Tuesday, 5 February 2019 : 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 listened to the word of God speaking to us about the wonderful deeds of the Lord, which He performed before all the people and witnesses to show the great wonders of God’s glory and His loving attention to His people, to whom He has sent the Saviour and Deliverer. It was through Christ that God wants to save all of us mankind, and He fulfilled all of His long promised salvation through Him.

That is why we heard all of the wonderful things He performed during His ministry, including the healing of the sick woman with haemorrhage and the rising of the dead daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. He healed all of them from their problems and sicknesses, because He loved each and every one of them, and had pity on them when they suffered and were asking Him for help and mercy. And He also saw the great faith in each one of them.

All of these things the Lord will do for all those who have faith in Him. He will not abandon all those who have put their trust in Him, and will provide for the needs of those who have strong love for Him in their hearts and minds. God knows the depth of our thoughts and hearts, just as He knew the faith of the woman who was suffering from the haemorrhage. God knew her faith and healed her because of the faith she had in Him.

Today, all of us are called to look deep into our own lives, into our hearts and minds, to see more carefully into our own actions and deeds, our direction in life, our attitudes and behaviours, on whether by these, we have been exemplary in living our lives with faith, or whether we have not had faith in our minds and hearts. Too many of us put our trust first in our worldly provisions and abilities, and God took a secondary and less important role among us.

And yet, for all the lack of faith, disobedience and wickedness that we have committed thus far in our respective lives, we are called to remember just how the Lord continued to love us, despite our stubborn attitude and refusal to walk in His ways. He willingly endured all the suffering and pain, which were supposed to be our burden, just so that we may be saved through our faith in Him.

Many of us think that we have faith in God, but in reality few of us only have that true commitment and devotion to God, that comes from within our hearts. Having faith in God often does not just mean to come and attend Mass regularly as stipulated by the Church teachings and regulations. In reality, for us to have faith in God often means that we must suffer and face rejection, just as the Lord Himself has suffered all the humiliation and rejection before.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of those who have gone before us showed us that the reality of this world is such that many of us have not had that deep devotion to God, in times of good and bad, in times of prosperity and in times of hardship and suffering. Many of us remember God only when things turn downhill and we expect Him to come and help us with a quick fix so that we do not need to suffer. And when we continue to suffer, we often become angry at God, thinking that He was not there with us.

That is why today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the good examples shown to us by our holy predecessors, those holy and devoted men and women who had stood by the Lord in good times and in bad times, suffering persecution and troubles, challenges and pain, all sorts of difficulties just because of their commitment and belief in God. And today, we commemorate the feast of one of those saints, namely St. Agatha, holy woman and good martyr of the faith.

St. Agatha was born in what is now Sicily in southern Italy, and lived during the years of the tumultuous second century Roman Empire, when many Christians suffered various persecutions by the Roman authorities. But St. Agatha together with the many other holy men and women of God did not easily give up their faith, even under the pain of suffering and oppression. St. Agatha made a holy vow of virginity, committing herself to a life of perpetual virginity dedicated to the Lord.

In doing that, she went up against the advances and efforts of some pagan Roman nobles who were enamoured by her beauty and tried to get her to marry them. Despite all of their advances and efforts to get her to change her mind, St. Agatha remained true to her faith and did not give in to their demands. For her dedication, she was arrested and put to suffer for her Christian faith, as her persecutors hoped that by the sufferings she endured, she would give in to their demands and give up her faith in God.

Nonetheless, St. Agatha remained firm in her commitment, and none that her persecutors did could dissuade or force her to abandon her dedication. She was tortured and suffered grievously, and was forced to endure the tremendous pain of having her breasts cut. But to the very end, St. Agatha did not give up her faith and remained true in her commitment. She was in fact showing the same faith, effort and attitude as the woman who was suffering from the haemorrhage and the synagogue official, who went out all of their way to seek healing and to love the Lord, their God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we able and are we willing to commit ourselves and to be truly faithful as all those people which we have mentioned and discussed earlier had done? Are we able to spend our time, and give our effort and attention to the Lord? For after all, He has loved us so much, that He was in fact willing to endure such unimaginable pain and suffering for our sake, that by bearing our sins on the cross He bore, He brought us our salvation.

Let us all spend some time to reflect on all these, and think of ways how we can be better Christians, through all our everyday actions and deeds, by our every living moments. May the Lord be our guide, and may through the intercession of St. Agatha, holy virgin and martyr, we will draw ever closer to the Lord, our loving God. Amen.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 5 : 21-43

At that time, Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake, and while He was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around Him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at His feet, and begged Him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.”

Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing from every side. Among the crowd was a woman, who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind Him and touched His cloak, thinking, “If I just touch His clothing, I shall get well.” Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint.

But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from Him, so He turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched My clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do You ask who touched You?”

But He kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before Him, and told Him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And He allowed no one to follow Him except Peter, James and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at Him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and His companions into the room, where the child lay.

Taking her by the hand, He said to her, “Talitha, kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old). The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and He told them to give her something to eat.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 21 : 26b-27, 28, 30ab, 30c-32

I will fulfil my vows before all who revere You. The lowly will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise Him. May your hearts live forever!

The whole earth will acknowledge and turn to the Lord; the families of nations will worship Him.

Before Him all those who rest in the earth will bow down, all who go down to the dust.

My soul will live for Him. My descendants will serve Him and proclaim the Lord to coming generations; they will announce His salvation to a people yet unborn, “These are the things that He has done.”

Tuesday, 5 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 12 : 1-4

What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us.

Let us look to Jesus the Founder of our faith, Who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus Who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary.

Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

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.