Saturday, 1 February 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse on the actions of king David of Israel when committed sin against God by his desire and lust for someone else’s wife, in this case Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David and Bathsheba succumbed to temptations and ended up with Bathsheba getting pregnant, and David tried to cover up the affair by making Uriah sleep with his wife. But when the upright and just Uriah refused to do so, David panicked and ended up plotting Uriah’s death in battle.

The prophet Nathan came to David and went through with him today the faults that he had done before God and men alike. Initially king David did not realise that when the prophet Nathan used a parable to explain, that he was actually referring to David’s unjust actions towards Uriah, in taking what was not his in the first place and instance, namely Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah as David’s own wife after Uriah was killed in battle.

David trusted his own instincts and ways of settling things in that matter rather than trusting in God or following His commandments. He succumbed to the temptation of desire and lust, allowing Satan to rock his righteous and just life, and ended up causing the death of an innocent man and a relationship that was essentially adultery in the eyes of God and the Law. But David then immediately regretted his actions once his eyes were opened by what the prophet Nathan shared with him, the blatant truth of his wicked and dark actions.

The firstborn son of that relationship between David and Bathsheba did die as the just retribution for David’s sinful action, but his genuine repentance in humbling himself totally before God and all of his people, as he fasted and humbled himself in sackcloth for God’s mercy, and accentuated in the Psalm we used today, which was composed by king David himself at precisely that moment when he felt the great regret over his terrible sins. But he also entrusted himself to God’s compassionate love and mercy.

He trusted that God has the power to overcome his sins and wickedness, by the grace of His mercy and forgiveness. And thus, while today we are presented with the unfortunate story of how the righteous and good king David fell into temptation and sin, but we are also reminded that in truth all of us are just like him. We are all sinners just like king David, easily tempted and vulnerable to sin. If we are dependent only on ourselves and only on our own strength as what king David foolishly did at that time, we are likely to fall.

It is what we can also learn from our Gospel passage today where we heard of the story of the moment when the disciples of the Lord were afraid that their boat would sink because of the fierce storm, the gale force winds and the huge waves that threatened to overcome them. This was because they did not have firm faith in God, Who was with them and Jesus Himself showed them that they had nothing to fear and really ought to have more faith in Him.

The boat also symbolically represent us all in the Church as the Church is often likened to that of a boat, with all of us the faithful people of God, the members of the Church as the passengers of the boat, travelling through the often rough waters representing the trials and challenges that are often found in our world. And the Lord, our God, is our Guide and our Navigator, in Whom we really ought to trust. No matter what happened, He has authority and control, as the disciples themselves said, ‘even the wind and the sea obey Him’.

If we panic and turn to drastic actions, depending on our own judgments and strengths, as king David experienced during his time when he sinned against God as mentioned earlier on, we will end up bringing ourselves further and further afflicted and in difficulty. We will end up getting trapped by the situation and by our own actions, dragging us down further and deeper into the dangerous trap of sin.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, the important lesson that each and every one of us must heed today is to trust in the Lord more and allow Him to guide us in life. If we have erred as king David had done, then we must not be afraid to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, but with a sincere desire to repent and turn away from our sinfulness, that God will truly forgive us and lead us towards the fullness of His grace and love. And we need to make this conscious decision to commit ourselves to God, at each and every moments of our lives.

May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen us all in our resolve to be faithful to Him and to do everything we can to remain true to Him. Let us live our lives from now on with God at the centre of our lives and existence, no longer allowing our many desires and all the temptations present in our lives from confusing us and leading us astray. May God be with us always and strengthen our faith, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 31 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded today of the dangers of sin and how sin can easily pervade into our lives and affect us in many terrible ways. We heard of how sin brought even king David of Israel down as we heard of the story of David and Uriah in our first reading today. But all these can be overcome if we heed what the Lord has also said in our Gospel passage today on the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard how king David was tempted by the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba who was bathing and that created the temptation in the heart and mind of David that led him to sin against God because of the lust that he had in him. And David succumbed to the temptation, desiring to have Bathsheba as her own, and Bathsheba herself was also tempted as the story told us, and when they have committed the deed and Bathsheba became pregnant, David became very afraid that the affair would be discovered by Uriah and became known, definitely a total embarrassment for him as the king of Israel.

