Wednesday, 3 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are brought to pay attention and focus on the Lord and just how much He has been so patient with us, all these while despite all of our disobedience and stubborn attitude. And likened as a loving father in our Scripture passages today, particularly from our first reading and Psalm today, we are reminded just how our Lord is stern with us and firm in guiding our path, and yet, always filled with love and genuine compassion as well.

In our first reading today, we are called by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews to reflect on the love of God, our heavenly Father, Who corrects and punishes those whom He loves, not because He wants to make us suffer and endure difficulties. Rather, if we do not learn our lesson and continue to act irresponsibly, we will end up in even greater suffering and pain. I am referring to the eternal suffering and damnation in hell that awaits all those who have not been faithful to God and His ways.

The Lord guides us in various ways, and He has shown us His loving and tender care even when He was at His sternest against us and our ridiculous antics and stubbornness. He has always been patient in calling us all to return to Him, in waiting for us to embrace Him with love and to spend time with Him once again. And yet, we just how He has been treated, being rejected and cast out, shut out and ostracised when He came into our midst, even by those who knew Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the time when the Lord Jesus came to Nazareth in Galilee, His hometown, when He went to the local synagogue and began to proclaim the Word of God to the people there. They refused to believe in Him and doubted Him, outraged and in disbelief that one of them, who had lived in that very same village could have been the Messiah or Saviour promised for the people of God. This prevented the Lord from doing His works and miracles there.

As we heard all of these readings from the Scripture today, we are all often so stubborn in our ways and we often refused to listen to reason that we end up rejecting the Lord and His generous offer of love. Like the people of Nazareth, who thought that they knew better of just Who the Lord Jesus was, and thought that it was impossible for Him to have been the One He claimed He was, thus, pride and hubris often became the greatest pitfalls in our path towards the salvation in God.

That is why all of us ought to resist these temptations to succumb to our pride and ego, our desires and hubris, ambition and all the other things that often became great obstacles blocking our path towards God. And instead of hardening our hearts and minds, we should be humbler and be more willing to open our hearts and minds to the Lord, to welcome Him inside and allow Him to transform us and make use of us to be His instruments by which He performs many wonderful things in this world.

Today, we should look upon the good examples of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, faithful servants of God and holy men whose life and dedication to the Lord should inspire us to be more faithful and be more willing to follow the Lord ourselves. St. Blaise was the famous physician and Bishop of Sebastea during the days of the later Roman Empire, renowned for his dedication to his people, as well as his care for those who were sick, both as a physician for the body as well as the physician of the soul.

St. Blaise healed many people through his commitment and work, and he inspired many others even after he had been arrested and suffered martyrdom in the persecution by the Roman Emperor Licinius. And in the famous story of how St. Blaise miraculously healed a young boy who had been inflicted with a stuck fishbone in his throat and was in danger of death, many became believers through him and the famous ‘Blessing of the Throats’ done on St. Blaise’s day today invoke this saint’s intercession for many of us.

St. Ansgar meanwhile was known as the Apostle to the North for his tireless efforts and many trips to what is now the land of Germany, ministering to the faithful there and proclaiming the truth of God to many more people, to those who have not yet heard of the Lord’s truth, grace and love. He preached the Words of the Lord to those pagans who have often been stubborn in refusing to believe in God, and through his patience and efforts, many eventually came to see the Light of God and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of our Lord and His faithful servants, and let us all walk in His presence, faithfully and lovingly, committing ourselves anew to the cause of Our Lord and glorify Him and His Name by our actions and deeds. May God bless us all, and may He strengthen us all with courage and faith, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Mark 6 : 1-6

At that time, leaving the place where He resurrected the daughter of Jairus, Jesus returned to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard Him were astonished.

But they said, “How did this come to Him? What kind of wisdom has been given to Him, that He also performs such miracles? Who is He but the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offence at Him.

And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And He could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying His hands on them. Jesus Himself was astounded at their unbelief.

Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 13-14, 17-18a

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

But the Lord’s kindness is forever with those who fear Him; so is His justice, for their children’s children, for those who keep His covenant and remember His commands.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Hebrews 12 : 4-7, 11-15

Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin? Do not forget the comforting words that Wisdom addresses to you as children : My son, pay attention when the Lord corrects you and do not be discouraged when He punishes you. For the Lord corrects those He loves and chastises everyone He accepts as a son.

What you endure is in order to correct you. God treats you like sons and what son is not corrected by his father? All correction is painful at the moment, rather than pleasant; later it brings the fruit of peace, that is, holiness to those who have been trained by it.

Lift up, then, your drooping hands, and strengthen your trembling knees; make level the ways for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but healed. Strive for peace with all and strive to be holy, for without holiness no one will see the Lord. See that no one falls from the grace of God, lest a bitter plant spring up and its poison corrupt many among you.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures first of all the story of the conflict between king David of Israel and his son, Absalom, who rebelled against his own father due to some earlier intrigues and wanted to seize the kingdom from him with the support of quite a few segments of the community of Israel. Absalom rose in rebellion and marched against David, and as we heard in our first reading today, king David had to abandon the city of Jerusalem. Even some of his courtiers abandoned David and chose to welcome Absalom instead.

At that moment, we also heard how Shimei the Benjaminite cursed David and shouted at him even as he and his supporters fled the city of Jerusalem. Some of David’s supporters wanted to punish and kill Shimei, but David stopped them and remained firm in continuing the struggle despite all those who opposed him at the time. It was a very troubling and difficult time for David, but David trusted in the Lord and remained faithful, knowing that God was with him regardless.

It is the sentiment that we have also heard from today’s Psalm, how when our enemies and all our opponents rise up against us, God is our Shield and our Help. And it is in God alone that we can have full confidence and complete trust which nothing else in this world can give us. The Lord has always been true and faithful to His Covenant with us and He will protect and bless all those who trust in Him. For the truth is indeed that no evil can stand before God, and God will have the ultimate triumph over all evil.

This is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the story of the Lord Jesus casting out demons and evil spirits from a man in the region of Gerasenes across the Jordan. The man was afflicted and possessed by a large number of evil spirits and demons that called themselves as ‘Legion’ as a reference to their large numbers. The Lord sent the evil spirits away from the man into a nearby herd of pigs that went down the hill in berserk. But the man was completely healed from his previous affliction and was normal again.

No one wanted to come close to the possessed man earlier on, and because of the evil spirits that were within him, many kept a great distance from him. The man wandered off in the wilderness away from the community until the day when the Lord came and liberated him from those evil spirits. And this is in fact parallel to what we have heard of the story of the temporary exile of king David from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of Absalom. Like David who had to leave behind Jerusalem and wander to the wilderness, the possessed man also wandered off in the wilderness of Gerasenes.

But as I mentioned, God was with David and eventually, He gave David his kingdom back when Absalom was killed at the battle of the Woods of Ephraim according to the Scriptural accounts. Although the challenges and trials David faced at that time seemed very great, just like that possessed man who suffered from all the evil spirits that bothered him, but God proved to them all that He was still greater, and through Him, they both received liberation and deliverance from their troubles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what then is the significance of today’s Scripture passages? They remind us of the need for us to trust in God and to put our faith in Him. We should not forget that God is always by our side, listening to us and providing us with what we need in His own good time. But we often conveniently forget about this and instead turned to many other things of the world we grew dependant on, such as wealth, pleasures, material goods, status, fame among many others.

Today we are called to remember God and His love, His ever caring presence in our midst. We are called to remember all the times which He has stood by our side especially in our moments of great sorrow and distress. God has always been there by our side, and although sometimes we may not be able to recognise Him, but He is always there nonetheless. That is just how amazing God’s love is for each and every one of us.

Today, let us also look upon the faith of two of the Lord’s faithful saints, that hopefully we may live our lives with greater devotion and love for God after witnessing their faith and love for their Lord and Master. First of all, St. Blaise was a bishop of the Church, known today as the patron saint for all those who are working as healthcare workers taking care of those with throat diseases. The unique blessing of throats on St. Blaise’s feast day is still widely practiced today, and many who had throat complaints or troubles seek St. Blaise for his intercession and help.

