Saturday, 12 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures we are all called to remember yet again the patient love of God which He had shown us despite everything that we had done to hurt Him, in betraying Him and in refusing to obey His Law and commandments. The Lord has shown us that great love and compassion even when we have openly rebelled against Him and abandoned Him as the past history of God’s people had shown us and as we heard in our Scripture passages today.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Kings, relating the story of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we heard of how Israel and Judah, the two halves of the once united Kingdom of Israel, were separated further after Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom resolved to keep the kingdoms and their people further apart by establishing his own centres of worship in Bethel and Dan, rivalling the House of God in Jerusalem as he feared that the people would soon reject him and return to the House of David. Worse still, he made the likeness of golden calves as idols for his people to worship instead of God, a direct reference to the golden calf that the Israelites had made for themselves at Mount Sinai.

King Jeroboam had been given the ten tribes of Israel by God as a division of the united Kingdom of Israel because of the sins of Solomon that had misled the people down the path of sin. However, that was not intended to split the people apart and the introduction of further pagan worship. King Solomon caused the people to sin because he introduced pagan worship and idols for the sake of his many wives, and as I mentioned earlier this week, likely to gain diplomatic recognition and further his ambitions among his neighbours.

Yet, King Jeroboam made it even worse than Solomon because he who had been entrusted as the safekeeper of the ten tribes of the Israelites actually did what Solomon had done and worse. Again, just like in Solomon’s case, we have seen how the temptations of the world could lead to our downfall into sin. Even the strongest and the most faithful could fall into sin when they allow themselves be tempted and when they let themselves be persuaded and coerced into doing things that bring themselves pleasures at the cost of their faith and obedience to God.

Yet, despite all that, the Lord still continued to reach out to His people most patiently, and He still cared for them and wanted them to be reconciled with Him, sending messengers and His servants to them to remind them of the love which God always has for each and every one of us. The Lord has always been patient and He reached out to us sinners, to help us to get out from our predicament and to assist us in finding our way towards His salvation and freedom from the tyranny of sin and the bondage to evil. He sent us His own Son to be our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to bring us the perfect love of God manifested before us.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord was concerned about all those people who came and followed Him, all the multitudes of people who came and gathered in their thousands to listen to the Lord and His teachings, seeking His healing and trying to find Him and a way out of their sufferings. They all followed the Lord with great faith, and they were all hungry without food because the Lord often preached and worked in the wilderness away from towns and villages, and yet the people still flocked to Him and sought Him.

The Lord did not just take good care of them spiritually but physically as well. He also wanted them all to be filled and satisfied, and when His disciples brought a mere seven loaves of bread, completely insufficient to feed the entire four thousand men and many thousands more of women and children, the Lord miraculously multiplied those loaves of bread until there were enough for everyone to eat and then with still seven full baskets of leftovers. The Lord fed His people and cared for them, even though they were sinners and had often rebelled against Him and abandoned Him.

And not only that, but we also know how the Lord even gave it all for us, by giving His own Most Precious Body and Blood, He, the Bread of Life, offering Himself freely to us so that all of us who partake of Him and share in the Eucharist, the gift of the bread and wine turned into Our Lord’s own Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood, that we shall have eternal life through Him. Through Him we have received the assurance of eternal life and true joy surpassing all other things, and through Christ we have found this new hope in life.

Are we all willing to embrace God’s love and kindness, His compassion and mercy for us? Are we still stubborn in our refusal to reject sin and all of our past wicked ways? Let us all discern these things carefully and remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to have been truly beloved by God all these while. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us in our resolve to follow Him, and may He give us the courage to embrace His forgiveness and mercy, that we may draw ever closer to Him, trusting in His love and kindness, in all that He had done for us, and devoting ourselves, our time and effort for His greater glory, always. Amen.

Saturday, 12 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterward, Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute.

And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish. So Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well. The people ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number.

Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Saturday, 12 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 105 : 6-7a, 19-20, 21-22

We have sinned like our ancestors; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When they were in Egypt, our ancestors had no regard for Your wondrous deeds.

They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped the molten image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot their Saviour God, Who had done great things in Egypt, wonderful works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.

Saturday, 12 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Kings 12 : 26-32 and 1 Kings 13 : 33-34

Jeroboam thought, “The kingdom could return to the house of David. Should this people go up to offer sacrifices in YHVH’s House in Jerusalem, their heart would turn again to their master, Rehoboam king of Judah. They would kill me and go back to him.”

And so the king sought advice and made two golden calves. Then he said to the people, “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, o Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” He put one of these in Bethel, the other in Dan. This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves.

Jeroboam also built temples on high places, appointing priests who were not from the Levites. Jeroboam also appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in imitation of the feast in Judah, and he himself offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel; and sacrificed to the calves that he had made. There he placed priests for the high places he had made.

After this, however, Jeroboam did not abstain from doing evil. Instead he made priests for the high places from among the people. He consecrated anyone who wanted to be a priest for the high places. And this became the sin of the family of Jeroboam for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the face of the earth.

