Tuesday, 23 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, relating to us firstly about the moment when king David brought the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s covenant and promise with His people, into the city of Jerusalem, after the Ark had resided for many months outside of the city, due to an accident that happened during the earlier attempt to bring it into Jerusalem.

King David himself accompanied the Ark with many other people, with priests bearing up the Ark which symbolised God’s presence and dwelling among His people Israel. It was told in that same reading how king David danced with all of his might and passion before the Lord in the Ark. The people celebrated and rejoiced because the Lord has come to dwell among His people, as symbolised by His entry into Jerusalem, the capital of the whole nation of Israel.

King David was truly blessed because he obeyed God, and he devoted himself wholeheartedly and entirely to serve his Lord and Master. He did not even hesitate to dance before the Lord, to show Him his jubilation and adoration, before the entire people of Israel. This is something that had not been seen yet in all of the history of the people of God, as it was extremely uncommon and indeed, in the eyes of many, unbecoming for a king to lower himself such as to dance before his people.

That was exactly what Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom David took to be one of his wives, told him in mockery, after having seen David wearing the ephod cloth and danced before the Lord in the procession. Yet, this roused the anger of God against Michal, who have slandered her own husband and mocked him, that she was made barren and without child from then on, as the clear sign of God’s anger upon her.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the exchange between the Lord Jesus and the people who were listening to His teachings, as it was conveyed to Him that His family was waiting for Him outside the place where He was teaching the people. But He told the people that all those who listened to the word of God and obeyed Him, they would become the children of God, as the Lord Jesus Himself would consider them to be His brothers and sisters, as His own family.

This should be understood in the context of how Jesus and His actions would be seen by many, including from those among His own family as being controversial and weird, and in another occasion, they even pulled Jesus out from the crowd, because He was spending so much time with the people, teaching them about the Word of God, that they took Him away, saying to the others that He was out of His mind.

What does these two occasions that happened to the king David of Israel and to Our Lord Jesus Christ tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the revelation to us that if we are to become true disciples of the Lord and devote ourselves wholeheartedly in His ways, then we must be prepared that there will be those who slander us, attack us and doubt us. There will even be those who ridicule us and reject us, based on what we believe in the Lord.

After all, if such criticisms and difficulties were experienced by Our Lord Himself, then we can expect that the same will also happen to us if we are to obey Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. But we must not lose faith or try to conform to whatever ways that the world expects us to do. We have to stand by our faith in the Lord and persevere through those challenging times, that we may be able to find our foundation in the Lord.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen our faith, so that even when the world and even those who are close to us ridicule our faith and commitment to God, we will always be ready to do our best, to give our very best and commit ourselves completely, to the One Who has loved us so much since the beginning of time following in the examples of David and Our Lord Jesus, as we heard in the Scriptures today. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

Sunday, 21 January 2018 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, each and every one of us as Christians received the Word of God being spoken unto us through the Scripture passages, beginning from the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah, telling us how Jonah was sent to Nineveh in order to warn it of the impending catastrophe which God planned to send to the city because of their wickedness.

In that passage, we heard of how the prophet Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, telling them of the impending doom and destruction, and the people of Nineveh believed in him. Even the king of Nineveh itself, the mighty ruler of Assyrian Empire and conqueror of many nations believed in whatever Jonah said, and ordered a general repentance, mourning and penitential efforts, where everyone humbly admitted their sins and sought the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy.

And God saw their sincerity and desire to be forgiven, and He withheld the destruction He had intended for the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. He showed His mercy to the people. Had the prophet Jonah not gone to them and warned them about their sins, they would not have turned away from their sins, and they would have fallen further into wickedness, and destruction would have been unavoidable for them.

In the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard of the exhortation by St. Paul, calling the people to live a holy life, to live a fully devout life abandoning all sorts of worldliness and even relationships. This has to be understood in the context of how the faithful at that time understood the message about the imminent coming of the Lord.

At that time, many of the faithful including that of St. Paul believed that the Lord would be coming soon, and that the end of time would come in a short period of time. As such, he exhorted the faithful to abandon all of their earthly attachments and even married life and families, so as to prepare for the imminent second coming of the Lord. And although this did not happen as he had foreseen, but in truth, thanks to what St. Paul had done, many of the people abandoned their vices and committed themselves to God.

Then, finally, in the Gospel today, we heard about the calling of the Apostles by the Lord Jesus, Who came by the region of Galilee and saw four fishermen who were fishing by the lake of Galilee. They were two sets of brothers, St. Andrew and St. Peter, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John. Jesus saw them and called them from their boats to follow Him and become His disciples.

They left behind their nets and their boats and followed Him, leaving behind even their families and friends. From then on, they would serve the Lord and His purpose for many years and many decades, becoming the instruments of God’s work of mercy and salvation. Through them, many were saved from damnation in hell, and many souls were reconciled with God, even though these poor fishermen were truly of no significance and had little respect among the people at that time.

