Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as today marks the last day in the season of the Ordinary Time prior to the season of Lent, in which we prepare ourselves in our heart, mind, body and soul to celebrate the most important occasions in our faith during the Holy Week and Easter, let us make use of the Scripture readings we heard today as reminders for us how we should live a good Christian life.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle written by St. James the Apostle, we heard his exhortation to the faithful reminding them to be careful of the temptations that came about with their evil desires, and how they ought to guard themselves against such desires or else they would fall onto sin. He also reminded them that in God alone can be found all things that are good, while if we depend on ourselves, it is likely that we will end up falling into temptation.

In the Gospel passage we heard today, Jesus warned His disciples in the same manner, by telling them to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. Why did He mentioned these two people with such a tone? Yeast at that time according to the Lord, has two connotations. One as used in the parable of the kingdom of God, mentioned as yeast hidden within three measures of flour allowing the whole mixture to rise, represents the gifts of God given to us.

The other connotation refers to the impurities and wickedness that causes corruption of the whole being, as when yeast is added to unleavened bread, it rises and becomes leavened. In the Book of Exodus, during the time just before Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land, they were all told not to leaven their bread, and they were to eat only unleavened bread for a period of two weeks.

It is likely the second and latter mentioned connotation is in force for this case. The Pharisees and the mention of Herod represent the two extremes which Jesus was unhappy against. The Pharisees represent the extreme and puritanical observances of the laws of Moses, who enforced a strict adherence to those laws among the people, and they did not hesitate to strike at those whom they deemed to have violated the laws.

But Jesus rebuked them because most of them were hypocrites, who did all that they did because they were concerned with their own prestige and image in the society, their influence and teaching authority, and not because they wanted the people of God to follow the right path. They did not make the people to follow the right ways and misled the people into sin.

On the other hand, the mention of Herod, the king and ruler of the lands of Judea and Galilee referred to the secular leaders and the influential members of the society at the time, which also represent the Sadducees, another group which came to oppose Jesus as the Pharisees had done. These people had also been corrupt in their exercise and assumption of power and responsibility over the people.

The Lord rebuked these groups because they gave in to the temptations of worldly desires, of pride, of greed, of hunger for power and praise, of vanity and many others that led them into sin and disobedience against God. To that extent they also caused great bitterness and difficulties to happen against the Lord and His disciples even as they went about doing God’s works among the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these we are reminded that we have to resist those same temptations that will surely come our way, or else we will end up doing things in contrary to what the Lord had taught us to do, and therefore we end up falling into sin. Let us all strive to be better Christians by practicing what we believe in our daily work and actions, following the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself, Who loved His people, and as mentioned in today’s Gospel, fed them when they were hungry.

May the Lord strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, and may we make the best use of the Lenten season which begins with Ash Wednesday tomorrow. May all of us come to greater realisation of our responsibilities and our place in God’s plan of salvation. Let us all go towards God, with hearts open to Him and seeking His love and mercy all the time. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 93 : 12-13a, 14-15, 18-19

Fortunate the one You correct, o YHVH, the one You teach Your Law; You give them relief from distress.

YHVH will not reject His people, nor will He forsake His heritage. Justice will return to the just; and the upright will follow, in its wake.

No sooner did I say, “My foot is slipping,” Your kindness, o YHVH, held me up. The more worries and trouble assailed me, the more You consoled me.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 1 : 12-18

Happy are those who patiently endure trials, because, afterward, they will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him. No one, when tempted, should say, “This temptation comes from God.” God is never tempted, and He can never tempt anyone. Instead, each of us is lured, and enticed, by our own evil desire. Once this desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Light, in Whom there is no change, or a shadow of a change. By His own will, He gave us life, through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of offering to Him, among His creatures.

Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings from the Scripture we are reminded of the need to have faith in God, and not just any kind of faith, but a living and genuine faith. From today’s Epistle written by St. James the Apostle, we heard of his exhortation to the faithful at that time, regarding the need to believe in God with focus in Him and not to doubt and falter in their faith.

He mentioned that there would indeed be moments when their faith would be tested, and that doubts would come to their minds and hearts. But it is possible to remain true to our faith in God, since the faith that we have must be based and anchored in God, or else we will easily lose our faith. St. James often reiterated in his Epistle the importance of a living and genuine faith, one that is based on actions and good deeds, and not one that is empty and dead.

In the Gospel passage we heard today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted Jesus and His teachings, and set out to test Him and ask Him to perform signs and miracles among them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were among the most well-educated people in the community at that time, and they were well-versed in the Scriptures and matters of the Law. Yet, why was it that they opposed the Lord and His good works?

That is because, they put their trust in their own intelligence, understanding and comprehension of the teachings of the Law. They did not allow other forms of interpretation and understanding of the laws and rules, and hence, saw what the Lord Jesus and His disciples had done among the people as serious threats to their own teaching authority and prestige in the society.

As such, they opposed Him and His disciples, and they made it very difficult for Him at every available opportunity, trying to test Him and make any evidence to be against Him, that they might arrest Him and thus remove that dangerous threat to their authority and power. Hence, having closed their hearts and minds to God, no matter what they had seen, all the miracles and signs that the Lord Jesus had performed, they did not believe in Him and refused to believe.

Unfortunately, we mankind are people who are often stubborn and difficult to persuade otherwise, and we tend to follow what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. And the issue here is exactly because we have our pride and our intelligence, thinking that we are better than everyone else. Everything tends to revolve about ‘Me’ or ‘I’ or ‘We’ and not about ‘you’ or ‘they’ or ‘others’.

That is why if we do all these things, we can never be truly faithful to the Lord, just as St. James mentioned in his Epistle today, how people who do not have true faith and doubt because of their own stubbornness and refusal to believe, will always have two minds and will stumble in the end because of their inability to commit wholeheartedly to the Lord and to His cause.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not what all of us as Christians should be doing. We should be thinking less about ourselves and more about others. And in order to see that for ourselves, we do not need to look any further than to see what the Lord Jesus Himself had given to us, a sign and proof beyond any worldly signs or proofs the world could have conjured, far beyond what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could have expected.

He gave Himself up for us, suffering for us, bearing our own mistakes and sins upon Himself, carrying the cross up towards Calvary, and having born all of our trespasses upon Himself, He laid bare everything, dying for us and in the process, gaining for us the way to eternal life and salvation. He showed us the example of a perfect and undying love, of self-sacrifice and genuine care for others. He forgave His enemies, the same Pharisees and teachers of the Law who cried out for His death.

And we as Christians, should do the same in our own lives. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from now on, be sowers of the seeds of love, peace, harmony, compassion and care, by doing what we can in our own respective lives, to love one another as best as we can, and showing concern for our brethren in need. We must no longer put ourselves at the forefront of every concerns and thoughts, but instead, learn to let go of our greed and pride, and learn to serve others humbly with love, as the Lord, Our God Himself had done.

May the Lord awaken in each and every one of us a strong and courageous spirit to love, to care and to be good Christians in action, word and spirit. May He continue to bless us and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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, 12 February 2018 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.