Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God which was instituted a few years ago by Pope Francis, our Supreme Pontiff with the purpose of rediscovering our love and zeal for the Lord through the deepening of our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. It is important that we have to spend some time and effort to get to know more about the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and hence, that is why this Sunday in particular, let us all delve into what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and focus our attention on the truth that the Lord Himself has brought into our midst.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the prophecy speaking of the coming of the Messiah, of the coming of the Light of salvation that dispels the darkness surrounding the region of Naphtali and Zebulun, which by the time of the Lord Jesus was known as the region of Galilee. It was in Galilee that the Lord’s family originated from, as St. Joseph and Mary stayed in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, although St. Joseph at least initially hailed from the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council later on said that no prophet were to be expected to come from the region and hence, Jesus must have been a false prophet and Messiah.

Yet, if only they had read the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies more carefully, just as we have heard ourselves in our first reading today, then they would have realised that the Saviour of the world would indeed come through the region of the north, the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun, the land of Galilee, where the Lord indeed stayed during the early years of His life, and also where He began His ministry after His Baptism at the Jordan. Contextually it is also significant to take note that back then, at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, as part of the northern kingdom of Israel, had become a foreign land, after the destruction of that kingdom by the Assyrians, as its people had been brought off into exile in far away lands, and foreigners were brought in to dwell in those lands.

By the time of the Lord Jesus, a few centuries after the time of the prophet Isaiah, the lands mentioned was known as Galilee, and that region was also still in the peripheries of the communities of the people of God, which was mainly centred in Jerusalem and Judea back then. That the Lord decided to come to those regions was also highly symbolic and meaningful, as it represents the Lord’s desire to gather back all of His scattered people, and to restore the honour of the people of God, and at the same time also calling upon the people from distant lands and from the pagan nations to embrace the truth and love of God. It means that God’s salvation was not only meant for the Jewish people only, but to all the children of mankind, to all the peoples of all races and origins, just as God has always intended.

And as we heard the Gospel passage today, again that same prophecy from the prophet Isaiah was repeated, proclaiming the coming of God’s salvation as made true and real by the actions that the Lord carried out in Galilee, as He called His first disciples and gathered them all, choosing the Twelve among them to be His Apostles, while also performing many miracles and wonders, healing many of the sick who came to Him and were brought to Him. He went from places to places, healing the sick, casting out demons, making those who were blind to be able to see again, and opening the ears and loosening the tongues of the mute, fulfilling the many other prophecies that Isaiah and the other prophets had been proclaiming about the Messiah.

And all of these had been proclaimed to us as well, the truth that God has shown us and delivered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Through His Church, the Lord has revealed and taught to us His ways, and showed us the proof of His salvation. Like the Apostles we have received the same truth and Good News, and it was through them and their successors that we have received this truth, passed down successively down the generations through the Church of God. Without the hard work and efforts of the Apostles, the other disciples and their successors throughout the history of the Church, there would have not been any of these things happening. We would have remained ignorant of the truth of God, and separated from His salvation and grace.

This reminds us today as we commemorate this Sunday of the Word of God that each and every one of us have been called by God to our various ministries and callings in life, depending on the various gifts, talents and abilities that He had given us. All of us have been called to embrace the Lord’s calling of not only just knowing and appreciating the Word of God more in our lives, but also in proclaiming the Word of God and the truth of God in the midst of our respective various communities, in our schools and workplaces, amidst our families, relatives and circles of friends and acquaintances, and even to strangers whom we encounter daily in our respective lives. And we cannot be effective and faithful servants of the Lord and His Word, unless we have good knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, it is important that we commit some time to spend each day and each and every available moments to us, to read the Sacred Scriptures and deepen our knowledge and understanding of it. However, it is important that we also have to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Church as well because if we read the Scriptures and interpret it based on our own understanding and comprehension, then as history had shown us, it can lead us into the path of error, as the many heresies and the false paths had done, and also those who believe that the Scriptures alone hold the sole authority of God’s truth, or ‘sola Scriptura’. Instead, the teachings of the Church, its Magisterium is important in ensuring that our understanding and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures remain rooted in Christ and His truth.