And after hearing all of these passages from the Scriptures, now it is time for us to think carefully about what we have just heard and received, and look into our own respective lives and ask ourselves, what is it that we, who are the followers of Christ, can do, in order to become ever more dedicated and true disciples of His? All of us as Christians are by default, Christ’s followers and disciples.

First of all, all of us have been called to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and the Apostles, all those whom God had called and chosen to be the bearers of His Good News to the people. They have been called to minister to those who have been lost from the Lord, those who have disobeyed Him, those who have fallen into sin and wickedness.

That was why Jonah was sent to the city and people of Nineveh, and that was also why St. Paul was sent to the people of God, writing to the many churches throughout Christendom and exhorting them to live their lives faithfully, and lastly, the Apostles, members of the Twelve and many other disciples called by the Lord Jesus, to minister to the people and to preach His Good News to them.

If we then think that those people were great saints and servants of God, as those who we deem to be beyond our league, then we are truly mistaken. Let us all look at those whom the Lord called from among those we heard of today. The prophet Jonah was not eager in the beginning to obey the Lord, and in fact, I am sure we are familiar with the story how Jonah tried to run away from the Lord.

He travelled by ship to a faraway land, only for the ship to be struck with a great storm, and he had no choice but to throw himself into the sea to spare the other passengers and the ship, and carried in the belly of a great whale, he was brought to the seashore, from where he eventually decided to follow the Lord’s commands. It was not an easy journey from the beginning, and he was a reluctant follower at best.

Then, St. Paul was once Saul, the great enemy of the Church and all the faithful people of God, greatly feared by all Christians, as he went from place to place, violently rounding up all those who believed in Jesus and arresting them, bringing about much sorrow to the faithful. And yet, God called Saul and converted him, on the way to Damascus, where the revelation of truth was given to him, and he turned his back to his past as a great sinner, into a great defender of the faith.

And lastly, the Apostles themselves were not perfect either, they came from various background, called by the Lord to be His followers and chosen to be their leaders. Yet we know how even one among them betrayed the Lord, Judas Iscariot, who sold off his Master for a mere thirty pieces of silver to the high priests. And the other Apostles fled out of fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, each to their own hiding places.

What is the lesson that all of us as Christians can learn from these? It is the realisation that God calls those who He deems to be worthy, not those who deem themselves to be worthy. That was why He did not call those who were proud and haughty, including the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on the sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes and more.

Instead, God reached out His hands and brought all those who were sinners and considered unworthy, and called His servants from all kinds of people, from all backgrounds and not withstanding any worldly considerations. Those whom He called and accepted the calling, He would make them to be worthy of His Name, and He would be with them, even though they may indeed face difficulties, persecution and rejection.

This is a reminder for us that when the Lord calls us, we should not reject His call or pretend not to hear what He has called us for. Rather, we should listen to Him and pray, asking the Lord to tell us, what it is that He wants from each one of us. We are all called to walk in His ways and devote ourselves to Him in whatever way we can, giving our time, effort and attention.

Therefore, today, it is also a good time for us to remember our priests and all those who have dedicated themselves, their whole lives for the sake of the Lord. Let us pray for them that they may continue to persevere faithfully throughout their vocation and mission, as those to whom the Lord entrusted the governance and guidance over His people.

Let us all work together that the whole Church of God, all the faithful people of God will be able to coordinate our efforts as one united people, devoted to the Lord, and helping all of our priests and bishops, in their mission and works, that in the end, the Lord’s mercy and compassion may reach all those who are in need of that mercy, and therefore like the people of Nineveh, they may be saved from damnation and destruction.

May the Lord strengthen us all, that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to courageously carry out the mission entrusted to us, to be the bearers of the Good News of the Lord, through our words and even more importantly, through our actions. Let us inspire one another to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord, and be ever more committed to live a life consecrated and devoted to Him, loving Him through all of our every actions and deeds. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 20 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages relating to us firstly from the time of the Old Testament, about the moment when king Saul was killed during the battle against the Philistines, and how David, his successor, reacted to the death of his predecessor. And then in the Gospel, we heard about the Lord Jesus and His family, Who told the people, that ‘He was out of His mind.’

In the first reading, we heard how David was overwhelmed with sorrow upon hearing that Saul has fallen in the battle, and even went so far as tearing his robe and garment, and declared great mourning for the fallen king. And this should be understood in the context of rivalry between Saul and David, as Saul in fact had tried to kill David in several occasions, out of his jealousy and fear of David, who was to replace him as king, but he failed to do so, because God was with David.

Yet David did not reciprocate the hatred and jealousy with his own hatred and jealousy. He continued to regard Saul as his lord and king, and his response to what he heard about the death of Saul confirmed just how much he regarded his predecessor, despite all that he had plotted against him, and how much suffering and difficulty that he had been inflicted with.

