Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures which detailed to us about the moment when Samuel the judge and prophet encountered the king chosen by God for His people Israel, namely King Saul, who came from the tribe of Benjamin. God chose Saul to lead His people, to become the guiding star of His people, leading them towards Him, and turning them from the wrong paths.

Unfortunately, later on, if we continue to read the Book of Samuel, we will realise that Saul fell from God’s grace because he did not obey God and preferred to follow his own judgment, resulting in the people committing sin against God. Saul thereafter was known for his lack of faith, and eventually replacement by David, the king whom God appointed to be king in Saul’s place.

In the Gospel passage today, we see another King, Who was appointed by God and anointed by Him, to be the leader of His people Israel. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ Our Lord is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the true King of Israel, Who came down into the world, to lead the people of God to Him, as the faithful King Who fulfils perfectly the obligations and duties imposed on the office of kingship.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ is a King Who loves His people and He is truly concerned about their well-being. Instead of being tyrannical and overbearing in the exercise of His power and authority, and instead of expecting to be served and obeyed, He showed us all by example, coming as a Leader Who serves others, Who loves genuinely and cares for the needs of those who are truly in need. He shows mercy to those who are downtrodden, and those who have no one else to care for them.

When people looked down on the tax collectors at the time of Jesus, they did so because of prejudices and biases they had, as they resented the imposition of the Roman rule on their territories. They considered the tax collectors as traitors to the nation and the people, as they collected the taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers. As such, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and ostracised, rejected by the general society.

Yet, the tax collectors are just like us all. They are no different from all the others at the time, no less righteous or wicked than the other groups of people, even comparing it to the Pharisees and the chief priests. They were all sinners, and they were all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Sin is a disease of the soul, and it corrupts every part of the being. And God came into this world in order to heal us from this terrible sickness.

And as mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, the tax collectors and others like prostitutes who have been dismissed and ridiculed because of their vices, were actually much closer to the kingdom of God as compared to all those who pretended to be self-righteous, but in reality, inside their hearts and minds, they were more wicked than the tax collectors and the prostitutes, as if these two groups of people sincerely recognised their sins and wanted to be forgiven, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law proudly refused to give in.

This is an important lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must not let our pride and our human ambitions, our stubbornness to come in between us and God’s salvation. It has happened in many occasions, when mankind refused to receive God’s forgiveness, and this resulted in so many being lost to the Lord, falling into damnation in hell.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a holy bishop and saint, whose dedication to the Lord should be an inspiration to all of us. He was a great defender of the faith, who refused to give in to the demands and the pressures exerted by the heretics, especially those who followed the false teachings of Arius, who rejected the notion that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is equal to the Father.

St. Hilary of Poitiers worked hard among the people, exhorting them to return to the truth found in the Church alone, and to reject all the falsehoods spread by those who have wrongfully believed in it. He had to endure opposition and rejection, and ultimately, he was even exiled due to the machinations of his enemies, all those who in their pride refused to be forgiven, just like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of the time of Jesus.

The exemplary actions of this devout saint and servant of God should inspire each and every one of us as Christians, that we should do our very best and give our all, in trying to reach out to the Lord, Our King and ruler, and follow His examples in all the things we do. We should be concerned about our brothers and sisters, especially those who have been lost to God, just as Jesus calling all the sinners to Him, and just as how St. Hilary worked hard to convert back all those who have fallen into the sway of heretics.

Let us all therefore do our part as Christians, to be role models for each other in faith, so that through our actions, we will be able to do the great works of God’s attempt to save us mankind from our downfall due to sin. May the Lord be with us all, and through the intercession of St. Hilary of Poitiers, may we all draw ever closer to God, and walk forever always in His path. Amen.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 2 : 13-17

At that time, when Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to Him, and He taught them. As He walked along, He saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow Me!” And Levi got up and followed Him.

And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and His disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the Law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does your Master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 20 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

The king rejoices in Your strength, o YHVH, and exults in Your saving help. You have granted him his desire; You have not rejected his request.

You have come to him with rich blessings; You have placed a golden crown upon his head. When he asked, You gave him life – length of days forever and ever.

He glories in the victory You gave him; You shall bestow on him splendour and majesty. You have given him eternal blessings, and gladdened him with the joy of Your presence.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Samuel 9 : 1-4, 17-19 and 1 Samuel 10 : 1a

There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin whose name was Kish. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a valiant Benjaminite. Kish had a son named Saul, a handsome young man who had no equal among the Israelites, for he was a head taller than any of them.

