Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we reflect on the Word of God in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to do our part as Christians, as those who believe in God and follow the Lord. As Christians, all of us are God’s beloved people, and we have received His truth through the Church. If we truly believe in the Lord, then we must act and do things in ways that are in accordance to His teachings. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we are hypocrites.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the Lord proclaiming His salvation of His people through Cyrus, the then future king of the Persians. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, it was still two centuries or so before the time of king Cyrus. Yet, the Lord had proclaimed the coming of His salvation even at that time, in advance, that when His people who by then had become wayward and fallen into sin, and humiliated and humbled when their city, country and the Temple were destroyed, they were ultimately still beloved by God in the end.

When the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, looted and destroyed its Temple, the House of God, and brought most of the people off into exile in Babylon and far-off lands, it must have been very despicable and terrible for the descendants of the Israelites then, who had to endure such shame and humiliation, suffering and persecutions, as aliens and foreigners without any homeland. But God showed all of them that He still cared for them and loved them, and sent them a deliverer through Cyrus.

Cyrus, the ruler of Persia rose to power and eventually came to destroy the reign of the Babylonians and their tyranny, overthrowing them and their king, and brought about a new reign and era. King Cyrus was remembered for his upright and just rule, and for his revolutionary advancement of the rights of peoples and nations. He respected the rights of the various peoples and nationalities that existed in the vast Persian Empire he created, and his successors respected this same custom and practice.

It was this same Cyrus, whom God had revealed beforehand through prophecy, that freed the descendants of Israel from their bondage and exile, after many, many decades. They were allowed to return to their homeland, to regain the lands and places they had lost, and they were allowed to freely practice their faith once again. This is unusual as at that time, usually the ruler of the kingdoms got to decide what the people believed in, and usually persecuted foreign beliefs and practices.

Thus, Cyrus was considered a righteous among the nations, even though he did not belong to the Israelite nation, and even though he did not worship God the way that the Israelites worshipped Him. Cyrus obeyed God’s will and did everything that God had entrusted him with, as a just ruler and as the liberator of God’s oppressed people. Cyrus became a paragon and example among the Israelites henceforth, and he therefore is a good example for us all as well.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus as He spoke with the Pharisees, who at that time wanted to trap the Lord with cunning trickery, as they asked Him with sweet but insincere words, seemingly praising Him for being honest and upright, and then attempting to trap Him by asking if it was lawful and fine for the people to pay the taxes to Caesar, that is to the Roman government.

This was truly a very cunning and tricky attempt in trying to discredit and even harm the Lord. The Lord was in fact would end up in deep trouble had He answered either that the people must not pay the taxes or that they should obey and pay their taxes. This was because, the matter of Roman taxes was a very divisive and dangerous one at the time, with most of the people resenting the taxation, the money that they had to pay to their Roman overlords.

That was why the people resented the tax collectors very much and reviled them as one of the lowest in the community, treated with contempt and branded even as traitors to the nation. They were seen as collaborators who got rich and had good life due to their connections with the Roman government and its apparatus, and the people came to resent this very deeply. Thus, had the Lord answered that the people ought to pay taxes to the Romans, then the Pharisees would have severely discredited Him and made Him hated by the people.

On the other hand, had the Lord said that the people must not pay taxes, then the Pharisees would have used the opportunity to strike at Him by reporting Him to the Romans, just as they would eventually do together with the Sanhedrin when they handed the Lord to the Romans for the crucifixion. Not paying taxes was one of the most severe faults that the Romans would definitely punish very harshly. After all, the Romans had treated traitors and treasonous activities with the great harshness throughout its history.

Instead, the Lord wisely manouevred His way out of the predicament by first rebuking the Pharisees for their wicked attempt in trying to trap and discredit HIm, and then saying that on that matter, then everyone ought to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and in the same way, give to God, what belongs to God. In this way, the Lord neither said that the people must submit to the Romans for their taxes, or that they should not pay taxes. On the contrary, they give whatever is due to each.