To that end, David tried to trick Uriah into thinking that the child in the womb of Bathsheba as his own by trying to make and coerce him to sleep with his wife and has intercourse so as to hide the shameful affair that he had committed. And when Uriah remained righteous and firm, in refusing to do so while his nation was at war, David became panicked and began plotting to remove Uriah as a threat to him, making plans to put Uriah in the most dangerous place during the battle that ended up causing Uriah to be killed.

In this way, David has sinned against God, and although he repented and was very sorrowful and regretful over what he had done earlier on, but this is a very important lesson for all of us to take heed of. As we have heard, the actions that David took came about because he succumbed to temptation and allowed his desires and lust to overcome his rational thinking and faith, ending up doing something that was against God’s ways, and from there on, everything just went downhill.

As we can see, David at that moment did not allow God to lead and guide him through his actions, instead acting based on his own impulses and fears. He wanted to hide his mistakes and faults, and in the end he committed even greater sins and mistakes, causing him to indirectly make a person to lose his life. And we can see here how if we allow our own desires and personal ambitions to rule over us, we will easily be led down the wrong path, even for someone good and righteous like king David.

How should we then move forward in life, knowing that we are all vulnerable men and women, that are easily tempted by sin? It is then we should look at our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus used the parables to explain the truth to us. In those parables, Jesus explained about the kingdom of God to His disciples and followers, and showed them what it truly means to be a believer of His.

In the first parable, Jesus spoke of the sowing of seeds, and how the seeds would then grow until maturity before they can be harvested and the produces gathered. In using such parables, the Lord could explain more difficult concepts in a way easier to be understood by many of the people who were although illiterate but they were experienced or involved in farming and agriculture.

In the similar way therefore, He also used the parable of the mustard seed as a comparison for the kingdom of God, how a small seed like a mustard seed can eventually grow to be a large plant, with all of its numerous branches and leaves. And using this analogy, let us link to what we have just discussed on king David’s case earlier on and with another parable not mentioned in today’s Gospel. In that parable, the Lord spoke of how an enemy sowed the bad and rotten seeds or seeds of weeds among the good seeds in the field.

It means that all of us have received seeds of faith from God as well as seeds of temptations and sin from the devil. How we are to cultivate them depends on our own life and actions, on our orientation whether it is towards God and His ways, or whether we prefer to follow the ways of the world. If we allow the seeds of sin to grow, then as David’s example had shown us, it can quickly overwhelm us and lead us deeper into sin and darkness.

On the contrary, if we allow God to be the guiding light in our lives and put Him at the centre of our existence, then God will help us to nurture the seeds of faith He has given to us and planted in us. And from us will grow a most bountiful tree of faith filled with the many fruits of our faith, and together, all of us as members of God’s same one Church will be truly the kingdom of God on earth. We must not think that our faith is small and insignificant, because as the Lord explained how the small mustard seed when grown up can become such a large tree, it means that our faith too can be a very powerful force if we cultivate it right.

And today, we have a great example and inspiration from one of God’s great saints to help and guide us in our journey of faith, in cultivating and growing our faith as we live our lives here on earth. St. John Bosco was a great and renowned priest whose life was an inspiration to many, in his personal and outward holiness, in his care and concern for many of the people of God, especially those who are in need of guidance and help, those youths that he spent many years working on, among others.

St. John Bosco was remembered for setting up a dormitory and school for young delinquents in the city of Turin where he ministered in. St. John Bosco himself came from poor family and had difficult childhood and early years of his formation, and it helped him to have great empathy and compassion for the young delinquents who were often misguided and lacked proper education and guidance in life. Thus, through the efforts of St. John Bosco many of those youths became better and positively influenced by this holy and dedicated man of God.

St. John Bosco did not have it easy of course, as he encountered opposition and challenges from various sources and groups, from those who accused him of stealing and intervening into their parishes and groups, to those who oppose the teachings of the Church and wanting to influence the youths that St. John Bosco had taken under his care. Nonetheless, St. John Bosco persevered and continued to labour hard for those to whom he had committed himself to.

