Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue the readings from the early chapters of the Book of the prophet Samuel and also the beginning of Our Lord’s ministry among His people as recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark, we are reminded that God loved us all and wants us to be reconciled to Him, but we must be willing to listen to Him and obey Him and His words.

In the first reading today, we heard of the account of a great battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, a neighbouring people of the Israelites who at that time oppressed the people of Israel and often raided into the lands of Israel. The Israelites were beaten hard and they began to think that if they brought the Ark of God or the Ark of the Covenant with them, God would be by their side and they would win against their enemies.

At that time, the Israelites were led by the judge Eli, who was also the mentor of the young prophet Samuel. But Eli was then already old, and in the earlier parts of the same Book of the prophet Samuel from which our first reading today was taken, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were the ones who actually held the rein over the people, and were the ones who carried out the sacrifices at the Tent of God.

But those two men were corrupt, and they did not obey the will of God. Rather, they served themselves and their own greed. They would keep the best portions of the sacrifices for themselves when the Law clearly stated that those should have been given to God. Their corrupt behaviour and attitude were wicked in the eyes of God, and that was why, God was not on the side of Israel when those two men led the Israelites bearing the Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines.

Then we heard of the result, how the Israelites were soundly defeated, the two wicked sons of Eli were slain in battle and the Ark of the Covenant itself was captured by the enemy. It was a great blow to the whole nation of Israel, and soon after the news came to Eli, the elderly judge of Israel passed away in grief, likely from hearing that the Ark of God had been captured by the enemy, on top of losing both of his sons.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a different account, of how the Lord Jesus healed a person who was suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was a disease that was greatly feared and dreaded by the people for its supposed contagiousness and its terrible appearance. Those who have contracted leprosy had to stay away from the rest of the community and remain in the wilderness until they were proven to be cured of their leprosy.

The Lord healed the man who sought healing from his leprosy, and the man was told to report to the priest to be allowed back to the community while at the same time strictly ordering him not to tell anything about how Jesus had healed him. But the man disobeyed the Lord and went to tell everyone what had happened to him. This made things difficult for the Lord and as mentioned in the Gospel passage, Jesus had to remain outside of the towns and could not enter to those cities.

Why is that so? First of all, it is possible that the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who upon hearing what He had done, made it difficult for Him and His disciples to enter the cities and towns. In addition, it was also possible that because the Lord healed the leper by touching him, something that no one at the time would consider doing, that made Him appear to be unclean in the eyes of some people, and they distanced themselves from Him.

Regardless of whatever the reason was, the disobedience of the man against what the Lord had told him caused difficulties and also loss for many others whom the Lord could have healed then. This was just as how the disobedience and wickedness of the two sons of Eli had led the Israelites into great defeat and losing the Ark of the Covenant to their enemies. Through their disobedience and stubbornness, man has sinned against God and should have walked into destruction.

But in the end, God is still willing to forgive us and to give us another chance. That was precisely why He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. Yet, are we making good use of this opportunity that He has given to us? Shall we appreciate the great and generous love that God has given us and is willing to give us even more? Let us all reflect on this and think in what way we can seek God with greater desire to love Him and to embrace Him with all of our strength from now on.

Let us not disobey God any longer but instead open our hearts and minds, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us to be better persons and to be better Christians. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us through this journey in life. May God bless us all and our many good works for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.