Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we are all reminded of the revelation of God’s truth to us, which He has reserved to all those who are willing to listen to Him and His truth, that all of us who listen to Him and come to believe in Him may come to embrace righteousness and justice in God’s truth. All of us are reminded that God has showed us all His love and generous compassion all these while, and how it is us mankind who are often ignorant of His love.

In our first reading today, we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the encounter between God and Abraham, His servant by the oaks in Mamre when Abraham stayed in Canaan. God appeared to Abraham to reveal to him that whatever He has promised to him in the Covenant He has made with him would be upheld, through the miracle of a son that Abraham would receive from God.

Even though Abraham had earlier on contravened God’s provision by the insistence of his wife Sarah, who tried a shortcut of having a son through her slave, Hagar, but God revealed to Abraham that His Covenant and promise would remain true as how He has planned it, and not as how man planned it. Although God did bless Ishmael, the son that Abraham had with Hagar, but the fullness of His promise and Covenant lies only in the promised son that Abraham then would have with Hagar.

Before we move on into the New Testament readings, it is important that we see what God has revealed to Abraham, and, although not included in the first reading passage today, exactly how Sarah, Abraham’s wife, responded to the revelation. Sarah did not believe in the words that the travellers spoke to Abraham, not knowing that those travellers were actually God Himself in person. She laughed secretly on hearing that she would have a child even though she had been very old then.

But God knew what was in her heart and mind, and asked Sarah why she laughed at what He has revealed to both her and Abraham. Sarah denied it, but God reminded her that He knew everything, and that to prove to her, she herself would indeed bear a son, and that son would be named Isaac, whose name means ‘he laughs’ in reference to the lack of faith of Sarah in God’s revelation of truth.

From what we have heard and discussed, we can see that Sarah did not fully trust in God and placed more faith in her own thinking and perceptions, in her own capability to sort things out, when she chose to take things into her own hands by using her slave to bear Abraham a son on her behalf, and then as mentioned, when she laughed at the words of God, probably thinking that it was ridiculous for anyone to have the notion that she could bear a son at such an age.

And now, let us all compare what we have heard in the first reading from the Book of Genesis to the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus interacted with two sisters, Martha and Mary, who ended up becoming those counted among His closest friends and disciples. In that occasion, Martha and Mary welcomed the Lord Who came into their house, and then we were shown the contrast in how the two of them welcomed the Lord.

Martha was busy preparing the house, getting ready for the meal and doing everything to show as hospitable a welcome as possible for the Lord. She did have good intentions in doing so, and most likely she believed that it was her best way of welcoming the Lord, as perhaps many of us would have also done. If a guest comes to our house, certainly we will do our best to prepare the house for the guest’s coming.

Meanwhile, Mary was with the Lord by His side, listening to Him preaching and teaching to her. Mary spent her whole time and focused all of her attention and effort to the Lord, unlike Martha who was preoccupied and busy with all of her preparations. Martha became angry at her sister and asked the Lord to tell Mary to help her in her preparations, justifying that she was so busy doing all the work by herself while Mary did not help out at all.

That was when the Lord reminded Martha that Mary has chosen a better path, one that is not clouded by our human and worldly fears and concerns, our desires and our prejudices. Mary focused her whole self on God and had total faith in Him, and that was all that matters. It was not that Martha was wrong in what she had been doing. Surely, Martha loved the Lord too, for otherwise she would not have even made the effort to prepare to welcome the Lord properly according to her standard of hospitality.

However, it was her great preoccupation and indeed, distraction caused by all of the things she was doing in the midst of her efforts and preparations that became obstacles for her in her effort to welcome the Lord into her heart. She was so busy trying to welcome the Lord into her house that she has forgotten to welcome Him into her even more important house, the house of her soul, that is her heart!

And that was what happened with Sarah in the Book of Genesis as well, because she was so busy and distracted being concerned of trying to have a son with her husband Abraham, that she had less faith in God and tried to have a shortcut instead by using her slave Hagar as a means to achieve her goal, and when as mentioned, God came up to her and told her what His plan was for her and Abraham, she did not believe, because she forgot to welcome God into her house properly, that is her heart.