Eventually, St. John Bosco was also influential in the founding of the religious order of the Salesians of St. John Bosco, a Salesian congregation founded by the followers of St. John Bosco and all like-minded people who wanted to continue and propagate the efforts of St. John Bosco, which in time would come to encompass many more places and influence many more people, as many men and women came to respond to God’s call through this congregation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how a poor man turned priest, St. John Bosco, was like that small and insignificant mustard seed. And yet, through his tireless efforts and works, many people, through the many years of his ministry and then continuing through the congregations and organisations inspired by his life and work, come to be touched and benefit from the faith which St. John Bosco had shown. We can clearly see here how God’s kingdom came to be, with many people returning to God through all the efforts mentioned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then able to follow the good examples set by St. John Bosco in our own lives? Are we able to cultivate our faith and devote our lives to God as he and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us all resist the impulse and temptations to sin and put God as the centre and focus of our lives. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord reminds us all that our faith in Him will truly bear wonderful and good fruits, and we will not be disappointed with all that we have given or sacrificed to God, for God will indeed bless us wonderfully many-fold more than what we have given to Him. And we heard first of all in our first reading, a great prayer of thanksgiving that David prayed to God, giving thanks for all that He had done for him.

The context of this is such that David at that time had been secure in his reign as king over all of Israel, after having to endure years in exile and difficulty when he was once a fugitive even from his own land because Saul, the king before David, wanted him dead for being a rival king chosen by God. When Saul was killed by the Philistines, his supporters placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son as king in opposition to David. And during the early years of David’s reign over Israel, claimants and rebels rose up against him.

But despite all of these troubles, David remained firm in his faith to the Lord, doing His will and obeying Him to the best of his capabilities. Indeed, he was not perfect and he fell into sin and disobedience once in a while, for example when he was tempted by his own officer’s wife that ended up with David plotting the death of that officer and therefore sinned before God. And another occasion would be when David, in a momentary occasion of pride, conducted a census of all of Israel because he wanted to know how many people and how great his kingdom was.

But David repented wholeheartedly from all those moments of weakness and sin. He asked God for forgiveness and turned himself humbly before the Lord, and the Lord forgave David because He knew just how much David, His servant, loved him from his heart. And that was why God secured David’s reign and kingdom, and when David wanted to build a great Temple to be the House of God, God told David that it would be his son instead who would build the Temple for Him, and God would make the reign of David’s son secure.

God was with David and His reassurance that David’s house and reign would be forever secure made David to be overjoyed and filled with such happiness that he made such a jubilant praise in his prayer to God as we heard it in our first reading passage this day. David extolled God for His great faithfulness and love, His wonders and amazing deeds for His faithful ones, and how He has raised David from just a mere youth and simple shepherd to be a great king over all of Israel.

This is what the Lord spoke of when we heard in our Gospel passage in which Jesus spoke of the need for the light to be placed on a lamp-stand and not to be hidden, and how we shall receive in whatever measure that we have given, and we will receive even many more than what we have given. King David has shown us all how he gave his life and service to God, and God in return blessed David and protected him many more times that he has given to God.

What does this mean for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us as Christians should not hesitate to make good use of whatever gifts and talents that God has given to us, the unique abilities that He has blessed us with and for which He has called us to a variety of vocations and ministries in life. God has called us all to follow Him and to make use of those talents and abilities He has given us to serve Him for His greater glory.

But many of us prefer to hide these talents and wonderful capabilities, just as the Lord mentioned using the parable of the lamp, the light that is hidden rather than placed on the lamp-stand for all to see. Our faith requires us all to be active in living our lives with faith, and we should embody our faith in our every words, actions and deeds, or else, our faith is empty, meaningless and dead. And such a faith is not good at all for us. We have seen how king David was truly faithful to God, living to the best of his ability to be faithful in all things.

Are we able to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to walk courageously in the path that God has set before us, becoming the beacons of light bearing the light of God’s truth to the many people we encounter and interact with each and every days of our lives? Let us all seek the Lord and commit ourselves anew from now on, and be ever more faithful to Him, each and every days of our lives. May God bless us all as how He has blessed David, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scripture passages beginning from the exchanges between king David and the prophet Nathan in our first reading regarding the plan that David had in wanting to build a great House for God, what would eventually be built by David’s son, Solomon and known as the Temple of Solomon or the Temple of Jerusalem. And then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the famous parable of Jesus, our Lord, namely the parable of the sower.

