Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the account of the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel, which fell to the onslaught of the Assyrian Empire, which burnt down its capital, Samaria, and ransacked the cities of the Israelites, carrying off their inhabitants to exile in faraway lands of Mesopotamia. This is the punishment that was due for the people who have repeatedly disobeyed the Lord and sinned in various ways.

This is after repeated reminders and helps which God had put in place through His many prophets and messengers, whom He sent to the northern kingdom of Israel, such as Elijah and Elisha among many others. Yet, the people and their kings refused to turn from their wicked ways and from their sins. In the end, their actions and wicked deeds justified their punishment, and God judged them according to those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the theme of today’s Scripture readings, that is on the matter of judgment, and not just any kind of judgment, but in particular, Christian judgment. And the most common misunderstanding which we have on this time and age is that, we misunderstood the Lord’s words and instructions in this Scripture passage, by saying that the Lord Jesus asked us that we must not judge or should not judge.

That is because we read the Gospel passage literally and understand what the Lord said and not trying to understand what He really wanted to deliver to us. The Lord did not actually say that we cannot judge anybody or anyone at any situation at all. Instead, what He wanted to tell us is that, before we judge, first of all we must always reflect first whether we ourselves have done the same or even worse than what we want to judge.

He said that by whatever standards we judge, then we will also be judged by others. It is quite natural because if we judge others for their wrongdoings, and yet, we ourselves have done the same or even worse deeds, then others who see us and witness our actions and deeds will judge us in the same way. Do we want that to happen to us? Surely we do not want. Yet, this is what we mankind commonly do, day after day, again and again.

The Lord alone is the perfect Judge, for He Himself cannot be judged, for He is all perfect and good, and perfect in everything He has done. By whatever standards that we want to judge God, it is impossible to do so. That is why, God alone is worthy of judging us for our every actions, our every shortcomings, words, deeds and everything that we are. However, once again, this does not mean that we cannot ‘judge’.

The Lord Himself said in another occasion in the Gospels, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with a good judgment.” And St. Paul in his various letters to the Churches also mentioned the importance and the need for sound judgment in the Christian communities. What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must judge first and foremost basing our judgment not on our own prejudices or personal preferences, but instead on our Christian faith and truth.

For our personal preferences and prejudices are often not just and right, and in fact, they may be even worse and more wicked than what we want to judge. But the Christian truth and the faith as kept by the Church is unchanging and perfect, as long as we anchor our Christian judgment in God, Who is the source of all truth and Who is perfect in all of His judgments. This is what we must do, and not to judge wrongly.

And ultimately, it is about what we intend to do with the judgment. Most of the time, as is common for us man, is that we judge so as to condemn the other party for the mistakes or the faults that they have committed. But as Christians, we are instead called to judge, not because we hate the person or wanting to bring harm to the person, but instead, because we want the other party to realise the mistake that he or she has made, and make a change or difference for the better.

That is precisely what God has done, as He, first and foremost of all, loves each and every one of us, His most beloved creations, and certainly, He does not want us to be lost to Him, or to be cast down to hell for eternity. That is why He gave us opportunities, again and again, and sent us reminders through various means, from the Church, from even our families and from those who we encounter at various times and opportunities in our lives.

But we also have to remember, that there is ultimately a limit to God’s mercy and love, not that His mercy and love are limited, but rather, our mortal existence in this world is limited. All of us will ultimately encounter death, and that is the moment when we will face our particular judgment, when each and every one of us will have to answer for our every actions and deeds in life, and when our eternal fate will be judged.

If we refused to accept God’s generous offer of mercy, forgiveness and compassion, then it is by our sins, stubbornness and rejection that we shall be judged, and when we fall into the eternal suffering, separated from God’s love and grace forever, it is by our own actions that we are judged. And it is the right and just consequences for our own disobedience and refusal to repent.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, while we have the time and opportunity in this world, given to us generously by Our God, let us all make best use of them, by realising just how sinful we have been, and commit ourselves to a renewed faith filled with new love and dedication for God. And we are called to ‘judge’ one another with love, caring for the needs of our brethren, especially those who are in danger of falling into damnation because of their sins.