St. Blaise was a Roman martyr who was a doctor and healer who was called to heal God’s people spiritually, and eventually became the bishop of Sebastea in what is now the eastern part of Asia Minor near Armenia. St. Blaise had many people seeking him for both physical and spiritual illnesses, and it was told that he miraculously healed a person who was suffering from fish bones that were stuck in the throat. St. Blaise was martyred under the Emperor Licinius who carried out one of the last persecutions of Christians, but the legacy of St. Blaise remained till this day.

St. Blaise reminded us all that through God’s grace and help, everything is possible. Even the greatest of ailments, threats and troubles are nothing for the Lord Who is Almighty and All-Powerful. The Lord Himself is All-Powerful over all those evil spirits whom many had feared from the possessed man. If only we trust in God, everything will be right for us if we follow His way. There will be plenty of trials and struggles, but God will help us and lead and guide the way for us going forward. And perhaps now is also a good opportunity for us to ask St. Blaise for his intercession, especially as the world is now facing the threat of the new 2019-nCoV or novel Coronavirus, that are spreading around the world and has killed hundreds of people so far.

Today we also remember the works and life of St. Ansgar, frequently known as the ‘Apostle of the North’ for his missionary and evangelising works among the pagan Germanic peoples. He worked at the forefront of Christianisation of the many areas in northern Germany where paganism were still common and strong among the populace. St. Ansgar also faced lots of challenges and difficulties through his ministry, but he persevered on, trusted in the Lord’s guidance and providence, and remained true to his calling to spread the Good News and the truth of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed earlier on, and pray that each and every one of us will be strengthened in our faith that we will be courageous in facing the many trials and challenges in life, doing whatever we can for the greater glory of God and to fulfil whatever missions that God has called us to. Let us all serve the Lord with ever greater love and devotion from now on. May God bless us all and be with us, and may His love and grace be upon us always. Amen.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain.

He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!”

When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged Him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.”

So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs; and immediately, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside. So all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Psalm 3 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

O YHVH, how great in number are my foes! How numerous are they who rise against me! How many are they who say of my soul : “There is no help for him in God!”

But You are my Shield, o YHVH, my Glory; You lift up my head. Aloud I cry to YHVH, and from His holy hill He answers me.

If I lie down to sleep, again I awake, for YHVH supports me; no fear of the thousands standing against me.

Monday, 3 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr and St. Ansgar, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

2 Samuel 15 : 13-14, 30 and 2 Samuel 16 : 5-13a

A messenger came to report to David that the Israelites were siding with Absalom. Then David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Let us flee, for we cannot resist Absalom. Go quickly, lest he come hurriedly and overtake us. Surely he will put the city to the sword if he can bring disaster upon us.”

David himself went up the Mount of Olives, weeping. He was barefooted and had his head covered, and all the people who were with him had their heads covered and wept as they went. When king David came to Bahurim, a man from the clan of Saul’s family named Shimei, son of Gera, came out cursing him. He threw stones at David and his officers although the king’s men and warriors flanked the king on the right and left.

As he yelled curses, Shimei said, “Leave! Leave! You man of bloodshed, you wicked man! YHVH has brought down on your head all the blood of the family of Saul. You became king in his place, but God has now placed the kingdom in the hands of your son Absalom. Ruin has come upon you because you are a wicked man.”

Then Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go and cut his head off.” But the king said, “Why should I listen to you, sons of Zeruiah? If YHVH has ordered him to curse me, who shall ask him why he acts like this?”

Then David said to Abishai and his officers, “If my own son wants to kill me, how much more this Benjaminite! Leave him alone and let him curse me if YHVH has ordered him to do so. Perhaps YHVH will look on my affliction and turn to good things the curses heaped on me today.”

So David and his men went on their way while Shimei, following on the hillside opposite him.

Saturday, 3 February 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s first reading we heard about the young king Solomon at the start of his reign praying to the Lord asking for guidance and strength. And God asked Solomon for what he desired, and he answered the Lord with the request for wisdom, the wisdom to judge right from wrong, in leading the people of God as he was still young and lacking in experience.

