Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the need for us to be truly faithful to God in everything and not just having superficial and empty faith. God wants us to love Him and to be focused on Him in our lives and not to be distracted by worldly temptations and desires, and what we heard in our Scripture passages today are a great reminder to that fact.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to pick one of the seven sons of Jesse to become the new king of Israel succeeding Saul, the previous and first king of Israel who had disobeyed God and led Israel into sin. This brought Samuel to the land of Judah to find Jesse and he met six of his sons whom Jesse presented all before the prophet to find the one with whom God was pleased and had chosen.

Samuel thought that the first son was handsome and great in the sight of man, as was the other elder sons, with intellect, appearance and charisma that seemed to make them acceptable and likely to be God’s chosen one. But God told Samuel that despite what he had seen and thought, God had not chosen any one of them at all. Instead, it was David, the youngest and seventh son of Jesse, a young man still in his early youth, a shepherd of the field whom God had chosen to become the king over His people Israel.

What this passage is telling us is that God chose the one whom He deemed to be worthy and not the one who made himself or herself to be worthy of God. No one is truly worthy of God and the more pride, greed and ambition there are in our hearts and in our minds, the further we will end up being from God. Saul, the first king was overcome by his pride and greed, in wanting to do things in his own way and probably in wanting to gain worldly benefits that he ended up disobeying God and therefore was replaced as king by David.

In our Gospel passage, we heard something that is quite similar in nature as we heard of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who complained about the behaviour of His disciples as they picked the grains of wheat in the field on the Sabbath day, something that the Pharisees interpreted to be a grave sin and mistake to be done on the sacred day dedicated to God.

But the Lord then told the Pharisees the story of how king David and his followers when they were exhausted and completely hungry as they fled from their enemies, namely king Saul and his soldiers who wanted David dead, David and his followers went to the house of God and the High Priest gave them the bread that was normally reserved only for the priests. They ate and they had their fill and they then continued on their journey, eventually by God’s grace, succeeded in surviving and David succeeded Saul as king of Israel when the latter was killed in the battle with the Philistines.

Through that story, the Lord again wanted not just the Pharisees but also all of us to understand and to realise that the Law of God cannot be understood just superficially, and this also then requires us to have a faith that is deeper than just the superficial appearances. If outwardly we are good but inside our hearts and minds we are conflicted and not united with God, then we do not truly have genuine faith in God and can even be considered as hypocrites like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

What God wants us to know is that we do not just obey the Law and fulfil its requirements just for the sake of doing it or for appearances. We must truly love God and have that love for God within our hearts underlying all of our actions and deeds. David was chosen not because of the superior nature of his physical build or appearances but rather because he truly had a genuine love for God. Although as a man he was not perfect and sinned, but as can see throughout his life, he remained faithful to the Lord and devoted his life and reign to His glory.

In the same manner, all of us as Christians we are all called to be truly faithful to God in all things and not to be merely superficial in our obedience to the Lord and to His Law. We are all called to love God with all of our strength and with all of our heart. And today, we can also look upon the examples set by the faithful St. Agnes, a holy martyr of the faith renowned to the whole Church.

St. Agnes was a beautiful Roman noble woman who was a Christian at the time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was chased after by many men whom she declined because she wanted to dedicate herself out of purity and maintain the sanctity of her holy virginity to God. As a result, those men who were rejected reported her to the authorities for her supposed Christian faith, and the prefect in charge at the time subjected her to arrest and suffering.

She was dragged naked through the streets to a brothel and made to be raped by men, but miraculously by God’s intervention, all those who attempted to do so were struck blind. It was told that the son of the prefect was struck dead and through the prayers of St. Agnes, he was revived, and the prefect, visibly touched by this, had to pass on the judgment to another person, who then condemned St. Agnes to die by burning at the stake.

Again, the flames would not burn her and she was completely unharmed. It was only when an officer stabbed her and beheaded her with his sword that St. Agnes was finally martyred for her faith. Despite all the sufferings she had to go through, she remained completely faithful to God, because she truly had faith and genuine love for God from her heart, and her faith was not just merely superficial or only for appearances. This is why all of us should also be inspired by the faith that St. Agnes had and strive to live our lives faithfully from now on as she once had lived hers.

May the Lord always be with us and may He continue to strengthen us all in our journey of faith. May He through the intercessions of St. Agnes, holy virgin and martyr, continue to guide us all and bless us in everything we do, that we may be courageous in faith and in loving God with all of our heart from now on. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 2 : 23-28

At that time, on one Sabbath Jesus was walking through grain fields. As His disciples walked along with Him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!”

And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need; when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the House of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate; the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Master even of the Sabbath.”

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 27-28

In the past, You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and, with My holy oil, I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him; and My arm will sustain him.

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Samuel 16 : 1-13

YHVH asked Samuel, “How long will you be grieving over Saul whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have chosen My king from among his sons.”

Samuel asked, “How can I go? If Saul hears of this, he will kill me!” YHVH replied, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to YHVH.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice and I will let you know what to do next. You shall anoint for Me the one I point out to you.”