In our first reading today, as we heard of the desire of king David in building the house of God in Jerusalem because he thought that it was not fitting that he resided in a newly built and comfortable palace while the Ark of God or the Ark of the Covenant remained outside in the Holy Tent. Thus, he wanted to build a proper and worthy Temple for the Lord as a powerful sign of His presence among His people and as the epicentre of the divine worship for the people of Israel.

Thus he asked the prophet Nathan for his advice and what the Lord thought of his plans for the building of a great Temple to be the House of the Ark of the Covenant and thus to be the House of God among His people. But God had a different plan, and He revealed His plan to David, as He said that rather it was Solomon, David’s son and successor as king of Israel who would build the great Temple for God, and at the same time God also renewed His promise to David to make the reign of his house secure.

David obeyed God and did whatever He has led him to do. He reign righteously and justly, ushering a great era of prosperity and happiness among the Israelites. The reign of king David and his son, king Solomon is featured prominently in the Scriptures and have always been looked upon many centuries and even millennia later as the golden age of the Israelites. Many people continued to be nostalgic of the greatness and the prosperity that Israel enjoyed during those years.

And while David was not the one who built the Temple of Jerusalem, but if we read from the Book of Chronicles supplementing the information we have, we will know of how David did a great preparation for the building of the Temple, investing and setting aside massive amounts of gold, silver, other precious metals and materials. He also made preparations with his friends like Hiram, the king of Lebanon who would later on supply Solomon with plenty of Lebanon cedars and timber for the building of the Temple.

We can see from all these how David sowed the seeds for the building of the great House of God. And David has been faithful for all the years that he reigned as king, allowing all of his efforts and good works to pay dividends and bear much fruits when the Temple of God later on was built by his son, his reign secure and Israel prosperous under God’s grace and blessings. And this is related to how in our Gospel passage today we heard of the famous parable of the sower.

David is like the seeds that the sower spread on the rich and fertile soil, which bore much fruits, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and even hundred-fold of what had been sowed. That is because David loved God and he allowed God to work wonders through him, through his reign and through his life by which he inspired his people to be faithful and to obey God. And as a result, many people were saved and remained faithful, and God’s people had great peace and prosperity then.

On the contrary, those seeds that fell on the rocky grounds or those that fell on the roadside and were picked up by the birds, and those that were choked by the thorns and brambles are those who received God’s love and had faith in Him, and yet they succumbed to the many temptations of this world, the temptations by which the devil tried to keep us away from God and to trick us into taking the wrong path in life.

That was what happened to king Solomon, David’s son, towards the end of his reign. As Solomon got older and became influenced by his many wives and concubines who began to sway and tempt him away from the true faith in God, the faith of Solomon had become weak and the wickedness and evil of pagan worship and disobedience against God returned. Sin has returned to Israel, and because the king has sinned, the rest of the people naturally followed as well.

As a result, the prosperity and glory that Israel enjoyed during much of the reigns of Solomon and his father came to an end after his reign, and the kingdom of Israel were divided into two, and eventually many centuries later, both were to be destroyed because the people failed to be faithful to God and continued on their path of disobedience and wickedness. This is a reminder for us all that faith in God leads to true joy and happiness in Him, while disobedience only leads to eventual destruction and harm.

Let us all discern, brothers and sisters in Christ, our path going forward in our respective lives. Do we want to follow the examples of David, in being open to allowing God to lead and guide us in our lives and to do what is good and righteous in God’s sight that we may reap eventually the good fruits of our faith and actions? Or do we rather follow what Solomon and many others had done in allowing the devil instead to take away our faith from us by means of many temptations that he has placed in our path? Are we able to resist those temptations and seek instead God’s truth?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and strive to become ever better Christians in our life, in our work and actions. Let us all be exemplary and good in our life that we may inspire each other to live our lives ever more faithfully from now. May the Lord also continue to be with us all and bless us in everything we do. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, 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 in which we are told of the matter of faith and obedience to God. We are presented with two stories, one from our first reading, the second Book of the prophet Samuel, on the account of the moment when king David brought the Ark of God, also known as the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, the new capital of the kingdom of Israel.

