Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all reminded that God gave strength to His people, His servants and followers, granting them the courage and power to endure challenges, trials and tribulations in their paths, and enabling them to follow Him with faith and commitment. God has given them all His strength, wisdom and guidance, and empowered them to serve Him and His people in great and mighty ways, in various means throughout history, by using the examples that is contained within the Scriptures to remind us of how He has blessed us and our predecessors so much, and how He has also sent His own Beloved Son, into our midst, to be our Saviour and as the One to deliver us from the hands of Satan and his evil forces.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author spoke of the examples of the Judges and Kings, the faithful servants of God who had served the Lord in the past, including the famous King David himself, and pointed out to his targeted audience, the Jewish people or the Hebrews living in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere, that the Lord had called ordinary people, who were from unassuming, unknown background, as shown by where those Judges and King David himself were called from, and the circumstances in which they were called, in which they were empowered by God to carry out magnificent deeds for the glory of His Name and for the good of His people. The Lord had called on the ordinary to do extraordinary deeds on His behalf in this world.

The author of this Epistle also wanted to remind the people of God, mainly the Jewish people, whether converts to the faith or not, and even those who were Gentiles that became believers in the Lord, that each and every one of them had been called to the same mission and path in life as their holy and great predecessors, not withstanding and regardless of their background and origins. What matters is not how great they were or how powerful and influential they were in this life, but rather, how faithful, committed and trusting they are in God’s power and providence, and how faithful they are to His commandments, His Law and teachings. Without all of these and without God to guide and lead us, we are nothing, and we will easily fall prey into the assaults of those who seek to destroy us, Satan and all of his fellow fallen angels and evil spirits, all seeking our downfall and doom.

Each and every one of us as Christians are called to the same mission and calling as those whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had mentioned, to serve the Lord and to follow His path faithfully in our own lives, allowing God to lead us and to guide us to wherever and whatever He wants us to do with our lives in each and every possible moments. He wants each one of us as Christians to be good and righteous, worthy and dedicated to Him, as role models and inspirations to each other in how we live our lives so that we may help one another to remain firm in our faith, and we cannot be idle in living our lives with true, genuine and strong Christian faith, with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with us always ever caring about the needs of others, our fellow brethren all around us.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the famous parable of the Lord driving the evil spirits out of a man possessed by many evil spirits in the region of the Gerasenes. He has been living in the wilderness for a long time because of his possession by those same evil spirits, and the people feared him because of that. He could not return to the community because of his condition, shunned and cast out from the rest of the community. But the Lord willingly came to him and approached him, wanting this man to be healed from his affliction, and authoritatively ordered those evil spirits to get out of him, and sending them to the flock of pigs that were there, grazing for food. The man was therefore healed from his troubles, and could return to his community. But the herders were afraid of him, and with the local populace, begged Him to depart from their lands.

The significance of this account of the exorcism of the possessed man and the casting out of the demons into the pigs are plenty, but first of all, it highlighted the love that God has for each and every one of us, in reaching out even to the most abandoned, ostracised and rejected ones among us, and showing us that even the most ordinary and seemingly unworthy ones among us, like that of the possessed man, is worthy of God’s salvation and grace. We must not give up or thinking that leading a good and holy life is impossible simply because we think that we are not good enough for God, or that others are doing way better than us, and that we are less worthy than they are. God does not judge us based on all that. What is important is our love and desire for ourselves to return to Him, and to love Him, and this is a process that each one of us are going through right now in our lives, together with the Lord by our side.

Then, the symbolism of the evil spirits being cast out into the herd of pigs is also significant in that, in the end, our human lives and existence, even just a single one, is far more worth than any other worldly and material things. Those pig herders and others rightfully feared the Lord and begged Him to leave their lands because He had just caused them a lot of monetary losses. However, all these happened so that the man, who had been cast out, abandoned, rejected and feared by everyone else in that area, could be saved, and could be returned to his community, and not wander off in the wilderness, treated way less than even those animals and herds. It is a reminder that our human existence and lives, each and every one of us are important and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

That moment was also a symbolism that in the end, Satan and all of his wicked forces, the evil spirits and demons, all will face their downfall and ultimate defeat just as the pigs were all running down the cliff and perished. It is a reminder for all of us that no matter how challenging and tough our lives may be, and how difficult it may be for us to remain faithful to the Lord, in the end, if we remain truly faithful to Him and remain committed in Him, we shall be triumphant with Him in the end, and we should not worry about the persecution, trials and challenges from the world, and from all those wicked forces and evil spirits. Again, that is because all of us are truly precious to the Lord, and each one of us are important to Him. We must never underestimate ourselves and our capacity and the opportunities we have been given for conversion and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now what matters in the end is our desire to live our lives worthily of the Lord and the drive in our hearts and minds to obey the words of the Lord and to walk in His path at all times. We are reminded that all of us are truly precious in the eyes of the Lord, and all of us will be strengthened and guided by God if we continue to put our trust in Him, and if we allow Him to lead the way for us, and if we steadfastly continue to follow Him despite the many pressures, temptations and challenges that try to keep and distract us from following the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly. Let us all assist each other and help one another in doing our best to keep us all aligned and rooted in the path that God has led us through, and may all of us continue to strive to do our best in living our lives faithfully, in each and every moments of our lives.

May God be with us always and may He continue to bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. May He help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and devotion, in our righteousness and virtues, and in all of our qualities as good and faithful Christians, at all times. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains, but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him.

Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with Me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!”

He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Come out of the man, evil spirit!” And when Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region.

Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff, and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and the countryside, so all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 30 : 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

How great is the goodness which You have stored for those who fear You, which You show, for all to see, in those who take refuge in You!

In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling, safe from the intrigues of wagging tongues.

Blessed be the Lord for His wonderful love! He has strengthened my heart.

I said in my fright : “I have been cut off from Your sight!” Yet when I was crying, You heard; when I called for mercy, You listened.

Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves His faithful, but He fully requites the arrogant.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 11 : 32-40

Do I need to say more? There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfilment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the sword, were healed of their sicknesses; they were weak people who were given strength to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders.

Some women recovered their dead by resurrection but there were others – persecuted and tortured believers – who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them. Others suffered chain and prison. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They fled from place to place with no other clothing than the skins of sheep and goats, lacking everything, afflicted, ill-treated.

These people of whom the world was not worthy had to wander through wastelands and mountains, and take refuge in the dens of the land. However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise because God had is in mind and saw beyond. And He did not want them to reach perfection except with us.