Saturday, 15 February 2020 : 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, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that we have to learn to trust in God and in His providence, and not to give in to fear and uncertainty, or else we may end up taking the wrong actions and walking down the wrong path, ending up with sin against God. In our first reading today, this was exemplified by the story of the king of Israel, Jeroboam, while in our Gospel we heard of the account of the miraculous feeding of the four thousand.

In the first reading, king Jeroboam, who was chosen by God to lead the ten tribes of the Israelites in opposition to king Rehoboam of Judah, began to take things into his own hands and disobey God. He feared that the people of Israel, who at that time according to the Law still had to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God, would then be touched and made to return their allegiance and love to the house of David instead of to Jeroboam.

As such, Jeroboam took drastic actions in making for his own kingdom two sites where golden idols were built and put as the focus of worship, and he appointed priests of his own, not in accordance to the Law which stipulated that the priests could only come from the descendants of Aaron and the Levites. And Jeroboam himself offered the sacrifice on the heathen altar he has built for the purpose of the worship of those golden idols.

Through this action, king Jeroboam led the people to sin against God, and the root of his folly was because of his fear and pride, that allowed him to be tempted by Satan to establish a rival worship centre, that did not even worship God but golden idols instead, a mockery of God and a reminder of how the Israelites first sinned at Mount Sinai when they worshipped the golden calf instead of God.

We see here what can happen when we allow ourselves to be swayed by fear and pride, as king Jeroboam was afraid that he would soon lose control over his kingdom and his people would betray him to the rightful kings in Judah, if he allowed them to continue the rightful and legitimate worship of God in Jerusalem. He was likely also too proud to admit that he had to depend or trust in God, and therefore, took matter to his own hands.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it was this same fear and uncertainty that the disciples of the Lord also faced when they saw the multitudes of people gathered to hear their Lord and Master, as described in our Gospel reading today. The Lord wanted them to have food because many of them had been following Him for days and there were not much food in the area, and neither did those people bring sufficient food with them for sustenance.

The disciples were worried and concerned, fearing that they would not be able to get enough food for the people. In another occasion, the disciples estimated that it would have cost quite a lot of money to get sufficient food to feed all the whole multitudes of people. But the Lord Jesus then showed all of them that they really do not need to be afraid or be fearful, but rather, they must learn to trust in God.

That was when the Lord performed the amazing miracle, breaking merely seven loaves of bread, and yet, the whole multitude of four thousand men and many more women and children were fed until they were all full and satisfied, with plenty of leftovers to spare. He showed all of us that as long as we have faith in Him and trust in Him, He will provide what we truly need, and we have to learn to trust in Him and not in our own often flawed human instincts and judgements.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s readings from the Scripture, let us all reflect on our own lives and discern how we can be more faithful from now on. Let us all deepen our faith and build a stronger and better relationship with our God from now on. And may the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us in our many efforts and works, giving us the strength and courage to be ever faithful in all things in life. Amen.

Saturday, 15 February 2020 : 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, 15 February 2020 : 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, 15 February 2020 : 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, 14 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the continuation of the story from the Book of Kings on the kingdom of Israel after the time of king Solomon. At that time, after king Solomon has passed away, the kingdom passed to his heir Rehoboam, who followed in the sins of his father’s last years of reign and disregarded God’s will and wisdom, reigning tyrannically and ended up causing the division of Israel as God had foretold His people.

Jeroboam was given the command and kingship over the northern portion of the kingdom of Israel, consisting of the ten tribes of the Israelites who went up in rebellion against king Rehoboam and the house of David. This division happened because of the disobedience that Solomon and then his son Rehoboam had shown before God. And unfortunately, Jeroboam himself also fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord, and as a result, his family’s rule too eventually did not last, and other kings took over the throne of the northern kingdom.

All of these accounts of the downfall of the glorious days of the ancient united kingdom of Israel highlighted to us how in God we can have reassurance and true happiness, while away from Him there can only be division, misery and darkness. Many of the kings of Israel and Judah were unfaithful to God and led the people further and further into sin, embroiling them into bitter conflicts and wars that eventually led to the downfall and conquest of both kingdoms by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively.

Then we have our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute, by touching His ears and tongue, saying the word, ‘Ephphata!’ that means ‘Be opened!’ which caused the man to be immediately healed from his afflictions and was able to speak and hear again. Through the Lord’s hands and power, the man was cured and made whole again, and everyone who saw the miracle believed in Jesus.

And this is the fulfilment of the prophecy which the Lord gave to His people through His prophets, that His salvation would come to them through His Messiah, the Saviour Whom He promised to them all. And Our Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Saviour, Who came bearing God’s truth and His salvation, touching those who were sick and troubled, and calling many to repent from their sins and to turn towards righteousness in God.

The essence of our Scripture passages today is therefore a reminder that while we may have fallen into sin and become afflicted, struck with divisions and troubles because of those sins and disobedience, but God is the One Who is able and indeed the only One Who can truly heal us from our afflictions and deliver us from our troubles and issues. And what we must all realise is just how much God loves each and every one of us, and how He wants us to be reconciled to Him.

And that is why He gave us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Redeemer, to loosen the tongues of those who are mute, open the ears of the deaf, make the blind see, allow those who are paralysed to move and work again, and even raise the dead back into life. Through Him, we mankind are restored and made whole, to be reconciled with God the Father, through His singular act of supreme and ultimate love, that is His sacrifice on the Cross.

But do we appreciate what God has done for us? More often than not we ignore His love and generous offer for forgiveness and mercy. We turn a blind eye and brush aside His compassionate care for us. We prefer to carry on living in sin, and allow ourselves to be tempted again and again by the devil rather than to walk in His path, just as how the people of Israel and Judah once lived, rebelling constantly against God, eventually leading to their own downfall and exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we need to embrace a new way of life, that is the way of Christ. Let us all now take a look at the lives and inspiring examples of two saints who have been made the Patron Saints of Europe for their wonderful many contributions to evangelisation and the conversion of many souls. They are St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who were two brothers highly credited with bringing the Christian faith to the Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe and for codifying the Cyrilic alphabets, named after St. Cyril himself, now widely used in that region.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius were born in Greece and later on were sent on missions to different areas and territories across Eastern Europe and Western Asia, spreading the Christian faith and conducting diplomacy with the foreign powers in the regions they visited. They were then sent to the Slavic areas upon invitation from one of the kings who requested missionaries to evangelise the people who were mostly still pagan then.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius dedicated themselves to the mission they have been entrusted with, and did even more than what they have been called to do, in helping not just the conversion of the people but even as mentioned, the ordering of the Slavic alphabets and language, as well as codification of laws and customs modelled on the laws of the Roman Empire and the laws of the Church at that time. They truly showed what it means for us to be Christians, in serving God with all of their heart and might.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Cyril and St. Methodius? Are we willing to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote our lives from now on with greater love and fidelity to God? Let us all seek to be ever more faithful, each and every days of our lives, making good use of all the opportunities that God has given us in this world. May God be with us always and may He bless us with faith and strength to live our lives according to His will, and heal us from our afflictions. Amen.

Friday, 14 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Friday, 14 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.