Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (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 called to reflect on the salvation and healing that we have received from Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, our High Priest and the One Who offered Himself to free us from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death. The Lord Jesus as mentioned in our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews is the One Who has liberated us and brought us to the hope of eternal life and glory.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke at length for the past two weeks’ weekday readings regarding the nature and the role that Christ had as the Mediator of the New Covenant that God had made with us all mankind. As the High Priest, He was the One to intercede for our sake, gathering our prayers and petitions, and therefore, our cry for help and mercy. He offered not the imperfect and inadequate offerings of lambs and animals, burnt offerings and others that the priests up to then had offered from time to time again for the people’s sake.

Jesus offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the perfect and worthy offering for all of us, that by laying down His life on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He shed His Most Precious Body and Blood, and by which we have been saved. For the offering of our High Priest has been accepted by God and the Lord has willingly forgiven us all through the Mediator of this New Covenant that He had made with all of us. The Lamb that had been slain, our High Priest, has shown us the pure and true face of God’s enduring love.

In our Gospel today, that is what we have seen as well, through the Lord’s healing of all those who came to Him seeking for help. He healed all those who were sick and with diseases, cast out evil spirits and freed those who had been possessed by demons. He touched the lives of those who came seeking God, and hence, we too should come and seek Him and find Him, as we are all in need of healing and help.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although we may be perfectly healthy in body, but in truth all of us are sick from sin. Sin is the affliction of our souls, caused by our disobedience and refusal to believe in God and His words. And the only one who can heal us from this affliction is none other than God Himself. But we need to accept Him and seek Him with all of our hearts, full of remorse and regret for our sins too.

Today, we are all called to reflect on this, to appreciate and to be thankful for the gift of God’s love, in just how generous He had been towards us, in caring for us and showing us much compassion despite how we have treated Him, rejected and ignored Him all these while. The Lord wants us all to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and therefore, let us all make the conscious effort to turn ourselves and our hearts once again towards Him.

And today, let us all also be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, in living our lives with faith so that we may come closer to God and be part of His eternal and glorious inheritance that He has prepared for all those who have been faithful to Him. Today in particular we remember the memory of St. Agnes the Martyr, the great Roman saint and martyr whose love for God and dedication was truly well known, and which we should be inspired to follow.

St. Agnes also known as St. Agnes of Rome was a young Christian girl from a noble Roman family who was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. At that time the last great persecution of Christians was occurring throughout the entire Roman Empire, and many people, both the laity and the ordained alike suffered and were martyred. St. Agnes herself was still very young at the time, and she had many suitors whom she rejected out of her love and dedication for God.

One of those suitors reported St. Agnes for her Christian faith, which made her to go through great pain and suffering. But when she was to be violated on the order of the authorities, God protected her and struck down blind those who tried to have their way with her. And after other miraculous signs in which the prefect’s own son returned to life after St. Agnes prayed over him, eventually she was stabbed and beheaded by a sword, dying as a holy martyr of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we love God as much as St. Agnes had done? Let us all spend our time and effort to grow ever more in our love and dedication to the Lord, and strive to be ever more faithful with each and every passing moments in life. May God also be with us at all times, strengthening us and giving us the courage to remain firm in our love for Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 3 : 7-12

At that tine, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing towards Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “The Lord is great.”

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 7 : 25 – Hebrews 8 : 6

Consequently Jesus is able to save for all time those who approach God through Him. He always lives to intercede on their behalf. It was fitting that our High Priest be holy, undefiled, set apart from sinners and exalted above the heavens; a Priest Who does not first need to offer sacrifice for Himself before offering for the sins of the people, as high priests do. He offered Himself in sacrifice once and for all.

And whereas the Law elected weak men as high priests, now, after the Law, the word of God with an oath appointed the Son, made perfect forever. The main point of what we are saying is that we have a High Priest. He is seated at the right hand of the Divine Majesty in heaven, where He serves as minister of the true Temple and Sanctuary, set up not by any mortal but by the Lord.

A high priest is appointed to offer to God gifts and sacrifices, and Jesus also has to offer some sacrifice. Had He remained on earth, He would not be a priest, since others offer the gifts according to the Law. In fact, the ritual celebrated by those priests is only an imitation and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.

We know the word of God to Moses with regard to the construction of the holy tent. He said : You are to make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain. Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises.

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.