Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

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 have faith, a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, to trust in Him wholeheartedly and not to be easily swayed by fear and indecision in our trust in the Lord. Just as the examples from the Scripture passages today should have highlighted to us, all of us should remember the past examples of how God has provided for His people and how many among them have received liberation and rescue from their trials and troubles. And even when the people of God apparently did not receive any help from the Lord, that is actually more because the Lord operates in His own time and in His will. But no matter what, the Lord will always love us and show His care for us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the past examples of how people in the past have had faith in God even through their darkest moments, and even when they did falter, the Lord had always helped them out of their predicament. The Lord never abandoned them or left them all alone. Even when they were suffering, the reality is that God has always been with them all the way, and sent to them His deliverance, help and assistance through various means, either directly or indirectly. The Lord has always reached our to His faithful ones, granting them His help and strength, as He had done to Abraham and Sarah in the past, Isaac, Jacob and all the other members of His beloved people and flock.

When Abraham and Sarah were already desperate for a child after having many years of failed attempts to have one, the Lord reassured them and reminded all of them that His promises and Covenant will always hold true no matter what. God made a solemn Covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and peoples, and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. All these indeed came true, as Abraham trusted in the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to. The Lord guided Abraham and protected him, and gave him a son, Isaac, whom He had promised to him from the beginning. Even when the Lord tested Abraham for his faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, while Abraham might have had moments of pain and doubt, he remained faithful nonetheless.

While Sarah also doubted the Lord and even laughed at the suggestion that she would have a child within the year from the Lord Himself Who came to visit Abraham, eventually she remained firm in her faith and trust in the Lord, believing that the Lord will always be faithful and will never abandon His faithful ones. The Lord gave Abraham who was willing to give even his own beloved son as a sign of his faith and trust in the Lord, the assurance of His blessings and faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established with him, sparing Isaac and reminded him and all of us yet again of just how loving, gracious and committed the Lord is to love all of us. Throughout history, this has been repeated and renewed again and again, as the Lord continued to reveal His faithfulness and love to us. The author of this Epistle was also trying to reveal more about the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people as this author had intended.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the the disciples of the Lord Jesus travelling through the lake, during which time a great storm and huge waves came to batter the boat that they were in. In that occasion, the Lord was sleeping while the disciples were panicking and worried that those waves would crush and destroy their boat, which would have likely caused them to drown to their deaths in the middle of the stormy seas. They desperately begged the Lord for help and asked Him to help them, and the Lord rebuked them for their lack of faith and trust in Him. The Lord Jesus then showed His power and authority by commanding the wind and the waves to be still, and immediately the entire storm vanished miraculously to the total astonishment of all the disciples who witnessed it.

Through what we have heard in that Gospel passage we can see how the boat represented the Church of God, while the disciples all represented all the faithful people of God, all of us who are part of God’s Church. The Lord Himself is at the Head of the Church, guiding the boat to its safe destination, just as He has always led us through the many difficulties and challenges facing us in our journey throughout life. Those storms and waves represented the many challenges, trials and obstacles that we will have to face as members and parts of God’s Church, which may indeed tempt us to abandon everything and the Church, seeking for other sources of help rather than to trust in the Lord. That is exactly what happened if someone in that boat were to try to abandon the boat and jump into the water instead of trusting in the Lord.

This is a reminder for each one of us that no matter how tough or difficult our battles and challenges may be, we must not be easily swayed, dissuaded or forced to abandon our path walking with faith in God. We must entrust ourselves in God’s love and guidance, which He has always faithfully given to us all these while, from the examples that we have heard from our Scripture passages today. The Lord has done so much for us that He has not held back from even giving us His only beloved Son, much as Abraham had done earlier in offering Isaac to God. But unlike that offering of Isaac which was just a test by God for Abraham’s faith, God truly sent us His only Son, to suffer and die for us, as the Lamb of God, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice offered for the salvation of all mankind, of all creation.

Can we still not trust in God after He has done so much for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has done so much for us to the point of giving His best and the most perfect gift that He can give us, to have His own Son to carry the huge burdens of our many sins, so that by His coming into this world, He may save us all from our certain impending destruction, death and damnation. His love for us is so great that this Love even overcame the entire combined might of all the sins and the forces of evil arrayed against us. The Lord has shown us His most generous and powerful Love through His Cross, and we are hence reminded again and again to put our trust and faith in Him, and doubt Him no longer. We should not doubt what He has done for our sake, and we should continue to have full faith in Him, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all also follow the good examples of one saint whose life and works can inspire us to deepen our faith and trust in God ever further. I am quite sure that many of us have heard the name St. Thomas Aquinas, a great and holy Priest and servant of God, and also an esteemed Doctor of the Church after his passing from this world. The Universal Church celebrates his feast on this day. He was known for his great devotion to God and great theological masterpieces, particularly his magnum opus, the ‘Summa Theologiae’. As a great theologian and servant of God, St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of time and effort to help the people of God to know better about Him and the truth about His love and compassionate mercy towards us. St. Thomas Aquinas did a lot of great works together with his other contemporaries like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, who in their own ways help to bring God’s people to be ever closer to Him.

Let us all hence strive to do our best to get to know more about the Lord God, our Saviour and loving Father. Let us all return to Him once again with love and devotion, by following the zeal and the examples showed by the holy lives of the saints, particularly that of St. Thomas Aquinas in today’s Feast celebration, and let us be good role models and examples so that in all the things we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and commit ourselves wholeheartedly, to walk in the path of His grace. May the Lord continue to help and guide us through the many trials and tribulations, the challenges that we may have to face and overcome, in each and every moments of our Christian living. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

So they left the crowd, and took Him away in the boat He had been sitting in, and other boats set out with Him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke Him up, and said, “Master, do You not care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 69–70, 71-72, 73-75

In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old.

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant.

The oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 11 : 1-2, 8-19

Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. It was by faith that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as a stranger in that promised land. There he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, beneficiaries of the same promise. Indeed, he looked forward to that city of solid foundation of which God is the Architect and Builder.

By faith Sarah herself received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that He Who had made the promise would be faithful. Therefore, from an almost impotent man were born descendants as numerous as the stars of heavens, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore.

Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead and had rejoiced in it from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travellers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove that they are looking for their own country. For if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one; so God, Who prepared the city for them is not ashamed of being called their God.

By faith Abraham went to offer Isaac when God tested him. And so he who had received the promise of God offered his only son although God had told him : Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.