Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Violet (Septuagesima Sunday – Usus Antiquior)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Septuagesima Sunday, which literally means ‘seventy’. This is to remind us that as this is the ninth Sunday before Easter, we are about seventy days away from the great feast and celebration of our Lord’s Passion, death and ultimately, the most important of all, the Resurrection through which He made whole all mankind and bring hope into the world engulfed in the darkness.

As is appropriate, the Gospel today from the Gospel of St. Mark spoke about time and works that men take up, to fulfill the Lord’s call for all of us. The parable of the vineyard workers and the owner is speaking about how we mankind, the people of God are called by the Lord to be His servants and to do the good works which He had initiated in this world.

The Gospel from the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time spoke of how Jesus our Lord exercised His power and authority to cast out demons and heal all those afflicted by the physical and spiritual sickness and diseases. And that is just how our Lord does His work to liberate us all from the clutches of Satan, and ti show the way for us all to seek the Lord our God.

And in the first reading of the Ordinary Time readings, from the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord had promised His people that He would send them a Prophet, that is the One who would bear His will and His words of truth to the people. Jesus is that Prophet, who taught the people and His own disciples through stories and parables which bore the truth of God inside them. He is the Word of God made flesh.

In the parable told by Jesus in the Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday, the vineyard owner is truly the Lord our God, who is the Lord of all. The vineyard itself is the world that is saved, that is the Church of God, and the workers are all of us, the race of men. God seeks out all of us at different times, and He sought us in the darkened world outside the Church, that is everything else beyond the vineyard. Like the owner who went out to seek more workers for his field at various hours, the Lord too seeks us at all the time, desiring to find us and bring us to salvation.

There are therefore three main things I want and I hope all of us will take away from the readings of today, that we may reflect on them and understand the necessity for us to know what the Lord wants from us. First, it is that we should not wait until it is too late and then only then we desire to seek the Lord. The Lord always wants to seek us, but if we ourselves refuse to listen to His call, then we will be forever damned in the darkness.

And we do not know when death will come for us. All of us will die one day, at the time and place that only the Lord our God knows. There are many who continue to ignore the Lord’s heedings for us, and they wait, thinking that there is still time for them. But death may claim them on the next day, and even on the next minute or second! And when that happens, no matter how we beg or how we plead with the Lord, He will refuse us for we have ourselves refused the generous and repeated offer of mercy which He had given us.

And then secondly, the Lord invites us to enter His Church, to be saved with all those who have been saved earlier. The Church of God is represented in the Gospel with the vineyard and all the workers inside it. All those whom the Lord calls and accepted His call and worked in His Church are saved. Thus, we ought to rejoice indeed, for we have received baptism that initiated us to be the members of the Church, the children of God and thus the partakers of God’s saving works and grace.

And last of all, as we see, that all the workers received equal pay of one denarius or silver coin, regardless of how long they have worked in the vineyard. Thus, the same applies to all of us the children of God. Regardless of what we have in this life, our possessions, our abilities and talents, our works and contributions, as long as we are all faithful to God and keep His commandments, we are all equal before the Lord.

This does not mean literally that everyone should be equal. As we can see, that different workers work at different hours and for different lengths of time. This means that each of us in the Church of God have distinct roles, each according to his or her own abilities. We should not be jealous that others had done less, or be proud that we have attained salvation earlier because He called us earlier than others.

This means that we should not be proud of our justification and look down on others who have yet to be saved. After all, as long as we receive His salvation and agree to become part of His Church, we shall receive the same reward, represented by the equal pay of one denarius for each worker, that is our salvation and eternal life, to live together in perfect bliss and happiness without end, with the Lord our God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we all have much to do in order to bring others into the salvation in God. We should help one another, and as part of the Church, to be examples and role models for all those who have yet to find their way to the Lord, so that they too may be saved. And we have to realise as well, that the vineyard of the Lord, that is His Church, still require many people to help as the servants of the works of God.

May all of us be awakened to follow the Lord and to righteously walk in His way. Let us all seek the Lord and harken to His call. Do not wait until it is too late for us, but let us stir ourselves from our slumber and walk from now on, only in the path of the Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 21b-28

Jesus taught in the synagogue on the sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way He taught, for He spoke as One having authority and not like the teachers of the Law.

