Wednesday, 24 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 4 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus began to teach by the lake; but such a large crowd gathered about Him, that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake, while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through parables. In His teaching, He said, “Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path; and the birds came and ate it up.”

“Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately, because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burnt it, it withered, because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thorn bushes; and the thorns grew and choked it; so it did not produce any grain.”

“But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some seed produced thirty times as much, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.” And Jesus added, “Listen then, if you have ears.”

When the crowd went away, some who were around Him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so, that, the more they see, they do not perceive; the more they hear, they do not understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How, then, will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path, where the seed fell, are people who hear the word, but as soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”

“Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy. But they have no roots, so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall. Others receive the seed, as seed among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hope of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word, so that finally it produces nothing.”

“And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce : some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.”

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 4-5, 27-28, 29-30

I have made a Covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.

I will keep My Covenant firm forever, and My love for him will endure. His dynasty will last forever; and his throne, as long as the heavens.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 7 : 4-17

That very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : Are you able to build a house for Me to live in? I have not dwelt in any house since I brought the Israelites up from Egypt to the present day. But I went about with a tent for shelter. As long as I walked with the Israelites, did I say anything to the chiefs of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel? Did I say : Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?”

“Now you will tell My servant David, this is what YHVH of Hosts says : I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you. Now I will make your name great, as the name of the great ones on earth.”

“I will provide a place for My people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked man oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over My people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. YHVH also tells you that He will build you a house.”

“When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you; and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a house for My Name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son. If he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod, as men do.”

“But I will not withdraw My kindness from him as I did from Saul when I removed him out of your way. Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

Nathan repeated these words and related this vision to David.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is 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.”

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past, You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and, with My holy oil, I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him; and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him; and, by My help, he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

2 Samuel 5 : 1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And YHVH said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of My people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel.’”

Before YHVH, king David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron, and they anoint him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years : he reigned over Judah, from Hebron, seven and a half years; and over Israel and Judah, from Jerusalem, for thirty-three years.

The king and his men set out for Jerusalem to fight the Jebusites who lived there. They said to David, “If you try to break in here, the blind and the lame will drive you away,” which meant that David could not get in. Yet David captured the fortress of Zion that became the “city of David.”

And David grew more powerful, for YHVH, the God of Hosts, was with him.