Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 3 : 16 – James 4 : 3

Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord, and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding, and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers, who sow peace, reap a harvest of justice.

What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings, that make war within your two selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it, and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want, because you do not pray for it.

You pray for something, and you do not get it, because you pray with the wrong motive, of indulging your pleasures.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 53 : 3-4, 5, 6 and 8

By Your Name, o God, save me; You, the Valiant, uphold my cause. Hear my prayer, o God; listen to the words of my mouth.

Strangers are against me – the ruthless seek my life; they have no regard for God.

See, God is my Helper; the Lord upholds my life. Freely will I offer sacrifice to You, and praise Your Name, o YHVH, for it is good.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom 2 : 12a, 17-20

Let us set a trap for the Righteous, for He annoys us and opposes our way of life. Let us see the truth of what He says and find out what His end will be. If the Righteous is a Son of God, God will defend Him and deliver Him from His adversaries.

Let us humble and torture Him to prove His self-control and test His patience. When we have condemned Him to a shameful death, we may test His words.

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are all called by God to be dedicated to Him through real actions and good works, to follow Him wholeheartedly and to endure challenges for His sake. We have to trust the Lord and walk down the path that He has shown us, living our lives as righteous and as virtuous as possible, to be exemplary in all things and be role models and inspiration for each other in our Christian faith and life.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he spoke the words of prophecy regarding the One Whom God would send into the world as His servant and deliverer for all the people, the identity of Whom was not yet known to Isaiah. This Servant of God would suffer, be rejected and endure all sorts of punishments and humiliations, to be scourged and beaten, all so that through Him, all of us could see the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us, not just through words and proclamations only, but through real and concrete action.

It is a reference and prophecy on what the Messiah or Saviour of God would do for the sake of the people of God, for all of mankind, the promise that God would save all of His people, despite all the disobedience and sins that they had committed in a lot of the occasions past. And all these would come to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God born into this world to be its Saviour, revealing the long promised salvation of God at long last. The Lord Jesus Himself also revealed that He was that Saviour that God had sent into the world.

And in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Himself revealing to the people and His disciples on what He was going to do, to bring about the salvation of all mankind, as He spoke in response to St. Peter’s courageous proclamation that He is the Messiah of God, amidst people wondering Who He really truly was. Some believed that He was one of the prophets, or even confused Him with St. John the Baptist. But the Twelve and the Lord’s closest disciples, led by St. Peter truly believed that Jesus was the One promised by God, the Messiah or Saviour Who would lead all of God’s people to freedom.

However, what all of them did not know was the manner in which the Lord would save His people, even though the prophecy of Isaiah has explicitly stated what would happen to the Messiah, Who would suffer and endure bitter punishment and sufferings, all so that the people of God may receive through Him the consolation and redemption that God has promised and endeavoured to bring into our midst. He did not just offer them mere empty words and unfulfilled promises.

Instead, He gave us His all, as He sent us no less than His own Son, the Divine Word and Son of God incarnate, taking up our existence and nature in the flesh, becoming the Son of Man, and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, making Himself the tangible expression of God’s true and enduring love for each and every one of us. Through Christ, God has reached out to us and called us out of the darkness and into the light, showing us the path that He revealed before us, that by following Him we may find our way to eternal life and salvation.

But the people, including the disciples would find it hard to believe what the Lord and Saviour of this world would have to go through in order to save all of us, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, how St. Peter reacted strongly and protested against the Lord when He said that He would be rejected, especially by the chief priests, condemned and put to death, a most painful and humiliating death before rising up on the third day in the glorious Resurrection.

At that time, St. Peter echoed the opinion that everyone else also shared, on how they expected the Messiah to be the Saviour who would lead them to freedom from their enemies and from tyranny, which could at that time be equated to the freedom from the Roman yoke. Many of them expected Him to be their King and to lead them into glorious victory and triumph against their enemies. Thus, when the Lord revealed such a terrible and sad fate that would happen to Him, some could not avoid hearing in disbelief at what He had just told them, including that of St. Peter.

The Lord rebuked Satan who used St. Peter to try to sow doubt in His commitment to see the mission of the Lord and the salvation to completion. Satan himself also did not fully know what the Lord would do for the salvation of mankind, as the truth would remain elusive to him until the day of Our Lord death on the Cross, when everything He said came to be true, and Satan was defeated. Yet, back then when St. Peter tried to dissuade and protest against the Lord, Satan was hoping to prevent whatever it was that the Lord Jesus was trying to do.

But the Lord was resolute and firmly rebuked Satan who tried to lead Him astray, and reiterated all the things that He would do for the sake of His beloved ones. He showed through concrete deeds and action that He loved each and every one of us without exception, even to the point of laying down His life for us, just as He Himself said that there is no love greater than for someone to willingly lie down His life for a friend, and there Jesus showed us all the ultimate love of God, by His ultimate and most selfless sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that corresponds to what St. James also mentioned in our second reading today, that our faith must be in tandem with good works and actions, and we cannot truly be genuinely faithful unless we can show this faith through real action based upon the faith we have in God. It means that we should not just pay lip service or empty gestures for our faith in the Lord, or treat it as a mere formality.

In our world today, we often see many among us Christians who do not act in the way that we believe, as we often behave in ways that are contrary to our beliefs, and we did things, or said things that were against the Law and commandments of God. And many of us are also often idle and complacent, in not doing what the Lord had told us to do, or in not listening to the teachings and exhortations of the Church, of our bishops and priests.

Many of us profess to be faithful to God and loving Him, and yet, we spent a lot more time in seeking worldly pursuits and desires, and spent little time for Him, besides the usual prayers and attending the Holy Mass, which even many of us felt dreaded to do, or even considering as a waste of time. Many of us treat the Holy Mass and our faith life as no more than just a mere formality or even as a side afterthought, which is the sad reality of what is happening to many of our Christian communities all over the world.

There are even more people out there who no longer attend the Holy Mass or receive any of the Sacraments, among many other things. These are things that prevented us from becoming true Christians, as the true and genuine disciples of Christ. As St. James mentioned in his Epistle, faith without genuine good works and actions are dead, and meaningless for us. This means that we should truly commit ourselves to the Lord and follow Him and His examples in love, in giving of ourselves to God just as He has given Himself to us with utmost love.

As mentioned just earlier on, the Lord has showered us with such great love and compassion, that He has not even held back giving us everything, even in laying down His life for us. By His scourges and wounds, we have been healed, and by His sacrifice and death on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He, our Paschal Lamb, shedding His Most Precious Blood and laying down His Most Precious Body, has given us all the promise of eternal life and redemption from all of our sins.

If God has shown us such a great love, not just by words and promises only, but through real and concrete action, even in going through the worst of sufferings and death for our sake, then why can’t we do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? In fact, we should be most ashamed by our attitudes towards the Lord, His love and compassion towards us, and at how we treat our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, our faith in God and our participation at the Holy Mass among other things. Many of us have failed miserably in living up to our faith, and yet, God still patiently reached out to us and hoped for us to find our way to Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having received from the Lord such generous and constant love, compassion and mercy, are we able and willing to show the same love and commitment to Him as we should have done? Are we able to live up our Christian faith through genuine actions and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments of our lives that we may be truly and genuinely faithful, in our every actions and deeds, in our every words and in all things, that all those who see us, interact with us and journey with us may know the Lord through us and learn more of the truth of God and His love through our own love? Let us all bring hope and light wherever we may be, and be the beacons of God’s truth and light to all men.

May the Lord give us the strength and the courage to be always faithful in all occasions and that we may always strive to do our best, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to love Him just as much as He has loved us and cared for us. Let us all be genuine Christians, loving God and loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and giving hope and strength to all those who are suffering and sorrowful, that our actions may bring life and strength to them. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, and guide us through the journey of our lives in faith. Amen.

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 27-35

At that time, Jesus set out with His disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told Him, “Some say You are John the Baptist; others say You are Elijah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And He ordered them not to tell anyone about Him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took Him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Then Jesus called the people and His disciples, and said, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself; take up your cross and follow Me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for My sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.”

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 2 : 14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith, without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food, and one of you says, “May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied,” without attending to their material meeds, what good is that? So, it is, for faith without deeds : it is totally dead.

Say to whoever challenges you, “You have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.”

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 114 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Alleluia! I am pleased that YHVH has heard my voice in supplication, that He has not been deaf to me, the day I called on Him.

When the cords of death entangled me, the snares of the grave laid hold of me, when affliction got the better of me, I called upon the Name of YHVH : “O YHVH, save my life!”

Gracious and righteous is YHVH; full of compassion is our God. YHVH protects the simple : He saved me when I was humbled.

He has freed my soul from death, my eyes from weeping, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before YHVH in the land of the living.

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 50 : 5-9a

The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

He Who avenges Me is near. Who then will accuse Me? Let us confront each other. Who is now My accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord YHVH is my Help, who will condemn Me?

Sunday, 5 September 2021 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the all encompassing love of God, as He reassured all those who have placed their trust in Him that He would not abandon them and that He would love them all equally without bias or prejudice, and all are equally precious before Him, as He extends to us His love, His grace and blessings.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard from the prophecy of Isaiah the Lord’s promises to His people that He would one day come and liberate them, opening the eyes of their blind, unbinding and opening the ears of the deaf and the tongues of the mute, making the paralysed and the disabled to walk and move again, and other miraculous deeds and works that the Lord would do amongst His people.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel had been going through tough times, a time of many challenges and trials, as the once united and great kingdom of Israel under King David and King Solomon were already long passed and gone. The divided northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah had become diminished and were subjected to humiliations from their neighbours and other powers. And just around the time of Isaiah and his ministry as God’s prophet, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians, who brought off most of the inhabitants of the land to exile in far-off Mesopotamia.

At the same time, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah where Isaiah performed his ministry did not fare much better, as they too came under attack from king Sennacherib of Assyria, who brought up a vast army against Judah and Jerusalem, and almost conquered it if not for the timely intervention from God. The people of God had been brought low and suffered, and all these were because of their own disobedience and refusal to believe in God or follow His path, despite the numerous reminders from the many prophets sent to them.

