Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us as Christians we are all reminded to be ever more righteous and committed to the path which the Lord has shown and taught us all, and each one of us are called to embody what the Lord taught His disciples and hence all of us, as He laid out for us in the Eight Beatitudes that we heard in our Gospel passage today. Each one of us as Christians are expected to be exemplary in our lives and we are all reminded that our actions and way of life do affect others and can either be an inspiration to one another to follow or can instead be a source of scandal for the Lord and His Church.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the about the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah, a prophet who lived and ministered during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of that kingdom and in the last decades of Judah as an independent entity. Zephaniah called on the people of the Lord to be meek, humble and just, as well as to seek refuge in the Lord so that on the Day of Judgment, they may truly find rest and consolation in God, their Hope and their Strength. Zephaniah spoke of these in the context of how the people of God in the past centuries before that time had often refused to obey the Lord and His words, and had acted proudly and with ambition, seeking worldly glory and satisfaction, all of which led them down the path of sin.

And due to their sins, they had been sundered from God’s grace and love, and suffered the consequences of their sins. They had been defeated, crushed and conquered by their enemies, their cities and towns destroyed and burnt, their houses and dwelling places turned upside down and occupied by the others brought in to dwell in their lands. Many of the people of God themselves were also brought into exile as what happened when the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of the people of God, were destroyed by the Assyrians, and many of its people were brought away to distant lands by the victorious Assyrians. This happened just a few decades before the time of the prophet Zephaniah and his ministry.

Hence, what Zephaniah delivered before the people is a reminder to the people that each one of them ought to return once again to the path that God has shown them, to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide and lead them down the right path instead of insisting on walking down the path of rebelliousness, pride, greed and ambition that many of their ancestors had taken. Zephaniah assured them of the Lord’s guidance and that if they remained faithful in God, then the Lord would provide for them and that they would be preserved and protected. They would once again be God’s people and they would be restored once again to their honourable state and position. Unfortunately, the people of God lapsed again into sinful ways after King Josiah passed on, rebelling against God and hardening their hearts against Him, eventually leading to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, much like how the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel earlier on.

In our second reading passage today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth, in which he told them how God chose the seemingly weak and unimportant people to receive His grace and salvation, and how God will strengthen and give His grace, wisdom and strength to the weak and the humble, all so that they can indeed gain glory through the Lord, and be saved, as opposed to the proud and the haughty, all those who trusted in their own power and greatness more than they trust in the Lord and His providence. The Apostle hence reminded the people of God not to follow the path of worldliness, greed, pride and ambition, which the world advocates, but to follow the Lord and the path He has shown us all and taught to us.

That brings us now to the Eight Beatitudes itself, which the Lord pointed out in His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as detailed in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes highlighted to us some of the great virtues that all of us as God’s faithful and righteous people ought to have in our lives. Unless we live our lives according to the Beatitudes, we cannot truly call ourselves as true and genuine Christians, as if we profess to have faith in God and yet, our actions are otherwise, and in opposition to what He has presented in the Beatitudes, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. Through His presentation of the Beatitudes, the Lord is exhorting and reminding us all to model our lives based on the Beatitudes, to be good and righteous just as He is good and righteous.

As we heard from the Beatitudes, the virtues of being a Christian is essentially to be able to put God as the focus and centre of our lives and existence, and removing from ourselves the taint of pride and ego, to put the need of others and our fellow brothers and sisters around us ahead of our own selfish desires, ambition and greed. A good Christian and a good follower of the Lord is someone who seeks the Lord with all of his or her heart and strength, who loves Him and who desires to obey Him and His will, and who wants to walk with Him in the path of righteousness, justice and peace. That is what is meant by being poor in spirit, as it refers to our internal desire to let God come into our lives and transform us to be His righteous and good servants, realising the limitations of our own human power and ability.

And allowing God to lead us, all of us ought then to seek for a good and holy life, one that is filled with the same love that God has for each one of us, in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, in seeking peace and harmony between all the peoples, and in doing what is right and just in every opportunities available to us, and in enduring the persecutions, challenges and trials that may come our way in the midst of our journey as Christians wandering through this world filled with sin, evil and darkness. We should be good examples and role models for one another, living our lives faithfully and commit ourselves each day with faith, so that all others who witness our actions and hear our words, see our way of life, may all come to believe in God and know Him as well through us.

The Lord Himself has said and reassured us that if we live in the way that He has taught and shown us, in the way of the Beatitudes, then we truly will be blessed and be filled with His grace, and on the Day of Judgment, mercy and love shall be shown us, as the gates of Heaven and eternal life will surely be opened to us. However, if we continue to persist in our state of sin, in our disobedience and rebellion against God, then we will end up falling deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation and destruction, as what had happened to many among our predecessors. And if we recall what we have just discussed earlier on, all these were caused by their failure to adhere to the values and virtues espoused in the Beatitudes. As good Christians, we truly need to live our lives according to the Beatitudes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best (if we have not done so yet) to live our lives according to the Beatitudes. Let us all be that examples of virtue and love, of righteousness and justice in our daily actions and living, so that by our faith and dedication to God, we may continue to inspire one another in living our Christian lives faithfully, and we may also remain humble and committed to the Lord, and not be easily swayed by the many worldly temptations all around us, which can indeed mislead us down the wrong path in life. Let us all resist those many temptations and attachments we may have to worldly vices and evils, and get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly matters and desires, so that we may indeed grow ever closer to the Lord and be ever more worthy of Him and His grace and salvation.

May God be with us all and may He empower all of us with the strength and courage, the virtues and the goodness in us so that we may truly walk in the path of His Beatitudes, ever reminding ourselves to be good and righteous in all things and at all opportunities available to us. May He show us His love always and may all of us continue to live worthily in His Presence, loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may all inspire one another to get ever closer to the Lord, our Saviour and loving Father. May God bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all of our actions and dealings, interactions and more. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become our wisdom from God, and Who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Zephaniah 2 : 3 and Zephaniah 3 : 12-13

Seek YHVH, all you poor of the land who fulfil His commands, do justice and be meek, and perhaps you will find refuge on the day YHVH comes to judge.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : 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, this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God which was instituted a few years ago by Pope Francis, our Supreme Pontiff with the purpose of rediscovering our love and zeal for the Lord through the deepening of our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. It is important that we have to spend some time and effort to get to know more about the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and hence, that is why this Sunday in particular, let us all delve into what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and focus our attention on the truth that the Lord Himself has brought into our midst.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the prophecy speaking of the coming of the Messiah, of the coming of the Light of salvation that dispels the darkness surrounding the region of Naphtali and Zebulun, which by the time of the Lord Jesus was known as the region of Galilee. It was in Galilee that the Lord’s family originated from, as St. Joseph and Mary stayed in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, although St. Joseph at least initially hailed from the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council later on said that no prophet were to be expected to come from the region and hence, Jesus must have been a false prophet and Messiah.

Yet, if only they had read the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies more carefully, just as we have heard ourselves in our first reading today, then they would have realised that the Saviour of the world would indeed come through the region of the north, the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun, the land of Galilee, where the Lord indeed stayed during the early years of His life, and also where He began His ministry after His Baptism at the Jordan. Contextually it is also significant to take note that back then, at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, as part of the northern kingdom of Israel, had become a foreign land, after the destruction of that kingdom by the Assyrians, as its people had been brought off into exile in far away lands, and foreigners were brought in to dwell in those lands.

By the time of the Lord Jesus, a few centuries after the time of the prophet Isaiah, the lands mentioned was known as Galilee, and that region was also still in the peripheries of the communities of the people of God, which was mainly centred in Jerusalem and Judea back then. That the Lord decided to come to those regions was also highly symbolic and meaningful, as it represents the Lord’s desire to gather back all of His scattered people, and to restore the honour of the people of God, and at the same time also calling upon the people from distant lands and from the pagan nations to embrace the truth and love of God. It means that God’s salvation was not only meant for the Jewish people only, but to all the children of mankind, to all the peoples of all races and origins, just as God has always intended.

And as we heard the Gospel passage today, again that same prophecy from the prophet Isaiah was repeated, proclaiming the coming of God’s salvation as made true and real by the actions that the Lord carried out in Galilee, as He called His first disciples and gathered them all, choosing the Twelve among them to be His Apostles, while also performing many miracles and wonders, healing many of the sick who came to Him and were brought to Him. He went from places to places, healing the sick, casting out demons, making those who were blind to be able to see again, and opening the ears and loosening the tongues of the mute, fulfilling the many other prophecies that Isaiah and the other prophets had been proclaiming about the Messiah.

And all of these had been proclaimed to us as well, the truth that God has shown us and delivered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Through His Church, the Lord has revealed and taught to us His ways, and showed us the proof of His salvation. Like the Apostles we have received the same truth and Good News, and it was through them and their successors that we have received this truth, passed down successively down the generations through the Church of God. Without the hard work and efforts of the Apostles, the other disciples and their successors throughout the history of the Church, there would have not been any of these things happening. We would have remained ignorant of the truth of God, and separated from His salvation and grace.

This reminds us today as we commemorate this Sunday of the Word of God that each and every one of us have been called by God to our various ministries and callings in life, depending on the various gifts, talents and abilities that He had given us. All of us have been called to embrace the Lord’s calling of not only just knowing and appreciating the Word of God more in our lives, but also in proclaiming the Word of God and the truth of God in the midst of our respective various communities, in our schools and workplaces, amidst our families, relatives and circles of friends and acquaintances, and even to strangers whom we encounter daily in our respective lives. And we cannot be effective and faithful servants of the Lord and His Word, unless we have good knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, it is important that we commit some time to spend each day and each and every available moments to us, to read the Sacred Scriptures and deepen our knowledge and understanding of it. However, it is important that we also have to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Church as well because if we read the Scriptures and interpret it based on our own understanding and comprehension, then as history had shown us, it can lead us into the path of error, as the many heresies and the false paths had done, and also those who believe that the Scriptures alone hold the sole authority of God’s truth, or ‘sola Scriptura’. Instead, the teachings of the Church, its Magisterium is important in ensuring that our understanding and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures remain rooted in Christ and His truth.

That is why, first of all we need to spend more time in reading the Scriptures, as if we do not even know the words contained within it, how can we even begin to discern if something we heard from elsewhere or others are true or false? Especially during this time of rapid information exchange and greater availability of informations from all sources, it is very easy for us to be swayed into falsehoods, just as misinformations and fake news had been making rounds all around the world in the past few years and decade. That is why, after we have spent the time to read more of the Scriptures, we also have to deepen our understanding of the Scriptures through knowing more of the teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as through careful listening and reflection of the words of the bishops and priests who are our teachers and guides, in guiding us together within the Church into the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is also important that we also help one another to stay in the path of truth, by sharing with one another whatever insight and understanding we have of the Scriptures, rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Church and the Apostles. Let us all be zealous and committed evangelisers and missionaries, in our daily living, in our every moments. Let us do our very best to be exemplary in faith and to be inspiration to each other in our faith and in our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us as well, so that hopefully we may lead more others to the path of God’s salvation and grace. May God bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 4 : 12-23

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 4 : 12-17

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 10-13, 17

I beg of you, brothers, in the Name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, to agree among yourselves and do away with divisions; please be perfectly united, with one mind and one judgment.

For I heard from people of Cloe’s house about your rivalries. What I mean is this : “I am for Paul,” and others, “I am for Apollo,” or “I am for Peter,” or “I am for Christ.” Is Christ divided or have I, Paul, been crucified for you? Have you been baptised in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to proclaim His Gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 8 : 23b – Isaiah 9 : 3

YHVH has just afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the future He will confer glory on the way of the sea, on the land beyond the Jordan – the pagan’s Galilee.

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death. You have enlarged the nation; You have increased their joy. They rejoice before You, as people rejoice at harvest time as they rejoice in dividing the spoil.

For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, You have broken it as on the day of Midian.