Sunday, 9 October 2022 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to heed the messages which the Lord through His Church wants us all to listen to and understand as we are reminded to entrust ourselves to Him and to have faith in Him, the One and only One Who is our Hope and Redemption. Through the Lord alone we can find the path to eternal life and freedom from suffering and sin, and that is what the Lord wants us all to know through our reading passages this Sunday, as we heard of the miraculous healing of people suffering from leprosy.

In our first reading today, taken from the Second Book of Kings of Israel and Judah, we heard of the story of Naaman the Syrian, the great general and champion of the King of Aram, the northern neighbour and enemy of the Israelites, who unfortunately suffered from leprosy, which was then a dreaded disease that was considered unclean and the sufferer often shunned by the community due to its hideous appearance and not only that, but the leprosy itself also gradually spread and eventually could lead to death unless it was treated. Some types of leprosy also had no cure at all, and thus its sufferer had to endure a lifetime of suffering and rejection by the community.

The King of Aram sought the help of the King of Israel back then, as he heard how the prophet Elisha in Israel was well-known for his miracles and powers, and how he had healed people who came to him, and thus, it was hoped that Naaman himself could also be healed from his leprosy condition. Naaman travelled all the way to Israel and sought for Elisha, and prior to what we heard in today’s first reading, when the prophet Elisha told him to immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times, Naaman initially refused to do so in pride, but eventually was convinced by his servant to obey the instructions of Elisha, and that brought him to be healed from his leprosy.

Naaman was very grateful for the healing, and he offered to give generously to Elisha, who refused it, saying that he only did as was asked of him by God, and instead therefore, Naaman promised to carry the soil from the land where he was healed, in order to built an Altar to God, committing himself therefore to worship the one and only true God, the God of Israel. It is here that we must take note that there is an irony there considering how the prophet Elisha himself was considered rather as a pariah in Israel, and if we read on the earlier passage before today’s part, we can see the reluctance on the side of the King of Israel and his officials in helping Naaman to find the prophet Elisha.

The prophet Elisha had been labouring for years, continuing the good works started by his predecessor Elijah, calling on the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to return to God and abandon their sinful and wicked ways, without much success, and there we ourselves heard how it was a Syrian, an Aramaean, the great general of the kingdom that was a bitter rival of the Israelites who actually submitted himself to the Lord and His prophet, and glorified the Lord, promising to honour Him and building an Altar to Him, thanking God for all that had been done to him, when the very people of God in Israel refused to do so, for such a long time.

We heard something similar in our Gospel passage this Sunday as well, when we heard of the Lord Jesus being approached by ten lepers during His journey through Samaria and Galilee, coincidentally the very same place where the prophet Elisha was ministering to, in the northern kingdom of Israel. The ten lepers asked the Lord to heal them of their leprosy, and the Lord instructed the ten men to go and show themselves to the priest, much as how Elisha instructed Naaman to immerse himself seven times in the River Jordan. The ten men went as they were commanded, and as they did so, they were healed from their leprosy, and as we heard, when they realised this, they all were exuberant and joyful, and went on their way except for one of them, a Samaritan, who went back and seek the Lord to thank Him.

Like Naaman the Syrian, the Samaritan man was also considered as a foreigner by the Jewish people, the descendants of the people of God, the Israelites. The Samaritans were often ostracised and being prejudiced against, and they were deemed as godless pagans and people who were unworthy of God, His grace and salvation. They were often shunned and rejected by the Jewish people, and it was considered taboo and unclean for someone of Jewish descent to speak to the Samaritans, as what the Gospels themselves told us in other occasions as well. Yet, as the Lord showed us, only the Samaritan man returned to give thanks to God while the other people did not make the same effort to show their gratitude to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are henceforth reminded of several important things that we need to take note of. Firstly, the leprosy itself, which was and is still a disease that can spread from person to person, and which ostracised the people who suffered from it from the community. Now, sin is sometimes referred to as the leprosy of the soul and just as leprosy, it can spread and afflict more and more parts of our being. And sin is even more dangerous than leprosy because while leprosy only afflicts our physical bodies and will not harm our souls, minds and hearts and our whole beings, sin afflicts and corrupts everything, and sin can lead us to everlasting death, from which there can be no escape.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because sin leads us to disobedience against God and it can draw us further and further away from His path, and we may end up falling more and more towards eternal damnation in hell, separated and cast away from God, all because of our own conscious and deliberate rejection of God and His ways, and because the allure and the power of sin can be so great and difficult for us to free ourselves from, unless we make the conscious effort to seek the Lord out to help us, just as Naaman and the ten lepers sought for help from Elisha and the Lord Jesus respectively. And we must know that only God alone can forgive us from our sins, and He alone can heal us from this most terrible affliction.

