Tuesday, 29 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 31-35

At that time, the mother and brothers of Jesus came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.”

He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”

Tuesday, 29 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 39 : 2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 10, 11

With resolve I waited for the Lord; He listened and heard me beg. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness. I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 10 : 1-10

The religion of the Law is only a shadow of the good things to come; it has the patterns but not the realities. So, year after year, the same sacrifices are offered without bringing the worshippers to what is the end. If they had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have felt guilt and would have stopped offering the same sacrifices.

But no, year after year their sacrifices witness to their sins and never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages reminding us about the wonderful things that the Lord has done for our sake, in how He has brought us out from the predicament and our fated destruction because of our sins. He has come into this world to be the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind as mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He is the High Priest Who is also the Mediator of the New Covenant.

In order to understand this better, we must understand the context and historical importance of the role of the priest, and especially the High Priest in the community of Israel, the people of God. The priest is the one who has been chosen by God from among the tribe of Levi, to be the servant at His Temple, and earlier on also at the Tent of Meeting built by Moses, whose role is to offer sacrifices presented by the people to God.

Therefore, the priest had a very important role as the mediator of the Covenant between God and man, for the relationship between God and man had been damaged and man has been sundered away from God’s grace because of their sins. Sin is born out of disobedience, our refusal to follow and obey the way of the Lord, all of the wicked words we have uttered and the wicked deeds and actions we have taken in life. All these have separated us from God.

But God still loves each and every one of us despite of our rebelliousness and waywardness. He created us because of His love for us, and He will not abandon that love just because of our sins and our disobedience. That is why God established His Covenant with us, and renewed it again and again, as we mankind continuously failed to uphold our end of the Covenant, breaking them through our sinful disobedience. God still tried to save us, and through His priests, He brought a temporary solution, by their sacrificial offerings.

God promised that the time would come for His Saviour to come into the world and resolve this matter once and for all, a promise that is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, Who came into this world, performed His works obeying the will of His Father, and by becoming Man and assuming our human existence like us, became for us our Eternal and True High Priest, offering for us, just for one time, once and for all, the perfect offering through which all of us have been saved.

Christ has become the source of our salvation because He obediently and willingly followed the will of God His Father, in laying down His life on the cross, which became His Altar, the Altar on which He laid down the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, the Divine Lamb of sacrifice that far and infinitely surpassed the offering of lambs and other animals as prescribed by the Law.

Unfortunately as shown in the Gospel passage today, there were still those who refused to believe in the Lord and in fact, even made nasty and wicked accusations against Him. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord of using the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul to cast out other demons when they saw Him exorcising evil spirits from people, and they thought that as He often did it on the Sabbath day in violation of the strict Sabbath law, then He could not have done it with God’s grace.

But this is where the pride and the stubbornness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law worked against them, as these prevented them to see reason, which the Lord wisely and justly presented before them, showing them the foolishness of their argument. Had the evil spirits and demons were divided against each other as they stipulated, there would have been endless conflicts between the fallen angels, and Satan would have been too busy to be able to strike at us mankind.

Instead, they did not realise that Satan himself was planting these seeds of discord and stubbornness in their hearts and minds to prevent them from being able to understand and appreciate the works of God unfolding and happening before their own eyes. Satan did not want the success of the works of God, and that was why, all the more his entire forces were united in the effort to divide the people of God, and to block them from attaining salvation through the Lord Jesus’ efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all reflect on our own lives. Have we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the temptations of Satan, that we hardened our hearts and minds against the love of God? We have to realise just how great God’s love for us is, to the point that He was willing to endure all the sufferings and pains in order for us to be saved. He willingly took up the cross and bore it up to Calvary for us.

If God has not loved us, we would have perished long ago, and our existence would have been meaningless. But God did not let all these happen, and He brought us out of the depth of our sins and from the darkness into the light, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Our Saviour. And for the love that He has shown us all, it is only then right that we also love Him in the same manner, as what is only right and just after all that He has done for us.

If we are not sure how we ought to do so, then perhaps it is good for us to take note of the examples shown by St. Thomas Aquinas, the saint whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Thomas Aquinas is a truly famous saint and also Doctor of the Church, renowned for his extensive theological and philosophical writings, his brilliant mind and wisdom, and his love and commitment for God. St. Thomas Aquinas inspired many generations of people who also dedicated their lives to God.

But St. Thomas Aquinas did not have it easy, as oppositions and challenges were aplenty, even from his youth. His family opposed his desire to join religious life and priesthood, using whatever means to try to dissuade him from his conviction, but St. Thomas Aquinas persevered through prayer and steadfast dedication, and he managed to overcome those challenges eventually. He became a devout and committed Dominican, and went about many places teaching and completing his now famous writings and works including the Summa Theologiae, Summa Contra Gentiles among many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas has shown us that it is possible for us to love God and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, directing ourselves to Him so completely that we become attuned to Him much as St. Thomas Aquinas had been, growing deeper in faith and in our dedication to Him each and every single days of our life. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew and renew the faith we have in our God from now on, turning ourselves to Him and loving Him with all of our hearts and strength. Amen.

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of histories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand, he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5, 6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 9 : 15, 24-28

So Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant or testament. His death made atonement for the sins committed under the old testament, and the promise is handed over to all who are called to the everlasting inheritance.

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he who may return every year, because the blood is not his own.

Otherwise He would have suffered many times from the creation of the world. But no; He manifested Himself only now at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once and afterwards are judged, in the same way Christ sacrificed Himself once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin when He comes again to save those waiting for Him.

Sunday, 27 January 2019 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we are called to reflect on the important role that each and every one of us have to play as part of God’s Church, and how we can contribute, in our own unique ways, to the fulfilment of the many wonderful works of the Lord through His Church. These have been made clear to us through the readings of the Scripture that we heard today. We are all part of Christ’s one and only Church, and we all have important roles to play.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, part of which is our second reading passage for this Sunday spoke about the nature of the Church, as the very one and only Body of Christ, consisting of all of us, the faithful people of God, as its organs and parts, all of which are inseparable from each other, united in purpose and function, and missing even one part can cause the whole part and the whole body to falter and suffer.

In the same Epistle, St. Paul also wrote about how each different parts of the Body of Christ, the Church, were made to be different, some with greater honour and some with less, some with more prominence while others with less, not because they were to be prejudiced against one another, but rather, because the Lord intended for each part to work together, and to learn to take care of one another, as ultimately, as just mentioned earlier, everyone is part of the same Church, and missing even one part can have grave consequences.

In the first reading today, we heard of the prophet and priest Ezra proclaiming the Law of God before the whole community of the Israelites who had just returned from the exile in Babylon. It was at the time when the community of Israel had just enjoyed a newfound freedom and a new hope for a new life back in their homeland. The Law of God being proclaimed by Ezra was a reminder for all of them that God was always in their midst, and at the centre of their lives and existence.

This means that the Church is an agglomeration of peoples of various backgrounds and talents, of diverse abilities and natures, like a beutiful And through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour and God, we heard the fulfilment of the promises of salvation which He had made for His people, the fulfilment and the revelation of the true meaning and significance of the Law He has given His people, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. The Lord proclaimed in His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee, the fulfilment of God’s prophecies and promises, in the coming of the Messiah Who would save all of the people. And He was referring to Himself.

This is the mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Church, the Body of Christ, that is to proclaim the Good News of salvation, as Ezra the priest had proclaimed it before the people, and as the Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed before His own hometown assembly in Nazareth. The primary mission of the Church is indeed the salvation of all mankind, by its faithful witness of the Lord’s truth and the proclamation of the Good News.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are called to do the same with our own lives. By virtue of our common baptism, each and every one of us have received and shared in the priestly, kingly and prophetic ministry of Our Lord. And by the same baptism, we have also been made parts of the one Body of Christ, God’s Church. As such, our lives are meant for the glorification of God and for the proclamation of His truth, to bring the love of God into the midst of this world, into our respective communities.

But as St. Paul compared the works and the functioning of the Church with a human body, each one of us as members of the Church cannot function and work independently of one another just as much as the organs of the body cannot work independently of one another. For example, heart is the most important part of the body as it pumps the blood to the various organs and parts of the body. If the heart stops working, then the person will also stop living, and yet, the heart cannot work on its own. Its activity is controlled by the brain, and without the lungs to support its function by absorbing oxygen from the air, the heart is useless.

