Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord in the desert from the Book of Exodus, and then from the Gospel passage we heard from the Lord Himself speaking to His disciples on the parable of the sower.

In the first reading today, we listened to the anger and rebelliousness of the people of Israel who did not show gratitude to the Lord for having freed them from the slavery in the land of Egypt. They grumbled and complained against the Lord and Moses, His servant and their leader who had led them out of the land of Egypt, saying that they would rather be enslaved in Egypt and enjoy the bountiful food and drinks there rather than to suffer in freedom in the desert.

And yet, the Lord continued to provide for them patiently, promising them food and drink, providing them with nothing less than bread from heaven, and also flocks of birds to give them meat to eat daily, as well as crystal-clear, clean and sweet water to drink. And all of these God gave to His people Israel, for the entirety of the forty years during which all of them journeyed through the desert, where there was no life, nothing to eat and nothing to quench a person’s thirst with.

Sadly, that would not be the last time that the people disobeyed God and refused to listen to Him and to Moses. They would constantly grumble, rebel, disobey and work against the Lord, as the people continued to complain that life had been better in Egypt, or that the food and drink that the Lord provided to them were not as good as what they had expected or what they thought they had experienced in their former life in Egypt.

And let us all keep all of those in mind as we move on into our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord mentioned the famous parable of the sower to His disciples and to the people. In that parable, we heard of how the sower spread the seeds to several different places, and depending on where the seeds landed, they ended up and grew differently based on the conditions of the locations where they landed at.

Those seeds that fell on the rocky ground, or by the roadside, or those that fell among the thistles and brambles were those seeds that fell on unfavourable grounds that did not allow those seeds to grow properly, and therefore preventing the seeds from growing into a well developed plant that can bear rich and bountiful produce or fruits, unlike those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil.

And this is what had exactly happened to the Israelites as mentioned in our first reading today, as those people have received the ‘seeds’ of faith from God, having received the truth of God and His laws through Moses, and yet, they did not let the seeds of faith to grow deep in their hearts and minds. They were bogged down and distracted by the concerns of the world and by their desires for worldly pleasures.

That prevented them from being truly faithful to the Lord, and that was why they constantly rebelled against God, again and again. They did not provide the good and fertile soil for the seeds of faith to grow well in them, and as a result, they did not have a genuine faith for God. That was why they continued to slip and fall into sin, again and again. They did not allow God to enter into their hearts.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to be like them as well? God has also given us the same seeds of faith, and unless we do differently from what the Israelites had done, we will end up falling into the same trap of faithlessness and disobedience against God. And therefore, today, we should look up to the examples shown to us by one of our holy saints, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Sharbel Makhluf.

St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite monk and priest, whose piety and commitment to the Lord was truly exemplary and legendary, as many people came to regard him as a paragon of virtue and faith, in how he dedicated himself completely to the Lord in prayer and through a holy life. He allowed the Lord to make use of his life as a wonderful display of what being true Christian means for all of us.

Many miracles and wonders happened after he passed away, and his body was found to be incorruptible and in excellent condition even decades after be passed away. This is the truly good example of how the Lord’s sown seeds of faith have grown wonderfully and bountifully in a fertile and rich soil, that is the rich and fertile soil of our hearts and minds that are fully attuned towards the Lord and are centred on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore devote ourselves to serve the Lord from now on with all of our hearts, with all of our strength and courage, and with all of our abilities, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted and tempted by sin and the desires and greed within our hearts. May the Lord be our guide and may He empower us all to live faithfully from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 77 : 18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

The people of God tested Him, demanding the food they craved. They blasphemed against God, saying : “Can God spread a table in the desert?”

Yet, He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; He rained down manna upon them, and fed them with the heavenly grain.

They ate and had more than their fill of the bread of Angels. Then, from heaven He stirred the east wind, and, by His power, let loose the south wind.

To rain down meat on them like dust. Birds as thick as the sand on the seashore fell inside their camp, lying all around their tents.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!”

YHVH then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.”

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints.” It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat.”

Thursday, 13 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the importance for us to be truly faithful in our lives, in how we carry on with our lives and actions, in everything that we say and do, so that we truly show our faith not just in words, but in our every actions, in every parts of our beings, that everyone who see us, will see God being present in our lives.

As what St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth in our first reading passage today, all of us reflect the glory of God and the truth of God has been revealed to us, His faithful ones, like light shining in the darkness, illuminating everything by the wonders of God’s light. And through us, God’s wonderful love and truth is reflected unto the world, just as He has done so through His saints, all those holy men and women who had been obedient to God and lived their lives virtuously.

In conjunction with this, I would like to compare all these to the stained glasses in our churches and parishes, where we see the stained glasses beautifully adorned and arranged with the imageries of the life of Our Lord and the imageries of the saints and martyrs, the lives of all those who have given themselves to the service of God. And all these stained glasses are truly the epitome of what we have been discussing so far today, as stained glasses gain their beauty not from themselves but from the light that illuminates them.

Without light, the stained glass will remain dark and invisible, as the stained glass does not produce light on its own. Similarly, the saints did not glorify their own power and greatness, they did not proclaim their own wisdom or understanding, or their own ways and paths, but instead, they glorified the Lord by their lives, devoting their whole lives and their whole entire being to be the hands, the feet, the living examples of the Lord’s glory and good works among His people.

That is what the saints had done, making use of their examples and their whole lives to bring glory to God, and by all their actions, their dedications, their tireless giving of their time and effort, everyone who have seen them, witnessed their good works, listened to them and followed them came to know of God and His truth, His love and care for each and every one of them. Truly, like the beautiful stained glass illuminated by the light, the Light of Christ illuminates His saints like wonderful beacons for us all to see.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of those saints, namely St. Anthony of Padua, a renowned saint whose life is truly an example for each and every one of us. St. Anthony of Padua was born into a wealthy Portuguese family who entered into the priesthood and eventually became one of the Franciscans. He wanted to be a missionary but a serious sickness changed the course of his life. Instead, he worked and preached among the people.

St. Anthony of Padua made wonderful speeches and preached eloquently, teaching numerous people about the faith. And many were moved and inspired by his sermons, as well as his generous and caring nature, in how he spent many hours and days taking care of them and also the younger members of his own Franciscan community. The people of God came to be inspired by the life of this saint, whose life has become an embodiment of God’s glory.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired by the good examples of St. Anthony of Padua? Are we capable of devoting our lives in the same way as St. Anthony had done with his? Let us all therefore from now on strive to be good reflections of God’s truth and love, by our own exemplary and faithful actions in life. Let us devote our whole effort and time from now on, for the greater glory of God. May the Lord bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you, if your sense of right and wrong is not keener than that of the Lawyers and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“You have heard, that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who murders will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister is liable, to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or sister ‘Fool!’ is liable, of being thrown into the fire of hell.”

“So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, in front of the altar; go at once, and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There, you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Thursday, 13 June 2019 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.