Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard from the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God reminding all of us Christians that each and every one of us must be active and dedicated Christians, meaning that we cannot be complacent and lukewarm in our faith, and more so, in how we live our lives according to that faith. This is what we must constantly remind ourselves, each and every days of our life.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke to the people and taught them with the well-known parable of the talents. In that parable, the Lord told them about three servants who were entrusted with silver talents, a lot of wealth for that time, and each of them were given different amount of talents by their master, who was about to go far away and was making preparations.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach the people about the importance of being active and engaged in their faith, that they should not ignore what they have been called to do in their respective lives. The master who entrusted the silver talents to the three servants was none other than the Lord Himself, the Source and Master of all things.

Meanwhile, the servants represent all of us mankind, God’s people, who ought to follow Him and obey His commandments. And the silver talents represent the gifts, abilities, and indeed our specialties and talents in life, and just as the three servants have received different amounts of silver talents, we all know that all of us have been given different kinds of talents and skills.

Now, we have to discern what the servants had done after they received the silver talents, and understand how they relate to each one of us. The two servants who received five and two silver talents were hardworking, and immediately, after they have received the silver, they invested them and put them to good use, and thanks to their acumen and skill, they managed to earn double the amount of silver they have received.

Then, the lazy servant who had received one silver talent, did not do anything to the silver talent. He hid the silver and did nothing to it, until the time when the master returned to get an account of how his servants had been doing while he was away. This lazy servant represents all of us whom God had granted blessings, gifts, abilities, skills and talents, and yet, we refuse to do anything with them, or refuse to use it in the right manner.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us need to do what the Lord had asked each one of us to do, that is to invest the gifts which He has given to us. And how do we do that? We must not keep all the things we have received to ourselves, but instead, we should share the joy and blessings with our brothers and sisters in need. Otherwise, when the Lord comes again, He will condemn us just as the master punished the lazy servant.

That is the first lesson that all of us should take note of. We cannot ignore the plight of others who are around us, and we have to show them care, compassion and love. That is how we invest the ‘talents’ that God had entrusted to us. Have we all heard of the saying, that ‘joy that is shared is double the joy’ and ‘sorrow that is shared is half the sorrow’? This is what we need to take this phrase into our hearts, and understand its meaning.

Then, secondly, each and every one of us are called to be generous in giving of ourselves to each other, and not to be worried about giving too much. As mentioned in the parable of the talents, the one who had received five talents and did well with it to earn five more talents, was given even more. This means that, the more we have been given by God, the more generously we should be in giving and sharing our joys with each other.

We often think that if we give away our blessings, and part with our money and possessions, we end up losing and will have less happiness. However, in reality, if we are to build for ourselves immense wealth and possessions in this world, and we do not share it with others, selfishly keeping everything for ourselves, as what the lazy servant had done, then to the Lord, we will be considered as fruitless and lacking in faith. For Him, if we have done this in our lives, we will have no treasure in Him, no matter how much we have in this world.

None of these will be with us, on the day when the Lord calls us to Him, at the end of our lives or at the end of our time, at the judgment of the souls of all mankind, when the Lord will judge us based on our deeds. Do we want to end up like the lazy servant, who was severely punished and cast out because of his lack of faith and action, when he should have used whatever it was that the master gave to him, that it may bear fruit and profits?

Finally, last of all, we should take note that, even the one who was given only one silver talent was expected to have his returns. What does this mean? That means, we should not be hesitant or be prejudiced when we ought to be generous to others. It does not mean that we are poor, then we cannot be generous to others. There are indeed many sad instances around the world, where the poor are oppressing the poor, just so that they may be able to gain more for their living.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the followers of Our Lord, as Christians, heed the message of today’s Scripture passages, and be ever more generous and willing to share our joy with one another, and also to console those who are sorrowful, and care for those who have no one to care for them. Let us all show true Christian love in our actions and be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.'”

“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, thrown him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 25 : 14-15, 19-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6

You do not need anyone to write to you about the delay, and the appointed time for these events. You know, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people feel secure, and at peace, the disaster will suddenly come upon them, as the birth pangs of a woman in labour, and they will not escape.

But you, beloved, are not in darkness; so that day will not surprise you like a thief. All of you are citizens of the light and the day; we do not belong to night and darkness. Let us not, therefore, sleep as others do, but remain alert and sober.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear YHVH and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots, will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears YHVH. May YHVH praise you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Proverbs 31 : 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

The woman of character, where is she to be found? She is more precious than any jewel. Her husband has complete confidence in her; she will be of great benefit to him. She brings him only good and not evil, all the days of her life. She has obtained wool and flax, and works them with skilful hands.

She puts her hand to the distaff and her fingers hold the spindle. She reaches out her hand to the helpless and gives to the poor. Charm is deceptive and beauty useless; the woman who is wise is the one to praise. May she enjoy the fruits of her labour and may all praise her for her works.

Sunday, 12 November 2017 : Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we approach the ending of our current liturgical year, we heard from the Scriptures a series of passages talking about the coming of the end times. And one of the key messages today, is about wisdom, that is on whether we understand what it means for us as Christians, about the coming of the Lord our God and Saviour.

For as the Lord Himself had said and promised, He Who once had come into the world, will come again one more time into this world, at the end of time. This time, He will come in glory, unlike that of His first coming, when He was born humbly in a stable. He will come to gather together all of His faithful ones, and by reconciling them perfectly to Him, He will bring them to eternal joy and glory promised to them.

