Sunday, 15 February 2015 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Quinquagesima Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach ever closer to the beginning of the Lenten season which will begin on this coming, the Ash Wednesday, today we celebrate the Quinquagesima Sunday, or the Seventh Sunday before Easter, as a reminder of the saving power and works of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had come unto this world and became incarnate as Man, that through His mission and works, He might bring healing to a sickened people.

Truly, the readings today, both that of the sixth Ordinary Sunday and the Quinquagesima Sunday are talking about the sickness of the flesh, and thus lead us all to understand that we are all, by our nature, sickened with sin, that is the sickness of the soul, or to link to the readings today even more closely, sin is the leprosy of the soul.

In the first reading, God stipulated the law regarding leprosy and what ought to be done to a person who has leprosy, to His people through Moses. Lepers ought to declare themselves as unclean and walk in shame, while at the same time they also must isolate themselves and exile themselves from the community of the people of God. They ought to remain outside the encampment where the people of Israel stayed in the presence of God.

At the first glance, this may seem to be very harsh and it may seem that God was punishing those with leprosy very severely. But in fact, the truth is that God desires their healing and salvation. If we read the entirety of the Book of Leviticus, and discern the meaning of what God had commanded to His people, we will find that for the case of leprosy, when those afflicted were cured of their condition, they have to present themselves to the priests who would then gave worthy sacrifice for the Lord and welcomed them back into the community of the people of God.

Thus, the same has happened to all of us mankind. We are all sick from the sickness of sin that affects our soul and tainted it. Sin is an abomination and filth that separates us from the loving embrace of our Lord and God, and sin has no place in His presence. Therefore, it would not indeed be too different from the lepers in the past, when Israel walked through the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land, that they were temporarily cast out of the society and had to wander in the wilderness beyond the confines of the camp of the faithful.

We have been separated from God and from being worthy of His salvation by the taint of sin, and as the Gospel of Quinquagesima Sunday also shows us, that blindness is another form of illness that we are suffering from. The blind man begged for Jesus to heal him, and in his faith, he was cured completely from his blindness. Here, there is again yet a clear link between what we heard and another story, when Jesus healed yet another blind man.

The blind man from his birth, who used to beg at the entrance of the Temple was healed by Jesus, and he gave thanks to God and testified to the glory of God, and yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused him of sinning and of committing the sin by having been healed on the Sabbath day. They cursed him and were angry against him, but indeed, that other story from the Gospel also yet show us how, all of us men are sick, sickened by sin.

For sin blinded our hearts and minds against the love and mercy of God, and also prevented us from recognising the good works of the Lord present around us. It was precisely just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done to Jesus and His works. They refused to recognise God’s love made evident and real through Jesus Christ, who was willing to endure the worst of sufferings and scourges, and bear the consequences of all of our sins with Him to the cross.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ brought about healing and justification to all those who believe in Him, in all those who have abandoned their old ways of sin and evil, and decided to follow Him and walk in His ways for the rest of their lives. This healing and cleansing is the healing of our soul and heart, as well as our mind and body from the corruption of sin and the desires of the world. He is the High Priest, who had offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile us with God.

The sad fact is that, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, too many of us are still too proud to accept our sinfulness as a fact and reality, and too many of us are too haughty and prideful to seek for God’s forgiveness and to humble ourselves before His presence. It is also in our nature to boast of our abilities and greatness, as well as achievements, but not our shortcomings and failures, especially that of sin.

As we approach the season of Lent, and as later we are to celebrate the Most Holy Week of our Lord’s Passion, suffering, death and resurrection from the dead, all of which are part of His works to bring about our salvation and the deliverance of all those who put their trust and faith in Him, let us therefore reflect on our own lives and attitudes. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord, and have we been reflecting and be aware of our own sinfulness and wickedness in life that prevented us from being truly be with our loving God?

As St. Paul mentioned in his epistle we heard for this Quinquagesima Sunday, that our faith must be complemented with hope and love, the three cardinal and most important gifts of the Lord to all of us. If the three are not present together, then they are incomplete. And the greatest gift of all is indeed love, for it is love itself that drove our Lord to come down and to do His works to save us all. Sinners as we are, and unworthy as we are, He still loves us all very much.