It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority He preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him!”

And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.

Alternative reading (Gospel of Septuagesima Sunday – Usus Antiquior)

Matthew 20 : 1-16

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle, and he said to them, “Go all of you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.” And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner. But at about the eleventh hour, he went out, and found others standing, and he said to them, “Why do you stand there all the day idle?”

They said to him, “Because no man has hired us.” He said to them, “You all also go to my vineyard.” And when evening came, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the labourers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.” When therefore they came, those who came at about the eleventh hour, they received for every person a penny.

But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more, and they also received for every person a penny. And receiving it, they murmured against the master of the house, saying, “These last have worked barely for one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the heat.”

But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I did you no wrong, did you not agree with me for a penny? Take what is yours, and go your way. I will also give to this last even as to you. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is your eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 7 : 32-35

I would like you to be free from anxieties. He who is not married is concerned about the things of the Lord and how to please the Lord. While he who is married is taken up with the things of the world and how to please his wife, and he is divided in his interests.

Likewise, the unmarried woman and the virgin are concerned with the service of the Lord, to be holy in body and spirit. The married woman, instead, worries about the things of the world and how to please their husband.

I say this for your own good. I do not wish to lay traps for you but to lead you to a beautiful life, entirely united with the Lord.

Alternative reading (Epistle for Septuagesima Sunday – Usus Antiquior)

1 Corinthians 9 : 24-27 and 1 Corinthians 10 : 1-5

Brethren, do you not know that those who run in the race, all run indeed, but only one received the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And everyone who strives for the mastery, refrains himself from all things, and they indeed so that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we receive an incorruptible one.

I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty, I so fight, not as one beating the air but I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.

For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all in Moses were baptised, in the cloud and in the sea, and all did eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, (and they drank of the spiritual drink that followed them, and the Rock was Christ). But with the most of them God was not well pleased.

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today You heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Deuteronomy 18 : 15-20

God will raise up for you a Prophet like myself from among the people, from your brothers, to whom you shall listen. Remember that in Horeb, on the day of the Assembly, you said : “I am afraid to die and I do not want to hear the voice of YHVH again or see again that great fire.”

So YHVH said to me : “They have spoken well. I shall raise up a Prophet from their midst, One of their brothers, who will be like you. I will put My words into His mouth and He will tell them all that I command. If someone does not listen to My words when the Prophet speaks on My behalf, I Myself will call Him to account for it.”

“But any prophet who says in My Name anything that I did not command, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”

Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of the conversion of the great Apostle St. Paul, who was once known as Saul, the great enemy and persecutor of the Church and the faithful ones of God. God made him to be an Apostle and the great champion of the Faith, spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the farthest ends of the known world at the time. By his works, many followed in his footsteps and were converted as well.

This is in line with the readings we heard today in the Holy Scriptures, the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah spoke of the repentance and penitence shown by the people of Nineveh, the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, which God had marked to be annihilated for their sins and wickedness. The people, from the king to the lowest servants and slaves immediately repented from their sins after they listened to the warnings of the prophet Jonah.

This is to highlight God’s nature, that is His love and mercy, which He freely gives to all those who put their trust in Him and those who want to be forgiven for their wickedness. Thus, He forgave those who have come to His throne and mercy, and most importantly, those who dedicated themselves to change their way of life and committed to a life free from sin and to walk in the way of the Lord from then on.

Thus was Paul forgiven and called by God, to change his ways of sin and wickedness, the sin of the rejection of Christ and of the persecution of the faithful ones of God, into one that is devoted to the salvation of souls and total faith and trust in God. Indeed, even today, we can only be truly amazed at how God called one of His greatest servants and defenders from among the sinners and among those who have once hated Him so much so as to swore to destroy His entire Church.

And in the Gospel today, the theme is repeated yet again, for God through Christ called the servants whom He would make to be His greatest servants and witnesses in the world, the Holy Apostles, who have been given the authority to teach and preach the Good News, the power to heal and to forgive sins, just as the Lord gave them all these.

