Sunday, 3 July 2022 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist, all of us are reminded through the readings of the Scriptures of the calling of the Lord, Who has told us of His love, grace and kindness, and also called on us to be the witnesses of this same love and compassion to our world today. Through the Scripture passages we have heard today, we are all reminded that as members of the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we are all sharing in the same mission that God has entrusted to us His Church. And that mission is for us to proclaim His truth and love to all the people of all the nations, so that more and more may come to believe in God and be saved.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke to His people through Isaiah, the prophet who delivered unto them the hopeful words of the coming of God’s salvation, the coming of the Saviour or the Messiah of God, which would later on come true in the coming of Christ into this world. The words of God’s salvation and truth have been revealed to His people, telling them that despite all the trials and challenges they have faced and were going to face, the Lord would one day show His saving help and bring them deliverance much in the same manner as how He had once freed their ancestors from the land of Egypt.

Back then, during the time of the ministry of the prophet Isaiah, the nation of Israel had been long divided into two parts, the northern kingdom, called Israel, centred in Samaria and the southern kingdom, called Judah, centred in Jerusalem, the City of God. And by that time, the northern kingdom had been crushed and utterly destroyed by the Assyrians, who destroyed Samaria and carried off most of its populations to far-off exile in Assyria, Babylon and beyond. And thus, the people of God was scattered all over the world, exiled from and losing their homeland, the land that God had given to their ancestors.

All these were due to the disobedience and infidelity of the people who often hardened their hearts and minds against God. God sent them many prophets and messengers, to remind them, guide them and help them to find their way back so that they might be reconciled with Him. Yet, many of these prophets, messengers and servants of God were persecuted, rejected and killed, all because they told the people of the sins and wickedness that they had committed before God and men alike. The Lord has shown His kindness and mercy, His ever generous love and compassion, and that was met by many of the people with apathy and indifference, or even hostility and stubbornness.

Yet, God never ceased to love His people, and still continued to reach out to them. He called on all of them to return to Him, to repent from their sinful ways and to embrace once again His ways. The Lord called on all to be His disciples and followers, which He had done through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom the prophecies of Isaiah and the many other prophets came true. Through Christ, His Son, God revealed to us how He calls on all of us, not just the Jewish people, who were the direct descendants of the people of Israel and Judah, but also the whole entire world, the entire race of mankind, to be His people.

That was what St. Paul made clear in our second reading today, in the Epistle that he wrote to the Church and the faithful in the region of Galatia in Asia Minor. At that time, during the early Church, one of the common problems facing the Church is the divide and the disagreements existing between the Jewish converts to the Christian faith and those Gentiles who became believers, and each group frequently differed in their understanding of what the Church and the Christian faith is all about. Hence, that led to much controversies and even bitter divisions that hurt the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, and endangering the fate of many souls.

Hence, St. Paul yet again reminded the people that each and every one of them are members of the same Church, having been called and chosen, and having decided to put their faith in the Lord and in His salvation. They should no longer be divided or be hostile against each other, or be exclusive and stubborn in their attitudes, in thinking that each one of them or their groups were better than the others, or that their way should prevail over that of other different ways and paths of believing in God. St. Paul reminded all the Christian faithful, and hence all of us today, that we are truly one people, one flock in one Church, worshipping the same one only True God.

This truth is what the Lord wanted to propagate to the whole world, as He sent out His disciples as we heard in our Gospel passage today, two by two as they went on their missions, to preach the Good News and to prepare the way for the Lord. In that Gospel passage today, we are reminded yet once again of the primary mission of the Church, which is evangelisation. The Church, composed of all of the faithful people of God, the priesthood and the laity, all alike, all have been entrusted with the same mission, and that is to proclaim the Good News of God, His salvation and to bring all peoples of all the nations to God, that they may all come to believe in God.