Previously, the Ark has always been in the field, originally carried and brought with the Israelites as they journeyed in the desert during their Exodus from Egypt and a Holy Tent was built to house this Ark of the Covenant, which was a very sacred and important part of the community of the Israelites at that time. The people made their dwellings around the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Tent, and when they have reached the Promised Land, the Ark and the Holy Tent were prominently placed in the heart of the land of the Israelites.

For the Ark of the Covenant is not just the symbolic representation of the Covenant between God and His people, but is also the real focus and emphasis of the bond between God and the Israelites, for the stones on which the Ten Commandments were written were placed in the Ark, and more importantly, God’s very presence and holiness descended upon the Ark when the Holy Tent was dedicated and consecrated to God. The Ark of God was the place where God Himself dwelled, inside the Holy Tent built over it.

David wanted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, that it may then visibly dwell in the heart of the land, in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. And when he did so, he honoured the Lord and humbled himself before Him as we heard in our first reading passage today, dancing and rejoicing before the Lord with great joy. David obeyed the Lord and did everything he could to follow His commandments, and gave his all to Him. What we have heard in our first reading today was how he put God first before all else, even his pride and honour.

And not just in this matter, but king David has also been a good and faithful king and steward of God’s people, leading the people on the right path and guiding them with right conduct and devotion. Of course David was not perfect, as he did sin and make mistakes sometimes, but in the end, his love and commitment to God prevailed, and he remained mostly true to his calling and ministry as king. He did what was right in the sight of God and brought God’s people closer to Him, and for this, God blessed David and made an assurance to him that his house would reign as king forever.

This is then linked to our Gospel passage today, when the family of Jesus came to Him to meet Him while He was teaching to the people gathered before Him. In that occasion, the Lord told the people that His brothers, sisters, mother and family are those who do the will of God and obey Him. When we heard what the Lord Jesus said, without understanding the context and purpose of what He said, we may think that the Lord was being rude to His family and to His mother Mary. But the truth is actually different.

The Lord had no intention to be rude or condescending to His family and His mother. Rather, He wanted to make a good example and also to make it clear to the people, and all of us, that if we obey God and do His will, are faithful and devoted to Him, God will surely be with us and will bless us bountifully as He had done with David, His faithful servant. And of course, Mary, the mother of God is herself the most faithful one of all, and she is indeed one called the most blessed of all women and of all people.

Today, we also remember the memory of a great saint, whose life, works and dedication to God can be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, just as king David and Mary had done. St. Thomas Aquinas is a great Doctor of the Church and a master theologian known well by his nickname Doctor Angelicus or the Angelic Doctor. St. Thomas Aquinas was well-known for his many contributions to theology and philosophy, sparking a great renewal in the intellectual dimension of the Church and the faithful.

Summa Theologica, the great masterful work of St. Thomas Aquinas still continues to influence the Church, the priests and the leaders of the Church for many centuries right up to this day, and is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant works that man has ever made. The impact of St. Thomas Aquinas, his works and contributions cannot be underrated, and we should be inspired by his commitment and love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that we should do then? We should be more faithful and committed to God ourselves from now on, imitating the examples of king David, of Mary, God’s own mother, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and many other saints and holy predecessors we have, that we can look up to for inspiration. Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do our best to love God with ever more effort and commitment, putting Him ever at the centre of our lives and existence.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, that we may ever be courageous and strong to live up to our faith and be good servants of His truth, in proclaiming His truth and His salvation to all the peoples by our faith and obedience. Amen.

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the beginning of David’s reign over the whole kingdom of Israel as described in the first reading today and how he managed to conquer the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites who lived there and made it the capital of Israel. And then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the tension and conflict that happened between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His works.

In our first reading today, the context of what happened was that David was finally accepted as king over all the people of Israel after for seven years, he was only the king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron. The other eleven tribes of Israel chose to side with the family of Saul after Saul was killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. Ishboshet or Ishbaal, one of the surviving sons of Saul was made king over the eleven tribes and for years, division and conflict occurred between the two opposing kings.

