Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 24 : 3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of YHVH and all His laws. The people replied with one voice : “Everything that YHVH has said, we shall do.”

Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to YHVH.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that YHVH said we shall do and obey.”

Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that YHVH has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, we can hear how God is calling us all to follow Him, that is to abandon all of our past, sinful ways, and turn towards Him with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with all of our capabilities. He is calling us to have a total conversion of the heart, mind and of our whole being, to become His people, His beloved children.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Micah, it was an exhortation by the prophet, which is both in form, a prayer and a reminder for the people of the great love which God has shown His people, Israel, ever since the time He chose them to be His people, all the time He has blessed them and guided them, giving a bountiful land to be their inheritance. The prophet Micah was calling the people to repent from their sins and turn towards God once again.

God is always ever merciful and loving towards His people, despite His anger at the sins and disobedience which they have constantly shown to Him. But of course, His mercy and love requires us to be receptive and to actively accept His generous offer of mercy for it to take effect in our lives. We cannot assume that we will be forgiven if we refuse to obey the Lord, and continue to live our lives in our usual, sinful ways.

Instead, He wants us to have a conversion as mentioned, from those who walked in sin and disobeyed Him, to be those who listen to His will, and do what is right and just in our lives, as He mentioned in the Gospel passage today to the people, telling them that all those who have done God’s will, is the mother, brothers and sisters of the Lord. It means that all those who obey God, belongs to God.

And those who belong to God, will not be lost from God, for the Lord will gather all of His sheep, His beloved ones, as a loving and good Shepherd. God will not abandon all those who have been faithful to Him, and indeed, even to those who have not been obedient, He is always ever obedient to the Covenant and the promise which He has made to all of us mankind.

That is why, He chose willingly to accept suffering and death on the cross, for our sake. No one in the right mind and in the right worldly logic will consider suffering, less still to die for someone else, if he or she does not love that person so much, that he or she is willing to do such an act of selfless love and compassion. And as St. Paul said, Christ is even better, for He chose willingly to die for us all, sinners and disobedient people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on our lives, on whether we have been good disciples of the Lord all these while. Have we obeyed the Lord with our actions and deeds in life, or have we instead been listening to all the falsehoods, lies and the temptations of the evil one? Have we been true disciples of Our Lord, in all of our words and actions?

Let us today examine the life of a holy and devout servant of God, whose examples we can perhaps incorporate into our own lives. St. Sharbel Makhluf or St. Charbel was a famous saint originating from what is today Lebanon, a member of the Maronite church, who was a faithful and devout monk and priest. He devoted his whole life to God, and was exemplary in his prayer life and dedication to serve God.

St. Sharbel Makhluf has done what he could have done, to love the Lord Who has loved him first. And in his pious devotion to Him, he showed us all, how we mankind should turn away from all of the distractions of the world, and focus our attention towards God instead. It does not mean that we have to join religious life and monkhood as St. Charbel had done, but truly, we must have a change in our life for the better.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, Our God? Are we able to turn away from all the wicked things which we have done in our lives, and have a new life that is centred on God? These are the questions we have to keep asking in our minds and in our hearts, as we continue on living our daily lives in this world.

Let us all renew our commitment to be faithful and good children of God, as those who do the work that God wants us to do, and listen to Him speaking in our hearts and minds, by having a good spiritual relationship with Him through prayer. May God be with us all, and may He continue to bless all the works He has done through us. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 84 : 2-4, 5-6, 7-8

You have favoured Your land, o YHVH; You have brought back the exiles of Jacob. You have forgiven the sin of Your people; You have pardoned their offences. You have withdrawn Your wrath and turned from Your burning rage.

But restore us, God our Saviour; put away, altogether, Your indignation. Will Your anger be ever with us, carried over to all generations?

Will You not give us life anew, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us, o YHVH, Your unfailing love, and grant us Your saving help.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Sunday, 24 July 2016 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Lord Who is calling us to His mercy and love. He calls us all into the tender care of His mercy, and showed clearly His desire to embrace all of us, welcoming us and wanting to forgive us from our sinfulness and from all of our wicked ways. But all of these will require from us, a strong commitment and hard work.

How is this so? Let us all look at the Scripture readings of today one by one, and then we will understand why I mentioned that God is merciful, and yet He is calling us to make the effort to embrace His mercy and love, or else we shall perish. In the first reading today, we heard the story from the Book of Genesis where Abraham had a conversation regarding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fate of the people who lived in them, both the righteous and the wicked alike.

In order to understand this, we have to understand what had transpired at that time, the events and occasions that led up to that conversation between God and Abraham. The people living in the land where Abraham was still believed in the pagan gods and worshipped the idols, and they did not know of the Lord Who is their God and Creator. But the people living in the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were committing even more wicked things which were abhorrent in God’s sight.

And they did not repent from their sins, but committed even more horrendous and abominable sins such as prostitution, irregular and unnatural sexual and extramarital relationships, and many other deeds of debauchery and wickedness which were unwelcome and disgusting in the sight and presence of God. And hence God wanted to wipe Sodom and Gomorrah, together with all who live in them, out of the face of the earth.

