Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all reminded that God gave strength to His people, His servants and followers, granting them the courage and power to endure challenges, trials and tribulations in their paths, and enabling them to follow Him with faith and commitment. God has given them all His strength, wisdom and guidance, and empowered them to serve Him and His people in great and mighty ways, in various means throughout history, by using the examples that is contained within the Scriptures to remind us of how He has blessed us and our predecessors so much, and how He has also sent His own Beloved Son, into our midst, to be our Saviour and as the One to deliver us from the hands of Satan and his evil forces.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author spoke of the examples of the Judges and Kings, the faithful servants of God who had served the Lord in the past, including the famous King David himself, and pointed out to his targeted audience, the Jewish people or the Hebrews living in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere, that the Lord had called ordinary people, who were from unassuming, unknown background, as shown by where those Judges and King David himself were called from, and the circumstances in which they were called, in which they were empowered by God to carry out magnificent deeds for the glory of His Name and for the good of His people. The Lord had called on the ordinary to do extraordinary deeds on His behalf in this world.

The author of this Epistle also wanted to remind the people of God, mainly the Jewish people, whether converts to the faith or not, and even those who were Gentiles that became believers in the Lord, that each and every one of them had been called to the same mission and path in life as their holy and great predecessors, not withstanding and regardless of their background and origins. What matters is not how great they were or how powerful and influential they were in this life, but rather, how faithful, committed and trusting they are in God’s power and providence, and how faithful they are to His commandments, His Law and teachings. Without all of these and without God to guide and lead us, we are nothing, and we will easily fall prey into the assaults of those who seek to destroy us, Satan and all of his fellow fallen angels and evil spirits, all seeking our downfall and doom.

Each and every one of us as Christians are called to the same mission and calling as those whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had mentioned, to serve the Lord and to follow His path faithfully in our own lives, allowing God to lead us and to guide us to wherever and whatever He wants us to do with our lives in each and every possible moments. He wants each one of us as Christians to be good and righteous, worthy and dedicated to Him, as role models and inspirations to each other in how we live our lives so that we may help one another to remain firm in our faith, and we cannot be idle in living our lives with true, genuine and strong Christian faith, with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with us always ever caring about the needs of others, our fellow brethren all around us.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the famous parable of the Lord driving the evil spirits out of a man possessed by many evil spirits in the region of the Gerasenes. He has been living in the wilderness for a long time because of his possession by those same evil spirits, and the people feared him because of that. He could not return to the community because of his condition, shunned and cast out from the rest of the community. But the Lord willingly came to him and approached him, wanting this man to be healed from his affliction, and authoritatively ordered those evil spirits to get out of him, and sending them to the flock of pigs that were there, grazing for food. The man was therefore healed from his troubles, and could return to his community. But the herders were afraid of him, and with the local populace, begged Him to depart from their lands.

The significance of this account of the exorcism of the possessed man and the casting out of the demons into the pigs are plenty, but first of all, it highlighted the love that God has for each and every one of us, in reaching out even to the most abandoned, ostracised and rejected ones among us, and showing us that even the most ordinary and seemingly unworthy ones among us, like that of the possessed man, is worthy of God’s salvation and grace. We must not give up or thinking that leading a good and holy life is impossible simply because we think that we are not good enough for God, or that others are doing way better than us, and that we are less worthy than they are. God does not judge us based on all that. What is important is our love and desire for ourselves to return to Him, and to love Him, and this is a process that each one of us are going through right now in our lives, together with the Lord by our side.

Then, the symbolism of the evil spirits being cast out into the herd of pigs is also significant in that, in the end, our human lives and existence, even just a single one, is far more worth than any other worldly and material things. Those pig herders and others rightfully feared the Lord and begged Him to leave their lands because He had just caused them a lot of monetary losses. However, all these happened so that the man, who had been cast out, abandoned, rejected and feared by everyone else in that area, could be saved, and could be returned to his community, and not wander off in the wilderness, treated way less than even those animals and herds. It is a reminder that our human existence and lives, each and every one of us are important and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