In our Gospel passage today, from the Gospel of St. Mark, we then heard of the account of the miraculous healing that the Lord had done on a deaf and mute man, as He had pity on the man, and by His power, loosened the man’s tongue and opened his ears, allowing him to hear and speak properly once again. He has liberated the man from his troubles and showed God’s enduring love and compassion for each and every one of us. He fulfilled the promises that He Himself had made through His prophet Isaiah, the promises that we have just discussed earlier on.

And this is also a show that God loves everyone without exception, that even those who are often marginalised and prejudiced against, the weak and those afflicted with physical and spiritual ailments, God has reached out to them and healed them, freeing them from their troubles. This particular case mentioned in our Gospel today is significant because the word that the Lord spoke, ‘Ephphata’ meaning ‘Be opened!’ at the time when He loosened the tongue and opened the ears of the man, is also for a long time used in the rites of baptism of the Church, and is still used today in the baptism using the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Through this symbolic act, the priests placed their hands on the ears and the mouth of the person or infant to be baptised, signifying that they performed the rites of the Sacrament of Baptism in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ, opening the ears and the mouth of the one to be baptised that just as the man was healed as mentioned in our Gospel passage, then the person that was to be baptised would also be healed from his or her spiritual bondage to sin and death.

And the opening of the ears and the mouth are also significant because they represent symbolically our willingness by accepting baptism, to open our ears to listen to the truth and the Word of God, and to speak only the words of God’s truth, and not to proclaim things that are contrary to our faith. The Lord had freed us from our bondage and enslavement to sin and evil, and He has healed us from the most terrible disease of all, that is sin and death.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, although we may be physically well and even in best of health, all of us are in fact suffering from the affliction of sin, which corrupts us from within and making us defiled and unworthy of God. God alone can save and heal us from this affliction, and He has shown His willingness to free us and to be reconciled fully with us. All of us, whether we are great or small, rich or poor, influential, famous or unknown, all of us are equally sinners before God, and God loves all of us equally, which is what the Lord wanted to show us through the Word of God we have heard today.

And, in our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. James the Apostle, we heard the same message as the Apostle reminded the faithful that the Lord does not discriminate between persons, and he went on to give examples of how the faithful could unknowingly act in ways that promote prejudice and discrimination by treating their fellow brothers and sisters in different ways. It is inevitable that we will have differences in how we interact with different groups of people, and we will certainly be more willing to treat well those whom we love and care about, while ignoring or even treating badly those whom we dislike.

However, the Lord called on all of us to overcome this tendency, and reminded us that if He loves each and every one of us equally, then we as His people should also do the same, and love one another in the same manner. We have to do our best and strive to show care and compassion, forgiveness and the willingness to embrace even those who have persecuted and hurt us, as the Lord Jesus Himself taught us to forgive those who have hated us and pray for those who have persecuted us. He asked us to forgive one another’s sins, just as the Lord, His heavenly Father has forgiven us our sins, one of the key elements of the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster we all know so well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today where inequality, prejudice, racial and religious tensions, divisions among people and all the other divisions and disagreements that exist between our communities and peoples, we are all called as Christians to be revolutionary and different. In a world where we are all encouraged to love ourselves and hate those whom we dislike, we are called to love without boundaries and without prejudice, to reach out even to those who hate us and dislike us, to forgive them and to pray for them.

And in a world that is obsessed with appearances, with prestige, power and glory, we are all called to get rid from ourselves these temptations of the flesh, to be filled with God’s love instead, and to be able to listen to His truth and to proclaim His words rather than to listen to the temptations of the devil, the allures of worldly desires and rather than to advance our own goals and ambitions in life. Again, as Christians, we are all called to be loving just as the Lord has been so loving towards us.

Is this easily done for us? Certainly not, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is truly often much easier said than done. We may think that it is easy for us to love one another, but those of us who have been hurt by others may find it very hard to forgive, and to let go of our anger and insecurities, of our desire for retribution and vengeance. And those of us who have not truly known love will find it difficult to love others, as the many trials and challenges many of us face in this world show us that to be Christians, is by no means a simple and easy feat.

That is why today, on this Sunday, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord called us all and reminded all of us of what being true Christians is all about. It is to love God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, and then to love ourselves and one another, just as much as we value and love ourselves. This is the true commandment of God, in the Lord Jesus’ own words, that we have to ‘love one another just as I have loved you’, a reminder that even though the challenges may be great, but we have to persevere nonetheless.

And none of us should endure it alone. Instead, we should help and support one another, by doing our best even in the smallest things and showing love for each other, to those dear to us, and even to strangers and those who hate and dislike us, and whom we dislike as well. Let us all slowly allow the Lord to teach us how to love genuinely and truly, in each and every moments of our lives. From now on, let all of our words, actions and deeds be ones that glorify the Lord, that through us, the Lord, His truth and love may come to be known by more and more people.

May God bless each and every one of us, all equally precious and beloved by God, that we may be always strong in dedicating ourselves to serve Him and to follow Him for all of our days, now and always, forevermore. Amen.