Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture, we are again reminded of God’s providence and love for each and every one of us that He would not let us to be destroyed by those who sought our ruin and destruction. As we heard in our first reading, God protected David, His chosen one from the plots and attacks from king Saul, while in the Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord healed all those who were afflicted especially those possessed by the evil spirits.

King Saul was the first king of Israel who was chosen from among the people. He was initially good, faithful and obedient to God, but he ended up disobeying God and following his own will and desires, pursuing his own agenda and leading the people into sin. As he was not repentant and insisted on doing things his own way, God withdrew His support from him and chose David to be his successor as the king over the people of Israel.

David became very famous among the people after he defeated the giant champion of the Philistines, Goliath in single combat. And as David became more and more prominent through his many victories in battle, as the Lord was with him, the people began to laud him more and more and king Saul became jealous and felt very insecure over his position as king, probably knowing that Samuel the prophet had anointed David as the new king of Israel succeeding him.

That was how the devil entered into king Saul, as specifically mentioned in the Book of the prophet Samuel. The devil manipulated Saul and made him even more angry, jealous and insecure, and thus wanted to have David killed and destroyed before he became a threat to his kingship and rule. But God was with David, and as we heard in our reading today, he had a great ally in one of Saul’s own sons, Jonathan, with whom David had a great friendship with.

Through Jonathan, God helped David to escape from his predicament, as Jonathan helped David to get away from Saul and his plots against him. Jonathan helped David on several occasions and God also led him through the challenges and trials that he had to go through for years in the run from Saul, even when he had to wander among the Philistines and in the wilderness. God provided for the needs of His servant and remained with him until the day when David succeeded as king, and continued to bless him and his house afterwards.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of God Whom through His Son was healing many of the people who came to Him for all their sick and those who were afflicted in all sorts of ways. Those who were possessed by evil spirits, whom none other could have helped, sought the Lord and the evil spirits were cast out by Him. All those demons and spirits knew Whom the Lord Jesus was, but He would not allow them to reveal the truth as that might jeopardise His works and efforts.

Through all of these we have seen how God constantly cared for us and showed His generous love towards us. He does not want any one of us to fall into the traps of the devil and his wicked allies, and like how He cared and provided for David, He also provides for each and every one of us in His own way too. But too often we do not realise this, and we tend to forget about God and ignore His constant show of love and kindness towards us.

We have allowed ourselves instead to be made busy by the many temptations of pleasure, glory, materialism and all sorts of these things in this world. And this in fact is yet another sinister tactic by the devil in trying to bring us down with him into damnation, as he tries very hard to keep us away from reaching out to God and embracing the fullness of His grace, love and mercy. We really need to wake up and realise how it is very important for us to overcome these many temptations and redirect our attention back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to love the Lord more and more, just as David loved the Lord and dedicated himself to Him. Let us be ever more faithful and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, being thankful and grateful for all that He has done for our sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us in everything we do. Amen.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing toward Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 55 : 2-3, 9-10ab, 10c-11, 12-13

O God, show Your mercy to me, for my foes are in hot pursuit; they press their attack on me all the time. My accusers pursue me all day long; many attack me.

You have a record of my laments; my tears are stored in Your wineskin. Are they not written on Your scroll? My enemies turn back when I call on You for help.

Now I know, that God is for me. In God, Whose word I praise.

In God I trust, without fear. What can mortals do against me? I am bound to You by vows, o God; I shall offer my thanksgiving.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 18 : 6-9 and 1 Samuel 19 : 1-7

When they arrived after David had slain the Philistine, the women came out from the cities of Israel to meet king Saul singing and dancing with timbrels and musical instruments. They were merrily singing this song : “Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very displeased with this song and said, “They have given tens of thousands to David but to me only thousands! By now he has everything but the kingdom!” From then on, Saul became very distrustful of David.

Saul told his son Jonathan and his servants of his intention to kill David. But Jonathan, who liked David very much, said to David, “My father Saul wants to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning and hide yourself in a secret place. I will go out and keep my father company in the countryside where you are and I will speak to him about you. If I find out something, I will let you know.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul and said, “Let not the king sin against his servant David for he has not sinned against you. On the contrary, what he has done has benefitted you. He risked his life in killing the Philistine and YHVH brought about a great victory for Israel. You yourself saw this and greatly rejoiced. Why then sin against innocent blood and kill David without cause?”

Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore, “As YHVH lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and told him all these things. He then brought him to Saul and David was back in Saul’s service as before.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages we are all reminded of the need for us to put our trust in God and allow Him to lead and guide us through to the right path. We have to do what is right according to God’s will even when at times we will face great opposition and challenges which will make us feel very discouraged at times because we are likely going to face daunting pressures and trials.

This is where we should look at what we have just heard today, from our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel as we continued from the discourse on the works of the prophet Samuel who had anointed David to be the new king of Israel. David was then still in his youth and not physically imposing in stature, and today he went face to face against his great enemy, the renowned Philistine giant and champion, Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well-known stories from the Scriptures as we all know how David beat Goliath despite him being so much smaller and weaker physically compared to the giant champion of the Philistines. David was not even wearing an armour unlike his heavily armoured opponent, and was armed with nothing more than a sling and some stones. David was even laughed at by the king and his advisors when he stood up and said that he wanted to fight Goliath when no one else dared to do so.

David trusted God completely and allowed him to be the instrument through which God worked among His people. When Goliath spouted much blasphemy against God, David allowed God to make use of his sling to strike at the giant, and God guided David in all that he do, such that David was able to defeat Goliath even though no one would have expected him to do so at all. David allowed God to guide him through later as well, when he became the king of Israel.

In our Gospel reading then, we heard of another Man Who had to face tremendous pressure and opposition, none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who had to go up against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, very influential and powerful group of people at that time, as they were highly educated and were considered among the elites of the people. And the Lord Jesus was hated and often harassed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His ministry.

A particular thorny issue that came up between them was on the matter of the law of the Sabbath, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law applied a very strict interpretation of the Sabbath law saying that on the day God had made holy, no one could do anything at all as written in the Law. But the Lord Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, chiding them for failing to understand the true intent and purpose of the Sabbath laws.

The Sabbath was meant for God’s people to refocus their attention to God and to remind them in their daily, busy schedules that God was still central and should be the focus in their lives, and that was why one day was set aside out of the seven days of the week for the purpose of rest and for the time to be spent with God. Instead, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law zoomed in on the technicalities and legalities of the regulations rather than the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath.

And this was done even to the point of condemning good acts and deeds done for the greater glory of God on the Sabbath day when Scriptural and historical evidences clearly had shown the Law has not always been interpreted in the manner the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law interpreted it. And the Lord Jesus went against them nonetheless, healing the man who had been paralysed on the hand, showing God’s love and mercy to him.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, that means as all those who believe in Christ as Our Lord and Saviour, and as those who trust in God and love Him, we will likely encounter challenges and trials along the way. Our lives will not be easy and smooth if we want to continue living faithfully according to God’s will. But we must not give up or abandon our faith because of that. Let us instead take note and be inspired by the courage and faith showed by David as he went up against Goliath, and what the Lord Jesus had done in obedience to the will of His heavenly Father.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Vincent the Deacon, a renowned martyr of the faith. St. Vincent, like many other saints and martyrs, had to endure much suffering and trials for the sake of his faith in God and for his ministry in God’s Church. He was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, for his dwelling and ministry in his native area now known as Zaragoza in northeastern part of Spain.

At that time, Christians went through a particularly difficult time of persecution by the infamous Roman Emperor Diocletian who ordered all Christians to abandon their faith or else suffer and lose their lives. St. Vincent, as a devoted servant of God and deacon of the Church was also arrested and forced to abandon his faith, and it was told that he would be allowed to go free if only he would burn the Scriptures he had with him and reject the faith publicly.

Like David who stood up against Goliath and trusted completely in the Lord, St. Vincent courageously refused to abandon his faith and chose instead to suffer and die a martyr’s death. His defence of his faith was so vigorous and passionate that it made those who persecuted him and the other Christians to torture him even more, but the holy servant of God welcomed death in his unyielding faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we have heard all of these inspiring stories from the Scriptures and from the history of our predecessors in faith, we are then challenged to live our lives faithfully in the same manner as what we have heard just now. Are we able to love God and to be faithful at all times, in every moments and in every parts of our lives? Are we able to give ourselves to God and to trust Him completely as we should?

Let us all contemplate on these and think how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us and show the path going forward. May God bless us all in everything we do and protect us and deliver us from our trials, as how He once guided David and St. Vincent the Deacon, His holy servants. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 1-6

At that time, again, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralysed hand, was there; and some people watched Jesus : would He heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.”

Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here, in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness at their hardness of heart. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.