Saturday, 29 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of St. Martha, one of the close friends and followers of Jesus, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, the man whom the Lord raised from the dead. St. Martha and her siblings followed Jesus and His disciples, and provided for them along their journey. We can witness some of their exploits in several parts of the Gospels.

In one of the accounts, which we heard in the Gospel today, Lazarus the brother of St. Martha was very ill and eventually died while the Lord delayed to come to heal him. St. Martha and her sister Mary were overwhelmed with grief at the loss of their beloved brother. That is just like how many of us are often filled with grief and sorrow because of the death and passing of our beloved ones, be it a member of our families, our relatives or our friends.

And indeed, if we read on beyond the content of today's Gospel passage, we will find the part where Jesus was moved deeply by the love He had for Lazarus, and at how the people, including St. Martha and her sister grieved over the death of Lazarus. And we were told that Jesus wept at the occasion, a proof of just how much God, through Jesus, loves us all mankind.

And it was love which had made everything possible. It was love that had created us, for God is love, and because He wanted to share that love with us, He created us, each and every one of us, and showed us His love. And He intended for us to live with Him in perfect harmony and love. But then, you must be wondering, why is it then that we suffer in this world? Why is it that we have to endure the sorrow of death and separation from those whom we loved?

All of these, brethren, is because of our own disobedience and lack of faith in God. We place our trust in the devil and in his false and empty promises more than we trust the love and providence of God. That is why we end up in such a state of existence, as a consequence for our sins and for our mistakes. But this does not mean that God does not love us, as indeed on the contrary, God has been giving us opportunities after opportunities, chances after chances for us to turn ourselves back to Him and to repent from all of our sins.

If God wanted our destruction, He could easily just annihilate us with the mere slightest effort of His thought and will. Yet, He did not do this. Why? It is simple, because He loves each and every one of us, and although He hates our sins and disobedience, He wants all of us to turn away from those sins and repent from all of our mistakes, therefore going towards God's salvation and grace. And this love God has shown us through none other than, and nothing less than the loving sacrifice which our Lord Jesus suffered on the cross as He died for us.

Through Him, God is willing to make us all His disciples and chosen people, that as we turn away from our sins and as we are absolved from our wickedness, we become worthy of His love, and we may find our peace with Him. He has shown us the perfect and ultimate love, so that we too, who are His disciples, may walk in the same path of love, and show the same love to each other.

How do we love one another, brothers and sisters in Christ? We often think that it is easy to love or show love to another person. However, in reality it is not that simple. We need to show love, care and compassion not just to those who are kind to us and who we know that they can love us back. It is often that in this manner of love, we are expecting to be love back and therefore, we are expecting a return for the love that we give. Our love in this case is a conditional love.

But God did not love us all conditionally. Had He implemented the same standard in showing His love, by expecting all of us to love Him back, He would not have loved us at all, or even gave us any chances. The fact that He was willing to forgive us, and even to lay down His life for us, when we are still sinners and rebels who constantly disobeyed His commands and laws, is proof enough of His unconditional and true love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are called to love unconditionally as Christ Himself had shown us. Let us not be prejudiced in love, but instead show everyone our love, even to those who have not loved us back or hated us instead. This is something that is easier said and done, and it is often that we will want to hate instead of showing love, especially to those who have caused us much pain and suffering.

Yet, that is exactly what all of us as Christians must do, as all of us are called to give ourselves out of love for others. We must not think that this is difficult to be done, as we should indeed begin from ourselves and start from simple and yet important little acts of love and compassion. If we see anyone around us who are in need of love and care, those who have no one to care for them, those who are ostracised and hated, should we not extend our love to help them?

And should our enemies and those who hate us come to hate us and attack us, should we not tamper their hatred and counter it with love and prayer? The Lord asked us to love our enemies and to pray for those who hate us. And now it is the time for us to do as what the Lord had taught us to do. Let us then be faithful as St. Martha and our holy predecessors had done, and let us emulate the love of God in our own daily lives, through our actions and deeds in life. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 29 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 11 : 19-27

At that time, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, "If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You." Jesus said, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha replied, "I know that He will rise in the resurrection, at the last day." But Jesus said to her, "I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha then answered, "Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world."

Alternative reading

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord's feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!"

But the Lord answered, "Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her."

Saturday, 29 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH's Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Saturday, 29 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 7-16

My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves, is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love have not known God, for God is love. How did the love of God appear among us? God sent His only Son into this world, that we might have life, through Him.

