Saturday, 15 January 2022 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all brought to reflect on the Lord’s intentions in leading us all to Himself, that all may find salvation through Him and be saved. He has revealed to us His amazing love, compassion and kindness, and He will not abandon us to the darkness and destruction. He provided us all that we need and gave us all ultimately, His true love manifested in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel, God had chosen Saul to be the king over His people, after they all had demanded Samuel to give them a king to rule over them. Saul was called from a humble beginning, hailing from one of the smallest and often least important among the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin and also from among its smallest families and houses. Saul was also physically distinctive and imposing, although initially he did not know of what God planned for him.

Samuel then poured the oil over Saul’s head, anointing him as king over all Israel, handing over the leadership and guidance over the Israelites to his hand, as their king and new leader. Samuel told Saul what would be expected of him and he was to keep all the commandments of God and help to guide the people down the right path, and not into the path of sin. But very soon, Saul would disobey the Lord and followed the whims of his own thoughts and desires, which then resulted in the people being misled into sin, just as Samuel himself had warned the people earlier how having a king to rule over them was not necessarily a good thing.

Nonetheless, the Lord still listened to His people and patiently engaged with them despite their repeated transgressions. He did not give up on them and even after many occasions when they betrayed Him and abandoned Him, He still sent prophets and messengers to help and guide them down the right path. The famous prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were among the many other prophets, mentioned or unmentioned, known or unknown, all showing the proof of God’s continued love for His people.

Today in our Gospel passage we heard of the Lord Who came to call a tax collector named Levi, the future St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist to follow Him. Levi quickly left everything behind and followed the Lord, and not only that, but he also introduced the Lord to the other tax collectors and they all invited Him to a dinner at Levi’s house. At that time, tax collectors were the ones who were among the most despised and hated among the people as they were seen as greedy, wicked and self-serving in their actions.

But as we can see from the Gospel passage, those same tax collectors eagerly welcomed the Lord into their midst, listening to Him and paying attention to Him. On the contrary, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, who often criticised the Lord and used the opportunity to further criticise Him for interacting and even visiting the house of a tax collector, often refused to listen to Him and continued to harass Him and His disciples, making it difficult for them to do their work.

The Lord still patiently dealt with them and He also reached out to those marginalised tax collectors, as He Himself mentioned that He came to heal the sinners who are in need of healing. In Him alone there is healing and forgiveness of sins, and therefore He made it all available for them and also for us. And we must remember that the Lord Himself also offered the same healing to those very same Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had often made His life and work difficult. That is just how loving God has been towards us.

Now that we know how beloved we have been by God, then we should embrace His love wholeheartedly and seek Him with a renewed heart and faith, full of zeal and commitment to walk in His path and serve Him at all times. Each and every one of us share in the mission that God has entrusted to us, to be the missionaries of our Christian faith and truth, spreading the Good News of Our Lord to all the ends of the whole world. Through our exemplary life, faith and actions more will come to believe in the Lord and be saved together with us.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live ever more worthily from now on in His presence. May God bless us all in our every actions and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 15 January 2022 : 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, 15 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 20 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

The king rejoices in Your strength, o YHVH, and exults in Your saving help. You have granted him his desire; You have not rejected his request.

You have come to him with rich blessings; You have placed a golden crown upon his head. When he asked, You gave him life – length of days forever and ever.

He glories in the victory You gave him; You shall bestow on him splendour and majesty. You have given him eternal blessings, and gladdened him with the joy of Your presence.

Saturday, 15 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

1 Samuel 9 : 1-4, 17-19 and 1 Samuel 10 : 1a

There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin whose name was Kish. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a valiant Benjaminite. Kish had a son named Saul, a handsome young man who had no equal among the Israelites, for he was a head taller than any of them.

It happened that the asses of Kish were lost. So he said to his son Saul, “Take one of the boys with you and go look for the asses.” They went all over the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah but did not find them. They passed through the land of Shaalim and the land of Benjamin, but the asses were nowhere to be found.

So, when Samuel saw Saul, YHVH told him, “Here is the man I spoke to you about! He shall rule over My people.” Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and said, “Tell me, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me. In the morning, before you leave, I will tell you all that is in your heart.”

Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head.