That is the essence and personality of someone who has obeyed the Lord for all of his life, and walked righteously in his path. David was a righteous man, with heart that was filled with love for God as well as for God’s people, whom he has been entrusted with. He has lived a life of honesty and upright attitude, and he committed himself selflessly to his Lord and Master.

And this is something that is certainly is not common in our world today, as most of us would not have done what David had done in his life. Let us look at our own lives, and think of all that we have done thus far. How many of us will forgive our enemies and those who hated us, and still love them back? Many of us would keep grudge and hatred alive in us, and seek revenge whenever we could.

Indeed, for us to be like David would mean for us to go out of step with how the people of this world usually behave and operate. And this is exactly why, in the Gospel today, we heard of how Our Lord Jesus was treated, even by His own family, who said that He was out of His mind! That is simply because what the Lord Jesus had done, was revolutionary at the time, and was against the norms of the society.

Yet, that was what the Lord has delivered into this world, the reality of His truth. And that is what all of us as Christians, all those who believe in the Lord and in His message ought to stand up for, living righteously and with devotion to God, just as King David, our predecessor in faith and role model had done. And there are still many more role models which are still available for us to follow, including the two saints whose memory we celebrate and remember today.

Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian were two martyrs of the Church, who in their own respective lives have shown great courage and commitment to live their faith, even amidst challenging times and persecutions, in their respective areas of responsibilities, doing whatever they could as faithful disciples and servants of the Lord, refusing to give in to the pressures of those who tormented and tortured them.

Pope St. Fabian lived during the time of the great persecutions of the Christians in the Roman Empire, and he led the people of God as Pope and Vicar of Christ during the time of the Emperor Decius, a notorious enemy of the faithful. He guided the people of God through those difficult moments and lived with virtuous examples, inspiring many of those who are suffering persecution for their faith. In the end, during one of the many persecutions carried out by Decius, Pope St. Fabian himself was martyred for his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was an army captain or centurion, who served the Roman Emperors, and during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruled a few decades after the martyrdom of Pope St. Fabian, all the members of the Roman army were obliged to offer sacrifices to the pagan idols and to the Roman Emperor to show their sign of loyalty to their Emperor and to the pagan ways of Rome. Through the many tribulations encountered by the faithful counted among the army members of the Roman Empire, eventually many, including St. Sebastian were discovered.

He was placed on a pole, to which he was tied, and arrows were shot on his body, a very painful way to die. And yet, St. Sebastian remained true to his faith, and he neither betrayed the Lord nor begged to be released from his sufferings. Miraculously, he was not killed by those arrows, even though many of those arrows had pierced him. He was rescued and nursed back to health, and even though he could have hidden himself to save his life, he went to confront the Emperor and rebuked him for his cruelty against Christians.

In the end, St. Sebastian was mauled to death on the order of the Emperor, and yet, his courage, together with the commitment of Pope St. Fabian should become sources of inspiration for all of us Christians living today, that we should not be lukewarm followers of the Lord. Instead, walking in the footsteps of king David the righteous, let us all be true disciples of the Lord, by living our lives with genuine faith and devotion.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us all the courage to live our lives with faith and commitment, that day by day, we may draw ever closer to Him, and eventually, we may find our way to His everlasting glory, and receive from Him the promised eternal life. Amen.

Friday, 19 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking unto us a very wonderful and amazing act of mercy and forgiveness which David, the faithful servant of God performed, when he was given the perfect opportunity to get what he wanted. At that time, as we heard in the first reading today from the Book of the prophet Samuel, king Saul had been searching many places for David, his rival to the throne.

David was a fugitive and a rebel, in the eyes of the king and his people, not because of what he himself had done, as David had been very loyal to the king, even though he knew that he was to be the one to replace Saul as king, as God Himself had decreed. He certainly had many opportunities to rise up against Saul and install himself as king, overthrowing his predecessor. His popularity after his victory against Goliath and his many other victories in battle made him enormously popular amongst the people, even more so than Saul.

But David did not do all that, and even as in today’s Scripture passage we heard of a perfect opportunity for him to overthrow Saul, he refused to take the chance. At that time, king Saul was resting after he was feeling tired going around many places to hunt for David. And it happened that David was in that same cave as well. Even his compatriots and advisers persuaded him to go forth and slay Saul who was sleeping, unaware of the great danger he was in.

Instead, David rebuked them and said that they must not touch the one who have been anointed by God as king. David himself had been anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel, but so did Saul, and in David’s sight, only God alone has the right to decide when Saul would die and meet his end, and not by any human hands. In fact, if we read on the next Book of the prophet Samuel, when king Saul killed himself to avoid capture or humiliation at the battle against the Philistines, and a man tried to capitalise on that by claiming that he had killed Saul before David, David had the man executed for high treason.