Then this Sunday, we are also reminded to be thankful to God for all that He had done for us, just as how Naaman and the Samaritan man thanked the Lord for all that had been done to them. Often times, we do not even remember God and ignored Him all throughout and remembering Him only when we have the need for Him. That is what many of us often did, that we only remember the Lord when we want Him to do something for us, to help us and to grant us our petitions and wishes, and otherwise, in good times, we ignore Him and forget about Him. The Lord has done so many things for us, giving us life, providing for us, protecting from harm’s path and helping us when we fall astray. Yet, we often ignore all these or did not realise them because we are often too preoccupied with ourselves and our many attachments in life. And God is also often not a priority in our lives.

We have to remember all that God has so lovingly done upon us, and St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy in our second reading today had made clear how through Christ, all of us have been brought to freedom, liberated from the tyranny and chains of sin and evil, and through Him and His willingness to bear the burdens of our sins upon His Cross, we have been made sharers of His death, in dying to our past life of sinfulness and evil, and thereafter, sharing in His glorious Resurrection by which He had conquered death. All of us have received this assurance of eternal life and glory through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who has come upon us and bestowed on us such great joy and hope.

That is why today we are all reminded to be vigilant against sin and to come and seek the Lord with renewed vigour so that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to God. And not only that, but each one of us as members of the Church should also help one another, caring for each other without prejudice and bias, just as what the readings have reminded us earlier today. The Samaritans and Naaman were both belonging to the group of those whom the people of God in the past often looked down upon and were biased upon, and yet, ironically, it was them who gave thanks to God and remembered to show their gratitude to Him.

This is why each one of us must not have that pride and ego or self-righteous attitude in us, which can often end up in being elitists and in trying to exclude others whom we think and consider to be less worthy than we are. Brothers and sisters in Christ, each one of us are sinners, and it is by the grace of God that we have been made worthy, and we should not make any judgment on others, especially when we do so with the intention to glorify ourselves and to discredit others whom we disagree or dislike, because of our preexisting biases or prejudices. Instead, we should help one another and inspire each other in our way of life, so that we may help to bring ourselves ever closer to God in all the things we say and do.

Let us all as members of God’s Church, as fellow Christians, do our very best to do God’s will and to seek His forgiveness and mercy for our many sins. Let us all draw ever closer to Him, by spending more time with Him through prayer, and by dedicating our efforts and attention to Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in all things so that we may always ever be close to Him and so that our entire existence may be filled with God’s grace and blessings, and we too may be inspiration and hope for one another in our journey together towards God. Amen.

Sunday, 9 October 2022 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 17 : 11-19

At that time, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee, and as He entered a village, ten lepers came to meet Him. Keeping their distance, they called to Him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

Jesus said to them, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” Then, as they went on their way, they found they were cured. One of them, as soon as he saw that he was cleansed, turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and throwing himself on his face before Jesus, he gave Him thanks. This man was a Samaritan.

Then Jesus asked him, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Did none of them decide to return and give praise to God, but this foreigner?” And Jesus said to him, “Stand up and go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Sunday, 9 October 2022 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Timothy 2 : 8-13

Remember Christ Jesus, risen from the dead, Jesus, Son of David, as preached in my Gospel. For this Gospel I labour, and even wear chains like an evildoer, but the word of God is not chained. And, so, I bear everything, for the sake of the chosen people, that they, too, may obtain the salvation given to us, in Christ Jesus, and share eternal glory.

This statement is true : If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure with Him, we shall reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us; If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.

Sunday, 9 October 2022 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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.

Sunday, 9 October 2022 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 5 : 14-17

So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed.

Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men. He entered and said to him, “Now I know that there is no other God anywhere in the world but in Israel. I ask you to accept these gifts from your servant.”

But Elisha answered, “I swear by YHVH Whom I serve, I will accept nothing.” And however much Naaman insisted, Elisha would not accept his gifts. So Naaman told him, “Since you refuse, let me get some sacks of soil from your land – the amount that two mules can carry. I shall use it to build an Altar to YHVH, for I shall not offer sacrifices to any other god but Him.”

