Tuesday, 4 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 5 : 21-43

At that time, Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake; and while He was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around Him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at His feet; and begged Him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.”

Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing around Him. Among the crowd was a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors and had spent everything she had, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind Him and touched His cloak, thinking, “If I just touch His clothing, I shall get well.”

Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint. But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched My clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around You. Why do You ask who touched You?”

But He kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward, trembling and afraid. She knelt before Him, and told Him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at Him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and His companions into the room, where the child lay.

Taking her by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and He told them to give her something to eat.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o YHVH, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life, for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Samuel 18 : 9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30 – 2 Samuel 19 : 3

Absalom was riding a mule and happened to meet the guards of David. As the mule passed under the thick branches of a big oak tree, his head was caught in the oak tree and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule has was riding went its way. Someone reported to Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.”

So Joab took three spears in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the oak tree. David was sitting between the two gates. The watchman posted at the roof of the gate, on the wall, saw a man running alone. So he called out and reported to the king who said, “Move away and stand here.” He moved aside and stayed there.

The Cushite arrived and said, “Good news for my lord the king! YHVH has done you justice today and saved you from all those who rebelled against you.” The king asked the Cushite, “How is the young Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you end up like that young man.”

The king was greatly disturbed and, going up to the room over the gate, he wept and said, “O, my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, o Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was reported to Joab, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day turned into mourning for all the people, when they heard that the king was grieving over his son.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures first of all the story of the conflict between king David of Israel and his son, Absalom, who rebelled against his own father due to some earlier intrigues and wanted to seize the kingdom from him with the support of quite a few segments of the community of Israel. Absalom rose in rebellion and marched against David, and as we heard in our first reading today, king David had to abandon the city of Jerusalem. Even some of his courtiers abandoned David and chose to welcome Absalom instead.

At that moment, we also heard how Shimei the Benjaminite cursed David and shouted at him even as he and his supporters fled the city of Jerusalem. Some of David’s supporters wanted to punish and kill Shimei, but David stopped them and remained firm in continuing the struggle despite all those who opposed him at the time. It was a very troubling and difficult time for David, but David trusted in the Lord and remained faithful, knowing that God was with him regardless.

It is the sentiment that we have also heard from today’s Psalm, how when our enemies and all our opponents rise up against us, God is our Shield and our Help. And it is in God alone that we can have full confidence and complete trust which nothing else in this world can give us. The Lord has always been true and faithful to His Covenant with us and He will protect and bless all those who trust in Him. For the truth is indeed that no evil can stand before God, and God will have the ultimate triumph over all evil.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the story of the Lord Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits from a man in the region of Gerasenes across the Jordan. The man was afflicted and possessed by a large number of evil spirits and demons that called themselves as ‘Legion’ as a reference to their large numbers. The Lord sent the evil spirits away from the man into a nearby herd of pigs that went down the hill in berserk. But the man was completely healed from his previous affliction and was normal again.

No one wanted to come close to the possessed man earlier on, and because of the evil spirits that were within him, many kept a great distance from him. The man wandered off in the wilderness away from the community until the day when the Lord came and liberated him from those evil spirits. And this is in fact parallel to what we have heard of the story of the temporary exile of king David from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom. Like David who had to leave behind Jerusalem and wander to the wilderness, the possessed man also wandered off in the wilderness of Gerasenes.

But as I mentioned, God was with David and eventually, He gave David his kingdom back when Absalom was killed at the battle of the Woods of Ephraim according to the Scriptural accounts. Although the challenges and trials David faced at that time seemed very great, just like that possessed man who suffered from all the evil spirits that bothered him, but God proved to them all that He was still greater, and through Him, they both received liberation and deliverance from their troubles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what then is the significance of today’s Scripture passages? They remind us of the need for us to trust in God and to put our faith in Him. We should not forget that God is always by our side, listening to us and providing us with what we need in His own good time. But we often conveniently forget about this and instead turned to many other things of the world we grew dependant on, such as wealth, pleasures, material goods, status, fame among many others.