We can see here that the Lord wants to remind us that all of earthly possessions, all these things all belong to the world, and just as we have been blessed and given these possessions, some of us having more while others having less, we have to let them go and give them back whenever it is necessary. And then, all of us must remember that all of us ourselves, belong to God and to Him alone, and because of this, we ought to give to God what is due to Him, that is to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him wholeheartedly.

The example of king Cyrus of Persia in our first reading today is a reminder that God has empowered in this world, governments and states, nations and rulers with the authority from Him, to govern and rule, to lead and guide, in tandem with the Church which He has established in this world. To those rulers, God had entrusted us His people who are still living in this world. This is why, as good and committed Christians, we cannot be disobedient or rebellious against those governments and rulers God had placed over us.

We have our part to play as obedient and dutiful citizens and peoples of the countries we are in. Of course this does not mean that we follow the rules blindly, as we have to obey the laws and teachings of the Church as well. But it means that as long as the rules of the land do not contradict the essence of Christian teachings and are in line with the virtues and values of our Christian faith, we should obey and follow them.

That is why, all of us as Christians, we must be good and virtuous in all of our actions and deeds. We have to be good Christians and followers of the Lord, just as we have to be good and law-abiding citizens as well. We must not be like the Pharisees and all those hypocrites, who outwardly showed piety and faith, and yet, they had no real and genuine love and dedication to God. In this way, they had not given to God, what belongs to God, that is their love and their obedience.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see in king Cyrus, who was not even counted among the Israelites, and yet, highly regarded and praised for his actions, his righteousness and justice as a just ruler and liberator for many people including the people of Israel, all of us are called to follow in his examples, to follow the path of God, all the more that since we know of His truth and teachings, then we are expected to obey Him and to show our faith through our actions, at each and every moments of our lives.

This is the challenge that we have been presented with, brethren. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to walk down this path of faith? God has called us all to follow Him, and to do what He has taught and shown us to do. We are all called to bear His truth and love, to be His faithful witnesses in our respective communities. And especially, during these difficult and challenging times, have we been good neighbours and friends to all those who are in need around us? Or have we been more interested in settling our own matters and desires?

We have seen how many people selfishly took care of themselves, or being disobedient for the sake of their personal freedom. And there had been occasions when we as Christians complained that we have been restricted in our freedom to worship especially in the last few months, and we disobeyed the government and regulations all amidst the terrible few months of this pandemic. This is the perfect example of why, as Christians, we must not forget that while we obey the Lord first and foremost above all else, but we also have a duty to be good and responsible citizens too.

Let us think of this, brothers and sisters in Christ, if by our actions then by refusing to wear mask, or by refusing to follow community gathering and restrictions currently in place, we cause harm to others, and make others to suffer more, and by prolonging this pandemic, we unnecessarily extend this pandemic’s impact, aren’t we being hypocrites and unfaithful, and worse still, being selfish and sinful? This is why, we must not lose ourselves to our own pride and desires, and be disobedient for the sake of being convenient for ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on, especially during these difficult times, be exemplary in our actions and deeds, in being responsible in our daily actions, and in showing care towards others in need. Let us all help one another and play our part, doing the best we can to be first and foremost, dutiful and loving Christians, and also as contributing and law-abiding citizens of our respective states and realms.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us with His wisdom that we may discern carefully our choice of actions, avoiding actions that bring about harm to others just that we feed our own ego and selfishness. Let us be guided by God and our Christian faith in our actions and way of life. May God bless us all and help us in our efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 22 : 15-21

At that time, the Pharisees went away, considering how they could trap Jesus by His own words. They sent to Him their disciples, along with members of Herod’s party, saying, “Master, we know that You are an honest Man; and truly teach God’s way. You are not influenced by others, nor are You afraid of anyone. So tell us what You think : is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus understood their evil intentions, and said to them, “Hypocrites, why are you trying to trap Me? Show me the coin with which you pay taxes.” They showed Him a silver coin, and Jesus said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus replied, “So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5b

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the Church of Thessalonica, which is in God, the Father, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May the peace and grace of God be with you. We give thanks to God, at all times, for you, and remember you in our prayers. We constantly recall, before God, our Father, the work of your faith, the labours of your love, and your endurance, in waiting for Christ Jesus our Lord.