Saturday, 8 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded of the need for all of us as Christians to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and commandments, and to entrust ourselves to His love, care and mercy. God has shown and taught us the way to reach His salvation and grace, and as Christians, it is our obligation and duty to follow Him and to do our best so that we may live our lives worthily and inspire many others all around us to live their lives worthily of the Lord as well. We are called to adapt the path of Christ and abandon our past, sinful and unworthy way of life.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Galatia, the exhortation from the Apostle to the people of God there for them to believe in the truth of Christ and embrace the fullness of His ways, His revelation and the renewal of the Law of God that He had brought. This was certainly and very likely addressed to the members of the Jewish community in the diaspora in Galatia, who had embraced the Christian faith, and became members of the Church. Some of those Jewish Christians still upheld their old Law and customs, the traditions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

That was the Law which St. Paul mentioned in that first reading passage we have today. This Law was a reference to the Jewish customs and traditions, practices and rites that the Jewish elders and communities had received from their ancestors, the Law of God as revealed through Moses, modified and added upon, accumulating over many centuries, which in the end resulted in the Law being further and further away from the true original intention and purpose. And in the manner how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law practiced and enforced them, the Law became even more oppressive and further away from their true purpose and meaning.

That is why St. Paul told the faithful in Galatia, especially those who hailed from the Jewish community converts, to abandon their past mistaken ways of obeying and practicing the Law, as those ways were no longer relevant and correct for them as Christians. The Lord had revealed to them through Christ Himself, and through the gifts of the Wisdom and the Holy Spirit, the fullness of truth which He preserved and passed to us through His Church and His Apostles. St. Paul, having received this same deposit of faith therefore shared it and reminded all the people of God, including those in Galatia, not to remain in their past mistaken and prejudiced ways.

St. Paul also exhorted on all the faithful in Galatia to be united as Christians and as members of God’s Church. They should no longer be divided by their groups or origins, whether they were Jews or Greeks, or other Gentiles or non-Jewish people, or whether they were free or slaves, or whether they were rich or poor. St. Paul told them all that through Baptism they all have been made the children of God, and everyone are equal before the Lord. What matters is for all of us to obey the Lord and His commandments, His Law and will in the manner that He has taught and shown us to do, just as St. Paul had exhorted the Galatians.

That is what we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord told His disciples and the people gathered before Him, that those who obeyed the Lord, walked in His ways, listened to Him and did His will are the ones who will be truly blessed by God. God will be with them and He will provide them all that they need, and they shall not falter and fail, for the Lord Himself will be with them and will strengthen them in the hour of their greatest need. The Lord will guide them and guard them against all harm, and He will lead them all to the ultimate triumph, and that, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what awaits us in the end if we are faithful to God and remain firm in our commitment to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all therefore reminded as Christians and members of God’s Church that each and every one of us have the obligation and duty to follow the Lord and His teachings, to do His will and to obey His commandments. Each one of us must love the Lord our God with all of our strength and all of our might, and we have to put Him as the focus and the centre of our whole lives. We are nothing without God, and everything we do, our whole lives should be centred on Him. And at the same time, we must also love one another without distinctions, prejudices or bias, just as St. Paul exhorted the Galatians to do. That is in essence, is what we are called to do as Christians, obeying God’s Law and commandments in its true intention and purpose.

May the Lord our God continue to be with us and guide us, and may He empower and strengthen us all in all things. May He bless all of our efforts, good works and endeavours, all for the greater glory of His Name. May He continue to love us all and keep us always in His loving presence. Amen.

Saturday, 8 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Saturday, 8 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Sing to the Lord, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

Saturday, 8 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Galatians 3 : 22-29

But the Scriptures have declared, that we are all prisoners of sin. So, the only way to receive God’s promise is to believe in Jesus Christ. Before the time of faith had come, the Law confined us, and kept us in custody, until the time in which faith would show up. The Law, then, was serving as a slave, to look after us until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.

With the coming of faith, we are no longer submitted to this guidance. Now, in Christ Jesus, all of you are sons and daughters of God, through faith. All of you, who were given to Christ through Baptism, have put on Christ. Here, there is no longer any difference between Jew or Greek, or between slave or freed, or between man and woman : but all of you are one, in Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Christ, you are of Abraham’s race and you are to inherit God’s promise.

Friday, 7 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, reminding all of us that this month of October is the Month of the Holy Rosary when the Church encouraged all the faithful to pray the rosary daily, as an offering of prayer to God made through His blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary. The rosary as we know is the long chain of beads used by Christians in prayers, most commonly for the rosary in offering of the set of fifty Hail Mary or Ave Maria interspersed with the Lord’s Prayer and Gloria Patri or ‘Glory Be’ prayer, as well as some other prayers and devotions such as the Devotion to the Divine Mercy which also uses the rosary.