However, God was not with Ishbaal despite him having the support of the much larger portion of Israel, as God has earlier on chosen David as His rightful king and as the rightful successor of king Saul. This is something that Saul himself had tacitly accepted and acknowledged towards the end of his reign, but the supporters of Saul probably pushed on to prevent the ascension of David as king and thus placed Ishbaal on the throne.

As God was with David, it was recounted in the passage of the Scripture that David became more powerful and beloved over time, while the support towards the house of Saul gradually declined. Eventually Ishbaal was killed by two of his own captains, and the whole community of Israel eventually agreed to overcome their disagreements and chose David to be the rightful king and ruler over all of them.

This part here will be very important as we should then link it to what we have heard in our Gospel passage just now, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus publicly as they deemed that His miraculous powers and works were nothing else but the works of the evil spirits, done in collaboration with Beelzebul, one of the chief princes of demons.

The Lord then spoke up strongly against what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had said and thought that He has done everything by the power and in collusion with the prince of demons. He spoke of how a kingdom and nation that is divided will be destroyed and will not be able to stand, alluding to how first of all, that if the Pharisees had been right, then Beelzebul was himself divided against the other demons and evil spirits. Had that been the case, they would have all been too busy arguing, bickering and fighting among themselves to be able to threaten us.

That is as far as it was from the truth. The devil and all of his wicked forces are in fact more united than ever in trying to bring about our downfall, and that is why his favourite tactic is in fact to sow the seeds of dissension, disagreement, anger, jealousy, and all sorts of things that cause us to strike at another person. And when we are divided among ourselves, it will be easy for the devil and his fellow fallen angels and wicked spirits to come in for the kill.

Like the supporters of the house of Saul who were divided among themselves, culminating in the two trusted captains of Ishbaal who killed their own lord and king, those who are divided among themselves will be weakened and will be truly vulnerable. And unless we realise this, then the devil is really going to have a very good time at bringing about the downfall of many, many souls in this world, all those who are vulnerable to his lies and coercions.

The Lord also spoke up so strongly against those who criticised Him falsely because they have doubted the work of God among His people, which clearly and definitively could not have been the act of the forces of evil. What the Lord had done was genuinely for the good of His people, and even though the devil and his forces were very good at deceiving us with many lies and tricks, but he cannot hide his true nature, and he will not be able to show true love, compassion and genuine care for us, like what the Lord Himself had done for us.

When the Lord spoke of the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ as sin that cannot be forgiven, that is because although God is indeed loving and merciful, but to doubt and to disregard, to belittle and to blatantly make a lie against the obvious works of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, by which the Lord Jesus has performed His works and miracles, is a great sin that is borne out of voluntary and stubborn rejection of God’s constant offer of love, mercy and compassion.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were jealous and fearful of Jesus, Whom they saw as a great threat to their status, privileges and honour within the community of the people of God. They were afraid that everyone would flock to Him instead of listening to them and they then would lose everything they had gained thus far, all the honour, respect, privileges and authority they had. That was how the devil worked through them, through their words and actions, causing divisions and disagreements to enter the hearts of the people of God.

Having heard all of these, let us now then reflect on our own lives and how we have lived up to our faith thus far. Have we acted in the way those Pharisees had been, in sowing dissension, distrust and preventing God’s good works from being done for whatever reasons we have? Have we been telling lies, making gossips and doing things to create division and disagreement within our communities? Have we been doing things for our own selfish gain and desires, causing others to suffer in the process?

I am sure that all of us, in one way or another, in one part of our life or another, have erred before and fell into this trap of the devil, causing us to be divided against each other, being angry and jealous that led us into actions that cause us to be hurt, to hate and to make others suffer. And because of that, we need to heed what we have just discussed earlier on, how the devil is using this as an opportunity to bring us down. How do we then get out of this situation?

It is by putting our focus in life once again on God, meaning that in everything that we say and do, God should be at the heart of everything. If God is the focus of our life, the likelihood for us to be tempted or misled by the devil will be less, and through God, if we allow Him to help us and transform our lives, our strong relationship will keep us firmly rooted in Him no matter what obstacles the devil and his allies are always trying to put in our path forward in life.

