Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us to have a new attitude in life when we follow Christ, and not to continue living our lives the way that the world always expects us to live our lives. As Christians we are called to be different in that we follow the path that the Lord has shown us and to embark on this journey of faith in life, with God as our Guide and as our focus. This is our calling as Christians that we should embrace wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the time when King Saul of Israel disobeyed the Lord and His will, following the whims of his own judgment and desires instead of obeying the Lord completely and trusting in Him. King Saul did not listen to the Lord’s words telling him to completely destroy the Amalekites, a group of people that had always harassed and attacked the Israelites all the way from the time of their Exodus. Instead, King Saul spared their property and wealth, their herd and even their king and women, contrary to the Lord’s words.

As such, because of this disobedience, King Saul led the people of Israel into sin as to him had been granted the leadership and the guidance of the people as the King of Israel. If the leader falls into sin, then so will the people and all those entrusted under him may fall into sin as well. That is why those entrusted with leadership has to be upright, just and committed to the path that they have been called to follow, to be obedient and faithful servant of God in the way that Samuel himself had done, but which King Saul had failed to do.

Saul failed because he allowed worldly ways, customs and habits, all the worldly desires and temptations, the temptations of power, wealth and glory to distract and mislead him down the wrong path. Saul allowed himself to be swayed by those things, and tried to make an excuse of wanting to offer some of those that he spared as offerings to God, but in truth, he did all that he had done because he wanted to increase his own wealth, his own prestige and his own standing, perhaps by negotiating with the Amalekites, and for various other reasons. But this is plain disobedience and refusal to follow God’s path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His words speaking to His disciples and the people, using a parable to make His intent clear to them. The Lord spoke about the parable of the new cloth and old cloth, new wine and wineskin and old wine and wineskin. Through this parable, the Lord wanted to make it clear to all of us that following the Lord often requires us to change our way of life, not to adhere to the past norms of the world and all the things that we usually are accustomed to. This is why, linking to the previous part, the disobedience of King Saul, all of us are called to reflect on this as well.

The Lord used this parable because at that time, the people would have been aware of the way wineskins were used to store wine and how clothes were made and repaired. He used such simple examples as means to deliver His message to the people, to make them aware of what they were supposed to do in order to be His genuine followers. They have to change their ways to suit the path that the Lord has shown them, that is the path of righteousness and justice, of faith and commitment to His truth. They should not remain in their old ways or continue to walk down the path of sin.

As the Lord mentioned in our Scripture passages today, what He wanted from us is not merely just lip service or mere appearances only, as King Saul had intended to do. He wanted to offer sacrifices to the Lord from the ones he spared in the battle against the Amalekites as an excuse for the greed in his heart for power, wealth and majesty. What the Lord needed from us is our love and commitment for Him, for us to live according to what we have been taught to do, through the Church and the Scriptures. And we also have many good role models to follow in that endeavour.

One of them, whose feast day we celebrate today, is none other than St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great. He was one of the earliest Christian monks and one of the pioneers of monasticism in Christendom, dedicating his life to the service of God by withdrawing to the wilderness of Egypt. He left everything he had and dedicated himself to God wholeheartedly. St. Anthony spent many years in this state of spiritual journey and purification, while it was told that the devil often sent other demons and fallen angels to strike at him. He endured it all with faith and grace.

His works then came to fruition with the advent of monasticism in Christianity, as more and more people who considered themselves as his disciples came to follow his examples and began to lead a life of purity and fidelity to God. They strove to seek the Lord and commit themselves to Him, not swayed by the temptations of the world, and changed themselves for the better, much in the same way as the Lord’s exhortations in our Gospel today had been made clear to us, that we ought to change our ways to adapt to that of the Lord’s ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having been inspired by St. Anthony, let us all therefore commit ourselves to the Lord anew with a renewed spirit and zeal. Let us all be ever more genuine Christians not just in appearances only, but even more importantly, in spirit and in all things. May God be with us always and may He empower us that we may walk with Him faithfully, and that we may find it in us to glorify His Name by our every words, actions and deeds. Amen.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 2 : 18-22

At that time, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it, that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but Yours do not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come, when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

“No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My Covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks, offerings, honour Me; but the one who walks blamelessly. I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 15 : 16-23

Samuel then told Saul, “Enough! Let me tell you what YHVH said to me last night.” Saul replied, “Please tell me.” So Samuel went on and said, “Though you had no confidence in yourself, you became chief of the tribes of Israel, for YHVH wanted to anoint you king over Israel. Then He sent you with this command, ‘Go. Completely crush the Amalekite offenders, engaging them in battle until they are destroyed.’”

“Why then did you not obey the voice of YHVH but instead swooped down on the spoil, doing what was evil in His sight?” To this, Saul replied, “I have obeyed the voice of YHVH and have carried out the mission for which He sent me. I have captured Agag, king of Amalek and completely destroyed the Amalekites. If my men spared the best sheep and oxen from among these to be destroyed, it was in order to sacrifice them to YHVH, your God, in Gilgal.”

Samuel then said, “Does YHVH take as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to His command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and stubbornness like holding onto idols. Since you have rejected the word of YHVH, He too has rejected you as king.”