Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Hebrews 4 : 1-5, 11

Therefore let us fear while we are invited to enter the rest of God, lest any of you be left behind. We received the Gospel exactly as they did, but hearing the message did them no good, because they did not share the faith of those who did listen. We are now to enter this rest because we believed, as it was said : I was angry and made a solemn vow : they will never enter My rest – that is the rest of God after He created the world.

In another part it was said about the seventh day : And God rested on the seventh day from all His works. But now it is said : They will not enter My rest. Let us strive, then, to enter the rest and not to share the misfortune of those who disobeyed.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 : 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 calling of the boy Samuel, who would become a great prophet and servant of God one day in his lifetime, who would be the one to anoint the first kings over Israel and also led the people of God during a time of turmoil and uncertainty, and also go against even the king Saul when he had erred in his judgment and no longer following the will of God.

Samuel was still very young when he was dedicated to the Lord at His House, when his mother Hannah whose prayer for a child had been answered by God, gave him to be the possession of the Lord forevermore. And then, as he grew up under the tutelage of Eli, the then judge over Israel, he grew in spirit and in faith to the Lord. And when the time was ripe, even though he was still also very young then, God began to speak to him, revealing the intention He had for him, and also for His people Israel.

In the Gospel today, we heard about Jesus our Lord Who healed the mother-in-law of His disciple Simon Peter, Who cast out from her the sickness and made her whole once again, and then we also heard how He healed many others who were sick and cared for those with afflictions, casting out evil spirits from them and brought them back from the depth of the darkness and into the light.

And Jesus also said to His disciples, how many of the people in other places also had need of Him, and He could not just stay in one place only serving the sick and the destitute of that area alone. He was sent into the world to bring about the salvation and the liberation of all of the peoples of God, and to that extent He would make Himself available to heal all those who seek for His help.

And in the same way Samuel had been called by the Lord even in his youth in order to serve a greater purpose. One might have thought that someone like Samuel would have become a servant in the household of Eli and as a servant in the House of the Lord, but God called him to be His mouthpiece and to be the one who would reveal His truth to the multitudes of the Israelites and to their neighbours alike.

Today we commemorate also the feast of St. Hilary, also known as St. Hilary of Poitiers, a holy saint renowned for his devout life and for his purity of life, and as a faithful servant of God, as the Bishop of Poitiers, he opposed the move and the attempt by the heretical Arians from their trying to subvert and lure away the people of God from the salvation in the Church.

St. Hilary of Poitiers tried his best to defend his flock from the depredations of the Arians, and despite their opposition, even which caused him to be exiled from Poitiers to the the other far ends of the Empire, he continued to labour hard for the sake of the Lord, and for his true faith in Him. He never gave up even despite all the oppositions and the challenges he had faced.

And when he managed to return to his own diocese after a few years, he continued the good works which he had started and continued on to sow the seeds of good faith amongst the people of God, and this resulted in many who were prevented from falling into heresy, and many others repented and returned to the true faith in the Lord.

In all these, we see the courage and the faith exhibited by St. Hilary of Poitiers, the kind of faith that all of us should have as well. We must have the same kind of zeal and faith, in following God and heeding to His call as the prophet Samuel had also once done. Only when we actively live out our faith and dedicate ourselves fully to the Lord, then we shall be blessed and made the sharers in our God’s inheritance.

Let us all from now on be more committed in our faith and dedicate our lives to serve the Lord in all things, so that through all that we have done, we may glorify God and bring much grace and blessings to all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 29-39

At that time, on leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her.

Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits : the whole town was pressing around the door.

Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but He did not let them speak, for they knew who He was. Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for Him; and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for You.”

Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.” So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; He also cast out demons.