The history of this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary dated from the introduction of the rosary itself as a means of prayer to help Christians to get closer to God. Among the traditions of the Church and the saints, it was to St. Dominic, the famous founder of the Dominicans or the Order of Preacher that the Blessed Mother of God appeared, asking for all Christians to pray the rosary with the prayers I mentioned earlier, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be prayers. In its earliest origins, the rosary had fifteen decades or a hundred and fifty beads in relation to how it was meant to replace the praying of the entire Book of Psalms by Christians, a practice that is still done through the Divine Office today.

The Blessed Mother of God granted the rosary to us all in order to help us all to find our way to the Lord through prayer, and by focusing ourselves on the Lord and to the good examples that Mary herself had done in her life, as one who is truly full of grace and blessed, fully faithful and committed to the Lord, to her Son, by her perfect obedience and virtues. Through the repetitive prayers of the rosary, we are in fact brought into that state of prayer and silence that can break us out from our attachments and distractions in life which had often prevented us from finding our way to God. And unlike the Psalms which are difficult to remember, the prayers making up the rosary are extremely simple to remember.

Through that, Mary, our Lady of the Rosary wanted more and more people to spend more time in prayer and in communication with God, and also with her that she may help to bring us all and direct us towards her Son, our Lord and Saviour. And today, on this Feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary we are yet reminded again of the need for all of us to adopt this prayer of the rosary to help us to come ever closer to God, through His mother Mary, our mother and our role model in faith. Have we prayed the rosary yet thus far, especially during this month of October, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we have not done so, then we really should start doing so now.

Then, this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary itself was instituted close to five centuries ago, under its original name of Our Lady of Victories. This date of the seventh day of October is the anniversary of the great and triumphant victory of the forces of Christendom against the forces of the wicked infidels of the Ottoman Turks who at that time sought to subjugate more and more of Christendom and the people of God to their flawed ideology and false teachings. At that time, the Church and Christendom themselves both were also beset by internal divisions and disagreements, as both were still reeling and suffering the effects of the Protestant Reformation, which led so many of the faithful astray into heretical paths.

Beset with internal divisions and the great external threat presented by the Ottoman Turks, the Pope therefore organised and raised up a great force from various parts of Christendom, gathering a Holy League led by one Don Juan of Austria, which went to face the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto in what is today the western part of Greece. The Pope also asked Christians everywhere to pray for the sake of the triumph of the Christian forces, encouraging them all to pray the rosary, asking for the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God and the saints, that the forces of the evil enemy might be crushed and defeated.

And thus, it was told that during the Battle of Lepanto, many saw the vision of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Victories and Our Lady of the Rosary, with innumerable saints and Angels leading forth the forces of Christendom against the enemy. The enemy fleet and forces were defeated and crushed, and the forces of Christendom triumphant, liberating many of the Christian slaves, tens of thousands of them who had been forced and enslaved to work on the enemy ships and galleys. The news of the glorious and triumphant victory came to the Pope who then dedicated this day to be the Feast of Our Lady of Victories, which then later on rededicated as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, reminding us all of the power of the rosary.

Why so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because all of us must realise that we are always ever involved in a constant and daily spiritual battle all raging around us, waged by the evil spirits, Satan and all the forces of his fellow fallen angels, demons and wicked spirits, arrayed against our Guardian Angels and other Angels and good spirits of the Lord, supported by the saints and our Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary herself. Those who sought our downfall and destruction are never at rest, always ever trying to strike us down and to grab us down with them, into the slippery slope towards eternal damnation. But we are not alone in this fight and struggle, brothers and sisters.

That is why, we must not underestimate the danger of those who seek our destruction and downfall, and we should always be ever vigilant, resisting the temptations to disobey God and sin. We should make good use of whatever means that the Lord has given us to help us, with the rosary itself being one of these. That is why we should spend some time each day especially in this month of the Holy Rosary to pray the rosary. And when we pray the rosary, we should pray it with genuine understanding and intention, and not just uttering the words of prayer without meaning and understanding them. Let us pray the rosary in offering a most beautiful spiritual bouquet of prayer to our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Rosary, who will then offer them on our behalf before her Son.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life, and may all of us grow ever closer to God through the guidance of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, and our loving mother. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.