Tuesday, 26 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, who gathered a massive army and attacked the kingdom of Judah under king Hezekiah, and went on to besiege the city of Jerusalem. King Sennacherib boasted of his mighty army and his great accomplishments, in how he has conquered various nations and peoples with his army, and how their idols had not done anything to help them against the power of Sennacherib’s army.

And in that moment of great pride, king Sennacherib boasted against God, by comparing Him to the other idols of the conquered nations, that not even the Lord YHVH, the God of Judah and Hezekiah would be able to save Jerusalem and Judah against his mighty power. But Sennacherib failed to realise that he was going up against the Lord God, Creator of the universe and Master of all things.

And the Lord spoke to His people through His prophet Isaiah, who encouraged the king of Judah, Hezekiah and the people of Judah, who must have been terrified by the power of the king of Assyria. The Lord reassured them that the king of Assyria would not have what he wanted, and he would not conquer Jerusalem, as the Lord Himself would protect Jerusalem and His people, who at the time of Hezekiah had turned once again to the Lord in their hearts.

In the end, as we heard from the passage, the Lord sent His Angels and slaughtered more than a hundred thousand and eighty-five thousand men from among Sennacherib’s massive army. How they did that, whether through some form of calamities or deadly disease, is immaterial, but the impact was surely clear. The king of Assyria retreated back to his homeland in shame, and he was assassinated by two of his own sons.

Then, in the Gospel passage, we listened to the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and to the people, about how it is so difficult for man to pass through the narrow gate to enter into the eternal life promised to all those who have been faithful to God. This is actually showing the difficulties, obstacles and challenges that one will come to encounter during their journey of faith in this worldly life.

What all of us can, and indeed should learn from our Scripture passages today, is that, many of us were like king Sennacherib of Assyria in our lives and actions. King Sennacherib was proud and ambitious, because he had a vast empire, subjected many peoples and nations, and he had a mighty army that was without compare and competition, and literally, at that time, he could do everything he wanted.

However, he was humbled because he failed to realise that for all his greatness and power, all of those things were transitory, illusory and meaningless before God. All of his wealth, power, majesty and glory were nothing before God, and in the end, when he was murdered by his own sons, in the end, he had nothing, and he was just a mortal human being, who had to die and perish in his mortal body.

For us, it is a reminder that pride, ego, ambition and greed are serious obstacles and challenges that often prevented us from finding our way to God. If we do not make the conscious effort to resist the temptation of all these obstacles, then we will likely fall into temptation and end up sinning against God. That is why the Lord Jesus mentioned about the difficulty of entering into the eternal life, as a narrow gate, because there will indeed be a lot of challenges for us in our journey of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, are we ready to pass through the narrow gate on our way to God? If we think that we are ready, then we must be ready to face the challenges and manage the obstacles that will be on our way. Let us all help each other in our way, and devote ourselves to the Lord with renewed fervour and zeal. May the Lord bless us all and be with us in this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 6, 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls before pigs. They might trample on them, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there, you have the Law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life; and how rough, the road; few there are, who find it.”

Tuesday, 26 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 47 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 10-11

Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise in the City of God, His holy mountain. Beautifully elevated, it is the joy of all the earth.

Mount Zion, heavenly mountain, the City of the great King. Here, within her lines of defence, God has shown Himself to be a sure fortress.

Let us recall Your unfailing love, o God, inside Your Temple. Let Your praise, as does Your Name, o God, reach to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is ever victorious.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 19 : 9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36

Again Sennacherib sent messengers to Hezekiah with these words, “Say to Hezekiah, king of Judah that his God in Whom he trusts may be deceiving him in saying that Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria. Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands they have destroyed! And will you be spared?”

Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers, and when he had read it he went to the house of YHVH; where he unrolled the letter and prayed saying, “O YHVH, God of Israel, enthroned above the Cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth; You have made the heavens and the earth. Give ear, YHVH, and hear! Open Your eyes and see! Listen to all the words of Sennacherib who has sent men to insult the living God!”

“It is true, YHVH, that the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries of the earth. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not true gods but gods made of wood and stone by human hands. Now, o YHVH our God, save us from his hand and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that You alone, YHVH, are God.”

Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent word to Hezekiah : “You have called upon YHVH and He has heard your prayer regarding Sennacherib, king of Assyria. This is what YHVH has spoken against him : ‘The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises and scorns you; the Daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head behind you.”

“For a remnant will come from Jerusalem and survivors from Mount Zion. The zeal of YHVH of Hosts will accomplish this. That is why YHVH has said this concerning the king of Assyria : ‘He shall not enter this city nor shoot his arrows. He shall not raise a shield to oppose it nor build a siege ramp against it. He shall leave by the way he came and he shall not enter the city, word of YHVH. I will protect this city and so save it for My own sake and for the sake of David, My servant.”

It happened that the Angel of YHVH went out that night and struck one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed, returned home and lived in Nineveh.

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the account of the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, which fell to the onslaught of the Assyrian Empire, which burnt down its capital, Samaria, and ransacked the cities of the Israelites, carrying off their inhabitants to exile in faraway lands of Mesopotamia. This is the punishment that was due for the people who have repeatedly disobeyed the Lord and sinned in various ways.

This is after repeated reminders and helps which God had put in place through His many prophets and messengers, whom He sent to the northern kingdom of Israel, such as Elijah and Elisha among many others. Yet, the people and their kings refused to turn from their wicked ways and from their sins. In the end, their actions and wicked deeds justified their punishment, and God judged them according to those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the theme of today’s Scripture readings, that is on the matter of judgment, and not just any kind of judgment, but in particular, Christian judgment. And the most common misunderstanding which we have on this time and age is that, we misunderstood the Lord’s words and instructions in this Scripture passage, by saying that the Lord Jesus asked us that we must not judge or should not judge.

That is because we read the Gospel passage literally and understand what the Lord said and not trying to understand what He really wanted to deliver to us. The Lord did not actually say that we cannot judge anybody or anyone at any situation at all. Instead, what He wanted to tell us is that, before we judge, first of all we must always reflect first whether we ourselves have done the same or even worse than what we want to judge.

He said that by whatever standards we judge, then we will also be judged by others. It is quite natural because if we judge others for their wrongdoings, and yet, we ourselves have done the same or even worse deeds, then others who see us and witness our actions and deeds will judge us in the same way. Do we want that to happen to us? Surely we do not want. Yet, this is what we mankind commonly do, day after day, again and again.

The Lord alone is the perfect Judge, for He Himself cannot be judged, for He is all perfect and good, and perfect in everything He has done. By whatever standards that we want to judge God, it is impossible to do so. That is why, God alone is worthy of judging us for our every actions, our every shortcomings, words, deeds and everything that we are. However, once again, this does not mean that we cannot ‘judge’.

The Lord Himself said in another occasion in the Gospels, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with a good judgment.” And St. Paul in his various letters to the Churches also mentioned the importance and the need for sound judgment in the Christian communities. What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must judge first and foremost basing our judgment not on our own prejudices or personal preferences, but instead on our Christian faith and truth.

For our personal preferences and prejudices are often not just and right, and in fact, they may be even worse and more wicked than what we want to judge. But the Christian truth and the faith as kept by the Church is unchanging and perfect, as long as we anchor our Christian judgment in God, Who is the source of all truth and Who is perfect in all of His judgments. This is what we must do, and not to judge wrongly.

And ultimately, it is about what we intend to do with the judgment. Most of the time, as is common for us man, is that we judge so as to condemn the other party for the mistakes or the faults that they have committed. But as Christians, we are instead called to judge, not because we hate the person or wanting to bring harm to the person, but instead, because we want the other party to realise the mistake that he or she has made, and make a change or difference for the better.

That is precisely what God has done, as He, first and foremost of all, loves each and every one of us, His most beloved creations, and certainly, He does not want us to be lost to Him, or to be cast down to hell for eternity. That is why He gave us opportunities, again and again, and sent us reminders through various means, from the Church, from even our families and from those who we encounter at various times and opportunities in our lives.

But we also have to remember, that there is ultimately a limit to God’s mercy and love, not that His mercy and love are limited, but rather, our mortal existence in this world is limited. All of us will ultimately encounter death, and that is the moment when we will face our particular judgment, when each and every one of us will have to answer for our every actions and deeds in life, and when our eternal fate will be judged.

If we refused to accept God’s generous offer of mercy, forgiveness and compassion, then it is by our sins, stubbornness and rejection that we shall be judged, and when we fall into the eternal suffering, separated from God’s love and grace forever, it is by our own actions that we are judged. And it is the right and just consequences for our own disobedience and refusal to repent.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, while we have the time and opportunity in this world, given to us generously by Our God, let us all make best use of them, by realising just how sinful we have been, and commit ourselves to a renewed faith filled with new love and dedication for God. And we are called to ‘judge’ one another with love, caring for the needs of our brethren, especially those who are in danger of falling into damnation because of their sins.

Hence, let us all not be judgmental in the wrong way, but judge with the right intention and method, so that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to help one another, to persevere through the various challenges and obstacles in life. Let us all pray for one another and help each other in this journey of faith, that we may eventually all find our way to God’s salvation and eternal life. May God be with us, and may He bless us and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 1-5

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you.”

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as the plank is in your own?”

“Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 59 : 3, 4-5, 12-13

O God, You have rejected us and have broken our defences; You have been angry; but now turn back to us.

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its cracks, for it totters. You have made Your people suffer; You have given us wine that makes us stagger.

Have You not rejected us, o God? You no longer go with our armies. Give us aid against the foe, for human help is not worth a straw.