We remember, brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called. The Gospel we brought you was such, not only in words. Miracles, the Holy Spirit, and plenty of everything, were given to you.

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 95 : 1 and 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10a and 10c

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is YHVH and worthy of praise! Above all gods, He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One Who made the heavens.

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name; bring gifts and enter His courts.

Worship YHVH with holy celebrations; stand in awe of Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 45 : 1, 4-6

Thus says YHVH to His anointed, to Cyrus : “I have taken you by the right hand to subdue nations before you and strip kings of their armour, to open the gateways before you so that they will be closed no more.”

“For the sake of Jacob My servant, of Israel My chosen one, I have called you by your name and given you your mission although you do not know Me. I am YHVH, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I armed you when you did not know Me, so that, from the rising to the setting of the sun, all may know that there is no one besides Me; I am YHVH, and there is no other.”

Friday, 18 October 2019 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as the Universal Church the feast of one of the four great Evangelists or the writers of the Four Holy Gospels. Today we honour the memory of St. Luke the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke, notable for his meticulous method of writing and attention to details, being written many decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

While St. Luke was not counted among one of the Apostles, unlike that of St. Matthew and St. John, but St. Luke was mentioned quite a few times in the Acts of the Apostles and was known to be a very important Church father for his many works of evangelisation and ministry among the people of God. St. Luke followed St. Paul during some of his missionary journeys and it was also likely that the Acts of the Apostles was authored by him.

St. Luke had contributed greatly to the Church and his role in the early establishment of the Church and the faith cannot be underestimated. He was a physician and doctor by trade, but after he had found Christ, he went on from treating the people of their physical illnesses into treating their spiritual shortcomings and sickness too. He dedicated his whole life to the service of God and did his best to deliver and proclaim the truth of God to the people.

And he also faced the difficult challenges and persecutions just as the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had experienced. He continued to serve the Lord faithfully regardless of these difficulties and did his best to be a faithful witness of the Gospel of Christ. His numerous contributions especially in the early codification of the New Testament works helped to ensure that eventually when the Scripture Canon was assembled a few centuries later, the faithful had his immensely useful works in hand.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect on our own lives, on whether we have lived our lives as true Christian disciples as St. Luke had been in his own life. And in today’s Scripture readings, we are reminded of just how challenging it can be for us to be true disciples of Christ, as St. Paul clearly showed his frustration in his second Epistle to St. Timothy, how he was abandoned and left behind by his travel companions and many deserted him when they encountered difficulties in their journey.

The Apostles and disciples of the Lord even had to risk their lives and suffered greatly through all the rejections and persecutions they encountered throughout their missions, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had predicted as mentioned in our Gospel passage today, in how He was sending them like sheep among wolves. But at that same time, the Lord also reassured all of His disciples that He would be with them and the Holy Spirit He would send to them would be their strength and guide.

Then now, we need to realise that in our own lives too, we shall be subjected to similar kinds of persecutions and challenges, not necessarily in the same manner as what the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had faced during their days, but these oppositions we face may even be mental and spiritual in nature, and also even from those who are dear and close to us, our own family members and friends among others. Throughout the history of the Church, we have had many similar examples facing our predecessors trying to dedicate themselves to holy lives in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Luke the Evangelist, the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord? Are we able to dedicate our lives and serve God with conviction and commitment each and every moments of our lives? We must remember and heed also what the Lord had also said in our Gospel passage today, that the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers to gather the harvest of the Lord are not sufficient.

We are all called to be those labourers, to gather the harvests of the Lord, by being true disciples of His in our world today by being His faithful witnesses in the world, not just by words but also through concrete deeds and actions. And we do not have to start big or being ambitious, as in fact, in whatever little things we do in our daily lives, we should truly embody what we believe in as Christians and be true disciples of Christ in everything and at every moment.

May the Lord continue to watch over us and guide us, and may He bless us all in our works and in our endeavours from now on that more and more people may come to believe in Him through us and through our living and real examples in life. Amen.

