Tuesday, 17 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard first of all from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which urged everyone to remember God’s promise and covenant, which He had made with His people out of His love for them. We are all reminded of God’s faith in us, and we are all called to place our trust and hope in Him.

He has sworn by Himself, to assure us that He will deliver us from our sins and from our troubles. He Himself has assured us that He will deliver us and free us from the chains and bondage to sin. We have nothing to fear but to trust completely in Him, because while the world and its words are untrustworthy, and while mankind are untrustworthy in our dealings, but God alone can be completely trusted, for He is honest and just, and having sworn by Himself, He cannot deny Himself.

But it is rather us mankind who had not been faithful as I have mentioned, because we always try to find excuses and other alternatives, instead of obeying God. We ended up trusting in our own human instincts and judgments, rather than obeying and listening to the Lord our God. That was why in the Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were rebuked by Jesus, as He had also done in various other occasions throughout the Gospels, because of their refusal to believe in what He had to tell them, that their ways were wrong.

They were the guardians of the laws of God as passed down to them from the time of Moses, down through many generations. But throughout those times, the essence of the Law became lost, and people became servants to the laws of God, not knowing what they were all about. Instead of obeying the Law because it was right to serve and please the Lord with their obedience, many of them enforced the laws and follow them for the sake of doing it.

For example, on the well known issue of the day of the Sabbath and its observance among the Israelites. The Sabbath was instituted by the Lord at the time when Israel went out from Egypt and were travelling through the desert towards the Promised Land. It was meant as a holy day dedicated to the Lord, as a day when all the people of Israel should focus themselves and their whole attention to the Lord.

And why was that so? That is because those Israelites have not been faithful to God in many occasions, they grumbled and disobeyed His laws and commandments as soon as after God had liberated and brought them out from the land of Egypt. God wanted to save them from their rebelliousness, and He wanted to discipline them by the means of those laws, but never had He intended for them to be oppressed by those measures.

Unfortunately that was what the Pharisees did, burdening the people with the many observances and obligations to the Law, by one count approximately six hundred and thirteen of them in total, and yet, many of these were human made laws that did not bring about greater understanding of the true meaning of God’s Law, which in fact was about God’s love for us all, so that He gave us those guiding oaths to help us in our path.

That was why Jesus told them all about how the king David in the past broke the law of the Sabbath because he and his soldiers, his followers were hungry. He ate the bread that were supposed to be offered for the Lord, as a form of sustenance to support them after their long journey. And the high priest then, Abiathar, allowed them to do so, even though that was supposedly against the Law.

It is because the Law was indeed meant to help mankind and to assist them on their path towards salvation, and not to oppress them. As Jesus mentioned, it was the Law which was made for man, and not man for the Law. It was because of love that God had given His instructions to mankind, in order to save them and to liberate them from the wrong paths they were following.

That is why, in all things, as Christians, all of us ought to remember that first of all, God wants each and every one of us to be saved. He wants us all to live and not to perish. We must not close the path towards salvation to those who are in need of it, by looking down on sinners and by refusing to welcome them back when they come to seek God’s forgiveness and grace. Let us remember that we ourselves are sinners and are in need of God’s mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today reflect on the examples and the life of St. Anthony the Abbot, the famous saint and religious who was known also as St. Anthony the Great, a renowned monk and religious from the Roman era Egypt known to be the father of monasticism and one of the first to commit himself in a contemplative life filled with prayer and devotion to God.

St. Anthony left behind everything in his former life, and he spent the rest of his life in contemplative prayer and commitment to God. He lived in the wilderness, much as St. John the Baptist had done in the past, shunning the comforts of life and leaving behind all worldly concerns. He also ministered to the people by helping the poor and the communities nearby where he lived, and called them to a life of holiness and devotion to God.

The devil often tempted St. Anthony, and it was told that he even tried hard to undermine all of St. Anthony’s works, and attacked him in various occasions, and yet St. Anthony persevered through all of them via a life committed to God in devotion and prayer. He overcame the devil by the power of prayer and piety, committing his whole being to God. From all of his examples, we truly should be inspired by his dedication and discipline in his life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all live in a world filled with many temptations, many of which are trying to keep us away from attaining God’s salvation. The devil is always at work, trying to undermine our progress and by pulling us away with his lies and falsehoods. This is where we need to be careful, that we should not fall into his traps. We must learn to resist the temptations of this world and commit ourselves in the same way as the holy saints, including that of St. Anthony, had done.

May the Lord help us in all of our endeavours, so that through all of our good and committed works, we may put the Lord as the focus of all our actions, and indeed, as the focus of our lives. May the Lord bless us and keep us, and may He strengthen in our hearts, the faith which we ought to have for Him, and help us to be faithful to God, just as He Himself had been truly faithful to us. Let us all help one another on our path to the Lord, and keep ourselves worthy of Him at all times. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 2 : 23-28

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was walking through grainfields. As His disciples walked along with Him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!”

And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need, when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the house of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Master even of the Sabbath.”

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 110 : 1-2, 4-5, 9 and 10c

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; the Lord is merciful and kind. Always mindful of His covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His holy Name is to be revered! To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Hebrews 6 : 10-20

God is not unjust and will not forget everything you have done for love of His Name; you have helped and still help the believers. We desire each of you to have, until the end, the same zeal for reaching what you have hoped for. Do not grow careless but imitate those who, by their faith and determination, inherit the promise.

Remember God’s promise to Abraham, God wanted to confirm it with an oath and, as no one is higher than God, He swore by Himself : I shall bless you and give you many descendants. By just patiently waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.

People are used to swearing by someone higher than themselves and their oath affirms everything that could be denied. So God committed Himself with an oath in order to convince those who were to wait for His promise that He would never change His mind.

Thus we have two certainties in which it is impossible that God be proved false : promise and oath. That is enough to encourage us strongly when we leave everything to hold to the hope set before us. This hope is like a steadfast anchor of the soul, secure and firm, thrust beyond the curtain of the Temple into the sanctuary itself, where Jesus has entered ahead of us – Jesus, High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Monday, 16 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews, about the meaning of the holy priesthood, as a vocation and calling for all those who have chosen to dedicate themselves and their whole lives to the Lord, and among these priests, God had chosen His high priests, those whom He entrusted with the leadership among the people, through whom He would exercise His power and authority, and through whose actions, the people would be absolved from their sins and be reconciled with God.

And unlike all the other high priests, which offered again and again for the sake of the people’s sins, God had appointed One to be the Eternal High Priest for all, and He is none other than Jesus Christ, the long promised Saviour of the whole world, the Divine Word of God Who was incarnate into the person of the Son of Man, through Mary His mother. It was through Him that God willed to make all of mankind, all those whom He loves, to be saved and liberated from their sins, that is from our sins.

While the high priests of old were told to sacrifice and offer the gifts of animal blood, fats and other sacrificial goods, the Lord showed them all that all these were incapable of offering complete and total reconciliation between mankind and their God. It is only the complete obedience of the Son of God, Who willingly offered Himself, through His Most Precious Body and Blood, that all of mankind are able to access the salvation which He guaranteed to all those who believe in Him.

In the Gospel today we heard about Jesus our Lord Who chided the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John the Baptist, who compared themselves to His own disciples, as those two groups did what was prescribed in the laws of the people of God as originally passed down to them from Moses, who received them from God. They questioned Jesus because they thought that it was improper for His disciples not following the commandments of the Law.

But in all that, there lies a misunderstanding of the true Law of God. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular became obsessed with the minute details of the Law, in how they should be observed, to the smallest details. They were very particular in enforcing them, to the point that it was often they did not do them while knowing what was the original purpose of the Law of God.

Take for example, the practice of fasting, which was done to express mourning, grieving and also most importantly, the regret and the desire for repentance for one’s sins and wrongdoings. And yet, as Jesus mentioned in another part of the Gospels, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had used fasting as a pretext to advance their own interests and to make themselves look good before the people.

They paraded around, showing their fasting and other supposedly pious acts to be seen by others, so that they would be praised and gained prestige as well as fame among the people. But that was as we can see, not the intention of the Law. That is why Jesus came into this world, to straighten up all those who have erred and bent the purposes of the Law, revealing to them all the new path that He brought with Him.

That was what Jesus meant when He related to all of them the parable of the wine and the wineskins. Old wine is not meant to be put into a new wineskin, as they are incompatible with each other. The same applies to new wine that is placed into old wineskins. And Jesus also added up with another example, the parable of old cloth and new cloth. Old cloth cannot be used to patch up new cloth and vice versa.

It means that, the ways of the Lord are not compatible with the ways of the world. And similarly therefore, sin is incompatible with God, and indeed, sin is incompatible with all of us being Christians. We should not follow the example of those Pharisees who claimed to serve God, and yet in reality, they are serving only their own desires and purposes.

It is inappropriate for us all to call ourselves as Christians if we do not live a genuine Christian life through our actions and deeds. That is why, because our Lord Jesus had shown us the path that we ought to take in order to reach out to Him, and as also by His own obedience to the will of His Father, He as our Eternal High Priest had saved us all, therefore, all of us should also obey Him and walk in His ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on this, and think about what we as Christians are still able to do in our lives in order to have a Christ-like attitude and thus live a genuine Christian living. It is only then by our obedience to the Law and by following the examples of Christ that we will be true witnesses for our Lord, and many more people, both inside and outside the Church, will come to believe in the Lord as well, and be saved together with us.

May the Lord be with us all in our journey of life, and may He strengthen the faith inside each and every one of us, that we may emulate in full faith, the examples of our High Priest, Who is also our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for our salvation and the redemption of the whole world. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 16 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Mark 2 : 18-22

At that time, one day, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but Yours do not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

“No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”

Monday, 16 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 109 : 1, 2, 3, 4

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your foes Your footstool.”

From Zion the Lord will extend Your mighty sceptre and You will rule in the midst of Your enemies.

Yours is royal dignity from the day You were born in holy majesty. Like dew from the womb of the dawn, I have begotten You.

The Lord has sworn, and He will not take back His word : “You are a Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”