However, this cannot happen unless each and every one of us first live our lives well in accordance to the way which the Lord Himself had revealed to us. If we ourselves did not live our lives in the way that the Lord had taught us to do, then how can we proclaim His truth and ways to others? In fact, as it had happened many times throughout the history of the Church, the actions of those who were hypocrites and those who claimed outwardly to be Christians and yet were most un-Christian-like in their actions, words, deeds and way of life, had driven more and more people away from the Lord. That happens even right up to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Scripture readings that we have received and discussed earlier on, we are all called to remember that our lives ought to be reflection of our Lord’s truth and love, and we are all called to build an authentic community of believers, in which each and every one of us from every segments of the Church, in our various communities and groups, all of us are filled with the love of God, and with the desire to spread the Good News and the love of God to all people. And to that extent, all of us have to embody our beliefs in our every words, actions and deeds, to the best of our abilities, so that all who see us and witness our actions and works may believe in God as well through us.

Let us all hence seek the Lord wholeheartedly from now on, doing our best in whatever capacity we have now, and in all the opportunities that God had provided us. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us all and bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, and may all of us be ever more worthy to walk in His Presence and to be with Him, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 26 June 2022 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we recall the words from the Sacred Scriptures that we have just heard today, we are all reminded that the primary mission of the Church has been and will always be that of evangelisation and mission. That is what all the faithful had been called to, as our primary objective, in proclaiming the Lord to all the people of all the nations, to everyone whom we encounter in life. Each and every one of us are called to be faithful and committed followers and disciples of the Lord, in dedicating our time, efforts and lives for the greater glory of God.

In our first reading this Sunday, we heard from the Book of Kings of Israel and Judah, the story of the calling of Elisha, the one whom God had chosen to be the successor of the prophet Elijah, the prophet who had worked and laboured for many years in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. Elijah had worked hard to call the people who had disobeyed the Lord, fell into the path of sin and darkness, all those who had abandoned and betrayed the Lord, those who have worshipped the pagan idols and gods and persecuted those who remained faithful and all the prophets sent into their midst to remind them.

Elijah spent most of his years working alone amidst those who were hostile against him, and Elisha was called to be the one to succeed him, as Elijah’s time in this world was coming to an end. Elisha followed Elijah, and left behind his house, his family, and entrusting himself to the Lord wholeheartedly. Elisha embraced the calling that God had made to him, and henceforth, he became the prophet of God, the successor of Elijah. He answered God’s call with faith and he did what the Lord had asked him to do. That way, Elisha showed us all how each and every one of us ought to respond to God’s call, that is with faith and obedience.

In our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Galatia, St. Paul spoke of Christ our Lord Who has freed us from our bondage to sin, freeing us from the chains that have enslaved us from the beginning when we first fell into sin. Through Christ, His Son, God has brought upon us His salvation and the hope of eternal life, and delivered us from the precipice of death and destruction. The Lord has given us the sure means to eternal life and guaranteed us salvation, as long as we entrust ourselves to Him, and He also showed us the new path going forward, which we ought to follow in our journey towards Him.

And that was where St. Paul spoke about the way of the Spirit, which is distinct from the way of the flesh. St. Paul said that as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord, we must be truly faithful to Him and walk in the path that He has pointed out to us, versus the path that the world has shown us, which many of us are familiar with. As Christians, we are all called to embrace His calling to holiness, leaving behind the trap of sin, which had kept us down for so long. We are all challenged to rise up to our faith, and to live our lives virtuously according to the way of the Lord while resisting the pleasures of the flesh, the temptation of human pride and greed.

Then, lastly in our Gospel today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and followers, telling them to follow Him wholeheartedly. He sent them out in pairs to go to places that He Himself was to visit to prepare the way for Him. There were those who received the disciples well and there were those who refused to listen to them, and when the disciples asked that those who rejected the Lord ought to be punished and destroyed, reminiscing of what happened with the ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord rebuked the disciples for such suggestion, and moved on to the next village.

This tells us that the Lord is calling on each one of us to follow Him, to believe in His truth and to walk in His path, and He loves us even more than our trespasses and sins. Despite the stubbornness of those who refused to listen to the disciples at the time, the Lord did not want to punish them because ultimately, He knew that some of them may yet have the chance to be redeemed in the future, and He still left the path open for those people to walk, and to enter into His merciful care, should they choose to listen to Him and soften their hearts and unseal their minds from listening and paying attention to God.

And among those whom He had called, in that same Gospel passage the Lord seemed to be quite harsh when He told those who said that they had matters to settle and to handle before they were to follow Him, such as burying their parents first or saying goodbye first, and that those who turned their back on the kingdom of God has no place in it. First of all, we must not read into the Lord’s intention literally and without understanding the context, especially considering the additional intention of the writer of the Gospels, which in this case is St. Luke. In fact, the Lord’s intention in uttering such words is to convince us all that we cannot be divided in our attention or easily distracted in our path of following the Lord.

Otherwise, we will end up being easily pulled away from the right path, and we will end up dividing our attention and time, and then falling off that path that God had set before us, as what our ancestors and predecessors had experienced. The same people of Israel that the prophet Elijah and Elisha ministered to, did not have their heart fully focus and attuned towards the Lord, and as a result, they veered off the path and were easily tempted and swayed by worldly temptations, committing sins and vile things before God and man alike. The same thing can happen to us as well unless we actively strive to remain faithful in God and to do His will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and discern the messages that the Lord had presented to us in the Scriptures, we should remind ourselves that each and every one of us have been called by God to contribute our efforts and ourselves to the mission He has entrusted to us, that is in evangelisation to the whole world. Each one of us have been given different gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities so that hopefully each one of us can do what we can in our respective and often distinct situation and capacities, to glorify God by our lives and to bring His salvation to more and more people, all around us, and to whoever we encounter in life.

The message that the Lord wants us to receive and understand today is that each one of us can do our best wherever we are and in whatever we are doing. There are indeed some of us who are called like that of the prophet Elisha, to leave everything behind and to follow the Lord wholly and wholeheartedly. That was what our priests and religious had been called to, into their mission of serving the Lord and us, His people, the community of the faithful. But at the same time, we must not forget that the laity also have a massive impact on the works and efforts of the Church, and each one of us, especially the laity have the obligation and calling to fulfil, to be exemplary in faith in each and every one of our own way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore embrace wholeheartedly our respective calling in life, and for those of us who have not yet discovered what our calling in life is, let us all spend the time to discern well, and to pray for the Lord’s guidance, to be open-minded and welcoming to God’s calling, so that we may soon come to know what it is that we can do as God’s followers and disciples in our world and communities today. Let us all also pray for strength and perseverance so that we may be better able to resist the temptations to conform to the way of sinfulness and evil, and that we may be more committed to the path that God has shown us.

May the Lord continue to help us and guide us in our journey throughout life. May He empower each one of us to be His faithful disciples, filling up our hearts with His love and help us in our daily struggle against evil and sin. May God be with us always and bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 26 June 2022 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 9 : 51-62

At that time, as the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, He made up His mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent ahead of Him some messengers, who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for Him. But the people would not receive Him, because He was on His way to Jerusalem.

Seeing this, James and John, His disciples, said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.

As they went on their way, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another, Jesus said, “Follow Me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for, first, I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said to him, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Sunday, 26 June 2022 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Galatians 5 : 1, 13-18

Christ freed us, to make us really free. So remain firm, and do not submit, again, to the yoke of slavery.

You, brothers and sisters, were called to enjoy freedom; I am not speaking of that freedom which gives free rein to the desires of the flesh, but of that which makes you slaves of one another through love. For the whole Law is summed up in this sentence : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. But if you bite and tear each other to pieces, be careful lest you all perish.

Therefore, I say to you : walk according to the Spirit and do not give way to the desires of the flesh! For the desires of the flesh war against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh. Both are in conflict with each other, so that you cannot do everything you would like. But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.

Sunday, 26 June 2022 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Sunday, 26 June 2022 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 19 : 16b, 19-21

God said to Elijah, “And Elisha, son of Shaphat, from Abel Meholah, you shall anoint as prophet in your place.”

Elijah left. He found Elisha, son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah and said, “Let me say goodbye to my father and mother; then I will follow you.”

Elijah said to him, “Return if you want, do not worry about what I did.” However, Elisha turned back, took the yoke of oxen and slew them. He roasted their meat on the pieces of the yoke and gave it to his people who ate of it. After this, he followed Elijah and began ministering to him.