Friday, 18 October 2019 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 10 : 1-9

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them, two by two, ahead of Him, to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest. Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know.”

“Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.'”

Friday, 18 October 2019 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom, and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign, and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endured, from generation to generation.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Friday, 18 October 2019 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 10-17b

You must know, that Demas has deserted me, for the love of this world : he returned to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke remains with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is a useful helper in my work. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.

Bring with you the cloak I left at Troas, in Carpos’ house, and also the scrolls, especially the parchments. Alexander, the metalworker, has caused me great harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. Distrust him, for he has been very much opposed to our preaching.

At my first hearing in court, no one supported me; all deserted me. May the Lord not hold it against them. But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the word fully, and to let all the pagans hear it.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the commemoration of the great feast day in honour of St. Luke, one of the writers of the Four Holy Gospels, the Gospel according to St. Luke, which was known as one of the most detailed among the four Gospels, filled with rich details about the life of Jesus our Lord, His works, His family and His disciples, and all other testimonies of faith that helped us to know what our Lord had taught us through His Church.

In today’s readings, we heard about the works of the Apostles and the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the works of St. Paul the Apostle, who went about to many places, cities, towns and villages throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, crossing back and forth between Greece and the Roman province of Asia, Syria and Judea, he had proclaimed the word of God in many occasions, testifying to the communities in the places he had visited about the Lord and Saviour of the world.

In the Gospel we also heard how Jesus sent His chosen seventy-two disciples who had been appointed to assist the twelve Apostles in the deliverance of the Good News to the people, and these helped the work of the Lord by preparing those people and communities for the coming of the Lord Jesus, that when He came, He would be able to relate better to them and many more of them would listen to Him and be saved.

And as Jesus had foretold, their works and missions were not to be easy, but instead many obstacles and challenges exist on their path. There would be those who welcomed them into their places, and many more would listen to them and be changed in accordance to what the Lord intended for these, but there were also to be many more who would refuse to listen to God’s call, rejecting the call to repentance and mercy.

There would be those who were obstinate and stubborn in following the path of the world, worshipping pagan idols and being devoted to worldly pursuits such as money, power, fame and all other things, and these would come to oppose the Lord and His disciples, and in time, would come to persecute them, to chase them away from their lands, and to torture them, imprison them, and even to make them meet their end in martyrdom.

But without those courageous disciples and Apostles of our Lord, who have given their all to bring the Good News to the people who were still living in ignorance and in the darkness, there would have been no Church, and no salvation and grace for the countless souls who had been saved because of their works. Their blood, the spilling of their blood and the destruction of their mortal bodies served to be the foundation of the Church, as the saying goes, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.

How is this relevant for us all, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we all are the current day’s Apostles and disciples, whom the Lord had continued to entrust the same mission which He had given to His Apostles and disciples as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. We may be thinking that their works had been completed and the mission was over, but in reality, the mission God had entrusted to us is still very much real and ongoing.

We may not have to lay down our lives in the manner of the Apostles and the disciples of our Lord at that time in the early days of the Church, but we have to realise that there are places in this world where being a Christian, and believing in our God may equate to suffering and being persecuted even unto death, when even the enemies of the Lord will not show mercy to the faithful.

And there are also still so many of our brethren who still live in the darkness, lacking knowledge and understanding of our Lord and His salvation. And we can devote ourselves in the many ways available to us in accordance with our talents and abilities, and in terms of what we are willing and what we are able to give to our brethren who are in need of guidance and help.

We can start little from ourselves, be good and faithful disciples of our Lord, who shun all forms of fornications and sins, be it of the flesh, or of the mind and the heart. We can be charitable and be generous with all those whom we meet along the way, who need help with sustenance, with care, love and attention, and also most importantly, those who have not received the message and truth about God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the examples of St. Luke and the other saints, Apostles, disciples and holy martyrs be inspirations for all of us to follow in their footsteps, so that by doing what they have done, and by staying devoted and being faithful in all things, and beginning from whatever little and simple things that we can do in our own surroundings, may we all work together to bring the enlightenment to many others and that many more souls may be saved through our work and dedication. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.