Saturday, 16 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterwards Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well.

The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Saturday, 16 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 89 : 2, 3-4, 5-6, 12-13

Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, at dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will you be angry, o Lord? Have mercy on Your servant.

Saturday, 16 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 3 : 9-24

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman, God said, “I will increase your suffering in childbearing, and you will give birth to your children in pain. You will be dependent on your husband and he will lord it over you.” To the man, He said, “Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I forbade you to eat, cursed be the soil because of you! In suffering you will provide food for yourself from it, all the days of your life.”

“It will produce thorn and thistle for you and you will eat the plants of the field. With sweat on your face you will eat your bread, until you return to clay, since it was from clay that you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. YHVH God made garments of skin for the man and his wife, and with these He clothed them. Then YHVH God said, “Man has now become like one of Us making himself judge of good and evil. Let him not stretch out his hand to take and eat from the tree of life as well, and live forever.”

So God cast him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he had been made. And after having driven the man out, God posted Cherubim and a flaming sword that kept turning at the east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of Life.

Friday, 15 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the story from both the first and the Gospel reading passages that related to us, the story of both mankind’s downfall into sin, and how then mankind were saved from the pit of sin by God Himself, lifted up from the depth of darkness and hopelessness, into the new hope and the promise of God’s wonderful love and grace.

In the first reading passage today, taken from the Book of Genesis, we heard how Satan, the evil one, the one who rebelled out of pride against God, Lucifer, the false lightbringer, who became proud of his own glorious nature and power, wanted to bring down those whom God loved the most out of all of His creations, that is man. Satan appeared to Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent, tempting them with lies and with sweet, false promised of glory and power in exchange for disobedience against God.

He promised that men would become like God if only they ate from the fruits of the tree specifically forbidden by God for them to eat. The devil was striking at mankind’s ego, pride and desire in their hearts and minds, to subvert them into being selfish, egoistic and be filled with the desires that in the end caused them to fall into sin against God, and was therefore cast out of Eden and God’s presence, to suffer the consequences of our sins in this world of suffering.

By desiring to know more, to want more knowledge by eating of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in fact men were restraining themselves within that knowledge, with the desire to know, the greed to taste and feel the pleasures of the world, many of which led them to sin even more, and fall deeper into the darkness. By that act of disobedience, sin entered into the hearts of men, and corrupted them, leaving them in the darkness.

But God, Who loved each and every single one of us, did not give up on us. In fact, He planned everything since the very beginning of the salvation of all those whom He loved, by nothing less than the giving of His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Who became our Lord and Saviour. In the Gospel passage today, as we heard how the Lord opened the ears and loosened the tongues of a man born deaf and mute, we in fact heard the story of our own salvation and liberation from the tyranny of sin.

Sin has become a great obstacle, a great veil of darkness that prevented us from seeing the love and the light of God. Through sin we have been separated from God, and made to suffer in darkness. But God did not want us to suffer forever in that darkness. He brought to us a new light, a new hope that pierced through this dark veil and wall of sin, in the form of Christ, our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer.

We have been sick all these while because of our sins, and would have suffered the fate of eternal damnation, had the Lord not intervened for our sake, because of the great and boundless love that He has for each and every one of us, even to the greatest of sinners among us. He called us all to return to Him, and to be loved once again by Him. And the way towards that, is through Him alone, by our faith in Him, believing that in Him, our Lord and Saviour, is our Hope for eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to reflect on our own lives, and our own earthly existence. Are we aware of the sins we have committed in our respective lives thus far? Are we aware of the dangers of leaving those sinful ways and wickedness uncorrected and unrepented? We must also realise that it is in God alone that we can find healing through forgiveness, and we must realise how even when we are good in all things and are physically healthy, but because of sin, all of us are sick spiritually.

Many of us are afflicted by the allures of worldly pleasures and temptations, the temptation of monetary wealth, the desires and lusts for the flesh, the greed for glory and human praise, the wants for position and prestige, acceptance and approval by our fellow men. And all of these often caused us to fall deeper into sin, as inevitably all these caused our desires to clash, and we cause suffering and pain on others as we seek to satisfy our own desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take some time using this opportunity given by God, for us to turn away from the path of sin, and embrace the loving mercy and forgiveness that God is offering us all so generously. Let us all seek Him to heal us from our afflictions, just as the man born deaf and mute sought the healing of the Lord and was healed from all of his complaints. It is by putting our trust in God, that we will receive pardon from all the obstacles that prevented us from truly enjoying the true happiness and glory, which in God alone we can enjoy.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us all, through our life, now and always. May He bless us all in our endeavours, and bring us ever closer to Him, that we may love Him more and more, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Friday, 15 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 7 : 31-37

At that time, again Jesus set out : from the country of Tyre He passed through Sidon and, skirting the sea of Galilee, He came to the territory of Decapolis. There, a deaf man, who also had difficulty in speaking, was brought to Him. They asked Jesus to lay His hand upon him.

Jesus took him apart from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, He said with a deep sigh, “Ephphata!” that is, “Be opened!”

And immediately, his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it; but the more He insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said, “He has done all things well; He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Friday, 15 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 6, 7

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

So let the faithful ones pray to You in time of distress; the overflowing waters will not reach them.

You are my Refuge; You protect me from distress and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Friday, 15 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 3 : 1-8

Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the wild creatures that YHVH God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say : You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden God said : You must not eat, and you must not touch it or you will die.”

