Monday, 5 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the moment when the House of God, the magnificent Temple built by Solomon, the king of Israel, was completed and consecrated to the Lord. The Temple was meant to be the dwelling of God among His people, as the Ark of the Covenant bearing the Tablets of the Law was placed in the holiest part of that edifice, and as we heard in the passage today, God Himself came down to dwell among His people.

The grand celebration that followed the completion and consecration of the Temple was truly amazing, as we were told how thousands upon thousands of sacrificial offerings were made, and many days of celebrations followed after the main celebration, with feast, revelry and rejoicing among the people. Such was the grand spectacle of the celebrations that came with the opening of the House of God. And God Himself came to dwell among His people.

However, unfortunately, for all of its amazing architecture and grandeur, the people of God did not remain faithful to Him. Even king Solomon himself would fall into sin and led the people into the worship of the pagan gods and idols. And many successive kings of Judah would continue to sin against God, and doing what were wicked in God’s sight. The Temple was defiled in multiple occasions, and eventually, it was destroyed by the Babylonians at the end of the kingdom of Judah.

But God did not give up on His people, despite having punished them for their lack of faith and waywardness. He gave them opportunity after opportunity to repent from their sins, and He sent them prophets after prophets to call them to turn away from their wickedness. In the end, He fulfilled His promise to us, by sending us the Saviour, in Jesus Christ His Son, Whose works and exploits we heard in our Gospel passage today.

If God once came down to dwell in a House made from gold and finest timber wood, to dwell among His people, then, He had come by Himself in the flesh, in the Real Presence, as the Divine Himself has become tangible and real, no longer hidden from our sight, but revealed to all the people who witnessed His coming, and to many others who knew Him because of the testimony made by all those who saw His coming.

God loves each and every one of us, His beloved children. He has not abandoned us when we are in need, and He always provided for us through His love. However, many of us have not realised that we have been receiving this generous love all these while. And we continue to sin before God, rebelling against Him and by our disobedience we defiled the Temple of His Holy Presence, our bodies, minds, hearts and souls.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Sacrament of Baptism we have been made nothing less than God’s own adopted sons and daughters. And by receiving the Eucharist, we have received the Real Presence of Our Lord in His Most Precious Body and Blood into our bodies, and therefore we have become God’s holy Temple, the Houses in which He dwells.

Yet, many of us defiled this House by our sins and wickedness, by our refusal to listen to the Lord and to His ways. Instead, we rather chose to continue down the path of sin, and immerse ourselves deeper and deeper into the trap laid unto our path by Satan. There are all sorts of defilements and wicked things we have done, by indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, immoral behaviour, corruption and collusion, by our allowance of the devil to come into our lives.

If we continue to do so, we will be destroyed because of our great sin of having defiled the Temple and House of God that is our body, our heart, our mind, our soul, and indeed, our whole being. Is it what we want to happen to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Surely we do not want it to happen. I am sure that we want to be forgiven our sins instead and want to be reconciled with God.

However, all these will not come to us easily and without challenges. There will be plenty of opposition, difficulties and suffering, and without perseverance and strong courage and commitment, many of us will falter along the way. Many of our holy and devoted predecessors have suffered similarly, even to the point of suffering death. St. Agatha, the saint whose memory we celebrate today, is one of them.

St. Agatha was a native of Sicily and one of the most venerated martyrs of the Roman Empire. She lived during particularly difficult time in the history of the Church, as the Roman state and the authorities actively persecuted Christians and destroyed many of the churches established throughout the Empire, especially under the Emperor Decius. It was told that St. Agatha devoted herself completely to God, living a life of holy virginity consecrated to God.

She rejected the amorous advances of a corrupt and pagan official who was enamoured by her beauty, and the official in his anger, reported St. Agatha to the authorities, who arrested her and tortured her. Despite all that they had done, and all the pains inflicted upon her, she remained strong in her convictions and she refused to abandon her faith in her God. She was martyred defending her faith, and her commitment and courage to the very end inspired many of the Christians generations after her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on these which we have just discussed and remember the examples of St. Agatha, her courage and determination to remain true to her faith and obey the Lord despite the temptations and pressures to do otherwise. May the Lord give us the strength to persevere in our own faith journey, that we may draw ever closer to Him. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 5 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 53-56

At that time, having crossed the lake, Jesus and His disciples came ashore at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognised Jesus, and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside.

Wherever He was, they brought to Him the sick lying on their mats; and wherever He went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace, and begged Him to let them touch just the fringe of His cloak. And all who touched Him were cured.