On the other hand, all those whom the Lord does not find worthy of Him, He shall also gather them together, for them to be rejected, judged for their sins, and then thrown into the torment of the eternal suffering in hell, in the lake of fire with Satan and his fellow fallen angels and demons. This is what will happen at the Last Judgement, the time when the righteous will receive glory from God, and the wicked will be humiliated and crushed in hell.

Jesus has forewarned about this a few times throughout His ministry to His disciples, which were then recorded in the Holy Gospels. He told them that the Last Judgment will be when the sheep, or the faithful people of God, will be separated from among the goats, those who have not believed in God. And in that occasion, the ones whom God had chosen, asked the Lord of why they have been chosen, and the same question was asked by those who were rejected, on why they were rejected by God.

And God answered them, saying that those who have been chosen, are righteous because they have listened to God and done His will, by showing love, compassion and concern for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the imprisoned, all those who have been considered as the lowest, least and last among mankind. Yet, these are the ones whom the Lord said as the ones through whom the righteous had become worthy of the Lord, by the love which they showed to these brethren of theirs.

And vice versa, for those who have been rejected by God, God rejects them because they have voluntarily chosen not to love, or show care and concern for the sake of their brethren in need. As a result, just as those people had not shown love for their neighbours and fellow men, therefore, they have neglected their responsibility and obligation, and for they are without love, God will reject them and cast them into hell as their just punishment.

There are a few lessons which all of us ought to take heed of and internalise today, as we continue to reflect on the passages from the Sacred Scriptures. First of all, it is important that all of us should know what we are expected to do as Christians in our respective lives. All of us are called to love our neighbours, our brothers and sisters, just as much as we love ourselves, and also love the Lord our God in a similar way. These two are the most important part of the Law, and they are its true meaning, for God’s law is about love.

Yet, to love others as much as we love ourselves is easier said than done. Similarly, it is not easy to love God wholeheartedly, as we tend to love ourselves more, and concerned more about ourselves, in what is called selfishness. That is part of our human nature, and sometimes our upbringing in our society, and definitely in how our world today operates. According to the wisdom of the world, we ought to take care of ourselves first and satisfy our needs first before that of others.

But, if we realise, even loving ourselves is not something that we mankind have been good at doing. Let us look at how we live in the world today! There are many people out there who are ruining their own lives on drugs, on excessive alcohol consumption, on smoking and the abuse of many other things that leads to the ruin of one’s own body, if not mind, and also corrupt the whole being. Many lives have been ruined because of this.

And many of us surely know how difficult it is for us to satisfy our wants and desires in life. When we have received something, we will end up desiring more and more. We cannot be satisfied with what we have in this world, as we will be tempted to have more and more of our desires. That is why we also end up causing much sorrow in this world, amongst our brethren. There had been many instances when there were oppression, injustice and selfishness in this world, the suffering of many because certain individuals or groups seek to gain more profit and/or power for themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the second lesson that we need to take note of today, is what the Lord Jesus had told His people through the parable of the five wise women and five foolish women. The five wise women carried enough oil for their lamps as they were waiting for the coming of the bridegroom who was delayed in his coming. They brought extra oil so that their lamps would not run out of the oil.

As the maids of honour attending to the groom and the bride, it would be very humiliating and inappropriate for them not to have oil for their lamp, and their lamp therefore darkened. That was why the five foolish women panicked when the bridegroom was about to come, and their oil was running out. This parable is a kind reminder to all of us that firstly, we cannot expect to know when the Lord will come, He Who is the Bridegroom of the Church.

God will come at the time of His choosing, according to His will. And no one on earth will know when the precise time, be it year, or month, or day, or even minute and second that this will be happening. As a result, many of us will be caught unaware and unprepared for the coming of the Lord. Thus, the second lesson that I want each one of us to take note is, we must always be ever prepared for the Lord’s coming, whenever it may be, and therefore, we cannot bear to wait any longer.

Yet, many of us like to delay and to take our own sweet time. We think that we have all the time in the world, and there is always time for us to repent or to be righteous. But, we will know of our folly on the day when our time is up, and we are caught unaware and unprepared, like the five foolish women who did not prepare well in advance of what is to come, that is the time of our final judgment and the coming of Our Lord.

Therefore, relating to what I have mentioned as the first lesson today, all of us as Christians are called to do what the Lord had commanded us to do, that is to love, and firstly, we must love ourselves, not by excluding the love which we must give to God and to our fellow brethren, but rather, if we can appreciate the gift of love and the blessings which God had given to us, we will be better able to give our love to God and to our brethren.

Thus, the third and last lesson is for us to go forth! Go and do what we must do as Christians in our world today, being active believers and no longer be passive or ignorant of our responsibilities. Let us stretch out our hands and help those who are in need, beginning with those who are around us, and those who we encounter in our daily interactions. Let us show them the love of God through our actions.

If we do all these, even though there will surely be those who oppose us, who ridicule us, let us remember that those depend on the wisdom of worldly and human power, that is foolishness in the sight of God. Let us instead continue to persevere on, that as Christians, we will always be wholeheartedly devoted to love God in everything we do, and share the same love with our brethren as well.

Let us all draw closer to God, our loving Father, and let us continue to strive at all times, to serve the Lord by serving His people, by loving generously without bias or prejudice, and seek to be righteous and just in all of our dealings and actions in life. May the Lord bless us always, and may He continue to guide us in our actions in life, that through His divine wisdom we will find our way to His eternal glory. Amen.

Sunday, 12 November 2017 : Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven : Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were, and did not take extra oil. But those who were sensible, took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.”

“But at midnight, a cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here, come on and meet him!’ All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.'”

“When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out buying oil, but those who were ready went with him into the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Truly I do not know you.'”

“So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”