This is to show us that God does not want to punish us sinners and rebels against His will, even though rightfully and justly we should have been punished very severely for the disobedience we have committed against the Lord. Yes, just as St. Paul who once as Saul became a scourge for the faithful, getting hundreds or maybe even thousands or more of the faithful of the early Church to become martyrs, and yet God was willing to forgive him and embrace him back into His love.

That is why we have to always remember that God truly loves us sinners, but He hates entirely our sins, our wickedness and all the filthy things we have committed in this life. Condemn not the sinners but the sin. That said, we must not have the false attitude of showing mercy to those who have committed sin but without seeking for their repentance and changing of their ways.

And why is this so important, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we look at what St. Paul himself wrote in the second reading, which was taken from his letter to the faithful in Corinth, he wrote about the imminence of the coming of the end, of the coming of the kingdom of God, and therefore, as we all should be aware of, that is the imminence of the coming of the last and final judgment of all creation, of all mankind.

Are we not too concerned of the fate of our fellow brethren? Are we all too selfish and concerned only about ourselves that we forget about others who still linger in the darkness and in sin? Are we proud of ourselves having been saved by the Lord and do we look down on those who are still filled with the filth of sin, without us offering a hand to help them out of their sinfulness into grace?

If our answers to all of this self-reflecting questions are yes, then we really have to look into ourselves, and ask us what is our faith truly about? Our faith in God is about believing in the Lord who have so much love for us sinners, that despite of all the filth of sin surrounding us, He still resolved to help and rescue us, and that was why He gave us Jesus His Son, to be our Redeemer.

Those of us who heard of the Good News of God and believed, and chose to accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, had been bathed and cleansed from the taints of our sins, of original sins and of our own sins, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ who sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. By His death we were cast free from the suffering of death, and by His resurrection we are brought to a new life, life filled with the grace of God.

We have to realise that even great saints were themselves sinners once. No one was born a saint, except perhaps the Blessed Mother of our Lord, Mary, who was born clean and immaculate, free from sin, in order to prepare her in her role as the bearer of the Almighty God and Saviour, and of course our Lord Himself, born a Man and yet free from sin. All saints and holy people of God were once sinners too.

Yes, some saints were once murderers, adulterers, and we knew how St. Augustine lived in his youth, in debauchery and in the midst of worldliness, that his mother St. Monica prayed day and night with tears for the conversion of her son. And that is the attitude we should all have, to pray fervently for those around us who still sin, that they may receive the call and grace of God, and hope that they will turn their ways and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Like St. Paul, who had done so much great evils and sins in his youth, had he not been called, or if he had been rejected by God, and had he been rejected by the community of the faithful, then surely many countless souls would have been lost, those whom he had directly and indirectly touched throughout his long mission and service to God, whom without him would likely not have heard the word of God, spoken through St. Paul, the faithful servant, and the repentant sinner.

Therefore, shall we all realise that our action and proactive act are necessary for us to help our brethren to also find their way to the Lord? That is true Christian faith and true love, as Christ had taught us, that we embrace those who have hated and persecuted us because of our faith, those who have sinned and refused to believe in God, and by our actions, in which we show and infuse God’s love and mercy, we may bring them to realise the gravity of their sins, and the threat of eternal death they are facing, and therefore, immediately to turn their ways to find the Lord our God and their God, before it is too late for them.

May all of us be strengthened with the new Spirit of God, in the evangelisation and conversion of the world, so that many more people and many more souls can be saved and will be saved from the clutches of Satan, through our actions, be it through direct acts, or through our words and our loving acts to them, or even if it is through a simple prayer, prayed for their sake.

Let us all no longer be indifferent or ignorant of the plight of others around us who still dwell in sin, but let us free them, just as the Lord freed Saul from his sins and called him to be His servant, and thus let us help one another, to become holy people of God, saintly and devoted, that in the end, as many as possible are saved and brought into the Holy Presence of God. God be with us all, and forgive us sinners from our sins. Amen.

Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, 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 in 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, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, 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.

Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jonah 3 : 1-5, 10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.