Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

“No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past, You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and, with My holy oil, I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him; and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him; and, by My help, he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

2 Samuel 5 : 1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And YHVH said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of My people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel.’”

Before YHVH, king David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron, and they anoint him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years : he reigned over Judah, from Hebron, seven and a half years; and over Israel and Judah, from Jerusalem, for thirty-three years.

The king and his men set out for Jerusalem to fight the Jebusites who lived there. They said to David, “If you try to break in here, the blind and the lame will drive you away,” which meant that David could not get in. Yet David captured the fortress of Zion that became the “city of David.”

And David grew more powerful, for YHVH, the God of Hosts, was with him.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, each and every one of us as Christians received the Word of God being spoken unto us through the Scripture passages, beginning from the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah, telling us how Jonah was sent to Nineveh in order to warn it of the impending catastrophe which God planned to send to the city because of their wickedness.

In that passage, we heard of how the prophet Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, telling them of the impending doom and destruction, and the people of Nineveh believed in him. Even the king of Nineveh itself, the mighty ruler of Assyrian Empire and conqueror of many nations believed in whatever Jonah said, and ordered a general repentance, mourning and penitential efforts, where everyone humbly admitted their sins and sought the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy.

And God saw their sincerity and desire to be forgiven, and He withheld the destruction He had intended for the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. He showed His mercy to the people. Had the prophet Jonah not gone to them and warned them about their sins, they would not have turned away from their sins, and they would have fallen further into wickedness, and destruction would have been unavoidable for them.

In the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard of the exhortation by St. Paul, calling the people to live a holy life, to live a fully devout life abandoning all sorts of worldliness and even relationships. This has to be understood in the context of how the faithful at that time understood the message about the imminent coming of the Lord.

At that time, many of the faithful including that of St. Paul believed that the Lord would be coming soon, and that the end of time would come in a short period of time. As such, he exhorted the faithful to abandon all of their earthly attachments and even married life and families, so as to prepare for the imminent second coming of the Lord. And although this did not happen as he had foreseen, but in truth, thanks to what St. Paul had done, many of the people abandoned their vices and committed themselves to God.

Then, finally, in the Gospel today, we heard about the calling of the Apostles by the Lord Jesus, Who came by the region of Galilee and saw four fishermen who were fishing by the lake of Galilee. They were two sets of brothers, St. Andrew and St. Peter, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John. Jesus saw them and called them from their boats to follow Him and become His disciples.

They left behind their nets and their boats and followed Him, leaving behind even their families and friends. From then on, they would serve the Lord and His purpose for many years and many decades, becoming the instruments of God’s work of mercy and salvation. Through them, many were saved from damnation in hell, and many souls were reconciled with God, even though these poor fishermen were truly of no significance and had little respect among the people at that time.

And after hearing all of these passages from the Scriptures, now it is time for us to think carefully about what we have just heard and received, and look into our own respective lives and ask ourselves, what is it that we, who are the followers of Christ, can do, in order to become ever more dedicated and true disciples of His? All of us as Christians are by default, Christ’s followers and disciples.

First of all, all of us have been called to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and the Apostles, all those whom God had called and chosen to be the bearers of His Good News to the people. They have been called to minister to those who have been lost from the Lord, those who have disobeyed Him, those who have fallen into sin and wickedness.

That was why Jonah was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, and that was also why St. Paul was sent to the people of God, writing to the many churches throughout Christendom and exhorting them to live their lives faithfully, and lastly, the Apostles, members of the Twelve and many other disciples called by the Lord Jesus, to minister to the people and to preach His Good News to them.

If we then think that those people were great saints and servants of God, as those who we deem to be beyond our league, then we are truly mistaken. Let us all look at those whom the Lord called from among those we heard of today. The prophet Jonah was not eager in the beginning to obey the Lord, and in fact, I am sure we are familiar with the story how Jonah tried to run away from the Lord.

He travelled by ship to a faraway land, only for the ship to be struck with a great storm, and he had no choice but to throw himself into the sea to spare the other passengers and the ship, and carried in the belly of a great whale, he was brought to the seashore, from where he eventually decided to follow the Lord’s commands. It was not an easy journey from the beginning, and he was a reluctant follower at best.

Then, St. Paul was once Saul, the great enemy of the Church and all the faithful people of God, greatly feared by all Christians, as he went from place to place, violently rounding up all those who believed in Jesus and arresting them, bringing about much sorrow to the faithful. And yet, God called Saul and converted him, on the way to Damascus, where the revelation of truth was given to him, and he turned his back to his past as a great sinner, into a great defender of the faith.

And lastly, the Apostles themselves were not perfect either, they came from various background, called by the Lord to be His followers and chosen to be their leaders. Yet we know how even one among them betrayed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, who sold off his Master for a mere thirty pieces of silver to the high priests. And the other Apostles fled out of fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, each to their own hiding places.

What is the lesson that all of us as Christians can learn from these? It is the realisation that God calls those who He deems to be worthy, not those who deem themselves to be worthy. That was why He did not call those who were proud and haughty, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on the sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes and more.

Instead, God reached out His hands and brought all those who were sinners and considered unworthy, and called His servants from all kinds of people, from all backgrounds and not withstanding any worldly considerations. Those whom He called and accepted the calling, He would make them to be worthy of His Name, and He would be with them, even though they may indeed face difficulties, persecution and rejection.

This is a reminder for us that when the Lord calls us, we should not reject His call or pretend not to hear what He has called us for. Rather, we should listen to Him and pray, asking the Lord to tell us, what it is that He wants from each one of us. We are all called to walk in His ways and devote ourselves to Him in whatever way we can, giving our time, effort and attention.

Therefore, today, it is also a good time for us to remember our priests and all those who have dedicated themselves, their whole lives for the sake of the Lord. Let us pray for them that they may continue to persevere faithfully throughout their vocation and mission, as those to whom the Lord entrusted the governance and guidance over His people.

Let us all work together that the whole Church of God, all the faithful people of God will be able to coordinate our efforts as one united people, devoted to the Lord, and helping all of our priests and bishops, in their mission and works, that in the end, the Lord’s mercy and compassion may reach all those who are in need of that mercy, and therefore like the people of Nineveh, they may be saved from damnation and destruction.

May the Lord strengthen us all, that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to courageously carry out the mission entrusted to us, to be the bearers of the Good News of the Lord, through our words and even more importantly, through our actions. Let us inspire one another to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord, and be ever more committed to live a life consecrated and devoted to Him, loving Him through all of our every actions and deeds. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 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, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 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.