Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to have faith, a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, to trust in Him wholeheartedly and not to be easily swayed by fear and indecision in our trust in the Lord. Just as the examples from the Scripture passages today should have highlighted to us, all of us should remember the past examples of how God has provided for His people and how many among them have received liberation and rescue from their trials and troubles. And even when the people of God apparently did not receive any help from the Lord, that is actually more because the Lord operates in His own time and in His will. But no matter what, the Lord will always love us and show His care for us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the past examples of how people in the past have had faith in God even through their darkest moments, and even when they did falter, the Lord had always helped them out of their predicament. The Lord never abandoned them or left them all alone. Even when they were suffering, the reality is that God has always been with them all the way, and sent to them His deliverance, help and assistance through various means, either directly or indirectly. The Lord has always reached our to His faithful ones, granting them His help and strength, as He had done to Abraham and Sarah in the past, Isaac, Jacob and all the other members of His beloved people and flock.

When Abraham and Sarah were already desperate for a child after having many years of failed attempts to have one, the Lord reassured them and reminded all of them that His promises and Covenant will always hold true no matter what. God made a solemn Covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and peoples, and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. All these indeed came true, as Abraham trusted in the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to. The Lord guided Abraham and protected him, and gave him a son, Isaac, whom He had promised to him from the beginning. Even when the Lord tested Abraham for his faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, while Abraham might have had moments of pain and doubt, he remained faithful nonetheless.

While Sarah also doubted the Lord and even laughed at the suggestion that she would have a child within the year from the Lord Himself Who came to visit Abraham, eventually she remained firm in her faith and trust in the Lord, believing that the Lord will always be faithful and will never abandon His faithful ones. The Lord gave Abraham who was willing to give even his own beloved son as a sign of his faith and trust in the Lord, the assurance of His blessings and faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established with him, sparing Isaac and reminded him and all of us yet again of just how loving, gracious and committed the Lord is to love all of us. Throughout history, this has been repeated and renewed again and again, as the Lord continued to reveal His faithfulness and love to us. The author of this Epistle was also trying to reveal more about the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people as this author had intended.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the the disciples of the Lord Jesus travelling through the lake, during which time a great storm and huge waves came to batter the boat that they were in. In that occasion, the Lord was sleeping while the disciples were panicking and worried that those waves would crush and destroy their boat, which would have likely caused them to drown to their deaths in the middle of the stormy seas. They desperately begged the Lord for help and asked Him to help them, and the Lord rebuked them for their lack of faith and trust in Him. The Lord Jesus then showed His power and authority by commanding the wind and the waves to be still, and immediately the entire storm vanished miraculously to the total astonishment of all the disciples who witnessed it.

Through what we have heard in that Gospel passage we can see how the boat represented the Church of God, while the disciples all represented all the faithful people of God, all of us who are part of God’s Church. The Lord Himself is at the Head of the Church, guiding the boat to its safe destination, just as He has always led us through the many difficulties and challenges facing us in our journey throughout life. Those storms and waves represented the many challenges, trials and obstacles that we will have to face as members and parts of God’s Church, which may indeed tempt us to abandon everything and the Church, seeking for other sources of help rather than to trust in the Lord. That is exactly what happened if someone in that boat were to try to abandon the boat and jump into the water instead of trusting in the Lord.

This is a reminder for each one of us that no matter how tough or difficult our battles and challenges may be, we must not be easily swayed, dissuaded or forced to abandon our path walking with faith in God. We must entrust ourselves in God’s love and guidance, which He has always faithfully given to us all these while, from the examples that we have heard from our Scripture passages today. The Lord has done so much for us that He has not held back from even giving us His only beloved Son, much as Abraham had done earlier in offering Isaac to God. But unlike that offering of Isaac which was just a test by God for Abraham’s faith, God truly sent us His only Son, to suffer and die for us, as the Lamb of God, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice offered for the salvation of all mankind, of all creation.

Can we still not trust in God after He has done so much for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has done so much for us to the point of giving His best and the most perfect gift that He can give us, to have His own Son to carry the huge burdens of our many sins, so that by His coming into this world, He may save us all from our certain impending destruction, death and damnation. His love for us is so great that this Love even overcame the entire combined might of all the sins and the forces of evil arrayed against us. The Lord has shown us His most generous and powerful Love through His Cross, and we are hence reminded again and again to put our trust and faith in Him, and doubt Him no longer. We should not doubt what He has done for our sake, and we should continue to have full faith in Him, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all also follow the good examples of one saint whose life and works can inspire us to deepen our faith and trust in God ever further. I am quite sure that many of us have heard the name St. Thomas Aquinas, a great and holy Priest and servant of God, and also an esteemed Doctor of the Church after his passing from this world. The Universal Church celebrates his feast on this day. He was known for his great devotion to God and great theological masterpieces, particularly his magnum opus, the ‘Summa Theologiae’. As a great theologian and servant of God, St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of time and effort to help the people of God to know better about Him and the truth about His love and compassionate mercy towards us. St. Thomas Aquinas did a lot of great works together with his other contemporaries like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, who in their own ways help to bring God’s people to be ever closer to Him.