That is why, first of all we need to spend more time in reading the Scriptures, as if we do not even know the words contained within it, how can we even begin to discern if something we heard from elsewhere or others are true or false? Especially during this time of rapid information exchange and greater availability of informations from all sources, it is very easy for us to be swayed into falsehoods, just as misinformations and fake news had been making rounds all around the world in the past few years and decade. That is why, after we have spent the time to read more of the Scriptures, we also have to deepen our understanding of the Scriptures through knowing more of the teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as through careful listening and reflection of the words of the bishops and priests who are our teachers and guides, in guiding us together within the Church into the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is also important that we also help one another to stay in the path of truth, by sharing with one another whatever insight and understanding we have of the Scriptures, rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Church and the Apostles. Let us all be zealous and committed evangelisers and missionaries, in our daily living, in our every moments. Let us do our very best to be exemplary in faith and to be inspiration to each other in our faith and in our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us as well, so that hopefully we may lead more others to the path of God’s salvation and grace. May God bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 4 : 12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 4 : 12-17

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 10-13, 17

I beg of you, brothers, in the Name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, to agree among yourselves and do away with divisions; please be perfectly united, with one mind and one judgment.

For I heard from people of Cloe’s house about your rivalries. What I mean is this : “I am for Paul,” and others, “I am for Apollo,” or “I am for Peter,” or “I am for Christ.” Is Christ divided or have I, Paul, been crucified for you? Have you been baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to proclaim His Gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 8 : 23b – Isaiah 9 : 3

YHVH has just afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the future He will confer glory on the way of the sea, on the land beyond the Jordan – the pagan’s Galilee.

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death. You have enlarged the nation; You have increased their joy. They rejoice before You, as people rejoice at harvest time as they rejoice in dividing the spoil.

For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, You have broken it as on the day of Midian.

Friday, 26 August 2016 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 17-25

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to proclaim His Gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ. The language of the cross remains nonsense for those who are lost.

Yet for us who are saved, it is the power of God, as Scripture says : I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and make fail the foresight of the foresighted. Masters of human wisdom, educated people, philosophers, you have no reply! And the wisdom of this world? God let it fail.

At first God spoke the language of wisdom, and the world did not know God through wisdom. Then God thought of saving the believers through the foolishness that we preach. The Jews ask for miracles and the Greeks for a higher knowledge, while we proclaim a crucified Messiah.

For the Jews, what a great scandal! And for the Greeks, what nonsense! But He is the Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God for those called by God among both Jews and Greeks. In reality, the “foolishness” of God is wiser than humans, and the “weakness” of God is stronger than humans.

Sunday, 10 February 2013 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time and Chinese New Year (Scripture Reflection)

We have seen today, that the Lord is everything for us, and He loves, and cares for us deeply. There is no other being with greater love. He provided for us in our daily lives, He guided us, taught us, and blessed us with abundance. That we have enough but not excessive, so that we may live comfortably, but not be ensnared by the lures of money and therefore greed.

As today, Chinese around the world celebrate Chinese New Year, the most important day in the whole Chinese calendar year, let us reflect on the readings today, with regards on the matter of blessing and prosperity, on which Chinese New Year frequently base itself on. On Chinese New Year, we Chinese visit one another in the family and relatives, and bring one another the spirit of joy and love. The day is a celebration of life, and of love, through the family blessed by God with ample goods and graces. This is what we should remember on this festive Chinese New Year day, and not instead, the culture of materialism, that increasingly become more and more common amongst Chinese, and people around the world in general.

Chinese New Year has often been associated with wealth, prosperity, money, auspiciousness, and lavishness, with lavish reunion dinners, lavish new clothings, and concerns about etiquette while visiting one another. In today’s modern world, intense commercialisation and materialism has led to Chinese New Year celebrations to become increasingly elaborate. This also applies to other types of celebrations around the world, which are becoming increasingly commercialised and with focus placed much on the glamour and glitz instead of the true meaning of the celebrations themselves.

Jesus reminded us today, that God as our Father has given us everything that we need, and that He as the Ultimate Judge of all life too, has the life of all creation known and measured, without our knowledge of these. Indeed, no matter how much wealth we accumulate in this life on earth, how many houses, cars, or even private jets we have, ultimately, when we die, we will not bring these with us. What we instead bring with us is just ourselves, our soul. Will you rather choose to be wealthy in this world and then judged unworthy by the Lord in the end? To suffer separation from Him all eternity, out of which there is no hope? Or would you rather to be not so wealthy in this world, but build up spiritual wealth instead, and be richly rewarded by God for your meaningful life filled with actions out of love for others and God?

Do not however, be mistaken. God does not hate or condemn wealth and money, and indeed, naturally, we need those to support ourselves, our own families, and to live rather comfortably. However, the main point is, not to be mastered by these instead of us mastering them. We must take charge of our wealth, and whenever we can, try to share some with the less fortunate.

Unfortunately, in our present day world, as it had happened in the past as well, many people guard their treasures with greed and jealousy, without even thinking of others in need. Many concern themselves everyday on the pursuit of gathering more wealth, buying more luxury goods, possessing more cars and other amenities, until to the point that they are actually mastered and enslaved by wealth, instead of the other way around.

