Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the creation of man and woman, whom God had created in His own image, and how He has given everything that He has created to each and every one of them, to be the caretakers, owners and stewards of His creation, for mankind are His most beloved creations, the ones closest to His own image and His own heart and mind.

He made all of them because of His love for them, that He wanted to share with them the love that He has in Him, bursting out of the perfect love of the Trinity, and which then came upon us. And He saw how man was lonely without company of an equal, reflecting on the nature of His very own Trinity. The Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is perfect, but each part of the Trinity cannot be separated from each other without destroying this perfection and balance present among the unity of the Trinity.

And as the Father loved the Son and the Holy Spirit, and as the Son loved the Father and the Holy Spirit, and as the Holy Spirit loved the Father and the Son, therefore, God created us man to be creatures of love as well, to be filled with love and to be made all good and perfect, first and foremost in union with God, and then in union with one another. That was why God created us man and woman, as we heard in our first reading passage taken from the Book of Genesis.

God created us man and woman to be part of the one body, one flesh and one existence. Just as the rib bone and the flesh were symbolically taken from man to create woman, as an equal partner to man, thus man and woman are destined to be together, to be united in a holy union that reflects upon the perfect unity and love found in the Most Holy Trinity. Through this union, the fruits of God’s love came forth, that is the fruits of life, in the children born of the union of man and woman.

Unfortunately, at the time of the Lord Jesus, just as it frequently happened throughout history, man and woman had not treated each other with respect or regards to their equality with one another. Instead, women were often put in disadvantage and treated unequally or in a biased way, where many of these women had to endure injustice and often even intrusion to their basic human right, to live as a person with dignity.

That was what the Lord tried to bring forth to our attention through His interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman in our Gospel passage today. In that passage, we heard how a Syro-Phoenician woman asked the Lord Jesus to come and heal her afflicted daughter, who was troubled by sickness and by the attacks from evil spirits and demons. Yet, the Lord seemed to be unfazed and unaffected by her pleas, and in fact, seemed to be kind of rude when He was making an indirect comparison between her and that of a dog.

This was in fact the Lord’s way of putting forth all the accumulated prejudices and terrible biases present within the community of the people of God during that time, when so many people looked down on the non-Jewish people, those of pagan origins and were not therefore counted among the people of Israel. And in particular, all the more because the Syro-Phoenician was a woman, that the ridicule, bias and prejudice against her were even more rampant and terrible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us living in this world today surely have heard how women have often been marginalised, being prejudiced against, and even been exploited for the benefit of those who were greedy and wicked in hearts and minds. Yet, this is not what the Lord wants from us when He created each and every one of us. As mentioned, He made us all, man and woman, to be co-equal partners in the holy union He Himself will bless, where both man and woman make each other perfect by that unity in love.

Many of the current challenges, difficulties and marginalisation due to gender, are caused by our own limited ability to look beyond the flesh and the appearances, which have unfortunately caused many to go down the path of sin, when we are tempted by the temptations of the flesh. We seek what is on the external, and seek for the beauty of the exterior, while failing to recognise the presence of the great love within.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate in the secular world, the celebration of Valentine’s day, which came about because this day, the fourteenth day of February, used to be the Feast day of St. Valentine, who inspired many by his loving care for others, even for those who persecuted and imprisoned him. Over time, this celebration became corrupted and changed, misguided and done wrongly because of the secularisation of its meaning.

We see how Valentine’s day became one of the worst outlets and reminders for us, of our ugly human nature, filled with lust and desire for the pleasures of the flesh, and of materialistic excesses, which are often associated with the celebration of the Valentine’s day. But, in truth, as Christians, all of us are called to go out of this problem, and overcome it through our understanding and participation in God’s real work of love among us.

God sowed within us, the seeds of His wonderful love, giving us the same love that He has between Himself, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is love that is not corrupted nor made impure by the desires of our flesh, but one that is selfless and self-giving, sacrificial and committed at the same time. For God so loved the world, that He gave us all His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour, that through Him we may have life and be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should imitate the perfect love shown by the Lord, and which His holy saints had emulated in their own lives. St. Valentine acted with love even towards his enemies and those who persecuted him, while St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the two saints highly venerated especially among our brethren in the Eastern Churches, devoted their whole lives in the service of the people of God, in bringing the truth of the Gospels and the Words of God to those people who have yet to receive the light of God’s truth.

Are we able to overcome the temptations of our flesh, and resist those wicked desires present in us to act without genuine love, and instead cause pain and suffering on others? Are we able to do our best in order to love one another equally just as God has intended us to do? Let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings again, and think well in our minds as well as feel with our hearts, how we should be treating one another from now on, that is with love, compassion and fairness.

May the Lord continue to guide us with His love, that we too may grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, and that we may love Him with all of our hearts, and with all of our capabilities and strengths. Let us draw closer to Him, and draw ever closer to His love, with each and every single words and actions we take. May God bless us all, always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus left the place where He rebuked the Pharisees, He went to the border of the Tyrian country. There He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there, but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet. Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to puppies.” But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will ear the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 2 : 18-25

YHVH God said, “It is not good for Man to be alone; I will give him a helper who will be like him.” Then YHVH God formed from the earth all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air and brought them to Man to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called every living creature, that was its name.

So Man gave names to all the cattle, the birds of the air and to every beast of the field. But he did not find among them a helper like himself. Then YHVH God caused a deep sleep to come over Man and he fell asleep. He took one of his ribs and filled its place with flesh. The rib which YHVH God had taken from Man He formed into a woman and brought her to the man.

The man then said, “Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man.” That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife, and with her becomes one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.