Tuesday, 18 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the Lord’s steadfastness in protecting all those who are faithful to Him, and how those who are wicked and unfaithful, those who oppress the faithful will not have their way forever, as sooner or later, the day of reckoning will come for them, justice will be served to them, and the righteous ones will triumph in the end together with God. This is what we can be sure of, as God Himself has guaranteed it, and history has also proven this right.

First of all, we heard of the story from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, in which we heard of the prophecy and also the warning regarding the prince of the city of Tyre. Contextually and historically, the city of Tyre was the heartland of the Phoenicians and the centre of their vast maritime empire that spread far and wide. Tyre itself was very rich and the centre of a great trading network which earned its rulers vast fortune and great power.

That great wealth and power, coupled with the fact that the city of Tyre stood on an island separated by a stretch of sea from the land, with its strong maritime forces made Tyre and its rulers to be almost invincible and had nothing to fear from its enemies. And this is where then our first reading passage came in, as God revealed for all of its power and might, Tyre would also still falter and fail, as what was to be proven a few centuries afterwards when Tyre was conquered and destroyed by the forces of King Alexander the Great of Macedon.

Many of us know about Alexander the Great, his life and conquests, and his amazing military victories, in which he led his armies in defeating and conquering the entirety of the vast Persian Empire, and in the midst of that, he laid siege to the city of Tyre, destroyed its navy and other forces, starved the city and eventually, built a land bridge that ever since then connected Tyre to the mainland, and the city was eventually conquered, its people subjugated and enslaved, its buildings and riches destroyed and plundered. All happened just as the Lord had revealed about it earlier.

All of these are reminders for each and every one of us that we must not allow ourselves to be swayed by earthly goods and pleasures, by worldly desires and material concerns, by all sorts of things and temptations that will often prevent us from living righteously before God, and end up suffering like what Tyre and its proud people suffered. Tyre and its might depended on itself and its worldly glory, and they dwelled in their hubris and ego, and in the end, they were humbled and crushed.

This is related to what we then heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord spoke of how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and how it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. This is not referring to an actual eye of a needle, but a metaphor that related to the fact that there is an actual gate called the Needle’s Eye gate in Jerusalem that is so small that a camel had to had its burdens and loads removed, and then stoop down its head and neck to be able to pass through the gate.

The reference to the camel passing through the gate called the ‘Needle’s Eye Gate’ is a symbolic message to the people that as the camel had to be rid of its burdens and stoop down to pass through the gate, thus, we mankind had to divest ourselves off our many ‘baggages’ in life and humble ourselves before we can enter into the kingdom of God. And when the Lord said that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven, it is not a condemnation of the rich, but rather, as I often mentioned, the attachments that we have to worldly things, and the rich are usually all the more susceptible to these.

Yes, the Lord did not say that the rich are bad, terrible or wicked, but rather, because they have more of these ‘baggages’, the ‘baggages’ of material possessions, of fame and influence, of worldly concerns, of worldly glory, of pride and ego, of our many desires in life, all these ‘baggages’, which are obstacles in our path towards God, are even more difficult to overcome for those who are rich and powerful. Yet, there are those who have managed to overcome, as we certainly know throughout history, those who are rich and powerful who were kind and generous, and there were saints that came from their midst.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are reminded by today’s words of God to be ever vigilant and to guard ourselves against the temptations of pride and greed, that we will not be easily swayed by those that sought to bring us down by tempting us with all sorts of worldly pleasures I mentioned earlier on. Do not let the devil from manipulating us and attacking us by using all these against us. Instead, let us remove ourselves from any unhealthy attachments and obsessions in life, that we may be able to overcome the obstacles in our path towards God.

May the Lord continue to guide us all in this journey of life, and may He strengthen us all and give us the necessary strength and courage in life that we may persevere in faith despite the challenges we encounter and that we may be worthy of God and the eternal life He has prepared for each and every one of us who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow You. What, then, will there be for us?”

Jesus answered, “You, who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.”

Tuesday, 18 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Deuteronomy 32 : 26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-36ab

I said I would scatter them afar and blot out their memory among humankind, but I feared the enemy’s boasting, lest the adversary misunderstand.

And say : ‘We have triumphed, the Lord has not brought this about.’ They are a senseless and undiscerning nation. Had they wisdom, they would have known.

For how could one or two men put to flight a thousand or ten thousand, unless their Rock had abandoned them, unless their Lord had given them up?

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 28 : 1-10

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre : You are very proud and self-satisfied : ‘I am a god, I sit like a god in the heart of the sea.’ Yet you are man and not a god; would you hold yourself as wise as God? You consider yourself wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you. Your wisdom and know-how have earned you a fortune, gold and silver flowed to your treasury.”

“Clever in trade, you became wealthy and, as your fortune increased, your heart became prouder. But now, YHVH has spoken to you, to the one who is like God : I am bringing foreigners against you, the most feared of all the nations. Their sword will challenge your wisdom and debase your refined culture. They will bring you down to the pit and you will die in the depths of the sea.”

“Will you be able to say ‘I am a god’ when your murderers are killing you? You are a man and not a god. You will die the death of the uncircumcised and perish at the hands of aliens, for I have spoken – word of YHVH.”