Wednesday, 22 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the famous story of David versus Goliath, the well known biblical story based on how the young David, before he was made the king of Israel, fought against the giant Philistinian warrior Goliath, much larger than David himself, and he won a surprising victory.

Many did not believe at first that David would even have any remote chance of winning the encounter, and they ridiculed David for his attempt. The King of Israel and his advisors and servants ridiculed him, and his enemies mad fun of him. They did not know that the Lord God was with David, and guided Him with His strength.

Mankind could not rely on their own power and hope to win. Many do not know that strength or power alone could not save them, that is because true strength lie only in God. The giant Philistine warrior Goliath certainly made use of his huge size to physically intimidate his enemies and boast over them. But he was powerless when David with the wisdom and strength of God humbled him and killed him with mere sling and stones.

There are many lessons that we can learn from the story of David versus Goliath. One is that we should not fear any thing or any challenges that face us, no matter how daunting or challenging they may be. If we acknowledge defeat before we even try, then indeed we have already been defeated. We have to always keep up faith in all things, because the Lord is indeed with us.

Yes, that is another lesson we should learn, that without God we are nothing, but with God, everything is possible. We should not put our trust in our own strength alone, but we should rather put our trust in God. That is because as Goliath’s defeat had shown us, that the power of men may fail, but the power of God never fails.

And finally, just as King David had been faithful and righteous, true to his calling as the servant of God, we too should be faithful in God as he was. Follow the Lord, understand His ways and obey Him. Do not trust in the fallibility and the vulnerabilities of men, as Jesus had shown in the Gospel today, as He rebuked the Pharisees who criticised Him and tried to block His good works for mankind.

The Pharisees were the learnt ones, those who supposedly were knowledgeable about the Lord and His laws. Yet, they have given in to their pride and arrogance, thinking of themselves as the judges and arbiters of God’s people, imposing on them strict rules and regulations that were based not on true understanding of the meaning behind the Law, but based on their human interpretation of it.

They were hell bent on maintaining their superiority and position, as well as teaching authority, of their version of the Law, that they openly confronted Jesus and blocked Him at every possible opportunity, including what they did as covered in today’s Gospel. They failed to see, through their veil of pride and ignorance, the truth about Christ, and how true His teachings were.

Indeed, the laws and the rules especially regarding Sabbath did not make the people of God slaves to the law. The law was given to them to guide them, so that they may understand the Lord and His ways better, and not to burden them unnecessarily with punishments and censures, as the Pharisees tried to do in their flawed understanding of the law.

What Jesus said is true, while it is definitely not permissible to do evil or harm on Sabbath, and indeed not just on Sabbath but also at any other time, it is not right to prevent or block any attempts to do good on that day. For doing something good towards others is equivalent to doing it for God, and for His glory. To deny someone from doing good, even on Sabbath is tantamount to denying God the glory He is to obtain from those actions.

Today, brothers and sisters, we celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent, a deacon of the early Church and a martyr of the faith. He was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, who lived in the Roman Hispania during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, the infamous Emperor who was the last great persecutor of the faith. St. Vincent was a deacon of the city he was known with, and he was arrested together with his bishop by the governor of Hispania.

St. Vincent spoke both for himself and for his bishop due to the latter’s speech impediment. St. Vincent spoke so bravely and courageously in the defense of his faith, that he was tortured and put to death by the governor, with punishment even greater and more severe than that dealt to his bishop and the other prisoners. Yet, he never gave up and persevered for his faith until the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the example of St. Vincent showed us that it is important for us to understand the true meaning of our faith. Our faith is not just about following the laws and precepts of the Lord, but we have to really devote ourselves to God in the same way that St. Vincent had done. Maybe not in facing martyrdom and death in the same way as St. Vincent, but in our life, that we show concretely the zeal and the faith we have in us.

How to do so? Simply by making ourselves available to others who need us. Love one another genuinely, and show forgiveness for those who have done us wrong. Be loving and be genuine in that love. Through that, God will see our faith in Him, a genuine faith based in love, and He will reward us.

Let us therefore understand our faith better, and devote ourselves ever more deeply in God. Let us not be distracted by the concerns of this world. May the Lord our God strengthen our faith and empower the love we have in ourselves. God be with us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Samuel 17 : 32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, “Let no one be discouraged on account of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle.”

Saul told David, “You cannot fight with this Philistine for you are still young, whereas this man has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued, “YHVH, who delivered me from the paws of lions and bears, will deliver me from the hands of the Philistine.” Saul then told David, “Go and may YHVH be with you!”

David took his staff, picked up five smooth stones from the brook and dropped them inside his shepherd’s bag. And with his sling in hand, he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine moved forward, closing in on David, his shield-bearer in front of him. When he saw that David was only a lad, and he was of fresh complexion and handsome, he despised him and said, “Am I a dog that you should approach me with a stick?”

Cursing David by his gods, he continued, “Come and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field!”

David answered the Philistine, “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with YHVH, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. YHVH will deliver you this day into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”

“I will give the corpses of the Philistine army today to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, and all the earth shall know that there is a God of Israel. All the people gathered here shall know that YHVH saves not by sword or spear; the battle belongs to YHVH, and He will deliver you into our hands.”

No sooner had the Philistine moved to attack him, than David rushed to the battleground. Putting his hand into his bag, he took out a stone, slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; it penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground.

David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, felling him without using a sword. He rushed forward, stood over him, took the Philistine’s sword and slew him by cutting off his head.

When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they scattered in all directions.