Saturday, 1 February 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse on the actions of king David of Israel when committed sin against God by his desire and lust for someone else’s wife, in this case Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David and Bathsheba succumbed to temptations and ended up with Bathsheba getting pregnant, and David tried to cover up the affair by making Uriah sleep with his wife. But when the upright and just Uriah refused to do so, David panicked and ended up plotting Uriah’s death in battle.

The prophet Nathan came to David and went through with him today the faults that he had done before God and men alike. Initially king David did not realise that when the prophet Nathan used a parable to explain, that he was actually referring to David’s unjust actions towards Uriah, in taking what was not his in the first place and instance, namely Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah as David’s own wife after Uriah was killed in battle.

David trusted his own instincts and ways of settling things in that matter rather than trusting in God or following His commandments. He succumbed to the temptation of desire and lust, allowing Satan to rock his righteous and just life, and ended up causing the death of an innocent man and a relationship that was essentially adultery in the eyes of God and the Law. But David then immediately regretted his actions once his eyes were opened by what the prophet Nathan shared with him, the blatant truth of his wicked and dark actions.

The firstborn son of that relationship between David and Bathsheba did die as the just retribution for David’s sinful action, but his genuine repentance in humbling himself totally before God and all of his people, as he fasted and humbled himself in sackcloth for God’s mercy, and accentuated in the Psalm we used today, which was composed by king David himself at precisely that moment when he felt the great regret over his terrible sins. But he also entrusted himself to God’s compassionate love and mercy.

He trusted that God has the power to overcome his sins and wickedness, by the grace of His mercy and forgiveness. And thus, while today we are presented with the unfortunate story of how the righteous and good king David fell into temptation and sin, but we are also reminded that in truth all of us are just like him. We are all sinners just like king David, easily tempted and vulnerable to sin. If we are dependent only on ourselves and only on our own strength as what king David foolishly did at that time, we are likely to fall.

It is what we can also learn from our Gospel passage today where we heard of the story of the moment when the disciples of the Lord were afraid that their boat would sink because of the fierce storm, the gale force winds and the huge waves that threatened to overcome them. This was because they did not have firm faith in God, Who was with them and Jesus Himself showed them that they had nothing to fear and really ought to have more faith in Him.

The boat also symbolically represent us all in the Church as the Church is often likened to that of a boat, with all of us the faithful people of God, the members of the Church as the passengers of the boat, travelling through the often rough waters representing the trials and challenges that are often found in our world. And the Lord, our God, is our Guide and our Navigator, in Whom we really ought to trust. No matter what happened, He has authority and control, as the disciples themselves said, ‘even the wind and the sea obey Him’.

If we panic and turn to drastic actions, depending on our own judgments and strengths, as king David experienced during his time when he sinned against God as mentioned earlier on, we will end up bringing ourselves further and further afflicted and in difficulty. We will end up getting trapped by the situation and by our own actions, dragging us down further and deeper into the dangerous trap of sin.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, the important lesson that each and every one of us must heed today is to trust in the Lord more and allow Him to guide us in life. If we have erred as king David had done, then we must not be afraid to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, but with a sincere desire to repent and turn away from our sinfulness, that God will truly forgive us and lead us towards the fullness of His grace and love. And we need to make this conscious decision to commit ourselves to God, at each and every moments of our lives.

May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen us all in our resolve to be faithful to Him and to do everything we can to remain true to Him. Let us live our lives from now on with God at the centre of our lives and existence, no longer allowing our many desires and all the temptations present in our lives from confusing us and leading us astray. May God be with us always and strengthen our faith, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 1 February 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they left the crowd, and took Him along 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, 1 February 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again, the joy of Your salvation; and sustain me, with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

Deliver me, o God, from the guilt of blood; and of Your justice, I shall sing aloud. O YHVH, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Saturday, 1 February 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Samuel 12 : 1-7a, 10-17

So YHVH sent the prophet Nathan to David. Nathan went to the king and said to him, “There were two men in a city : one was rich; the other, poor. The rich man had many sheep and cattle, but the poor man had only one little ewe lamb he had bought. He himself fed it and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and slept on his lap. It was like a daughter to him.”

“Now a traveller came to the rich man, but he would not take from his own flock or herd to prepare food for the traveller. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared that for his visitor.”

David was furious because of this man and told Nathan, “As YHVH lives, the man who has done this deserves death! He must return the lamb fourfold for acting like this and showing no compassion.” Nathan said to David, “You are this man! Now the sword will never be far from your family because you have despised me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite for yourself.”

“Thus says YHVH : Your misfortune will rise from your own house! I will take your wives from you and give them to your neighbour who shall lie with them in broad daylight. What you did was done secretly, but what I do will be done before Israel in broad daylight.”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against YHVH.” Nathan answered him, “YHVH has forgiven your sin; you shall not die. However, because you have dared to despise YHVH by doing such a thing, the child that is born of you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his home.

YHVH struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and the child became very ill. David entreated God for the child. He kept a strict fast and lay on the ground the whole night. The elders of his house asked him to rise from the ground but he refused. Nor did he join them to eat.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded today of the dangers of sin and how sin can easily pervade into our lives and affect us in many terrible ways. We heard of how sin brought even king David of Israel down as we heard of the story of David and Uriah in our first reading today. But all these can be overcome if we heed what the Lord has also said in our Gospel passage today on the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard how king David was tempted by the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba who was bathing and that created the temptation in the heart and mind of David that led him to sin against God because of the lust that he had in him. And David succumbed to the temptation, desiring to have Bathsheba as her own, and Bathsheba herself was also tempted as the story told us, and when they have committed the deed and Bathsheba became pregnant, David became very afraid that the affair would be discovered by Uriah and became known, definitely a total embarrassment for him as the king of Israel.

