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.”

Monday, 10 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on the Lord’s calling for each and every one of us in life, and we are also called to trust in Him, in the path that He has shown us. God has always called on us to follow Him, just as He had called His disciples, to walk in His path and to do His will. Ultimately, it is up to us whether we want to respond to His call or not.

In our first reading today, we heard of the passage from the first Book of the prophet Samuel, in which we heard how the prophet Samuel, one of the greatest prophets in the history of salvation, came to be conceived and born. Samuel was born of his mother Hannah, who had been barren for many years despite a most loving marriage to her husband Elkanah. In addition, Hannah herself was often bullied by Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, who despised and was jealous of Elkanah’s love for Hannah.

Thus, today we heard how Hannah was distressed at this bullying by Peninnah, who often teased and harried her for having no child when Peninnah herself had many children. Hannah was truly distressed, and later on, she would come to the House of God, praying before Him and begging Him to listen to her pleas, which the Lord did. And as Hannah also offered her firstborn son to the service of God, hence, when Samuel was conceived and born, he was offered to the Lord and became His servant.

Samuel has been called by God in his youth and he answered the Lord’s call with great faith and vigour. He would go on to dedicate his whole life to the Lord, guiding the Israelites as a great Judge, the last in the line of Judges sent by the Lord to the people of Israel. And as a prophet, he also spoke God’s words and proclaimed His will before the people, leading them and guiding them to the right path, to help them find their way through the darkness of the world.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard how the Lord called His first disciples, whom He called from the fishermen of the Lake of Galilee, namely the brothers St. Peter and St. Andrew, as well as St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. In that occasion, the Lord told all of them to follow Him and be the fishers of men. They would be His instruments in reaching out to the people whom the Lord wanted to call to His presence.

In that calling, the Lord revealed His intentions and love for each and every one of us. As Christians, all of us are called to be the bearers of the Good News of God, which He has entrusted to us as the ones walking in the footsteps of the Apostles. The Lord has called us all to embrace His path and proclaim His truth at every opportunities that He has given us in our lives. We are also charged with the same mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Apostles, to do what He has called us to do, to be His witnesses to all the peoples of all the nations.

Today, we mark the beginning of the first half of the Ordinary Time. Yet, we must not misunderstand the meaning of this Ordinary Time, as it was by no means meant to be ordinary in any way. Instead, it is a time for us to do whatever we can in our daily lives and in our daily actions to be true and faithful witnesses of Our Lord’s truth and to be the ones to do His great and wonderful works. Through us and our exemplary lives, we can inspire so many more to come to believe in the Lord as well, and to follow Him and be saved, together with us.

Let us dedicate ourselves with a new heart and a new spirit, dedicating ourselves to serve the Lord. Let us all draw ever closer to Him and do our very best to bear witness to His truth and love, at each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, in our every good endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 10 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 14-20

At that time, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”

As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once, they abandoned their nets and followed Him.

Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.

Monday, 10 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14 and 17, 18-19

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.

I will carry out my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, o Jerusalem.

Monday, 10 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 1 : 1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim, in the hills of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was the son of Tohu, son of Jeroham, of the clan of Zuph. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none.

Every year Elkanah went to worship and to sacrifice to YHVH of Hosts at Shiloh. The priests there were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. Whenever Elkanah offered sacrifice, he gave portions to his wife, Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. To Hannah, however, he gave the more delightful portion because he loved her more, although she had no child. Yet Hannah’s rival used to tease her for being barren.

So it happened every year when they went to YHVH’s House, Peninnah irritated Hannah and she would weep and refuse to eat. Once Elkanah, her husband, asked her, “Hannah, why do you weep instead of eating? Why are you sad? Are you not better off with me than with many sons?”

