Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened the words of the Sacred Scriptures each one of us are reminded of the faith and trust that we need to have in God, and as Christians, we must indeed be filled with faith, with obedience and humility before God. Otherwise, we will be easy prey for the devil and all of his wicked allies, the demons and evil spirits ever roaming around seeking our downfall and destruction.

Unless our relationship with God is strong, we will fall easily to the temptations and coercions of these wicked spirits. This is what we have ourselves heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord cast down evil spirits from a possessed boy whom His disciples had not been able to handle. The disciples brought the man to Jesus and the Lord cast out the demon from the boy almost immediately. He rebuked His own disciples for their lack of faith, and said if they really just had a little bit of true faith, they would be able to heal the boy.

And the father of the boy himself was stuttering in his faith, as when the Lord asked him, he responded with some ambivalence, that while he had faith in Jesus, yet there was also doubt in his heart that Jesus would be able to do something to help his boy from his demonic possession trouble. Though in the end, he made a firmer profession of the faith, that he did believe in Jesus and asked Him to help him in whatever little faith he had.

Essentially, what this means is that we have to have that faith in us, believing that no matter what, first of all, we always have God by our side. If only that we put our complete trust in Him and allow Him to be in our hearts and in our whole being, and being attuned to Him, we have no need to fear of anything, especially against the forces of evil. For as we have heard in the Gospel today, even the powerful and fearsome evil spirits had to obey the Lord, Who is their Master and Creator after all.

The devil and all the forces of evil know this very well, and that is exactly why they are always busy at work trying to persuade us and to tempt us to follow the path of sin, and to be distracted from our attention towards God. They sow the seeds of doubt and unfaithfulness inside our hearts, by playing into our pride, ego, desires and fears, and in doing so, they hope to drive a wedge between God and us. And this is why, the Lord mentioned in the end of our Gospel passage today, after He cast out the demons, that only prayer can drive out this one, nothing else.

For through prayer and indeed having a healthy and good prayer life is a necessity for us to have a good relationship with God. And that is how we anchor ourselves firmly in God and put ourselves firmly in His powerful embrace and protection. If we have this kind of faith, not only that we will be protected and can stand strong against the devil and his wicked demonic forces, no matter how powerful they may seem to be, but we can even help others who are troubled by these spirits, through prayer and other means.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us as Christians, we are all called to reexamine our lives and our faith. Have we been living our lives thus far with real faith or have we been living our lives with just a superficial faith and seeking instead the glory of the world and its many satisfaction? We should think carefully about it, and ask ourselves if all these distractions have indeed prevented us from having a strong trust and faith in God.

Let us all heed what the Apostle St. James wrote in his Epistle in our first reading today, as he exhorted us the faithful to put our trust not in the ways and wisdom of the world but instead in the wisdom of God. He also warned us all against all sorts of jealousy, ambition, pride and desire, exactly what I have just mentioned earlier, as these are the tools and means by which the devil and his allies used frequently to drive a wedge separating us from God, and distracting us from His love and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live a more Christian way of living from this moment onwards if we have not done so? Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord with ever greater reverence and commitment? Let us bring ourselves closer to God through prayer and through our lives, made ever more dedicated with each and every passing moments. Let us deepen our relationship with God, that He may truly become our strength and our shield that we have nothing to fear even from the evil one, for God is by our side, always.

May the Lord bless us all and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live courageously in accordance with His will, that we may resist the many temptations present in this world and live our lives as true Christians and good followers of Our God. Amen.

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 14-29

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples, Peter, James and John came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the Law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet Him.

He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered Him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked Your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.”

Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” And the brought the boy to Him. As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground, and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth.

Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If You can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.” Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so He ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you : Leave the boy and never enter him again.”

The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

And He answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o YHVH – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 3 : 13-18

If you consider yourself wise and learnt, show it by your good life, and let your actions, in all humility, be an example for others. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy, and ambition, do not try to show off; that would be covering up the truth; this kind of wisdom does not come from above, but from the world, and it is earthly and devilish.

Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord, and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding, and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers, who sow peace, reap a harvest of justice?

