Tuesday, 18 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 18 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 18 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us to have a new attitude in life when we follow Christ, and not to continue living our lives the way that the world always expects us to live our lives. As Christians we are called to be different in that we follow the path that the Lord has shown us and to embark on this journey of faith in life, with God as our Guide and as our focus. This is our calling as Christians that we should embrace wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the time when King Saul of Israel disobeyed the Lord and His will, following the whims of his own judgment and desires instead of obeying the Lord completely and trusting in Him. King Saul did not listen to the Lord’s words telling him to completely destroy the Amalekites, a group of people that had always harassed and attacked the Israelites all the way from the time of their Exodus. Instead, King Saul spared their property and wealth, their herd and even their king and women, contrary to the Lord’s words.

As such, because of this disobedience, King Saul led the people of Israel into sin as to him had been granted the leadership and the guidance of the people as the King of Israel. If the leader falls into sin, then so will the people and all those entrusted under him may fall into sin as well. That is why those entrusted with leadership has to be upright, just and committed to the path that they have been called to follow, to be obedient and faithful servant of God in the way that Samuel himself had done, but which King Saul had failed to do.

Saul failed because he allowed worldly ways, customs and habits, all the worldly desires and temptations, the temptations of power, wealth and glory to distract and mislead him down the wrong path. Saul allowed himself to be swayed by those things, and tried to make an excuse of wanting to offer some of those that he spared as offerings to God, but in truth, he did all that he had done because he wanted to increase his own wealth, his own prestige and his own standing, perhaps by negotiating with the Amalekites, and for various other reasons. But this is plain disobedience and refusal to follow God’s path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His words speaking to His disciples and the people, using a parable to make His intent clear to them. The Lord spoke about the parable of the new cloth and old cloth, new wine and wineskin and old wine and wineskin. Through this parable, the Lord wanted to make it clear to all of us that following the Lord often requires us to change our way of life, not to adhere to the past norms of the world and all the things that we usually are accustomed to. This is why, linking to the previous part, the disobedience of King Saul, all of us are called to reflect on this as well.

The Lord used this parable because at that time, the people would have been aware of the way wineskins were used to store wine and how clothes were made and repaired. He used such simple examples as means to deliver His message to the people, to make them aware of what they were supposed to do in order to be His genuine followers. They have to change their ways to suit the path that the Lord has shown them, that is the path of righteousness and justice, of faith and commitment to His truth. They should not remain in their old ways or continue to walk down the path of sin.

As the Lord mentioned in our Scripture passages today, what He wanted from us is not merely just lip service or mere appearances only, as King Saul had intended to do. He wanted to offer sacrifices to the Lord from the ones he spared in the battle against the Amalekites as an excuse for the greed in his heart for power, wealth and majesty. What the Lord needed from us is our love and commitment for Him, for us to live according to what we have been taught to do, through the Church and the Scriptures. And we also have many good role models to follow in that endeavour.

One of them, whose feast day we celebrate today, is none other than St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great. He was one of the earliest Christian monks and one of the pioneers of monasticism in Christendom, dedicating his life to the service of God by withdrawing to the wilderness of Egypt. He left everything he had and dedicated himself to God wholeheartedly. St. Anthony spent many years in this state of spiritual journey and purification, while it was told that the devil often sent other demons and fallen angels to strike at him. He endured it all with faith and grace.

His works then came to fruition with the advent of monasticism in Christianity, as more and more people who considered themselves as his disciples came to follow his examples and began to lead a life of purity and fidelity to God. They strove to seek the Lord and commit themselves to Him, not swayed by the temptations of the world, and changed themselves for the better, much in the same way as the Lord’s exhortations in our Gospel today had been made clear to us, that we ought to change our ways to adapt to that of the Lord’s ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having been inspired by St. Anthony, let us all therefore commit ourselves to the Lord anew with a renewed spirit and zeal. Let us all be ever more genuine Christians not just in appearances only, but even more importantly, in spirit and in all things. May God be with us always and may He empower us that we may walk with Him faithfully, and that we may find it in us to glorify His Name by our every words, actions and deeds. Amen.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 2 : 18-22

At that time, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it, that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but Yours do not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come, when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

“No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My Covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks, offerings, honour Me; but the one who walks blamelessly. I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 15 : 16-23

Samuel then told Saul, “Enough! Let me tell you what YHVH said to me last night.” Saul replied, “Please tell me.” So Samuel went on and said, “Though you had no confidence in yourself, you became chief of the tribes of Israel, for YHVH wanted to anoint you king over Israel. Then He sent you with this command, ‘Go. Completely crush the Amalekite offenders, engaging them in battle until they are destroyed.’”

“Why then did you not obey the voice of YHVH but instead swooped down on the spoil, doing what was evil in His sight?” To this, Saul replied, “I have obeyed the voice of YHVH and have carried out the mission for which He sent me. I have captured Agag, king of Amalek and completely destroyed the Amalekites. If my men spared the best sheep and oxen from among these to be destroyed, it was in order to sacrifice them to YHVH, your God, in Gilgal.”

Samuel then said, “Does YHVH take as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to His command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and stubbornness like holding onto idols. Since you have rejected the word of YHVH, He too has rejected you as king.”

