Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are presented through the readings of the Sacred Scripture, the truth of God’s love and compassionate nature, and His desire to seek us and to love us all once again, as He has shown us through Jesus Christ, His one and only beloved Son, Who came into this world to be our Saviour, and not just any one’s Saviour, but for everyone, without exception, even to the worst of sinners.

That is why today we are presented with the story of the calling and conversion of Levi, the tax collector in our Gospel passage today. Levi was the name of St. Matthew the Apostle before he was called by the Lord and embraced the calling to be an Apostle. Levi was a tax collector, which as a group of people were greatly hated and reviled within the community by the rest of the Jewish people.

The tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation for their work in collaborating with the Romans in collecting the much hated taxes, the symbol of the Roman dominance over the region. And they were also seen as greedy and haughty, seeking to enrich themselves over the others, many of whom were living in poverty and destitution. However, in truth many of them were really no different from all others, those who seek a living in difficult and turbulent times.

What the people thought of the tax collectors were biases and prejudices that were sustained by the elders as a means to seek scapegoats to place the people’s hatred and all the blame for the misfortunes and challenges that they faced. When the Lord came to Levi and called him to be His follower, it was with this mentality that many others had seen the tax collectors like Levi all that time.

Yet, Levi showed us and all the people that tax collectors were not necessarily evil as they had often been painted as, and they were in fact good and just people too, in their own way. And Levi willingly abandoned everything, his job and profession, all that he had in order to follow the Lord. Not only that, he also gathered the other tax collectors, many of whom were evidently also willing to listen to the Lord and seek Him.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to criticise, pointing out to the disciples of the Lord and questioning them why their Lord and Master would sit and have dinner together with sinners, and activity that was often disliked by the elders and the Pharisees as they deemed entering into the house of sinners and being with them to cause them to be defiled by the sins of those sinners.

Yet, ironically, as they pointed out the sins of others, in truth they themselves had failed to realise that they themselves were sinners. And because they were sinners, they should have been like the tax collectors in desiring to seek God for His mercy and forgiveness. Instead, they hardened their hearts and closed them to the Lord, preferring to remain aloof and looking down on others from their high position and maintaining an attitude of self-righteousness.

But this is exactly where they faltered and fell, brothers and sisters in Christ. For while the tax collectors might have committed sins and lived wickedly, yet by listening to God and answering to His call, and as exemplified by Levi, who abandoned everything to follow the Lord and became one of His disciples, even the greatest of sinners could become great saints themselves had they chosen to embrace God’s ways and abandon their sins.

This is a lesson and reminder for all of us never to allow pride and ambition, greed and ego to bring us to our downfall. We should not allow all these to lead us down the wrong path, but instead, following in the examples of Levi, we should seek the Lord and follow Him with all of our heart, He Who is our High Priest and Redeemer as according to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that we have been hearing for the past few days.

May the Lord bless us all and may He strengthen us all our faith, and may He guide us down the right path that each and every one of us may follow Him ever more faithfully. May God be the Light of our lives and be our strength, forgiving us from our sins and faults when we come seeking Him in humility and sincere desire for forgiveness, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 2 : 13-17

At that time, when Jesus went out again beside the lake, a crowd came to Him, and He taught them. As He walked along, He saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow Me!” And Levi got up and followed Him.

And it so happened that when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and His disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the Law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does your Master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgements of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Hebrews 4 : 12-16

For the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart. All creation is transparent to Him; everything is uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to Whom we render account.

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, Who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Friday, 15 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded through the Scriptures about faith, which means that we really should think of how we should live up our lives with faith in God and with trust in Him. But it is often that we have not been willing to listen to Him or to trust in Him. Instead of listening to Him and obeying Him, we prefer to trust in our own judgments and thoughts, our own knowledge and intellect.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord healing a paralytic man who was brought up to Him through the roof over the place where He was teaching the people. The Lord showed pity and compassion for the paralytic man, and healed him from his troubles, and forgave him his sins. Immediately the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law rallied against Him and was angered that someone claimed to forgive sins, when in their thoughts, no one could have forgiven sin but God alone.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were all those who delved deeply into the study of the Scriptures, the Torah and the words of the prophets of God, studying the Law of God as revealed through Moses, as well as all the rules and regulations that had been passed down through the generations. They were the keepers of the faith for the people, the ones entrusted by God to be the shepherds and guides, leaders and role models for the rest of the people of God.

However, due to their knowledge and privileged status within the community, the high esteem and respect they commanded and gained made them to be proud, and some among them became even haughty and arrogant because of that. This is indeed how pride and hubris, human desires and greed can bring about our downfall, as they caused us to close the doors of our hearts and minds from God. And because God has no place in our hearts when we are too full of ourselves, that is when His truth cannot reach us and illuminate us.

In our first reading today taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author also reminded us of this fact, as many of us failed to believe because we were unwilling and unable to listen to the Lord, and as long as our ears and the doors of our hearts and minds are closed shut against the Lord and His words, then we shall have no part in God or in His inheritance. And no, it is not due to the Lord that this happens to us, but rather, by our own conscious choice and action that we will have brought these upon ourselves. Do we want this for ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, as we listened to these words of the Scripture, we are therefore kindly reminded to remove from ourselves the taint of these rebellious and stubborn actions and thoughts from our hearts and minds. And instead, as Christians we are all urged to open our hearts and minds to the Lord, and allow Him to lead us and guide us through life. And just like the paralytic man who humbly and sincerely sought healing from the Lord, we too shall be healed from our afflictions, that is our sins.

