Thursday, 25 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded by the words of the Scripture that we must have firm faith in the Lord, and place all of our trust and hopes in Him, that we will then have a firm foundation upon which to lay our lives upon. Without this secure and firm foundation, it is likely that we will falter and fail in life, and suffer the consequences of our own choice, our own unwillingness to put our trust in God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples on the matter of those who would enter into the kingdom of God and therefore receive the fullness of grace, as those who have built for themselves a firm foundation, which the Lord likened with a parable to a house built on the firm foundation of rock-solid stone, and those who have little faith and no genuine love for God as those who have built their houses on the foundation of sand.

By using those examples in the form of a parable, the Lord wanted to show that the Lord is the sure refuge and firm foundation of our lives, a firm foundation that surpasses any other foundations we may have in life. There is no greater assurance or source of hope or strength we may have besides that of the hope and strength we will find in God and gain through Him. Those whom the Lord said as those crying out ‘Lord! Lord!’ were also subtle rebuke against the ones who have acted pious and good outwardly, and yet, in their hearts and minds, God was not found in them.

Linking what we have heard in our Gospel passage to our first reading today, we have the narrative from the Second Book of Kings telling us about what happened during the last years of the southern kingdom of Judah, first under its penultimate king, king Jehoiachin, and then ended with the last king, Zedekiah. For some background of this narrative, king Jehoiachin ruled a much diminished kingdom of Judah that had become the vassal and under the influence of the neighbouring Egypt and the growing power of Babylonian Kingdom at that time.

Jehoiachin revolted against the Babylonian king, likely thinking that he could win his independence by depending on the backing from Egypt or from other additional allies. But he was very wrong, as none of his expected help came about and the king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem with a mighty army, and king Jehoiachin surrendered. Together with much of the population of Judah, the king and important people were deported to exile in Babylon.

And later on, his uncle king Zedekiah, who replaced Jehoiachin as king, would also revolt with the same reason, definitely not learning the futility of trusting in earthly powers and means rather than the power of God. That time, the king of Babylon destroyed the Temple, the city of Jerusalem itself and Judah, blinded Zedekiah, killed his sons and brought most of the population that remained into exile in Babylon, an exile that was to last for many decades.

This was exactly what building a house on the foundation of sand meant, as experienced by the sons and daughters of Israel themselves, as those wicked and sinful kings disobeyed God and worshipped pagan idols, choosing to trust in the power of foreign kings and earthly powers than to trust in God. The support of earthly powers, means and resources are unreliable and cannot be fully trusted, as they could change with the change of human desires and other factors often beyond control.

But if we trust in God, we will not be disappointed, as God will always be faithful to the Covenant He has established with us, and we need only to trust in Him to lead us down the right path. Surely, the path going forward will not be an easy one, but if we trust in God and place ourselves faithfully in His hands, we will be preserved and strengthened, and in the end, we will be triumphant together with Him.

Let us all from now on, deepen our faith in God and commit ourselves anew to Him, striving to spend more quality time with Him, through prayer and other actions glorifying His Name. Let us all put God at the centre of our lives and make Him our firm foundation. May the Lord give us His strength and the courage to be ever faithful, with each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 21-29

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in Your Name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in Your Name?’ Then I will tell them openly, ‘I have never known you; away from Me, you evil people!’”

“Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way He taught, because He taught with authority, unlike their teachers of the Law.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 78 : 1-2, 3-5, 8, 9

O God, the pagans have invaded Your inheritance; they have defiled Your holy Temple and reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given Your servants’ corpses to the birds, and the flesh of Your saints, to the beasts of the earth.

They have poured out the blood of Your faithful, like water around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. Mocked and reviled by those around us, we are scorned by our neighbours. How long will this last, o YHVH? Will You be angry forever? Will Your wrath always burn to avenge Your rights?

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us, for the sake of Your Name.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 24 : 8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he succeeded his father, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother was Nehushta, daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. Jehoiachin treated YHVH badly, as his father had done.

At that time, the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to attack Jerusalem, surrounding the city. Nebuchadnezzar came while the city was being besieged by his men. Jehoiachin, king of Judah, surrendered, together with his mother, his servants, his leaders and the palace officials. It was the eighth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar captured them and he took away the treasures of the House of YHVH and of the king’s house. He also destroyed all the objects of gold which Solomon, king of Israel, had made for the Sanctuary of YHVH. So the word YHVH had spoken, was fulfilled.