Contrast that with Abraham, who like Mary, welcomed the Lord and brought Him into his own house, both literally and also figuratively, because Abraham trusted in God and believed in Him, and he listened to Him with all of his heart and attention. That was why in another occasion, when God asked Abraham to test his faith, by asking him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham listened to God and complied with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we also act in the manner of Sarah and Martha, who were distracted by their business and concerns in life, or do we act in the manner of Abraham and Mary, who had true and sincere faith for God? Let us all reflect on our own lives, our own actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful as we should have been faithful? Have we made the effort to welcome God into our hearts, into our minds and into our beings?

This is a reminder for each and every one of us not to allow our busy schedules, the many distractions and temptations in life to prevent us from appreciating the faith which we have in God. Let us all overcome those temptations and turn ourselves wholeheartedly from now on to God, focusing our whole attention to Him just as Abraham and Mary had done. As St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle today, to all of us, God has revealed the wonderful truth of His love.

Let us all therefore be faithful bearers and witnesses of God’s love, from now on, so that in our every actions and deeds, we will always be true and be dedicated in all things, devoting our every moments and opportunities to bring glory to God and to show His love and wonderful mercy to all of our fellow brethren in this world. May God bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of life. Amen.

Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Colossians 1 : 24-28

At present, I rejoice when I suffer for you; I complete, in my own flesh, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. For I am serving the Church since God entrusted to me the ministry to make the word of God fully known. I mean that mysterious plan that, for centuries and generations, remained secret, and which God has now revealed to His holy ones.

God willed to make known to them the riches, and even the glory, that His mysterious plan reserved for the pagan nations : Christ is in you, the hope for glory. This Christ, we preach. We warn, and teach everyone true wisdom, aiming to make everyone perfect, in Christ.

Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 14 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4ab, 5

Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words, who do no harm to their neighbours.

Those who cast no discredit on their companions, who look down on evildoers but highly esteem God’s servants.

Those who do not lend money at interest and refuse a bribe against the innocent. Do this, and you will not be shaken.

Sunday, 21 July 2019 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 18 : 1-10a

YHVH appeared to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent, in the heat of the day, when he looked up and saw three Men standing nearby. When he saw Them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet Them. He bowed to the ground and said, “My Lord, if I have found favour in Your sight, do not pass Your servant by. Let a little water be brought. Wash Your feet and then rest under the trees. I shall fetch some bread so that You can be refreshed and continue on Your way, since You have come to Your servant.”

They then said, “Do as you say.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said to her, “Quick, take three measures of flour, knead it and make cakes.” Abraham then ran to the herd, took a fine, tender calf, gave it to the servant who hurried to prepare it. He took butter and milk and together with the calf he had prepared laid it all before them. And while he remained standing, they ate.

They then asked, “Where is Sarah, your wife?” Abraham answered, “She is in the tent.” And the visitor said, “At this same time next year I will return and Sarah by then will have a son.”

Sunday, 14 July 2019 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the Lord speaking to us about the matter of the Law of God being put inside our hearts and minds, that each and every one of us may know how to live our lives truly in accordance with what God has willed for us and with what He has taught us all to do. For God’s Law is not just a mere formality or law to be obeyed without understanding what the Law is all about, or else, our obedience will be without meaning and purpose.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard of the reminder from God to His people that He has given them His Law and His commandments, and He has revealed these to them so that they may come to be faithful and be obedient to the way which He has shown all of them. God showed them all how they could be righteous and upright in their words, actions and deeds.

Unfortunately, they frequently disobeyed Him and rebelled against Him, walked away from His path and turning away from His laws and commandments, preferring to follow their own volitions and obeying false gods and idols instead. And all these were because of their failure and refusal to listen to the will of God and to the Law of the Lord, which they thought as a restraint and oppressive regulations.

But they failed to understand what the Law truly means, as were their descendants, who preserved those very same laws and commandments, and failed to understand their meaning even until then. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law preserved the Law and enforced strict obedience to them on the people. They enforced hundreds of rules and regulations, and were focused on the details of the Law, but failed to know why the Law was there in the first place.

And the Gospel passage which we have heard today put our understanding of the Law into a new understanding, as what the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples using the famous parable of the Good Samaritan can tell us. We know this story of a good Samaritan man who helped a person robbed on his way to Jericho, while two other people, a priest and a Levite ignored him and just passed him by without helping him.