That moment was also a symbolism that in the end, Satan and all of his wicked forces, the evil spirits and demons, all will face their downfall and ultimate defeat just as the pigs were all running down the cliff and perished. It is a reminder for all of us that no matter how challenging and tough our lives may be, and how difficult it may be for us to remain faithful to the Lord, in the end, if we remain truly faithful to Him and remain committed in Him, we shall be triumphant with Him in the end, and we should not worry about the persecution, trials and challenges from the world, and from all those wicked forces and evil spirits. Again, that is because all of us are truly precious to the Lord, and each one of us are important to Him. We must never underestimate ourselves and our capacity and the opportunities we have been given for conversion and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now what matters in the end is our desire to live our lives worthily of the Lord and the drive in our hearts and minds to obey the words of the Lord and to walk in His path at all times. We are reminded that all of us are truly precious in the eyes of the Lord, and all of us will be strengthened and guided by God if we continue to put our trust in Him, and if we allow Him to lead the way for us, and if we steadfastly continue to follow Him despite the many pressures, temptations and challenges that try to keep and distract us from following the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly. Let us all assist each other and help one another in doing our best to keep us all aligned and rooted in the path that God has led us through, and may all of us continue to strive to do our best in living our lives faithfully, in each and every moments of our lives.

May God be with us always and may He continue to bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. May He help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and devotion, in our righteousness and virtues, and in all of our qualities as good and faithful Christians, at all times. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 5 : 1-20

At that time, Jesus and His disciples arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than He was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains, but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him.

Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at His feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do You want with Me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg You, do not torment me!”

He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Come out of the man, evil spirit!” And when Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” It replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region.

Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff, and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and the countryside, so all the people came to see what had happened.

They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with Him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 30 : 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

How great is the goodness which You have stored for those who fear You, which You show, for all to see, in those who take refuge in You!

In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling, safe from the intrigues of wagging tongues.

Blessed be the Lord for His wonderful love! He has strengthened my heart.

I said in my fright : “I have been cut off from Your sight!” Yet when I was crying, You heard; when I called for mercy, You listened.

Love the Lord, all you His saints! The Lord preserves His faithful, but He fully requites the arrogant.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 11 : 32-40

Do I need to say more? There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfilment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the sword, were healed of their sicknesses; they were weak people who were given strength to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders.

Some women recovered their dead by resurrection but there were others – persecuted and tortured believers – who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them. Others suffered chain and prison. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They fled from place to place with no other clothing than the skins of sheep and goats, lacking everything, afflicted, ill-treated.

These people of whom the world was not worthy had to wander through wastelands and mountains, and take refuge in the dens of the land. However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise because God had is in mind and saw beyond. And He did not want them to reach perfection except with us.

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to remain united in Christ, in our belief that the Lord Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant between us and God. Each and every one of us should not be distracted by falsehoods and lies by which the devil and all of his allies would try to sow the seeds of dissension and divisions amongst us. That is why we have to understand better what the Lord Jesus had done for our sake, in His offering of Himself as the perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice for the sake of our salvation, for the forgiveness of our many and innumerable sins. If we can understand these things better, then surely we will be better able to appreciate what the Lord had done to us and grow in our faith in Him. Sadly, these days, many among us Christians do not even understand well what the Lord had done for our salvation.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we continue again with the discourse from the author of this Epistle, who spent a lot of time throughout this Epistle to highlight the important role which Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people, both those converts and those who have not yet believed in Him, in how this Holy Man of God, the Son of Man, has acted as our true and Eternal High Priest, representing all of us before the Lord, offering on our behalf the most perfect sacrifice, one that does not need repeated offerings and sacrifices unlike the animals that were slaughtered and sacrificed by the priests as sin offerings in the past. Instead, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned, the Lord Jesus, our true and Eternal High Priest offered on our behalf the one and only sacrifice needed for the salvation of our souls, that is the sacrifice which He had made at Calvary, at the Altar of His Cross.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews highlighted how unlike the other priests and High Priests in the past, the Lord did not need to offer the sacrifice first for the atonement of their own sins, as the Lord Himself was already without any sin, and He also offered the most perfect and worthy sacrifice of all, that is of Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Blood. Unlike the offering of the blood of lambs and bulls, and other sacrifices, the Lord offered His own perfect offering, the Incarnate Son of God in the flesh, breaking His own Body and pouring His own Blood down unto us, from the Altar of His Cross. Through all of that, He has shown us the path out of the darkness of our sins, and the sure liberation and freedom from the evils and the sins that had kept us chained and oppressed all these while.