Therefore, each one of us as members of the Church do not exist on our own, and neither do we act only selfishly for the sake of our own salvation. It is in fact selfishness that is the root of our own downfall, as when selfishness, greed and pride, ego and stubbornness come into our midst, to the centre of our Church, that we end up causing the downfall of each and every one of us. And this has indeed happened many times throughout the history of the Church and the world.

How is it so? It is exactly because of our selfishness and pride, that we see members of the Church causing scandal and showing unbecoming attitudes as Christians by their behaviours such as gossiping against other members of the Church, by slandering against those whom we do not like, by even direct insult and power-plays that caused much grief and hurt in the community of the faithful, and more often than not, causing the tearing apart of the fabrics of the Church’s unity and existence.

We often see how the laity are divided against themselves, and also priests being divided against their brother priests, scandals and conflicts within the religious orders and communities, as well as the divisions, anger and lots of misunderstandings between the priests and the laity, between the bishops and their flocks, among many others. All of these are in fact, if we realise, the tools of the devil in trying to undermine and destroy the unity of the Church, in order to snatch as many souls as possible into damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to put an end to all of these. We are called to be more resilient in resisting the many temptations of life, the temptations of power, influence, money and many other worldly temptations present out there. These are the things which often come in the way of us realising our role and part to play as members of the Church, and the greatest obstacles that cause divisions and sufferings within the Church.

And some of us may feel uncertain, lost, unworthy or reluctant to do what we are supposed to do as members of the Church. But again, as mentioned, God made us all to be parts of this Church with all of our imperfections and weaknesses, and also our strengths. God did not make any one to be perfect, and no one can claim to be able to do everything for the Church, no matter how good or talented we are, as we are not perfect and have our own limitations.

After all, God Himself chose imperfect men to be His Apostles, and many sinners, including tax collectors, rebels, prostitutes, and others to be His disciples and followers. Many among them were uneducated and foolish, but God gave them the strength and the gift of faith to be able to perform all the things that He had entrusted to them. And we saw how all these came to be, all the wonderful deeds that the Apostles and the countless other holy men and women of God had done throughout history.

That is why it is important that we learn how to work with one another, making use of our respective strengths and abilities, to serve the Lord and perform the works which He has entrusted to us all in His Church. God has called us all to help one another and to make best use of the abilities and talents that we have been given for the greater glory of His Name and for the good of each and every one of us, and all of mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore, let us all renew our commitment to live our lives filled with faith, in all of our actions, words and deeds, so that in each and every single things that we do, we will work together as the members of God’s one universal Church, caring for the needs of one another, and loving our fellow brethren as much as we are able to do so. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our works, always. Amen.

Sunday, 27 January 2019 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 1 : 1-4 and Luke 4 : 14-21

Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, as they were told by the first witnesses, who later became ministers of the word. After I, myself, had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught.

At that time, Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on His return to Galilee, the news about Him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogue of the Jews and everyone praised Him.

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Sunday, 27 January 2019 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-30

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

If the foot should say, “I do not belong to the body for I am not a hand,” it would be wrong : it is part of the body! Even though the ear says, “I do not belong to the body for I am not an eye,” it is part of the body. If all the body were eye, how would we hear? And if all the body were ear, how would we smell?

God has arranged all the members, placing each part of the body as He pleased. If all were the same part where would the body be? But there are many members and one body. The eye cannot tell the hand, “I do not need you,” nor the head tell the feet, “I do not need you.”

Still more, the parts of our body that we most need are those that seem to be the weakest; the parts that we consider lower are treated with much care, and we cover them with more modesty because they are less presentable, whereas the others do not need such attention. God, Himself, arranged the body in this way, giving more honour to those parts that need it, so that the body may not be divided, but, rather, each member may care for the others. When one suffers, all of them suffer, and when one receives honour, all rejoice together.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First Apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues.

Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues?

Alternative reading (shorter version)

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-14, 27

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it.