Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture passages reminding us all of the need for each and every one of us to trust in the teachings and the ways that the Lord has shown us all, and not in our own human abilities and power, and neither in the matters of the world. All of us heard that we are called to turn towards God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. God will bless us all greatly and wonderfully if we have done so.

In our first reading today, we heard the sayings of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the prophet cursed all those who trusted in their worldly power and in their own human glory, on how those people would never find true happiness in life as long as they continued to trust in the powers of the world. Instead, all those who trusted in God and in His power would be blessed and would receive all goodness in due time, as God has promised. They would receive true joy and happiness from God Himself.

Then, in the second reading today, we heard from St. Paul in the Epistle he wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, where he spoke of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the proof of the faith that all of the faithful had believed, that they had not believed in vain in the Lord, Who had overcome even death itself, our greatest enemy of all. Death is the result and consequence of sin, just as sin is caused by our disobedience against the will of God.

This is the proof that it is the faith and trust in God alone that will overcome all sorts of difficulties and challenges. There is no other foundation or any thing in this universe capable of replacing the Lord as the centre, focus and hope of our lives. Any other foundation and trust in other things beyond the Lord is superficial and illusory in nature, and we will not be able to gain true joy, assurance and satisfaction because we will never find true peace unless if we go through God.

Why is that so? Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should look upon the history of our humanity’s past, at all the various actions and things that we mankind had done and which we had experienced throughout time. We see how mankind always tried to do their best, to attain the best for themselves, to gain the most joy, pleasure, happiness, glory, fame, power, and all sorts of good things for themselves, and yet, they were never truly happy and secure in their lives.

On the other hand, instead of experiencing true joy, peace and happiness, our predecessors experienced much sorrow, agony, pain, suffering, despair and lack of peace in their lives, all because of them putting their trust and their focus on the wrong things, as they placed their trust on worldly assurances of money, of human glory, prestige, of pleasure of the body and the temptation of greatness and hubris, ambition and pride.

Everyone suffered, when those who had power, greatness, wealth, prestige and the means of worldliness oppressed those who have less, little or none, in their pursuit to gain more of those worldly desires and temptations for themselves. But they did not gain more happiness, joy and satisfaction among themselves, because by our nature, greed will only lead to even more greed and desire, and when we have something, we naturally desire even more.

That is why, we can never be satisfied by anything of this world, no matter how hard we try it. And we must not forget, just as the Lord Himself said in another parable He taught His disciples, showing the futility of those who sought to enrich themselves with many worldly things, that a rich man who tore down his many barns in order to accommodate even more goods in them, but was told by the Lord of his foolishness, as his own life would be taken away from him that very night, and none of his amassed wealth and glory would be his any longer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why as I have mentioned earlier, death is our greatest enemy, for death marks the moment when our earthly life and existence ended. And that is why, throughout history and time, men had tried again and again, futilely, in order to try to overcome and cheat death. Many spent much money and resources, efforts and trying various methods in order to attain for themselves eternal life and youth. Many tried to keep themselves alive and appearing good, without success.

People had been spending a lot on beauty products and those things that were claimed to have life-lengthening and rejuvenating effects on the body. But in the end, no one can extend one’s life even by a millionth of a second, for everything is according to God’s will, and when God calls us back, and to give an account of our respective lives, we have no way to refuse this call. And none of our earthly glories and power will follow us through.

That is why, today’s Gospel passage, in which the Lord went through with His disciples and followers a series of blessings and curses for certain groups of people, which we know better as the Sermon on the Mount or the Eight Beatitudes, we heard exactly what we have just been discussing on our search for happiness, our often futile efforts to preserve ourselves from death, by searching and desiring for more worldly things, and allowing ourselves to be tempted by the devil.

In the Beatitudes, the Lord reminded all of us His people, that unless we learn and try to let go of all these wicked desires, and restrain all those thoughts of pride, ambition, and not allowing our ego and pride to overcome us, we will end up falling into sin, deeper and deeper, and eventually, as mentioned, sin leads to death, and not just any death, but eternal death and damnation. For those who sin and does not repent, they have no part in the Covenant that God had made with all those who are faithful to Him.

Those who are proud and ambitious, those who oppress and persecute others just so that they can earn for themselves more worldly glory, power, wealth, riches, majesty, fame and all other things we often desire, all of us who choose to put our trust in all these worldly things, will find ourselves disappointed because even though now we may enjoy what we have, and indulge in the pleasures they provided us, but these things will not last forever.

