Tuesday, 14 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard the words of the Scripture which reminded us that all of us should put our complete trust in God and believe in Him and all that He has promised to us. God will never disappoint us and He will always be there for us no matter what. The Lord will provide for us and bless us in His good time, as He has done for His faithful ones as we heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today we heard the anguish and sorrow of the mother of the prophet Samuel, Hannah, one of the two wives of a man named Elkanah. Elkanah had many children with Penninah, his other wife, while Hannah had borne him none. At that time, for a married woman to have borne no children or to be considered as barren was a great humiliation and could even be considered as a sign of divine displeasure or a curse against the woman. Such woman was usually disliked and ostracised by the society at large.

That was why there was such a great pressure on Hannah to give a child to her husband, and on top of that, Penninah often teased her and ridiculed her because of her jealousy that Elkanah still loved Hannah more despite Penninah having given him many children. Hannah was therefore at her wits end and came before the Lord seeking for solace and help, throwing herself at His presence and surrendering everything to Him.

The Lord heard her prayers and answered her. She bore a son, Samuel, whom God honoured by calling him to be a great prophet, and also appointed Judge of Israel during the transition years to the monarchy, guiding the people of God through the difficult years and trials, remembered as a great prophet of God. And Hannah would be forever remembered and honoured as the mother of this great prophet. She was also given more children to replace Samuel, whom she promised and offered to God, thanking Him for all He had done for her.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of another story of God’s providence and love for His people, as we heard of how the Lord Jesus cast out evil spirits from a possessed man in a synagogue at the beginning of His ministry. The possessed man was beset by the demons who recognised Jesus for Who He was, the Son of God and Saviour of the world. The Lord commanded the evil spirit to leave the man, and it had to obey the Lord’s command and leave the man freed from his earlier torments.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have heard from all these truths from the Scriptures are reminders for us that God is always ever loving and compassionate towards us, full of mercy and full of concern, caring for us and listening to our pleas for help. He did not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye against our afflictions, but He will do whatever is in His will to help us, in His own time. As long as we believe in God and put our trust in Him, we really will not be disappointed.

But are we able to put our trust in Him? More often than not we put our trust in other things of this world instead rather than in God. We believe more in the strength of our own flesh and in the depth of our own intellect and wisdom thinking that we know how to solve everything. We only seek God when we have nothing else to turn to and we end up often forgetting about Him when we are in good times again. And when we do not get what we want, we become angry at God and we distance ourselves from Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we live our lives in this world today, we need to realise that without God our existence will be miserable and meaningless, and without God our lives truly have no real significance. Yet, we are often too proud and too egoistic, too filled with desire and therefore became too distracted and we are unable to trust God and have faith in Him as we should have. We need to open our hearts and minds, and allow God to enter into them, throwing away all of our pride and excessive desires that prevented us from reaching out to God.

Let us all be inspired by the faith and courage of Hannah in seeking God even when she was already so troubled and challenged, and let us all trust that God can heal us from our afflictions and that He will be with us throughout the journey of our lives. May the Lord guide us in our journey and may He strengthen us in our faith from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 21b-28

At that time, Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way He taught, for He spoke as One having authority, and not like the teachers of the Law. It happened that, a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority He preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him!”

And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more. The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone.

YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up. YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts.

He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 1 : 9-20

After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah stood up not far from Eli, the priest whose seat was beside the doorpost of YHVH’s House. Deeply distressed she wept and prayed to YHVH and made this vow : “O YHVH of Hosts, if You will have compassion on Your maidservant and give me a son, I will put him in Your service for as long as he lives and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she prayed before YHVH, Eli observed the movement of her lips. Hannah was praying silently; she moved her lips but uttered no sound and Eli thought Hannah was drunk. He, therefore, said to her : “For how long will you be drunk? Let your drunkenness pass.”

But Hannah answered : “No, my lord, I am a woman in great distress, not drunk. I have not drunk wine or strong drink, but I am pouring out my soul before YHVH. Do not take me for a bad woman. I was so afflicted that my prayer flowed continuously.”

Then Eli said, “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.” Hannah answered, “Let Your maidservant deserve Your kindness.” Then she left the Temple; and when she was at table she seemed a different woman. Elkanah rose early in the morning and worshipped before YHVH with his wives. Then they went back home to Ramah.

