Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the story of the creation of man and woman, whom God had created in His own image, and how He has given everything that He has created to each and every one of them, to be the caretakers, owners and stewards of His creation, for mankind are His most beloved creations, the ones closest to His own image and His own heart and mind.

He made all of them because of His love for them, that He wanted to share with them the love that He has in Him, bursting out of the perfect love of the Trinity, and which then came upon us. And He saw how man was lonely without company of an equal, reflecting on the nature of His very own Trinity. The Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is perfect, but each part of the Trinity cannot be separated from each other without destroying this perfection and balance present among the unity of the Trinity.

And as the Father loved the Son and the Holy Spirit, and as the Son loved the Father and the Holy Spirit, and as the Holy Spirit loved the Father and the Son, therefore, God created us man to be creatures of love as well, to be filled with love and to be made all good and perfect, first and foremost in union with God, and then in union with one another. That was why God created us man and woman, as we heard in our first reading passage taken from the Book of Genesis.

God created us man and woman to be part of the one body, one flesh and one existence. Just as the rib bone and the flesh were symbolically taken from man to create woman, as an equal partner to man, thus man and woman are destined to be together, to be united in a holy union that reflects upon the perfect unity and love found in the Most Holy Trinity. Through this union, the fruits of God’s love came forth, that is the fruits of life, in the children born of the union of man and woman.

Unfortunately, at the time of the Lord Jesus, just as it frequently happened throughout history, man and woman had not treated each other with respect or regards to their equality with one another. Instead, women were often put in disadvantage and treated unequally or in a biased way, where many of these women had to endure injustice and often even intrusion to their basic human right, to live as a person with dignity.

That was what the Lord tried to bring forth to our attention through His interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman in our Gospel passage today. In that passage, we heard how a Syro-Phoenician woman asked the Lord Jesus to come and heal her afflicted daughter, who was troubled by sickness and by the attacks from evil spirits and demons. Yet, the Lord seemed to be unfazed and unaffected by her pleas, and in fact, seemed to be kind of rude when He was making an indirect comparison between her and that of a dog.

This was in fact the Lord’s way of putting forth all the accumulated prejudices and terrible biases present within the community of the people of God during that time, when so many people looked down on the non-Jewish people, those of pagan origins and were not therefore counted among the people of Israel. And in particular, all the more because the Syro-Phoenician was a woman, that the ridicule, bias and prejudice against her were even more rampant and terrible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us living in this world today surely have heard how women have often been marginalised, being prejudiced against, and even been exploited for the benefit of those who were greedy and wicked in hearts and minds. Yet, this is not what the Lord wants from us when He created each and every one of us. As mentioned, He made us all, man and woman, to be co-equal partners in the holy union He Himself will bless, where both man and woman make each other perfect by that unity in love.

Many of the current challenges, difficulties and marginalisation due to gender, are caused by our own limited ability to look beyond the flesh and the appearances, which have unfortunately caused many to go down the path of sin, when we are tempted by the temptations of the flesh. We seek what is on the external, and seek for the beauty of the exterior, while failing to recognise the presence of the great love within.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate in the secular world, the celebration of Valentine’s day, which came about because this day, the fourteenth day of February, used to be the Feast day of St. Valentine, who inspired many by his loving care for others, even for those who persecuted and imprisoned him. Over time, this celebration became corrupted and changed, misguided and done wrongly because of the secularisation of its meaning.

We see how Valentine’s day became one of the worst outlets and reminders for us, of our ugly human nature, filled with lust and desire for the pleasures of the flesh, and of materialistic excesses, which are often associated with the celebration of the Valentine’s day. But, in truth, as Christians, all of us are called to go out of this problem, and overcome it through our understanding and participation in God’s real work of love among us.

God sowed within us, the seeds of His wonderful love, giving us the same love that He has between Himself, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is love that is not corrupted nor made impure by the desires of our flesh, but one that is selfless and self-giving, sacrificial and committed at the same time. For God so loved the world, that He gave us all His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour, that through Him we may have life and be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should imitate the perfect love shown by the Lord, and which His holy saints had emulated in their own lives. St. Valentine acted with love even towards his enemies and those who persecuted him, while St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the two saints highly venerated especially among our brethren in the Eastern Churches, devoted their whole lives in the service of the people of God, in bringing the truth of the Gospels and the Words of God to those people who have yet to receive the light of God’s truth.

Are we able to overcome the temptations of our flesh, and resist those wicked desires present in us to act without genuine love, and instead cause pain and suffering on others? Are we able to do our best in order to love one another equally just as God has intended us to do? Let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings again, and think well in our minds as well as feel with our hearts, how we should be treating one another from now on, that is with love, compassion and fairness.

