Friday, 19 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking unto us a very wonderful and amazing act of mercy and forgiveness which David, the faithful servant of God performed, when he was given the perfect opportunity to get what he wanted. At that time, as we heard in the first reading today from the Book of the prophet Samuel, king Saul had been searching many places for David, his rival to the throne.

David was a fugitive and a rebel, in the eyes of the king and his people, not because of what he himself had done, as David had been very loyal to the king, even though he knew that he was to be the one to replace Saul as king, as God Himself had decreed. He certainly had many opportunities to rise up against Saul and install himself as king, overthrowing his predecessor. His popularity after his victory against Goliath and his many other victories in battle made him enormously popular amongst the people, even more so than Saul.

But David did not do all that, and even as in today’s Scripture passage we heard of a perfect opportunity for him to overthrow Saul, he refused to take the chance. At that time, king Saul was resting after he was feeling tired going around many places to hunt for David. And it happened that David was in that same cave as well. Even his compatriots and advisers persuaded him to go forth and slay Saul who was sleeping, unaware of the great danger he was in.

Instead, David rebuked them and said that they must not touch the one who have been anointed by God as king. David himself had been anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel, but so did Saul, and in David’s sight, only God alone has the right to decide when Saul would die and meet his end, and not by any human hands. In fact, if we read on the next Book of the prophet Samuel, when king Saul killed himself to avoid capture or humiliation at the battle against the Philistines, and a man tried to capitalise on that by claiming that he had killed Saul before David, David had the man executed for high treason.

David showed all of us the example of good discipleship, obeying the Lord and walking righteously in His path. While he was not perfect as he also committed some crucial errors during his later reign as king, but even as he committed those sinful acts, he recognised them and was very remorseful for all that he had done, which was against the Lord’s will. In several of David’s psalms, including the one which is used for today’s Mass, he highlighted the importance of penance and regret for one’s sins in looking for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

In today’s Gospel, we then heard about the Lord Jesus and His calling of the Twelve Apostles. He chose twelve from among the disciples to be His principle disciples and servants, through whom He would bring to mankind the fullness of His Good News and good works. He called them from among the people, from various backgrounds, and many of them were illiterate and ordinary people.

Yet, He empowered them and showed them with His truth and teachings, guiding them and preparing them for a lifetime of service. Not everything went perfectly well of course, as we knew how Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and fell off from grace. Judas Iscariot did not obey the Lord but instead he followed his own corrupted desires, and this is the path which we should not be following.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also called to be like the Apostles, and to be like king David, to be like all of them in their obedience to the Lord, their surrender to the Lord’s will, and their commitment to live their lives wholeheartedly out of love for God and for their fellow men. It is important that we should not just live a life empty of faith, as without doing all that we are supposed to be doing as those who follow the Lord, our faith is empty and meaningless.

Therefore, let us all reevaluate our lives and think of the ways in which we can live our lives with greater commitment, by not turning away from our brothers and sisters, should they be in need of help and love. There are many in our world today who are suffering from neglect, abandonment, and even persecution. It is up to us then, to reach out to them in various ways available to us, and love them.

Then, all of us will be considered worthy to be counted among the good servants of God, including king David and the Apostles of the Lord. Let us all strive towards this goal in our respective lives, that eventually, we will share the eternal glory and joy which God has promised to all of us, His faithful people. Amen.

Friday, 19 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 19 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 56 : 2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Have mercy on me, o God, have mercy; for my soul takes refuge in You; I will find shelter in the shadow of Your wings, till the disaster has passed.

I call on God the Most High; on God, Who has done everything for me : may He send from heaven, a Saviour, and put my oppressors to shame. May God send me His love and faithfulness.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth! For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Friday, 19 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”

Friday, 12 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages, telling us about what had happened at the time when the people of Israel asked Samuel, prophet and judge of Israel, to ask God to give them a king to rule over them. And then, in the Gospel passage, we heard about the time when Jesus healed a paralytic man who was brought to him, and how He confronted the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who disapproved of His actions.

In the first reading, to provide us with the historical contexts of what happened during the time of the judge Samuel, Israel had been led by the judges appointed by the Lord, to be the leaders of His people, between the time when they arrived in the Promised Land after their Exodus from Egypt, to the time of the judge Samuel, the last one of the judges.

The people wanted to have a king to rule over them, much as their neighbours had, as each of those peoples were ruled by their own kings. The judges differ from the traditional kingship in that, they did not pass on their rule as judge to their descendants, unlike the traditional kingship and monarchy where the ruler passes on his or her rule to the descendant in a dynasty.

And ultimately, a judge was appointed by God Himself, called from among His people and granted the strength and wisdom to lead the people of Israel. They were not perfect or blameless, as some of the judges did fall astray from their intended mission, for example, Samson as well as Gibeon and his family. But they remained true to the mission entrusted to them to the very end.

They gained their authority from God, and they ruled over the people as the representatives or vicars of God’s will. Ultimately, that is also what a king ought to be doing, as the rule of the judges made way for the rule of the kings. However, eventually, as is evident in the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, mentioning the kings that followed after Saul, David and Solomon, the first kings of Israel, we can see how the kings grew to be corrupt and wicked, and disobedient against God.

That is because they gradually placed their own interest, the interest of their families and clans, their personal ambitions and worldly desires ahead of their obligations and responsibilities as the kings and leaders of Israel, as those whom the Lord had entrusted to lead His people Israel to the right path. As a result, they misled the people into sin, and many sorrowful events happened because of the disobedience of the people of God.

And that is linked to what happened in the Gospel today, as we listened to how the Lord Jesus healed the paralytic man because of his faith, and the faith of those men who had braved climbing up to the roof to bring the paralytic man towards Jesus. He forgave him his sins, and he was healed at once. Yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised Jesus severely, and rebuking Him for claiming to be like God, as according to them, only God is capable of forgiving sins.

They have been entrusted with the leadership and guidance over the people, and they ended up misleading the people due to their narrow-minded and prejudiced attitude, in their flawed interpretation of God’s laws. They ended up resisting and challenging the good works of the Lord, which He performed before the sight of many people, in order to reconcile them to Himself. They refused to accept and acknowledge Him, and they even persecuted Him and His disciples.

What is the lesson that each and every one of us can learn from this? All of us are called to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths and capabilities. And we have to learn to put our trust in God and in His plans for us. Our predecessors have erred because they have allowed worldly temptations of power, glory and many other forms of persuasions, which became distractions for us.

Let us all learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, and begin to put our trust in God, and renew our faith in Him. Let us not harden our hearts against Him as they had done, but instead let us all seek to follow His examples in mercy, by showing our brethren the same love and compassion which God has shown to His people, by His healing of the sick and the downtrodden, and by His constant companionship for each one of us, in our daily living.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us and all of our works, each and every day, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and continue to walk faithfully in His path, all along towards eternal life and salvation in Him. Amen.

Friday, 12 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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 to Him a paralysed man.

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 to say, ‘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, 12 January 2018 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 88 : 16-17, 18-19

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day, Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

You give us glory and power; and Your favour gives us victory. Our king is in the hands of YHVH; the God of Israel is our shield.