Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we gather together listening to the word of God through the Scriptures, hearing the readings from the Old and the New Testament, and from the Holy Gospel. In all of these readings lie important teachings and truth about our faith in God. And then, we listen to the priest speaking to all of us, explaining the meaning and the importance of the word of God we have just heard, and how we ought to apply it in our own lives.

This is in essence what we have heard in the Scripture passages we have for this Sunday. In the Gospel passage today, written by St. Mark, we heard the Lord Jesus teaching the people using parables. He told them about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the sowing of seeds and the parable of the mustard seed. But why did Jesus use parables in His teachings?

That is because we have to understand that most of the people during the time of Jesus was illiterate and uneducated. They were simple people, carrying out professions such as farmers, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, servants, and many others. These occupations do not require them to be able to write or understand complicated philosophies or science. Yet, in each of their professions, they certainly have great knowledge and experience pertaining to their respective professions.

By using the parables, which is actually approximations and summaries of the actual content that the Lord wanted to deliver to the people, something like a metaphor, comparing those content with familiar concepts to each of the professions present at the time of Jesus, such as mentioned earlier, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, and many others.

The parable of the sowing of seeds for example must be familiar to the farmers, as is our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel. We should realise that even parts of the Old Testament showed us that God spoke to us through His prophets in terms that are just like parables! He spoke of the kingdom of God in both cases, comparing it to the growing of seeds and the prospering of its branches, bearing fruits and crops ready for the harvest.

The farmers among the people, and even shepherds and others who lived in the community where agriculture was for most, the main staple of the economy and livelihood, will be able to understand better what the kingdom of God is like, by using those parables that the Lord told them. The parable of the mustard seed is also similar in that sense, as they would be familiar to what kind of tree the mustard seed would grow into, a tiny seed that grows into a large and prosperous tree.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all see how God made everything known to us, the truth He had brought with Him and now shared with us. It was mentioned in the Gospel passage today that while the Lord always spoke in parables to the people, but in private He explained everything to His disciples, the Apostles and many of the first leaders of the Church.

And through the Holy Spirit that He sent them, He reaffirmed His truth in them, and gave them the divine Wisdom, that they might be able to preach those same truth to many more people, even after He had died, risen from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, no longer physically walking among us. The Church of God, of which we are a part of, is the custodian of that truth, the Good News that God had revealed to the whole world.

Through the many generations of bishops and priests, the truth present in the Church is kept and passed on, from generation to generation. Our bishops and priests are the successor in the unbroken link of continuity from the disciples of Christ themselves, and therefore, they were the ones who in the Mass, explain the truth espoused in the word of God, the Scriptures, through the homilies as well as through various other catechetical opportunities.

Now, all of us know that the truth of God has been given to us. And we are part of God’s Church. This is in fact, the living and active kingdom of God that the Lord had mentioned in His preaching, that we are part of this kingdom of God. Let us now recall what He has taught us using the parables mentioned just earlier.

The seeds sown in the field represent this truth, the seeds of faith, hope and love that God had sown in us. We are the field of God, the whole race of humanity living in this world. However, seeds need good soil to be able to grow, or otherwise, they will not grow, or else, even if they manage to germinate and grow, they may wither, shrivel up and die.

This is a reminder to each one of us, that our lives must be fruitful and rich in faith. Yes, all of us are sinners, and we have committed in one way or another, deeds and actions that are against God’s teachings. But no one should be sinners forever, and no one was born a saint. Even saints were themselves sinners, but they made the commitment to turn away from their sins, and they repented from the wickedness that came between them and God.

If we are faithful to the Lord, then we will grow and prosper in our faith. This was shown by the Lord through the parable of the mustard seed, in which the small mustard seed could grow to be one of the largest trees in the garden. Sometimes we may be wondering if we are people of little faith, but remember, brethren, that whatever little faith we have in our hearts, we must treasure and cultivate.

How do we do this? First of all, we must show genuine Christian love and compassion in our daily lives. We must do what the Lord has commanded us, that is to love one another just as much as we love ourselves. The problem that many of us currently have, is that our selfishness and pride come in between us and the ability to love as true Christians.

We are often too engrossed in our career, in our pursuit of worldliness, of power, glory, wealth, influence, fame, and many other worldly things that we mankind often crave and desire. It is even quite often that we end up sidelining or cause harm to our fellow men just so that we can satisfy our own desires and wishes. And in the same manner, we end up sidelining God Himself, putting Him far away from our minds and hearts.

How can we then call ourselves as Christians? It is not enough for us to be Christians just by attending the Holy Mass every Sunday. For some of us, we even only come to the Holy Mass during Christmas and Easter. However, what is important is that, when we come to the Holy Mass, we fully immerse ourselves and participate in the Holy Sacrifice offered by the priest at the Mass.

This means that we must be fully centred and focused on God, first of all at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and then, to our own daily lives, every day of our lives. First of all, many of us were regularly present in the Mass, and yet our minds were not filled with the right thoughts and intentions. Some of us grumbled that the priest’s homily was too long, and we could not wait for the Mass to end, before continuing with our own routines.

Is this the love and the faith that God wants each and every one of us to have? No! God wants us to be filled with true and genuine love for God, and this means that we must put God as the priority and as the very focus and centre of our lives. And we do not have to be ambitious, as what is important is the progress we make. Sometimes we are too preoccupied with the results that we forgot to take into account good progress that we have made.