Today, we can also heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Angela Merici, a holy virgin who dedicated her life to God and who had a difficult life in her youth, being orphaned at the age of fifteen and having to lose her sister who passed away in her teenage years. She was noted to be very beautiful, and many men wanted to suit her, so St. Angela Merici purposefully dyed her hair with soot to detract her suitors as she wanted to devote herself to God completely.

She gathered like-minded women who then called themselves as the Company of St. Ursula, which eventually would become the modern religious order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici inspired the growing group to consecrate themselves to God and to serve Him by devoting their time and attention to the needs of those in the community, particularly in the area of education of girls. St. Angela Merici kept her faith and dedication to God and did not allow herself to be tempted by worldly desires, as we heard earlier how she voluntarily give up her physical attractiveness to devote herself totally to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in God and put Him once again at the very centre of our existence and trust Him with all of our heart as St. Angela Merici and also king David had done. Let us not be distracted and be divided anymore by the machinations of the evil one, and resist him and all of his lies from now on. May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Angela Merici, give us the strength and courage to be ever more faithful to God, at all times. Amen.

Sunday, 26 January 2020 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time beginning from this year onwards, our Holy Father and Vicar of Christ Pope Francis has declared the institution of the Sunday of the Word of God, to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time every year. The purpose of this celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God is a very important reminder to all of us as Christians that the Scriptures are very important and integral in the development of our faith.

The Scriptures are none other than the Word of God, as God spoke to us through them, and those who had contributed and written the books in the Scripture were divinely inspired by God and the Holy Spirit to pass down the message of God’s truth to us. The Church has also authoritatively decided the books that are to be kept as part of the official canon of the Scripture, and from then on, we have the Bible as what we now have today.

And this emphasis on the Word of God today on this Sunday is very important to all of us the faithful people of God as the Word of God is our daily sustenance and the source of our strength and faith. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, the devil wanted to tempt the Lord Who was hungry that He should turn the stones into bread for Him to eat. The Lord rebuked Satan sternly saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’.

But the Word of God in this case does not just refer to the Scriptures, as the Word of God as we know it, also refers to the Christ Himself, because Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is also known as the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who assumed the flesh and nature of Man for our salvation. While the Father is the Creator in the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit passes through all creation, the Son is the Word by which God created the world.

And this same Word of God has become incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour. This makes the Scriptures even more significant, as the Scriptures become the manifestation of the truth of God, as we all know that the Bible consist of two main parts namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Word of God was revealed through the elders and the prophets who passed on parts of the revelation of God’s truth. And then in the New Testament, all that had been revealed and spoken in the Old Testament were confirmed in the truth of Christ.

In the New Testament, we heard the word of God from the Son Himself, the authentic and true Word revealing the truth of God’s will and plan for us. And those who wrote the Holy Gospels and the letters of the Apostles were divinely inspired through the Holy Spirit and by the experiences they encountered, to bring to us this sustenance in the Word of God, the sustenance of our soul, our mind, our heart and indeed of our whole being. Without this sustenance, our spiritual life will be empty and dead, and it will be easy for us to lose our faith.

That is why it is absolutely necessary for us to appreciate this great gift and blessing we have received in the Word of God, through the Sacred Scriptures easily and readily accessible and available for us. In the Second Vatican Council, through the Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, which means ‘Word of God’, the importance of the Sacred Scriptures was once again highlighted with the emphasis placed on the propagation of the Word of God among the people and the regular reading and exposure to the Scriptures by all segments of the Universal Church.

But in the same Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, the importance of Sacred Tradition as an inseparable part of the Church teachings and Christian truth together with the Sacred Scriptures is also highlighted and emphasised. This means that the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God cannot be studied, read or used independently of the Sacred Traditions and the magisterium authority of the Church. This is a firm rejection of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ position of those who argued that the Bible alone is the foundation of our faith.

Rather, the Bible and the words of the Lord in it must be appreciated and understood in the context of Church teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our predecessors, passed down and preserved for us from the time of the Lord and His Apostles themselves. It is this treasure of the faith that we have been blessed with and which is now highlighted in importance by our Holy Father Pope Francis as a way to stop the rapidly declining quality of our faith and relationship with God as what we can clearly see in our Church today.