Wealth is not everything indeed, and although it is essential, we Christians should heed the message in the readings today, to know how to feel ‘enough’, to know the ‘limit’ of our wishes, and to know how to be satisfied. We should look at others around us, when we are engrossed in our pursuit of wealth and prosperity, so excessive that we neglect even to look around. There are many others amongst us who are not so fortunate, and these people are already very thankful when they even have enough to eat for the day, and there are even those who do not have enough.

One may then ask, isn’t the Lord saying that He provides enough for all of us everyday? Then why are there these people who beg? Why are there people who hunger? Why then there are people who still die of neglect and poverty? This is because, the Lord does His work, through us, through His children, and Jesus taught us in the Scripture to give thanks to God for what we receive, and to share them with our fellow brothers and sisters in God.

It is we who ought to open our ‘granaries’ of food and ‘banks’ of wealth to share some of excesses we have, which we do not need, with those who cannot afford them. Remember, the Lord does not disdain or hate wealth, it is just that He wants all of us to live happily in love, sharing our joy together, sharing our sorrow together, in a community based in the faith in the Lord, who gives enough to all everyday, without the need to worry.

The poor no longer will need to worry about what they will survive on tomorrow, and whether their children will be taken care of properly, and the rich will also no longer need to worry about what investment to make tomorrow, where to profit on tomorrow, and what car or what property to buy tomorrow. Do as you always do, and work as you have always worked, but do not make yourselves slaves to your career and to whatever you are doing. Rather, always remember the Lord in all things that we do, and make Him the centre of our lives. We will realise that once we put God into all things that we do, we will no longer desire more and more, and will be satisfied with whatever blessings and generous gifts God has given us.

Let us therefore, in this Chinese New Year celebration, renew the commitment to love one another, and not just within one’s family, but also to others beyond that, for we are all one family in Christ. While we party, drink, and eat much food, remember always in our prayers those who are less fortunate. Whatever excesses we have in our celebration, let us pass them to them, that they too will be able to joyfully participate in the celebration. Let us be inclusive as the Lord wants us to be, and not be greedy and exclusive.

All said, as the other readings show us, we still have our missions to fulfill, namely to reach out to others who have yet to listen to the Word of God and the Good News, and that is why Christ told His disciples on the boat to go out and put the net out to the deep. So far, we have caught the ‘fish’ on the surface and those who are near, but there are many who are located deeper and farther away from the love of God, who are yet caught by us.

Christ made Simon the fisherman into Peter the fisher of man, and so did He make the other Apostles fishers of men. This mission, reiterated by Christ after His resurrection, to go out to all the nations and deliver to them the Good News of the Lord, and baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, is still true today, and all of us Christians, should also reach out further and deeper, to those amongst us, who are yet to receive the grace of the Word of God.

Do not worry that we cannot do this mission as Christ asked us to. Remember that God provides everything for us, and He will provide all that we need to do our mission. We can begin simply with our own lives, to live a life of love and faith to God, such that we become such a shining beacon of goodness, that others will come to us, and through us, God will make His wonderful work, and the Word of God will be brought to all mankind, even through just one faithful and dedicated disciple of the Lord.

Let us be fishers of men, just like the Apostles, beginning from ourselves, and even our own families. I myself came from a non-Christian family background, and although my mother is a Catholic, but my father is not, and he was a very staunch follower of his own beliefs. It is not easy to bring the Word of God, the Good News to everyone, but we can begin indeed in showing that God is Love, and through His Spirit, that our own actions will be filled with love and all, even those who do not yet believe in God, will believe in Him, through us, and our actions.

May God bless all of us on this wonderful day, and bless all the Chinese people throughout the world celebrating this magnificent Chinese New Year, and remind us always that on top of the parties and the celebrations that we have, we also have a mission to do, that is to share the Good News to all, and indeed, to share the joy, happiness, and blessings that we receive, particularly on this festive moment, with those who have little or none. God bless us all, and bless His holy Church! Amen.

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 6 : 31-34

Do not worry and say : “What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or; What shall we wear?” The pagans busy themselves with such things, but Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart first on the kingdom and justice of God, and all these things will also be given to you.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

(Special) Sunday, 10 February 2013 : Chinese New Year Day Mass (Second Reading)

James 4 : 13-15

Listen now, you who speak like this, “Today or tomorrow we will go off to this city and spend a year there; we will do business and make money.” You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? No more than a mist which appears for a moment and then disappears.

Instead of this, you should say, “God willing, we will live and do this or that.”