Friday, 19 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the matter of obeying the will and the commandments of God, not just superficially but also understanding the whole meaning and purpose of the Law in our hearts and minds. In that, we have heard the reading from the Book of Exodus relating to us the moment of the first Passover in Egypt, and then also the encounter between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law regarding the Law of the Sabbath in the Gospel today.

In the Book of Exodus, God had performed many powerful wonders and miracles before His people and before the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as the latter continued to refuse to let the Israelites, the people of God, to go free from their bondage and return to the land promised to them and their ancestors. As such, God sent Ten Great Plagues to the land of Egypt, causing great destruction and harm on the Egyptians who continued to harden their hearts against God.

And the last of the great plagues was also the greatest one, the plague of death that afflicted all the firstborn children of Egypt, which ‘passed over’ the Israelites, as they had followed what God had exactly instructed them to do in our first reading passage today. They were instructed to take a young lamb less than one year old to be slaughtered for the Passover and its blood taken to mark the doorposts and lintels of the houses of the Israelites.

That was the very first Passover celebrated by the Israelites, following the commandments of God and listening to His instructions. And He also instructed them to remember that celebration of the Passover and to celebrate it every years in remembrance of that very night when the Lord had brought His people out of slavery and bondage, freeing them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

That is what the Lord has intended when He asked of them to celebrate the Passover and to remember the love which He has shown to them, His great compassion and faithfulness, His steadfastness and commitment to the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors and which then He had renewed with them as well. But in time, the people ended up forgetting why they celebrated the Passover in the first place, just as the Gospel passage illustrated to us.

In that passage, we heard the exchange between the Lord Jesus and the teachers of the Law on a different matter, that is on the matter of the obedience to the Law of the Sabbath. That Law stated that all the people of Israel must not perform any work or labour on the day of the Sabbath, and which the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees interpreted very strictly to impose a total ban on work on the day of the Sabbath.

And when the Lord Jesus and His disciples seemed to disobey the precepts of the Sabbath Law, by performing work and miracles on that day, which the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees contested on many occasions, they became even fiercer in their criticism and opposition to the Lord. But they did not understand that the Law of the Sabbath was not meant to be understood or used in that manner, much as the Passover was at the time of Moses.

What happened was that the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees had become superficial in their observation of the Law and the commandments of God. They focused on the external observation of the laws and customs, and were focused on the fine details of such observation, but failing to realise the very purpose and intention of why that Law was made in the first place, that is because God loves His people.

The Law was never meant to oppress or make the people suffer and have a difficult life. On the contrary, it was meant to help and guide the people on their way and journey towards God so that they would not end up losing their way through that journey. It was God’s love for us that He has given the Law as a means for us to guide ourselves and to keep ourselves disciplined in faith, so that we may become closer to God.

And the Lord used examples from the past, using the example of king David himself, who ate of the bread of offerings which were reserved only for the consumption of the priests, when he and his followers were desperate and hungry without food. Essentially what the Lord mentioned here is that, the letter of the Law must not be separate from the spirit of the Law. The letter of the Law is what the Law in its literal meaning as the teachers of the Law understood, but the spirit of the Law is the intention and the purpose of the Law, which is God’s love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today’s Scripture readings are challenging us to reflect on our own lives. Have we lived our Christian lives and faith in a manner more like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in only understanding the letter but not the spirit of the Law? Have we spent our Christian lives only following the rules and regulations of the Church because we think that we have to follow or obey them, or do we have deeper understanding of the meaning of those laws?

Let us all therefore deepen our faith in God, and spend time and effort to become ever closer to God, that we may become better and more committed Christians, no longer focusing on superficial faith, but instead to the deeper spirituality in our hearts, and in building genuine relationship with God from now on, in our community. May God bless us always in this endeavour. Amen.

Friday, 19 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that, Jesus walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the Temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?”

“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Friday, 19 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15 and 16bc, 17-18

How can I repay YHVH for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of YHVH.

It is painful to YHVH to see the death of His faithful. I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice, I will call on the Name of YHVH. I will carry out my vows to YHVH in the presence of His people.

Friday, 19 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 11 : 10 – Exodus 12 : 14

Moses and Aaron had worked all these marvels in the presence of Pharaoh, but YHVH had made Pharaoh obstinate and he would not let the people of Israel leave his country.

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat.”

“That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat the meat lightly cooked and boiled in water but roasted entirely over the fire – the head, the legs and the inner parts. Do not leave any of it until the morning. If any is left till morning, burn it in the fire.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”

Friday, 12 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Scripture passages speak to us about the reassurance that God gives us mankind, because of the great love He has for each and every one of us. He has reassured His faithful servant Jacob, also known as Israel, in our first reading today from the Book of Genesis, and He also reassured His disciples in our Gospel passage, when He sent them to be witnesses and to be evangelisers of the Good News.

In the first reading today, we heard of Jacob who was on his way to the land of Egypt, having heard the news that his beloved son Joseph, once thought to be dead, was in fact alive and was the powerful Regent of Egypt. In his heart, Jacob still doubted that it was the truth, but God came to Him in a dream and reassured him that this was in fact true, and he would once again reunited with Joseph and his whole family.

God assured Jacob that it was the way meant for Jacob and his family, in going to Egypt to survive through the difficult years of famine, and He would always watch over His people wherever He brought them to. And He remained faithful to that promise, even many centuries afterwards, when the people of Israel after many generations were oppressed by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh in slavery.

He sent them Moses to be their deliverer, freeing them from the yoke of the Pharaoh and brought them out of the land of Egypt and returning them to the land which He has promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their forefathers. God guided them along the way, and even though the people were rebellious and wicked, He continued to lead them on regardless while punishing them for their disobedience, like that of a father disciplining his child.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard about the sending of the disciples of the Lord, as they were sent out to lead the way for the Lord’s coming, working among the people of God, ministering to them and delivering the truth of God to them, and God made it clear to them that their tasks were not easy. There would be challenges and obstacles they would have to face, and they would suffer rejection and persecution.

But in the end, God is always ever faithful and loving, and He will not abandon His faithful ones no matter what. He would be with them and He would guide them through the difficult times, providing them with what they need and giving them the necessary strength to persevere through the most difficult challenges. As the Lord said to His disciples, even those who are closest to them could betray them and bring harm to them, but regardless, He will always keep them in His love.

That is why we need to keep our faith in God, knowing that when everything else is lost, and when we think that no one else in this world cares for us or believes in us, God is always there for us, no matter what. And we need to know this, so that we too may believe in Him. Many have fallen deeper and deeper into sin and into despair because they had no faith in God’s love and providence.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, all of us as Christians, who have been called to succeed and continue the good works of the Apostles, we also ought to put our trust in God, just as Jacob and the Apostles have been faithful and trusting in God. Let us all draw ever closer to Him, let us all trust Him with more commitment from now on, and devote ourselves, our effort and time to serve Him.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of life, and may He strengthen us in faith, that each and every one of us may draw immensely from the font of God’s love and grace, from His providence and care. May He empower us to live ever more Christian-like, each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Friday, 12 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 16-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.”

“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Friday, 12 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

Trust in YHVH and do good; dwell in the land and live on it. Make YHVH your delight; and He will grant your heart’s desire.

YHVH watches over the lives of the upright; forever will their inheritance abide. They are not crushed in times of calamity; when famine strikes, they still are satisfied.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. For YHVH loves justice and right, and never forsakes His faithful ones. The wicked, instead, will perish, and their breed will be cut off.

YHVH is the salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. YHVH helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them, for they sought shelter in Him.