David showed all of us the example of good discipleship, obeying the Lord and walking righteously in His path. While he was not perfect as he also committed some crucial errors during his later reign as king, but even as he committed those sinful acts, he recognised them and was very remorseful for all that he had done, which was against the Lord’s will. In several of David’s psalms, including the one which is used for today’s Mass, he highlighted the importance of penance and regret for one’s sins in looking for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

In today’s Gospel, we then heard about the Lord Jesus and His calling of the Twelve Apostles. He chose twelve from among the disciples to be His principle disciples and servants, through whom He would bring to mankind the fullness of His Good News and good works. He called them from among the people, from various backgrounds, and many of them were illiterate and ordinary people.

Yet, He empowered them and showed them with His truth and teachings, guiding them and preparing them for a lifetime of service. Not everything went perfectly well of course, as we knew how Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and fell off from grace. Judas Iscariot did not obey the Lord but instead he followed his own corrupted desires, and this is the path which we should not be following.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also called to be like the Apostles, and to be like king David, to be like all of them in their obedience to the Lord, their surrender to the Lord’s will, and their commitment to live their lives wholeheartedly out of love for God and for their fellow men. It is important that we should not just live a life empty of faith, as without doing all that we are supposed to be doing as those who follow the Lord, our faith is empty and meaningless.

Therefore, let us all reevaluate our lives and think of the ways in which we can live our lives with greater commitment, by not turning away from our brothers and sisters, should they be in need of help and love. There are many in our world today who are suffering from neglect, abandonment, and even persecution. It is up to us then, to reach out to them in various ways available to us, and love them.

Then, all of us will be considered worthy to be counted among the good servants of God, including king David and the Apostles of the Lord. Let us all strive towards this goal in our respective lives, that eventually, we will share the eternal glory and joy which God has promised to all of us, His faithful people. Amen.

Thursday, 18 January 2018 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us first of all about what happened between king Saul of Israel and David, whom God had chosen to be the successor and replacement of Saul due to his disobedience. And then, in the Gospel passage, we heard about the Lord Jesus and His ministry among the people, drawing many people who came to Him to listen to His words and to be healed.

In the first reading we heard, king Saul became increasingly jealous of David, because his achievements were more celebrated than his, and he knew that the Lord has chosen David to become his successor and replacement. Therefore, in his jealousy and refusal to obey God’s will, Saul wanted to eliminate David so as to preserve his kingdom to himself and to his own family even if that was to go against God’s will.

But Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s good friend, and he knew of what his father was planning against David. Thus, he went out of his way to warn David and to help him escape from Saul’s intended wicked plans for him. And Jonathan also spoke on behalf of David before his father Saul, asking the king to rethink his decision to move against David. Through his arguments and words, he managed to prevent the king from achieving his intended plans.

It was Saul’s pride and ambition which caused him to do all the things that led him further down the path of sin and disobedience against God. He was blinded by his pride which prevented him from obeying and recognising the fact that he was disobedient, and that was why he was overlooked, to be replaced by David, who was more faithful and committed than he was, in the leadership of the people of Israel.

Saul instead doubled down on his wickedness, and tried to have David killed so as to remove this threat to his kingship and authority. But that was not what God intended to happen with David. Regardless of all that Saul had planned, none of them materialised, and God’s will was still to be done. Then, we heard from the Gospel about the time when Jesus went about from place to place to teach the people and to heal them.

Many people came to Him and believed in Him. He made Himself available to them, as the Saviour King Who came to save His beloved ones. He came to serve and not to be served. He showed all by His examples, by His own dedication and commitment to His Father’s will, and by this, He was glorified. This is the same example that each and every one of us should follow as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord and profess our faith in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on these Scripture passages which we have just heard. Let us reflect on our own individual lives, our every actions and deeds. Have we been obedient to the Father’s will as the Lord Jesus had done, and as His servant David had done? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed and turned asunder by worldly ambitions and desires as what king Saul had done?

There are still many things which each one of us as Christians are able to do in living our lives faithfully and with commitment. We need to look beyond the concerns of this world, and learn to let go of our pride and human desires, which have so often caused us to fall into sin and causing the divisions and intrigues among ourselves. That is in fact, part of the reason which caused so many divisions in the Church.

Today, as we begin the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray sincerely and earnestly, that all of those who have been misguided and swayed by false teachings and untruths may rediscover the true faith in God, which can be found in the Church alone, the one and indivisible Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church under the leadership of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the one who was entrusted by the Lord with the governance over His entire people.

May the Lord be with us all, that all of us may live our lives ever more faithfully, day after day, that in everything we say and do, we will draw ever closer to Him and to His salvation. May He bless us all, and bring us closer to true unity in the Church, that one day we will be completely reunited again, as God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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