Samuel did what YHVH commanded and left for Bethlehem. When he appeared, the elders of the city came to him asking, fearfully, “Do you bring us peace?” Samuel replied, “I come in peace; I am here to sacrifice to YHVH. Cleanse yourselves and join me in the sacrifice.” He also had Jesse and his sons cleansed and invited them to the sacrifice.

As they came, Samuel looked at Eliab the older and thought, “This must be YHVH’s anointed.” But YHVH told Samuel, “Do not judge by his looks or his stature for I have rejected him. YHVH does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; YHVH sees the heart.”

Jesse called his son Abinadab and presented him to Samuel who said, “YHVH has not chosen this one either.” Jesse presented Shammah and Samuel said, “Nor has YHVH chosen this one.” Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel who said, “YHVH has chosen none of them. But are all your sons here?”

Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, tending the flock just now.” Samuel said to him, “Send for him and bring him to me; we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.” So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him to Samuel. He was a handsome lad with a ruddy complexion and beautiful eyes. And YHVH spoke, “Go, anoint him for he is the one.”

Samuel then took the horn of oil and anointed him in his brothers’ presence. From that day onwards, YHVH’s Spirit took hold of David. Then Samuel left for Ramah.

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures speaking to us and reminding us all that we need to remain faithful to God and stay true to His commandments. If we remain faithful to Him, God will bless us all and grant us all that He has promised to us from the beginning of time through the Covenant which He has established with each and every one of us.

God has made His Covenant with us because He truly loves each and every one of us, all of us without any exceptions. And because of that, we should indeed be grateful for all that He has kindly blessed us with, His generous kindness and love, His enduring patience for us that despite our constant disobedience and rebelliousness, He still loves us all and is willing to give us chances and opportunities to repent.

Our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah and the Psalm today, taken from the first chapter of the Psalm reminds us all of this fact, of how God will bless those who are righteous and who are walking in His path. But those who continue in their wicked and sinful ways, those who reject God’s kindness and love will have nothing but regret and hopelessness, for away from God truly we are nothing.

Unfortunately, the reality is such that in our world today, there are many more people following the path leading away from God, the path of sin and darkness which many people are following because they were unable to resist the temptations of the world. They allowed themselves to be swayed by the devil’s sweet lies and falsehoods, and the comforts and pleasures of life that they ended up being drawn further and further away from God.

This is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the frustrations which our Lord spoke against the people to whom He had been sent to, as the people rejected His message of truth and His offer of salvation, as they were too entrenched in their own ways and fallen habits that they were unable to comprehend the truth of God being brought into their midst. Just as they rejected St. John the Baptist, they would also reject the Lord.

The core of the message of today’s Gospel passage is that, to those who rejected God’s truth and ways because of their stubbornness in heart and mind, everything that God is trying to bring forth to their midst is meaningless as long as the doors of their hearts and minds are closed tight. When St. John the Baptist came forth in his blatant and ascetic way, preaching repentance and the call to change of life, the people criticised and doubted him, and when the Lord came, seeking sinners and trying to save them, He too was criticised and mocked.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called then to reflect on our lives and think about our actions. Are we going to continue to harden our hearts and minds against God? As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted, and to be attached excessively to worldly comforts and desires, we will likely end up distancing ourselves away from God and falling deeper into the snares of the devil.

Today, let us all look upon the good faith and examples set by St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse, the famous martyr and saint, whose name was among those named in the Canon of the Mass, because of her truly exemplary faith and dedication to God, regardless of the challenges and difficulties she had to face at that time in remaining true to her faith in the Lord. She lived through a particularly difficult period of great persecution against the faithful by the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Lucy was born to a rich family and she had dedicated herself to a holy virginity in God since her youth, desiring to love God. But her mother, not aware of St. Lucy’s vow and also suffering from a disease herself, and having lost her husband when St. Lucy was still young, arranged for her to marry into a wealthy pagan noble family to ensure their livelihood. St. Lucy persuaded her mother to seek recourse through the intercession of St. Agatha, another martyr whose shrine was visited by many pilgrims at that time, and St. Lucy’s mother was cured.

St. Lucy persuaded her mother to give generous donations of their great wealth to the poor and the needy, and many of the poor of Syracuse received their great alms. However, this generosity came to the attention of the pagan governor of Syracuse, who suspected of St. Lucy’s Christian faith, and ordered her to be arrested and tortured. But despite of the many tortures she had to endure, she remained firm in her faith in God.

It was told that when she was to be burnt at the stake, the firewood stacked below her refused to light up, and in the end, she had to be martyred by the sword. Nonetheless, through all those sufferings, the great faith and commitment of St. Lucy shone through and showed us all what being true Christian is all about. St. Lucy opened herself to God and allowed Him to enter her life and transform her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to devote ourselves to the Lord much like what St. Lucy had done? Through her love both for God and for her fellow brothers and sisters, especially for the poor and the needy, we can be inspired and follow in our footsteps, changing and transforming our lives, from one that is filled with selfishness and ego, into one that is charitable, faithful and devoted to God.

Let us all therefore walk with faith from now on, drawing ever closer to God, and ask for the intercession of St. Lucy that she may pray for all of us sinners still struggling in this world, that God will have mercy on us all and bring us into His eternal kingdom. May God be with us all through this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.