Let us all hence strive to do our best to get to know more about the Lord God, our Saviour and loving Father. Let us all return to Him once again with love and devotion, by following the zeal and the examples showed by the holy lives of the saints, particularly that of St. Thomas Aquinas in today’s Feast celebration, and let us be good role models and examples so that in all the things we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and commit ourselves wholeheartedly, to walk in the path of His grace. May the Lord continue to help and guide us through the many trials and tribulations, the challenges that we may have to face and overcome, in each and every moments of our Christian living. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 35-41

At that time, on that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

So they left the crowd, and took Him away in the boat He had been sitting in, and other boats set out with Him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke Him up, and said, “Master, do You not care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 69–70, 71-72, 73-75

In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old.

Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant.

The oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 11 : 1-2, 8-19

Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. It was by faith that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going.

By faith he lived as a stranger in that promised land. There he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, beneficiaries of the same promise. Indeed, he looked forward to that city of solid foundation of which God is the Architect and Builder.

By faith Sarah herself received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that He Who had made the promise would be faithful. Therefore, from an almost impotent man were born descendants as numerous as the stars of heavens, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore.

Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead and had rejoiced in it from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travellers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove that they are looking for their own country. For if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one; so God, Who prepared the city for them is not ashamed of being called their God.

By faith Abraham went to offer Isaac when God tested him. And so he who had received the promise of God offered his only son although God had told him : Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.

Friday, 28 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 remember the words that we have heard, so that we may remember to sow the seeds of faith in our hearts and provide them the best condition possible for our faith to grow and blossom. Then, at the same time we also ought to be guarding ourselves against the snares of sin and evil, so we will not end up falling further and deeper into the trap of sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the second Book of the prophet Samuel of the continuation of the account of the reign and deeds of King David of Israel that we have been hearing for the past two weeks or so. We heard of the time when King David had been secure in his kingdom and had been blessed by God with much prosperity and happiness. However, David was swayed by the beauty of one named Bathsheba, the wife of one of his army captains named Uriah, known as the Hittite. David began to desire for Bathsheba and was infatuated with her when he saw her bathing in one occasion.

That led to an affair between David and Bathsheba, which resulted in her having a child that was David’s. Afraid that his affair would be found out by Uriah and others, David was desperate in trying to trick him into sleeping with his wife so as to hide the fact of the sin that he has committed before God and others. Uriah however was a righteous man and he did not do as David intended, and as such, David with the help of the cunning advisors he had, sent Uriah to the thickest midst of the battle against the Ammonites and ended up leading to Uriah’s death.

But God knew all that each one of us had done including that which David had done, no matter how hard he might have tried to hide it. Even the righteous and faithful David could fall into the traps of sin, and the snares of evil and wickedness indeed reached far and wide as those past examples have shown us thus far. Unless we are vigilant in our defence and preparedness against the forces of sin and evil, we may end up finding ourselves in the wrong side during the Day of Judgment because our sins and wickedness become stumbling block on our path towards salvation in God.

Today, in our Gospel passage, all of us heard the Lord speaking to His disciples using a parable, namely the parable of the sower and the mustard seed. Through those parables, the Lord wanted to explain clearly in the context of what the people understood, how building the kingdom of God requires effort and hard work, and our faith is not one that can just be easily lived in idleness and passive attitude. Instead, all of us as Christians are called to live our lives with vigour and great zeal, spending the time and effort to follow the Lord in all of our actions and deeds, in our words and interactions.

That means each and every one of us have to be active in nurturing our faith, doing whatever we can in every small and little things in life, in following the teachings of the Lord, obeying His will and Law, living in the way that His commandments had shown us, and doing whatever we can to be exemplary in our contributions as Christians, in being role models for one another. It is important that we do so, just as the mustard seeds require the right condition and nurturing to be able to grow to the great size it will attain when mature, and how the sower will earn a lot of returns if he took great care of the fields.

Today we all celebrate the feast of a truly great saint, whose renown throughout all Christendom remained even to this very day. St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest minds of the Church, a most faithful and ardent servant of the Lord dedicated to the glory of God. St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican friar and priest who was remembered for his amazing treatises and works in theology and philosophy, Church law and other things, especially in his works in the Summa Theologiae, his most famous work of all.

St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of years in immersing himself in his works, gaining much insight over various areas of Christian philosophy and theology, while learning the great experiences from the past philosophers in improving his own understanding of the Divine. He was known later as the Angelic Doctor or Doctor Angelicum and is recognised as a great Doctor of the Church, a very important persona in the history of Christendom in the West, who still inspired many even to this day.

