Friday, 17 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the exchange between both the prophet Samuel and the people of Israel on the matter of kingship in our first reading today, and then the well-known story of how the Lord Jesus healed a paralytic man brought to Him through the roof in our Gospel today and also how the Pharisees in the crowd immediately criticised Him for His actions.

In what we have heard through our Scripture readings today, we can see then how we mankind often preferred to follow our own path and refuse to listen to God and His reminders for us. That is quite evident in what we have heard in our passages today, as the Israelites hardened their hearts and continued to insist to have a king over themselves just as their neighbours did, when the prophet Samuel had spent quite a considerable effort in trying to persuade them to rethink their choice.

The prophet Samuel presented to the people such a convincing argument, stating how God Himself was their one and only true King, and thus it was unnecessary for them to have a man as a king over them like their neighbours did. God has appointed the Judges to be His intermediaries and as the ones through whom God would act to lead His people, but it was those same people who constantly disobeyed and refused to believe in God and preferred to walk their own paths.

And they wanted to have a king over them most likely because they wanted someone who could make their country to be more prestigious and respected, to be an equal and like those of their neighbours, a king who could lead them to war and win against their enemies. More importantly, some of them probably wanted to benefit from having a king over them, as they could probably work to be in favour of the king for their own desires and benefits.

That was why they ignored all of Samuel’s warnings and advices in saying how those kings they wanted could abuse their power and authority to oppress them and make their lives difficult for the selfishness and ego of those same kings mentioned. And that was how the kings led the people down the path of sin and disobedience which eventually caused the downfall of Israel and its people, although there were indeed quite a few kings who were great and faithful too, like David and Solomon for most of the latter’s reign.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard yet another, related example of how we mankind preferred our own judgment and selfish desires rather than to listen to God. I am referring to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were there when the Lord Jesus healed the paralytic man. They criticised Jesus when they heard the Lord healing the paralytic by saying that his sins had been forgiven. They refused to believe that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah despite all the signs and the wonders they had seen before their own eyes.

They preferred to trust in their own way of thinking and prejudices, seeing the Lord as an upstart and even a heretic by saying that He could forgive sins. They thought that only God alone could forgive sins and not the Man they saw healing the paralytic before them. If only that they opened their eyes, not just their physical eyes but also the eyes of their hearts and minds; and see the truth that Jesus is none other than God Himself, incarnate in the flesh as Man, as He has mentioned but they refused to believe, and as the prophets had said, but again they refused to listen to.

And there was the King Himself, as I said earlier how God is the true King of Israel, and thus, Jesus is indeed King over His people, not just because He is God incarnate, but also even more so because He was born into the House of David as his descendant, fulfilling the promise that God Himself made to David that his house will remain on the throne and as kings forever. It is in Jesus Christ that the Lord has once again fully reclaimed His right to be the inviolable and true King of His people.

But the people refused to believe even in their King and again preferred to believe in their own judgment and strength, in their own intellect and power. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were concerned about maintaining their reach and influence, their prestige and honourable position within the community, and that was why they viewed the Lord Jesus as well as His disciples as rivals and threats to their own security and status, and they allowed these concerns and desires to cloud their judgment.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on our lives based on what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Indeed, we can see just how we mankind easily succumb to the temptations of this world, the temptations of wealth, power, influence, fame, pleasure and many others that we crave and want. And in the process we lose ourselves and our direction in life and fall into the trap set by the devil and all seeking our ruination and defeat.

Today, we should therefore look upon the examples of faith set by St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great, a renowned monk and ascetic who was remembered as among the first of those who dedicated themselves so completely and wholeheartedly to the Lord in the unique calling of monkhood and contemplative lifestyle in the desert. St. Anthony the Abbot left behind everything in the world early on in his life after his parents passed away, and went to the wilderness.

There in the wilderness, St. Anthony sought God and focused his attention on Him, while being constantly tempted by the demons and evil spirits who sought to turn him away from the path towards God. He led a very strict ascetic lifestyle and resisted the temptation of worldliness and although the demons tried to dissuade him by many means, they eventually failed to do so. The example of St. Anthony became well-known and quite a few others came to join in his way of life as well.