Now, we should understand deeper the symbolisms that exist in this parable, as the Lord wanted His disciples and all of us to know that it was not external piety and obedience to the Law that matter, but rather, our internal disposition, alignment, understanding and harmony with the Law that actually matter. The reality is that at that time, the society and the people of God were quite biased and had quite a bit of prejudice on the three people mentioned in the parable by Jesus.

The priest is usually a very respected person, as the priest symbolised the unity and link between God and man, as the one who is not just knowledgeable about the Law and God, but also as the one who offer the people’s sacrifices to God. Priests were also anointed by God to be His servants, and therefore, they were very essential in the livelihood of the people of God, and thus, commanded a large amount of respect.

Meanwhile, the Levite belonged to the tribe of Levi, from which priests were usually selected from. They were so important and honoured in their role, chosen by God, that they were traditionally not counted among the twelve tribes of Israel because they were supposed to be dwelling in all places, wherever there were need for priests. They were the descendants of Aaron and the priestly caste, and therefore also commanded a great deal of respect.

But the Samaritan was usually treated with disdain and prejudice, indifference and even hostility at times, just because they were seen as outsiders, pagans and people who were unworthy of God and His grace. The Samaritans were those who lived in the region of Samaria, the former site of the northern kingdom of Israel and were descended from a mixed heritage of some of the northern tribes of Israel and those pagan peoples that were brought into that place when the Israelites were exiled.

As such, the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee were often very wary, prejudiced and opposed against the Samaritans, whom they deemed to be pagans and unworthy. But yet, in what the Lord Jesus presented in the parable, it was exactly the same Samaritan who the people despised and often treated badly that was moved by the plight of a person who was robbed and left to die on the roadside.

And we should understand this with the fact that the Jews would not even touch or talk to a Samaritan, as evidenced in another part of the Gospels when the Samaritan woman of the Samaritan town of Sychar found the Lord Jesus strange for willingly talking to her, a Samaritan while He was a Jew. But that Good Samaritan not only showed pity on the injured Jew, but even took him to an inn and paid for his whole stay and mended his wound.

If we compare the behaviours and actions of the three people mentioned, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan, it is quite obvious that the Samaritan did what the priest and the Levite did not do or refused to do. The greatest irony is that the two people who were commonly highly respected and praised for their obedience and observance of God’s laws did not do what the Lord has commanded them to do.

And on the contrary, the person everyone thought the least likely to be obedient to God, namely the Samaritan, had shown true faith and obedience to God’s commandments, by loving one of his own brethren, even though he was a Samaritan and the injured man was a Jew. That is the true essence of the Law and what God has wanted us all to do ourselves. The Law of God is about love, love that is pure and true, genuine and does not discriminate.

There is no point for us to be externally pious and appear to be good and law-abiding, if in our hearts we do not internalise and understand the meaning of those laws. That was what the priest and the Levite had done, which the Lord also used to subtly criticise the lives and the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have lived their lives in such a way, focusing on the external applications of the Law but not understanding why the Law was given to us.

Instead, all of us are called to love generously and be truly creatures of love, imitating the examples of none other than our beloved Father, Our Lord and God Who has loved us so generously and patiently, caring for the needs of all those who are dear to Him. God cares for each and every one of us without exception, and even we have sinned against Him and even after we have been obstinate in our rebelliousness, He continued to love us all regardless.

This is what the true essence of the Law of God is about, the love which God has for us, and which we therefore should also have for Him. And the love which we have, we should also love our fellow brethren, our brothers and sisters in our midst. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and show love in our every words and actions from now on, so that we will be filled with true faith and love for God.

Let us all therefore not be hypocrites in our faith, but instead be sincere in our faith and in everything we do from now on. Let us all put the Law of God, the Law of His love in our hearts and minds, and make ourselves the instruments of His love. May God, our loving Father, be our guide and be our example, that each and every one of us may follow in our own lives, living our faith with dedication and conviction. Amen.

Sunday, 14 July 2019 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 10 : 25-37

At that time, then a teacher of the Law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do You understand it?” The man answered, “It is written : You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.” The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead.”

“It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him.”

“The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.'” Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”