If we choose to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in thinking that everything is fine and alright with us, and that there is nothing we need from the Lord or that we are better than others, then we need to remind ourselves that pride and all these hubris, all these thoughts and other desires we have can easily drag us down the wrong path, and in the end, we shall have no part in the Lord and in all the joy and true happiness, glory and wonders that He has promised those who kept their faith in Him.

Let us therefore be humble and make ourselves small before the Lord and others, recognising that each and every one of us are equally sinners before God. And God’s love, compassion and mercy will heal us if we truly seek Him most sincerely from the depths of our hearts. Let us all reject all the temptations and distractions of pride and our many worldly desires that they will not become serious obstacles preventing us from reaching the Lord and His salvation.

May the Lord be with us all and may He heal us from our afflictions, especially by forgiving us our sins when we seek Him with genuine desire to repent and turn away from our wicked and sinful past. May He bless us all in our every good endeavours, and may He give us the strength to remain always faithful, at all times. Amen.

Friday, 15 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 2 : 1-12

At that time, after some days, Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that He was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought a paralysed man to Him.

The four men who carried him could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the Law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can He speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”

At once Jesus knew in His Spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And He said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”

Friday, 15 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 77 : 3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8

Mysteries which we have heard and known, which our ancestors have told us. We will announce them to the coming generation : the glorious deeds of the Lord, His might and the wonders He has done.

They would teach their own children. They would then put their trust in God, and not forget His deeds and His commands.

And not be like their ancestors, stubborn and rebellious people, a people of inconstant heart whose spirit was fickle.

Friday, 15 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 4 : 1-5, 11

Therefore let us fear while we are invited to enter the rest of God, lest any of you be left behind. We received the Gospel exactly as they did, but hearing the message did them no good, because they did not share the faith of those who did listen. We are now to enter this rest because we believed, as it was said : I was angry and made a solemn vow : they will never enter My rest – that is the rest of God after He created the world.

In another part it was said about the seventh day : And God rested on the seventh day from all His works. But now it is said : They will not enter My rest. Let us strive, then, to enter the rest and not to share the misfortune of those who disobeyed.

Thursday, 14 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded through the words of the Lord in the Scriptures to be always obedient and faithful to Him and to His commandments, laws and ways. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted to sin, to do what is against the will of God, against His teachings and ways. As Christians we are all called to be righteous and good in life, and to be exemplary in our actions and way of living at all times.

In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author reminded the faithful converts among the Jewish people of the rebellion and disobedience of their ancestors, as reiterated in our Psalm today as we heard of the rebellion of the Israelites at Massah and Meribah, which referred to one of the most terrible and wicked rebellion of the Israelites as they at that time still journeyed out of the land of Egypt during their Exodus.

The Israelites remained stubborn and rebellious despite everything that God had done for them, in bringing them out of the land of their slavery and protecting them from the oppression by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. They refused to believe in Him and put their faith and trust in Him despite all the love that He has shown them, in providing for them with plenty of food, the manna and flocks of birds, with water to drink even as they journeyed through the dry and lifeless desert.

They had been disobedient, rebellious and stubborn, and yet, the Lord still loved them and wanted to care for them. They did test His patience again and again, many times, and suffered punishments and consequences for such deliberate acts of disobedience. Nonetheless, the Lord still led them and guided them patiently until they reached the land that He has promised to them and to their ancestors.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard in the Gospel passage today of how the Lord Jesus healed a man of his complaints, his leprosy and his sickness. The Lord showed pity and love for the man, and willingly healed the leper, making him whole once again. The Lord touched the leper and miraculously healed him. This is the love that God has for each and every one of us, and which He has patiently showed us all these while.

The Lord wants us to be healed from our sickness and troubles. However, we are not sick, aren’t we? Many of us are physically well and perfectly healthy. But what I refer to, is the sickness of our sins, our spiritual sickness. For each and every one of us who have sinned, have been afflicted by those sins we committed, and therefore, had been corrupted and made to fall further and further away from the path of the Lord.

But the Lord did not let us all alone by ourselves, or to suffer the consequences of our sins by ourselves. Instead, He extended His loving hands of mercy and His generous love, that each and every one of us may find forgiveness through Him, be reconciled and reunited to Him that we may not perish, but enter into the eternity of happiness and glory that He has always intended for us, from the very beginning, but prevented by our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our way of life and our actions, and think of how we can appreciate better the love that God has constantly showed us, in all the patience He has shown us despite our numerous disobedience and stubbornness. Let us all no longer harden our hearts and be open to receive the Lord into our hearts, and let us all grow to love Him more and more with each and every passing moments.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us all, and may He strengthen us to be ever more faithful in all things, and be ever more courageous in standing up for our faith in the Lord, at all times. May God be our Guide and Light always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 14 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, 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.