Thursday, 4 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the moment when Abraham was asked by God to give his son Isaac to be sacrificed to Him on Mount Moria. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus healing a paralysed man only to be criticised upon by the teachers of the Law, which made the Lord to rebuke them for what they have done.

In our first reading passage today, we heard about the sacrifice of Isaac which God requested of Abraham, and this, if we do not understand God’s true intention and context, would have been very disturbing and difficult to accept. At that time, it was common in fact for deities and gods, the pagan idols to be offered sacrificial offerings, including even human sacrifices. It would therefore not be totally out of place for God to have requested such a thing from Abraham.

However, this request came after God has promised Abraham that his descendants through Isaac would be numerous like the stars and the grains of sand, and how they would become great nations on earth. God specifically also mentioned to Abraham earlier on that His promise and grace did not extend through his other son, Ishmael, but through Isaac only. Imagine what kind of thoughts and ruminations that went through in the mind of Abraham as he heard the Lord’s commands.

Yet, despite that, he obeyed without reservation, trusting completely in God’s will. Abraham obediently and faithfully brought Isaac to Mount Moria where he thought of offering him as a sacrifice to God. He must have been sad and filled with questions in his heart, but his love and obedience for God never changed. He followed through God’s plan and for that, he was blessed by God Who used the opportunity to see the faith which Abraham had for Him.

In today’s Gospel passage, we then heard of the Lord Jesus healing the paralysed man and the teachers of the Law immediately commented on when He forgave the paralysed man from his sins and made him whole again. We ought to look into this occasion and contrast it with what we have heard in our first reading today, regarding Abraham and his faith. While Abraham was faithful and trusted in God despite probably having some doubts, he committed himself regardless, but the teachers of the Law immediately went to criticise the Lord.

That is what happened when there is a lack of faith in our hearts, as the teachers of the Law were very knowledgeable about the details and the particulars of the customs and rules applied by the Law, and yet they failed to understand the meaning and purpose behind those laws, which in truth were given to us mankind by God so that the Law may become a guiding light for us to follow, that we do not fall into error.

Instead, they focused on the wrong aspect and approach, becoming preoccupied with the technicalities and the prescriptions of the Law rather than understanding its true nature and purpose of use. That is where they were not like Abraham, who knew God’s will truly in his heart, and devoted himself completely to Him, with the only desire to serve Him and to love Him with all of his strength and abilities.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of another holy servant of God, that is of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was married to the King of Portugal and therefore is a rightful Queen of Portugal, and even though she was born into nobility and richness and power, but she remained humble, devout and upright in her living. In time, her examples and influence managed to convert even her husband, the king, who had been leading a sinful life until then.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal showed many other courageous displays of faith, and after her husband passed away, she retired into a monastery where she continued to serve the Lord through prayer and service. She was instrumental in peacemaking when conflict was almost inevitable between that of her son, the then king of Portugal and the king of the neighbouring kingdom of Castile.

In St. Elizabeth of Portugal and Abraham, we can see the genuine faith of those who have given their lives to God and entrusted themselves to Him, knowing His will and His ways. Are we able to follow in their footsteps as well? Or are we more like the teachers of the Law who are just concerned about fulfilling our obligations to God and not truly loving Him and trusting in His will?

Let us all draw ever closer to God from now on, and find ways for us to dedicate ourselves ever more to Him. May He continue to guide us throughout our journey, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 4 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 4 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 114 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Alleluia! I am pleased that YHVH has heard my voice in supplication, that He has not been deaf to me, the day I called on Him.

When the cords of death entangled me, the snares of the grave laid hold of me, when affliction got the better of me, I called upon the Name of YHVH : “O YHVH, save my life!”

Gracious and righteous is YHVH; full of compassion is our God. YHVH protects the simple : He saved me when I was humbled.

He has freed my soul from death, my eyes from weeping, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before YHVH in the land of the living.

Thursday, 4 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Genesis 22 : 1-19

Some time later God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I shall point out to you.”

Abraham rose early next morning and saddled his donkey and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and set out for the place to which God had directed him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance, and he said to the young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He carried in his hand the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke to Abraham, his father, “Father!” And Abraham replied, “Yes, my son?” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham replied, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.”

They went on, the two of them together, until they came to the place to which God had directed them. When Abraham had built the altar and set the wood on it, he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the wood placed on the altar. He then stretched out his hand to seize the knife and slay his son. But the Angel of YHVH called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

And he said, “Here I am.” “Do not lay your hand on the boy; do not harm him, for now I know that you fear God, and you have not held back from Me your only son.” Abraham looked around and saw behind him a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place ‘The Lord will provide.’ And the saying has lasted to this day.

And the Angel of YHVH called from heaven a second time, “By myself I have sworn, it is YHVH Who speaks, because you have done this and not held back your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the lands of their enemies. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your descendants because you have obeyed Me.”

So Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba and it was there that Abraham stayed.