The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, but God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the fruit was good to eat, and pleasant to the eyes, and ideal for gaining knowledge. She took its fruit and ate it and gave some to her husband who was with her. He ate it.

Then their eyes were opened and both of them knew they were naked. So they sewed leaves of a fig tree together and made themselves loincloths. They heard the voice of YHVH God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day, and they, the man and his wife, hid from YHVH God among the trees of the garden.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the creation of man and woman, whom God had created in His own image, and how He has given everything that He has created to each and every one of them, to be the caretakers, owners and stewards of His creation, for mankind are His most beloved creations, the ones closest to His own image and His own heart and mind.

He made all of them because of His love for them, that He wanted to share with them the love that He has in Him, bursting out of the perfect love of the Trinity, and which then came upon us. And He saw how man was lonely without company of an equal, reflecting on the nature of His very own Trinity. The Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is perfect, but each part of the Trinity cannot be separated from each other without destroying this perfection and balance present among the unity of the Trinity.

And as the Father loved the Son and the Holy Spirit, and as the Son loved the Father and the Holy Spirit, and as the Holy Spirit loved the Father and the Son, therefore, God created us man to be creatures of love as well, to be filled with love and to be made all good and perfect, first and foremost in union with God, and then in union with one another. That was why God created us man and woman, as we heard in our first reading passage taken from the Book of Genesis.

God created us man and woman to be part of the one body, one flesh and one existence. Just as the rib bone and the flesh were symbolically taken from man to create woman, as an equal partner to man, thus man and woman are destined to be together, to be united in a holy union that reflects upon the perfect unity and love found in the Most Holy Trinity. Through this union, the fruits of God’s love came forth, that is the fruits of life, in the children born of the union of man and woman.

Unfortunately, at the time of the Lord Jesus, just as it frequently happened throughout history, man and woman had not treated each other with respect or regards to their equality with one another. Instead, women were often put in disadvantage and treated unequally or in a biased way, where many of these women had to endure injustice and often even intrusion to their basic human right, to live as a person with dignity.

That was what the Lord tried to bring forth to our attention through His interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman in our Gospel passage today. In that passage, we heard how a Syro-Phoenician woman asked the Lord Jesus to come and heal her afflicted daughter, who was troubled by sickness and by the attacks from evil spirits and demons. Yet, the Lord seemed to be unfazed and unaffected by her pleas, and in fact, seemed to be kind of rude when He was making an indirect comparison between her and that of a dog.

This was in fact the Lord’s way of putting forth all the accumulated prejudices and terrible biases present within the community of the people of God during that time, when so many people looked down on the non-Jewish people, those of pagan origins and were not therefore counted among the people of Israel. And in particular, all the more because the Syro-Phoenician was a woman, that the ridicule, bias and prejudice against her were even more rampant and terrible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us living in this world today surely have heard how women have often been marginalised, being prejudiced against, and even been exploited for the benefit of those who were greedy and wicked in hearts and minds. Yet, this is not what the Lord wants from us when He created each and every one of us. As mentioned, He made us all, man and woman, to be co-equal partners in the holy union He Himself will bless, where both man and woman make each other perfect by that unity in love.

Many of the current challenges, difficulties and marginalisation due to gender, are caused by our own limited ability to look beyond the flesh and the appearances, which have unfortunately caused many to go down the path of sin, when we are tempted by the temptations of the flesh. We seek what is on the external, and seek for the beauty of the exterior, while failing to recognise the presence of the great love within.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate in the secular world, the celebration of Valentine’s day, which came about because this day, the fourteenth day of February, used to be the Feast day of St. Valentine, who inspired many by his loving care for others, even for those who persecuted and imprisoned him. Over time, this celebration became corrupted and changed, misguided and done wrongly because of the secularisation of its meaning.

We see how Valentine’s day became one of the worst outlets and reminders for us, of our ugly human nature, filled with lust and desire for the pleasures of the flesh, and of materialistic excesses, which are often associated with the celebration of the Valentine’s day. But, in truth, as Christians, all of us are called to go out of this problem, and overcome it through our understanding and participation in God’s real work of love among us.

God sowed within us, the seeds of His wonderful love, giving us the same love that He has between Himself, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is love that is not corrupted nor made impure by the desires of our flesh, but one that is selfless and self-giving, sacrificial and committed at the same time. For God so loved the world, that He gave us all His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour, that through Him we may have life and be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should imitate the perfect love shown by the Lord, and which His holy saints had emulated in their own lives. St. Valentine acted with love even towards his enemies and those who persecuted him, while St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the two saints highly venerated especially among our brethren in the Eastern Churches, devoted their whole lives in the service of the people of God, in bringing the truth of the Gospels and the Words of God to those people who have yet to receive the light of God’s truth.

Are we able to overcome the temptations of our flesh, and resist those wicked desires present in us to act without genuine love, and instead cause pain and suffering on others? Are we able to do our best in order to love one another equally just as God has intended us to do? Let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings again, and think well in our minds as well as feel with our hearts, how we should be treating one another from now on, that is with love, compassion and fairness.

May the Lord continue to guide us with His love, that we too may grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, and that we may love Him with all of our hearts, and with all of our capabilities and strengths. Let us draw closer to Him, and draw ever closer to His love, with each and every single words and actions we take. May God bless us all, always, now and forevermore. Amen.