Thus, we cannot say that we are truly faithful to the Lord, unless we imitate the love which Christ had shown to us all, who in His gentle and tender love had brought about our healing, the healing we receive so that our entire being are purged from the sickness of sin and evil. But we have to open our hearts to His love and mercy, and the best way to do this is to practice them in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be truly faithful to our Lord from now on, and show our thanks and gratitude for the love and mercy which He had shown us. Although we are sinners, unworthy and wicked, He was still willing to give Himself for our sake, and even to suffer and die for our sake. Let us all from now on be thoroughly transformed in faith, hope and love, that through these gifts which we exercise in our daily actions and deeds in life, we may grow stronger and more just in the eyes of our Lord, and be worthy for His eternal life. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 15 February 2015 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Quinquagesima Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to, be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean.

As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere,so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Homily and Reflection :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/02/14/sunday-15-february-2015-sixth-sunday-of-ordinary-time-quinquagesima-sunday-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Sunday, 15 February 2015 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Quinquagesima Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 10 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 11 : 1

Then, whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Give no offense to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything. I do not seek my own interest, but that of many, this is, that they be saved.

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.

Sunday, 15 February 2015 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Quinquagesima Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom the Lord sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To the Lord I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin, You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in the Lord, and be glad, you who are upright; sing and shout for joy, you who are clean of heart.

Sunday, 15 February 2015 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Quinquagesima Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Leviticus 13 : 1-2, 44-46

YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has a boil, an inflammation or a sore on his skin which could develop into leprosy, he must be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests, his descendants.”

“This means that the man is leprous : he is unclean. The priest shall declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.'”

“As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live away from others : he must live outside the camp.”

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to progress on towards the celebration of the most important parts of our Faith, that is the suffering, Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is Sexagesima Sunday, or literally meaning ‘sixty’ as a reminder for us that we are within about sixty days from the coming of Easter.

And on this day we heard about the nature of our lives, of our dwelling in this world, and the answer to all of our difficulties, plight and sorrows. As the first reading, taken from the Book of Job had mentioned, the suffering of this world, the pain and sorrow we all experienced, are like what Job had once experienced when Satan tested and tempted him against the Lord.

If we read the entirety of the Book of Job from the beginning to the end, we would realise that the suffering of mankind was never, ever the intention of our Lord. Suffering is in fact the result of the works of Satan and all of his allies, the forces of darkness in this world, and also more importantly, because of our disobedience against the will of God, that is sin.

Job’s friends accused Job of having sinned and committed wickedness before God. But meanwhile Job continued to complain and lamented for his sufferings, part of which we heard in our readings today, he continued to remain faithful to the Lord and never did once he cursed the Lord or blamed Him for what had happened to him. God showed Job that there are much that he did not understand, and He gave His answer to all of Job’s complaints, and for his continued faith despite his ramblings, he received great rewards surpassing what he had lost and what he had suffered from.

Thus, God wants to succour us and help us, and that was what God intends with us. The psalm today speaks of the healing which we can find in God, and it is this healing which our Lord Jesus Christ had brought with Him as He entered into our world to save it and to save all of us, His beloved people and children. The Gospel today reinforced this, by showing how Christ is concerned with all of His people, from the greatest to the least, and was concerned about spreading the truth He brought into the world to all the peoples.

He worked to heal the people of their afflictions, of the diseases that scourged their bodies, just as Job once was covered with boils and scabs that itched, and far above all these, was the healing which our Lord wrought upon our souls. What is this sickness of our souls? It is none other than sin. Sin is the scourge upon all of us, and it is a great barrier that prevents us from reuniting and being in complete unity and reconciliation with our Lord.

But we truly have no need for fear, as the Lord Himself had spared nothing else but Himself, and incarnate through His own Son, He made Himself the salvation and deliverance for us all mankind. For He is the Word of God, the Divine Word who is God and always is with God since before the beginning of time, and who was incarnate in the flesh to become like one of us, born a Man.

