Tuesday, 26 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures speaking to us about the importance for us to remain focused on our path as we progress in this life with faith. The first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Sirach mentioned what we must do in our service towards God, in remaining humble and committed to the Lord’s will, and in enduring the difficulties and challenges that we may encounter on our way to Him.

In the Gospel passage today, we also heard the same message, as the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples yet again of the impending moment of His suffering and death. The disciples who heard Him speaking of such things for a few times were surprised and confused, even as they themselves continued to debate and argue among themselves, on who was the greatest among them all. In essence, the disciples did not yet fully understand what following the Lord truly means for them.

At that time, the people of God thought that the Messiah or the Saviour that would come into their midst, would be the One to liberate them all from their earthly oppressors, and that the Messiah would restore the Kingdom of Israel, and gathered back the whole separated nations and tribes of the Israelites. He would become their King, and the whole nation of Israel would be glorious and beloved by the Lord once again, as it was in the days of David and Solomon.

Therefore, many expected the Lord Jesus to become the liberator and Saviour for the whole nation of Israel, hoping that He would be the liberator that they have long awaited for, to free them from the power and the tyranny of their Roman overlords and masters. They resented the fact that they had to work for the sake of their overlords, paying heavy taxes and giving part of their hard-earned income to the Romans.

They expected the Lord Jesus to become their King, and they hoped that those who followed Him closely would gain the advantage and influence, power and glory with Christ, their Lord and King, much in the same way as how the worldly rulers were often surrounded by greedy and power-hungry courtiers and nobles, all seeking to gain more influence and power, wealth and fame for themselves. The disciples therefore acted in this manner as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

But little did they know that in reality, for us to be true disciples and followers of the Lord, it requires our commitment and readiness to surrender everything to God, and to humble ourselves even to the point of being ready to be humiliated, and to die to our ego and pride, for indeed, following the Lord and becoming His disciples do not provide us with any forms of earthly glory, fame and power, but rather, the promise of true and everlasting glory with God in the world that is to come.

When the disciples bickered for power and for influence, for position and fame, they failed to understand that the path that the Lord has called them to, would be filled with opposition and difficulties, with challenges and obstacles, that as the disciples proceeded in following Jesus and His path, they gradually came to understand and know. Many of them would suffer themselves for the Lord’s sake, suffer martyrdom and painful death, defending their faith in Christ their Lord and Saviour.

And the perfect example of obedience was shown by none other than Christ Himself, Who as the Son perfectly obeyed the will of His heavenly Father, fulfilling the long promised salvation which God has willed and promised His people. Christ showed His perfect obedience, taking up His cross and walking up the painful path of suffering to the hill of Calvary. And in dying on the cross, Christ redeemed all of us from the tyranny of sin, and bring us all to the new hope of eternal life He brought to us all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to imitate the examples of Christ, His obedience to the will of His Father, His perfect humility in assuming the position of a slave, and to suffer in the way that totally and completely humiliated Himself, and yet, all of that He did for the sake of our salvation. And He Himself said that all those who follow Him must share in His cross, pick up their crosses and follow Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, obeying His will and commandments, as the Apostles themselves had done? Are we able to love God wholeheartedly and dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him just as Jesus, our Lord has loved His heavenly Father so perfectly? Let us all reflect on this today, and think deep in our hearts and minds, what are the things that we can do in order to grow ever more faithful to God.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and may He continue to love us, just as we ourselves also grow more in our love and devotion to Him. May God bless all of our endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”

Tuesday, 26 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

The Lord watches over the lives of the upright; forever will their inheritance abide. They are not crushed in times of calamity; when famine strikes, they still are satisfied.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. For the Lord loves justice and right, and never forsakes His faithful ones. The wicked instead will perish and their breed will be cut off.

The Lord is the salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. The Lord helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them for they sought shelter in Him.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 2 : 1-13 (Greek Septuagint version – Sirach 2 : 1-11)

My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare yourselves for trials. Keep your heart upright and remain resolute; do not be upset in the time of adversity. Hold fast to the Lord, do not separate yourself from Him so that you may be successful to the end of your days.

Accept all that happens to you, be patient when you are humbled, for as gold is tested in the fire, so those acceptable to God are tested in the crucible of humiliation. Have confidence in Him and He will take care of you; follow the right path and hope in Him.

You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy and do not turn away lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust Him and you will not lose your reward. You who fear the Lord, hope for all good things; hope for eternal joy and mercy. Remember what happened to your ancestors. Who has ever trusted in the Lord and been confounded? Who has persevered in fear of the Lord and been abandoned? Who has called upon Him and not been heard?

For the Lord is compassion and loving kindness; He forgives our sins and saves us in time of distress.

