Samuel was sent by God to rebuke Saul, and showed him how his folly had brought about his disgrace and the withdrawal of the favour and grace which God had granted to him. Saul tried to make excuses by saying that he spared the animals and flocks so that he could offer sacrifices to the Lord, by offering those animals as burnt offerings to God, as prescribed according to the Law of Moses.

But Samuel made it clear to Saul, that God’s favour has been withdrawn from him, and he would no longer be king over Israel, because not only that he had disobeyed God and not listening to His will, but he tried to justify it with false adherence to the laws of Moses, pretending to be faithful by offering animal sacrifices. In truth, Saul wanted those riches for himself and for those who are close to him, and not to praise God.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the interaction between the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John the Baptist with the disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They criticised them and wondered why they did not do as what the laws of Moses prescribed to them to do, that is to fast and to follow the many other commandments and customs in the Jewish tradition. But the Lord Jesus explained to them, by means of parables, that His way is the truth, and not the false ways of the world.

He used the parable of the old and new wineskins and wine, and the old cloth and new clothpiece to highlight this truth to the people. What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we remember what we have just heard in the Gospel passage, we see how the new wine cannot be kept in an old wineskin, vice versa, and new clothpiece cannot be used to patch an old cloth, vice versa, as they are incompatible with each other.

Jesus was saying that in order for the people to truly love Him and devote themselves to Him, then they must abandon the false and wrong way of believing as advocated by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and to a certain extent, what king Saul had done at that time when he disobeyed God. Those people had advocated blind obedience to the Law, to the point that they performed the rituals and practices of the faith but without proper understanding of their meaning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prophet Samuel and Our Lord Jesus Himself highlighted that true obedience is more important than just paying lip service to the law. It does not mean that we should not obey the commandments of God as written in the teachings of the Church, as indeed, we must obey those laws and precepts, as God Himself has given us all of them to be obeyed and followed.

However, we must not end up following them for the sake of following them, meaning that, we do not fulfil the commandments because we truly love God above all, and worse still, we do them for the sake of our own personal ambitions and glory. This is something that we must avoid, and which we have to learn from the lessons of the Lord, as He showed the corrupt ways of the teachers of old who misused the law for their own purposes.

We have a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ, on whether we want to follow the footsteps of king Saul, or the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in disobeying God because they did not have the Lord as the focus and the centre of their lives? Or whether we want to turn ourselves completely to Him and learn to love Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength?

May the Lord help each and every one of us, that as Christians, we may grow to love the Lord more and more with each and every passing day. Let us all also care for one another, giving our love for our brethren in need, and not ignoring or abandoning those who are in need of our love. This is the new way which Christ has revealed to us, which is against the old ways of our worldliness and selfishness. Let us therefore cast aside the old ways and follow the Lord wholeheartedly from now on. Amen.

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