Saturday, 4 February 2017 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded of the love which our God has for us, the love which is like the love that a shepherd has for his sheep. It is the greatest form of love, through which God wants to care for us as His own beloved children. And He does not want us to be lost from Him or to be separated from Him. He wants us to be reconciled and reunited with Him.

He has pity on us, seeing us all being lost and not knowing the way to go forward to. It was evident also in our Gospel today, when we heard how Jesus and His disciples were tired after long hours of service and preaching, and that they did not have enough time even to eat and to care for themselves. But when He saw the multitudes of people who followed Him, yearning to be healed and to listen to His teachings, He had compassion on them.

That was why He continued teaching them and ministering to them even though He and His disciples were tired. He loved His people so much that He could not resist Himself to take care of them and to love them, just as a shepherd cares for his sheep. The shepherd who truly cares for his sheep will be concerned when his sheep are hungry, of when they are in trouble or lost from him. He will do all in his power to help them.

The Lord is the Good Shepherd, and we are all His sheep. As mentioned in the first reading today, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, that the Lord is our Shepherd Whose Blood has sealed the new and eternal covenant. He is the Good Shepherd, and as Jesus Himself had told His disciples, that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep, that through Him, all of His sheep will not perish but live.

All of us have once been lost to the darkness, our waywardness and rebelliousness have made us to go wayward and fall into sin. We are like lost sheep who wandered away from the shepherd because they have seen something that tempted them to abandon their master. We have wandered off too far and were lost in darkness, and we could not find our way back to our master, our shepherd. Yet, He Who loves us all has shown us the way.

Jesus our Good Shepherd had come into this world to show us the way towards Him. He has called us all His sheep to come back to Him, stirring deep within our hearts the yearning we have for His love. He has shown us the way by His love and by His light, patiently guiding us through life, calling us to follow Him and to persevere through the challenges, temptations and difficult moments in our respective lives.

God has done so much for us, loved us so tenderly and dearly, and done so much for us, that He had placed Himself in the way of our suffering and punishment, and enduring for our sake our intended punishments, which should have been ours to bear. And yet He did not complain when His enemies placed the weight of the cross on Him, and when they persecuted Him, tortured Him, bruised Him with whip and spat on Him.

When Satan accuses us for our sins before God, wanting us to be destroyed and to be condemned because of them, Jesus took upon Himself all the accusations and all the condemnations. Our Good Shepherd had decided to defend us with His own Life, Flesh and Blood so that through Him and His sacrifice on the cross, we all may have life. God has redeemed us by the price of His own Blood, which has made for us a new Covenant sealed in that same Blood.

But have we understood and realised this love? Have we recognised that God loves each and every one of us, so much so that He is willing to forgive us our multitudes of sins, and wanting to welcome us back into His presence? Let us not reject the love of God, brethren. Unfortunately, it is often we ourselves who refuse the love of God, and we prefer to remain lost and separated from God, because we are unable to resist the many temptations that had led us into a life of sin.

Now this is where each and every one of us must play a part. All of us must also imitate the examples of our Good Shepherd, for are we not brethren, brothers and sisters to one another? We must help each other to persevere amidst the temptations of this world, helping to guide our brethren should they walk the wrong path and fall into sin. Let us remind ourselves of the need to remain faithful and attuned to the ways of our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves anew to our Shepherd, loving Him just in the same manner as He had loved us first. Let us all give our hearts’ love and attention, staying with Him and thanking Him for His grace and mercy. O Lord, our Good Shepherd, be with us all and gather us all Your people, that we may be as one people, one flock reaching out to Your salvation and eternal life. Amen.

Saturday, 4 February 2017 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)
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, “Go off by yourselves to 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 a long teaching session with them.

Saturday, 4 February 2017 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)
Psalm 22 : 1 and 3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Saturday, 4 February 2017 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)
Hebrews 13 : 15-17, 20-21

Let us, then, continually offer through Jesus a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips celebrating His Name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you.

May God give you peace, He Who brought back from among the dead Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Whose Blood seals the eternal covenant. He will train you in every good work, that you may do His will, for it is He Who works in us what pleases Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory be forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 3 February 2017 : 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 are reminded by the Scripture readings on the importance and the sanctity of the matter of marriage, which is the union that God had made between a man and a woman. In the first reading, we are told by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, that marriage must be respected by all, and that we should not depend on money.

Indeed, it is worldly cares and temptations such as money, pleasures of the flesh, lust, immorality, fornication of the flesh and many others which are able to endanger the sanctity and unity found in our marriage. It is from them that adultery and all sorts of despicable sins were born from, as what we can see in the example of the adultery of king Herod, as told in the Gospel today.

King Herod was the ruler of Judea, who was one of the sons of king Herod the Great. Philip was his brother, the ruler of Decapolis, but this brother died before Herod, and left behind a widow named Herodias with a daughter, as mentioned in the Gospel today. It was not lawful for him to take Herodias as a wife, as she had been lawfully and rightfully wed to his own brother.

But both of them persisted in their sins, not least Herodias who resented John the Baptist for telling them off on their adultery. After all, she was most likely still young, even with a daughter, and in the world then, even today, who would not be tempted to be the wife of a king? She would be influential, powerful and wealthy, instead of being a sombre widow of a deceased king.

Herod himself also embraced the sin, and he was unable to restrain himself, which became the source of his undoing. He tried to listen to John the Baptist, and tried to restrain himself, but he was not able to resist the temptations of the flesh, as shown in the Gospel today. He lusted in the daughter of Herodias who danced so beautifully as to mesmerise him and turn his heart away from anything else. He was so tempted as to make vows and promises, even to give away half of his kingdom.

In the end, that led to him being responsible for the death and martyrdom of John the Baptist, a holy man and the herald of the Messiah. In this, he had committed a great sin, not just because of his adulterous behaviour and relationship with Herodias, but all the more because he was unable to restrain himself and succumbed to the temptations that led him to commit a murder, even when done unintentionally.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that all of us heed the lessons to be learnt from today’s Scripture passages. We must learn to resist our vulnerabilities and all the temptations that lead us to sin. We must not be complacent and neither should we give in to the temptations that can bring about our downfall. We have to be upright and we must commit ourselves to the way of the Lord and not to worldly values.

Let us all follow the examples of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, the two holy saints whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Blaise was a bishop of the Church, and also a famous physician, who was renowned for his prowess as a physician, healing many people from their bodily illnesses. Later on, he would devote himself to the Lord, becoming a physician and healer for the souls.

Through his many works, he helped many people to overcome their attachments to sin, to worldliness and to all temptations of the world. St. Blaise showed the people how they ought to live in faith and avoid all forms of fornications and sin. He was later arrested and tortured under the persecution of the faithful by the Emperor Licinius, and was told to have suffer torture with iron combs and was later beheaded.

Meanwhile St. Ansgar was a devout servant of God and an influential preacher, whose works of evangelisation in the region now known as northern Germany, Denmark, Sweden and some other areas in Northern Europe had led to the conversion of the pagans and the sinners there into the Christian faith. At that time, many of the people there still lived in ignorance of the faith, and they sinned against God.

But St. Ansgar showed them by examples, and also through his teachings, by revealing to them the Sacred Scriptures and the Good News of the Lord, that their ways had been wrong, and encouraged them to return to the Lord and accept baptism for the forgiveness of their sins. This St. Ansgar had done, and many were saved by his works. He helped to lay a solid foundation for the Church and the faith in the places where he worked to minister to the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in the Scriptures today, the bad examples of Herod and Herodias, and the virtuous examples of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, let us all as Christians learn to uphold Christian teachings and values, and strive to be upright, honest and just in all of our ways and deeds. May the Lord help us in all of our good works, and may He strengthen in us the resolve to live our lives free from sin. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 3 February 2017 : 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 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 3 February 2017 : 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 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.