Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, each and every one of us as Christians received the Word of God being spoken unto us through the Scripture passages, beginning from the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah, telling us how Jonah was sent to Nineveh in order to warn it of the impending catastrophe which God planned to send to the city because of their wickedness.

In that passage, we heard of how the prophet Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, telling them of the impending doom and destruction, and the people of Nineveh believed in him. Even the king of Nineveh itself, the mighty ruler of Assyrian Empire and conqueror of many nations believed in whatever Jonah said, and ordered a general repentance, mourning and penitential efforts, where everyone humbly admitted their sins and sought the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy.

And God saw their sincerity and desire to be forgiven, and He withheld the destruction He had intended for the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. He showed His mercy to the people. Had the prophet Jonah not gone to them and warned them about their sins, they would not have turned away from their sins, and they would have fallen further into wickedness, and destruction would have been unavoidable for them.

In the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard of the exhortation by St. Paul, calling the people to live a holy life, to live a fully devout life abandoning all sorts of worldliness and even relationships. This has to be understood in the context of how the faithful at that time understood the message about the imminent coming of the Lord.

At that time, many of the faithful including that of St. Paul believed that the Lord would be coming soon, and that the end of time would come in a short period of time. As such, he exhorted the faithful to abandon all of their earthly attachments and even married life and families, so as to prepare for the imminent second coming of the Lord. And although this did not happen as he had foreseen, but in truth, thanks to what St. Paul had done, many of the people abandoned their vices and committed themselves to God.

Then, finally, in the Gospel today, we heard about the calling of the Apostles by the Lord Jesus, Who came by the region of Galilee and saw four fishermen who were fishing by the lake of Galilee. They were two sets of brothers, St. Andrew and St. Peter, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John. Jesus saw them and called them from their boats to follow Him and become His disciples.

They left behind their nets and their boats and followed Him, leaving behind even their families and friends. From then on, they would serve the Lord and His purpose for many years and many decades, becoming the instruments of God’s work of mercy and salvation. Through them, many were saved from damnation in hell, and many souls were reconciled with God, even though these poor fishermen were truly of no significance and had little respect among the people at that time.

And after hearing all of these passages from the Scriptures, now it is time for us to think carefully about what we have just heard and received, and look into our own respective lives and ask ourselves, what is it that we, who are the followers of Christ, can do, in order to become ever more dedicated and true disciples of His? All of us as Christians are by default, Christ’s followers and disciples.

First of all, all of us have been called to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and the Apostles, all those whom God had called and chosen to be the bearers of His Good News to the people. They have been called to minister to those who have been lost from the Lord, those who have disobeyed Him, those who have fallen into sin and wickedness.

That was why Jonah was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, and that was also why St. Paul was sent to the people of God, writing to the many churches throughout Christendom and exhorting them to live their lives faithfully, and lastly, the Apostles, members of the Twelve and many other disciples called by the Lord Jesus, to minister to the people and to preach His Good News to them.

If we then think that those people were great saints and servants of God, as those who we deem to be beyond our league, then we are truly mistaken. Let us all look at those whom the Lord called from among those we heard of today. The prophet Jonah was not eager in the beginning to obey the Lord, and in fact, I am sure we are familiar with the story how Jonah tried to run away from the Lord.

He travelled by ship to a faraway land, only for the ship to be struck with a great storm, and he had no choice but to throw himself into the sea to spare the other passengers and the ship, and carried in the belly of a great whale, he was brought to the seashore, from where he eventually decided to follow the Lord’s commands. It was not an easy journey from the beginning, and he was a reluctant follower at best.

Then, St. Paul was once Saul, the great enemy of the Church and all the faithful people of God, greatly feared by all Christians, as he went from place to place, violently rounding up all those who believed in Jesus and arresting them, bringing about much sorrow to the faithful. And yet, God called Saul and converted him, on the way to Damascus, where the revelation of truth was given to him, and he turned his back to his past as a great sinner, into a great defender of the faith.