Monday, 3 January 2022 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in which we are reminded of the works that the Lord had done in our midst through His Son, as we celebrate the Feast in honour of His Most Holy Name, the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. On this day as we still celebrate the glorious feast of Christmas, we remind ourselves constantly of the great deeds that Our Lord had done for our sake. Through His Incarnation, He has been given a name like any other, and yet, because He is at the same time the Almighty God, His Name is the Name above every other names.

In order to appreciate the importance of this Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, all of us must understand how important and sacred the Name of God is to the people of Israel, as by the Law and customs of the Israelites dictated that the Holy Name of God was not to be misused or even spoken in vain. In fact, the Name of God was so holy and sacrosanct that it was not to be uttered at all. The Name of God, often transliterated as YHVH, was not meant to be spoken, as holy as it was deemed to be, and hence, usually other honorific such as Adonai or ‘My Lord’ was used instead.

The Lord has therefore made His Name utterable and approachable to us, as through the Archangel Gabriel who brought the Good News of His coming to Mary, God told us His very own Name, through the words, ‘And you shall name Him, Jesus’. Through this act, God’s Name that was unutterable and unapproachable had become tangible just as He has appeared before us all in the flesh, coming to dwell in our midst and to grace us with His Presence. Yet, this does not mean that we can then treat His Name with disdain and with ignorance as many of us have often done.

The Second Commandment stated that ‘you shall not take or speak the Lord’s Name in vain’, and this is very significant as if we truly believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly our Lord and God, appearing before us and dwelling with us in the flesh, truly Human yet truly Divine, then we should treat His Name with the same honour, respect, and adoration as the manner of how the Name of God, YHVH, had been treated by the people of God in the past. The Holy Name of Jesus is truly the Name above every other names as although His Name is now approachable to us, yet, as the Name of the One Almighty God, it has power over all things.

As the Scriptures mentioned, through His coming into this world, the Lord has manifested His truth and love, and in the Person of Jesus Christ, God has shown us all the perfect manifestation of the love and all that He has prepared for us, for the purpose of our salvation and liberation from the tyranny of sin and the bondage to death. Through His Name, He has made Himself approachable to us and by invoking His Name with faith, even the devil and all others will submit to His will, and that is why when a priest exorcised the demons, at the mention of the Name of the Lord Jesus, they would tremble and succumb.

But we have seen how we tend to make light of the use of the Lord’s Name, even in expletives and in many situations where we should not have uttered His Name in vain. We treated His Holy Name like a plaything and did not take His Name seriously, and even used His Name to do bad things instead. Such a blatant misuse and disregard for the sacredness and sanctity of Our Lord’s Holy Name is something that we really need to address, especially if we ourselves have done that from that time to time in the past.

Whenever the Holy Name of Jesus is mentioned, we should remind ourselves that this Name is the One by which we have been saved and received the promise of eternal life and true happiness. We should respect it and pay attention to it, and as commanded by the laws of the Church, at every mention of the Holy Name of Our Lord at the Mass, we ought to make a bow to show our respect to His Name, and not only a bow of our head, but also a bow from our heart. It is easy for us to make the gesture of a bow, but it is often more difficult to honour Him from our hearts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on make use of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, in the right and respectful way while always remembering all that He had done for our sake, in reaching out to us with His most generous love. By His coming into this world, He has shown us His love and the commitment He made to the Covenant He had created with us. In honouring His Name with genuine faith, love and devotion, we are responding to His call and to His outreach to us, answering the great love that He has always shown us all these while.

Let us all therefore continue to remind ourselves of all the love God has shown us as we still progress through this current Christmas season. Let us inspire one another to live our lives with Christ ever at the centre and as the focus of our daily living, and honour His Holy Name at every opportunity. Let us remember Him through His Name, for all the wonderful things He had done for us and for all the blessings, particularly the love with which He has offered Himself for our sake, shedding His Most Precious Body and Blood as the worthy offerings for the atonement of our sins.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Holy Name we glorify and praise today, be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. May all of us draw ever closer to Him and trust ever more in the power of His Holy Name. Amen.

Monday, 3 January 2022 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.