Hence, let us all not be judgmental in the wrong way, but judge with the right intention and method, so that each and every one of us as Christians may be able to help one another, to persevere through the various challenges and obstacles in life. Let us all pray for one another and help each other in this journey of faith, that we may eventually all find our way to God’s salvation and eternal life. May God be with us, and may He bless us and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 1-5

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you.”

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as the plank is in your own?”

“Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 59 : 3, 4-5, 12-13

O God, You have rejected us and have broken our defences; You have been angry; but now turn back to us.

You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its cracks, for it totters. You have made Your people suffer; You have given us wine that makes us stagger.

Have You not rejected us, o God? You no longer go with our armies. Give us aid against the foe, for human help is not worth a straw.

Monday, 25 June 2018 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 17 : 5-8, 13-15a, 18

The army of the king of Asshur subjected the whole of Israel, coming to Samaria and laying siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, exiled the Israelites to Asshur and made them settle in Halah, at the banks of Habor, the river of Gozan, as well as in the cities of the Medes.

This happened because the children of Israel had sinned against YHVH, their God, Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they were subject to Pharaoh. But they had turned back to other gods. They followed the customs of the nations which YHVH had driven out before them.

YHVH warned Israel and Judah through the mouth of every prophet and seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments and precepts according to the laws which I commanded your fathers and which I have sent to you by My servants, the prophets.” But they did not listen and refused, as did their fathers, who did not believe in YHVH, their God. They despised His statutes and the Covenant He had made with their fathers.

So YHVH became indignant with Israel and cast them far away from His presence, leaving only the tribe of Judah.

Sunday, 24 June 2018 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the occasion on the twenty-fourth day of June, the Solemnity of the Nativity or the birth of St. John the Baptist, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist was the one who was prophesied by the prophets to be the one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah and God, Jesus Christ.

As such, he was the Herald of the Messiah and the one who announced the imminent coming of God’s salvation and kingdom into this world. This he did say, by calling the people to repent from their sins and to be baptised by him in the River Jordan, and hence, his name, St. John the Baptist. He announced that the coming of the kingdom of God was near, and that he was the voice calling out in the wilderness, just as the Scriptures had predicted.

St. John the Baptist was God’s servant from even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb, just as the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. This prophet would be God’s instrument to speak to the nations, through whom the people of God, all mankind would come to hear the Good News of the coming of His salvation, which has finally arrived after the long awaited and expected Saviour has been prophesied for many ages.

St. John the Baptist is the one who had done all the difficult tasks in order to prepare for the Lord’s coming. Why is that so? That is because many of the people were not ready for the Lord’s coming, and in fact, if we read throughout the Gospels and the New Testament, we should be able to see just how many among the people of God refused to believe in the truth that the Lord Himself had brought them, and stubbornly continued to live in their old ways of sin.

It was told that St. John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah who was sent again into the world to complete his mission. The prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven by God on a flaming chariot, and it was this that made the people to believe that the prophet had once again come into the world. However, whether St. John the Baptist was truly the prophet Elijah sent into the world, only the Lord knows, and is immaterial.

What is important is that, because of St. John the Baptist, many of the people turned to the Lord and sought genuine repentance, coming to him to be baptised and to listen to his teachings. And even in fact, some of Christ’s earliest disciples, including those among His Twelve Apostles, were the disciples of St. John the Baptist, such as St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist, if not more others from among those earliest followers of the Lord.

It was to St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist that St. John the Baptist told, “Here is the Lamb of God!” when the Lord Jesus Christ came to the River Jordan asking for baptism from St. John the Baptist. Those two disciples of St. John the Baptist and probably some others henceforth followed the Lord Jesus, and St. John the Baptist let them go on their way. This is one of the many great qualities of St. John the Baptist that all of us Christians must take note.

