Thursday, 5 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Amos 7 : 10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to king Jeroboam of Israel, “Amos is conspiring against you in the very centre of Israel; what he says goes too far. These are his very words : Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a national shrine.”

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But YHVH took me from shepherding the flock and said to me : Go, prophesy to My people Israel. Now hear the word of YHVH, you who say : No more prophesy against Israel, no more insults against the family of Isaac!”

“This is what YHVH says : Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, your land shall be divided up and given to others, and you, yourself, shall die in a foreign land, for Israel shall be driven far from its land.”

Wednesday, 4 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the message of the Lord through the Scriptures, telling us first of all from the prophet Amos, who was the prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, the people of the kingdom of Israel have disobeyed God and worshipped the pagan gods and idols of their neighbours, and desecrated His law and commandments.

The Lord was calling them to repent from their sins and from their disobedience through the prophet Amos. But they hardened their hearts and shut off their ears from the word of God. They continued to sin against God and persecuted His prophets, one after another. And that was how the Lord Jesus was also treated by the people, rejected and shut out by His own people.

The state of the people of God was indeed like the two men possessed by the evil spirits. In the Gospel passage we saw how the Lord Jesus healed the two men beset and enslaved by the evil spirits, casting those evil and wicked spirits out of them into the pigs. The men possessed by the evil spirits were cast out from the society and they wandered off in the wilderness, like how the Israelites themselves had wandered off in the desert for forty years because of their sins, and how they endured decades in exile because of their disobedience.

The people of God, like the two possessed men, had been cast out from the grace of God, and while the two men were in the physical desert where the Lord Jesus encountered them, the rest of the people were in the state of a spiritual desert where God was far away in their lives and He was not having the first and foremost place in their hearts and mind. They had shut Him off and distanced themselves from Him.

What we should realise from today’s readings, is that we are also sinners like them, who have, at times, fallen and stumbled along the way in the journey. We are now also in the midst of this spiritual desert, lost and struggling in this journey of life. But what we must also realise is that as we heard in the Gospel today, that God cares for each and every one of us.He went to seek those who have been abandoned, those who have sinned and been corrupted by sin. He went to heal the sinners, the prostitutes and tax collectors, and call them to repentance just as He cast out demons and evil spirits from those who were possessed. Therefore, God is also looking for our salvation and liberation from the sins and wickedness which have chained and enslaved us all thus far.

Now, the question is, how willing are we to receive God’s healing and mercy? God offers us His forgiveness and love very generously, and He will not withhold them from us. He is ever generous in giving, and especially because He had created us out of love, and He does not want even a single one of us to be lost or separated from Him. Yet, there were still many of us who stubbornly refused to accept the Lord’s offer of love, mercy and compassion.Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often due to our stubbornness and pride that we fail to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. We cannot bear to bend down and humbly recognising our sinfulness and shortcomings before us. Many of us would rather perish in sin rather than to lower ourselves and humble ourselves before God. A very sad state of life indeed!

This is perhaps the time for us to emulate the example of the holy woman whose feast we celebrate today, namely the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a renowned queen of Portugal, who was remembered greatly for her piety and faith, her charity and generosity, her holiness in life and her exemplary and inspirational life. Many of the people were touched by her during her life and they repented to the true faith in God.

Now, are we able to live our lives in the same manner as St. Elizabeth of Portugal? She may be a royalty and born a noble, but in her heart and mind, she got her priorities right, by focusing on the Lord and putting Him at the centre of her life. Shall we all also follow in her footsteps, and seek to accept the will of God for us in our lives, and embrace His rich and generous mercy?

May the Lord open our hearts and minds, so that we may come to the fullness of understanding of the love and mercy of God. May He continue to bless us each and every day of our lives, that we may be able to do our best to love Him more, and to commit ourselves more closely to Him. Amen.