But Abraham, knowing that his cousin Lot, whom he knew and counted as belonging among the righteous, stayed in the city of Sodom with his family and all of his possessions, he asked God for mercy and for Him to stay from His anger, for the sake of the righteous and just ones who were living amidst all the wickedness and the darkness of the people.

And although God promised Abraham that He would not destroy the cities for the sake of fifty, or forty-four, or forty, or thirty, or twenty or ten righteous ones who lived in them, but in reality, if we asked, why then God still destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, then the answer lies in the fact that not even ten people could be found to be righteous and just in those cities.

And we know how difficult it is to walk in the path of God, when the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah told us about what happened to the wife of Lot. While Lot and his family was being rescued by the Angel sent by God, she stopped and turned his eyes to look back towards the city. We may not be sure why she did so, but it was likely that she herself had been lured info the temptation of the life as it was in those cities, and she was reluctant to leave them behind.

And we should ask ourselves whether we are guilty of the same as well. In many occasions, I am sure, it is difficult for us to turn our back to the pleasures and the good things which this world is offering us. It is not easy for us to resist the temptation and the pull, all the offerings and the sweet lies through which the devil and all of his forces are marshalling against us in trying to lure us away from God’s salvation.

And here, it is where all of us have been revealed what we should do in the case that we face such temptations and troubles. We are indeed weak, and our flesh are weak. Our flesh and the connection these have with the world weaken our resolve and our ability to live faithfully in the presence of God. But what seems to be difficult and impossible for us will truly become possible if only that we know how to put our trust in the Lord our God.

In the second reading, St. Paul in his letter and epistle to the faithful in the Roman city of Colossae, he spoke to them regarding baptism in the Lord, and how through that baptism, all of the faithful had been made to be sharers in the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. And by sharing His death, all of us have also died to our past lives, to our past sinfulness and disobedience, and a new life has been granted to us.

Yes, a new life graced and blessed by God. It is a new life where we share in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord has conquered sin and death, and through His glorious resurrection from the dead, He had broken the chains that held us down and kept us imprisoned and enslaved to the darkness of this world. But the sad reality is that, even though all these had been done for our sake by the Lord, but many people still refused to believe in Him.

In the Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus told them how they should pray, in the way that is now well known as the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster or our Father, for indeed, that prayer is the perfect prayer taught to us by Jesus, a prayer of perfect harmony and surrender to God, a prayer of thanksgiving and glorification of God, a prayer of petition and desire for forgiveness and conversion of the heart.

The core of the problem with us all is that many of us do not know how to pray, and instead of genuine prayer, that is communication between us and God, we become demanding and wanting, thinking that God is a solution to all of our problems. Indeed, if we misread the intention of today’s Gospel, we may think that we just need to ask and God will provide us with all that we want. But that is not what God wants us to know.

Rather, God wants us to put our trust in Him, and leave behind our old ways, where we put our trust in our human desires and wants, in our attachments to the world and the material goods of the world that do not fully satisfy our true needs. He wants us to look for Him, to search for Him, to grab at Him and reach out to Him, by opening up our hearts and reaching out to Him, that He may find us and we may find Him.

For many of us, our spiritual and real relationship with the Lord our God has been distant or even nonexistent. We do call ourselves Christians, but do we mean what we said? Do we mean it when we say that we believe in God? If we do believe in Him, then why do our actions and words prove to be otherwise? Are we trying to bring scandal upon our Lord’s holy Name?

It is often that we are afraid to seek the Lord, even when we need His help. It is because we often have that misconception that our Lord is an angry and fearsome God, Who is to be feared and He will not tolerate any misdeeds. As a result, we are scared to approach Him when we have done something wrong, and indeed, through our sins, we have done Him wrong.

But we cannot be like that. We cannot be so fixated on our fears that we draw away from the Lord and be scared to approach Him. We cannot be hesitant either, or we will not be able to place our focus and our trust on the Lord, and then we shall lose our way and be distracted into false ways and risk damnation and downfall into the depths of hell.

We have understand that God loves us all, and by no means that He will reject us without reason. We have no reason to fear Him or to go away from Him just because we are afraid of His anger. God will forgive us but do we ourselves want to be forgiven? Or are we the ones who are actually the greatest barriers of our own salvation? Often times we do not realise that we are the ones who are most responsible in making it difficult for us to embrace God and His salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, our loving God and Father. Let us all not be fearful but instead be willing to change our ways for the better, changing from our disobedience to our renewed obedience to the Law of God. Let us all be faithful disciples and followers of our Lord from now on, and no longer live in sin, but from now on living with zeal and faith for our Lord.

May God forgive us our sins, and may we ourselves open our hearts and ask Him to be forgiven for our faults and trespasses. May all of us come to the realisation that without real and genuine effort at conversion and changing our ways, we cannot come closer to God and reach the throne of His infinite mercy and love. Let us not be like Lot’s wife who wavered and turned back at the moment of her salvation, but let us be courageous and step forth into the path that God had prepared for us. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 24 July 2016 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 11 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us each day the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.'”

“But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need. And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.'”

“If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if you child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”