The time will come when the reckoning of our lives will be upon us, and unless we have done what the Lord has commanded us to do, then we may end up falling into eternal damnation, and has no share in the Covenant, the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Saviour has brought upon us by His sacrifice on the cross. Only those who are humble, those who are poor in spirit, meaning those who look at themselves not with pride but instead with humility before God, will receive the fullness of God’s glory.

And through the Beatitudes, God is calling us all to follow this path that He had set before us all. He is calling us to be faithful, in all things and in all of our dealings and actions, that we place God as the very core and centre of our lives and existences. We are called to be peacemakers, to be those who bring the love of God to one another, sharing the love and blessings which He has so generously given us, so that each and every one of us may enjoy the fruits of God’s wonderful love.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, if we have not done so, let us all grow in faith in God, and devote ourselves to love God and to turn ourselves away from the path of sin and wickedness. Let us all strive to overcome our attachment to worldly temptations and goods, and instead, make the effort to put our complete trust in God. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our strength, and let us all grow ever closer to Him, from now on, through the lessons of the Beatitudes, and bear the fruits of the Beatitudes of Christ in our daily living. Amen.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 6 : 17, 20-26

At that time, coming down the hill with His disciples, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of His disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.

Then, looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets.”

“But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.”

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 15 : 12, 16-20

Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin.

Also, those who fall asleep, in Christ, are lost. If it is only for this life, that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 17 : 5-8

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH!”

He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.

Saturday, 16 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the love which God has for us all, His beloved people, despite of all of our disobedience and sins against Him. He still loved us all regardless, although our sins and wickedness have indeed caused Him great sorrow and anger. He is still willing to give us all chance, one after another, to allow us to be reconciled with Him and to return to His loving embrace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the first reading today from the Book of Genesis showed us the downfall of man, the moment when men fell into the trap set against them bu Satan, who sought our mutual destruction with him and his fellow fallen angels. Satan tempted our ancestors to sin against God, tapping into our worldly desires and our vulnerabilities to pride, ego and all sorts of worldly thoughts that ended up causing us to disobey God, much as our ancestors had done.

The fruits of disobedience is sin, and sin caused us to be separated from God, as sin is a corruption upon our beings, a disease that is slowly eating upon our souls and our existences. And because sin is by nature wicked and evil, those who have sin in them have no place before God, and God Who is all good and perfect will not allow sin to exist before Him. In fact, unrepentant sinners will suffer grievously because of their own sins, which brought about their damnation before God.

There is therefore a massive chasm separating us from God, and this chasm is sin, as well as its consequence, that is death. And the fate awaiting us all sinners is eternal death, total separation from God for eternity, and this is the same as for us to endure an eternity of suffering, despair, unhappiness and loneliness, as we have been sundered from the source of all life and love, God Himself. Without Him, we are truly nothing, and our existence is totally meaningless.

Is that the fate that God wanted us to endure for eternity? Certainly that is not the case. God loved each and every one of us when He created us. He gave us life and the gift of His love. As a result, it is not in God’s will and intention for us to suffer because of our sins, and that was why, He promised to us all the salvation which He was to send into this world, through none other than Christ, His own beloved Son, by Whose actions we have been saved.

Through our Lord Jesus, the love of God had been made manifest in this world in the flesh, and in the Gospel passage today, He showed the love and mercy by which He desired all of His loved ones to be reunited with Him. He saw all the people who followed Him, desiring to be healed from their many afflictions, and to hear His teachings, many of them from sinful backgrounds, desiring to be forgiven from their mistakes and sins. And the Lord cared for them, spiritually as well as physically.

The Lord did so when He saw all of them being hungry, after following Him for so many days. He miraculously multiplied the seven loaves of bread into food enough to feed four thousand men assembled, together with many thousands more of women and children. After He had fed the people and they were all full, He continued to teach them and to perform His miracles and healings among them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through all these, we can see how God loves each and every one of us, and how He desires for us all to be reconciled to Him. He has given all of us opportunities, again and again, for us to abandon our ways of sin, and to seek Him and His generous mercy. But are we willing to accept His offer of mercy? If we are willing to do so, then just as those people who went to follow the Lord for many days, suffering from hunger and other things during their journey, we too have to endure sufferings and difficulties at times as well.

Let us all therefore turn towards God, and entrust ourselves to His loving mercy and compassion. May the Lord guide us all, and may He continue to love us as He has always been, and draw us all closer to Himself. Amen.

Saturday, 16 February 2019 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterwards Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well.

The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.