Through the great faith and dedication showed by St. Thomas Aquinas, we are called to remember our own need and obligation to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, and to do whatever we can in order to serve the Lord by our actions and deeds, even in the smallest things. We are all called to remain true to our faith and resist the many temptations to sin present in our world today. We have to remind ourselves how sin can even twist the most righteous of peoples like David, and therefore strive to remain committed to Him at all times.

May the Lord be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to resist the temptations of sin and to be righteous and just in all our lives. May God bless our every endeavours and good works, and may He bless us always with His truth and love, that we may always walk faithfully in the path of His servants, especially that of St. Thomas Aquinas whose memory we remember today, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 28 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 28 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight, I have done. You are right when You pass sentence; and blameless in Your judgement. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth; a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences.

Friday, 28 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 11 : 1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17

In the spring of that year, when kings usually set out to fight, David sent out Joab, his officers and all the Israelite troops. They slaughtered the Ammonites and attacked Rabbah, while David remained in Jerusalem.

One afternoon, David got up from his siesta and took a walk on the roof of the royal house. From the rooftop, he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. David sent to inquire about the woman, and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah, the Hittite.”

So David sent messengers to have her brought to him. As the woman saw she was with child, she sent word to David, “I am with child.” David then sent a message to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came, David asked him about Joab, how the people were and how the war was proceeding. Then he told Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.”

Uriah left the palace while the king had a portion from his table sent to him. Uriah, however, did not go down to his house but slept by the door of the king’s palace with all the servants of his lord. David was told that Uriah did not go down to his house.

David invited him to table and he ate and drank until he was drunk. When evening fell, however, he went to lie down on his couch with the guards of his lord instead of going down to his house. The next morning, David wrote Joab a letter to be taken by hand by Uriah, in which he said, “Place Uriah in the front row where the fighting is very fierce and then withdraw from him so that he may be struck down and die.”

When Joab was attacking the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew was being defended by strong warriors. And the defenders attacked the men of Joab. Some of David’s soldiers and officers were killed; Uriah the Hittite also died.

Thursday, 28 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are brought to attention of the fact that all of us as Christians have received the calling to proclaim the Word of God, the truth of God and be faithful witnesses of our Christian faith in the midst of our respective communities and societies. Unless we do this, we cannot truly call ourselves as Christians, and our faith is merely one that is a formality and not genuine.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples using a parable, of that of the light placed on a lampstand. By using that parable, the Lord wanted all of us to know that we must never be passive or be ignorant of our calling to be the bearers of God’s light and truth in the midst of our communities. The light that He referred to in the parable represent the truth that He Himself had brought into this world and which we had received, through His Church.

It also represents all the gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities we have received and been blessed with by God. Thus, whatever it is that we have received from God, we should not take for granted and we should make good use of them, in whatever opportunity we have, to be good disciples and followers of Christ. And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we should be His genuine witnesses, to bear His love in the midst of our communities, among the members of our own families and relatives and in our circle of friends and to those whom we encounter daily in life.

As our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews highlighted to us, we proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, the One true and Eternal High Priest Who had come into this world, accepting His mission to be the One to offer the perfect and worthy sacrifice for the sake of our salvation. And this sacrifice was none other than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, to be both the High Priest offering for our sake and the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice. By the outpouring of His Blood, His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has brought us a new hope of eternal life through Him.

This ultimate and most selfless love of Our Lord is what we are proclaiming, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us should therefore first of all, love the Lord with all of our might and heart, and then, do our best to show the same love towards our fellow men, to our brothers and sisters. It is then by our actions and deeds, together with our words and love that we may inspire many others to believe in God as well, and they may also follow in our footsteps and receive God’s grace as well.

For ourselves, we can also be inspired by the faith and examples showed by St. Thomas Aquinas whose feast we are celebrating this very day. St. Thomas Aquinas was the famous theologian, known as among the best if not the best of those who seek to understand more of the nature of God in theology. He was renowned for his pivotal work, the Summa Theologiae. He was also remembered for his many other contributions, writings and works which still influenced and inspired so many people long after his passing.

St. Thomas Aquinas was however also remembered for his great love for the Lord, in his tireless desire to glorify God and to lead a holy and exemplary life. And for his dedication to love the Lord and his efforts, all of us should also be inspired and be strengthened in our faith. All of us have so much potential in us to be great in our commitment and works, in touching the lives of others positively and in being genuine witnesses of our Lord at all times.

Let us all proclaim the Lord and His truth most wholeheartedly each and every moments of our lives, through even our smallest and least significant of actions. Let us all be genuine in loving God and in dedicating ourselves to Him just as St. Thomas Aquinas had done, and as our many holy predecessors had done and lived through their lives. Let us all glorify the Lord by our lives and be true to our Christian faith, at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 28 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 21-25

At that time, Jesus also said to His disciples, “When the light comes, is it put under a basket or a bed? Surely it is put on a lamp stand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!”

And He also said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive, and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given; and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.”