However, despite everything that the Lord had done for our sake, many of us had not been thankful and appreciative of what He had done for us. The Lord has loved us so much that He was willing to offer Himself, to trade His life for ours, that by His suffering, His most painful death and most humiliating expiration, He might break the chains of sin and death, and lead us to freedom and eternal life, through His glorious Resurrection from the dead. He was so patient that He had forgiven us yet again and again despite our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness, as we continue to choose to disobey Him and falling again and again into sin. He was so patient to endure all of our betrayals and ignorance, and all that we had done to spite Him, and still chose willingly to suffer and die for us. Every wounds that were inflicted on Him were indeed caused by our many sins and transgressions.

But this is where we all have to realise that this stubborn attitude has to come to an end. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were accusing the Lord of collusion with Beelzebul, one of the princes of demons, in the carrying out of His ministry and in His miracles. This accusation was truly a vile accusation because not only that it denied the authority of the Lord in performing His miracles, all done by His own mighty power, but it also doubted the power of God exercised through His Holy Spirit and through His direct intervention via His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It essentially doubted that God could have forgiven sins and performed those wonders, and assigning those to the work of the devils and demons instead. This is what the Lord meant by the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Sin against the Holy Spirit is a truly heinous form of sin, as unlike other form of sins that God has forgiven us from, the sin against the Holy Spirit is a rejection of God’s grace and love, His forgiveness and mercy, which at that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made out of their pride and ego, their jealousy and greed, in refusing to believe in the Lord simply because they thought that they could not have been wrong in their way of observing the Law and commandments of God, and because they saw the Lord as a Rival to their own influence and power within the community of the people of God, the descendants of the Israelites. They hardened their hearts and closed their minds to the Lord because of their worldly desires and their attachment to worldliness, all of which kept them chained to sin, and not only that, but also hindered the good works of the Lord and misled many down the wrong paths.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard these passages from the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we should not be stubborn anymore in our ignorance of God’s love and compassionate mercy, and we should no longer allow ourselves to be easily swayed by the temptations to sin, no matter in whatever form that these temptations come to us. We should deepen our understanding of God’s actions and love for us, and remember everything that He had done, especially through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour in lifting us out of the darkness of sin and death, and ensuring that each one of us has a sure path towards redemption and eternal life through Him. We should grow ever more in our faith, trust and dedication to our Lord, remaining ever firm and committed in our path towards His righteousness and grace, at all times.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us so that we will remain filled with zeal and love for Him. May He strengthen us all with the courage and the desire to proclaim His truth and love among all the nations, by our own lives and actions. May God empower each one of us to walk in His light, that we may inspire many more people to follow our examples and to walk in our footsteps, for the salvation of many more souls. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of histories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand, he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 9 : 15, 24-28

So Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant or testament. His death made atonement for the sins committed under the old testament, and the promise is handed over to all who are called to the everlasting inheritance.

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he who may return every year, because the blood is not his own.

Otherwise He would have suffered many times from the creation of the world. But no; He manifested Himself only now at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once and afterwards are judged, in the same way Christ sacrificed Himself once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin when He comes again to save those waiting for Him.

Monday, 16 January 2023 : 2nd 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 Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the actions of the Lord, Our Saviour and King, our High Priest, in how He has offered Himself out of perfect love and compassion for us, so that each and every one of us may be forgiven from our many sins, and be reconciled fully with our most loving God, our Heavenly Father. And just as we have been redeemed from the darkness of sin, all of us as Christians, as those whom God has called and chosen from this world to be His disciples and followers, we are all expected to live our lives worthily of Him, by following Him and His examples, and by dedicating our lives and works, our efforts and more for His greater glory, in each and every moments available to us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was written and addressed firstly to the Christian converts hailing from the Jewish community, also known as the Jewish Christians, but also addressed in fact to the larger Jewish community as a whole. Hence, there was quite a few mention of themes and matters which pertained to the Jewish customs and laws, and which they would have been rather familiar with. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote about the identity of the High Priest and why the Lord Jesus, the One known as the Messiah, or the Saviour, is the one true and Eternal High Priest for all mankind. By linking to this High Priesthood, and how God chose His High Priests back then from among the people, and what they did on behalf of the people, the author sought to explain and make clear what the Lord Jesus’ actions and all the events that happened back then, so that hopefully more among the Jewish people may come to believe in the Lord Jesus and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

