Wednesday, 17 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we listened to two stories, one from the Old Testament, in which we continue the story of the prophet Samuel’s book, now about king David when he was still young, after he has been anointed by Samuel, in his struggle against the giant Goliath. Surely all of us are quite familiar with this famous story of David versus Goliath, but do we really know the significance of what happened that day when David defeated Goliath?

At that time, the people of Israel under the leadership of king Saul has fallen away from God’s grace, because Saul has disobeyed Him in several occasions, and refused to listen to the words of the prophet Samuel. The Philistines were a group of people who lived neighbouring the land of Israel, and they were constant bitter enemies of the Israelites. They warred frequently against Israel, and raided the land for loot and for glory.

And they wielded a mighty army against Israel, made of giants who were of towering height over the smaller Israelite forces. Goliath was the mightiest among the mighty, and he was a champion of the Philistines. No one among the Israelites, even king Saul, dared to stand against the giant Goliath. And Goliath uttered all sorts of insolent and blasphemous words against Israel and against God.

David, who was not counted among the soldiers was in the camp, providing for his brothers, some of whom were fighting as part of king Saul’s army. He was a young man, with a complexion and appearance that did not make him look like a great and mighty warrior. Yet, when he challenged Goliath out of great anger and righteous wrath, for all the insults and blasphemies the giant uttered against God, he courageously stood against the giant.

Everyone at that time would not have expected that David would even have any chance of surviving against Goliath, less still being able to defeat the giant. Yet, that was exactly what happened. David triumphed against Goliath, who was so confident of his human prowess and abilities, that he ended up being overconfident, not knowing that God was with David.

In the Gospel today, we listened to another story, of the time when the Lord Jesus healed a paralytic man on the day of the Sabbath. He had pity on the man who was suffering from his condition, and was moved to rescue him from his troubles. God did this because He wanted to show us how much He loved us all, and we will never be left alone, for He is always with us, particularly those who are downtrodden and without hope.

He rebuked all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who opposed His works of mercy and love. Those people claimed to be good and holy, and yet they failed to understand that the law of the Sabbath was actually meant to allow the people to love the Lord more, and put their focus at Him. The Sabbath day was meant to be a day in which the people leave behind their worldly concerns and business, and refocus themselves to the Lord.

And that can perfectly be achieved through good deeds of love and mercy, since if we remember what the Lord Himself said, that whatever it is that we do for the sake of the least among us, we do it for the Lord Himself. That is why we should reflect on this today, as we look upon our own respective life and actions. Have we truly been faithful as for example, king David has been faithful?

Those who place their trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, because God remembers one’s good faith and love for Him. And that is why we need to learn to put our trust in Him. Perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples of the saint whose feast and memory we celebrate today, namely that of St. Anthony the Abbot. He was a renowned religious and man of God, whose dedication to the Lord and commitment became a great inspiration for those who followed his path.

St. Anthony the Abbot was renowned as one of the first of those who dedicated themselves to an ascetic life, wholly dedicated to the Lord. He went off to the wilderness, living in caves and isolated areas, living his life with prayer and devotion to God. He was tempted a lot by the devil, who made him suffer and things to be inconvenient for him. Yet, this holy man of God persevered through those challenges and tribulations, growing ever deeper in his commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us in our own respective lives will meet challenges and troubles, much like that faced by David when he went up against Goliath the giant, and also the man with paralytic hand, who is confirmed to have endured prejudices and troubles in his life. St. Anthony have encountered many temptations and difficulties, attacks by the devil as he secluded himself in the desert.

But God was with all of them, and He provided for each one of them, in His own way and method. God is ever loving and ever kind, but it is us mankind who have not loved Him as we should. Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to love our God, and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly and trust Him, as David had, and as St. Anthony had done. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

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