Friday, 19 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the matter of obeying the will and the commandments of God, not just superficially but also understanding the whole meaning and purpose of the Law in our hearts and minds. In that, we have heard the reading from the Book of Exodus relating to us the moment of the first Passover in Egypt, and then also the encounter between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law regarding the Law of the Sabbath in the Gospel today.

In the Book of Exodus, God had performed many powerful wonders and miracles before His people and before the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as the latter continued to refuse to let the Israelites, the people of God, to go free from their bondage and return to the land promised to them and their ancestors. As such, God sent Ten Great Plagues to the land of Egypt, causing great destruction and harm on the Egyptians who continued to harden their hearts against God.

And the last of the great plagues was also the greatest one, the plague of death that afflicted all the firstborn children of Egypt, which ‘passed over’ the Israelites, as they had followed what God had exactly instructed them to do in our first reading passage today. They were instructed to take a young lamb less than one year old to be slaughtered for the Passover and its blood taken to mark the doorposts and lintels of the houses of the Israelites.

That was the very first Passover celebrated by the Israelites, following the commandments of God and listening to His instructions. And He also instructed them to remember that celebration of the Passover and to celebrate it every years in remembrance of that very night when the Lord had brought His people out of slavery and bondage, freeing them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

That is what the Lord has intended when He asked of them to celebrate the Passover and to remember the love which He has shown to them, His great compassion and faithfulness, His steadfastness and commitment to the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors and which then He had renewed with them as well. But in time, the people ended up forgetting why they celebrated the Passover in the first place, just as the Gospel passage illustrated to us.

In that passage, we heard the exchange between the Lord Jesus and the teachers of the Law on a different matter, that is on the matter of the obedience to the Law of the Sabbath. That Law stated that all the people of Israel must not perform any work or labour on the day of the Sabbath, and which the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees interpreted very strictly to impose a total ban on work on the day of the Sabbath.

And when the Lord Jesus and His disciples seemed to disobey the precepts of the Sabbath Law, by performing work and miracles on that day, which the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees contested on many occasions, they became even fiercer in their criticism and opposition to the Lord. But they did not understand that the Law of the Sabbath was not meant to be understood or used in that manner, much as the Passover was at the time of Moses.

What happened was that the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees had become superficial in their observation of the Law and the commandments of God. They focused on the external observation of the laws and customs, and were focused on the fine details of such observation, but failing to realise the very purpose and intention of why that Law was made in the first place, that is because God loves His people.

The Law was never meant to oppress or make the people suffer and have a difficult life. On the contrary, it was meant to help and guide the people on their way and journey towards God so that they would not end up losing their way through that journey. It was God’s love for us that He has given the Law as a means for us to guide ourselves and to keep ourselves disciplined in faith, so that we may become closer to God.

And the Lord used examples from the past, using the example of king David himself, who ate of the bread of offerings which were reserved only for the consumption of the priests, when he and his followers were desperate and hungry without food. Essentially what the Lord mentioned here is that, the letter of the Law must not be separate from the spirit of the Law. The letter of the Law is what the Law in its literal meaning as the teachers of the Law understood, but the spirit of the Law is the intention and the purpose of the Law, which is God’s love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today’s Scripture readings are challenging us to reflect on our own lives. Have we lived our Christian lives and faith in a manner more like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in only understanding the letter but not the spirit of the Law? Have we spent our Christian lives only following the rules and regulations of the Church because we think that we have to follow or obey them, or do we have deeper understanding of the meaning of those laws?

Let us all therefore deepen our faith in God, and spend time and effort to become ever closer to God, that we may become better and more committed Christians, no longer focusing on superficial faith, but instead to the deeper spirituality in our hearts, and in building genuine relationship with God from now on, in our community. May God bless us always in this endeavour. Amen.

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