Monday, 4 March 2019 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 10 : 17-27

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.”

Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Monday, 4 March 2019 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Casimir (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

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 the Lord 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 the Lord 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.

Monday, 4 March 2019 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Casimir (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Sirach 17 : 20-28

Their misdeeds cannot be hidden from Him, all their sins are before the Lord. He holds a man’s almsgiving dear as a priceless signet ring; He cherishes a good deed like apple of His eye. One day He will rise and reward them; He will place their prize on their heads.

He allows those who repent to return; He comforts those whose hopes are fading. Be converted to the Lord and give up your sins, plead with Him to lessen your offence. Return to the Almighty, turn aside from wrongdoing and totally detest evil.

For who in the grave will praise the Almighty, if the living do not give Him glory? The dead man is as if he did not exist and cannot give praise; he who has life and health can praise the Lord.

Sunday, 3 March 2019 : Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of our expression of faith, and how our lives ought to be bearing good fruits, the good fruits of our faith in God. Throughout the readings from the Scriptures we have heard today, surely we can recognise the intention of the Lord when He spoke of how good fruits come from good trees, and conversely, bad fruits from bad trees.

First of all, we ought to examine what the Lord Jesus told the people about His parable highlighting the example of a person who wanted to remove the speck or splinter in another person’s eye, and yet, that person failed to realise that there was a log in his eye all along. This is likely mentioned as a rebuke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were in attendance among the people listening to the teachings of Jesus.

That is because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often acted in ways where they were quick to judge on actions by others which they deemed to be not on par with the standard which they demanded, in the matters of observance of the laws of the people of Israel. But they themselves did not realise that their limited understanding and in fact, misunderstanding the true purpose and intention of the Law, was a great shortcoming and flaw in their way of life.

Yet, when the Lord pointed all these things before them, they were quick to go to the defensive mode, and resisted the Lord’s efforts to deliver the truth to them. And in fact, they became even more stubborn in refusing to listen to the Lord despite His repeated attempts to do so. That is because of the pride and ego in their hearts, as well as their many attachments to worldly desires, for affluence, for power, for glory and wealth.

That is exactly what we have just discussed earlier, how bad fruits come from bad trees just as good fruits come from good trees. What this means is that, as long as the heart and the mind, that is our internal selves are not in the right condition and status, and are not attuned to the will of God, then most likely our actions, and the words that come out from our mouth will not be in accordance with what we are expected to do as Christians, that is as God’s followers.

This is something that the farmers and most people of the time of Jesus would have understood, and that was why He used such a parable to deliver His idea to them. The farmers would have known that bad trees ultimately does not just come from nowhere. There can be many reasons why bad trees come about. It can be from the bad seeds, or more commonly, even if the seeds were good, but they were not grown with the right conditions, the good seeds would become bad trees too.

And inevitably, bad trees will produce bad quality fruits, and in the end, the whole existence of the tree becomes meaningless. In agricultural terms, trees that do not produce good fruits are good for nothing, and instead of taking up the precious nutrients, they are uprooted and destroyed, replaced with another tree that is healthier, better and produce good fruits. Thus, it will be the same with us, if the Lord comes and asks for reckoning of our lives.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that our lives are just like that of the trees mentioned, and our lives produce its ‘fruits’ that is our actions and our words, in how we deal with one another. And how we act depends on how we have been internally disposed and oriented in our spiritual and mental outlook. Thus, we will find that a person who is good and kind in heart is unlikely to do things that are wicked or evil, and vice versa.

How do we then produce good fruits in our lives? First then we must be properly aligned with the ways of the Lord, that we truly become like the good trees. But even good trees can turn bad when they are not properly maintained and managed, and that is what happens when we continue to expose ourselves to wicked practices and habits, which are like poisons that seeped into the plants that make even good trees into bad ones.

I am referring to every moments that we gossip negatively about others, every moments when we are jealous about each others’ achievements and possessions, every time we cause hurt when we say nasty things to each other, every moment we are overcome by our ego and pride, in not wanting to share our fortunes and blessings with those who are needy, poor and weak in our midst, every time we fail to stand up for the sake of the oppressed and the marginalised in our society.

As we are all frail human beings, prone to sin and easily tempted by these wicked things, it is inevitable that we will stumble at times, and do all those wicked manners mentioned. However, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations and not to give in to the demands and pressures of our pride, ego, greed, ambition and desires, we will likely end up committing more and more of such sinfulness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded that bad trees that produce bad fruits are meaningless and useless, and will be destroyed. And hence, the same will happen to us, if we continue to live our lives in sin, and that was what St. Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Church in Corinth, our second reading passage today, that the sting of sin is death. And this is eternal death, total and complete separation from God’s grace and love.

Yet, in the same passage, St. Paul wrote that sin and death no longer have any power or dominion over us, if we put our faith in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. The Lord has triumphed over sin and death, and He gave us the assurance of eternal life and glory, if we have faith in His love and providence, and if we can put our trust in Him. He has shown us the way, how we can nurture our lives in a good way, and bearing good fruits of life.

To each and every one of us, God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we are taught that there are fruits of the Holy Spirit that we can bear forth, if we make use of the gifts that God has given us, obeying His commandments and listening to His will. And each and every one of us must realise this calling that we have received, to be bearers of the good fruits of faith in our daily lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on change our perspective and way of life, that if once we have not borne good fruits in our lives, and have borne wicked and evil fruits of sin by our actions, then from now on let us cease producing those wicked fruits and turn instead to produce good fruits by a profound change in our attitudes in life, from sin into faithfulness, from hatred and jealousy into love, from selfishness into selflessness.

Are we willing to make that profound change in life? It will not be easy for us to commit to the ways of the Lord, but with effort and commitment, with dedication and hard work, we will be able to overcome that stubborn attachment we have to sin, and enter into a new life filled with God’s grace and love. All that we need is the desire and the willingness to persevere through the challenges we may encounter if we keep our faith in God, and remain in God’s love always.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as it is not easy for a farmer to grow a tree and maintain it in good health, until it can produce its good fruits, it is therefore not easy for us as well to produce good fruits in life. We are called to persevere through the challenges and the sufferings we may have to encounter for God’s sake, as in the end, our rewards will be rich and wonderful, nothing less than an eternity of true joy and happiness with God.

May the Lord continue to guide us through our lives, that we may keep to our faith in Him, and remain devoted to Him at every single moments of our life. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our good works, that we may always bear good fruits, at each and every moments of our life. Amen.