Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 24 : 3-8

Moses came and told the people all the words of YHVH and all His laws. The people replied with one voice : “Everything that YHVH has said, we shall do.”

Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to YHVH.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that YHVH said we shall do and obey.”

Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that YHVH has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Monday, 24 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the account of the liberation of Israel from the Book of Exodus, at the time when God brought His people to the Red Sea, pursued by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, intent on reclaiming the Israelites who had once been their slaves. But God certainly did not want to see His people to be enslaved once again by the Pharaoh, and therefore, He showed forth His might, opening up the Red Sea before His people and destroyed the chariots and armies of Egypt in the middle of the sea.

That was the sign which God had shown His people, who trembled and complained at the seashore as they saw the chariots and armies of the Egyptians coming upon them. They still did not have faith in God, even though they had seen many times, how God sent ten great plagues against the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, while the people of Israel were safe from all those plagues and troubles.

God had showed His signs and wonders many, many times, and yet they still refused to completely place their trust in Him. They still trusted in their own human intellect, wisdom and power instead of trusting in the power of God's love and providence. The very same attitude was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as we heard it ourselves in the Gospel passage today.

They demanded signs from Jesus, to show them and to make them believe that He was indeed the One, the Messiah promised by God. But those same people had been observing what Jesus had done, and they had even followed Him and encountered Him in many places, witnessing what He had done among the people, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, and casting out demons from those who were possessed.

And despite having seen and witnessed all of these occurrences, which mankind, all their intellect and knowledge were incapable of explaining the rationale for those miracles performed by the Lord, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe in Jesus, continuing to doubt Him and in harassing Him and His disciples, asking for more signs and miracles. In fact, they even accused the Lord of having cast out the demons and performing those miracles by the power of the princes of demons.

In all these, we can see how if mankind hardened his heart against God, no matter what they have witnessed and seen before them, all those miraculous experiences and wonders will not sway them to believe or stir them to have faith in God. The Pharaoh himself had seen how mighty God's power was and how great the terrors and sufferings which had been imposed on him and the Egyptian people, and yet, because he hardened his heart before God, he ultimately refused to back down and chased the Israelites right to the Red Sea.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were blinded by their pride, their trust in themselves and in their ways, believing that only their ways and methods were correct. That was why they were not able to bring themselves to believe in what Jesus had taught and preached. Despite all that they have seen, they still thought that it was impossible for them to be mistaken in their ways.

Now, brethren, let us now look into ourselves and find out how our lives have been thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God and place our trust in Him? Or have we been stubborn in our lives, refusing to listen to God? He has showed us all His love and kindness, through all of His works, and culminating in nothing less than His own crucifixion, the time when He died on the cross. That is the sign which He mentioned to the Pharisees, the sign of Jonah, and as He gave to us the ultimate gift of His love, He is calling us into a new life, blessed with faith.

Through His death on the cross, He became and example to all of us, showing us just how much God had done for our sake, for our liberation from our sins and wickedness. Instead of being stubborn and refusing to appreciate God's love, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, we should embrace God's love, and allow Him to come into our hearts, in order to transform us completely, from beings of hatred and darkness, into beings of light and love.

Let us be humble before God and seek to serve Him through all the things we say, act and do. This is what all of us as Christians must do in our respective lives. And therefore, it is perhaps good that we should heed also the examples of St. Charbel Makhlouf or St. Sharbel Makhluf, a holy saint and servant of God whose feast day we celebrate on this very day.

St. Sharbel Makhluf was a Maronite Christian, who lived in a place now known as Syria in the present day. St. Sharbel Makhluf was inspired by the examples of some among his family who devoted themselves to the Lord as priests and religious, and he followed suit in his own devotion to the Lord. He entered the monastery and led a truly righteous and devout life.

He was renowned for his holiness and dedication to the Lord. He inspired many other people to follow in his footsteps and to persevere in their faith, even in the face of persecution and temptation to abandon their faith in God. And therefore, God made him an example to many people, not just during his lifetime, but even also after his death. Many miraculous deeds and amazing, unexplainable things happened at his tomb, and many miracles were attributed to St. Sharbel Makhluf, a holy servant of God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on have no more reservations or doubts in our hearts, but give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, as St. Sharbel Makhluf had done. Just like him, if we give ourselves completely and trust the Lord fully with sincere devotion, then the Light of God Himself will shine through us, and we will rejoice because we have found our true joy, none other than God, Who provides us with everything we need.

May the Lord empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His will. And may He help us to remain humble and to remain open to His love, and not to be filled with greed and pride, that we will not end up being stubborn and resisting God's love because of all the ego and the temptations which the devil is actively trying to place in our path towards the Lord. May God be with us all, and may St. Sharbel Makhluf intercede for our sake before Him. Amen.

Monday, 24 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 38-42

At that time, some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." Jesus answered them, "An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

"At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon."

Monday, 24 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 15 : 1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6

I will sing to YHVH, the Glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea. YHVH is my strength and my song, and He is my salvation.

He is my God and I will praise Him; the God of my father : I will extol Him. YHVH is a Warrior; YHVH is His Name. The chariots of Pharaoh and his army He has hurled into the sea; his chosen officers were drowned in the Red Sea.

The deep covers them; they went down like a stone. Your hand, o YHVH, glorious and powerful, Your right hand, o YHVH, shatters the enemy.

Monday, 24 July 2017 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 14 : 5-18

The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled; then Pharaoh and his ministers changed their minds with regard to the people. "What have we done," they said, "in allowing Israel to go and be free of our service?" Pharaoh prepared his chariot and took his army with him. There were six hundred of his best chariots; indeed he took all the Egyptian chariots, each one with his warriors.

YHVH had hardened the mind of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who set out in pursuit of the Israelites as they marched forth triumphantly. The Egyptians – all the chariots and horses of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army – gave chase and caught up with them when they had encamped by the sea near Pihahiroth, facing Baalzephon.

The Israelites saw the Egyptians marching after them : Pharaoh was drawing near. They were terrified and cried out to YHVH. Then they said to Moses, "Were there no tombs in Egypt? Why have you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done by bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not what we said when we were in Egypt : Let us work for the Egyptians. Far better serve Egypt than to die in the desert!"

Moses said to the people, "Have no fear! Stay where you are and see the work YHVH will do to save you today. The Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again! YHVH will fight for you and all you have to do is to keep still."

YHVH said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!"