Sunday, 30 July 2017 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures which called us all to reflect on our lives, and one important question that all of us must ask ourselves, that is 'what is it that is most precious to us?' This is something that many of us ignored or refused to reflect on, but it is actually something that we need to do, so that we can know how we ought to proceed on with life from now on.

In the first reading today, all of us heard the prayer of King Solomon of Israel, son and successor of the famous King David. In his young age and inexperience, King Solomon prayed to God asking for a favour, that He might grant him wisdom, the wisdom to discern what is good from what is evil, the wisdom to make the right decision and judgment. He did not ask for wealth, power, influence or worldly fame; which are all the things that we normally would have desired.

He sought for a greater treasure, one that is far surpassing the treasures of this world. For there is no greater treasure in this world than the treasure of the wisdom and knowledge of God. There can be no greater gift than the gift of the love of God, for His love is eternal and to come to the presence of God is what all of us should be aiming for. His grace and inheritance is everlasting while the goods and glories of this world are fleeting and merely temporary.

This is what the Lord Jesus in our Gospel reading today told His disciples, and which we have heard as well. He spoke about the kingdom of heaven, using a parable, as a way to convey the message of His truth to the people, many of whom at the time were farmers, fishermen, merchants and shepherds. He spoke to them of the kingdom of God as represented by a very valuable treasure hidden in a field, as a pearl of great and exceptional value, and as a great and big fishing net spread out, catching numerous fish of all kinds and sizes.

Through those parables, God wanted to reveal to His people, what a great treasure that they had coming upon them, which He had given them through none other by the revelation of His love through Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus did not only come into this world in order to reveal the truth of God to mankind, but He also came to bring all mankind closer to God, to be their Saviour and Redeemer, liberating them from the chains of their sins.

If we reflect deeply on the history of man, and how we mankind ended up living in this world today, we will realise that how mankind had chosen what is lesser in value in terms of the treasures we seek, and threw away the greater treasure that we have once had in the Lord. Our ancestors were created by God and were destined for an eternity of happiness, enjoying the goodness and the fruits of the earth in Eden, in perfect harmony with God. We were intended to enjoy forever a life of true joy and bliss.

However, the devil, Satan, our great enemy, came to tempt us through persuasions, sweet talks and lies, by which he managed to turn the hearts of mankind away from God, beginning from the time of Adam and Eve, when they chose to submit to the temptations of Satan who offered them the knowledge over good and evil, by eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge.

Satan was using our humanity's natural curiosity and the desires in our hearts to trick and to tempt us into sin. We are curious to know more, and we desire to have more, and this is part of our humanity. And as Satan used this opportunity to strike at us, it is indeed important for all of us to look up into what each and every one of us value in life, and what we think of as our priorities in this life.

Many of us are often too preoccupied with our work, with our career and our businesses. Many of us work many hours, often at the expense of our relationships with our loved ones, with our families and friends, because we want to accumulate for ourselves more money, more possessions and wealth, as we want to live a more comfortable or even luxurious life. And it does not help us that we live in a world inundated with so many worldly temptations, and with so many commercial materialism.

We often judge and think of others based on their possessions and wealth, or based on their status or influence in the society. We labour hard, hours after hours seeking for more of these, wealth or fame, renown or praise from others. But we have to realise that whatever it is that we have received and gained, it is unlikely that we will be satisfied with whatever we have. It is our human weakness that we are easily tempted to want and to desire for even more of what we have gained.

It is the greed in our heart that cause us to desire for more, and never be satisfied by all the goods and the blessings that we have received. The saying is indeed true that power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts everything. The more it is that we have, in power, wealth and fame, the more that they may corrupt our minds and our hearts, and twist us into committing sin against God and mankind alike.

That is why many kings and rulers of the world, while some were good and just, but many others were wicked and tyrannical in their rule. They oppressed the people and their subjects, levying high taxes on them, and demanding unjust exactions and pressures on them, in order to advance their own interests, to make themselves be more wealthy and powerful, and gain greater esteem and influence among their fellow rulers and kings.

This applies to others as well, because even in little things, we often get into feud and rivalries, conflicts and troubles as we are incapable of letting go of our desires. When our desires and wants come into conflict with each other, we end up in dispute and even infighting among ourselves, and such were the reasons for wars and atrocities that happened in the history of this world. And we will never be happy or be satisfied, for as I mentioned, when we have more, we will want even more.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, the same question that I have placed at the very beginning of this discourse, 'What is it that is most precious to us?' or if I rephrase it, 'what is our priority in life?'. Let us ask ourselves what it is that we live for, that whether it is to accrue for ourselves the wealth and treasures of this world? Remember, the Lord Himself said that if we gather up these treasures of the world, all would end up with nothing.