Friday, 11 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in Lourdes, a small secluded area in the southern part of France. Mary in her apparition as Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to the young girl named Bernadette in a grotto where today the great Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes now stands, and that young girl eventually became known as St. Bernadette Soubirous.

At that time, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to the young girl Bernadette as a lady dressed in white with beads of rosary on her, girdled in blue and with flowers by her. That supernatural vision startled the young St. Bernadette at first, and scared her, but Our Lady reassured her and asked her to pray the rosary together. She made her appearance a few more times even as St. Bernadette’s parents and others were skeptical of what had happened. Some of them even thought that she had hallucinated, seen an evil spirit or simply was lying to cover up some misdeeds.

But St. Bernadette kept on visiting the grotto where she met the apparition of Our Lady despite the opposition from her parents and others, and Our Lady revealed to St. Bernadette a hidden spring of water which would soon became truly famous as the source of many miraculous healings, of which some of them were certified as truly miraculous in nature. Initially this was received with much skepticism both from the Church and from the secular authorities, which resulted in attempts to prevent further spread of the devotion.

It was then that Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette, revealing to her who she truly was, the Blessed Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception. This revelation brought a shock to a local priest who immediately believed in what St. Bernadette told him about the Marian apparition. That is because the illiterate St. Bernadette living in the secluded village that is where Lourdes was located could not have known about the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception which at that time was just recently declared by the Pope in Rome, and at that time, it would have taken a long time for the message to be propagated throughout the Christendom.

It was therefore the beginning of the growth in the popularity and the attraction of the Shrine at Lourdes, which grew to became an international phenomenon drawing millions annually as many people who are sick sought to seek healing and recovery through the miraculous occasions and reassurances from the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Lourdes. The Church also designated today, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes as the World Day of the Sick as a reminder that there are many people who are suffering from physical and even mental maladies and sickness all around the world.

Today, as we celebrate this Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes let us all therefore remind ourselves to put our trust in the Lord, He Who has sent to us His blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes to be our intercessor and to help guide us to His loving embrace. The miraculous healings were not due to superstitions and the quality of the waters of the grotto of Lourdes, but rather, it was the faith that the sick had in the Lord which brought them to healing and the miraculous things that happened there, just as at the time of the Lord, He healed the sick and how if we remember a woman with haemorrhage problem was healed by her faith in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are also reminded that we are all people who are sick and are in need of God’s help. I know many of us may wonder what we are sick from since we are in such good health. We may indeed be perfectly healthy in the body but we are all suffering from the sickness due to our sins. Yes, all of us are sinners and sin is the sickness that is actually eating us from within, corrupting us and affecting us adversely by its corrupting nature. Through sin we have been made sick in our spirit and soul, and the only healing we can get is through God and His loving mercy.

Therefore today all of us are reminded of how sinful we are and regardless how big or small, or how significant those sins may be, all of us are in need of healing from God, as unlike any other physical ailments and maladies, God alone can heal us from our sins. It is through Him alone that we can be freed from the clutches and tyranny of sin and evil. The Lord offered us His healing and forgiveness freely, and He gave us all His mother to care for us and to help guide us in our journey towards Him, so that by the intercession and guidance of Our Lady of Lourdes we may come to be fully healed body and soul.

Let us therefore ask Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes to intercede for us sinners, who are sickened by sin, and who are suffering the consequences of our infidelity and weakness. Let us ask her to pray for us and guide us in our path to seek the healing from the hands of her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. May God also look kindly upon us and show us His mercy, love and compassion, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 11 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Mark 7 : 31-37

At that time, again Jesus set out : from the country of Tyre He passed through Sidon and, skirting the sea of Galilee, He came to the territory of Decapolis. There, a deaf man, who also had difficulty in speaking, was brought to Him. They asked Jesus to lay His hand upon him.

Jesus took him apart from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, He said with a deep sigh, “Ephphata!” that is, “Be opened!”

And immediately, his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it; but the more He insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said, “He has done all things well; He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

John 2 : 1-11

At that time, three days after Jesus called Nathanael, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” However His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.

Friday, 11 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Psalm 80 : 10-11ab, 12-13, 14-15

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I, YHVH, am your God.

But My people did not listen; Israel did not obey. So I gave them over to their stubbornness and they followed their own counsels.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways, I would quickly subdue their adversaries and turn My hand against their enemies.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Judith 13 : 18bcde, 19

My daughter, may the Most High God bless you more than all women on earth. And blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has led you to behead the leader of our enemies.

Never will people forget the confidence you have shown; they will always remember the power of God.

Friday, 11 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)

1 Kings 11 : 29-32 and 1 Kings 12 : 19

Once, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh found him on the road. The two of them were alone in the open country when Ahijah, who had a new garment on, clutched and tore it into twelve pieces.

