Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are reminded of the Lord Who has given us His wisdom and His words of truth, as He revealed through His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into this world bearing the revelation of the divine truth, and then later on, by the sending of the Holy Spirit into this world, to be with the Apostles and the disciples, and therefore, to be with His Church.

God’s wisdom and truth are indeed so wonderful, that He has desired to give us this wisdom and truth, because of the great love which He has for each and every one of us. Through His wisdom and truth, God revealed to us what it is that He desires from each one of us, and how we should live our lives, in accordance with His will, and with the way that He has shown us. And that is what He presented before us through our Gospel passage today.

In that Gospel passage, we heard of a young, rich man, who came to the Lord Jesus, with the desire to gain eternal life. The Lord then told the young man first, whether he has obeyed and fulfilled the commandments of the Law as revealed through Moses. The young man replied that he has fulfilled the many commandments and kept them closely throughout his life, having been an obedient member of the Jewish community.

But then, the Lord asked him to do something that he could not bear doing, that is, to sell away all of his riches and to give them all to the poor, leaving everything behind and follow Him as His disciple. The young man immediately went away in sorrow, not being able to do what the Lord had asked of him, because he had great amount of wealth with him. It is likely that he could not bear to be separated from all those worldly achievements that he had gained and possessed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the significance of what we have just heard in the Scripture passages, particularly that of the Gospel? First of all, we must not interpret the meaning of the Scripture literally, thinking that we should equate following the Lord with the total abandonment and selling of all of our worldly possessions and goods, for this is called interpreting God’s words without understanding the context.

Yes, indeed, there are those among us who are called to do so as part of their vocation, as religious nuns and monks, who left behind everything to live a life of total commitment to God, but that does not mean for the rest of us, we should just follow what we heard to the letter without understanding its meaning. Instead, we are called to listen to the word of God, speaking in the depth of our hearts and minds, and discern carefully on what it is that He wants us to do in our lives.

The issue which the Lord brought up in our Gospel occasion today, is that we mankind, even though we may be able to fulfil our obligations and our duties in our faith in God, but we can precisely do such efforts even without truly appreciating the true purpose and intention of why we do what we are doing, as part of our faith. The young and rich man fulfilled all the obligations of the Law, but in truth, he was not able to dedicate himself fully to the Lord, as shown when he was called by the Lord to dedicate himself fully to Him.

He was not able to commit, and left in sorrow because ultimately, he loved his riches and goods more than that of the Lord, and given the choice between those things and God, ultimately, God was secondary in importance to him. Then, if we carefully scrutinise what the young man said, he asked the Lord Jesus, “Good Master, what must I do in order to gain eternal life?”, in this question lies a desire from the man to want something for his own satisfaction.

What do I mean by this? The man asked Jesus in that manner, out of desire to gain for himself eternal life, and probably not because he truly loves God. This is a reality that exists even within our Church, where there are many among us faithful who have our faith and practice things within our faith, the various devotions, prayers and actions, because we want something for ourselves, be it for personal glory and fame, or for personal salvation and benefit.

It is not wrong that we want to be saved, for indeed, if we want to be saved, then we must seek it and desire it, otherwise, how will we then attain salvation if we ourselves do not want it in the first place? But we must not let that desire to supersede first and foremost, our love for God. Ultimately, we want to be saved and gain eternal life, not because we are afraid of hell or punishment from God, but rather, because we want to be together again with God and be reconciled with Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to rediscover this purpose of our faith and our lives. If we have been wayward all these while, failing to recognise these shortcomings of our lives, and if we have been disobedient and been unable to give our best in serving the Lord, putting Him in secondary and even worse places in our hearts and minds, then perhaps, we should really consider spending some time in prayer and in the quietness of our hearts, in order to find out what it is that we can do, in order to become closer to God.

The Lord reminds us through the same Gospel passage, that the path to enter the kingdom of heaven is narrow and difficult, but at the same time, also manageable and accessible, given that we put our trust not in the human wisdom, power and intellect, but instead, in the wisdom and the power of God. Many of us failed to make progress because we are not having the correct focus in life, and we are easily distracted, as we depend too much on our worldly possessions, power and other achievements, and we end up becoming too attached to all of them.

Let us look at these examples, brothers and sisters in Christ, beginning with those who think that just by doing what we are supposed to do for our faith, by coming to Mass every Sundays, and yet, we are not focused at all on the Lord and become easily distracted, because instead of focusing our attention on God, we cannot wait for the Mass to end so that we can go back to our various worldly commitments and activities.

