Thursday, 8 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus went to the border of the Tyrian country. There, He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there; but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet.

Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies.”

But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Thursday, 8 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

Psalm 105 : 3-4, 35-36, 37 and 40

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people; rescue me when You deliver them.

They mingled with these nations and learnt to do as they did. In serving the idols of the pagans, they were trapped.

Into sacrificing children to demons. The anger of YHVH grew intense and He abhorred His inheritance.

Thursday, 8 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Virgins)

1 Kings 11 : 4-13

In Solomon’s old age, his wives led him astray to serve other gods and, unlike his father David, his heart was no longer wholly given to YHVH his God. For he served Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites.

He did what displeased YHVH and, unlike his father David, was unfaithful to Him. Solomon even built a high place for Chemosh, the idol of Moab, on the mountain east of Jerusalem and also for Molech, the idol of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.

YHVH became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from YHVH, the God of Israel. YHVH appeared to him twice and commanded him not to follow other gods. But he did not obey YHVH’s command. Therefore, YHVH said to Solomon, “Since this has been your choice and you have kept neither My Covenant nor the statutes I commanded you, I will take the kingdom from you and give it to your servant.”

“Nevertheless, I will not do this during your lifetime for the sake of your father David; I will take it from your son. But I will not take it all; I will reserve one tribe for your son for the sake of David My servant, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen.”

Wednesday, 7 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we listened today to the words from the Scripture telling us about the moment when the Queen of Sheba from the land of Ethiopia travelled to Jerusalem to see for herself all the glory that was told about Solomon, God’s chosen king and leader for His people, Israel. Solomon was widely known at his time because of his great wisdom, his great wealth and power.

Solomon showed her all of his glory, his wisdom and all that God had granted him, and the Queen was amazed at all that she had seen, which surpassed all the rumours and news she had heard from her homeland. Solomon had great number of wives and concubines, and great amount of wealth, and he had a strong army and rich stores of grains and goods, all that the people of this world would have ever wanted.

However, those riches and his wives and concubines corrupted Solomon, who fell into pride and hubris, disobedience against God and lack of faith, as he gave in to the demands and allures of his wives to allow pagan worship in accordance with the customs of their respective people, leading Israel back into sin, as they turned away from the Lord their God. His great wealth and power made him proud of his achievements, and God was no longer the centre of his life.

But, did those wealth, riches and the wives cause the corruption in Solomon? And do all these things lead him to sin by themselves? If we remember what we have also just heard from the Gospel today, and heed what the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees, then we will realise that it was not the case. The Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of their extreme dedication to the external observances of the Law.

The Pharisees were very strict with the observances of the rules and regulations of the Law, particularly in the matter of cleansing and purification, as they grumbled upon seeing Jesus and His disciples not performing the ritual purification as described by the Jewish customs at the time. According to them, the washing of the hands before meals should be done in a particular way, from the tip of the fingers right down the whole arms all the way to the elbow.

And they were also very particular with regards of the food prohibitions, on food that was considered to be unclean in accordance with the Jewish law, that no one could touch the unclean food, and in fact, they could not even come in contact with people considered to be unclean, such as those deemed to be sinners like the prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, and all those who were deemed to be unworthy.

But in their insistence and enforcement on all to obey the rules and regulations right down to the smallest details, being afraid that external defilements might make them unclean and impure, ended up becoming irrational and made them to lose their focus and purpose in fulfilling those laws and commandments. Instead of bringing them closer to the Lord, as what the Lord intended when He gave those laws to His people, it ended up leading the people away from God.

Sin and disobedience, all the defilements and wickedness came about not from the outside but from the inside. This is what the Lord Jesus wanted to point out to the people. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law might be outwardly pious and obedient to the Law, but their hearts have no God in them. Instead of God being at the centre of their lives, it was their ego that takes the most prominent place.

They sinned not because of all their external actions, which were probably good, but because of their insincerity and lack of faith, because of their hubris and ambition, because of their greed and inability to resist their human desires and wishes. It was all of these negative emotions and feeling coming up from inside of them, which led them to sin against God. On the other hand, people who were deemed sinners were saved, because they sincerely desired to be forgiven from their sins.

It was the same with king Solomon as well, as king Solomon’s wealth, all of his kingdom’s might, power and glory are all just means to be used, and they are by no means good or evil. Money can be used as much for good purpose such as charity and good deeds, as they can be used for wicked purposes, to cause suffering and pain for others. Rather, his sin and disobedience came about because of his pride and the growing greed inside his heart and mind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these are reminders to us all, that as Christians, we have to strive to live faithfully to God, not just for the sake of appearances or for the sake of fulfilling our obligations, but instead, we must truly love God through everything we say and do. Otherwise, our faith will be empty and meaningless, and we will easily fall into temptation, the temptation of pride and greed, the temptation of worldly pleasures and power, as king Solomon and the Pharisees had succumbed to.

Let us all renew our faith with a new zeal, so that in all that we do, we will always do them for the glorification of God, and for our great love and dedication towards Him. After all, He has blessed us and loved us all, just as He has blessed Solomon greatly. But let us not be swayed and tempted by the blessings we have, and instead, let us learn to share the blessings we have, loving our brethren in need, so that we may be true Christians, sharing God’s love with one another, particularly to those who need it most.

May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless all of our endeavours, so that in everything we do, we will be filled with joy, knowing that God is with us along the way, and He will be with us and we will share in His eternal glory, reserved for all those who are loyal and faithful to Him. Amen.