And through Jesus therefore, the word of God became real and concrete in this world, and instead of speaking through messengers and prophets, by the coming of Jesus into the world, God Himself speaks directly to us all, by what Jesus had taught us, and which His Apostles and disciples, and through them the Church, had preserved and passed down upon us.

In the readings for the Sexagesima Sunday, we hear of the parable of Jesus, that is the teaching of Jesus using stories and real experiences to make it easier for people to understand, the translation of the word of God into the words of men. Through what Jesus taught the people, what we know as the parable of the sower, the word of God has the power to bring us from the darkness of this world and from the suffering of the world into eternal happiness and joy with God.

However, as the parable shows us, that the word of God is like seeds planted by the Lord, who is the Sower, and the fate of those seeds depend on what kind of treatment or soil that they land on. This means that from our side, we must put in effort and work to ensure that the word of God can fall on fertile soil, and hence grow to bear rich fruits, that will lead us to our eternal reward, just as God once rewarded Job for his faith.

There will be many obstacles, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the parable shows us, and surely as our own experiences should have told us, that to be truly faithful and devoted to the Lord, and to follow Him in all of our ways is not going to be easy. Temptations of the world, the pressure from our peers and friends, and from the world itself to conform to the ways of the world or be rejected will be great, and it is on our part that we need to put in our effort to resist those challenges and temptations.

Today we celebrate the feast of two saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, two people who had very different life stories, and yet their experiences and examples will show us that what God had done unto us, by His coming into the world to offer us His generous mercy and love, is truly unmatched and unprecedented in the history of this world.

St. Jerome Emiliani was once a civil servant who worked in the government sector a few hundred years ago in what is today Italy. He eventually left behind everything to join the sacred priesthood and dedicated himself completely to the Lord and to his fellow men. St. Jerome Emiliani was renowned especially for his great love and care for orphans and all the children who were destitute and filled with problems in their lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani therefore helped to establish institutions and places where orphans and many other people who had been ostracised and rejected could stay as their new homes, and he himself with other priests and servants of God ministered to them and cared for them. He also established houses to accommodate former prostitutes who had repented from their sins.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was born in what is now Sudan just a century and half ago, and when she was young, she had to taste the bitter pill of war and violence, as well as the experience of slavery and subjugation by others, forced to accept the religion of heathens by her captors. She was sold as a slave and she was treated very badly, often tortured and not given proper food and place to live in.

By the grace of God, she was freed from her slavery when she was purchased from her previous owners by a Christian diplomat who came into the region and then entrusted St. Josephine Bakhita with the care of his family and children. A court thereafter ruled that St. Josephine Bakhita had not been legally a slave as where she was at, the state had ruled out slavery since before her birth, and thus she was then a freedman.

She was then baptised as a Christian and accepted into the Church by the future Pope St. Pius X, who was then the Patriarch of Venice, as she lived in the region where he had jurisdiction in. St. Josephine Bakhita thereafter joined the Canossian sisters, where she had lived for a while prior to her freedom, and from then on she lived a life of holy contemplation and filled with prayers and dedication to God. Great is her reward at the end of her earthly life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter, as well as we prepare for the season of Lent that precedes the former, which is soon to come, let us all take all these lessons and words into our hearts. St. Jerome Emiliani cared for the least of the people, the orphans and the rejected, just as Christ Himself gave Himself to the service of all those who have not been loved and those persecuted by others.

Let us all allow God to come into our lives, and through the planting of His words in our hearts, let us all be changed and transformed to become true and faithful children of our Lord, in all our words and deeds. Like St. Josephine Bakhita, the slaves turned freedman and then into a faithful servant and devoted woman, by allowing God to come into our lives, we allow ourselves to be freed from the slavery of sin and detaching ourselves from the things of this world.

May Almighty God bless us all, guide us all back to Him and in Him may we find satisfaction, succour and enlightenment, that we may all rejoice in Him in His everlasting glory, as we receive the great rewards for our faith, and may all of us be healed from the earthly and worldly afflictions. Amen.

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 29-39

At that time, on leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits : the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but He did not let them speak, for they knew who He was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others also went out, searching for Him; and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for You.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.”

So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues through Galilee; He also cast out demons.