It happened that the asses of Kish were lost. So he said to his son Saul, “Take one of the boys with you and go look for the asses.” They went all over the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah but did not find them. They passed through the land of Shaalim and the land of Benjamin, but the asses were nowhere to be found.

So, when Samuel saw Saul, YHVH told him, “Here is the man I spoke to you about! He shall rule over My people.” Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and said, “Tell me, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me. In the morning, before you leave, I will tell you all that is in your heart.”

Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head.

Friday, 13 January 2017 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the matter of the forgiveness of sins, as Jesus our Lord healed the paralytic man, telling him that He has forgiven him his sins, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe that He was capable of forgiveness of sins, as to them, only God could forgive sins, and they did not believe that He is truly God.

This was precisely pointed out in the first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, how two different types of people heard and received the Good News of the Gospel, but they acted differently, and thus different outcomes were recorded. In one group, the people who heard the Gospel believed in the message of the Lord, and they welcomed the truth of God in their hearts, and therefore they were saved.

However, in the other group, they refused to believe, and therefore the Word had no place in their hearts. They closed their hearts against the truth of God, and in their stubbornness, they had brought about their own downfall. God had freely offered His mercy, love and forgiveness, but if those people refused to accept them, then they would not be forgiven their sins and trespasses.

That was why the paralytic man was healed from his afflictions, because of his faith in God, Who made His good works true through Jesus His Son. He had sent His Son into the world in order to save it, and thus through Jesus, He had brought about His healing and forgiveness into the world. The paralytic man had been made whole in body and spirit, healed from his sickness and also forgiven from his sins.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law on the other hand, even though they were perfectly fine in the body, not afflicted by human diseases and weaknesses, but in their hearts, their sins remained. Sin is the disease of the soul, which gnaws away at our very being, and corrupting us from the inside out. This is why Jesus often rebuked them, at their impurities of their interior beings, while they insisted on outward appearances and exterior piety.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, are we open to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness? Or are we more like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who in their pride and greed refused to believe in the truth that Jesus our Lord had taught to all of them. They refused to acknowledge their sinfulness and wicked ways, and they adamantly refused to change their ways.

That is the attitude of those who have condemned themselves to an eternity of sufferings. Rather, as Christians, all of us should learn to be more like Christ, our Lord, following Him in His humility and obedience to the will of the Father. We should erase from our hearts all sorts of human pride and all the things that prevent us from finding the grace and forgiveness in God. And most importantly, we should be concerned for each other, helping one another to reject false ways and adhere to the true faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us should also follow the examples of today’s saint, St. Hilary of Poitiers. St. Hilary of Poitiers lived during the waning years of the Roman Empire, with the Christian community troubled by the heresy of Arianism, which had gained much traction amongst the people. The false teachings of Arius had misled many into the wrong paths, and there were many who adamantly refused to see the truth in the orthodox and true faith.

St. Hilary of Poitiers worked hard among the people, through his preaching and outreach to them, telling them the truth about God, and dispelling the falsehoods and the lies of Arianism and the other heresies of the faith. He devoted his time to bring the people who had been lost in the darkness that they may find their way back to the light of God, and to those who were still adamant against repentance, he rebuked them and cast them out from the Church.

He did not have it easy as he worked among the people to bring them back to the Church, as it was often that he faced rejection and ridicule, and he was even persecuted and people plotted against him. He had to endure humiliation and even exile in his life. As Christians, we should follow his good examples, and be inspired by his dedication to the Lord, and be like him in his desire to bring his brethren in faith back to the true way towards the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be good and faithful Christians like St. Hilary of Poitiers, devoting our life to the Lord, believing in Him and placing our complete trust in Him. Let us not be blinded by our pride and let us not be distracted by our human desires, but instead, let us do our best to help one another to remain true to our Lord and to His truth. May the Lord bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 13 January 2017 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Mark 2 : 1-12

At that time, after some days, Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that He was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought a paralysed man to Him.

The four men who carried him could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the Law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can He speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”

At once Jesus knew in His Spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And He said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”

Friday, 13 January 2017 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Psalm 77 : 3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8

Mysteries which we have heard and known, which our ancestors have told us. We will announce them to the coming generation : the glorious deeds of the Lord, His might and the wonders He has done.

They would teach their own children. They would then put their trust in God, and not forget His deeds and His commands.

And not be like their ancestors, stubborn and rebellious people, a people of inconstant heart whose spirit was fickle.