And lastly, the Apostles themselves were not perfect either, they came from various background, called by the Lord to be His followers and chosen to be their leaders. Yet we know how even one among them betrayed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, who sold off his Master for a mere thirty pieces of silver to the high priests. And the other Apostles fled out of fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, each to their own hiding places.

What is the lesson that all of us as Christians can learn from these? It is the realisation that God calls those who He deems to be worthy, not those who deem themselves to be worthy. That was why He did not call those who were proud and haughty, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on the sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes and more.

Instead, God reached out His hands and brought all those who were sinners and considered unworthy, and called His servants from all kinds of people, from all backgrounds and not withstanding any worldly considerations. Those whom He called and accepted the calling, He would make them to be worthy of His Name, and He would be with them, even though they may indeed face difficulties, persecution and rejection.

This is a reminder for us that when the Lord calls us, we should not reject His call or pretend not to hear what He has called us for. Rather, we should listen to Him and pray, asking the Lord to tell us, what it is that He wants from each one of us. We are all called to walk in His ways and devote ourselves to Him in whatever way we can, giving our time, effort and attention.

Therefore, today, it is also a good time for us to remember our priests and all those who have dedicated themselves, their whole lives for the sake of the Lord. Let us pray for them that they may continue to persevere faithfully throughout their vocation and mission, as those to whom the Lord entrusted the governance and guidance over His people.

Let us all work together that the whole Church of God, all the faithful people of God will be able to coordinate our efforts as one united people, devoted to the Lord, and helping all of our priests and bishops, in their mission and works, that in the end, the Lord’s mercy and compassion may reach all those who are in need of that mercy, and therefore like the people of Nineveh, they may be saved from damnation and destruction.

May the Lord strengthen us all, that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to courageously carry out the mission entrusted to us, to be the bearers of the Good News of the Lord, through our words and even more importantly, through our actions. Let us inspire one another to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord, and be ever more committed to live a life consecrated and devoted to Him, loving Him through all of our every actions and deeds. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 14-20

At that time, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”

As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once, they abandoned their nets and followed Him. Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 7 : 29-31

I say this, brothers and sisters : time is running out, and those who are married must live as if not married; those who weep as if not weeping; those who are happy as if they were not happy; those buying something as if they had not bought it, and those enjoying the present life as if they were not enjoying it. For the order of this world is vanishing.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o YHVH; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o YHVH, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, YHVH teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jonah 3 : 1-5, 10

The word of YHVH came to Jonah a second time : “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.”

In obedience to the word of YHVH, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”

The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened upon them.

Sunday, 14 January 2018 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we gather together and we listened to the Word of God in the Scriptures, telling us all about the importance and the meaning of discipleship, meaning what it means to become a follower of God. We heard this through the calling of Samuel, prophet and judge of Israel, when he was still very young, and then also the calling of the first Apostles, at the side of the River Jordan.

In the first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the moment when God called Samuel in his sleep, which the young Samuel misinterpreted as Eli, his guardian, calling him to his place. This happened three times, as Eli denied calling upon Samuel and asked him to go back to sleep, before Eli realised that it was God Who called the young boy.

At that time, the people of Israel had wandered off from the path which God had shown them, and instead, they followed the path of the pagan worship of idols, following the customs of their neighbours, and neglecting the obligation to follow and obey the Lord. And even the leaders of the people became corrupt and wayward. Hosni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli the judge led the people as priests, but they disobeyed the Lord and committed wicked corrupt acts before Him.

That was when God sent His servant, Samuel, whom He had chosen from among His people. He set him aside to be the instrument through whom He would liberate His people Israel from their sinfulness and wicked ways. And Samuel was dedicated to the Lord from a very young age, and today in our first reading, we heard of the moment when the Lord called him and began to work His wonders through him.

Samuel might be very young at that time, and he was truly innocent and pure, not knowing Who was the One calling him in the middle of the night. Yet, he was obedient to Eli, his guardian, and listened to him. And he responded to the Lord’s call, listening to whatever He told him. God spoke to Samuel about His anger at the current state of Israel, and foretold that Eli and his two sons would meet terrible end for their disobedience, and that Samuel would be the one through whom God would work His wonders.