After all, it does not matter how much wealth we obtain, how great a fame and position that we have attained, how far in life we have gone, nothing of these we will carry with us to the life that is to come. We may have attained the wealth and capability to purchase and own the biggest houses, the most luxurious lifestyle and all, but in the end, when we face the Lord in judgment, none of this will be able to help us, less still if we commit vile and wicked deeds in order to attain and gain all those possessions we have.

What King Solomon had done, in asking God for true wisdom in his prayers is something that we all should also do, instead of asking for more power, more wealth, more affluence or fame. As King Solomon has resisted the temptation for all those worldly desires, all of us should do the same as well. Instead, let us all as Christians seek to become ever closer to God, and indeed pray for the wisdom to understand God's will, that He will show us the way forward in how we should live a life faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not be swayed by the lies and the falsehoods spread by the devil, who is always constantly trying to lure us away from God and to trap us in his insidious traps. Let us strive to do what is right and just in life, turning away from sin and by dying to our pride and selfishness. Let us be humble in life, and instead of seeking personal enrichment and satisfaction, let us be focused on obeying the will of God and be righteous in all that we do. Seek not what can be destroyed by human means, but seek the eternal treasure found in God alone.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters? We begin from ourselves and from those who are around us. Through our little actions and deeds in life, by showing love, care and concern for others, and by sincerely sharing the love and the blessings we receive, especially with those who have little or none, with those who are suffering and those who have no one to love them, we have done what God wants us to do.

Spend our time to do what is beneficial to everyone rather than being too busy with ourselves, with our work or with our businesses. And the Lord Who knows all of our actions and deeds, will give us His everlasting treasure, the eternal glory of heaven. We shall not want again, and we shall be God's people forever. Amen.

Sunday, 30 July 2017 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 44-52

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away."

"That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth."

Jesus asked, "Have you understood all these things?" "Yes," they answered. So He said to them, "Therefore, every teacher of the Law, who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old."

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 44-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it."

Sunday, 30 July 2017 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 8 : 28-30

We know that in everything, God works for the good of those who love Him, whom He has called, according to His plan. Those whom He knew beforehand, He has also predestined, to be like His Son, similar to Him, so, that, He may be the Firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

And so, those whom God predestined, He called; and those whom He called, He makes righteous; and to those whom He makes righteous, He will give His glory.

Sunday, 30 July 2017 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 118 : 57 and 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

You are my portion, o YHVH; I have promised to obey Your word. Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant. Let Your mercy come, to give me life; for Your law is my delight.

I love Your commandments more than gold – the finest gold. Because my steps are guided by Your precepts, I hate all false ways.

Wonderful are Your decrees; my soul cannot but keep them. As Your words unfold, light is shed, and the simple-hearted understand.

Sunday, 30 July 2017 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 3 : 5, 7-12

It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, "Ask what you want Me to give you."

Solomon said, "And now, o YHVH, my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted."

"Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?"

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, "Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have."

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us heard the message of the Scriptures, telling us all to be righteous in all of our ways, heeding all that the Lord had taught us to do, by obeying the laws and rules of the Church, and by living a genuine life of faith, filled with love for God and with love for our fellow men. This is what all of us as Christians have been called to do, to be true disciples of our Lord in all of our words and deeds alike.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how Jesus our Lord spoke to His disciples in parables, and then revealed to them the meaning of those parables. Through those parables, God through His Son, Jesus, wanted to reveal to us, the truth about Himself and how we all ought to strive to achieve our salvation through Him, that is by obeying Him and by walking righteously in His path. This is where we should indeed take heed of what we have heard from the Word of God in the Scriptures today, that we may know how we ought to go forward from now on.

First of all, we heard about the parable of the weeds, in which a sower sowed good seeds in a field, and hoped to see good plants and crops growing in due time, only to see weeds growing amongst the good crops because an enemy had come in the dark and sowed the seeds of the weeds amongst the crops. The enemy surely wanted the crops to fail, and the weeds were scattered among the crops in order to compete against the crops for nutrients, and for the whole crop to be less desirable as a whole.

This parable showed us the works of God amongst us mankind, for God Himself is the sower, who sowed good seeds, that is the seeds of faith in our hearts. The field itself is the world, encompassing all of us mankind, in whom God planted His goodness, His Spirit and presence in all. However, the enemy, that is the devil, is out there, actively trying to undermine the good works of God, by spreading the weeds among us, that is sin and the temptations to sin.

But did God in the parable of the sower immediately ordered all of the wheat crops to be thrown away with the weeds? No, He did not do so. He allowed the wheat to grow first, and mature into mature wheat crops with bountiful fruits, and the weeds also grew alongside them. That is because all of us mankind, who have been tainted by sin ever since our forefathers disobeyed God and His commandments, are still ultimately beloved by God, our Lord and Creator.

