Tuesday, 12 February 2013 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Christ reminds us today that what justifies us is not the externals, or rather I would say, not just the externals, but even more important is the internal. If our soul is not clean, and we do not keep ourselves pure in heart and filled with the love of God, we will not be able to justify ourselves before God, even if we do all the rites correctly and follow all the traditions. Christ today is not about abolishing all traditions and rites, as arguably many who misunderstood and misinterpreted these words of the Lord as the abhorrence against all sorts of tradition, including the Apostolic Tradition of our own Holy Roman Catholic Church, would believe, and therefore would even attack the Church Christ has established, just because we keep the Tradition and follow closely the teachings passed down to us from the Apostles.

What Christ meant was that, we should not and indeed must not follow traditions blindly. Tradition is good, and indeed it is necessary, but to follow the tradition just because for the sake of following it or just because it is there is ultimately empty. What Christ wants is that we understand the Traditions, and follow the Tradition with the correct heart and alignment of our being towards God through these traditions. For these Traditions, unlike those of the extreme Laws made by the Jewish leaders at that time, should serve to make one closer to God, by the correct orientation of our hearts towards Him, through greater understanding of our faith, through the Tradition!

The Jews has a total of 613 laws that was crafted from the laws given by God to Moses in the Mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb. These laws govern many things in the Jewish community, from etiquette, marriage, and even to simple matters like the washing of hands and eating utensils as mentioned in today’s Gospel passage. However, strict adherence to these laws, including that of the Sabbath often mentioned, has made man actually subservient to these laws, being no more than just slaves to the Tradition these elders created from the laws of God given to Moses.

These laws, while they were good, they were there because of the rebellious nature of the people of Israel against God at that time. Remember that while Moses was up on the mountain, the people of Israel revolted and forced Aaron to build for them a golden calf for them to worship as their god. This and many other instances of disobedience has caused the Lord to be tough against the people of Israel, all out of His love for them, desiring their salvation, and did not wish them to falter again and fall into hell due to them worshipping pagan gods instead of the One, True God.

However, Christ had come, not to abolish all the laws and Tradition, but rather to perfect them. He was there to make the understanding of these Tradition and laws much clearer to us. For in Christ, the greatest thing is love, and nothing is greater than love, either one’s love for God, or one’s love for his or her brethren. It is in the love of God that we have to base our Tradition, and He was set to make all the rules and Laws truly pure again, that is to have these laws solely for the purpose of glorifying God and to make all of us closer to God, and not instead make us slaves to these laws and be suppressed by them.

For God, who had created the world, the entire universe, had created mankind, in His image, to be the greatest and the most beloved of all His creations. To us, He has given authority over all creation, and over the world. These laws are there, because as administrators of this world, we must be responsible administrators, and use the resources given to us wisely. Otherwise, being weak as we are, we would readily succumb to greed and wanting for more and more. Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin at the Garden of Eden, mankind had been subject to the sin of greed and avarice, to desire more and more from what is given to them by God, even to the extent of causing suffering and death to their fellow men. This is what the Lord does not want from us, as He wants us to rule over creation, but rule responsibly and wisely.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we who have received the Good News of the Lord, and who through the Apostolic Tradition and teachings passed down to us from the Apostles through our bishops and priests, should strive to follow and understand the Sacred Tradition and the faith that we have, utilising both in our race and journey towards the Lord. For faith without nurturing will not grow, and through the beauty of the Tradition, manifested in the Liturgy of the Church, we can grow deeper in faith, if we open ourselves to understanding more on the Liturgy and the Tradition we have.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important for us to appreciate the Liturgy, to seek to fully understand every rites and parts of our Liturgy in the Mass and other celebrations, and to fully participate through our greater understanding, that whenever we attend the Mass, as frequently as we can do so, we will grow ever greater in our faith and love of the Lord, so much that not only that we are brought closer to the Lord who created us, and who loves us so much to send His Son, Jesus Christ to explain to us about the Traditions, and to shed more light to us so that we can understand our faith in Him better through these Sacred Traditions and rites; but also to be good and responsible stewards of this world and its resources, as given by God to be our right, but also to be our responsibility to take care of.

Let us therefore pray that all of us will be able to grow deeper in our understanding of the Liturgy of the Church, and through it the Sacred Tradition and teachings given to us through the Apostles, and finally to grow ever deeper in our love and passion for the Lord. May God always bless all of us, all the days of our life. Amen!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Mark 7 : 1-13

One day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of His disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

Now, the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe; for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots, and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?”

Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote : ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. The worship they offer Me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.’ You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition.”

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said, ‘Do your duty to your father and your mother‘, and : ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.’ But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (‘offered to God’) what you could have expected from me.'”

“In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother, and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 8 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

When I observe the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars You set in their place – what is man that You be mindful of Him, the son of man, that You should care for him?

Yet You made him little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honour and gave him the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.

Sheep and oxen without number and even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and all that swim the paths of the ocean.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Genesis 1 : 20 – Genesis 2 : 4a

God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth under the ceiling of the sky.” God created the great monsters of the sea and all living animals, those that teem in the waters, according to their kind, and every winged bird, according to its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the waters of the sea, and let the birds increase on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning : the fifth day.

God said, “Let the earth produce living animals according to their kind : cattle, creatures that move along the ground, wild animals according to their kind.” So it was. God created the wild animals according to their kind, and everything that creeps along the ground according to its kind. God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, to Our likeness. Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over the wild animals, and over all creeping things that crawl along the ground.” So God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it, rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

God said, “I have given you every seed-bearing plant which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree that bears fruit with seed. It will be for your food. To every wild animal, to every bird of the sky, to everything that creeps along the ground, to everything that has the breath of life, I give every green plant for food.” So it was.