And then, some of us profess to believe in God and followed all obligations of the Church, coming regularly for Mass and also become active part of various ministries in our parishes, but then, in how we behave towards one another, towards our fellow Christians, we scandalise our faith by our actions. Many of us brought slander and gossip into our interactions, even within the ministries and Church groups we are part of. We bicker and fight even over the smallest of matters and over trivial things.

That is exactly what happens when we allow our so called human wisdom, intellect, power and ability to take over and control us in what we say and do. The clashes and incompatibilities between our varying human desires and wants will end up tearing us apart and causing divisions among us. This is what we cannot and should not do with our lives. And as the example of the young and rich man in the Gospel passage today has shown us, we should strive to overcome our human desires and attachments to all sorts of temptations present in this world.

And this means that we must resist the temptation of worldly pleasures, power, prestige, honour, fame, glory, wealth and all sorts of things that can bring about unhealthy attachment and desire. It is not wrong for us to possess wealth or possessions, or to achieve something in our lives, but we cannot be overtaken and swallowed by our desires for those things.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the Lord has called us all, each and every one of us, to be His true disciples. And that means, each and every one of us should respond with a thorough and genuine conversion of heart, changing our attitudes in life, from one that is world-centric and self-centric into one that is centred on God alone. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed faith, and with a renewed zeal, from now on. May the Lord be our guide in our journey towards Him and His everlasting life. Amen.

Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 17-30

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.”

Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 10 : 17-27

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.”

Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 4 : 12-13

For the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces, to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart.

All creation is transparent to Him; everything is uncovered and laid bare, to the eyes of Him, to Whom we render account.

Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 89 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Make joy endure, as the misery did, and the years in which we were afflicted.

Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom 7 : 7-11

I prayed and understanding was given to me; I asked earnestly and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to sceptres and thrones and I considered wealth as nothing compared with her.

I preferred her to any jewel of inestimable value, since gold beside her is nothing but a few grains of sand, and silver but mud. I loved her more than wealth and beauty and even preferred her to light, because her radiance never dies.

She brought with her all other good things, untold riches in her hands.

Sunday, 7 October 2018 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings from the Scripture, we are reminded of the gift of blessings from God, in the form of holy matrimony, which God had decreed from the moment that He created us mankind, man and woman, to complement each other and to be united with one another in a holy union blessed by God. This union was mentioned in the first reading we have today, in the Book of Genesis.

The Lord created mankind first with a man, Adam, who was all alone among his race, while God created all creatures male and female, according to their natures. And that was why, God created a woman, Eve, who was taken from the man, in a very symbolic act of taking the bone and the flesh from Adam when he was in a deep sleep, and God made woman out of man. Regardless whether it was how God actually created us mankind, the truth and reality remains that God made us man and woman.

And the act of taking the bone and the flesh from Adam is in fact God’s reminder for us that we were created to be for one another, to share the love that God has given us, and to complement each other. And our relationship and union, in the sacred bond of matrimony, between a man and a woman, is in fact a reflection and imitation of God’s own perfect union of love, which is present in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Through the sacred bond of matrimony, God also blesses us with children, as His gifts of love for us, to be fruitful and bountiful just as He has commanded us man at the beginning of creation, and to multiply and to fill the earth with our kind. This was the foundation of families and the foundation of our human communities, and indeed, the foundation of our faith and our Church.

For all of us have been born into this world as a small, little baby, each one of us, growing up in a family, where God’s love was given to us through our fathers and our mothers. And it is in the family that all of us learn what it truly means to be human beings, to be those whom the Lord has given intellect, wisdom and the ability to survive in this world. Without our families, then our human society will eventually perish and be destroyed.

Similarly, the family is the foundation and the core part of our Church and faith, as it is through the family that the faith, which has been preserved by the Church, is imparted at the beginning to the small children, baptised and raised in good faith by their parents. If the children were not raised well by their parents, ultimately, not only that they will likely lose faith, but they will also grow to be people who are without love in their hearts, capable of committing all sorts of wickedness and atrocities.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality is such that, the foundation of our family and marriage life has always been shaken very badly right from the beginning of time. Throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, there had been cases when the people who have agreed to be joined in blessed union of matrimony, sought instead to break that bond for various reasons, that is divorce.

First of all, we must understand that the Church does allow for certain exceptional cases where the marriage was not consummated and with various other valid considerations and conditions where the Church decided that the couple can be granted an annulment. An annulment is different from the case of divorce, in that the marriage was considered to have never taken place at all in the eyes of God and the Church.

