Wednesday, 26 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to two stories from the Sacred Scriptures, namely the story of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and how the people of Israel grumbled and rebelled against God in our first reading today taken from the Book of Exodus. Then, in the Gospel today we heard about the parable which our Lord Jesus mentioned, the parable of the sower, in which He told His disciples about what happened to the various seeds which were scattered and fell onto different types of soil.

In the first reading, we heard how the people of Israel journeyed through the desert, after they had been liberated from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, and after they had witnessed firsthand the great and mighty power of God, Who crushed the Egyptians with ten great plagues and opened the Red Sea right before their very eyes, allowing them to walk safely and dry-footed through the sea itself. But despite all of these things they had seen, they became stubborn and complained against God.

They complained that in Egypt, they would at least have food and drink to satisfy themselves rather than what they endured then, walking through the desert without sight of food or drink, and the sight of the endless desert discouraged them and made them to lose faith in God. That was because their faith in God did not have a strong root in them, just as what the Lord Jesus mentioned in today's Gospel passage, the parable of the sower.

In that parable, the Lord mentioned how some of the seeds scattered fell onto the roadside and were picked up by the birds of the sky. And some others fell onto the rocky grounds and were not able to grow deep roots, ending up scorched and destroyed by the sun. The seeds represent the Word of God which became the seeds of faith inside each and every one of us, but as all farmers and those who have planted a plant before, a seed will not germinate without the right conditions.

The Israelites were showing exactly this kind of attitude, the failure to allow the faith to grow in them, and as a result, the devil came to snatch away the Word of God from them, just as the birds came to snatch away the seeds that fell by the roadside. And like the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, the stubbornness of the people of Israel and their adamant refusal to trust in the Lord and in His providence made it difficult for the Word of God and for faith to grow in each one of them.

They refused to believe that God would care for them and provide for them what they needed as they journeyed through the desert. That is again because of their lack of faith. They trusted much more in what mankind could provide, to the point that they would rather suffer at the hands of their former Egyptian slave masters, who could provide them with bread to eat and water to drink, rather than to trust in God.

That was when God showed again His power and might, by proving His people wrong, those who doubted His ability to provide for them. He sent them countless birds as food, and gave them clear and sweet water to drink in the middle of a vast desert, flowing out from the rocks itself, and ultimately He also gave them bread from heaven, the manna, coming to them daily in the morning from God.

If only that the people could find in themselves the courage to have faith in God, and not to fall into the temptation to seek alternative sources of comfort and happiness. That moment when the people veered away from the Lord because of their lack of faith and trust in God, is when they fell away into sin and become lost to the Lord. Certainly, this is not the fate which we want to happen to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must instead strive hard to provide the best conditions and situations in our respective lives, that through our efforts, we may find ourselves to be a rich soil for the Word of God to grow inside each one of us, that we may become fertile grounds for the Word of God and our faith to blossom within us. And we have to make a conscious effort to ensure that this happens.

Today, all of us celebrate the Feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. St. Joachim and St. Anne brought up the Blessed Virgin Mary since her birth and young age, and it was under their tutelage and guidance that she grew up into a fine, faithful and devout young woman whom we knew in the Gospels, betrothed to St. Joseph and eventually became the Mother of our God and Saviour.

St. Joachim and St. Anne had shown Mary how to be a faithful and devoted follower of God, and taught her all that they knew about the faith. They inculcated the faith in her and allowed it grow by giving her the most appropriate environment in which that faith could grow, that is the environment of love and care. It is through this that the faith and the Word of God could grow well and produce bountiful harvest of fruits.

That is what all of us can do as well in our own respective lives, by doing what the Lord had taught us to do, providing loving and caring environment. We ought to show love and care for our fellow brethren, and kindness to all of our fellow men. It is through actually living out our faith that we can help one another to live and persevere in faith, so that in all that we do, say and act, we will always bring glory to God.

May the Lord bless us all and may He empower us to live our lives with commitment and be able to give our all to Him, trusting Him and placing ourselves under His loving care. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, "The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots."

"Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!"

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 77 : 18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

The people of God tested Him, demanding the food they craved. They blasphemed against God, saying : "Can God spread a table in the desert?"

Yet, He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; He rained down manna upon them, and fed them with the heavenly grain.

They ate and had more than their fill of the bread of Angels. Then, from heaven He stirred the east wind, and, by His power, let loose the south wind.

To rain down meat on them like dust. Birds as thick as the sand on the seashore fell inside their camp, lying all around their tents.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!"

YHVH then said to Moses, "Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day."

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, "Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints." It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, "I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart's content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!"

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, "What is it?" for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, "It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat."