Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings from the Scripture we are reminded of the need to have faith in God, and not just any kind of faith, but a living and genuine faith. From today’s Epistle written by St. James the Apostle, we heard of his exhortation to the faithful at that time, regarding the need to believe in God with focus in Him and not to doubt and falter in their faith.

He mentioned that there would indeed be moments when their faith would be tested, and that doubts would come to their minds and hearts. But it is possible to remain true to our faith in God, since the faith that we have must be based and anchored in God, or else we will easily lose our faith. St. James often reiterated in his Epistle the importance of a living and genuine faith, one that is based on actions and good deeds, and not one that is empty and dead.

In the Gospel passage we heard today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted Jesus and His teachings, and set out to test Him and ask Him to perform signs and miracles among them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were among the most well-educated people in the community at that time, and they were well-versed in the Scriptures and matters of the Law. Yet, why was it that they opposed the Lord and His good works?

That is because, they put their trust in their own intelligence, understanding and comprehension of the teachings of the Law. They did not allow other forms of interpretation and understanding of the laws and rules, and hence, saw what the Lord Jesus and His disciples had done among the people as serious threats to their own teaching authority and prestige in the society.

As such, they opposed Him and His disciples, and they made it very difficult for Him at every available opportunity, trying to test Him and make any evidence to be against Him, that they might arrest Him and thus remove that dangerous threat to their authority and power. Hence, having closed their hearts and minds to God, no matter what they had seen, all the miracles and signs that the Lord Jesus had performed, they did not believe in Him and refused to believe.

Unfortunately, we mankind are people who are often stubborn and difficult to persuade otherwise, and we tend to follow what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. And the issue here is exactly because we have our pride and our intelligence, thinking that we are better than everyone else. Everything tends to revolve about ‘Me’ or ‘I’ or ‘We’ and not about ‘you’ or ‘they’ or ‘others’.

That is why if we do all these things, we can never be truly faithful to the Lord, just as St. James mentioned in his Epistle today, how people who do not have true faith and doubt because of their own stubbornness and refusal to believe, will always have two minds and will stumble in the end because of their inability to commit wholeheartedly to the Lord and to His cause.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not what all of us as Christians should be doing. We should be thinking less about ourselves and more about others. And in order to see that for ourselves, we do not need to look any further than to see what the Lord Jesus Himself had given to us, a sign and proof beyond any worldly signs or proofs the world could have conjured, far beyond what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could have expected.

He gave Himself up for us, suffering for us, bearing our own mistakes and sins upon Himself, carrying the cross up towards Calvary, and having born all of our trespasses upon Himself, He laid bare everything, dying for us and in the process, gaining for us the way to eternal life and salvation. He showed us the example of a perfect and undying love, of self-sacrifice and genuine care for others. He forgave His enemies, the same Pharisees and teachers of the Law who cried out for His death.

And we as Christians, should do the same in our own lives. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from now on, be sowers of the seeds of love, peace, harmony, compassion and care, by doing what we can in our own respective lives, to love one another as best as we can, and showing concern for our brethren in need. We must no longer put ourselves at the forefront of every concerns and thoughts, but instead, learn to let go of our greed and pride, and learn to serve others humbly with love, as the Lord, Our God Himself had done.

May the Lord awaken in each and every one of us a strong and courageous spirit to love, to care and to be good Christians in action, word and spirit. May He continue to bless us and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side of the lake.

Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

It is good for me to have been afflicted, for I have deeply learnt Your statutes.

Your Law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

I know, o YHVH, that Your laws are just; and there is justice in my affliction.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 1 : 1-11

James, a servant of God, and of Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Consider yourselves fortunate, my brothers and sisters, when you meet with every kind of trial, for you know, that the testing of your faith makes you steadfast. Let your steadfastness become perfect, with deeds, that you, yourselves, may be perfect and blameless, without any defect.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, Who gives to all easily and unconditionally. But ask with faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed on the sea by the wind. Such a person should not expect anything from the Lord, since the doubter has two minds and his conduct will always be insecure.

Let the believer who is poor, boast, in being uplifted, and let the rich one boast, in being humbled, because he will pass away like the flower of the field. The sun rises and its heat dries the grass; the flower withers and its beauty vanishes. So, too, will the rich person fade away, even in the midst of his pursuits.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Marian apparition to St. Bernadette Soubirous in what is now famous as the pilgrimage site of Lourdes in southern part of France. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God appeared to the young St. Bernadette Soubirous, calling mankind to repentance and to be forgiven from their sins, by sincerely turning away from their past wickedness and embrace God’s mercy.

And during those apparitions, the Blessed Virgin showed St. Bernadette the place of a spring which gushed forth from the ground, and have ever since been gushing out water, which is holy and blessed, and have for the past one and a half century since the apparition, shown miraculous properties, and healed many of those who came to visit Lourdes on pilgrimage. Pope St. John Paul II himself went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes just a year before his passing, having long suffered from his illnesses.

That is why it is all the more fitting that today’s Scripture passages match so well with the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, celebrated every year on the eleventh day of February, the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes as mentioned earlier. In the first reading today we heard what God instructed to Moses and Aaron with regards to the disease most feared in those days, namely leprosy, while in the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself healing a leper.

In the Old Testament, God gave to Moses the laws which He had established to be followed and obeyed by the people, which included many aspects of societal life, including what to be done when a person fell ill with diseases, in particular leprosy, which was likely a highly contagious version of the leprosy as we know it today, easily spreading from one person to another, unless certain measures were taken to prevent the outbreak of a pandemic.

