Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday through the readings we heard from the Sacred Scriptures we are brought to remember and to keep in mind of the love which God has for each and every one of us, and the generosity which He has shown us by the outpouring of His grace, by the guidance He has shown us, in leading us all on the right path towards Him.

For God is our Shepherd and Lord, He Who created us out of nothingness because of the great love He has for each and every one of us. Each one of us are like the sheep of the Lord, Who cares for us with tender care and love, and His guiding hands lead us on the right path towards Him. He will bless all those who are faithful to Him, and continue to love them forever. But all those who refuse to listen to Him and disregard Him, He will also reject.

For that is what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the parable of the king and his wedding banquet or feast. He has invited people to come to his feast, where the best food and drinks, the finest wines and meat are overflowing, in line with what we also heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah as well as the Good Shepherd psalm. This feast is a representation of God’s love and grace for His people.

Yet, we heard how those guests refused to come to the banquet which the king had prepared for them. They ignored the servants of the king who were sent to them to inform them of the feast. Instead, they continued their daily businesses, doing their works and farms, and other sorts of occupations. Some of them even struck at the servants of the king, insulted them and killed some of them.

This was the behaviour of the people of Israel, to whom God had bestowed His favour and grace, as the people whom He first chose and called to be His own. Yet, they were easily distracted and tempted, and having forgotten about God, they turned into sin and fall into the darkness. They did not put the Lord as the priority in their lives, and instead, other idols became their priority, the idol of money, of worldly fame and glory, as well as many others.

That is why, all of us are called to turn away from our sins, and open wide our minds and hearts, that we may know what it is that the Lord wants us to do in our lives. But, we must also remember that whatever we have received from God, in His instructions and the truths He gave to us, we must make sure that we do not just listen to them superficially. Instead, we have to internalise the words and practice what we have been taught, actively in our respective lives.

Those who are willing to listen to the Lord, and walk in His ways will be granted the favour and grace from God, as God calls on all those who are still willing to follow Him. In the parable, the king sent his servants to call upon people on the streets and in the public places to fill up the banquet place, replacing all those who were originally invited and yet refused to come.

If we reject God, and refuse to obey Him, then even though God loves us, but because of our sins and rejection, it is we ourselves who have consciously rejected God’s love and spurned His offer of mercy and forgiveness. In the end, it was by our own actions that we have fallen into a state of condemnation. It is by our own choice that we have ended up falling into hell. We have to be consciously active in our faith to avoid this.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also what the Lord meant when He mentioned in the parable of the case where a man was present in the wedding banquet without a wedding garment. We should not interpret this literally as if we do so, we will end up missing on the true purpose of this parable, that is to remind us as the people of God in how we should live our lives.

That means, all of us must be properly ‘clothed’ in our entire being, and not just our appearances only. When we come to the Lord, we must have the right reasons and the right predispositions. When we come to the Holy Mass, many of us are complaining about those who are skimpily dressed and not properly attired for the celebration of the Mass in the House of God, and yet, while this is important to ensure the compliance of the faithful to follow the regulations and standards of the Church in this matter, but we cannot overlook the even more important need to ‘clothe’ ourselves in our minds and in our hearts.

Coming for the celebration of the Holy Mass and participating in our faith, which is represented in the parable as the wedding banquet of the king, is important. Yet, attending the celebration is just one part of the entire experience. Let us ask ourselves these questions to reorientate ourselves properly. Have we ever been impatient when we came for the Holy Mass, thinking that it was a waste of time, because either the priest’s homily was too long or boring according to us?

And have we thought that coming for the Holy Mass is a chore, because we have to take time off from our usual activities outside the Church, and we cannot wait to return to continue our daily habits? If we have been doing all these, then we need to evaluate and reflect in our hearts again, whether God is the first priority in our lives, or whether it is instead money, possessions, pleasures of the flesh, prestige, fame and all other sorts of distractions that have kept us from having true and genuine faith in God?

What then, can we do as Christians in order to be appropriately ‘clothed’ for the Lord? It is by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer and devotion, by allowing Him to enter our lives and to take charge of all of our actions and deeds. And when we allow God to take charge of our lives, we will realise and experience a great transformation, as God has promised us His blessings and graces, His rich endowment and gifts. He will transform us from people filled now with sin, to be a people of the light.

Let us all therefore pray, and pray fervently that we may be able, and that we may have the necessary courage to follow the Lord wholeheartedly in all that we say and do. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, and follow Him from now on with the full sincerity of our hearts. May the Lord continue to bless us and watch over us, as we continue to live this lives of ours, every single day. Amen.

Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?'”

“But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 22 : 1-10

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests.”

Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Philippians 4 : 12-14, 19-20

I know what it is to be in want and what it is to have plenty. I am trained for both : to be hungry or satisfied, to have much or little. I can do all things in Him Who strengthens me. However, you did right in sharing my trials.

God, Himself, will provide you with everything you need, according to His riches, and show you His generosity in Christ Jesus. Glory to God, our Father, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 25 : 6-10a

On this mountain YHVH Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain He will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more.

The Lord YHVH will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; He will take away the humiliation of His people all over the world : for YHVH has spoken. On that day you will say : This is our God. We have waited for Him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation. For on this mountain the hand of YHVH rests.