Once again, let us look at the parable, a seed does not grow into a tree in one day. The growth process is slow, but as long as we ensure that the right condition for growth is present, growth will take place for sure. Therefore, it is the same with our faith. We have to nurture our faith, step by step at a time, by doing things little at a time, by extending our love and also forgiveness even to those nearest to us.

We will be surprised at the kind of impact that our little actions may have, but the ripple effect can be enormous. Now, more importantly, let us make the effort to be better Christians, devoting ourselves, our time and attention to the Lord. May the Lord be with us in this journey, and may He strengthen our resolve, and give us the courage to be ever more faithful, day after day, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Corinthians 5 : 6-10

So we feel confident always. We know, that, while living in the body, we are exiled from the Lord, living by faith, without seeing; but we dare to think, that we would rather be away from the body, to go and live with the Lord. So, whatever we have to keep this house or lose it, we only wish to please the Lord.

Anyway, we all have to appear before the tribunal of Christ, for each one to receive what he deserves, for his good or evil deeds in the present life.

Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 91 : 2-3, 13-14, 15-16

It is good to give thanks to YHVH, to sing praise to Your Name, o Most High, to proclaim Your grace in the morning, to declare Your faithfulness at night.

The virtuous will flourish, like palm trees, they will thrive, like the cedars of Lebanon. Planted in the house of YHVH, they will prosper, in the courts of our God.

In old age, they will still bear fruit; they will stay fresh and green, to proclaim that YHVH is upright, “He is my Rock,” they say, “He never fails.”

Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 17 : 22-24

Thus says YHVH : “At the top of the cedar, I will take one of its uppermost branches, a tender twig, and plant it. On a lofty, massive mountain, on a high mountain of Israel I will plant it. It will produce branches and bear fruit and become a magnificent cedar. Birds of all kinds will nest in it and find shelter in its branches.”

“And all the trees of the field shall know that I am YHVH : I, Who bring down the lofty tree and make the lowly tree tall. I will make the tree that is full of sap, wither, and the dry tree, bloom. I, YHVH, have spoken and this will I do.”

Sunday, 10 June 2018 : Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the account of mankind’s fall in the Scriptures, when Adam and Eve, our ancestors were tempted by Satan, in the form of a serpent, to disobey God’s commands, and ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Due to that disobedience, we have sinned against God, and the punishment for our sins, was exile from Eden, where we should have lived an eternity of joy with God.

And yet, God did not seek to destroy us. If He had wanted to destroy us because of His anger against us, He could have done so from the very beginning. After all, He Who has created us, could definitely also unmake us by His will alone. But, God loves each and every one of us, without exception, and therefore, as a result, God’s great love for us made our salvation possible.

Indeed, God is angry with us because of our sins, as sins are abhorrent and wicked in His sight. However, He did not hate us, as people as who we are, because He Himself has created us, out of love, and God desires to love each and every one of us, and share the love that He had within Himself. And love was why, God sent us His salvation, through none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord, His own beloved Son.

Why do we need to be saved? That is because sin is truly a wicked thing, which corrupts everything it touches. Sin was born out of disobedience against God, and therefore, sin is caused by our pride, our ego, our desire that go against the Lord’s wish and will. And sin corrupts the body, the mind, the heart and the soul. Essentially, it makes us unworthy of God, just like our ancestors Adam and Eve.

When we sin, we cannot stand before God and we cannot be with Him, as God is all good, and sin is evil and wicked. Our sins will destroy us and crush us before God, and we will be judged for those sins. Sin separates us from God, and hell should have been our due, as hell is the complete absence of any hope of salvation and a state of total separation from God’s love.

But God desired otherwise, and He gave us Jesus, to be the One through Whom we all have a new hope in our lives. Through Jesus, a bridge has been established, spanning the gap between us and God, Our Lord and Father. He is the Mediator of a new Covenant that has been made between God and us mankind. He has shown us the perfect and selfless love that God has for each and every one of us.

Yet, many of us behaved like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who obstinately refused to believe in the Lord and opposed Him at every possible opportunity. They doubted and questioned Him, and this made the Lord very angry, especially when they doubted the work of God made through the Holy Spirit, when clearly God was at work. Instead, they alleged that the Lord had made His works through the power of Beelzebul, a prince of demons.

What we must realise here, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that God’s mercy and forgiveness is vast and great, and as long as we are willing to repent and to believe in Him, we shall be forgiven from our sins, and we will be reconciled with Him. Yet, if we constantly refused to repent and believe, and even reject the good works of God and considering them as falsehood and wicked, that is what the Lord mentioned as the sin against the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven.

God does not throw us mankind into hell, but rather, it is we ourselves who warrant ourselves hell for eternity, because of our pride, ego, greed, desire and all the things that prevented us from finding our way to the Lord, and from being forgiven of our sins. We falter in our ways, and we fell into sin, but it is up to us to accept God’s rich offer of mercy, turn ourselves to Him and be forgiven.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love us despite our many trespasses against Him. Let us all renew the commitment to live worthily and to be devoted to Him, each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 10 June 2018 : Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 20-35

At that time, Jesus and His disciples went home. The crowd began to gather again and they could not even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, His relatives came to take charge of Him, “He is out of His mind,” they said.

Meanwhile, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

“No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Then the mother and brothers of Jesus came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”

And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”