Tuesday, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that reminded us of the need to understand what God wants each and every one of us to do as His followers and disciples, in particular given the context of today’s Scripture passages. We are called to love Him and to serve Him, as part of the Covenant which He has made for us. But ultimately, God also desires for our well-being and salvation.

In the first reading today we heard of the many favours and wonders that He has bestowed on those who have been faithful to Him, focusing on the persona of Abraham, the righteous man who has devoted himself to the Lord such that God Himself made a Covenant between Himself and all of his descendants. And the Covenant He made was such that, He has been faithful to what He has promised to Abraham, that He will bless his descendants and make them His own beloved people.

As Abraham became the father of many nations, and by virtue of our Christian faith, we have also become the spiritual children of Abraham, all of us are part of the same Covenant that God has established with him, and which He has renewed again and again throughout the centuries and ages past. He has always been faithful even though many of us mankind have been wayward and disobedient.

That was why He also gave us His laws and commandments, all with the purpose of getting us all to love Him and to put our focus on Him, and not on all the various distractions we often have in life. And one such law, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today, is the law of the Sabbath, which regulated the way the people of God should act and behave on the seventh day in the week, the Sabbath day, a day that the Lord had made holy.

The Scriptural basis of the law of the Sabbath is related to the works of the Lord Himself, Who created the universe and all the world, only to rest on one of the days, at the last day. Thus, the same day in the Jewish law and tradition is meant for the people of God to ‘rest’ from their various activities and to focus their attention on God, and God alone. That is the true intention and purpose of the Sabbath day and its related laws.

Unfortunately, the purpose and the intention of the Law had been forgotten and misunderstood by the people and their elders, as the Gospel passage had shown us. What had been given with the good intention of realigning men and their focus and attention towards God, instead became a source of great obstacle and suffering for many among the people, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced them on the people.

Those people enforced a very strict observation of the Sabbath law to the point that the people could not do anything, even anything good and productive, and even in the matter of feeding oneself, as the disciples of the Lord did when they were hungry and picked on the grains of the wheat in the field. They have forgotten that by doing so, what they did was in fact observing the Law in the letter, but not in the spirit.

This means that they knew what the Law is, but they failed to understand and appreciate what the Law is truly about, its meaning and purpose. The Law of God is meant to bring us closer to God, to help us to focus on Him and His way, and not to distance us and make it difficult for us to follow Him. This is why, the Lord rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their shortsightedness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should turn towards the Lord with a new spirit and commitment to love and to serve Him with all of our strength, obeying Him by understanding that all of His laws and commandments are meant to redirect our attention and focus on Him, and away from all things that can end up causing us to fall into temptation and damnation. And today, we should model ourselves based on the examples shown by the holy servant of God, St. Vincent, holy deacon and martyr.

St. Vincent was a deacon who served the people of God in what is today Spain, in the city of Saragossa, during the difficult years of terrible persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He dedicated himself so much to his service and his faith, that even when he was arrested and forced to reject his faith, he refused to do so. His defence of his faith was so resolute and strong that it made his enemies even angrier and he suffered grievously for his dedication.

Nonetheless, St. Vincent continued to be faithful and dedicated himself to the service of God. He remained firm in his dedication, and was martyred in good faith. His examples and his courage continued to inspire many of the faithful throughout the ages. And we can also follow his good examples, by devoting our own lives to the Lord, and by knowing how much love He has given to each and every one of us.

Let us all from now on, turn towards the Lord, spending day after day of our lives with faith, doing our very best to serve the Lord. Let us devote ourselves with a new spirit and strength, from now on, each and every days of our life. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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.

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that as Christians, all of us are called to love one another, and all of us must have a living faith that bears fruit, the fruits of our faith and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise our faith is empty, dead and meaningless. We have to then look at the Gospel passage today in order to understand this better.

In the Gospel, we heard of how the Lord Jesus and His disciples travelled and encountered a fig tree, that was found to be without any fruits at all. The Lord cursed the barren and fruitless tree, and went on His way. Eventually, when they all returned to the same place a few days later and saw the fig tree, it had withered and died, the entire tree, showing us what will happen to us should we be found empty and fruitless in our faith.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that if our faith is limited to just a formality or merely a religious certificate, and even if we attend the Sunday Masses but merely to fulfil the Sunday obligations without appreciating, understanding and embracing the importance of the Holy Mass, then I am afraid that our faith is still mostly empty, meaningless and dead.

St. James said in his Epistle that faith without good works is dead. This is exactly what I meant by saying that we should not have an empty, fruitless and meaningless faith. Faith that exists just by itself, and not made alive and real through concrete actions and devotions, especially love, is useless and empty. And this is an important matter that all of us as Christians must realise, or otherwise, we will end up leading an empty and fruitless Christian life.

Perhaps, we should follow the examples of St. Justin the Martyr, whose memory we commemorate today. St. Justin the Martyr was a shining example of Christian discipleship and he showed all of us what it truly means to be fruitful in our faith. He was a brilliant man who lived in the era of the pagan Roman Empire, and was a renowned and intellectual pagan philosopher, who was searching for the true meaning of life and wisdom.

However, it ended up that no matter how much knowledge and wisdom he gained, he was unable to satisfy his desire and the emptiness he felt in his mind and heart. Instead, that led him to encounter the Lord through the Christian faith, and after having discussed and debated about the faith, he ended up being persuaded of the truth and the wisdom of the Christian faith, found only in the Lord’s teachings, and became a convert.

Henceforth, St. Justin ministered to many of the faithful, through his great intellect, wisdom and knowledge, spreading the faith to many parts of the Empire. Many souls were saved because of his works and teachings, and he tirelessly spent his effort trying to bring the truth to more and more people. However, he encountered many challenges and difficulties, to the point of being arrested after one of the pagan philosophers who debated with him reported him to the authorities because of his Christian faith.

Despite all efforts spent on trying to make him to abandon his faith in the Lord, and even when his intellect impressed many of his torturers and jailers, including even the Roman Emperor, St. Justin remained strongly and firmly attached to his faith, and remained dedicated fully to the Lord, choosing martyrdom over abandoning his Lord and Master. This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the kind of faith and dedication that each and every one of us must have, a fruitful and living faith.

Let us all therefore, devote ourselves anew to the Lord, not just through exterior observances of the faith, but also through our love and care for one another, showing true Christian charity, even to those who are suffering around us. It is through this that all of us lead a genuine Christian life, and by loving one another we also love the Lord our God. He Himself showed us a vision of the Last Judgment and said, that whatever we have done to the least of our brethren, we are doing it for the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and focus our attention on Him from now on. Let us all make the Lord as the centre and heart of our lives. May the Lord be with us all in this journey of life, and may He continue to empower us to live faithfully day after day. Amen.

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 11 : 11-25

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. And after He had looked all around, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve. The next day, when they were leaving Bethany, He felt hungry. In the distance, He noticed a fig tree covered with leaves; so He went to see if He could find anything on it.

When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Then Jesus said to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit!” And His disciples heard these words. When they reached Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple, and began to drive away all the people He saw buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons. And He would not let anyone carry anything through the Temple area.

Jesus then taught the people, “Does not God say in the Scriptures : My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the nations? But you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

The chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard of this, and they tried to find a way to destroy Him. They were afraid of Him, because all the people were astonished by His teaching. When evening came, Jesus left the city.

Early next morning, as they walked along the road, the disciples saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter then said to Him, “Master, look! The fig tree You cursed has withered.” And Jesus replied, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and have no doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.”

“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you. And when you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive.”

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.