Tuesday, 1 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard a very interesting set of readings from the Scripture, relating to the concept of the spiritual life and the Spirit of God working in our midst, and how only the Spirit of God knows the truth of God unlike our feeble and weak human minds, perceptions and understanding.

When we speak of the spirits of God here as described in our first reading by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, it is a reference to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard the account of the Lord Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits from a man in the synagogue of Capernaum. The man shouted loudly, proclaiming the Lord Jesus as the Holy One of God, the Messiah promised to the whole world and the Son of God.

It is curious that all these came from the mouth of a man possessed by evil spirits. We would have expected that the evil spirits spoke terribly of the Lord or falsehoods about Him, but on the contrary, they spoke the truth. Why is that so? That is because although they had rebelled against God and disobeyed Him, fell into evil, following the path of Satan, but ultimately, all of them, including Satan, were the Angels of God and spirits that were created by God.

God is still and will always be their true Master and Lord, and those spirits, as fearsome and mighty they might seem or appear, or make themselves to appear, but they have no power over God, and no power therefore over Jesus, the One Whom despite His human appearance, was in truth God Himself incarnate in the human flesh and existence, fully Divine and fully Human, two distinct natures united perfectly in His own Person.

That was why those evil spirits recognised Him and proclaimed Him as He was, first of all, perhaps because they wanted to make it more difficult for the Lord to perform His missions, as the words that He is the Holy One and Son of God would inevitably lead Him to the clash and arguments with the Pharisees and the chief priests. But ultimately, they cannot lie before the presence of God, and they had to speak the truth.

And therefore, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle, the spirit knows and understand what are imperceivable and unrecognisable to the world, to the physical world. This also comes after yesterday’s readings, in which we heard how the Lord Jesus was rejected by His own people, His own neighbours and townspeople alike, just because they saw Him and knew Him as the Son of a local carpenter.

We can see the contrast and irony how while the evil spirits recognised the Lord Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, His own people failed to recognise Him and refused to believe in Him. And this is what happened when we allowed our human prejudices, biases and limited human understanding and ability to perceive to mislead us and misguide us. That is why, we must have strong and genuine faith in God, through our living and good relationship with Him.

We do not recognise something that we do not know or which we are not familiar with. That is why when we do not spend time with God, or have little authentic relationship with Him, then how can we expect to know Him properly? It is through prayer that all of us as Christians come to know God, recognise Him by uniting our spirit to Him, opening our deepest self, our hearts and minds to God.

The sad reality is that so many of us Christians have not put priority for prayer in our lives, and we tend to put God as secondary importance in our lives, as we spent a lot more time in trying to pursue our various worldly aims and desires, our attachments to the world, to all sorts of worldly pleasures and matters, and we pushed God aside and relegated Him to a place of much lesser importance in our lives.

That was exactly why many failed to recognise the Lord’s Presence, even those Pharisees, teachers of the Law and those who have witnessed the Lord performing His wondrous miracles, they refused to believe in Him because they had no strong and genuine connection with Him. For many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, although they outwardly seemed pious and faithful, but their piety was rather superficial, and their hearts were not centred on God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern these carefully and see how we can be more faithful in words, deeds and actions, be more genuinely committed to God, with all of our hearts. Let us all draw strength from God and let us truly believe in Him and put our full trust in His promise of eternal life and glory, and dedicate ourselves day after day, time from time, to proclaim His glory and truth in our communities, and be the witnesses of His truth and Resurrection. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 4 : 31-37

At that time, Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and began teaching the people at the Sabbath meetings. They were astonished at the way He taught them, for His word was spoken with authority.

In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by an evil spirit, who shouted in a loud voice, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I recognise You : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus said to him sharply, “Be silent and leave this man!” The evil spirit then threw the man down in front of them, and came out of him without doing him harm. Amazement seized all these people, and they said to one another, “What does this mean? He commands the evil spirits with authority and power. He orders, and you see how they come out!”

