Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded today of the dangers of sin and how sin can easily pervade into our lives and affect us in many terrible ways. We heard of how sin brought even king David of Israel down as we heard of the story of David and Uriah in our first reading today. But all these can be overcome if we heed what the Lord has also said in our Gospel passage today on the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard how king David was tempted by the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba who was bathing and that created the temptation in the heart and mind of David that led him to sin against God because of the lust that he had in him. And David succumbed to the temptation, desiring to have Bathsheba as her own, and Bathsheba herself was also tempted as the story told us, and when they have committed the deed and Bathsheba became pregnant, David became very afraid that the affair would be discovered by Uriah and became known, definitely a total embarrassment for him as the king of Israel.

To that end, David tried to trick Uriah into thinking that the child in the womb of Bathsheba as his own by trying to make and coerce him to sleep with his wife and has intercourse so as to hide the shameful affair that he had committed. And when Uriah remained righteous and firm, in refusing to do so while his nation was at war, David became panicked and began plotting to remove Uriah as a threat to him, making plans to put Uriah in the most dangerous place during the battle that ended up causing Uriah to be killed.

In this way, David has sinned against God, and although he repented and was very sorrowful and regretful over what he had done earlier on, but this is a very important lesson for all of us to take heed of. As we have heard, the actions that David took came about because he succumbed to temptation and allowed his desires and lust to overcome his rational thinking and faith, ending up doing something that was against God’s ways, and from there on, everything just went downhill.

As we can see, David at that moment did not allow God to lead and guide him through his actions, instead acting based on his own impulses and fears. He wanted to hide his mistakes and faults, and in the end he committed even greater sins and mistakes, causing him to indirectly make a person to lose his life. And we can see here how if we allow our own desires and personal ambitions to rule over us, we will easily be led down the wrong path, even for someone good and righteous like king David.

How should we then move forward in life, knowing that we are all vulnerable men and women, that are easily tempted by sin? It is then we should look at our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus used the parables to explain the truth to us. In those parables, Jesus explained about the kingdom of God to His disciples and followers, and showed them what it truly means to be a believer of His.

In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the sowing of seeds, and how the seeds would then grow until maturity before they can be harvested and the produces gathered. In using such parables, the Lord could explain more difficult concepts in a way easier to be understood by many of the people who were although illiterate but they were experienced or involved in farming and agriculture.

In the similar way therefore, He also used the parable of the mustard seed as a comparison for the kingdom of God, how a small seed like a mustard seed can eventually grow to be a large plant, with all of its numerous branches and leaves. And using this analogy, let us link to what we have just discussed on king David’s case earlier on and with another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel. In that parable, the Lord spoke of how an enemy sowed the bad and rotten seeds or seeds of weeds among the good seeds in the field.

It means that all of us have received seeds of faith from God as well as seeds of temptations and sin from the devil. How we are to cultivate them depends on our own life and actions, on our orientation whether it is towards God and His ways, or whether we prefer to follow the ways of the world. If we allow the seeds of sin to grow, then as David’s example had shown us, it can quickly overwhelm us and lead us deeper into sin and darkness.

On the contrary, if we allow God to be the guiding light in our lives and put Him at the centre of our existence, then God will help us to nurture the seeds of faith He has given to us and planted in us. And from us will grow a most bountiful tree of faith filled with the many fruits of our faith, and together, all of us as members of God’s same one Church will be truly the kingdom of God on earth. We must not think that our faith is small and insignificant, because as the Lord explained how the small mustard seed when grown up can become such a large tree, it means that our faith too can be a very powerful force if we cultivate it right.

And today, we have a great example and inspiration from one of God’s great saints to help and guide us in our journey of faith, in cultivating and growing our faith as we live our lives here on earth. St. John Bosco was a great and renowned priest whose life was an inspiration to many, in his personal and outward holiness, in his care and concern for many of the people of God, especially those who are in need of guidance and help, those youths that he spent many years working on, among others.

St. John Bosco was remembered for setting up a dormitory and school for young delinquents in the city of Turin where he ministered in. St. John Bosco himself came from poor family and had difficult childhood and early years of his formation, and it helped him to have great empathy and compassion for the young delinquents who were often misguided and lacked proper education and guidance in life. Thus, through the efforts of St. John Bosco many of those youths became better and positively influenced by this holy and dedicated man of God.

St. John Bosco did not have it easy of course, as he encountered opposition and challenges from various sources and groups, from those who accused him of stealing and intervening into their parishes and groups, to those who oppose the teachings of the Church and wanting to influence the youths that St. John Bosco had taken under his care. Nonetheless, St. John Bosco persevered and continued to labour hard for those to whom he had committed himself to.

Eventually, St. John Bosco was also influential in the founding of the religious order of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, a Salesian congregation founded by the followers of St. John Bosco and all like-minded people who wanted to continue and propagate the efforts of St. John Bosco, which in time would come to encompass many more places and influence many more people, as many men and women came to respond to God’s call through this congregation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how a poor man turned priest, St. John Bosco, was like that small and insignificant mustard seed. And yet, through his tireless efforts and works, many people, through the many years of his ministry and then continuing through the congregations and organisations inspired by his life and work, come to be touched and benefit from the faith which St. John Bosco had shown. We can clearly see here how God’s kingdom came to be, with many people returning to God through all the efforts mentioned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then able to follow the good examples set by St. John Bosco in our own lives? Are we able to cultivate our faith and devote our lives to God as he and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us all resist the impulse and temptations to sin and put God as the centre and focus of our lives. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight, I have done. You are right when You pass sentence; and blameless in Your judgement. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth; a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 11 : 1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17

In the spring of that year, when kings usually set out to fight, David sent out Joab, his officers and all the Israelite troops. They slaughtered the Ammonites and attacked Rabbah, while David remained in Jerusalem.

One afternoon, David got up from his siesta and took a walk on the roof of the royal house. From the rooftop, he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. David sent to inquire about the woman, and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah, the Hittite.”

So David sent messengers to have her brought to him. As the woman saw she was with child, she sent word to David, “I am with child.” David then sent a message to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came, David asked him about Joab, how the people were and how the war was proceeding. Then he told Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”

Uriah left the palace while the king had a portion from his table sent to him. Uriah, however, did not go down to his house but slept by the door of the king’s palace with all the servants of his lord. David was told that Uriah did not go down to his house.

David invited him to table and he ate and drank until he was drunk. When evening fell, however, he went to lie down on his couch with the guards of his lord instead of going down to his house. The next morning, David wrote Joab a letter to be taken by hand by Uriah, in which he said, “Place Uriah in the front row where the fighting is very fierce and then withdraw from him so that he may be struck down and die.”

When Joab was attacking the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew was being defended by strong warriors. And the defenders attacked the men of Joab. Some of David’s soldiers and officers were killed; Uriah the Hittite also died.