Understanding the Law which God has passed on to Moses require us to look carefully into what had happened at that time, the historical and societal background of the Israelites at the time when the laws were given to them. At that time, Israel were travelling on the long journey from Egypt towards the Promised Land, travelling in a desert where staying together in a closely knitted community would be essential to survival.

Wandering off alone in the desert would bring about great risks to the people, who could end up getting lost or struck by predators without being able to get the necessary help. However, staying close together in camps and tents within the community of Israel at the time, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands if not more, exposed the whole community to great risk of disease outbreak.

That is the reason why God made the rule for the occasion such that, all those who contracted contagious disease such as leprosy were obliged to leave the camp and live outside the community until his disease and all of its symptoms have been healed. Otherwise many more people in the community would be infected by the contagious disease, and many more would have suffered.

Yet, this did not mean that those lepers who were obliged to live outside the community were forgotten. God did include the rule that should their condition improved and their disease were cured, they would be able to return to the community of the people of Israel, after having presented themselves to the priests who would then judge whether the person was to be allowed to return or not.

In the Gospel passage today, it is evident that whatever the practices were during the time of Jesus, it was no different from the practices at the time of Moses. The lepers were feared and shunned, just as it was in the past, forced to live away from the people and outside of the community until they were able to show that they have recovered from their leprosy. And it was on that occasion mentioned in the Gospel passage today that Jesus met one of those lepers who asked Him to heal him.

Indeed, He had mercy on the man and healed him from his leprosy. That is what God truly wanted with His people, for He loves each and every one of them without exception, equally and without prejudice. That was why He wanted them to be healed from their pains and sufferings, including the stigma and suffering caused by the leprosy the man and many others contracted.

This is what each of us should know, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are all afflicted and sick. We may be perfectly healthy in the physique and the body, and we may be surprised that truly, we are all sick at the moment. You may not believe what I have just said, but what I meant is that, we are sick because of our unworthiness, our wicked actions, our disobedience against God and therefore, our sins.

Sin is the culprit for all of our sufferings and sorrows, ever since mankind first fell into sin, beginning with our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, who failed to resist the temptations of Satan. Sin is therefore a disease that strike at our soul, at the very depths and innermost part of our beings. If we are not careful, sin will eventually swallow us up entirely, just as we can succumb to the diseases that strike at our flesh and body. And sin is much worse than any of our physical illnesses, as sin defiles everything and destroys everything.

Parallel to what we have discussed earlier about the treatment of those who fell ill with leprosy, forced to live outside of the community of the Israelites until they were healed, and certified as such by the priests, then it is not different at all with all of us mankind, who suffer from the disease of the soul, that is our sins. If we read the Book of Genesis, surely we would have remembered how Adam and Eve, our ancestors, were driven out of the gardens of Eden, from the presence of God, because they have sinned against God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect and ask ourselves this question, ‘What is it that we want from God?’ and ‘Do we want to be healed by God?’. These questions serve as reminders for us that in our sickened state, and as we suffer the consequences of our disobedience in this world, we are indeed in need of healing, and that we are not in a good condition at all.

Unfortunately, many of us are too proud to admit that we have been wrong, that we are in need of help and assistance. We refused to listen to God speaking to us in our hearts and through those who we encounter in life, and many of us stubbornly continued on in our way of life, filled with sin, with greed and desires of the world, with violence and jealousy for one another, and all sorts of things that kept us away from reconciliation with God.

Yet, we are fortunate to have God Who is ever and always kind and loving towards us, Who is always ever generous with His mercy and forgiveness. His arms are always open towards us, waiting for us to return to His embrace that we may be fully reconciled with Him. But to be able to be fully reconciled with God, we must be willing to listen to Him and follow His ways, the examples through which He showed us to guide us to Him.

Let us all look at the action of the man whom Jesus had healed from his leprosy. Jesus strictly told him not to tell anyone that it was He Who healed him from his illness, but the man went on regardless, telling everyone that it was Jesus Who healed him. As a result, the people shunned Jesus and the priests made it very difficult for Jesus and His disciples to work among the people, barring Him from their towns and cities.

This was because they must have heard how Jesus approached the leper and touched him in order to heal him, which was taboo according to the laws of Moses. In a sense, God made Himself ‘unclean’ in the eyes of the law in order to make the man clean, and it was to that extent that He was willing to do, in order to care for mankind, to love us and to embrace us sinners.

God knew best what was to be done, and that was why He told the man not to tell anyone about what He had done. But it was likely the man’s pride and hubris that made him to falter, as if he had told the priests he was healed naturally as Jesus told him to do, that would be entirely ordinary and usual. Instead, while it was not mentioned in the Gospel passage, but from our human experiences, it is likely that the man told everyone because being healed in such a miraculous way is something to be boasted and proud about.

And that is exactly how mankind fell into sin, when we start to put the ‘I’ or the ‘We’ ahead of everything else. Pride, ambition, hubris, jealousy, desire, and all these other obstacles to our good and loving relationship with God which will result in our downfall. It is therefore important for us all to realise that we are in need of God’s healing and mercy, because all of us are unworthy, sinners and delinquents.

Let us all learn to distance ourselves from all of those obstacles I have mentioned just earlier, the obstacle of pride, of greed, of human ambition and worldly greed and many more. Let us desire to be healed and to be reconciled fully with God, through genuine conversion and change of heart, abandoning our past sinful ways and embracing fully God’s generous and everlasting love for us all.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us all, pray for us who are physically sick, and also all of us who are sinners, sick of this disease of the soul, our sins, that we may seek your Son, to be healed and to be made whole once again through our faith in Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 10 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 11 : 1

Then, whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Give no offence to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything. I do not seek my own interest, but that of many, this is : that they be saved.

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.