And news about Jesus spread throughout the surrounding area.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 144 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13ab, 13cd-14

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

The Lord is true to His promises and lets His mercy show in all He does. The Lord lifts up those who are falling and raises those who are beaten down.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 2 : 10b-16

Because the Spirit probes everything, even the depth of God. Who, but his own spirit, knows the secrets of a person? Similarly, no one, but the Spirit of God, knows the secrets of God. We have not received the spirit of world, but the Spirit Who comes from God and, through Him, we understand what God, in His goodness, has given us.

So we speak of this, not in terms inspired by human wisdom, but in a language taught by the Spirit, explaining a spiritual wisdom to spiritual persons. The one who remains on the psychological level does not understand the things of the Spirit. They are foolishness for him; and he does not understand, because they require a spiritual experience.

On the other hand, the spiritual person judges everything, but no one judges him. Who has known the mind of God so as to teach Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Monday, 31 August 2020 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the unfortunate story of how the Lord Jesus was rejected in His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee, by His own townspeople, not long after He began His ministry. He proclaimed the truth of God as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah and proclaimed how the Lord’s salvation has finally arrived, in Him.

But the people of Nazareth were bewildered, and all of them who heard Him in the synagogue was initially amazed and then later on confused and found it hard to believe that Jesus was referring to Himself as He read from the text of the prophet Isaiah. After all, they were His neighbours and fellow townspeople, many of whom had seen Him from when He was still very young, and saw Him as He grew up.

And He was merely the Son of the village carpenter, St. Joseph, who although an upright and likely well-respected man, but was poor and worked in a profession that was usually looked down upon. What went through the minds of the people then must have been things like, ‘How did this Jesus gain such wisdom and knowledge? He was just the poor carpenter’s Son!’ or ‘Preposterous! How can He claim Himself as the Messiah? We were just a mere tiny and poor village in Galilee!’

This referred to how that area was among the poorest in the region of Galilee, a small village and not noteworthy at all. Galilee itself was always seen as a backwater region, at the periphery of the Jewish world, then centred in Judea and Jerusalem. Galilee was where the Jewish settlers often lived alongside significant populations of Samaritans, local Canaanites and Syro-Phoenicians.

Thus, to the understanding of the people, it was impossible for someone from Galilee to have been the Messiah, and even less still, the Son of a poor carpenter hailing from the small and poor village in Galilee, the village of Nazareth. And we must also not forget that there must have been tinge of jealousy as the people complained against the Lord more because He tried to show them that in truth, He was not just a mere village carpenter’s Son.

This unfortunate incident, and how the Lord was cast out of His own hometown was exactly what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Corinthians, in our first reading today. He said that ‘your faith might be a matter not of human wisdom, but of God’s power.’ And this is a reminder that we must not use our own human intellect, wisdom and understanding to judge the truth of God. And St. Paul also said earlier how as he came to the people preaching the truth about Christ, he did so with humility and open heart and mind, and thus, sought his listeners to do the same as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these passages of the Scriptures we are reminded how every one of us have to open our minds and hearts, and allow God’s words and truth to enter into us. We must not be prejudiced in any way to others, just as the people of Nazareth were prejudiced against the Lord. As long as we have prejudice, bias and all these, it will be difficult for us to accept God’s truth and have genuine faith. And this applies in our own world as well.

Why is that so? That is because if we are biased, prejudiced, then we are filling ourselves up with ego and pride, and there will be no place either for God or for our fellow brothers and sisters in our hearts and minds. And the word of God and His truth will remain elusive for us. Instead, we have to heed the words of St. Paul, reminding us to be humble before God, to accept His truth and not to allow our judgment be clouded by our prejudices and biases, our worldly perceptions and thoughts.

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts, with all sincerity and faith, and let us devote our time and effort to be faithful witnesses of His truth, proclaiming that the Lord Jesus is indeed the Messiah of God, Who brought with Him and with His sacrifice on the Cross, the promise of eternal life and salvation and liberation from sin and death. Let us rejoice knowing that God has come to us, to be with us, and be thankful for His love, and no longer be stubborn or harden our hearts as His own townspeople and many of the Jewish leaders had done.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen in us our faith, and our love for Him, as well as for our fellow brothers and sisters. May the Lord bless us and all of our works, and may He grant us the courage to persevere in life with faith, in all of our works and actions, now and always. Amen.