Wednesday, 20 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors. Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them :

“I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world Who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for the love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language : “My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day.”

“I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to listen to what the readings have spoken of today, especially with regards to the matter of sin and the judgment of our souls. As we quickly approach the end of the current liturgical year and soon to begin a new liturgical year cycle with the season of Advent, this is a good time for us all to take stock of the past year.

In our first reading passage today, taken from the second book of the Maccabees, we heard of the sorrowful tale of the suffering, death and martyrdom of Eleazar, one of the elders of the people of Judah, who was forced by the king to disobey the Law of God and follow the way of the pagans. Eleazar refused to obey and remained steadfast in his faith in God and in the obedience to His Laws.

In fact, as mentioned in the passage, even when the king’s enforcers tried to make a compromise that Eleazar could pretend to eat the meat forbidden by the Law but in fact was eating a meat that was allowed by the Law, Eleazar refused to comply, as he knew that by doing so, while he might save his life and be spared of the sufferings and painful death he would have to suffer from and the martyrdom he would have to go through, but he would scandalise his faith and become a bad role model and example.

Eleazar showed us true and genuine faith in God, faith that was not shaken even by the threat of suffering and pain, or distracted by the temptations of worldly pleasures and satisfactions, or defeated by the pressure to conform and to obey the will of those who are against God’s will and laws. Eleazar stayed true to his faith and dedicated himself wholly to God to the very end, knowing that while he suffered, but God will surely remember him and his faith.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we encountered Zaccheus, the tax collector who was short in posture, and who wanted very badly to see the Lord Jesus that he went through the dense crowd and climbed a sycamore tree just to see Him. And even more, when the Lord knew that Zaccheus was up on the tree and called him down, and as the Pharisees were kind of rebuking and judging Zaccheus for being a sinner, he made a public profession of faith before all those who were gathered.

Zaccheus proclaimed with great faith that he would right all the wrongs he had once done, and if necessary paying back all those whom he had cheated or treated unfairly many times more than what they had suffered or been cheated from. It is definitely a true declaration of faith and love for God, as it would have been incredibly difficult for anyone to make such a declaration and humiliating oneself before many people.

Yet again, in this case, we can see clearly the faith that Zaccheus had in the Lord, as contrasted to the lack of faith among many of the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom in fact opposed the Lord and His works. Just like Eleazar we have mentioned and talked about earlier on, Zaccheus is also a great example of a person who have faith in God and love Him with all of his heart.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Have we been faithful in our lives, in our actions, words and deeds before God and people alike? Have we been exemplary in how we lived our lives thus far that all those who see us, hear us and witness us know that we truly belong to God? Or have we instead lived our lives in opposition to God and in ignorance or even defiance against His will?

God has given us all free will to choose the path that we want to take as we move forward in our respective lives, and the decision is ours to make, if we want to follow God or whether we prefer and want to follow our own path, away from God. Let us all then also remember that all those who remain faithful to God, God will also bless them and protect them, and their rewards in the end will be wonderful.

For God Who loves us all will restore to us the true joy and glory that had been lost from us because of sin, and that is the promise which Eleazar looked forward to even as he waited for the suffering and the pains he would have to suffer for his consistent and adamant faith, and which Zaccheus, the repentant sinner also rejoiced for, because he knew that God is a loving and forgiving God Who wants each and every one of us to be reconciled with Him.

May the Lord guide us all through the right paths in life, and may He strengthen us all to live ever more faithfully, and with greater love and devotion towards Him. May He inspire us all to walk in the footsteps of Eleazar the courageous and Zaccheus the repentant sinner. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 3 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

O YHVH, how great in number are my foes! How numerous are they who rise against me! How many are they who say of my soul : “There is no help for him in God!”

But You are my Shield, o YHVH, my Glory; You lift up my head. Aloud I cry to YHVH, and from His holy hill He answers me.

If I lie down to sleep, again I awake, for YHVH supports me; no fear of the thousands standing against me.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Maccabees 6 : 18-31

Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig. But he preferred to die honourably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spat out bravely the piece of meat, as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the Law, even to save their life.

Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the Law and prepared by himself. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.

But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead. And he added, “It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs. If I led them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age.”

“Even if I could now be saved from mortals, I cannot – whether living or dead – escape from the hands of the Almighty. I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws.” Having said this, he gave himself over to death.

Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness. When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, “The Holy Lord, Who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for Him.”

In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.