Monday, 25 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures, speaking to us about the faith that we should have in the Lord, the Source of all our hope, from Whom we gained all wisdom and truth. As long as we place our trust in God, we shall never be disappointed. Challenges and difficulties may come our way, but by the strength that God has given us, we shall persevere in the end.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the healing of a man who was possessed by evil spirits. The father of the man brought him to the Apostles, but the Apostles were unable to cast out the evil spirit, and the evil spirit continued to possess the man. The Lord essentially rebuked His disciples to whom He made clear that they lacked the faith necessary for them to perform the miracles that He has given them the power to do.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to remember that we must have true and genuine faith in God, or else, without faith, whatever it is that God has blessed us with, everything will be meaningless and empty. And for us to have faith does not just mean that we say that we believe in God, or act in a manner to show others that we are God’s believers, but rather, we must be thoroughly attuned with God’s will, that deep within our hearts, we truly are united with God, knowing His will and loving Him.

That was why the Apostles were unable to cast the evil spirit from the man, because even though God has given them all the power and authority over the evil spirits and to heal physical illnesses of the flesh, when He commissioned them, but without a strong and real faith in them, those power and authority given to them meant nothing. Faith connects us to God, and faith is the link that undoubtedly unites us to the Lord and He is truly present within us when we are faithful to Him.

Indeed, it is easy for us to say that we believe in God, but it is totally a different case about having true faith in Him. Having a true, genuine faith often requires us to devote ourselves from the deepest part of our hearts, and we often have to make sacrifices and commitment of ourselves, in ways that require us to put God at the very centre of our existence. God must be the reason and the focus of all of our actions, otherwise, our faith in Him is not complete.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may have all the gifts and talents given to us by God, but unless we have that faith which we should have within us, we shall not be able to utilise those gifts for the right purpose and for the right intention. And that is why, within the Church today, there are so many people present within our communities of the faithful, and yet, there are so few among us who have made use of our talents and capabilities to serve the Lord in a meaningful and sincere way.

And many of us do not have a good and healthy spiritual life, that is a life filled with prayer and communication with God. Prayer is not meant for us to make a litany of requests and demands as what many of us frequently have done, but rather for us to quieten ourselves down, and refocus our attention on God alone. It is when we are attuned in such a way with God, that truly meaningful conversation between us and Him can take place.

Today, all of us are called to rediscover our faith in God, and not just any kind of faith, but faith that is genuine, true and steadfast at all times, that we may truly serve God faithfully in all occasions, and give our very best, out of love for Him. Let us all grow stronger in our love for Him, dedicating ourselves to the good works that He had entrusted to us. Let us also deepen our relationship with God through prayer, that we may know better what His will is for each and every one of us.

May the Lord continue to strengthen in each and every one of us, the faith that we have in Him, that we may grow ever more committed and dedicated in obeying His will and in doing whatever it is that He has taught and commanded us to do with our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 25 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 14-29

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples, Peter, James and John came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the Law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet Him.

He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered Him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked Your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.”

Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” And the brought the boy to Him. As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground, and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth.

Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If You can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.” Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so He ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you : Leave the boy and never enter him again.”

The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

And He answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”

Monday, 25 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

The Lord reigns, robed in majesty; the Lord is girded with strength.

The world now is firm, it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o Lord, from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your house day after day without end, o Lord.

Monday, 25 February 2019 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 1 : 1-10

All wisdom comes from the Lord and endures with Him forever. The grains of sand, the drops of rain and the days of eternity, who can count them? The height of heaven, the extent of the earth and the depths of the abyss, who can measure them?

Wisdom was created before all things and the prudent intellect before the beginning of time. To whom was the source of Wisdom revealed? Who has known her secret designs? One alone is wise and greatly to be feared. The One Who is seated upon His throne.

The Lord Himself created Wisdom. He looked on her and knew her value. He poured her out over all His works; upon all mortal beings, in accordance with His goodness. He lavished her on those who love Him.

Sunday, 24 February 2019 : Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are called by God to be people who are filled with love and forgiveness, to be compassionate and to be merciful to all those whom encounter in this life we have on earth. God showed His love to all of us, when He spared us from our fated destruction, although we truly have deserved to be destroyed and be annihilated because of our disobedience and therefore, our sins.

God made us out of His love for each and every one of us. He gave us life and provided everything for us, and God in fact gave and entrusted the whole creation to us, that we may be His stewards of the creation. And yet, instead of gratitude and love that we should have shown Him, we have betrayed and abandoned Him for the devil and all of his lies and false promises, falling into sin as a result.

Yet, God did not give up on us and He continues to love us all despite of the sins we have committed. Yes, He does despise our sins, and sin has no place in His presence, but He still loves us all in our beings, as He has always done ever since He created us mankind. God could have easily destroyed and banished us into eternal damnation if He had desired it to be such, but He did not do that because He truly still has that boundless and wonderful love for us.

Unfortunately, sin is a reality present within each and every one of us, the sons and daughters of man. Sin is a very dangerous disease that is within us, trying to destroy us from within, corrupting not just our bodies, but also our hearts and minds, and our eternal souls. Unless we remove this taint of sin from within us, we will not be able to be reconciled with God, and that is, when we continue to remain in this state of sin, and refuse to cast these sinful ways aside, then we will fall into eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if only we can understand and know of all of those things that we have done throughout the long history of mankind thus far. All the sins and wicked things we have committed all these while, from the time that we have first disobeyed God until this very day. For so many years all of the combined wickedness of our sins have truly become a massive mountain of sin, of unimaginable dimensions.

