Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue the readings from the early chapters of the Book of the prophet Samuel and also the beginning of Our Lord’s ministry among His people as recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark, we are reminded that God loved us all and wants us to be reconciled to Him, but we must be willing to listen to Him and obey Him and His words.

In the first reading today, we heard of the account of a great battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, a neighbouring people of the Israelites who at that time oppressed the people of Israel and often raided into the lands of Israel. The Israelites were beaten hard and they began to think that if they brought the Ark of God or the Ark of the Covenant with them, God would be by their side and they would win against their enemies.

At that time, the Israelites were led by the judge Eli, who was also the mentor of the young prophet Samuel. But Eli was then already old, and in the earlier parts of the same Book of the prophet Samuel from which our first reading today was taken, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were the ones who actually held the rein over the people, and were the ones who carried out the sacrifices at the Tent of God.

But those two men were corrupt, and they did not obey the will of God. Rather, they served themselves and their own greed. They would keep the best portions of the sacrifices for themselves when the Law clearly stated that those should have been given to God. Their corrupt behaviour and attitude were wicked in the eyes of God, and that was why, God was not on the side of Israel when those two men led the Israelites bearing the Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines.

Then we heard of the result, how the Israelites were soundly defeated, the two wicked sons of Eli were slain in battle and the Ark of the Covenant itself was captured by the enemy. It was a great blow to the whole nation of Israel, and soon after the news came to Eli, the elderly judge of Israel passed away in grief, likely from hearing that the Ark of God had been captured by the enemy, on top of losing both of his sons.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a different account, of how the Lord Jesus healed a person who was suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was a disease that was greatly feared and dreaded by the people for its supposed contagiousness and its terrible appearance. Those who have contracted leprosy had to stay away from the rest of the community and remain in the wilderness until they were proven to be cured of their leprosy.

The Lord healed the man who sought healing from his leprosy, and the man was told to report to the priest to be allowed back to the community while at the same time strictly ordering him not to tell anything about how Jesus had healed him. But the man disobeyed the Lord and went to tell everyone what had happened to him. This made things difficult for the Lord and as mentioned in the Gospel passage, Jesus had to remain outside of the towns and could not enter to those cities.

Why is that so? First of all, it is possible that the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who upon hearing what He had done, made it difficult for Him and His disciples to enter the cities and towns. In addition, it was also possible that because the Lord healed the leper by touching him, something that no one at the time would consider doing, that made Him appear to be unclean in the eyes of some people, and they distanced themselves from Him.

Regardless of whatever the reason was, the disobedience of the man against what the Lord had told him caused difficulties and also loss for many others whom the Lord could have healed then. This was just as how the disobedience and wickedness of the two sons of Eli had led the Israelites into great defeat and losing the Ark of the Covenant to their enemies. Through their disobedience and stubbornness, man has sinned against God and should have walked into destruction.

But in the end, God is still willing to forgive us and to give us another chance. That was precisely why He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. Yet, are we making good use of this opportunity that He has given to us? Shall we appreciate the great and generous love that God has given us and is willing to give us even more? Let us all reflect on this and think in what way we can seek God with greater desire to love Him and to embrace Him with all of our strength from now on.

Let us not disobey God any longer but instead open our hearts and minds, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us to be better persons and to be better Christians. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us through this journey in life. May God bless us all and our many good works for His greater glory. Amen.

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