May the Lord continue to guide us with His love, that we too may grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, and that we may love Him with all of our hearts, and with all of our capabilities and strengths. Let us draw closer to Him, and draw ever closer to His love, with each and every single words and actions we take. May God bless us all, always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 24-30

At that time, when Jesus left the place where He rebuked the Pharisees, He went to the border of the Tyrian country. There He entered a house, and did not want anyone to know He was there, but He could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet. Now this woman was a pagan, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to puppies.” But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children’s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will ear the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Thursday, 14 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 2 : 18-25

YHVH God said, “It is not good for Man to be alone; I will give him a helper who will be like him.” Then YHVH God formed from the earth all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air and brought them to Man to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called every living creature, that was its name.

So Man gave names to all the cattle, the birds of the air and to every beast of the field. But he did not find among them a helper like himself. Then YHVH God caused a deep sleep to come over Man and he fell asleep. He took one of his ribs and filled its place with flesh. The rib which YHVH God had taken from Man He formed into a woman and brought her to the man.

The man then said, “Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man.” That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife, and with her becomes one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.

Monday, 9 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the readings, we heard the famous Beatitudes or meaning, Blesseds, which is also known as the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus to the people. In that discourse and teaching, Jesus showed the people how people who do the will of God are blessed by Him for obeying His will. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus encouraged us all to carry out what we should be doing, to be truly blessed in the presence of God.

The Beatitudes showed us the criteria and the expectations that God kind of requires from His children, as they all embody the nature of God, that is love and mercy. However, in this world today we have often forgotten these things and be preoccupied by much concerns for the world and many other factors, that we fail to carry out what the Lord wants from us, as He laid them out in the Beatitudes.

For example, the Beatitudes blesses those who seeks peace and are peacemakers, and yet our world today is filled with hatred and violence, where brothers can fight against brothers, sisters fight against sisters, and quarrels are frequent among ourselves, which truly does not represent the peacemakers that we are supposed to be.

We too often find it difficult to show mercy to others and to forgive others for the mistakes, the wrongs, injustices and any other negative actions that they had done unto us. Indeed the Beatitudes blesses those who are merciful, but how many of us give mercy voluntarily to those who have hurt us? How many of us can genuinely forgive those who had wronged us? It is not easy, and it is in our human nature to seek vengeance and retribution rather than being merciful.

We often become judgmental of others, and we thought of ourselves as being the best, often in the disadvantage of others, that we get further and further from fulfilling the words of Christ in the Beatitudes. All these are because of our bad habits, tendencies and vulnerabilities in dealing with others and in our natural vulnerability to sin and evil.

Today we celebrate the feast of a saint, whose life has been dedicated to do the will of God, and in committing all that God has mentioned through the Beatitudes in his life. Today we commemorate St. Ephrem, also known as Ephrem the Syrian, who was a great inspiration source of many faithful during his lifetime, and a very faithful and hardworking servant of the Church and the people of God through his various ministries and roles in the Church.

St. Ephrem served the people of God dutifully and faithfully, and most importantly, he was very dedicated to the Lord, like the ones poor in spirit, as he sought the Lord for guidance. He received great graces and blessings, just as the Lord had pointed out in the Beatitudes. He also acted as mediator and communicator between many peoples, and between different ideas, providing important mediation between them and therefore promote unity and peace among the faithful.

As such, he was truly blessed by God, and he was made worthy of heaven, and recognised as such by the Church, in addition to the recognition of the vast amounts of work that he has done. He is our inspiration, and he should be our role model, someone who we aim to become, and perhaps even more, practising what the Lord Himself had recommended, as He stated in the Beatitudes.

Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Ephrem, that in our lives, we will always strive to become a good and responsible person, one who fear God, and yet love Him and who carry out His works dutifully. Let us all be like the persons whom the Lord described in the Beatitudes, beginning with small things, and gradually do all that the Lord asks of us.

May God remain with us, and through the intercession of His saints, let us all continue to profess and renew our faith, that we may truly be blessed by God, and be worthy of Him at the end of all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 1-12

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.

Monday, 9 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 120 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – from where shall come my help? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

Will He let your foot slip, the One watching over you? Will He slumber? No, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.

The Lord is your Guardian, the Lord is at your side and you in His shade; Sunstroke will not be for you by day, nor the spell of the moon by night.

The Lord guards you from every evil; He will protect your life. The Lord watches over your coming and going both now and forever.