If we do not expose ourselves to the truth of God in His words, how can we know more about Him? And if we are ignorant of His truth and the meaning of His words, how can we then understand and appreciate His love? As long as we do not know Him, are ignorant of His love and blind to His truth, we cannot be truly God’s disciples and our hearts and minds will always be far away from Him. In time this will lead us further and further down the path of sin and darkness.

That is why today, on this Sunday of the Word of God, we are challenged first of all to be more active in making use of the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures which we have received from the bounties of the Church, and be regular in our reading, study and appreciation of God’s words contained within the pages of the Scriptures. We should spend more time trying to deepen our knowledge of our faith, reading from the wisdom of the Lord contained within both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And as we do this, we also have to keep the reference to the official teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official Church documents and proclamations, all the guidelines and officially approved teachings of the faith as maintained by the magisterium of the Church and the deposit of the faith. By deepening our faith through closer interaction with the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and by keeping ourselves within the bounds of our Sacred Tradition, we will grow closer to God and be more faithful with each passing moments.

And among the best way to do that, is by paying close attention during the homily of the Holy Mass, when the priests explain the meaning and context of the proclaimed Word of God to us. Our priests have been prepared for many years in the seminaries and even many more years of experience during their priesthood to explain the truth in the Word of God according to the teachings of the Church. And this is why we also need to pray for all of them too, that they may remain faithful and true to their ministry.

It is important that we pay attention during the homily because if we do not understand, appreciate and adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, we will end up being like what happened in the early Church, divisions and struggles that appeared between the segments of the Christian faithful which threatened to tear the Church apart. It was so bad that St. Paul had to intervene through his letter, rebuking all those who put their own self interests first before serving the interest and purposes of God.

That was why we heard of the conflicts between those who declared themselves the followers of Paul and others who claimed that they followed Apollos. Both Paul and Apollos were great leaders of the early Church and they performed many good works for the evangelisation of more people. However, as their followers began to grow rapidly, those followers ended up beginning to seek their own individual agenda and interpret the Scriptures for their own benefits and selfish desires. And that was how, unfortunately, so many so-called denominations of Christianity exist because each person is free to interpret the Word of God as he or she wishes it.

That is why today, the second important thing that we need to take note of is besides deepening our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God, we must also continue to put our trust and faith in God through His Church, the one and only Church He has established in this world. As what He Himself said that if we are separated from Him, the True Vine, we who are His branches will perish because we have no life from Him and through Him if we separate ourselves from this unity with Him that exists in the Church.

And then, lastly, we are also called today to live and embody the Word of God in our daily living and in our faith. God has called us just as how He has called His disciples to follow Him as described in our Gospel passage today. We are all the successors to the works of the Apostles in continuing the mission which God has entrusted to them, that is the evangelisation of the whole world. But in order to do so, we have to first of all, be attuned to the Word of God, be faithful to the teachings of the Church and be willing to venture forth and be good witnesses of our faith to others.

And how do we become good witnesses of Our Lord? How do we proclaim the Word of God in a good way? It is not by preaching in public places or quoting phrases and words from the Scripture, but first of all, we must first live out what we truly believe in. This means that our every actions and deeds, our words, every words that come out from our mouths and our thoughts must be aligned with God’s truth as contained within His words in the Scriptures.

If we do not live in the manner compatible with what we speak, how can people believe in us? We are nothing better than hypocrites who say one thing but do and act in a different or even contradictory manner. That is why, our challenge today is for us to truly allow God’s words to enter into our lives and that we do not just read His words at a surface level or just through our brains. Instead, we must go deeper, in allowing those words to penetrate the depths of our hearts and souls.

And then, are we willing to allow God to change and transform us by the power of His words and truth? If we are willing, then surely we will, in time, be good examples of our faith and others who see us, hear us and witness our every actions will believe in God because of us. That is how we become the true disciples and followers of Christ, by being the beacons of Christ’s light in this world filled with the darkness of sin.

Let us all today renew our conviction and desire to love and serve the Lord, by deepening our relationship with Him through deeper and better understanding of the Word of God in the Scriptures, that we may proclaim God’s truth by our lives and actions, and bring more and more people to God’s saving grace. May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, continue to strengthen us in faith by His encouragement and love. Amen.