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the most wonderful and generous gifts from God to us. God has given us His love and kindness and it is up to us to treasure these gifts from God. He has revealed Himself to us out of love, and revealed the salvation for the whole world through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of hope that the Lord presented to His people, the revelation of what God would do to save all those whom He loved and had called and chosen. At that time, during the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God has faced a lot of trials and tribulations as they suffered the consequences of their disobedience and sins. Their waywardness and refusal to budge from their sinfulness became their undoing, as they faced humiliation one after another.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed and conquered by the Assyrians, who destroyed their cities, razed their capital and brought many of their people into exile in faraway lands of Assyria, Mesopotamia and beyond. And there were many peoples from other countries and places that were brought in to dwell in their place in the land of the ancestors of God’s people, the promised land of Israel. The same fate would eventually fall upon the people of the southern kingdom of Judah as well, after the time of the prophet Isaiah.

That was why, understanding this context, we can see just how significant God’s words of encouragement to His people was. Those words were clear reminders for all of them that God never forgot about them, and although they had often betrayed and abandoned Him, but He still always thought about them and sought them out at every possible opportunities. And while they had to endure the consequences of their disobedience and sins, God wanted them to learn from their mistakes and embrace the forgiveness that He freely offered to them.

In that same passage we then also heard a peculiar reference at the end regarding how the Lord Himself will come to gather His people, and how they will one day again be blessed and be honoured, to be the crown of glory for all to see. And it was also mentioned how the Builder will marry the people, metaphorically represented as the bride. This Builder is a reference to God Himself as the Creator of all, and this symbolised the new union between God and mankind that became a reality in Jesus Christ, the Saviour Who has been prophesied by Isaiah and the other prophets.

For through our Lord Jesus, as He symbolically showed it at the Wedding at Cana in out Gospel passage today, God’s love and salvation for His people has become manifested in the flesh and dwelled among us. He came to us in our moment of need, and as He has shown in the miracle that He performed in the Wedding at Cana, He showed us that through Him everything is possible and that the days of our shame will be behind us if only we trust Him and listen to Him, obeying God’s will and the Law and commandments He has given to us.

At that well-known Wedding at Cana, as many of us would have known, the wedding couple was encountering a particularly difficult and potentially very humiliating problem as they somehow ran out of wine. Regardless of the reason for this shortage, running out of wine at such a happy and great occasion of a wedding is something that would have brought great shame on both the groom and bride, as well as their families, as they were the ones responsible in hosting and preparing for the celebrations.

It was at that moment, that Mary, the Lord’s Mother, who have come to know of the couple’s predicament, came to see Jesus and asked Him to do something to help them. The Lord initially showed His intention not to help as it was not yet His time to do so, and yet, as Mary did not yet give up on trying to help the couple, she told the servants to follow whatever her Son told them to do. That was thus how the Lord performed His first miracle, in a hidden and unknown way, as the servants themselves might not have fully realised what were actually happening.

The wedding couple was saved because they had the Lord by their side, and the celebrations could proceed without any further issues. And it is yet another reminder for us that the Lord always provides, and only if we trust in Him and His love and providence. Sometimes we are too impatient or blinded by our own desires and by the many temptations all around us to be able to see His loving presence in our midst. The Lord has always reached out to us through many people, through others whom we encounter in our daily lives.

Then, as mentioned by St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, that there are many gifts that God had given to us, the gift of intelligence, of speech and of other means to bring happiness to others and joy to many more people. He has given us various talents, gifts and abilities that are unique to each and every one of us. Because of that, all of us are called to reflect on these gifts that we have received and reflect how we can make better use of them in our lives.

All of us have been called by God to be involved in making good use of our various gifts and talents, all the blessings that we have received from the Lord. We should listen to the Lord speaking to us, asking us to do His will and telling us what we ought to do with our lives. We should do our best to live up to our Christian faith and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments to be faithful to God, to be loving to others and to be concerned with the needs of those who are less fortunate than us.

After all, that is what the Lord had done for us, loving us when we have done so many wicked things towards Him, in refusing to listen to Him and in shutting Him out of our hearts and minds. He still patiently reached out to us and offered us His hands, pulling us out of the darkness of our sins, just as He has promised. By His coming into this world, He revealed not just His love but He also took everything upon Himself, gathering all His scattered children from the world, and calling them to Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our baptism we have become a part and member of the Church, the Body of Christ, becoming united to God and to our fellow brothers and sisters, and share in the salvation that the Lord Himself has brought us through His Son. And by the virtue of our baptism too, we have been made sharers in the love and the inheritance that God has promised to us. What remains for us to do is, for us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, and do our best to walk in His path, at all times.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed heart and mind, brothers and sisters, knowing that God has loved us so much, and how beloved we are, that He gave us His Son to be our Saviour. And now, let us listen to Him and obey Him, sin no more and do whatever we can, making use of the talents and opportunities for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and guidance to walk in His path, now and always, and that we ourselves may become great role models for one another. May our lives be fruitful in God and may we always be blessed in all things. Amen.

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 2 : 1-11

At that time, three days after Jesus called Nathanael, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” However His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 4-11

There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all.

The Spirit reveals His presence in each one with a gift that is also a service. One is to speak with wisdom, through the Spirit. Another teaches, according to the same Spirit. To another is given faith, in which the Spirit acts; to another, the gift of healing, and it is the same Spirit.

Another works miracles, another is a prophet, another recognises what comes from the good or evil spirit; another speaks in tongues, and still another interprets what has been said in tongues. And all of this, is the work of the one and only Spirit, who gives to each one, as he so desires.