Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to remain united in Christ, in our belief that the Lord Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant between us and God. Each and every one of us should not be distracted by falsehoods and lies by which the devil and all of his allies would try to sow the seeds of dissension and divisions amongst us. That is why we have to understand better what the Lord Jesus had done for our sake, in His offering of Himself as the perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice for the sake of our salvation, for the forgiveness of our many and innumerable sins. If we can understand these things better, then surely we will be better able to appreciate what the Lord had done to us and grow in our faith in Him. Sadly, these days, many among us Christians do not even understand well what the Lord had done for our salvation.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we continue again with the discourse from the author of this Epistle, who spent a lot of time throughout this Epistle to highlight the important role which Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people, both those converts and those who have not yet believed in Him, in how this Holy Man of God, the Son of Man, has acted as our true and Eternal High Priest, representing all of us before the Lord, offering on our behalf the most perfect sacrifice, one that does not need repeated offerings and sacrifices unlike the animals that were slaughtered and sacrificed by the priests as sin offerings in the past. Instead, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned, the Lord Jesus, our true and Eternal High Priest offered on our behalf the one and only sacrifice needed for the salvation of our souls, that is the sacrifice which He had made at Calvary, at the Altar of His Cross.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews highlighted how unlike the other priests and High Priests in the past, the Lord did not need to offer the sacrifice first for the atonement of their own sins, as the Lord Himself was already without any sin, and He also offered the most perfect and worthy sacrifice of all, that is of Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Blood. Unlike the offering of the blood of lambs and bulls, and other sacrifices, the Lord offered His own perfect offering, the Incarnate Son of God in the flesh, breaking His own Body and pouring His own Blood down unto us, from the Altar of His Cross. Through all of that, He has shown us the path out of the darkness of our sins, and the sure liberation and freedom from the evils and the sins that had kept us chained and oppressed all these while.

However, despite everything that the Lord had done for our sake, many of us had not been thankful and appreciative of what He had done for us. The Lord has loved us so much that He was willing to offer Himself, to trade His life for ours, that by His suffering, His most painful death and most humiliating expiration, He might break the chains of sin and death, and lead us to freedom and eternal life, through His glorious Resurrection from the dead. He was so patient that He had forgiven us yet again and again despite our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness, as we continue to choose to disobey Him and falling again and again into sin. He was so patient to endure all of our betrayals and ignorance, and all that we had done to spite Him, and still chose willingly to suffer and die for us. Every wounds that were inflicted on Him were indeed caused by our many sins and transgressions.

But this is where we all have to realise that this stubborn attitude has to come to an end. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were accusing the Lord of collusion with Beelzebul, one of the princes of demons, in the carrying out of His ministry and in His miracles. This accusation was truly a vile accusation because not only that it denied the authority of the Lord in performing His miracles, all done by His own mighty power, but it also doubted the power of God exercised through His Holy Spirit and through His direct intervention via His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It essentially doubted that God could have forgiven sins and performed those wonders, and assigning those to the work of the devils and demons instead. This is what the Lord meant by the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Sin against the Holy Spirit is a truly heinous form of sin, as unlike other form of sins that God has forgiven us from, the sin against the Holy Spirit is a rejection of God’s grace and love, His forgiveness and mercy, which at that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made out of their pride and ego, their jealousy and greed, in refusing to believe in the Lord simply because they thought that they could not have been wrong in their way of observing the Law and commandments of God, and because they saw the Lord as a Rival to their own influence and power within the community of the people of God, the descendants of the Israelites. They hardened their hearts and closed their minds to the Lord because of their worldly desires and their attachment to worldliness, all of which kept them chained to sin, and not only that, but also hindered the good works of the Lord and misled many down the wrong paths.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard these passages from the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we should not be stubborn anymore in our ignorance of God’s love and compassionate mercy, and we should no longer allow ourselves to be easily swayed by the temptations to sin, no matter in whatever form that these temptations come to us. We should deepen our understanding of God’s actions and love for us, and remember everything that He had done, especially through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour in lifting us out of the darkness of sin and death, and ensuring that each one of us has a sure path towards redemption and eternal life through Him. We should grow ever more in our faith, trust and dedication to our Lord, remaining ever firm and committed in our path towards His righteousness and grace, at all times.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us so that we will remain filled with zeal and love for Him. May He strengthen us all with the courage and the desire to proclaim His truth and love among all the nations, by our own lives and actions. May God empower each one of us to walk in His light, that we may inspire many more people to follow our examples and to walk in our footsteps, for the salvation of many more souls. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of histories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand, he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 9 : 15, 24-28

So Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant or testament. His death made atonement for the sins committed under the old testament, and the promise is handed over to all who are called to the everlasting inheritance.

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he who may return every year, because the blood is not his own.

Otherwise He would have suffered many times from the creation of the world. But no; He manifested Himself only now at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once and afterwards are judged, in the same way Christ sacrificed Himself once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin when He comes again to save those waiting for Him.