Sunday, 8 October 2017 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the words of the Sacred Scriptures this Sunday, each and every one of us who gather together to give glory to God are reminded to lead a holy and good life, in accordance with what the Lord had taught us to do. We are called to be fruitful vines and bear rich and bountiful fruits for the Lord, and these fruits are the fruits of our faith.

In the first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Isaiah. The Lord spoke of how His people were His beautiful and precious vine, grown in His own vineyard. The Lord blessed the vineyard and took good care of it, but it only resulted in barren vines and bad quality grapes. And the Lord unleashed His wrath on the useless and unproductive vineyard, destroying it.

In what we have heard from this passage, we see that the aim for all of us as Christians is to be bountiful and fruitful. This is also the same recurring theme which the Lord Jesus often used in His teachings and parables. If we do not bear fruits, it is because we are lukewarm in how we have lived our faith, and we have not been truly faithful in our ways. We have also perhaps been compromising in many aspects of our faith, to the point that it leads us to sin.

As the Lord Jesus mentioned in another of His parables, that good trees and vines should produce good fruits and seeds, while bad and rotten fruits come only from bad and rotten trees, those that were poorly taken care of and were riddled with diseases. Therefore if we do not make the effort to keep ourselves spiritually well, we will end up becoming corrupted and wicked.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus showed us how many of us ended up falling for this same problem, as He spoke to the people, using the parable of the evil vineyard tenants as a method to show them, the dangers of the worldly temptations of power, greed and human desires.

The tenants of the vineyard had been entrusted with the care of the vines and the grapes, tending the vineyard in the absence of the master. Yet, when the master of the vineyard sent his servants to claim the master’s due from the tenants, the tenants refused to obey and even persecuted and killed the servants.

And when the master of the vineyard sent his son to collect the due from the tenants, similarly they also refused to obey him, and instead, hatching wicked plots in their minds, they struck at him and killed him. This was what Jesus had told the people, which was in fact a premonition of His own suffering and death, as the son mentioned in the parable refers to none other than Jesus Himself, the Son of God.

In that parable, we can see how God performs His loving mercy towards His people. Even though the evil and wicked tenants have repeatedly refused to listen and to obey to the master’s wish, that is to fulfil their obligations to pay him what was due for him, but the master still continued to send more and more servants, until ultimately he sent them his own beloved son.

Similarly, even though we have sinned and not obeyed His laws and commandments, but God is always willing to bring us back to obedience and faith. That is why the Lord sent us many of His prophets and messengers, and last of all, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who like the master’s son in the parable, was persecuted and put to death by those who rejected Him.

The Lord has always been willing to give us new chances, one after another. Yet, many of us continue to be stubborn and refused to listen to Him. We cling strongly to our greed, to our pride, our haughtiness and arrogance, to the point that we are unable to control ourselves and we spiral down the path of sin. Pride prevents us from recognising our defects and unworthiness before God, and thus the need for us to repent from our sins.

We have to remember that sin is the great disease of our souls. Even though we may seem to be healthy and without any problems from the outside, but sin corrupts and makes our entire being rotten and wicked. Sin is the cause of our downfall, which is our disobedience against God, and instead following the path that we prefer for ourselves, for our own selfish desires and wishes.

If we continue to sin, and walk down this path of rebellion, then that is when we become barren and unworthy in our faith lives. The fruits of our faith is love, compassion, hope, zeal, devotion and charity, and more, and all these are snuffed away by sin. Sin becomes a veil that prevents us from loving one another, and from showing genuine care and concern for our fellow brethren. And at the same time, it also dulls our senses, that we are no longer capable of distinguishing between deeds that are good from those that are bad.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, do we want to be fruitful or barren vine? When the Lord comes, to claim all those who have been faithful to Him, thus bearing rich fruits, do we want to be counted among those whom He rejects because we have been found unworthy due to our rotten selves, through our sins and refusal to repent from our sinful ways?

Just as it is not an easy task to ensure that a grapevine or indeed any other crop to grow healthily from a mere seed or shoot, needing constant and long periods of care and attention, it will not be easy for us as Christians to live faithfully and to bear good quality of the fruits of our faith. Yet, if we choose the easier path out, offered by the devil who is constantly tempting us with worldly glories and temptations, then the outcome will be dire for us.

We need to learn to step out from our comfort zone, and nurture that seed of faith which the Lord had planted in each and every one of us. We need to do this by practicing our faith actively, through deeds and actions, and not just by words or formality alone. And that means, whenever we see anyone around us who are unloved, or even persecuted and in suffering, we should do our very best to help them, and to show compassion to them.

Let us all therefore, from now on, devote ourselves anew to God, and renew the commitment to live faithfully every single day of our lives, that we may grow ever more fruitful in our actions, based on our sincere and genuine faith in God. There will indeed be challenges, temptations and even opposition, but we cannot give up, for what is at stake is nothing less than the fate and salvation of our souls.

May the Lord continue to guide us on the path to His salvation and grace. May He empower each and every one of us to live as how the Lord wants us to be, and be ever more fruitful in this life, so that we will not follow the path of the wicked tenants, but instead, be loyal and good servants of our God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 8 October 2017 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 21 : 33-44

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then, went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, the owner sent more servants; but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to Him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Whoever falls on this stone, he will be broken to pieces; on whomsoever this stone falls, he will be ground to dust.”