He wanted to give us all a second chance, the opportunity for us to redeem ourselves, and that was why, He allowed us to continue to grow and develop in this world, with all of our imperfections in us, all the good and evil within us. What we all need to take note of, is then, what the Lord Jesus then continued to tell His disciples, comparing His heavenly kingdom with the parable of the mustard seed and the rising bread.

The Lord mentioned that the kingdom of Heaven is like that of a mustard seed, very small compared to the other seeds and fruits of more noticeable trees and crops. However, that very small seed, when planted in a good soil, will grow into a large tree, larger than many other trees and scrubs, certainly much larger than what people would normally think such a small seed would grow into.

There are many symbolisms in this particular parable, as the mustard seed represents the faith in all of us. The faith might have begun as a small seed, which we ourselves often do not realise that we have with us. However, given the right conditions, when planted in a good soil, meaning that when we realise that gift of faith present in each one of us, and then doing what we can to cultivate that faith, through our actions in life, through the love which we show to God and to our fellow men, and through our justice and righteousness, we will allow the faith to grow in us.

And indeed, as in the other parable not mentioned in today's readings, the parable of the sower, the seed that fell onto the rich and good soil bear its fruits a thirtyfold, a sixtyfold and even a hundredfold and more! That means, if we are truly faithful to the Lord, and truly practice what we believe in our lives, we are allowing ourselves to grow in the sight of the Lord, like a growing stalk of wheat that is healthy and bountiful.

Otherwise, if we do not do what the Lord had told us to do, but instead preferring to follow the temptations of the devil, we are like those wheat crops that were outcompeted by the weeds and whose life is choked out of it by the wheat. That is the reality of sin, brothers and sisters in Christ. The devil is always trying to tempt us with sin, and indeed sin can often feel very pleasurable and enjoyable. It is easier to do what is considered as sin before God, rather than to obey the will of the Lord.

But if we do not make an active effort to resist the encroaching allures of sin, we will often end up falling into those temptations and commit sin before God, and in the end, as the sower and master of the field ordered his servants to collect all the weeds and burn them in the fire, He will also collect all the unworthy wheat, all those corrupted and destroyed by the weeds, and throw them into the fire, for they are useless and meaningless as a harvest.

We need to ask ourselves, and look deep into our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we doing what the Lord wants us to do? Or are we instead too busy with our wants and desires, with our busy daily schedules and preoccupations in life to take note of what it is that God really wants us to do with our lives? If we are not providing the best condition for God's good works to be realised in us, then how will our faith in God grow and develop?

Just like in the parable of the flour rising as a dough when yeast is added to the flour and mixed in it. All those who have baked before will know that yeast cannot cause the rising of the dough into a fluffy and soft, spongy bread without the proper condition. It requires a seal from outside air, since yeast will only cause fermentation of the flour and creating the fluffy texture of the bread in the absence of oxygen.

Similarly, if our lives are not devoid of all of its wickedness and all of the sins which we have committed, and if we do not make the conscious and active effort in order to turn ourselves away from those sins, how will we then grow closer and more devoted to God? We will only draw further and further away from Him, and when the time of judgment comes upon us, we shall end up on the wrong side of the judgment. Do we want to end up in the eternal torment prepared for the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels? Do we want to be counted among those rejected by God?

Now, indeed, it is the right time for us to do something with our lives. Many of us often like and prefer to delay and to put off doing what we can in fact do now, at this very moment, beginning from this minute. But, do we realise that our lives are at the mercy of God? Do we all realise that we may just meet the end of our lives at any moment that God wishes it? Should we wait until it is too late for us and then regret about it?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all begin from this moment on, in every little things we do in our respective lives, to be faithful to God in all of our ways. In this manner, slowly we are providing for ourselves a rich and fertile soil for the seeds of faith inside each one of us to germinate and to grow, providing rich fruits of the Spirit inside us. And the Lord, Who knows all that we are thinking and doing, will reward us in the end.

Let us all make it a habit to do what is good according to God's will, by loving our brethren, by showing mercy and forgiveness to those who have caused us hurt and suffering. Let us all show our faith by example, and not just by mere words alone. Let us all be ever more devoted and committed disciples of the Lord, so that in the end, all of us will share the eternal joy and glory of our Lord in His kingdom in Heaven. May God bless us all forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 24-43

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'"

"He answered them, 'This is the work of an enemy.' They asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' He told them, 'No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Jesus offered them another parable : "The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches."

He told them another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast that a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise."

Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet : I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.

Then He sent the crowds away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Jesus answered them, "The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the Angels."

"Just as the weeds are pulled up and burnt in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send His Angels, and they will weed out His kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear."

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'"

"He answered them, 'This is the work of an enemy.' They asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' He told them, 'No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'"