Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, 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, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, 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, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, 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, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, 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, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, all of us heard the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures reminding us that all of us have been called and chosen by Him and we are all called to respond to His call for us to follow Him and to be His disciples. And this is in essence, what it truly means for us to be Christians, that we devote ourselves to the Lord and do what He has commanded us to do, His will and commandments.

In our first reading today we heard of the calling of the prophet Samuel when he was merely just a young boy in the care of Eli, the Judge and leader of Israel. The Lord called Samuel, who was sleeping and was still so young that he had not yet comprehend who the Lord truly was. He thought that Eli had called him and came to ask him again and again, only for Eli eventually to realise that the Lord had called Samuel. And Samuel answered the Lord call innocently and honestly, and God was with him through his life from then on.

Samuel would become a great leader over all of Israel succeeding Eli, as Judge and Leader, as well as a great Prophet and also a Priest of the Lord, for Jewish tradition stated that he belonged to the tribe of Levi. Samuel dedicated his life to the Lord, guiding and shepherding all of the Israelites through difficult moments, especially when they fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord. He gave Israel their first king when he anointed Saul as the king of Israel after the people complained and insisted to have a king over them. And even still he did not stop doing works for the sake of the people.

All the more in fact Samuel’s work grew as we should know how king Saul eventually disobeyed the Lord and became unfaithful. Samuel often stood up against Saul and rebuked him for his unfaithfulness, something that must have indeed required a lot of courage and faith, which Samuel had in his service to the Lord and His people. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel to replace Saul, and although he was to disappear from the records of the Scripture not long afterwards, likely as he was already very old at that time, but his contributions to the people of God cannot indeed be underestimated.

In our Gospel reading then we heard of the calling of the first disciples by the Lord, when He came to the River Jordan and was baptised by St. John the Baptist, and then the latter revealed to two of his own disciples Who Jesus really was, the Lamb of God and promised Messiah or Saviour of the world. Those disciples, one of whom was St. Andrew the Apostle, then decided to follow the Lord and asked Him firstly where He stayed.

The Lord then asked them to follow Him, and from then on, they were convinced by the Lord, and St. Andrew introduced Him to his brother Simon, as well as the other fishermen, the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. St. Andrew introduced the Lord as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. The Lord called them to follow Him as well, and they all followed the Lord as well, leaving behind their boats and professions, and walked with God from then on.

The Lord gave Simon a new name, that is Cephas, the Aramaic word for ‘stone’, which is Greek is Petros, and in Latin, Petrus, and thus, henceforth, he would be known as St. Peter the Apostle. They all followed the Lord, and with other followers and disciples, listened to the Lord, did what He asked them to do, and eventually, after His Passion, death and Resurrection, were commissioned and sent to the many peoples of the nations, establishing the Church of God.

In those two readings therefore we heard of the Lord calling His people to follow Him, with the example of Samuel, when he was but just a young boy, and then the poor fishermen of Galilee, the brothers Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee. They all acted on the Lord’s call, responded, not just with words, but with action and eventually, a lifetime of dedication and commitment. Samuel dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and all the brothers-turned-Apostles mentioned suffered martyrdom for their faith and dedication.

How about us all then, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all as well, through our common baptism. As we become part of the Church through baptism, we have had a share in the same calling and mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and followers, especially the Great Commission, to ‘go forth to the nations and be witnesses of the Lord and His Good News, and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

All of us share in this same mission by our common baptism, and all of us are urged to be active in contributing ourselves to the works of the Church, and to live our lives as good and faithful Christians at all times and in all things. We cannot call ourselves as Christians unless we are active in living our faith, and doing whatever we can to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites who believe one thing and then act in a different and even contradictory way.

Then, if we are all wondering if we are up to the task of doing what we have been called to do, we should look no further than those whom the Lord Himself had called. Samuel was just merely a boy when he was called, while the fishermen of Galilee were illiterate, poor, unknown and had no prior experience in the faith. They had little knowledge of the Scriptures and little wealth or means to support themselves. But that was where then they learnt to trust in the Lord, to allow the Lord to lead and guide them, to teach them and show them the way to go to.