When Elkanah slept with his wife, Hannah, YHVH took compassion on her, and she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said : “I have asked YHVH to give him to me.”

Monday, 13 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the Ordinary Time of the year, in this period between the seasons of Christmas and Lent. As we begin this Ordinary Time, all of us heard the message of the Scriptures in which God called us all to be His followers and disciples, to do His will and to walk in His path, as He called the prophet Samuel at the time of the Old Testament and His first disciples from the area of the Lake of Galilee as described in our Gospel passage today.

In our first reading today we heard of the account of the time when the prophet Samuel was about to be born, at the end of the era of the Judges of Israel and before the coming of the era of the kings of Israel. Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah were mentioned in today’s passage, when they went to the house of the Lord and Hannah was sad because she had not been able to bear her husband any child, while the other wife of Elkanah bore him many children.

But God had great plans for Hannah, as through her, a great prophet would be born, Samuel who would be the last and among the greatest of the Judges of Israel and the one who would anoint two kings of Israel, Saul and David, leading the people of God through the difficult years of trials and attacks from the Philistines, and enduring the divisions and disagreements, the sins committed by the people and also the disobedience and sin of Saul. Samuel helped the people of God and guided them through all those difficult years.

In our Gospel passage, God also called several men to follow Him, those fishermen from obscure origins, illiterate and insignificant, and yet, through His calling, He made them all to be His disciples, as great fishers of men by which He called many people to Himself. Although those disciples were then totally ordinary and undistinguished but God gave them His power and strength, and He sent them the Holy Spirit and gave them His Wisdom that they became fearless and courageous witnesses of the truth of God.

They were called from their ordinary lives to be extraordinary by the grace of God. The disciples of the Lord, the prophet Samuel and all the other holy predecessors we have all have been called to greatness. They heeded the Lord’s call and followed Him, and God was with them, guiding them in doing His will. And they did many good works for the Lord, in bringing His people closer to Him and in bringing the truth of God to the nations.

And today, we have yet another example through the saint whose feast we celebrate on this day, namely St. Hilary of Poitiers, a renowned Church father and bishop of the early Church, in the region of Poitiers which is now at the central-southern portion of France. St. Hilary of Poitiers was known for his zeal and dedication in serving the people of God especially in how be opposed the heresy of Arianism in his diocese and also in the broader Church context.

St. Hilary had to go up against powerful authorities, both within and from outside the Church. As the Emperor then was himself sympathetic to the Arian cause, St. Hilary tried his best to persuade him to turn away from the Arian heresy and to oppose the influential Arian bishops, for the benefit of the faithful and for the salvation of the souls of those who have fallen into heresy. St. Hilary dedicated all his energy and strength in doing the will of God just as the prophet Samuel and the disciples of the Lord had done.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all these good and inspiring examples, let us all be inspired to live our lives with faith, and dedicate ourselves to do the will of God following the footsteps of the Apostles and the prophets, and inspired by the faith of St. Hilary of Poitiers, as we begin this Ordinary Time of the year, a time for action and work of our faith. Let us all be witnesses of the Lord’s truth in our society and bear witness for our faith among the peoples.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us that we may have the necessary strength and courage to carry on living our lives with faith despite the challenges and trials we may have to face along the way. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 14-20

At that time, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”

As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once, they abandoned their nets and followed Him.

Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Monday, 13 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14-17, 18-19

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.

I will carry out my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, o Jerusalem.

Monday, 13 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 1 : 1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim, in the hills of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was the son of Tohu, son of Jeroham, of the clan of Zuph. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none.

Every year Elkanah went to worship and to sacrifice to YHVH of Hosts at Shiloh. The priests there were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. Whenever Elkanah offered sacrifice, he gave portions to his wife, Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. To Hannah, however, he gave the more delightful portion because he loved her more, although she had no child. Yet Hannah’s rival used to tease her for being barren.

So it happened every year when they went to YHVH’s House, Peninnah irritated Hannah and she would weep and refuse to eat. Once Elkanah, her husband, asked her, “Hannah, why do you weep instead of eating? Why are you sad? Are you not better off with me than with many sons?”