This is love : not that we loved God, but that, He first loved us and sent His Son, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if such has been the love of God, we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love comes to its perfection in us.

How may we know that we live in God and He in us? Because God has given us His Spirit. We ourselves have seen, and declare, that the Father sent His Son to save the world. Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in them, and they in God. We have known the love of God and have believed in it. God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

Friday, 28 July 2017 : 16th 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 Lord in the Scriptures speaking to us about first of all, the ten commandments which He gave to His people, the ten most important laws and ordinances which He had revealed unto us, that we might obey Him and be found worthy of His love and grace. The Ten Commandments was, and is indeed still, and will be the foundations of our belief in God, and in how we ought to carry out our lives in accordance to His will.

We heard then in the Gospel, the parable which our Lord Jesus told His disciples, the famous parable of the sower, in which He told them of the fate of the different seeds spread by the sower, depending on where those seeds fall at. Some fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky, while some others fell on rocky grounds and were scorched quickly by the sun, and still others fell among thistles and brambles, and they were choked to death by those weeds. And some fell on rich soil, where the seeds grew bountifully and provided fruits in many multiples of what had been planted.

The stories and parables from the Scriptures today speak to us about how we ought to listen to the Lord and understand what it is that He wants us to do, so that our lives may be found worthy and good in the sight of God. The Ten Commandments summarised perfectly what we need to do in our lives, which the Lord Jesus summarised even further into a set of two important law and precepts, that is the Law of Love.

First, He mentioned that out of all that we mankind do in our lives, we must first of all love the Lord our God, with all of our strength, with all of our might and capabilities, giving our all to serve and love Him. That is the first and most important of all the laws and commandments, for because if we overlook or ignore this commandment, then the rest of the Law and the Commandments are null and void because the Law exists only for a single purpose, that is to guide mankind to obey the Lord and to love Him with all of their hearts.

However, loving God is easier said than done, brothers and sisters in Christ. Loving the Lord does not mean that we say to Him, 'Lord, I love You, Lord.' and then we consider ourselves of having loved Him and shown our devotion to Him. It is not enough that we say using words or through empty and meaningless promises or commitments, if we do not mean what we say and understand what it means for us to truly love God with all of our hearts.

This is where the second important Law and commandment that Jesus told us came into play, as He told His disciples that we mankind must also love one another just as we love ourselves, loving and caring for our fellow brothers and sisters, this is also easier said than done, as we may think that we know how to love our fellow men, our brothers and sisters, but if we look more carefully into how we have lived our lives thus far, many of us will realise just how difficult it is for us to love others just as we love ourselves.

Our human nature is always calling us to fulfil our own desires and needs first, before we turn and care towards others around us. It is our ego and greed that often drive us in life, desiring to gather more power, more influence, and more happiness upon ourselves, but in the process, we often cause inconvenience and even suffering on others. The simple reason for this is because our desires and wants will inevitably overlap one another, and for us to gain what we want, we often have to cause others to suffer a loss.

This is the cause for much sorrow and pain in our world, both past and present. Many atrocities and evil deeds have been caused by human greed and ambitions, which led to us focusing on ourselves and acting selfishly for our own self-preservation and personal glory, without regard for others. This is when the Word of God cannot grow in us and the faith in us perish, as the Gospel today spoke of those seeds that failed to grow properly or bear fruit because they were not given the right conditions to grow in.

When we fill ourselves with greed and selfishness, ego and pride, we smother the Word of God and the seeds of faith which God had given to us. It is much easier for us to follow the path of greed and ego, for these satisfy our desires and give us pleasures in life. However, this path leads us towards downfall and towards damnation, as because of those sins we have been made unworthy before God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we are all called to turn away from this path towards our destruction, and God calls us to turn towards Him with all of our hearts, and this is the time for us to do so. Let us not wait until it is too late for us to do so, but begin to turn towards God, beginning from ourselves, from our actions and deeds in life. We should conduct our lives with love, showing mercy and compassion on those who are around us.

Let us no longer be egoistic or greedy, but instead open ourselves to God's infinite love. Just as He has loved us first with His unconditional love, we too should appreciate this love and show Him the same love, which saw Him bearing up the cross, filled with the burdens of our sins and punishment, and died for our sake. There is no greater love than for one to give up his life for his friend, according to the words of Jesus Himself. Thus, let us all die to our pride, ego and desire, and let us be ever more generous with our love to one another instead.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He guide our footsteps, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, and find the way to His salvation. Let us all love the Lord with all of our strength and abilities, and be ever more worthy of His grace. Amen.