That was also the contrast between them and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were highly educated and highly knowledgeable on the Scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and the elders. Many of them refused to believe in the Lord and follow Him because they presumed that they knew more and better than others. It was this ego and pride that became stumbling block in their way to the Lord. But some among them, like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and others, they were humble and willing to listen to the Lord, and thus, were counted among the Lord’s disciples themselves.

We can see that one does not have to be qualified and capable to follow the Lord. A poor man can be a disciple just as a rich man can, a man without education or much knowledge, intellect or abilities can be a follower of the Lord just as a smart or genius can, and a sinner, no matter how great, can also be a follower of the Lord, provided that the sinner is willing to abandon his or her sinful ways, turn their back against their past, wicked ways, and embrace the Lord fully and be His true disciple.

Aren’t all of us sinners too, brothers and sisters in Christ? Whether our sins be small or great, in some way or another, we have sinned against Him, and even after we have been baptised, we may end up falling again and again into sin through the many temptations present all around us. But this should not discourage us from embracing the Lord and responding to His call. Just as He has called His disciples from all sorts of origins, and some, like His own Apostles, were sinners, and committed sins and faults, like how St. Peter denied the Lord three times at His Passion, and how the others abandoned Him at the same time, no disciple of the Lord is perfect.

Instead, we must allow the Lord to take our imperfections, and allow Him to lead us down the path towards perfection in Him. For the Lord made worthy those whom He had chosen, and not we who make ourselves worthy for the Lord. If we think that we are more worthy than others, that is when we allow pride and ego, jealousy and ambition to cloud our thoughts and judgments, distracting us from our true intention and purpose of following God. Rather, we should focus on the Lord and our faith in Him, and discern in what way we can contribute for the work of the Church.

We should make use of this opportunity to make use of whatever God has given us to be the true witnesses of our Christian faith, by being exemplary in life and in all the things we do, in our every interactions and in even the smallest actions we carry out daily. In our second reading today, St. Paul reminded all of us that we are all the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. By our baptism, the Lord Himself has dwelled among us, and being present within us. Therefore, we should do our very best to uphold an exemplary Christian life, one that is filled with genuine action and righteousness.

Let us all not worry about how we are going to follow the Lord. Have faith in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His hands just as how the Apostles had done, and He will lead us down the right path. And the Lord will make us all worthy, strengthening and empowering us to do what He wants us to do, in glorifying His Name and proclaiming His truth in the world today. Let us all be the beacons of God’s light, living an honest and good Christian living that our lives will become genuine examples and inspiration for others to follow.

May the Lord Who calls us to be His disciples be with us always and bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, that we may serve Him from now on, in leading more and more souls to the salvation in God, continuing the good works began by the Apostles and faithful servants of God, following Him faithfully like them and the prophet Samuel of old. Amen.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : 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).”

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 6 : 13c-15a, 17-20

Yet the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. And God, Who raised the Lord, will also raise us with His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

On the contrary, anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. Avoid unlawful sex entirely. Any other sin a person commits is outside the body; but those who commit sexual immorality sin against their own body.

Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, given by God? You belong no longer to yourselves. Remember at what price you have been bought, and make your body serve the glory of God.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 39 : 2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

With resolve I waited for YHVH; He listened and heard me beg. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this, You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your Law is within my heart.

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o YHVH, I did not seal – You know that very well.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 3 : 3b-10, 19

Samuel also lay in the house of YHVH near the Ark of God. Then YHVH called, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “I am here!” and ran to Eli saying, “I am here, did you not call me?” But Eli said, “I did not call. Go back to sleep.” So he went and lay down.

Then YHVH called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel stood up and went to Eli saying, “You called me; I am here.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” Samuel did not yet know YHVH; and the word of YHVH had not yet been revealed to him. But YHVH called Samuel for the third time; and he went again to Eli saying, “I am here for you have called me.”

Eli realised that it was YHVH calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if He calls you again, answer : ‘Speak, YHVH, Your servant listens.’” Then YHVH came and stood there calling “Samuel! Samuel!” as He did before. And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant listens.”

Samuel grew. YHVH was with him and made all his words become true.