Back then, High Priests offered the sacrifices on behalf of the whole people, and entered through the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God, to the Holy of Holies where the Holy Presence of God resides, in one special occasion each year, to intercede on behalf of the people of God. However, as contrasted to the other High Priests, who were sinners and needed to purify themselves and offer offerings and sacrifices for their own sins first before they offered the sacrifice on behalf of the people, the Lord Jesus, Who is without sin and perfect in all things, offered for us all His own Body and Blood, to be broken and shared by us, as our High Priest, for the absolution of our sins. Only Christ’s offering and sacrifice alone is worthy enough for us, that He did this once and for all, from His Cross at Calvary.

He became a Man like us, so that by His sharing in our humanity, He might show us the example of perfect obedience and faith, in entrusting Himself so completely to the Father’s will, and by uniting us all to Himself, He brought and led us to the purification from our many sins, by His offering of Himself, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, the only one worthy to erase all of our sins and all of our mistakes, an offering acceptable to God our most loving Father, made because of His great love for us, that He willingly chose to suffer and die for our sake. As highlighted as well in our Gospel passage today, that the Son of Man must suffer and die, and would be taken away from His beloved people, to die on the Cross, hence, everything happened so that we may be saved.

By His loving actions and care for us, Christ has shown us a new path in life, one that is leading away from the darkness of sin and evil surrounding us, towards the light of God’s grace and salvation, the true joy and happiness that we can only find in God alone. However, this has to be accompanied by our acceptance of the path that He has led us towards, and the acceptance and our embracing of the path of virtue and righteousness, by our faith in Him. God has also given us all the free will to choose the path that we are going to take in life, where we are going towards and what we are going to do with our lives. We can choose to embrace the path that God has shown us, and change our way of life, or to continue living our lives the way this world had taught us instead.

That is why the Lord’s brief parable in our Gospel passage today serves as an important reminder for us as Christians on what we should do in our lives going forward from now. In that parable, the Lord mentioned how no one would put a new wine into old wineskin, or a new cloth piece to patch an old cloth, or vice versa, as that would cause the wineskin or the cloth to tear because the two parts are incompatible with each other. By that parable, the Lord wanted to highlight that the way of the Lord and the way of the world are distinct and incompatible with each other, with the path of God’s virtues and righteousness being incompatible with the sinful ways and attitudes that many of us living in the worldly way of life have often exhibited. As Christians, in order for us to be able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and completely, we must change our way of life and conform to what He has shown and taught us to do.

Hence, we are reminded that in this time of the Ordinary Time and season of the year, we must never be idle in life and we cannot be ignorant of our calling and mission, in doing the will of God and in living our lives faithfully as best as we are able to. If we continue to ignore our calling and not living our lives the way that the Lord has shown us, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers, as our faith is dead, meaningless and empty, and will not avail us on the Day of Judgment. In fact, those who have not yet believed in God, and yet did what is good and righteous in the eyes of the Lord, may be closer to salvation than we are. That is why we are reminded that as the followers and disciples of the Lord, we must adopt a new way of life, as represented by the parable of the wineskin and the cloth. New wine has to be accompanied with new wineskin, and hence, our faith in the Lord must also be accompanied with a new way of life based on that faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore remind ourselves and one another to live our lives ever more faithfully in each and every possible opportunities. Let us all commit ourselves anew each day and at every moments to make good use of our talents and abilities so that we may truly be good and faithful people of God, who reflect the goodness and the virtues of our Lord, and that by our actions, works, deeds, words and interactions, more and more may come to know God and His truth and love through us, and come to believe in Him as well, because they witness in us and our lives, the great examples of what it means to be a holy people of God, loved and blessed by Him, and what it means for us to be called to holiness and a new life in accordance with God’s will.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He, our Eternal High Priest, continue to guide us all, reminding us of all the things that He had done for us, the love He has shown us from His Cross, and His continued guidance and ever enduring love and patience that He has always shown us. Let us all draw ever closer to Him, and do whatever we can to serve Him faithfully and glorify Him by our lives, at each and every possible opportunities. May God bless us always, and bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, and inspire us to do more good things in our lives in this world. Amen.

Monday, 16 January 2023 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 2 : 18-22

At that time, one day, 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 wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”