Friday, 28 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 18-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath."

"The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up."

"The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more."

Friday, 28 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Friday, 28 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Exodus 20 : 1-17

God spoke all these words. He said, "I am YHVH your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Do not have other gods before Me. Do not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them."

"For I, YHVH your God, am a jealous God; for the sin of the fathers, when they rebel against Me, I punish the sons, the grandsons and the great-grandsons; but I show steadfast love until the thousandth generation for those who love Me and keep My commandments."

"Do not take the Name of YHVH your God in vain for YHVH will not leave unpunished anyone who takes His Name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for YHVH your God. Do not work that day, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger who is staying with you."

"For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, but on the seventh day He rested; that is why YHVH has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honour your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land that YHVH has given you."

"Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness against your neighbour. Do not covet your neighbour's house. Do not covet your neighbour's wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his."

Thursday, 27 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard from the Book of Exodus in our first reading about how the people of Israel came into the new covenant which God established between Himself and all of them at Mount Sinai. A covenant is a formal act of commitment made between two parties, where each parties solemnly promised to fulfil their part of the covenant to each other.

God had made the covenant with His people, beginning from Abraham, who was called by God to be His servant. Abraham showed a very dedicated and committed faith, through which he lived his life, following the will of God in how He wanted his life to be, and obeyed God in all of His will and commandments. And God Himself was always faithful to His covenant and promises, and thus God fulfilled what He had told Abraham, that his descendants would be a great nation and God would be their God.

Yet, if we read on through the accounts and history of the people of Israel, just right after God established His covenant with Israel, the people of Israel betrayed Him and left Him behind for other, pagan gods. Just because Moses went up the Mount Sinai for an extended stay there with God, Who used that opportunity to relay His laws and commandments to him, then the people rose up against Moses and God, and lifted up a pagan idol over them, a golden calf.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the Lord Jesus and His disciples, at the moment when they asked Him why He was teaching and speaking to them and to the people in parables. A parable is a story which is an approximation and a representation of what actually happened in the real life, which Jesus used for His teachings to deliver the truth to the people in a way that is more understandable and easier to be accepted.

Why is this so? That is because Jesus liked to use parables related to farming practices, such as the parable of the sower, the parable of the fig tree and others, which farmers and those who were working in the agricultural field could appreciate and understand. In addition, Jesus also liked to use parables related to fishing and shepherding, where many of the people also were shepherds and fishermen. Through all these parables, our Lord wanted to enlighten our minds with the truth and help us to comprehend the great mystery of God.

Yet, even though the Lord had shown His people through words, through parables and stories, and through miracles and wonders, many of His people refused to listen to Him or believe in Him. They refused to believe even after having seen how Jesus healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, curing the deaf and the mute and casting out the evil spirits from those who were possessed by those wicked and evil spirits. It was the same with their ancestors, who refused to believe in God and constantly rebelled against Him even though they have frequently witnessed God's power and wonders firsthand.

Their faith was a superficial faith, and the faith did not have strong roots in them. They were easily amazed and attracted by the great wonders and miracles of God, and were awed by what they had seen, but this did not equate to a strong, living and genuine faith inside of them. They were easily tempted by worldly temptations of power, of greed, of desire and all those that the devil had placed as obstacles in their path. They stubbornly hardened their hearts and refused to open themselves to the Lord.

This is a reminder for all of us, that our faith in God cannot be like that of the Israelites. Our faith must be real and living, and we must have sincere devotion and commitment to God. In that way, then we will be able to truly be God's people, and we will be able to follow Him wholeheartedly without any reservations. This is what we need to do, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we need to take real actions and steps to ensure our commitment to the Lord and His ways.

How do we do this, then? We have to begin from ourselves, by looking deep into ourselves and think in what manner that we are able to contribute to the good works of the Church, and how we can be better disciples of the Lord. When we are faithful to the Lord, all that we do and say will give glory to God, and God will reward our faithfulness and commitment with His everlasting love and grace.

Let us all from now on be true disciples of the Lord, so that in all of our lives we may always seek to become closer to God, and strive to obey Him in all of His commandments and laws, that we will have true faith in Him, and not just merely superficial faith that is easily shaken by the worldly temptations and challenges we encounter. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us in our path. Amen.

Thursday, 27 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand."

"In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them."

"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them."