Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the the healing which the Lord Jesus performed on a person who suffered from leprosy. The leper came up to Him and begged Him to heal his afflictions. The Lord was moved by the faith and the effort showed by the leper, and He healed him from the leprosy, allowing the leper to return to the larger community from where he had been exiled from.

And this is linked to what we have heard in the first reading today, the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the people and the faithful among the Jewish community, reminding them of the need for conversion of hearts and minds, to turn away from their past sinful ways and actions. It was mentioned how sin is the fruit of rebelliousness of man, who disobeyed God and refused to listen to His will. And the reason for this link, is because sin is also a form of sickness.

If leprosy is a disease that strikes at the flesh, damaging the muscles and the tissues of our body, which eventually can cause death unless it is treated and managed, then sin is also a disease that is far more serious, as it affects very deeply within our beings, corrupting and attacking at the very souls and cores of our whole beings. This corruption will end up causing us, our whole being, to fall deeper and deeper in the trap of sin, and eventually, may fall into eternal damnation.

In order to be healed, it is often that we cannot heal ourselves just by waiting and doing nothing at all. We will need to actively seek for healing, by coming to those who are able to heal us. That was how many of us managed to be healed, because we got our conditions diagnosed properly and then received the right medicine to help us to recover from the illness or sickness as quickly as possible.

In the same way, we also need healing for our sins, to be touched by God Who is able to forgive us from our sins. It is by God’s grace and forgiveness alone that we can be healed from our sins. Unless we humble ourselves before God and seek His love and mercy, it may be very difficult for us to overcome this great obstacle of sin, which prevented us from being fully loved and embraced by God.

And unfortunately, the reason for why it is often difficult for us to seek God’s mercy is because of our own ego and pride, which became a major obstacle in the journey towards our forgiveness. In our ego and pride, we often think that we cannot go wrong, that we know what is best for us. And we are often reluctant to acknowledge our sins because we fear God’s anger, or because we are not sure how we should proceed to settle those sins.

This is caused by our own ignorance and failure to understand and to appreciate the love which God has for each and every one of us. If only we can try to know more about His love and mercy being constantly present in our midst, and accept that generous offer of forgiveness and reconciliation that He had offered to us. Today, we celebrate the feast of a holy man and devout servant of God, whose life can probably be an inspiration for us on how we should become closer in love for God.

St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great lived during the mid fourth century after the birth of Christ, as one of the famous early Christian monks, who helped to popularise the concept of monasticism among the faithful. He lived in then the Roman province of Egypt, born to a wealthy landowning family but then chose to leave everything behind and sold his properties to feed the poor, and went to the desert to be a monk.

St. Anthony lived a life totally devoted to the Lord in seclusion and prayer, and wandered the desert and the caves for many years, leading a very holy and exemplary life. However, the devil did not remain passive amidst all of those years, and actively tried to attack and tempt St. Anthony by various means. It was told that many evil spirits and demons physically and spiritually struck at the holy man, with many temptations. But St. Anthony overcame all of them with prayer.

The holiness and dedication that St. Anthony the Great had shown all of us should become an inspiration on how we should live our own lives in this world. There are indeed plenty of temptations and pressures for us to follow the ways of the world, that is the way of Satan, and not the way of the Lord. And it is indeed difficult to resist those temptations, which will come at any time and from various sources, just as those evil spirits and tempters that attacked St. Anthony had done.

However, we can follow the example shown by St. Anthony, in his prayerful dedication to the Lord, that is his constant and ever-fervent connection with his God, Who is his anchor, strength and protection. With the Lord by his side, St. Anthony was able to resist the temptations of the devil and all of his wicked forces, and became a light of inspiration for countless others among the faithful throughout the subsequent centuries and millennia, to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to walk in the footsteps of this holy man of God? We are called in our own respective capacities, in whatever we do in life, to bring glory to God by aligning ourselves closer to Him, and not to succumb to the many temptations of life. We are called to love the Lord ever more, and open ourselves to receive His love and mercy, and not to harden our hearts and minds against Him. That is why we need to pray more, and have good quality of prayerful life from now on, each and every days of our life.