Today we are called to remember God and His love, His ever caring presence in our midst. We are called to remember all the times which He has stood by our side especially in our moments of great sorrow and distress. God has always been there by our side, and although sometimes we may not be able to recognise Him, but He is always there nonetheless. That is just how amazing God’s love is for each and every one of us.

Today, let us also look upon the faith of two of the Lord’s faithful saints, that hopefully we may live our lives with greater devotion and love for God after witnessing their faith and love for their Lord and Master. First of all, St. Blaise was a bishop of the Church, known today as the patron saint for all those who are working as healthcare workers taking care of those with throat diseases. The unique blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s feast day is still widely practiced today, and many who had throat complaints or troubles seek St. Blaise for his intercession and help.

St. Blaise was a Roman martyr who was a doctor and healer who was called to heal God’s people spiritually, and eventually became the bishop of Sebastea in what is now the eastern part of Asia Minor near Armenia. St. Blaise had many people seeking him for both physical and spiritual illnesses, and it was told that he miraculously healed a person who was suffering from fish bones that were stuck in the throat. St. Blaise was martyred under the Emperor Licinius who carried out one of the last persecutions of Christians, but the legacy of St. Blaise remained till this day.

St. Blaise reminded us all that through God’s grace and help, everything is possible. Even the greatest of ailments, threats and troubles are nothing for the Lord Who is Almighty and All-Powerful. The Lord Himself is All-Powerful over all those evil spirits whom many had feared from the possessed man. If only we trust in God, everything will be right for us if we follow His way. There will be plenty of trials and struggles, but God will help us and lead and guide the way for us going forward. And perhaps now is also a good opportunity for us to ask St. Blaise for his intercession, especially as the world is now facing the threat of the new 2019-nCoV or novel Coronavirus, that are spreading around the world and has killed hundreds of people so far.

Today we also remember the works and life of St. Ansgar, frequently known as the ‘Apostle of the North’ for his missionary and evangelising works among the pagan Germanic peoples. He worked at the forefront of Christianisation of the many areas in northern Germany where paganism were still common and strong among the populace. St. Ansgar also faced lots of challenges and difficulties through his ministry, but he persevered on, trusted in the Lord’s guidance and providence, and remained true to his calling to spread the Good News and the truth of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed earlier on, and pray that each and every one of us will be strengthened in our faith that we will be courageous in facing the many trials and challenges in life, doing whatever we can for the greater glory of God and to fulfil whatever missions that God has called us to. Let us all serve the Lord with ever greater love and devotion from now on. May God bless us all and be with us, and may His love and grace be upon us always. Amen.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain.

He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!”

When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.”

So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs; and immediately, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside. So all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

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.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

2 Samuel 15 : 13-14, 30 and 2 Samuel 16 : 5-13a

A messenger came to report to David that the Israelites were siding with Absalom. Then David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Let us flee, for we cannot resist Absalom. Go quickly, lest he come hurriedly and overtake us. Surely he will put the city to the sword if he can bring disaster upon us.”

David himself went up the Mount of Olives, weeping. He was barefooted and had his head covered, and all the people who were with him had their heads covered and wept as they went. When king David came to Bahurim, a man from the clan of Saul’s family named Shimei, son of Gera, came out cursing him. He threw stones at David and his officers although the king’s men and warriors flanked the king on the right and left.

As he yelled curses, Shimei said, “Leave! Leave! You man of bloodshed, you wicked man! YHVH has brought down on your head all the blood of the family of Saul. You became king in his place, but God has now placed the kingdom in the hands of your son Absalom. Ruin has come upon you because you are a wicked man.”

Then Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go and cut his head off.” But the king said, “Why should I listen to you, sons of Zeruiah? If YHVH has ordered him to curse me, who shall ask him why he acts like this?”

Then David said to Abishai and his officers, “If my own son wants to kill me, how much more this Benjaminite! Leave him alone and let him curse me if YHVH has ordered him to do so. Perhaps YHVH will look on my affliction and turn to good things the curses heaped on me today.”

So David and his men went on their way while Shimei, following on the hillside opposite him.