What St. Anthony taught us all is that, contrary to how our many predecessors have behaved, in turning their backs against God and betraying Him for the comfort of this world, succumbing to the temptations of pride, power, desire, wealth and glory, we can indeed be faithful to God and stay on the path that He has shown us. We do not need to follow exactly what St. Anthony had done in abandoning everything and becoming an ascetic. Instead, what we are called to do is for us to trust in God more and to truly honour Him as how we should honour our Lord and King.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to serve the Lord from now on to the best of our abilities, by placing Him once again at the very centre of our lives and existence, as the King of our hearts, our minds and indeed, our entire beings. Let us no longer be deceived by the devil and be distracted by the many temptations with which he tried to persuade us to abandon God and trap us into our downfall.

May the Lord our loving God, our mighty King, through the intercession of St. Anthony the Abbot continue to bless us and guide us all in our respective journeys of faith. May He be with us always now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 17 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 2 : 1-12

At that time, after some days, Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that He was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the word to them, some people brought to Him a paralysed man.

The four men who carried him could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now, some teachers of the Law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can He speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?” At once, Jesus knew in His Spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And He said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”

Friday, 17 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 16-17, 18-19

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day, Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

You give us glory and power; and Your favour gives us victory. Our king is in the hands of YHVH; the God of Israel is our shield.

Friday, 17 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 8 : 4-7, 10-22a

Because of this, all the chiefs of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel in Ramah. They said to him, “You are already old and your sons are not following your ways. Give us a king to rule over us as in all the other nations.”

Samuel was very displeased with what they said, “Give us a king to rule us,” and he prayed to YHVH. And YHVH told him, “Give to this people all that they ask for.” So Samuel answered those who were asking him for a king. He told them all that YHVH said to him, “Look, these will be the demands of your king : he will take your sons and assign them to his chariot and his horses and have them run before his chariot.”

“Some he will assign as commanders over a thousand men and commanders over fifty. Others will till his ground and reap his harvest, make his implements of war and the equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters as well to prepare perfumes, to cook and to bake for him. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive orchards and give them to his officials.”

“He will take a tenth portion of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, the best of your cattle and your asses for his own work. He will take the tenth of your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. When these things happen, you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen for yourselves. But by then, YHVH will not answer you.”

The people paid no attention to all that Samuel said. They insisted, “No! We want a king to govern us as in all the other nations. Our king shall govern us, lead us and go ahead of us in our battles.” Upon hearing all that his people said, Samuel repeated it to YHVH. But YHVH said to him, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Saturday, 17 January 2015 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the theme of today’s readings are similar and indeed is a continuation of yesterday’s readings. If yesterday we heard about the healing of the paralytic man by Jesus, showing God’s love and mercy for sinners, that is all of us mankind, then today we heard about the calling of Levi, the tax collector who followed Jesus and would later be known as Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists or the Writers of the Four Holy Gospels.

In this we can see that no one is beyond redemption and no one is unworthy of salvation. Salvation is offered freely by the Lord to all of us, and it is ultimately in our hands and in our decision to accept or to reject the salvation offered to us. If we accept His salvation and forgiveness for our sinfulness, then we have the potential, capacity and opportunity to become great servants of God, exalted and praised. On the other hand, if we choose to reject Him, then our share is suffering and pain everlasting.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have to reflect on our own lives, and how we have responded to the call of Christ. Yes, our Lord has called us many times and He constantly wants to remind us to distance ourselves from corruption of this world and all forms of sins, so that we will not be tainted by its corrupting nature. Mankind are all by nature prone and vulnerable to the temptation and to the pull of sin. If we do nothing, then it is likely for us to stumble and fall into the deep pit of sin.