To that end, David tried to trick Uriah into thinking that the child in the womb of Bathsheba as his own by trying to make and coerce him to sleep with his wife and has intercourse so as to hide the shameful affair that he had committed. And when Uriah remained righteous and firm, in refusing to do so while his nation was at war, David became panicked and began plotting to remove Uriah as a threat to him, making plans to put Uriah in the most dangerous place during the battle that ended up causing Uriah to be killed.

In this way, David has sinned against God, and although he repented and was very sorrowful and regretful over what he had done earlier on, but this is a very important lesson for all of us to take heed of. As we have heard, the actions that David took came about because he succumbed to temptation and allowed his desires and lust to overcome his rational thinking and faith, ending up doing something that was against God’s ways, and from there on, everything just went downhill.

As we can see, David at that moment did not allow God to lead and guide him through his actions, instead acting based on his own impulses and fears. He wanted to hide his mistakes and faults, and in the end he committed even greater sins and mistakes, causing him to indirectly make a person to lose his life. And we can see here how if we allow our own desires and personal ambitions to rule over us, we will easily be led down the wrong path, even for someone good and righteous like king David.

How should we then move forward in life, knowing that we are all vulnerable men and women, that are easily tempted by sin? It is then we should look at our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus used the parables to explain the truth to us. In those parables, Jesus explained about the kingdom of God to His disciples and followers, and showed them what it truly means to be a believer of His.

In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the sowing of seeds, and how the seeds would then grow until maturity before they can be harvested and the produces gathered. In using such parables, the Lord could explain more difficult concepts in a way easier to be understood by many of the people who were although illiterate but they were experienced or involved in farming and agriculture.

In the similar way therefore, He also used the parable of the mustard seed as a comparison for the kingdom of God, how a small seed like a mustard seed can eventually grow to be a large plant, with all of its numerous branches and leaves. And using this analogy, let us link to what we have just discussed on king David’s case earlier on and with another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel. In that parable, the Lord spoke of how an enemy sowed the bad and rotten seeds or seeds of weeds among the good seeds in the field.

It means that all of us have received seeds of faith from God as well as seeds of temptations and sin from the devil. How we are to cultivate them depends on our own life and actions, on our orientation whether it is towards God and His ways, or whether we prefer to follow the ways of the world. If we allow the seeds of sin to grow, then as David’s example had shown us, it can quickly overwhelm us and lead us deeper into sin and darkness.

On the contrary, if we allow God to be the guiding light in our lives and put Him at the centre of our existence, then God will help us to nurture the seeds of faith He has given to us and planted in us. And from us will grow a most bountiful tree of faith filled with the many fruits of our faith, and together, all of us as members of God’s same one Church will be truly the kingdom of God on earth. We must not think that our faith is small and insignificant, because as the Lord explained how the small mustard seed when grown up can become such a large tree, it means that our faith too can be a very powerful force if we cultivate it right.

And today, we have a great example and inspiration from one of God’s great saints to help and guide us in our journey of faith, in cultivating and growing our faith as we live our lives here on earth. St. John Bosco was a great and renowned priest whose life was an inspiration to many, in his personal and outward holiness, in his care and concern for many of the people of God, especially those who are in need of guidance and help, those youths that he spent many years working on, among others.

St. John Bosco was remembered for setting up a dormitory and school for young delinquents in the city of Turin where he ministered in. St. John Bosco himself came from poor family and had difficult childhood and early years of his formation, and it helped him to have great empathy and compassion for the young delinquents who were often misguided and lacked proper education and guidance in life. Thus, through the efforts of St. John Bosco many of those youths became better and positively influenced by this holy and dedicated man of God.

St. John Bosco did not have it easy of course, as he encountered opposition and challenges from various sources and groups, from those who accused him of stealing and intervening into their parishes and groups, to those who oppose the teachings of the Church and wanting to influence the youths that St. John Bosco had taken under his care. Nonetheless, St. John Bosco persevered and continued to labour hard for those to whom he had committed himself to.

Eventually, St. John Bosco was also influential in the founding of the religious order of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, a Salesian congregation founded by the followers of St. John Bosco and all like-minded people who wanted to continue and propagate the efforts of St. John Bosco, which in time would come to encompass many more places and influence many more people, as many men and women came to respond to God’s call through this congregation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how a poor man turned priest, St. John Bosco, was like that small and insignificant mustard seed. And yet, through his tireless efforts and works, many people, through the many years of his ministry and then continuing through the congregations and organisations inspired by his life and work, come to be touched and benefit from the faith which St. John Bosco had shown. We can clearly see here how God’s kingdom came to be, with many people returning to God through all the efforts mentioned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then able to follow the good examples set by St. John Bosco in our own lives? Are we able to cultivate our faith and devote our lives to God as he and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us all resist the impulse and temptations to sin and put God as the centre and focus of our lives. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight, I have done. You are right when You pass sentence; and blameless in Your judgement. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth; a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences.