Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 14-20

At that time, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”

As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once, they abandoned their nets and followed Him. Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 7 : 29-31

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is running out, and those who are married must live as if not married; those who weep as if not weeping; those who are happy as if they were not happy; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o YHVH; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o YHVH, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, YHVH teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jonah 3 : 1-5, 10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th 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 we heard how God brought out His people out of Egypt, after four hundred and thirty years of slavery. This showed the eminent love and goodness of God who did not forget the suffering of His people, and who did not turn a deaf ear against the pleas of His faithful ones. He is always listening to us, and His heart is forever always turned to us, waiting for us to receive His love and then return to Him the same love.

In the Gospel we heard how Jesus went from place to place, from towns to towns and from villages to villages, bearing healing, goodness and mercy. Through the works of His hands, He rejuvenated a people who had once been overwhelmed by darkness, evil, malice, greed, and all things that had brought about injury and disease to them, the disease and affliction of the soul.

He laid their hands of them, curing them all from the sickness of the flesh, awakening the sick and even raising some of them from death. These great occasions and evidences all led to the very fact that our Lord is a loving and caring God, who is always concerned about our well-being, whose ears and hearts are always directed at us, at all times.

But now then, we have to ask ourselves. What have done then, in order to repay the love which our Lord had shown us? What kind of love have we shown Him, for all of the goodness He had showered us with? Unfortunately, most of the time, what we have shown Him is indeed indifference, lack of love, ignorance, stubbornness, and refusal to acknowledge the love He has shown us. We went and sought other gods and idols, seeking pleasures and goodness through venues other than through the Lord.

God has given us so much good things, and yet we respond to Him with bitter scourges and vitriolic replies, and we rejected His grace right in front of Him many, many times. He has blessed us with so many things, and yet we took them for granted and did not thank Him when we should. This is the fact of what is happening to us today, and truly in many aspects we have not learnt from the example of our predecessors, those who went before us.

The Israelites were indeed brought out of Egypt as we all knew, but certainly we should also be aware of how they constantly rebelled against the Lord during their journey in the desert. Although God has given them much food and water to drink, they still complained of how good their lives were in Egypt, even though they were enslaved and oppressed. Truly, they had no gratitude for what the Lord had done for them.

And the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the elders of Israel rejected Jesus and His teachings, constantly hounded Him and His disciples at every possible opportunities to find fault in them and therefore to accuse them of any wrongdoing. They failed to see how the Lord had done so much for them, for the people of God, by all the miracles He had done publicly for all of them to see, and yet they still refused to believe.

Is this what we want to be, brothers and sisters in Christ? To be a people whose stubbornness and indignant behaviour made them to commit great sins before God? Or should we instead recognise first how feeble and vulnerable we are to the mercy of the forces of this world arrayed against us, and yet God is raising His hand at all times to protect us from all of them? Do we realise how much God had done for us in His own way, even when we do not realise it?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all reflect and pray, and pray so that we all may find the grace to love the Lord ever more as the time goes by, and the grace that we may see how much He has blessed us, and the humility to be able to thank Him for all the things He had done for us. Let us all also from now on commit ourselves to love Him all the more and devote ourselves through our own actions and deeds rooted in His love. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. Then He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : ‘Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him and He will announce My judgment to the nations.’

‘He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick. He will persist until justice is made victorious, and in Him all the nations will put their hope.’

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

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

Psalm 135 : 1, 23, 24, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

He remembered us in our humiliation, His kindness endures forever.

And He freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

He slew the firstborn of Egypt, His kindness endures forever.

And He brought Israel out, His kindness endures forever.

With strong hand and outstretched arm, His kindness endures forever.

He split the Sea of Reeds, His kindness endures forever.

And He made Israel pass through it, His kindness endures forever.

Drowning Pharaoh and his army, His kindness endures forever.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

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

Exodus 12 : 37-42

The Israelites left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand of them on the march, counting the men only, and not the children. A great number of other people of all descriptions went with them, as well as sheep and cattle in droves.

