Tuesday, 9 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Deacons)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, all of us heard of the story of the prophet Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in our first reading today, and followed by the parable of the Lord, the famous parable of the salt of the earth and the light of the world in our Gospel passage today. Through all these, all of us as Christians are reminded to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ in all of our words, actions and deeds.

In our first reading today taken from the First Book of Kings, we heard of the story of how the prophet Elijah went to the region of Sidon, during the time of the three years of great drought and famine, in which the whole land of Israel and the surrounding regions were deprived of any rain, with the whole land in drought and lacking water, and hence, are in great suffering for the lack of food. But the people remained stubborn in sin, especially the king Ahab, which caused the prophet Elijah to have to flee to the neighbouring territories.

It was in this occasion that the prophet Elijah encountered a widow in the town of Zarephath, who was also having difficulty herself, as she was bereft of hope and despairing, hoping that she could just have one last meal for herself and her son before they died out of food and income from the famine and drought. But the prophet Elijah told the widow to have faith in God, and to provide for him with food as he had requested, for the Lord would definitely take good care of her and provide for her for her faith.

The widow trusted Elijah and did as the prophet asked of her. Miraculously, the flour she used to make the bread for the prophet Elijah did not run out, as with the oil she used to make the bread. God provided for both His prophet Elijah, as well as for the widow of Zarephath and her son, whom at that time belonged to the non-Israelites living outside the bounds of the land of Israel. She was a pagan, and yet, she chose to believe in God and open her heart and mind to the Lord’s words and truth.

Through the love and the compassion, the kindness that the prophet Elijah showed to the widow, he himself had been blessed by God. And in later occasion, still during the drought as Elijah stayed for some time with the widow, the son of the widow fell seriously ill and died. The widow was very distraught at the loss of her son, but the prophet Elijah reassured her and entrusted the dead son to the Lord’s mercy and love. And through his prayers, the Lord resurrected the son of the widow and returned him to life.

Certainly, through all these, the widow must have become a firm believer in God, in contrast to the lack of faith among the Israelites and their king, Ahab. And in this way, the prophet Elijah had indeed showed us what it means for us to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. Why is that so? That is because in the depth of her despair and darkness, the prophet Elijah had shown the path to liberation and salvation, to a new hope in God, even though he himself had been in difficulty himself.

In our Gospel today, we heard these two parables the Lord mentioned, on the salt of the earth and the light of the world, two very important commodities especially at that time. Salt was a very important preservative that helped to keep a lot of food produce from spoilage and was also important in its use in giving flavour to the food, while light was crucial in a society before the advent of cheap and easily obtainable light sources using electricity, in a world where darkness was often feared, and how light was so essential for many people’s livelihood.

Therefore, the Lord is calling on each and every one of us to be the bearer of this new hope and strength, courage and perseverance to one another during times of great difficulties and challenges. This is especially relevant this year, considering the numerous troubles, trials, dangers and problems we have encountered in the first few months of this year alone. How have we as Christians acted in the midst of all these challenges? Have we borne hope and light into our communities, and helped one another to shore up hope amidst despair and strength amidst weakness? Or have we instead been preoccupied with fear ourselves, and failed to put our trust in God, and ended up causing even more darkness, negativities and evil?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Ephrem the Deacon, a holy man of God, whose life can be additional inspiration for us on how we ought to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. St. Ephrem the Deacon lived during the early years of the acceptance of Christianity as the widespread religion and faith of the Roman Empire, and he was remembered for the immense collections of his many writings, poems and works, many of which inspired countless people to follow the Lord with greater zeal and faith.

St. Ephrem might not have had wonderful and mighty deeds filled with miracles and glory, and yet, in his tireless efforts and works in writing, in composing and creating inspiration and faith-filled contents in his numerous books, works and poems, he has become that ‘salt of the earth’ by enriching the lives of others, and the ‘light of the world’ by showing the light of God to those who were still in darkness and ignorance of God’s truth and love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord as the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ from now on? Let us all commit ourselves anew and be inspired by the good examples of our holy predecessors, and be good Christians from now on in words, actions and deeds, at all times. May the Lord bless us all and guide our path, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Deacons)

Matthew 5 : 13-16

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it.”

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead it is put on a lampstand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.”

Tuesday, 9 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Deacons)

Psalm 4 : 2-3, 4-5, 7-8

Answer when I call, o God, my justice! When I was in distress, You gave me solace. Have compassion on me and hear my plea. And you, people, how long will you harden your hearts? How long will you delight in deceit and go in search of falsehood?

But you must know that YHVH has shown His kindness to me. When I call to Him, He hears me. Be angry, but do not offend. Keep your words to yourself, when you are in bed, and be still.

Many ask, “Who will give us a happy time? Would, that His favour shine upon us!” You, o YHVH, have put joy in my heart; more than by giving me wine and food.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Deacons)

1 Kings 17 : 7-16

After a while, the brook dried up because no rain had fallen in the land. Then YHVH spoke to Elijah, “Go to Zarephath of the Sidonites and stay there. I have given word to a widow there, to give you food.”

So Elijah went to Zarephath. On reaching the gate of the town, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called after her and said, “Bring me also a piece of bread.”

But she answered, “As YHVH your God lives, I have no bread left, but only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am just now gathering some sticks so that I may go in and prepare something for myself and my son to eat – and die.”

Elijah then said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go, and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me. Then make some for yourself and your son. For this is the word of YHVH, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be emptied nor shall the jug of oil fail, until the day when YHVH sends rain to the earth.’”

So she went and did as Elijah told her; and she had food for herself, Elijah and her son from that day on. The jar of flour was not emptied nor did the jug of oil fail, in accordance with what YHVH had said through Elijah.