Monday, 10 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the Lord through His words in the Scriptures are calling all of us Christians to embrace fully His teachings and ways in our own respective lives, and thus be true believers not just in formality but also in reality through our words, actions and deeds.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, St. Paul was addressing the faithful in that city and highlighted the immoral behaviour of some among the faithful who have committed grave sins against the Lord, by their improper relationships and immoral acts. He rebuked those who have fallen into the temptation and caused scandal for the Church of God.

However, at the same time, St. Paul also extended God’s generous offer of mercy to the same people who have erred in their mission and life. He called the faithful to discard the old leaven of sin, using the example of bread that is developed by the addition of yeast. A baker knows that yeast that is already old can no longer work properly and in fact will likely result in spoilt bread when used on dough.

Essentially, St. Paul was asking the people of God to abandon their past ways of sin, their previous wicked attitude, their adherence to the ways of the world that were against God’s ways, and to turn wholeheartedly to God, Who alone is their Guide and Compass, to Whom all the faithful should turn to and place their focus on, as He was the One through Whom deliverance has been given to this world.

In the Gospel passage today we heard of the account of what happened when the Lord healed a man with a paralysed right hand, despite the efforts of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law to discredit Him and to strike at Him using that miraculous healing. In order to better understand the meaning of our Gospel passage today, then we need to understand better its context.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were rigorous and strict adherents of the Jewish traditions and customs, in that they enforced a very strict interpretation of the Law of God, paying particular attention that everyone should follow all the extensive customs and traditional practices of the Jewish people to the letter, and this included the law on the Sabbath day.

The Sabbath day is a sacred day dedicated to the Lord, when no one was supposed to do work or to labour, and the people were supposed to spend the day to pray to God and to worship Him. This must be understood in the context of the people of Israel who at that time continued to disobey the Lord and ignored His commandments, during the time of the Exodus. The Sabbath day was designed by the Lord and conveyed to His people through Moses, in order to remind them to refocus and reorientate themselves towards Him.

It is a reminder that despite all the business and all the things we are often preoccupied with in life, we must remain focused on God, and we must indeed spend quality time for Him. For if we do care about someone and love that person, we will want to spend time with that person, as much as we are able to do so. That was why the Sabbath law was enacted, that is to bring God’s people back towards Him.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law misunderstood this intention and they made it a mere formality of observing the law of the Sabbath, to the point that they persecuted those who did not agree with them or did not practice the law in the manner prescribed by them. That was why they were up against the Lord Jesus, Who showed them that the true way to observe the Sabbath was to serve the Lord through good deeds and good actions, filled with love for Him and for one another, rather than just passive observance.

This is the old way that St. Paul mentioned, the old way of ignorance, the old yeast of passivity and lukewarmness of faith. This is what we have been called to leave behind, to turn away from this unfaithfulness, that we should embrace fully God’s ways and be truly faithful to Him. We cannot just be superficially being faithful as the Pharisees were, who were faithful on the appearances, but not inside their hearts.

Let us all therefore rediscover the meaning of our faith, and rediscover the love and dedication which we should have for the Lord, Our God. Let us from now on, turn towards Him with a renewed commitment and faith, that we may continue to serve Him and to love Him, with an ever greater zeal every passing day. May the Lord be with us and continue to bless us, now and forevermore. Amen.

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