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Scriptures through which we are all reminded that as Christians, we have to put our full trust and faith in God. We must be careful lest our pride, ambition, ego and desire in us lead us down the path towards ruin and sin. As we heard from the Gospel passage today, that was why the Pharisees refused to believe in Jesus and in His works and truth.

The Pharisees were often too proud of themselves and their actions, believing that they were always right and the best in everything they do and in the way that they obey and follow the Law of God. They criticised and looked down on others who they deemed to be unworthy and sinful, people like the tax collectors, prostitutes and people who were crippled and diseased. They also looked down on the Lord Himself and His disciples, whom they deemed to be dangerous influences on the people.

They were usually so full of themselves and so blinded by their pride that they were not able to open their hearts and minds to welcome the Lord, and as we heard in today’s Gospel passage, they argued with the Lord and asked, probably even rather demanding to see a miraculous sign. The Lord must truly have been sad to see their stubbornness and refusal to believe. For the truth was that all the while the Pharisees followed Him and His disciples, they have seen His miraculous signs and deeds.

Yet, despite having seen all those wonderful signs and miracles, they failed to believe and instead doubted the Lord and His works. They criticised and attacked Him, questioning His authority and legitimacy, and even going to the extent of associating Him and His miracles to the collusion with the prince of demons, Beelzebul. They asked for signs and wonders, and yet when the Lord graciously showed them all those things, they refused to believe.

They put their trust in their human intellect and judgment, their prejudices and thoughts, rather than to trust in the Lord. They were proud and could not bear to humble themselves before the Lord Who had come bearing His truth into the world. To them, the Lord Jesus was a rival and a dangerous threat because they feared of losing their much cherished privileges and honour, their own authority and glory among the people. All these things clouded their thoughts and judgements and prevented them from opening themselves up to the Lord.

This is why St. James in his Epistle which is our first reading passage today reminded us that all of us need to trust and have faith in God, and must not allow doubts, pride, desire, or whatever obstacles we often placed in our own journey of faith, to be a true obstacle in preventing us from finding and appreciating God’s love and grace. St. James reminded us as Christians that we need to be steadfast in our faith, to trust in God as there will be lots of trials and challenges that will come our way, which will test our faith and dedication to God.

How do we then overcome those challenges, both the doubts and the temptations of pride and desire from within us, and those challenges and trials that come from elsewhere? It is by deepening our relationship with God, through a healthy and living faith, filled with prayer and closeness to God, by obeying God and following Him through our lives and actions. And today, perhaps we should look upon the examples of today’s saints, whose feast we celebrate, namely that of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order.

These seven men who founded the Servite Order, a religious institution that remained and flourished until today, were those who were called by God, during the high Middle Ages era in Italy, when each of the seven men met one another and began to live their lives with a new emphasis on sanctity and obedience to God. They dedicated their lives to God, caring for the material and spiritual needs of the people living around them. Many people were touched by their devotion, faith and hard work, and many chose to follow their examples.

That was how the Servite Order eventually came to be, as thousands upon thousands enrolled themselves to the banner of the Order, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom the seven holy founders had deep devotion for. Until this day, the lives of the seven holy founders continue to inspire many in the Servite Order, both the religious, priests and friars in the order, as well as the numerous lay groups associated with the Servites, all aiming for a more holy and dedicated life to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? What are we going to do in order to follow the Lord? Are we able to put our faith and trust in Him with all our heart and get rid of ourselves all the obstacles of pride, ego, ambition, greed and desire that have prevented many, such as the Pharisees among others, from truly believing in God? Are we able to commit ourselves, following the good examples set by the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order?

Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater zeal and devotion from now on then, and live our lives from now on with ever greater faith and be ever closer to God with every passing moments of our lives. May God be with us always, and may He bless us and strengthen us in our faith and courage to live in Him. Amen.

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side of the lake.

Monday, 17 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 118 : 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

It is good for me to have been afflicted, for I have deeply learnt Your statutes.

Your Law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

I know, o YHVH, that Your laws are just; and there is justice in my affliction.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.