However, what the Lord Jesus was referring to, in our Gospel passage today, when the Pharisees looked for Him and tried to test Him on the matter of marriage and divorce, was that of validly contracted marriages and unions which were deliberately sought to be broken by the desires of man. And the Pharisees argued that they were allowed to divorce as according to the Law of Moses, as long as settlement has been made and documents have been signed and agreed on, the marriage can be dissolved easily.

But God made it very clear to the people, that the matter of marriage is in fact not just a formality, which can be easily overwritten and overridden by the statutes of human laws, customs and practices. Instead, as mentioned, the bond of marriage is a matter of divine law, a divine union blessed by none other than God, Who has decreed that a man and a woman are united in the same love that unites the Holy Trinity together, and what He has united, no man should divide.

This, in truth, is the foundation of our marriages and families, and why we should indeed put a lot of attention to them. The devil knows this as well, and that is why, he is always on the offensive, trying to strike at us, God’s children, in our marriage and family life, that by destroying this important unit and foundation of our Church and faith, he can lure more souls into the damnation in hell.

In many cases of divorce, it was caused by our human frailty and inability to resist the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh, as well as other desires. Many people fell into adultery because of their inability to resist the temptations of their flesh, which are constantly persuading them to turn away from the Lord’s path and into the path of debauchery and unfaithfulness. Many have not been faithful to their respective spouses, and this resulted in the breaking away of families.

And when we become divided, we end up losing our faith, and the children are also badly and negatively affected. The devil then has a great time trying to pull us into ever deeper trap of his temptations and false promises of pleasure, of glory, of material goods and other things that have become thorns in the body of our family and marriage. We find it hard to restrain the temptation to sexual pleasures, to materialism and many more things that made us to desire separation and ending of the sacred bond of matrimony.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the same time, we need to realise that there are just a lot of things that each one of us as Christians can contribute to help all those who are troubled in their family and marriage life. Even there may be those who are in our midst, and among those whom we know, that are currently suffering in their family and marriage. Are we then going to ignore them should they come to us seeking help, advice or assistance? Or are we going to lend them a listening ear and to extend our hands to help wherever possible?

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, on the seventh day of October every year. This feast was once also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, commemorated after the great victory of the Christian army and forces at the Battle of Lepanto against the enemies of Christ and His Church. At that time, the enemies of the Lord and His Church mustered a massive and overwhelmingly powerful forces, that threatened the very existence of Christendom, but through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, the Christian forces managed to obtain a decisive victory.

The significance of that event and this celebration then goes beyond just the historical importance of that victory to the survival of Christendom and the Christian faith as we know it. All of us must realise that we are in a constant battle, every single day and every single moments of our lives, against the devil and all of his evil forces seeking our downfall and damnation. He is the source of all of our troubles, including all the current forces and efforts aimed at the dismantling of our institution of sacred matrimony and the family.

That is why, at this moment, it is all the more important that we seek for necessary help in order to prevent us from falling into the temptations and into threat of eternal damnation. And the Lord has provided us a very good source of help, in His beloved mother, Mary, and through the rosary which she has introduced to us, through St. Dominic, and many other saints, through whom she revealed to us the rosary as a means by which we can come closer to God.

Why is that so? That is because the rosary is a series of prayers, which prominently involved the Hail Mary, a prayer invoking the prayers from Mary, the Blessed Mother of Our God, and also extolling the virtues of her life. Far from being a meaningless and repetitive prayer as many of its opponents and detractors often claimed, the rosary is a very effective weapon in our battle of life, against the forces of evil.

Many of us do not realise that we have often been lacking in our prayer life and in our spiritual development. And through the rosary, we are in fact reminded of the need to reorientate our lives to the Lord, by following the examples and the inspiration of Mary, the Mother of God, who is the perfect disciple and follower of God, in how she obeyed the Lord and put her trust in Him so completely, allowing God to do His wonderful works through her.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep the sanctity of both our married life and family life, by putting God at the centre of our lives, by devoting ourselves more to His mother, Mary, that in this month of October, month of the Holy Rosary, we should spend time to pray together, as a family, together between husband and wife, and the children, asking for the intercession of Mary, that she will continue to pray for our sake and ask her Son to help us in our battle against evil.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us sinners and help us that we may imitate your examples in faith, in your obedience and devotion to your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, 7 October 2018 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 2-16

At that time, some Pharisees came and put Jesus to the test with this question : “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?”

He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.” Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined.”

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked Him about this, and He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery.”

People were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 10 : 2-12

At that time, some Pharisees came and put Jesus to the test with this question : “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?”

He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.” Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined.”

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked Him about this, and He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery.”