Wednesday, 17 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we listened to two stories, one from the Old Testament, in which we continue the story of the prophet Samuel’s book, now about king David when he was still young, after he has been anointed by Samuel, in his struggle against the giant Goliath. Surely all of us are quite familiar with this famous story of David versus Goliath, but do we really know the significance of what happened that day when David defeated Goliath?

At that time, the people of Israel under the leadership of king Saul has fallen away from God’s grace, because Saul has disobeyed Him in several occasions, and refused to listen to the words of the prophet Samuel. The Philistines were a group of people who lived neighbouring the land of Israel, and they were constant bitter enemies of the Israelites. They warred frequently against Israel, and raided the land for loot and for glory.

And they wielded a mighty army against Israel, made of giants who were of towering height over the smaller Israelite forces. Goliath was the mightiest among the mighty, and he was a champion of the Philistines. No one among the Israelites, even king Saul, dared to stand against the giant Goliath. And Goliath uttered all sorts of insolent and blasphemous words against Israel and against God.

David, who was not counted among the soldiers was in the camp, providing for his brothers, some of whom were fighting as part of king Saul’s army. He was a young man, with a complexion and appearance that did not make him look like a great and mighty warrior. Yet, when he challenged Goliath out of great anger and righteous wrath, for all the insults and blasphemies the giant uttered against God, he courageously stood against the giant.

Everyone at that time would not have expected that David would even have any chance of surviving against Goliath, less still being able to defeat the giant. Yet, that was exactly what happened. David triumphed against Goliath, who was so confident of his human prowess and abilities, that he ended up being overconfident, not knowing that God was with David.

In the Gospel today, we listened to another story, of the time when the Lord Jesus healed a paralytic man on the day of the Sabbath. He had pity on the man who was suffering from his condition, and was moved to rescue him from his troubles. God did this because He wanted to show us how much He loved us all, and we will never be left alone, for He is always with us, particularly those who are downtrodden and without hope.

He rebuked all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who opposed His works of mercy and love. Those people claimed to be good and holy, and yet they failed to understand that the law of the Sabbath was actually meant to allow the people to love the Lord more, and put their focus at Him. The Sabbath day was meant to be a day in which the people leave behind their worldly concerns and business, and refocus themselves to the Lord.

And that can perfectly be achieved through good deeds of love and mercy, since if we remember what the Lord Himself said, that whatever it is that we do for the sake of the least among us, we do it for the Lord Himself. That is why we should reflect on this today, as we look upon our own respective life and actions. Have we truly been faithful as for example, king David has been faithful?

Those who place their trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, because God remembers one’s good faith and love for Him. And that is why we need to learn to put our trust in Him. Perhaps we should be inspired by the good examples of the saint whose feast and memory we celebrate today, namely that of St. Anthony the Abbot. He was a renowned religious and man of God, whose dedication to the Lord and commitment became a great inspiration for those who followed his path.

St. Anthony the Abbot was renowned as one of the first of those who dedicated themselves to an ascetic life, wholly dedicated to the Lord. He went off to the wilderness, living in caves and isolated areas, living his life with prayer and devotion to God. He was tempted a lot by the devil, who made him suffer and things to be inconvenient for him. Yet, this holy man of God persevered through those challenges and tribulations, growing ever deeper in his commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us in our own respective lives will meet challenges and troubles, much like that faced by David when he went up against Goliath the giant, and also the man with paralytic hand, who is confirmed to have endured prejudices and troubles in his life. St. Anthony have encountered many temptations and difficulties, attacks by the devil as he secluded himself in the desert.

But God was with all of them, and He provided for each one of them, in His own way and method. God is ever loving and ever kind, but it is us mankind who have not loved Him as we should. Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to love our God, and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly and trust Him, as David had, and as St. Anthony had done. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 1-6

At that time, again, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralysed hand, was there; and some people watched Jesus : would He heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.”

Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here, in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness at their hardness of heart. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 143 : 1, 2, 9-10

Blessed be YHVH, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

My loving God, my Fortress; my Protector and Deliverer, my Shield; Where I take refuge; Who conquers nations and subjects them to my rule.

I will sing a new song to You, o God; I will make music on the ten-stringed harp, for You, Who give victory to kings and deliver David, Your servant.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 17 : 32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, “Let no one be discouraged on account of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle.” Saul told David, “You cannot fight with this Philistine for you are still young, whereas this man has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued, “YHVH, Who delivered me from the paws of lions and bears, will deliver me from the hands of the Philistine.” Saul then told David, “Go, and may YHVH be with you!”