Sin, as I have often mentioned, is the sickness and disease of the soul. Sin makes us all sick and defiled, and if we continue to live with sin, then gradually we will be drifting further and further away from God and we will eventually be lost. Sin however does not have the final say on us, as Christ would prove, by His actions and deeds, through which He sanctified the race of mankind, bringing to them a new hope of liberation from sins.

Jesus came to offer us sinners new hope, by calling us to repent and to abandon our ways of life filled with sins. He came to call sinners back to His love and to convert a people who are wicked and turn them into the creatures of love, of gentleness and care, and of harmony and peace. Thus that was why He called Levi the tax collector, to follow Him and became one of His disciples, counted among the Twelve Apostles.

We may ask, why Jesus would bother to look for sinners and the lost sheep, wicked and sinful men. Why would He bother to go all the way into the depth of the filth and quagmire that is this world, the sole purpose of which is to rescue those who have been trapped in the quagmire and bring them to safety. In fact, do you know that Jesus our Lord let Himself be trapped in that quagmire, so that all of us trapped in it can use His Body to go to our safety?

And thus it is in the same way that our Lord Jesus Christ had gone to find the lowest and the poorest of all, the greatest sinners of all, that by bearing the full brunt of all their sins, He brought about the salvation of all who repented their sins and believed in Him. Those who repented and followed the Lord just as Levi had done, shall receive the forgiveness of their sins, and the eternal grace and blessing of God.

Therefore, today we are called by God to follow the example of Levi, that is to leave behind our lives of sin and embrace the love and mercy of God, following our Lord Jesus and accepting His salvation with our whole heart. That us what we ought to do if we are to attain a new life in Him, life that is free from sin, and in which we are no longer bound to death, which is the consequence of sin.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Anthony the Great, also known as St. Anthony of Egypt, one of the first monks of the Faith, namely those who chose to retreat from the worldly materials and possessions, retreating into secluded places and following a life filled with prayer and total devotion to the Lord. St. Anthony of Egypt followed this lifestyle after he reflected on the meaning of the words of Jesus, particularly, ‘Follow Me!’

Thus in order to seek the kingdom of heaven and the grace of God, St. Anthony practiced his faith by retreating from the world and all of its temptations, shunning all forms of sins and worldliness. But he did not have it easy. Temptations and the demons are always tempting him and attacking him, trying to make him fail in his devotion and holy way of life in following God. Nevertheless, St. Anthony persevered and through his intense devotion, many examples and works were made which inspired countless peoples and souls to also follow God with all of their heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not have to go to the extent of what St. Anthony had done, but at least we have to follow in his footsteps, just as Levi had done before Him, abandoning the life of sin which we have, and exchange it for the life in Christ. We have to live out our faith from now on, that is we have to truly mean what we believe in and not just to let it be empty words or profession of faith without meaning.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on let us commit ourselves anew to the Lord, so that in all things we say and do, we will glorify God and give witness to Him, that others who see us may also believe in Him and be saved as well. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

 

First Reading : 

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/01/16/saturday-17-january-2015-1st-week-of-ordinary-time-memorial-of-st-anthony-abbot-first-reading/

 

Psalm : 

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/01/16/saturday-17-january-2015-1st-week-of-ordinary-time-memorial-of-st-anthony-abbot-psalm/

 

Gospel Reading : 

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/01/16/saturday-17-january-2015-1st-week-of-ordinary-time-memorial-of-st-anthony-abbot-gospel-reading/

Saturday, 17 January 2015 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 2 : 13-17

At that time, when Jesus went out again beside the lake, a crowd came to Him, and He taught them. As He walked along, He saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow Me!” And Levi got up and followed Him.

And it so happened that when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and His disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the Law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does your Master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Homily and Reflection : 

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/01/17/saturday-17-january-2015-1st-week-of-ordinary-time-memorial-of-st-anthony-abbot-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Saturday, 17 January 2015 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

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

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

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

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

 

Homily and Reflection : 

https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/01/17/saturday-17-january-2015-1st-week-of-ordinary-time-memorial-of-st-anthony-abbot-homily-and-scripture-reflections/