(Usus Antiquior) Quinquagesima Sunday (II Classis) – Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Introit and Collect

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Introit

Psalm 30 : 3-4 and 2

Esto mihi in Deum protectorem, et in locum refugii, ut salvum me facias : quoniam firmamentum meum et refugium meum es Tu : et propter Nomen Tuum dux mihi eris, et enutries me.

In Te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum : in justitia Tua libera me et eripe me.

Response : Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper : et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Be You, unto me a God, a Protector, and a place of refuge, to save me. For You are my strength, and my refuge, and for Your Name’s sake You will be my Leader and will nourish me.

In You, o Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded. Deliver me in Your justice, and set me free.

Response : Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Collect

Preces nostras, quaesumus, Domine, clementer exaudi : atque, a peccatorum vinculis absolutos, ab omni nos adversitate custodi. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Of Your clemency hearken to our prayers, o Lord, loosen us from the bonds of sin, and keep us from all adversity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sins done by the people of God, as we continue to hear the story from the ancient kingdom of Israel, after the division of the old kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon into two kingdoms. The southern kingdom of Judah remained in the family of David until the end of that kingdom, while the northern kingdom also called Israel, started with Jeroboam mentioned in the first reading today, would change hands many times.

And the rivalry, jealousy and fear which king Jeroboam of Israel felt, having seen how the people still went to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple built by Solomon, made him to disobey God and went on to impose a new pagan and wicked worship of golden calves. In this we see once again, how the people fell again and again into sin, disobeying God and refusing to follow Him.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we think that what the people of Israel had done were wicked, then so were our actions, our words and our deeds. Many of us often do not realise just how much wickedness and how many sins we have committed, sometimes even unknowingly, because for us, often sinning is the norm for us. Temptations to sin and the pressures from our peers and those around us are plenty, and that is why, we often fall again and again into sin.

That happens in particular when God is not in our hearts and minds. Even when we think that God has a place in our hearts and minds, but often we relegated Him to a less prominent position, putting Him aside to a corner, and instead focusing on our numerous worldly concerns and desires. We forgot about God because we were too busy pursuing our worldly careers and concerns, and we only remembered Him when we were desperate and in need, thinking that God would surely listen to us.

But God will only help those who are willing to be helped themselves. What does this mean? It means that if we do not proactively live our lives in accordance with His ways, and refuse to accept His offer of love and mercy, then we cannot be helped. It is only upon our agreement of accepting His generous offer of mercy and love, which He had made unconditionally for our sake, then we can be saved.

But we can be assured of God’s everlasting and generous love, ultimately because even though despite all of our sins, wickedness and disobedience, God still loves us, each and every one of us, just as what we have heard in the Gospel today ought to assure us of this fact. The Lord Jesus saw a large multitude of people, four thousand men not counting the women and children present there, and they were all hungry, having followed Him and heard His teachings without stopping by to rest and eat.

Thus, we heard how the Lord took seven loaves of bread available in the hands of the Apostles, and blessed them before the people, breaking them all and gave the bread for all the people to eat. And they all ate well, according to what we have heard, and there were enough leftovers in fact, to fill up seven full large baskets of leftover loaves of bread. Such a miracle was God’s doing alone, and it showed also just how much He cared for us.

And not only that, not just that the Lord had pity on His people who suffered from physical hunger of the body, but He also had pity on us because of our afflictions of the soul, the mind, the heart and our whole beings. Sin has claimed us and has enslaved us under its power, and we have therefore been made unworthy and unclean before God. Without God’s help and mercy, we would have fallen without hope into hell, to suffer for eternity as a consequence for our sins.

But the Lord laid down His own life, by offering His life in exchange for ours. He willingly sacrificed Himself on the Altar of the Cross, at the hill of Calvary, when He was crucified for us and died. He gave us His own Most Precious Body and Blood to eat and drink, that by the Most Holy Eucharist He has passed down to us through the Church by the hands of our priests and bishops, we may be filled not just physically, but also well satisfied in spirit, and healed of all of our afflictions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us think back again at our own respective lives. How many times had it been that God had been kind to us, giving us chances after chances, and opportunities after opportunities, guiding us towards the right path? We might have disappointed Him and rejected Him, but God Who loves us all very much, will not easily give up on us.

Let us all reorientate our lives that we no longer refuse His love and generous offer of mercy, but instead, follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the Apostles and the saints, especially today’s saint, St. Scholastica, holy virgin and devout servant of God, whose memory we remember together. She is the sister of another great saint, St. Benedict of Nursia, and together, each of them showed many future generations of the faithful, right up to our present era, how to be truly devoted to God, in a life filled with God and His love, and for some, they followed her examples, and devoted themselves to God in a consecrated life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us fill our lives with prayer, not just prayers mumbled through the mouth, but prayers made from our hearts and minds. Let us open ourselves completely to God, allowing Him to come into us, and to dwell in us, speaking with us in the depths of our heart. Let us allow Him to transform us all by His love, so that eventually, we may be ever more like Him, and be worthy of the eternal glory He has prepared for all of those who are faithful to Him. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterward, Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute.

And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish. So Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well. The people ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number.

Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 6-7a, 19-20, 21-22

We have sinned like our ancestors; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When they were in Egypt, our ancestors had no regard for Your wondrous deeds.

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

Saturday, 10 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Kings 12 : 26-32 and 1 Kings 13 : 33-34

Jeroboam thought, “The kingdom could return to the house of David. Should this people go up to offer sacrifices in YHVH’s House in Jerusalem, their heart would turn again to their master, Rehoboam king of Judah. They would kill me and go back to him.”

And so the king sought advice and made two golden calves. Then he said to the people, “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, o Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” He put one of these in Bethel, the other in Dan. This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves.

Jeroboam also built temples on high places, appointing priests who were not from the Levites. Jeroboam also appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in imitation of the feast in Judah, and he himself offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel; and sacrificed to the calves that he had made. There he placed priests for the high places he had made.

After this, however, Jeroboam did not abstain from doing evil. Instead he made priests for the high places from among the people. He consecrated anyone who wanted to be a priest for the high places. And this became the sin of the family of Jeroboam for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the face of the earth.

Friday, 9 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the Scriptures in the Old Testament, we heard about the moment when the kingdom of Israel was split into two parts, because of the disobedience of king Solomon, who led the people into sinful ways and pagan worship of idols and false gods. The descendants of David retained the rule over the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, having also some of the members of the other tribes, while the other ten tribes of Israel mostly rebelled and established the northern kingdom of Israel.

Then in the Gospel passage we have just heard today, we heard about the marvels of the Lord Jesus’ healing work among the people, as He healed a man who was deaf and almost mute. He laid his hands upon the man’s ears and tongue and said ‘Ephphata!’ which means ‘Be opened!’ signifying to the people that the man was healed from all of his afflictions and predicaments.

True enough, the man who was once deaf and almost mute, could then use his ears again to listen, and his mouth to speak words, something that the man could not do, probably for many years. Many of us take listening and speaking for granted, as we have always had the ability for many years, ever since we were born. We often do not understand the challenges faced by those who were deaf or mute, as life without the ability to listen to sound and to speak is truly difficult.

The two readings today seem to be unrelated and distant, but in reality, they tie in together well in a most peculiar way. In order to be able to see this link and understand the meaning of the passages today better, let us look deep into the circumstances of history, especially at the time of the division of the kingdom of Israel. At that time, the tribes of Israel except for the tribe of Judah, to which king Solomon belonged, grumbled against the king because of the heavy taxations levied on them.

In addition, king Solomon was well known for his many grand projects and achievements in establishing his powerful empire, but many of these were built upon the foundation of labours which were levied from the tribes of Israel. All of these caused the people to resent the rule of the king even more, and it took just a spark to incite them to rebel against the authority of the king.

Ironically, this was foreseen by the prophet Samuel, who anointed the first kings of Israel. He foresaw that if Israel, who had demanded to have a king at the time, were to have a king over them, then they might ended up being oppressed by the king who ruled tyrannically over them. And all these did happen, just as the Lord warned His people it would come to pass.

The king, Solomon, sinned against God because he failed to listen to God, even though he had perfectly functioning ears. Just as the people who had refused to listen to the prophet’s words, they have healthy ears, and all senses, and yet, they failed to perceive the truth and what they need to do in order to follow the right path and not to fall into error and sin, as what had happened at that time in Israel. The people, led by their kings, fell into sin caused by disobedience against God.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, the healing miracle done by the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today, Who cried out ‘Ephphata!’ or ‘Be opened!’ is a reminder for all of us Christians, just as this rite is celebrated also traditionally in the conferring of the Sacrament of Baptism, that as Christians, we should open our ears, and not just our physical ears but also the ears and doors of our hearts and minds to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to heal us all from all of our stubbornness, from all of our refusals to listen to Him and to obey His words. Let us all seek His forgiveness, for all that we have wrongly done to Him, and for all the wicked things we do, having placed our own selfish desires and greed before our obligation to serve and love Him with all of our hearts, as we should have done.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and that we may find our way to Him, receiving from Him the promise of eternal life and glory. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.