David took his staff, picked up five smooth stones from the brook and dropped them inside his shepherd’s bag. And with his sling in hand, he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine moved forward, closing in on David, his shield-bearer in front of him. When he saw that David was only a lad, (he was of fresh complexion and handsome) he despised him and said, “Am I a dog that you should approach me with a stick?”

Cursing David by his gods, he continued, “Come, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field!” David answered the Philistine, “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with YHVH, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. YHVH will deliver you this day into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”

“I will give the corpses of the Philistine army today to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, and all the earth shall know that there is a God of Israel. All the people gathered here shall know that YHVH saves not by sword or spear; the battle belongs to YHVH, and He will deliver you into our hands.”

No sooner had the Philistine moved to attack him, than David rushed to the battleground. Putting his hand into his bag, he took out a stone, slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; it penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, felling him without using a sword.

He rushed forward, stood over him, took the Philistine’s sword and slew him by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they scattered in all directions.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded that all of us must be vigilant at all times, for the coming of the Lord will come suddenly without warning, and even without signs or forewarning. It will catch and surprise many who are not ready for His coming, because all of them have been distracted by the many idols of this world.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, it was described how the people who worshipped the idols, pagan idols representing natural forces and wonders, such as worship of the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the seas and the rivers, deserts, and many more of others, prevalent in numerous civilisations and cultures, have been preoccupied with the marvels of creation, and yet fail to recognise the Author of all of them, that is God.

That was why, instead of properly giving thanks or focusing to the One Who deserves all praise and honour, we mankind ended up being distracted by the marvels of the created things. And if we think that all these problems happened only in the past, then we are wrong. In our present day, the same issues still exist. If in the past it was the wonders of nature and creation, now we end up being distracted by our own human creations and worldly goods.

For example, our attachment to money and worldly possessions will end up distracting us from our faith, and turning us into immorality and greed. Many of us are distracted by our career and in that, our pursuit for more money, status, fame, worldly glory and possessions, that we have forgotten about the Lord our God. We spent so much time trying to gather for ourselves all these things that we end up spending little or no time for God.

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is no different from the way how the people in those days worshipped the pagan idols and forgot about the Lord their God, as was evident in many occasions throughout the Old Testament. And that was why the Lord was angry at His people, because they have abandoned Him for those pagan idols, and many of us did not do any better with our own modern day idols.

What do we all, as Christians, need to do then? All of us need to reflect on each and every one of our lives, and what we have done, and how we have lived every single day. Have we been distracted in our way to the Lord by the many temptations in life? Have we done what we need to do in order to prepare for the Lord? In the Gospel today, we heard about how in the past, many people had been caught unprepared and unaware in sin, from the time of Noah to the time of Lot.

Those people who lived at the time of Noah and Lot lived wickedly, committing sins before God by immoral behaviours and by corrupting themselves with sinful acts, the worship of false and pagan idols, and many more. They rejected the Lord their God and settled for worldly pleasures and corruptions. That was how they met their downfall, when the great flood came at the time of Noah, and when the flames and sulfur rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying all who refused to repent.

Having learnt of all these examples, how can we then avoid the fate of those who have gone to their just fate because of their sins? As Christians, all of us must put God first and foremost in our lives, to give our whole heart, love and attention to Him, and to no other. We cannot let the temptations of the idols present in our lives from distracting us in our journey towards God.

That said, money, power, fame and many other things I have mentioned are on their own not wicked or evil by their nature. These can be used for either good or evil purposes. Rather, it is our unhealthy attachment to them, our greed for them that led us to idolise these things and forget about the Lord our God. This is why many of us faltered in our faith, because we were not able to resist those temptations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us strive to reorientate our lives and rethink our life choices and priorities. We should devote our time and effort towards God, and not to be too attached to worldly temptations of money, possessions, fame, glory and many others. And we should also perhaps follow the example of today’s saint, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a renowned princess turned into a devout servant of God towards the end of her life.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary led a very virtuous and holy life, dedicated to God and to her family. Yet, she lost her husband at a relatively young age, and she became a widow. She encountered many difficulties and harsh treatments after that, and yet she persevered through all of them and continued to be charitable throughout the remainders of her life, caring for the poor and the sick, building hospitals and care houses for them.

The examples of St. Elizabeth of Hungary should be inspiration to all of us, that no matter what prestige, honour, glory and fame, monetary wealth or other things we have in life, we must first and foremost give our hearts to God, and love Him with all of our strength. Then, we also have to love our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are in need of our help.

Let us all do our best, therefore, to become ever more devoted disciples of Our Lord, by practicing our faith with commitment throughout the rest of our lives. May He empower all of us to live courageously in His presence, and may we draw ever closer to Him. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us sinners as well. Amen.

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever gives his life will be born again. I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding meal together, one might be taken and the other left.”

Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 17 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.