With the dough they had brought with them from Egypt, they made cakes of unleavened bread. It had not risen, for when they were driven from Egypt they could not delay and had not even provided themselves with food.

The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. It was the end of these four hundred and thirty years to the very day that the armies of YHVH left Egypt. This is the watch for YHVH who brought Israel out of Egypt. This night is for YHVH, and all the Israelites are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time.

Friday, 17 July 2015 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about Jesus who contended with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, on the matter of the observance of the Sabbath day and its laws. The teachers of the Law contended that the disciples of Jesus violated the Sabbath law by crushing grains of crop and eating them.

We have to understand first what the situation was all about. The Law of the Sabbath was one of the many laws and ordinances which God had given unto men, since the time of Moses His servant, beginning with the law that prescribed the celebration of the Passover, the first Passover when Israel was about to be liberated from slavery under the Egyptians. This is what we heard in our first reading today.

Ultimately, in order to understand what Jesus had reasoned with the Pharisees in today’s readings, we have to understand the purpose of such laws in the first place. Jesus showed that the Law is created not to subjugate men under blind obedience and new oppression, but rather to help men to liberate themselves instead from the oppression of sin and disobedience.

The first reading today taken from the Book of Exodus is about the details of the celebration of the first Passover which took place at the land of Egypt, when at that night which was different from any other previous nights, God Himself descended and with His might saved His own people by the blood of unblemished lambs, which marked the houses of the faithful.

The focus here should not be on how the occasion was celebrated, as with the law of the Sabbath, it is very easy for someone to follow the rituals and the celebrations while forgetting the true intent for such commemorations. The Law of the Sabbath is for God to remind His people, that just as He had loved them so much by liberating them from their oppressors and slavers, then they too should devote their time for Him, at least for one day.

But the application of this law had become screwed in the end, as something intended for the benefit of men, that they can find time to spend with the Lord their God, became in itself an oppression, for the elders and the leaders of the people failed to understand the significance of the Law, which is not for God to punish or oppress men but truly to love them even more.

God knows how lawless we can be, and how disobedient we can be. He knows the extent of our rebelliousness ever since the day when we mankind first committed sin before Him, and yet, in His tender mercy and great love for us all, He still endeavoured to give chance after chances, and opportunity after opportunities. It was because of His great love that He had rescued us time and again from ourselves, from our sins and wickedness, from our selfishness and evils.

And continuing from the first reading today, where we talked about the Passover, the very first Passover when God passed over His people marked with the blood of the unblemished lambs so that all those marked were not to suffer death unlike the Egyptians, then do we all realise that God had given us an even greater Passover, a new Covenant which He had established with us?

This new Passover, the new Covenant is the covenant with the Blood of the one True Lamb, the Lamb of God, who became the Paschal sacrifice. Instead of the blood of the mortal lambs, God had given Himself to be the Lamb for the slaughter, so that by the outpouring of His Blood on us, we who share in this Sacred Blood may share the salvation and life which He had given all who are faithful to Him.

The Blood of the Lamb of God is the mark of the new Covenant, which all of us believers and faithful ones have received through the Church. We all share in the Body and Blood, the Most Holy and Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was indeed the love of God that made all these possible. Without God’s love, then there would have been no hope for us all.

Therefore, on this day, as we reflect on the Scripture passages, let us all keep in mind, the fact that God loves us, and He does not give us something too heavy a burden for us to endure. What He wants from us is just simply our love and our obedience, and nothing more. For He who have loved us so much and given us so much, is truly worthy of being loved.

May Almighty God be with us and guide us on our path, so that in all the things we do, we may avoid becoming blinded to the will of God, and following our faith to God emptily without meaning and reason. We must go forth and understand our faith more so that we may truly serve our Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength.

Let our minds and hearts be filled with genuine love for our Lord and whenever we do something let us do it because we love the Lord, and not because we think that we are just following a law and commandment, for the sake of doing it, which is meaningless and empty. May God bless us in this endeavour, and remain with us always, our loving God who gave us life and freed us from the darkness of our sins. Amen.