He then said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself for this is the word of YHVH, the God of Israel : ‘I am about to tear the kingdom from Solomon’s hands to give you ten tribes. Only one tribe shall be left to him for the sake of My servant David and Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’”

So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to the present time.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Isaiah 66 : 10-14c

Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.

For this is what YHVH says : I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be vigilant in our lives and to keep strongly to the faith that we have in the Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him and believing in His providence. We have to be careful and do not easily allow sin to creep into our hearts and minds, corrupting us and our conscience and thoughts, our actions and efforts. In order to do so, we must have strong faith in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the account of the unfortunate downfall of King Solomon of Israel who allowed his many wives to distract and mislead him into sinful ways, as they established pagan worship and placed idols in many parts of the kingdom, which led the people into the worship of those false idols and they ended up falling deeper and deeper into sin as their descendants later did.

King Solomon did not remain faithful to God unlike his father David, who remained faithful throughout his life to the very end. Solomon was very wise and rich, powerful and mighty, and while we do not know exactly what led him to his choice of actions, but it might have to do with him trying to secure his power, reign and rule through worldly means, just as he married many wives from different states and neighbouring countries likely with the aim to gain diplomatic recognition and building relationships with those countries, gaining trade agreements and making arrangements to enrich themselves more.

However, the negative impact of such an arrangement and effort is that likely that would have required accommodation and changes in religious policy, including the toleration and even promotion of the pagan faith and worship as done by King Solomon and his wives. And that led him and the kingdom down the slippery slope towards sin. The Lord certainly did send reminders to Solomon through his prophets and messengers, but it was likely that these reminders fell on based on circumstances and the information we have in the Scriptures, he might have been tempted by the power and glory he had, to lose sight of what truly mattered.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord and His interaction with a Syro-Phoenician woman, a woman who came from the region of Phoenicia north of the traditional lands of the Israelites. As such, according to the Jewish viewpoint and customs at the time, she was considered as part of the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people. The Jews always took great pride of their descent from the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, and the name Jew itself came from the word Judah, representing all those who have descended from the people of Judah, who remained faithful to the House of David and to God, at least for part of their history.

Therefore, as we heard the Lord speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman, we may indeed be surprised to hear the tone and the harshness in the words He had chosen to use against the Syro-Phoenician woman. We may have thought that the Lord had reacted so uncharacteristically in His words and replies against the woman. However, if we try to understand the context of what happened back then and the societal aspects of the interaction, then we will quickly realise that the Lord in fact intended the exact opposite of what He had spoken to the woman.

Through what He had said to the woman, the Lord wanted to highlight to all of us the folly and the ugly nature of the sentiments and the opinions then prevailing among the Jews regarding their superiority and the exclusivity of their status as God’s chosen people, especially as interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, to the exclusion of others, even among the Jews themselves who were deemed to be less than worthy, and even less so the Gentiles, like that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who as a non-Jew and as a woman must have been viewed very much less favourably.

And yet, despite all of that, the Syro-Phoenician woman held on to the faith she had in the Lord and kept firm in asking Him to heal her sick daughter, and she remained resolute in believing in Him despite all the harsh words and replies that she had gotten from the Lord. This proved that her faith in God was truly genuine and no amount of hardships and challenges were going to change that. The Lord knew it all already without Him even needing to ask her, as is He not an Almighty and all-knowing God? But yet, He still asked it from her, as He wanted her to proclaim the truth about her faith to all, to the shame of all those who claimed to be more faithful and yet, refused to believe in God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our readings today, we are reminded that we need to have that strong and genuine faith in God, and we have to resist the temptations of our personal desire and ambitions, the temptations of wealth and worldly pleasures that can easily mislead and misguide us in our journey of life. We have to heed the example of how King Solomon, the wise and great king of Israel had fallen into sin and disobedience against God because he failed to heed these, and resulted in great trouble and anguish for the people of God later on.

Today, we should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Scholastica, who was renowned for being the fraternal twin of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and famous saint, and who herself helped to establish a community of religious and monastic sisters much as her brother was one of the pioneers of religious and monastic brothers and monks in Western Christendom at the time. St. Scholastica became one of the pioneers of female religious life in the Church.

And not only just that, as St. Scholastica was also exemplary in her faith as well, in the virtuous life she lived in, and in all that she had done in contributing to the good of her religious community and to the wider Christian community, of all the faithful people of God. She and her fellow religious sisters were also involved in charitable works and education among other things, and their commitment to the service of God should become our great inspirations, as role model for us to follow in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to glorify God by our own lives and let us do whatever we can to serve Him through our actions and deeds, our words and interactions throughout our lives, even in the smallest things we do. Let our lives and faith be like that of St. Scholastica and like the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman, distancing ourselves from sin and being vigilant against worldly temptations just as the example of King Solomon and his downfall ought to have taught us. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen our resolve and commitment to live faithfully in His presence, always and at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 10 February 2022 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus went to the border of the Tyrian country. There, He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there; but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet.

Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies.”

But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.