Ever since then, God worked wonders through Samuel, who went about from place to place, delivering God’s will and His words to many people, calling them to repent from their sinful ways, and even opposing the will of the people of Israel at times, because they refused to obey God and were rebellious. God was with him, and he worked many good wonders, even as he opposed the king of Israel, Saul, when he disobeyed God and chose to follow his own ways rather than God’s ways.

Samuel was called by God to a mission and to a vocation that is neither easy nor pleasant. He was not called to a leisure and enjoyable life, but to one that is filled with constant challenges and difficulties. He had to endure the scorn of many people, each with their own demands and desires, and their constant rebelliousness and stubbornness against God’s will, and he had to still love them and care for them, as the judge and leader of the people.

In the same manner, God called His disciples in the Gospel passage we listened to today. He called His first Apostles at the banks of the River Jordan just right after He was baptised by St. John the Baptist. St. John the Baptist was another one of God’s tireless servants, who devoted himself wholly to do God’s will, baptising many people and calling them to repentance, and even stood up against the Pharisees and king Herod, rebuking them for their wickedness.

St. John the Baptist revealed to all of his disciples that Jesus is the Messiah and the Lamb of God, long awaited and long prophesied by the prophets. And some of those disciples followed Jesus, including St. Andrew the Apostle, first among Christ’s Apostles, who then called his brethren, all fellow fishermen of Galilee. They listened to the Lord Jesus calling them as He made His way along the river banks, and they followed Him.

Similar as the calling made by the Lord to the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament, the Apostles in the New Testament were called not to a life of pleasure or to a glamorous and glorious vocation. They were called to follow a King, but He is a King not like the other kings and rulers of the world, for they were called mostly from among the poor, and after their calling they remain poor, and even they have to leave behind everything they had in order to follow the Lord.

They were called to a most noble mission of all, one that is filled with challenges and tribulations. Yet, it was thanks to the hard work of the Apostles that there had been so many souls, countless millions upon millions, billions upon billions of souls, who have received the assurance of God’s salvation, by their preaching and by their loving actions, which they then passed on to their successors. Ultimately, their mission as the ‘fishers of men’ continues today through the Church that God has established, through our bishops and priests, even today.

And what is our calling as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the same! It is the same calling which God had made to us, as He had called Samuel and then His disciples in the past. When He called them, ‘Follow Me!’, Samuel answered with faith, and listened intently, and followed Him to wherever He led him to do His wonderful works. The Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord also followed Him, and went with Him wherever He went. Are we able to do the same as well?

Many of them had to endure rejection and persecution, the same one that had happened to their Lord and Master. They had to face opposition, even from loved ones and relatives, and many of them were persecuted, imprisoned, and many had to lay down their lives for the sake of the Lord and for their faith in Him. Yet, they did so willingly, never once giving up on their faith, and their dedication was the reason why all of us have the faith as we have it today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the Scripture and remembering how Samuel the prophet and the disciples of Our Lord have given their lives to the Lord, committing themselves to Him, let us all reflect on our own lives, and how each and every one of us can devote ourselves to Him in our own way, and giving to Him whatever we can give Him in our own capacities.

Let us all renew our faith to Him, and let us rededicate our efforts, that from now on, all of the things we say and do, we do not do them for ourselves, but rather, first of all, for the sake of God, and for the sake of His people. Let us all be examples for one another, and helping one another in faith, that each and every one of us, eventually, will be able to find our way to the Lord and receive worthily His saving grace, the grace of eternal life and glory. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 14 January 2018 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 1 : 35-42

At that time, John was standing at the River Jordan, with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at Him and said, “There is the Lamb of God.” On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and He said to them, “What are you looking for?”

They answered, “Rabbi (which means Master), where are You staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where He stayed, and spent the rest of that day with Him. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and followed Jesus. Early the next morning, he found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which means the Christ),” and he brought Simon to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas (which means Rock).”