St. John the Baptist was a humble and devout worker of the Lord, devoting his entire life to the service of God. His holiness and commitment was likely noted since early in his life, not less because of the amazing manner of his birth as we heard in the Gospel passage today. An Angel of the Lord himself told Zechariah his father, of what St. John the Baptist would become, and he lived in the desert, preparing for the day of the Messiah’s coming.

St. John the Baptist did not seek glory and power for himself, and he did all the work for the greater glory of God, and not for his own. He could have declared that he was the Messiah or Saviour long awaited by the people of Israel, but he did not do so. When the Pharisees came to ask him about this, he openly said that he was not the One Whom they were waiting for, but that He would come soon.

And this must be understood in the context of the history of the time, as at that time, there were several influential and charismatic people among the Jewish community who rose up in rebellion against the Romans, claiming that they were the Messiah who was promised by God. But all of their uprisings and rebellions failed, as God was not with them. Yet, if St. John the Baptist wanted, he could have seized the opportunity and claim fame and glory for himself.

St. John the Baptist openly said that, while his disciples asked him what he would do about Jesus, Whose star was rising and more and more came to see Him instead of him, that he was in fact pleased with it, as it was how it was supposed to be, as he was merely the servant of God, awaiting for the coming of God’s Saviour to come, and was not the Saviour himself. He did not seek anything more beyond fulfilling what he has been called to do.

And then, St. John Baptist was also a fearless and committed follower of God, who did not shrink from his obligation and responsibility to the people of God, by even standing up to those who would cause others to lose their faith in God, as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done with their actions and their behaviour. St. John the Baptist called the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as brood of vipers in front of the people to show this disgust at their self-serving activities.

When king Herod, the ruler of the land, behaved wickedly by committing adultery with the wife of his deceased brother, Herodias, St. John the Baptist openly and fearlessly chastised the king for his sinful behaviour and attitude. He was imprisoned for that, and even when he was in prison, he would continue to chastise the king and rebuke him, not fearing for his life. In the end, he was martyred when Herodias, having grudge on St. John the Baptist, arrange for him to be killed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow in the examples of St. John the Baptist, just as today we rejoice celebrating the birth of this great messenger and servant of God. Have we been as devout and as courageous as St. John the Baptist in his faith and dedication to the Lord? Have we been as humble and as selfless in how we lived our lives as St. John the Baptist had been? Or have we instead been tempted by worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory and others?

Let today’s commemoration be a reminder for us, that each and every one of us as Christians are also called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist, in declaring the truth and the Good News which we ourselves have received from those who have shown them to us. We have to carry on the truth and the Good News with ourselves, and pass them on to more people, to others who have not yet received them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then follow in the footsteps of the great St. John the Baptist? It is by being honest and sincere in our faith, putting God at the centre of our lives, instead of our ego, our pride, our ambition and greed. These are obstacles that commonly become stumbling rocks in our path towards God and righteousness in Him. And if we do not remove these obstacles, it is likely that we will stumble and fall, and that is sin.

But when we encounter these challenges in life, do we then fear of failing or stumbling? It is part of our learning process to fail and to stumble. Certainly, St. John the Baptist himself had encountered many challenges, and even he, as a man, also had his doubts and fears. While in prison, as the Gospel recorded, he sent one of his disciples to the Lord Jesus, asking Him whether He was truly the Messiah or whether he should wait for another to come. But, in the end, he remained faithful and true to his calling, right down to his martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be inspired by the life and the dedication of St. John the Baptist in our own lives, and in how we devote ourselves to God from now on. If we have not been truly faithful in how we lived our lives, now is the time for us to turn ourselves wholeheartedly to God, doing our best to be faithful from now on, becoming worthy and good bearers of His truth, through our actions and deeds, by loving one another and loving God to the best of our abilities. May the Lord be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 24 June 2018 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

Sunday, 24 June 2018 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 22-26

After that time, God removed Saul and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.

It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus. Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another One is coming, Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’

Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent.