Thursday, 18 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Sacred Scriptures we heard about the praises of the prophet Elijah as recounted by the prophet Sirach. In that passage we heard how the prophet Elijah had worked hard for the Lord and eventually was taken up into heaven at the end of his ministry. Then in the Gospel passage we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers on the matter of how they ought to pray and then taught them His prayer.

Let us first begin with our first reading today, in which we heard the account of the life and works of the prophet Elijah. In that account, we heard a summary of Elijah’s many achievements during his ministry and how he laboured hard for the sake of God’s people, a most thankless and tiring task, as he was persecuted, oppressed and rejected by those same people that he had been sent to minister. He had to flee many times for fear of his life during his ministry, with many people opposing him.

The Lord had worked through Elijah, as he performed many wonderful miracles, as mentioned by the prophet Sirach, as he brought fire down from heaven to burn the sacrificial offerings during the trial of faith with the priests of Baal and his opponents, bringing down fire on the agents of the king who demanded him to come down from the mountain and see the king, to raising the dead child of the widow of Zarephath to whom he also showed God’s grace and love with the miraculous and endless supply of flour and oil for her family to eat and survive during the great famine and drought.

But the people would still not be turned by all these efforts, although some were definitely touched by the faith and the efforts of the prophet. Most of the people, like that of their king, Ahab, and his successors remained in sin, living in sin and continuing to worship the pagan gods and idols, save for Jehu, the successor of the house of Ahab, whom God had chosen to be the king of Israel, and whom Elijah had helped to put in place. In all these, we see how God has cared so much about His people, that He sent them a great prophet to help them and reach out to them, and in the end, when that prophet had completed his ministry, God also took him up into heaven for the greater glory of His works.

How is this related to our Gospel passage today? We heard of the Lord Jesus ministering to the people, spreading the words of God’s truth among them. He was the new great Prophet sent into the world, and His role was affirmed as at the moment of Transfiguration, the prophet Elijah and Moses appeared before the Lord and spoke to Him on Mount Tabor as witnessed by three of the Apostles. This highlighted the Lord as the fulfilment of all the prophecies, and He Himself, as the one and true Prophet of prophets, would complete God’s plan to save mankind.

The Lord Himself faced challenges, opposition, rejection and difficulties, just as the prophet Elijah and myriads of other prophets had experienced. But He still carried on His work and ministry, for the wonderful and enduring love which He has for each and every one of us, the sons and daughters of mankind. And He has always reminded His followers and disciples to focus their hearts, their minds and their attention on God, and the way to do this is through having stronger and more authentic relationship with Him.

And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is through prayer! Just as the Lord taught His disciples how to pray, the Lord’s Prayer composed by Himself as the inspiration and example of what prayers should be like, and what prayers are meant to be. Prayer is the intimate form of communication between us and God, for us to get close to God and to open ourselves to Him. But many of us often got it wrong about prayer, thinking of prayer as a means for us to gain ourselves what we want and need from God.

That is why when we prayed, many of us often ended up falling into the temptation of focusing on ourselves, looking inward and immersed in our ego, desire, pride and ambition rather than to focus our attention in God. The Lord Jesus taught us to focus our attention on God, to honour and glorify Him, to thank Him for all the wonderful blessings He has given to us, and to devote ourselves to Him, and then, surely, God will guide us and help us. And in prayer, we ought to open ourselves to the Lord, to listen to Him and to follow Him in whatever He wants us to do.

Let us all therefore deepen our relationship to the Lord, our Father through prayer and by drawing ever closer to Him. Let us all follow Him faithfully much as how the prophet Elijah had dedicated his life to serve Him, by doing what we can, in our own lives, in our own respective communities and places, to obey the Lord and to do our best in serving Him, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 18 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Thursday, 18 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

Fire goes before Him, burning His foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth watches and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

Shame on worshippers of idols, on those proud of their worthless images. Let all spirits bow before Him.

Thursday, 18 June 2020 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 48 : 1-15 (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 48 : 1-14)

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? By the word of the Most High you brought a dead man back to life; you brought kings to destruction and thrust famous men from their beds. You heard a rebuke at Sinai and sentences of punishment at Horeb; you anointed kings to be avengers and prophets to succeed you.

You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live. Such was Elijah, taken up in a whirlwind, and Elisha was filled with his spirit. During his life no leader could shake him, no one dominated him. Nothing was too difficult for him and even in death his body prophesied. In life he worked wonders, in death his deeds were amazing.

Despite all this, the people were not converted and did not turn away from sin; not until they were deported far from their country and scattered over the earth.