God was pleased with Solomon’s request, praising him because he did not ask what the others in the world normally would have requested. Given that we can request for anything we want to have, many of us would have chosen to request for money, or material possessions, or prestige, or worldly glory, or length of life and comforts of life, or even all of them. But Solomon did not do that.

He asked from God what the world could not give him, and wisdom, that is true wisdom is something that only God alone can grant to those to whom He was willing to reveal it. Ultimately money, wealth, prestige, long life and everything else that we normally desire, are all temporary and impermanent, and eventually we will lose all of them, and we will bring nothing with us at the end of our lives.

But even wisdom itself cannot guarantee everything or safeguard everything. If we read on further about the life of king Solomon, we will notice how in his later age, during his old ages, he was swayed by his many wives and fell into sin, erecting many pagan idols and altars to the foreign gods to satisfy his wives and concubines. God was angry at Solomon because he was unable to keep his commitment to Him and instead fell into temptation of his great wealth and power.

This is a reminder for us, that all of us must not be tempted and must resist the temptations of money, of prestige, of worldly glory, of material possessions, that we do not fall into sin as Solomon had been. Instead, we should really put our complete trust in God, in His wisdom and in His ways. When we start to put our trust in our own power and abilities, that is when we begin to sway away and be tempted.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God cares for us so much that He is willing to go to such great lengths to provide us what we need, and give us what we need. Just as He has offered help to Solomon in his time of need, He gave us nothing less than His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and our Saviour, and in the Gospel passage we heard today, we see just how committed He is to all of us.

Despite being very tired, as Jesus and His disciples ministered to many people in many different places, when He saw the people being lost, leaderless and clueless, like sheep without a shepherd, He had pity and compassion on them, and He continued teaching them for many hours, guiding them to the right path by His words, telling them and calling them to repentance from their sins.

We should heed what the Lord has done, and as Christians, we must be courageous in doing what the Lord Himself had done and shown us. And we should perhaps model ourselves after faithful servants of God, whose memory we remember and celebrate today, namely St. Blaise and St. Ansgar. St. Blaise was a holy bishop and martyr of the faith, who lived in what is now today Armenia. St. Ansgar was a renowned missionary and bishop who worked hard to spread the faith in the region now part of northern Germany.

St. Blaise was a very skilled and experienced physician who often ministered to the people for their various sickness and illness, caring for them physically as well as spiritually, as their bishop and shepherd. He cultivated a strong spiritual life and habits, which was notable among his flock, and many were inspired by his great faith and dedication to God.

During one of the last great persecutions of the Church and the faithful, St. Blaise was among those who were arrested by the authorities, and as he remained steadfast in his beliefs and in his zeal in living the faith he had, he was martyred by beheading. However, his examples and great faith remained alive many decades, centuries after he died, even until this very day.

St. Ansgar meanwhile ministered to the many pagan peoples and tribes living in the area now found in the northern parts of Germany and Scandinavia. He went from place to place, working hard in the footsteps of the Lord Himself, teaching the people about the faith and about God. Many turned to the faith and converted because of his hard work, and slowly, more and more people, throughout northern Germany and Scandinavia became Christians.

He lived simply and devoutly, committing himself to prayer and fasting. St. Ansgar cared greatly also for the weak and for the poor, ministering to them regularly. Many were inspired by his examples and followed suit in the ministry to the people of God, and more and more people wanted to be baptised as Christians, having witnessed what the holy man of God had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all as Christians also do the same in our own lives, that in whatever capacity we are in, and in whatever way we can contribute, we may be able to spend our time, effort and attention, to love the Lord all the more, to dedicate ourselves ever more, and to put our trust in God alone, just as St. Blaise and St. Ansgar had done.

Let us not be tempted by worldly glory, hubris, desire, greed, ambition and all the other things which are major obstacles in our path to reach out to the Lord. Rather, let us all be ever more humble before God and men alike, so that in everything we do, we say and we act, we do them for the greater glory of God, and God Who knows all that we do, will bless us greatly. May God be with us always, with our efforts and works. Amen.

Saturday, 3 February 2018 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.