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. There was evening and there was morning : the sixth day.

That was the way the sky and earth were created and all their vast array. By the seventh day the work God had done was completed, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day He rested from all the work He had done in His creation. These are the successive steps in the creation of the heavens and the earth.

(Special Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes) Monday, 11 February 2013 : Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Scripture Reflection)

Today we commemorate especially our Lady of Lourdes, Mary, who appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous 155 years ago, in February 1858, who showed her to a spring, which today is well-known as the grotto with the spring, where if one who is sick is to immerse himself or herself in it, in faith, they will be healed. This is why, today, is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sick. All the sick in this world are commemorated today. But not only physical illness we should consider, but rather, we should also pray for all those mentally sick, and most importantly those who are empty spiritually and seek the Lord.

Today also, we have received the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, which will be effective at the last day of this month on 28 February 2013, at 8.00 pm Rome time. He has been discerning on this matter for years of his Pontificate, and finally came into a decision which he announced today, well, to the surprise of the entire Church and the world. Our Pope too is old, and he will be turning 86 years old this coming April. His walking is increasingly becoming difficult, and he has to use a portable platform to move around in his celebrations of the Mass and Vespers at the Vatican.

One would also note that the Pope no longer travel overseas much in these past two years. Our Pope loves to travel and visit the faithful, his flock, around the world, and he placed a great importance in his Apostolic journeys. However, as his strength to do so is waning, this is another reason why he decided to withdraw from the office of the Bishop of Rome and pray. That the next Bishop of Rome, as our Pope will be able to continue his works, and once again visit God’s people around the world.

Mary is honoured in our faith, as the mother of Christ, and our Pope has deep devotion to Mary, and our late Pope too, Blessed Pope John Paul II had very great dedication to her, especially in his motto, Totus tuus, in which he give himself totally to God, through Mary, which in his coat-of-arms is symbolised as the letter ‘M’ at the foot of the cross, just as Mary once stood faithfully, though sorrowful, watching at her crucified and beloved son.

God who created our world and our universe, loves all His creations so much, and that is why He said that all are good. Sadly, the power of the rebellious angel, Lucifer, as Satan, has ruined that perfect goodness, and brought men away from the Lord. Mankind, being the Lord’s most beloved creation, has been taken away, and an unbridgeable chasm lay between the Lord and us. However, so great is God’s love for us that He is willing to come down to us, to reach out to us, through Jesus His Son, whose sacrifice on the Cross on calvary became the great bridge that span the chasm between us and God, finally allowing us to return to He who created us.

Mary, who we commemorate today as the Lady of Lourdes, is the one who made all this possible, through her great dedication to God, by allowing God’s will to manifest through her, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ was incarnate as man, through Mary. Through her, we have Salvation in Christ. Her life and her steadfastness in her support of her Son in His ministry is an example to all of us who believe in Christ. Despite all the challenges and humiliations, she stayed strong and did not leave the side of her Son until the very end.

Mary is our great intercessor, and the greatest Saint of all, who is the first to be brought to heaven, bodily in the Assumption, when Mary was brought up to heaven by the Lord Himself, her Son, at the end of her earthly life. She often then came again to visit this world, through visions to those whom the Lord has chosen, of which one of this occured in Lourdes 155 years ago.

She always called the world to repent from the sins it has made, and for all people to return back to Christ, who is the source of all Salvation. She longs for all of us to be able to be reunited with God the Father, through Christ His Son, who as the great bridge, becomes our sole hope of reunion with the Father. Mary is like the handmaid of the Lord, who nourishes us along the way of the great bridge, and the guide, who keeps us at the centre of the cross that is the bridge.

Even when we are crossing that great bridge, temptations and sins are abound, and we may sway to the left or right, we may fall off the bridge, into the chasm that is death and ultimate separation from God in hell. Never fear though, for in Mary indeed, we have our greatest guide. For who is better to lead us to Christ than through Mary, His mother? Just like in Cana, in the wedding, that Mary made Christ manifested His first miracle, as Christ is obedient to His mother and her love for mankind, just as He is obedient to the will of the Father.

Through Mary, we can better reach God our Father, through Christ His Son. Let us all pray that with Mary’s intercession, the Lord will listen to our sincere wish to be reunited with Him, and our sincere wish to repent from our sins and our sinful ways, and to rejoice forever in Him who created us and loved us dearly.

Let us also pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who in his great humility and his great devotion to Mary, has decided to resign his office, to dedicate himself in prayerful life to the end of his life. He also dedicated our Church to Mary and to the Lord, whom he asked to guide the Cardinal electors in their election of the new Pope. May God be with all of them, with all of us, with the Church God has established on this world, that we will always, led by the Bishop of Rome, as Christ’s Vicar in this world, be a shining beacon of light in the great darkness of this world. Amen.

(Special Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes) Monday, 11 February 2013 : Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Gospel Reading)

John 2 : 1-11

Three days later there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.”

However, His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did.

The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way, He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.

(Special Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes) Monday, 11 February 2013 : Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Psalm)

Judith 13 : 18bcde, 19

My daughter, may the Most High God bless you more than all women on earth. And blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has led you to behead the leader of our enemies.

Never will people forget the confidence you have shown; they will always remember the power of God.