Nebuchadnezzar carried off into exile all the leaders and prominent men, the blacksmiths and locksmiths, all the men of valour fit for war. A total of ten thousand were exiled to Babylon. Only the poorest sector of the population was left. Nebuchadnezzar also carried away Jehoiachin, with his mother, his wives, the ministers of the palace, and the prominent men of the land.

So all the prominent people, numbering seven thousand, the blacksmiths, numbering a thousand, and all the men fit for war were deported to Babylon by the king of Babylon. He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king of Jerusalem, in place of Jehoiachin. And he changed his name to Zedekiah.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity and celebration of the Nativity or the birth of St. John the Baptist, the only other person besides that of the Blessed Mother of God herself, Mary, who have their birthdays or nativities celebrated in the Church. And this highlighted the very important role which St. John the Baptist had in the history of the salvation of all mankind.

It was St. John the Baptist who was prophesied by the prophets to be the last among the prophets, for his role was to finally proclaim the coming of the salvation from God, the fulfilment of God’s long awaited plan of salvation, which would come through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who happened to be also a relative of St. John the Baptist himself, as his mother Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. St. John the Baptist was the one prophesied by the prophet Isaiah to be the one who would be prepared and called from the womb of his mother to proclaim God’s salvation.

And this is linked to the equally amazing circumstances of St. John the Baptist’s birth, in which the old couple Zechariah and Elizabeth, way past childbearing age, received words from the Angel of God through Zechariah himself, at the Temple, saying that the Lord’s prophet would be born to Elizabeth. And when Zechariah doubted this, he became mute until the time when St. John was born, and when Zechariah wrote his name as spoken by the Angel of God, his tongue was loosened miraculously.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the birth of St. John the Baptist was therefore indeed truly miraculous and as a clear show of God’s wonders and power, and a reminder of what God Himself had once done, when He made another elderly couple to be able to bear a child, namely the forefather of all the Israelites and many nations, that is Abraham and Sarah. Through his son Isaac, many nations were to be descended from Abraham as fulfilment of God’s promise to him. In the same way therefore, the birth of St. John the Baptist is the fulfilment of God’s promises through the prophets.

St. John the Baptist was the one entrusted with the difficult task of preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. He was to make straight the path for the Lord, and this was why, his renowned epithet of ‘the Baptist’ was not just to distinguish him from St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, but also to highlight his very important role in baptising the people as part of their call to repentance and turning again towards God.

St. John the Baptist was the one referred as the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the path for the Lord!’ and he also called the people to repent because the kingdom of God is at hand and already near, for the Messiah was about to come. And he laboured hard, baptising many people, at least in the thousands in all probabilities if not a lot more. Many people heeded his words and call, and many among them would then go on to follow the Lord and became Christians eventually.

Yet, St. John the Baptist also encountered many challenges and obstacles in his ministry and dedication to the Lord. Just as the many prophets who came before him and as what the Lord Jesus Himself was to suffer, St. John the Baptist encountered stubborn opposition and rejection from those who refused to listen to him and believe in his words, such as many among the Pharisees who doubted him and challenged him, and questioned under what authority he had performed his baptism and works.

St. John the Baptist fearlessly struck at the Pharisees by calling them the wicked ‘brood of vipers’, those hypocrites who claimed to be faithful and looked down on others they deemed less pious and worse than them, and yet, their attitudes and actions were wicked all the same. And yet, those people refused to listen to St. John and turn back against sin and walk towards God with repentance. And with the same zeal and courage he also chastised king Herod for his immoral and illegal relations with his brother’s wife, which eventually led to his arrest, imprisonment, and finally martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all celebrate the birth of this great saint and servant of God, let us all remember the great faith, commitment and the great zeal and courage with which St. John the Baptist had worked for the greater glory of God. Let us all discern then, what we ourselves can do in our own communities and in our own respective areas, in our own competencies and capabilities, to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been blessed to live at an era and time when the Messiah and salvation of God have been revealed to us in Christ, and by faith which we have received through the Church. Now, the Lord has also commanded us all His disciples to go forth to the nations and spread the Good News and the truth of God to all peoples and all nations. How do we then do that? That is by making sure that in our every words, deeds and actions, we shall be exemplary in all things.

Let us all be good role models of faith, just as how St. John the Baptist and all the other saints, holy men and women of God had lived their lives with faith, so that by our good examples, we may indeed show the path to our fellow brothers and sisters to the Lord. May the Lord help us and strengthen us in our faith, and help us to live ever more like our holy predecessors in all things. May God bless us all, now and always. And may St. John the Baptist, great Herald of the Lord’s coming, always pray for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 22-26

After that time, God removed Saul and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.

It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus. Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another One is coming, Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’

Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent.