Sunday, 25 June 2017 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard about the opposition which the people of God faced from the world, and from all those who were opposed to the faithful. We heard about how there are those who plotted against the servants of God, as we heard in our first reading today, the opposition against the prophet Jeremiah, who was opposed throughout his ministry in the kingdom of Judah.

Let me relate to you what actually happened at that time, so that we can have a greater understanding of how it was to be one who is faithful to the Lord, in case we did not have the experience. Jeremiah was called by God to become His mouthpiece among the people of the kingdom of Judah, which at the time was at the last years of its existence, all of the people were not following the way of the Lord and living in wickedness.

Thus, Jeremiah spoke up against the sins of the people and called them to repentance and to be forgiven for their sins through genuine turning away from their old ways of sin. Yet, the people resisted and refused to listen to him. They ridiculed him and even plotted against him and threatened his life. Jeremiah had to hide and run away from his enemies in many occasions.

It was indeed so much opposition and difficulties, that if we read throughout the whole book of the prophet Jeremiah, we will be able to see sometimes the frustrations which Jeremiah even highlighted to God, complaining about the persecutions and treatments he received just because he was speaking the truth to them, and calling them to repentance, which the people refused to do.

In the same manner, many other saints and disciples of the Lord had encountered the same issue as they had also spoke the truth of God and called on their brethren to turn away from their sins. But they remained true to the Lord, and obeyed Him, trusting in His providence, as the prophet Jeremiah also said in our first reading today. God was his strength and source of support, and through Him, he was able to do all that he had been commanded to do.

Through all these, all of us ought to learn how to place our trust in God, for if we only trust in ourselves, it is easy for us to lose our way to temptations and pressures, and we mankind have that tendency to be rebellious and to be disobedient, as a result of our failure to conform to the will of God, ever since our first ancestors, Adam and Eve sinned by their disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

St. Paul had mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome, that because of the sins of one man, all have sinned, referring to the original sin of Adam and Eve, which led all men and women to be corrupted by sin. St. Paul then mention how through the obedience of another Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, all have gained absolution and forgiveness for their sins.

Through the disobedience of one man, Adam, all of mankind have received death as a punishment for their sins. But through another Man, Jesus Christ, all have received a new hope of life, for those who believe in Christ have the assurance of life given to them, by He Who is the Master of life and death. Sin has the power to cause suffering and death, but it has no power over our soul. Sin can harm us in our body and mind, but our soul belongs to the Lord alone.

That is essentially what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in what we have as the Gospel today. He told them that we should not fear sin, or persecution or whatever it is that can harm us bodily or in our physical existence. Rather, we should fear the Lord Who will be the Judge over all of our actions and deeds, over all the sins we have committed which we have not confessed or regretted.

It comes then to the reality of our faith. As mentioned earlier, as those who follow the Lord and obey His ways, there will be opposition and challenges that we will face in our path. But should that deter us from following the Lord? Should we be intimidated by the opposition we are to face because we are the Lord’s people? Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we will be tempted to take the easier path, the path of wickedness and faithlessness, which will appear easier and more convenient for us.

But at the end of that path, lies only condemnation and destruction, as those who separate themselves from God and His love will have no part in Him. He will reject them just as He had rejected all those who have refused to listen to Him, and just as He punished the kingdom of Judah, for refusing to listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Those who follow the path of wickedness may seem to enjoy the world, but that is all that they are going to get.

For all of us who remain true to the Lord, despite all the challenges and difficulties, despite all the oppositions and persecutions, a great reward has been prepared for us in the Lord, for He is always ever faithful. He will never forget His love, nor will He abandon all those whom He loved since the day He created all of us. This is what all of us need to remember, the fact that God loves us, and His love for us is so great that He even went so far as to lie down His life for us on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all be role models for our fellow brethren, for one another, that we may lead one another to a life blessed by God, that we will persevere on despite the challenges and persecutions in life? Let us not be afraid to show that we are truly Christians, not just by word alone, but through real and genuine actions in life, by our loving actions to our brethren, even to those who slandered us and persecuted us.

Let us be loving to one another, even to strangers and to our enemies. Let us show mercy and forgiveness to those who have hurt us and cause us to suffer, for if we respond to violence with violence, and hatred with hatred, eventually all things will never end, and there will be endless cycle of hatred, misery and evil. Let us be those who would stand by our Christian faith and values, and become beacons of God’s love and light amidst this darkened world. Let us always put our trust in the Lord.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He guide us through all of our actions, so that in all that we do, act and say, we will always grow ever closer to Him, and be ever more worthy of being called His children and His people. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 25 June 2017 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 10 : 26-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops.”

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell. For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worthy more than many sparrows!”

“Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Sunday, 25 June 2017 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Romans 5 : 12-15

Therefore, sin entered the world through one man; and through sin, death; and later on, death spread to all humankind, because all sinned. As long as there was no law, they could not speak of disobedience, but sin was already in the world. This is why, from Adam to Moses, death reigned among them, although their sin was not disobedience, as in Adam’s case – this was not the true Adam, but foretold the Other, Who was to come.

Such has been the fall, but God’s gift goes far beyond. All died, because of the fault of one man, but how much more does the grace of God spread, when the gift He granted, reaches all, from this unique Man, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 25 June 2017 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 68 : 8-10, 14 and 17, 33-35

Since I am held in contempt for Your sake, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s sons. Zeal for Your house consumes me, as fire, and those who insult You, insult me as well.

But I pray to You, o YHVH. At a time most favourable to You, in Your great love, o God, answer me, with Your unfailing help. In Your mercy, o YHVH, give me a good answer; in Your great compassion, turn to me.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity. Let the heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and whatever moves in them.

Sunday, 25 June 2017 : Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Jeremiah 20 : 10-13

I hear many people whispering, “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!” All my friends watch me to see if I will slip : “Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say; “then we can get the better of him and have our revenge.”

But YHVH, a mighty Warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten. YHVH, God of Hosts, You test the just and probe the heart and mind. Let me see Your revenge on them, for to You I have entrusted my cause.

Sing to YHVH! Praise YHVH and say : He has rescued the poor from the clutches of the wicked!

Saturday, 24 June 2017 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the solemnity of the nativity or the birth of one of the greatest of the saints, which the Lord Himself had mentioned to be among the greatest of the sons and daughters of man. St. John the Baptist was the relative of the Lord, for he was the son of Elizabeth, a relative of Mary, the Mother of God.

But more importantly, St. John the Baptist was the one who would announce to the world, the coming of the Messiah of God, the one who became the Herald to announce and proclaim the Messiah to mankind, and the one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. And that was why, his conception in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother, was nothing less than a miracle, by the will of God that his old mother was able to conceive a child, St. John the Baptist, God’s great and faithful servant.

St. John the Baptist devoted his whole life to the Lord, fulfilling the calling which he had been given, to be the one to prepare the coming of the Lord to His people. He went about preaching repentance and penitence to the people, and called them to be baptised and be forgiven from their sins. Many people flocked to him and listened to his teachings, and through all of these, many became prepared in their hearts and minds to welcome the Lord Jesus when He came.

He was the one who baptised Jesus our Lord, which marked the moment when His earthly ministry began, heralding the start of the works of God’s mercy. And even then, he continued on to preach and to baptise people, calling them to repentance and to be ready for the Lord and His ways. Thus, today, as we rejoice and celebrate the moment of the nativity or the birth of St. John the Baptist, we also rejoice because of his life and all of his works and devotions.

St. John the Baptist, as one of the greatest saints of God is our great role model, as his exemplary life and activities should become examples for all of us to follow. He was not just devoted and committed to his mission, in preparing the way for the Lord and His works, but all the more, he was committed to the point of even being ready to face suffering and martyrdom in the face of opposition from the world. He faced king Herod and rebuked him, and was imprisoned as a result, and later he was martyred.

And then, we should also follow his examples, in how he laid down his life’s work and yielded himself to the Lord completely and thoroughly. When his disciples complained to him that Jesus was becoming more famous and popular than him, he welcomed it readily and mentioned that, while the Lord continued to rise, he himself must decrease. This is a very important example for us to follow, in being humble and dedicated to our mission as the disciples and followers of the Lord.

St. John the Baptist gave his all to serve the Lord, with all of his heart, mind and soul. He showed us all the example of how we ought to be acting as faithful servants of God. Let us all now ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we have shown our faith in the same or similar manner as St. John the Baptist had devoted his life for the sake of the Lord?

Have we as Christians been truly devoted to the Lord in all of His ways? Have we walked in His path? Let us all think about this, and reflect sincerely on our life’s actions, and think of how we can devote ourselves better to the Lord. Let us follow the examples of St. John the Baptist, and realise that we are needed to do the same tasks and missions which the Lord had entrusted to St. John the Baptist and to all of His Apostles and disciples.

May the Lord bless us and continue to guide us in our path. And may He empower all of us to become ever better and more devoted disciples of His, in the same manner as St. John the Baptist had lived his life. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 24 June 2017 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.