Friday, 14 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on Our Lord’s love for us, that He, as our King, has always shown us care and love, His genuine affection and attention all these while, even when we often disobeyed Him and betrayed Him, abandoning Him for various worldly pursuits and desires. The Lord has always shown great patience towards us, and He has always made His intention clear, that He wants us to be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard about how the people of Israel demanded to have a king to reign over them just like that of all their other neighbours. At that time, in truth, although the Israelites had no king to rule over them, God sent Judges to be their guide and leader, to be the ones to help enforce the will of God and the Law and commandments that He had entrusted to His people. The Lord had given many Judges to the Israelites and Samuel was the last of all the Judges of Israel.

As we heard, the people demanded to have a King over themselves, to be ruled by kings as like that of their neighbours. At that time, they had no need for kings because simply God was truly their King, and they were God’s people, and God exercised His will and power through His Judges. Samuel was under great pressure by the people who wanted him to give them a king, and the Lord gave the people what they wanted. Of course Samuel also spoke of the Lord’s words to them, speaking of how the kings that the people had wanted would eventually come to oppress and make their lives difficult, especially when those kings became corrupt and no longer walked in the path of the Lord.

All those things did come to happen, beginning with King Saul himself, the first king of the Israelites who became wayward and no longer fully followed the Lord. His actions increasingly became led by fear and by his own personal ambitions and desires, and that resulted in the sufferings in some people, and also in the long run, some divisions and chaos that ensued before King David stabilised everything again under his rule. Future kings would lead to the division of the people of God and the eventual downfall of Israel by their disobedience and sins.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the Lord Jesus, Who was teaching the people in a building when a paralytic man was brought up to Him. And because there were so many people in that building, they were not able to come near to the Lord, and because of that, they carried the paralytic man atop the building and opened the roof just so that they could lower him before the Lord. Those people must have cared so much for the paralytic man, that they were willing to do all that for him, and they all must have had such faith in the Lord, that He could make him whole again and heal him.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were there took offence when the Lord told the paralysed man that He has forgiven his sins, as they considered that God alone could forgive sins and the Lord was therefore acting blasphemously in doing so. They refused to see reason and truth even after they themselves had likely seen many signs and wonderful things that the Messiah and Holy One of God alone could have done, and how they, as the most intellectual and knowledgeable about the words of the prophets and the Lord could have failed to recognise the coming of the Lord’s Promised One.

The Lord has come to us Himself, to help us and lead us, guiding us all to the right path, to find the path to Him. Yet, just like in the past, at the time of the prophet Samuel, the people hardened their hearts and were led by their desires and ambitions. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were likely influenced by their hold on power and their respected position in the society which became a truly major barrier in their acceptance of the Lord and His truth, although some among them like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea did become the Lord’s disciples.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to be vigilant lest we may end up being misled and misguided by our own personal desires and the many temptations present all around us. We have to guard ourselves against the pressures and temptations to give in to the desires for worldly power and glory, and we can do that by focusing on the Lord and doing whatever we can to follow His path. Let us all commit ourselves to His path and open our hearts and minds to allow God to lead us down the right path.

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen us in our courage and faith, so that we may always endeavour and do our very best to follow Him and serve Him faithfully in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 14 January 2022 : 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 to Him a paralysed man.

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 to say, ‘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, 14 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 88 : 16-17, 18-19

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day, Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

You give us glory and power; and Your favour gives us victory. Our king is in the hands of YHVH; the God of Israel is our shield.

Friday, 14 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 8 : 4-7, 10-22a

Because of this, all the chiefs of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel in Ramah. They said to him, “You are already old and your sons are not following your ways. Give us a king to rule over us as in all the other nations.”

Samuel was very displeased with what they said, “Give us a king to rule us,” and he prayed to YHVH. And YHVH told him, “Give to this people all that they ask for.” So Samuel answered those who were asking him for a king. He told them all that YHVH said to him, “Look, these will be the demands of your king : he will take your sons and assign them to his chariot and his horses and have them run before his chariot.”

“Some he will assign as commanders over a thousand men and commanders over fifty. Others will till his ground and reap his harvest, make his implements of war and the equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters as well to prepare perfumes, to cook and to bake for him. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive orchards and give them to his officials.”

“He will take a tenth portion of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, the best of your cattle and your asses for his own work. He will take the tenth of your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. When these things happen, you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen for yourselves. But by then, YHVH will not answer you.”

The people paid no attention to all that Samuel said. They insisted, “No! We want a king to govern us as in all the other nations. Our king shall govern us, lead us and go ahead of us in our battles.” Upon hearing all that his people said, Samuel repeated it to YHVH. But YHVH said to him, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

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.