May God, our loving Father, continue to love us and bless us in all of our deeds, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of life, so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify His Name, and walk in His ways. St. Anthony the Great, holy Abbot and servant of God, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 94 : 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

For forty years they wearied Me and I said, “They are a people of inconsistent heart; they have not known My ways.” So I declared an oath in My anger, “Never shall they enter My rest.”

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 3 : 7-14

Listen to what the Holy Spirit says : If only you would hear God’s voice today! Do not be stubborn, as they were in the place called Rebellion, when your ancestors challenged Me in the desert, although they had seen My deeds for forty years. That is why I was angry with those people and said : Their hearts are always going astray and they do not understand My ways. I was angry and made a solemn vow : They will never enter My rest.

So, brothers, be careful lest some of you come to have an evil and unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. Encourage one another, day by day, as long as it is called today. Let no one become hardened in the deceitful way of sin. We are associated with Christ provided we hold steadfastly to our initial hope until the end.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures, telling us about the need for us to discern carefully the path of our life, and listen to the right words of advice, that is the truth of God and not instead the lies and falsehoods of the devil. Otherwise, we may end up walking in the wrong path and fall to the trap of sin, which the devil has prepared laboriously to bring us into our doom.

In the passage taken from the Epistle of St. John, our first reading today, we heard of the distinction between the path of God and the path of the world, those who side with the antichrist. Those who reject the way of the Lord are those who side with the devil, the enemies of God, because they do not agree with the Lord’s way, and do things in manner that is against the commandments and the Law of God, as mentioned by St. John.

How should we then discern so that we will not end up going down the wrong path? Then we need to realise that we have to deepen our understanding and knowledge of God’s ways, by delving deeper into the teachings of the Church, and rediscover the richness of the bounties of God’s truth, which have been preserved well by His Church, and taught to us by His bishops and priests, all those who have been tasked with the preservation and the propagation of truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the way of the Lord is one of love and compassion, of obedience to God and adherence to His ways. And the Lord Himself has summarised the Law into two main, essential laws. First of all, we ought to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with every ounce of our strength. And then, we ought to show the same love towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours, those in our families, and even the strangers whom we encounter in our respective lives.

But as we can easily see and witness all around ourselves and our livelihood, it is not easy to walk in the path that God has set before us, as there will inevitably be conflict and misalignments with the ways and the expectations that come from the world, from the society around us. By our human nature and tendencies, we are often selfish and egoistic, prideful and harbouring hatred in our hearts. We are often jealous of each other and desire what others have but we ourselves do not have.

That is why, it is not easy for us to be faithful to God and to follow His ways. There will be many temptations and even pressures for us to walk away from His path. But if we remain strong in our conviction to love God and persevere in walking down the path He has shown us, then we are assured of the salvation and liberation which God has brought down upon us. We will be deemed worthy of the glorious kingdom and eternal life and joy which will be ours by faith.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort, a renowned Dominican friar and preacher, who lived during the High Middle Ages. He was remembered for his important role in the codification and formalisation of the Canon Law in the Church. But more importantly, he also stood up for his faith and the teachings of the Church, even when his king was against him, who though faithful but ensnared with the temptation of lust with a concubinage relationship.

St. Raymond of Penyafort insisted repeatedly that the king must dismiss his concubine, and the king persistently refused to do so. Eventually, it was told that a miracle happened, when St. Raymond of Penyafort wanted to leave the king behind, having no longer been able to tolerate his wicked behaviour, and when the king insisted that he remain, St. Raymond warned the king of the fate awaiting those who refused to listen to God’s will and repent from their sins, and casting his cloak to the water, he sailed on the cloak as if it was a ship. Having heard of this, the king repented from his sins and became a good Christian from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the faith and virtues of St. Raymond of Penyafort, let us all be inspired by him and the courage he had in resisting wickedness of the world, and in how he had stood up for his faith in God. Let us all also be courageous in how we live up to our faith, by our actions, and be willing to commit ourselves, from now on, to love God with all of our strength, and be courageous in living a life in accordance with God’s will and grace. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.

Monday, 7 January 2019 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 7-8, 10-11

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession.”

Now therefore, learn wisdom, o kings; be warned, o rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and fall at His feet; lest He be angry and you perish when His anger suddenly flares. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!