Monday, 5 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 8-10

The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar. Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

Arise, o YHVH, and come to Your rest; You, and the Ark of Your might. May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

Monday, 5 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 8 : 1-7, 9-13

Then Solomon assembled before him in Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, as well as the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH from the city of David, which is Zion.

All the Israelites assembled near king Solomon in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests carried the Ark of YHVH and brought it up together with the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the tent.

After the priests and Levites had brought them up, king Solomon with the entire congregation of Israel that had assembled before him and were with him before the Ark, sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they could neither be counted nor numbered.

Then the priests laid the Ark of the Covenant of YHVH in its place in the inner Sanctuary of the house – the Most Holy Place – underneath the wings of the Cherubim. The Cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, providing a covering above the Ark and its poles.

There was nothing in the Ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, where YHVH made a Covenant with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, such a cloud filled YHVH’s House that the priests could not continue to minister. Indeed, the glory of YHVH filled His House.

Then Solomon said, “YHVH has said that He would dwell in thick darkness. So the House I have built You will be Your House, a place for You to dwell in forever.”

Friday, 5 February 2016 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about God Who blessed David with many good things, with victory and wealth, with fame and with great family, and with his inheritance and kingship secure at the end of his earthly life, and his kingdom passed successfully and peacefully to his own son, Solomon. This was because of his faith and the dedication which he had for the Lord.

David did sin indeed, and he did commit things that were against the Lord’s will and teachings, but in the end, it was his desire to be forgiven, to humble himself before the presence of God, and seeking His mercy that God has blessed him not just with the mercy He had granted him, but also with the other blessings which we have heard in the Scriptures.

In the Gospel we heard about another king, Herod, the son of Herod the Great who was the king of Galilee, and who married his wife, Herodias, who was formerly the wife of his brother Philip. In doing so, he disobeyed the commandments of the Lord, by committing adultery with her. But unlike David, who had committed the same sin, he did not humble himself before God and commit himself to a new life in atonement, but continued to live his life in wickedness and sin.

We can clearly see the examples, in how Herod, during the dinner party that he had celebrated with his officials and guests, he was carried away by his lust and human desires, and his eyes and heart had betrayed him, as he was tempted to sin by the daughter of Herodias, his wife, likely to be the daughter of his brother, Philip. That daughter of Herodias was beautiful, and in her gracious dancing and performance, she caught such an attention from Herod that he ended up being completely swayed by her.

That was when he went so far as to make many vows and oaths pledging to do anything for her, which resulted in Herodias, who hated John the Baptist, whom Herod had imprisoned, to take that opportunity to get rid of him. He regretted that action only after he had already done the deed, and he could not retract his words. And thus, the blood of the prophet and the messenger of God came onto his hands.

Today, through these readings, we are all reminded that we are all temptable and weak. As Jesus said to His disciples, that while the spirit is strong and willing, but the flesh is weak. It is by our nature that we are easily tempted through the flesh, through our bodies, as the devil is always trying to find ways to persuade us and to pull us away from fulfilling God’s commandments, but instead trying to instil in us selfishness, pride, and greed.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Agatha, a great and renowned martyr of the faith, who was a very pious and faithful young woman, who dedicated her whole life to the Lord. St. Agatha was a virgin woman who lived in what is now Sicily in Italy. She was born into a rich and noble family, who had then chosen in her early life, to dedicate and commit herself in perpetual virginity dedicated to God.

When a pagan nobleman, a Roman prefect tried to pursue her interest and made his advance on her, her rejection made him to persecute her, and all the more because of her Christian faith and her commitment to a sacred and devoted life to God. He attempted to sway her and to persuade her with many good offers to turn her from her faith, but all with no avail.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the example of St. Agatha, who was tortured, who suffered because of her unfailing faith and devotion to God, should be an example to all of us, that we should also follow in her path, rejecting the temptations of the world, the temptations of our flesh and our desire, so that we would not end up like king Herod, who was tempted and gave himself up to that temptation, and in the end, he had nothing but condemnation.

May God strengthen us and our desire to love Him, and to commit things for the glory of His Name, and in all things, let us put forward our love for one another, the care and concern that should be shown to them, rather than to indulge in our own desires and wants. Let us all renew our commitment and faith in God, and let us all be ever closer to the throne of His mercy. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 5 February 2016 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 14-29

King Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 5 February 2016 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 17 : 31, 47 and 50, 51

This God – His way is perfect; the word of the Lord can stand fire. He is a shield for those who seek refuge in Him.

The Lord lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my saviour God. For this I extol You, o Lord, among the nations; I will sing praise to Your Name.

He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones, to David, and to his descendants forever.