And yet, in the end, despite of all these, God still loved us all dearly, and even wanted us all to be redeemed and saved. Are we not ashamed at the sins that we have committed, and how we have not recognised the love which God has shown us, all these while? He has been willing to forgive us all these sins, and indeed, He desires to do so, despite of our constant and continued impertinence and stubbornness.

God is so patient and loving, so merciful and kind towards us. This is what each and every one of us have to realise, that for every sins we commit further in life, we are just going to make the Lord even more hurt, for all the compassion He has shown to us, and yet we are so stubborn and resistant to the love He is showing us so generously. God wants to forgive us our sins, and yet, we are the ones who have resisted to be forgiven.

Let us all look at some examples from the Scripture passages today, beginning from our first reading today. It was a story of the encounter between David and king Saul of Israel. In order to understand better the context of what happened at that time, we must look into the historical background of the relationship between the two of them. King Saul was the first king chosen by God to be king over His people Israel, while David was the one whom God had chosen to be the successor of Saul as king, after the latter fell from grace.

David was still a young man when he rose to great prominence after he defeated Goliath, the giant Philistine champion during battle between the Israelites against the Philistines. And David became a commander in the king’s army, gaining more and more influence and fame, as he won victories after victories, and God’s grace was clearly with him. Meanwhile, Saul, who disobeyed God’s commandment, and persisted in his disobedience, was growing further and further away from God’s grace.

Saul saw in David a great threat to his authority and legitimacy as king, and therefore, he tried in all various kinds of ways, to remove the threat of David, treating him with much suspicion and hating him, having tried to kill David in several occasions. If not for the assistance of his close friends, including that of Jonathan, one of Saul’s sons, David would have been killed by the plotting and the attempts of the king.

David had to run away and live as a fugitive for many years, and what we heard in our first reading passage today happened during those years when David was in the run. He has suffered much at the hands of the king, who wanted him to be dead. Yet, when David and his followers found the perfect opportunity to kill the king instead, when the king and his retainers were sleeping in a cave, David conscientiously and resolutely refused to do so.

David had all the opportunity to do so, a perfect timing and chance to turn his own fortunes completely upside down. He could have ended his period and time in exile and stopped all the sufferings and pains he had to endure as an exile and criminal. He could have seized power as the rightful king of Israel, as the one who had been anointed by God through the prophet Samuel to be the true king. And yet, David did not do all these. Instead, he still treated Saul with respect, and indeed, as his king.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, let us all look at our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been as forgiving as David had been to those who have hurt us and slighted us? Or have we instead acted with vengeance and hatred, with jealousy and anger? It is definitely much more common for us to do the latter than the former. Many of us are unable to let go of that hatred, of that anger, of that jealousy and bitterness within us, and as a result, we continue to hold grudge against one another.

Perhaps we should reflect on the great patience and mercy that David has shown to Saul, and even more so, the even far greater patience, mercy and compassion that God Himself has shown to us, His people. God has been ever so patient with us, despite all of our constant disobedience and actions that had made Him to be angry with us, again and again. But as a loving Father, He continues to love us regardless, and in His actions, He wants us all, His beloved children, to walk down the right path.

King David has followed this very example shown by the Lord Himself, in practicing mercy and forgiveness, compassion and love through his own actions and in how he dealt with those who have slighted him and made his life difficult, principally that of Saul, his predecessor. Now, we are challenged today, to do the same with our own lives, to think of all those whom we may have hated and held grudge against all these while.

Are we able to forgive others just as God has forgiven us? It is not easy to forgive, as forgiveness requires us to let go of the anger and all the emotions, the greed, the desires and the pride present within us. Our ego and pride often come in between us and the ability to forgive, as we often think that to forgive others means that we must humble ourselves such, and let go of the animosity we are feeling towards the other person. And then, we also often refused to be forgiven, because the same ego and pride within us made us to resist forgiveness, as we do not like to think that we have erred or made a mistake in some way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and are we able to let go of the ego, pride and the anger within us? God Himself has shown us the way, and He Himself has forgiven us so generously, full of compassion and mercy. He forgave us for all of the multitudes of sins we have committed and all the wickedness that we have done in life. Although our sins are numerous beyond count, God loves us, and forgives us, and then, how can we not forgive our fellow men our sins to one another too?

Let us all from now on, therefore, turn towards God with all of our hearts, with all of our strengths and with the strong conviction to love the Lord and to be filled with His compassion and love. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, be our Guide and may He show us the way forward in life, in forgiving all those who have wronged us, all those who have hurt us, just as He Himself has forgiven us our sins. Let us all also be courageous in life, to change our way of life, from that of sin to that of righteousness.

May God be with us always, and may He empower us all to live with faith from now on, that we will draw ever closer to Him, and be worthy to receive from Him to promised eternal life and glory that He has given to us all, His beloved and faithful people. Amen.