Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 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 listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord in the desert from the Book of Exodus, and then from the Gospel passage we heard from the Lord Himself speaking to His disciples on the parable of the sower.

In the first reading today, we listened to the anger and rebelliousness of the people of Israel who did not show gratitude to the Lord for having freed them from the slavery in the land of Egypt. They grumbled and complained against the Lord and Moses, His servant and their leader who had led them out of the land of Egypt, saying that they would rather be enslaved in Egypt and enjoy the bountiful food and drinks there rather than to suffer in freedom in the desert.

And yet, the Lord continued to provide for them patiently, promising them food and drink, providing them with nothing less than bread from heaven, and also flocks of birds to give them meat to eat daily, as well as crystal-clear, clean and sweet water to drink. And all of these God gave to His people Israel, for the entirety of the forty years during which all of them journeyed through the desert, where there was no life, nothing to eat and nothing to quench a person’s thirst with.

Sadly, that would not be the last time that the people disobeyed God and refused to listen to Him and to Moses. They would constantly grumble, rebel, disobey and work against the Lord, as the people continued to complain that life had been better in Egypt, or that the food and drink that the Lord provided to them were not as good as what they had expected or what they thought they had experienced in their former life in Egypt.

And let us all keep all of those in mind as we move on into our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord mentioned the famous parable of the sower to His disciples and to the people. In that parable, we heard of how the sower spread the seeds to several different places, and depending on where the seeds landed, they ended up and grew differently based on the conditions of the locations where they landed at.

Those seeds that fell on the rocky ground, or by the roadside, or those that fell among the thistles and brambles were those seeds that fell on unfavourable grounds that did not allow those seeds to grow properly, and therefore preventing the seeds from growing into a well developed plant that can bear rich and bountiful produce or fruits, unlike those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil.

And this is what had exactly happened to the Israelites as mentioned in our first reading today, as those people have received the ‘seeds’ of faith from God, having received the truth of God and His laws through Moses, and yet, they did not let the seeds of faith to grow deep in their hearts and minds. They were bogged down and distracted by the concerns of the world and by their desires for worldly pleasures.

That prevented them from being truly faithful to the Lord, and that was why they constantly rebelled against God, again and again. They did not provide the good and fertile soil for the seeds of faith to grow well in them, and as a result, they did not have a genuine faith for God. That was why they continued to slip and fall into sin, again and again. They did not allow God to enter into their hearts.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to be like them as well? God has also given us the same seeds of faith, and unless we do differently from what the Israelites had done, we will end up falling into the same trap of faithlessness and disobedience against God. And therefore, today, we should look up to the examples shown to us by one of our holy saints, whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of St. Sharbel Makhluf.

St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite monk and priest, whose piety and commitment to the Lord was truly exemplary and legendary, as many people came to regard him as a paragon of virtue and faith, in how he dedicated himself completely to the Lord in prayer and through a holy life. He allowed the Lord to make use of his life as a wonderful display of what being true Christian means for all of us.

Many miracles and wonders happened after he passed away, and his body was found to be incorruptible and in excellent condition even decades after be passed away. This is the truly good example of how the Lord’s sown seeds of faith have grown wonderfully and bountifully in a fertile and rich soil, that is the rich and fertile soil of our hearts and minds that are fully attuned towards the Lord and are centred on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore devote ourselves to serve the Lord from now on with all of our hearts, with all of our strength and courage, and with all of our abilities, and not allowing ourselves to be distracted and tempted by sin and the desires and greed within our hearts. May the Lord be our guide and may He empower us all to live faithfully from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 77 : 18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

The people of God tested Him, demanding the food they craved. They blasphemed against God, saying : “Can God spread a table in the desert?”

Yet, He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; He rained down manna upon them, and fed them with the heavenly grain.

They ate and had more than their fill of the bread of Angels. Then, from heaven He stirred the east wind, and, by His power, let loose the south wind.

To rain down meat on them like dust. Birds as thick as the sand on the seashore fell inside their camp, lying all around their tents.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!”

YHVH then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.”

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints.” It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 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 as we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, we can hear how God is calling us all to follow Him, that is to abandon all of our past, sinful ways, and turn towards Him with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with all of our capabilities. He is calling us to have a total conversion of the heart, mind and of our whole being, to become His people, His beloved children.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Micah, it was an exhortation by the prophet, which is both in form, a prayer and a reminder for the people of the great love which God has shown His people, Israel, ever since the time He chose them to be His people, all the time He has blessed them and guided them, giving a bountiful land to be their inheritance. The prophet Micah was calling the people to repent from their sins and turn towards God once again.

God is always ever merciful and loving towards His people, despite His anger at the sins and disobedience which they have constantly shown to Him. But of course, His mercy and love requires us to be receptive and to actively accept His generous offer of mercy for it to take effect in our lives. We cannot assume that we will be forgiven if we refuse to obey the Lord, and continue to live our lives in our usual, sinful ways.

Instead, He wants us to have a conversion as mentioned, from those who walked in sin and disobeyed Him, to be those who listen to His will, and do what is right and just in our lives, as He mentioned in the Gospel passage today to the people, telling them that all those who have done God’s will, is the mother, brothers and sisters of the Lord. It means that all those who obey God, belongs to God.

And those who belong to God, will not be lost from God, for the Lord will gather all of His sheep, His beloved ones, as a loving and good Shepherd. God will not abandon all those who have been faithful to Him, and indeed, even to those who have not been obedient, He is always ever obedient to the Covenant and the promise which He has made to all of us mankind.

That is why, He chose willingly to accept suffering and death on the cross, for our sake. No one in the right mind and in the right worldly logic will consider suffering, less still to die for someone else, if he or she does not love that person so much, that he or she is willing to do such an act of selfless love and compassion. And as St. Paul said, Christ is even better, for He chose willingly to die for us all, sinners and disobedient people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on our lives, on whether we have been good disciples of the Lord all these while. Have we obeyed the Lord with our actions and deeds in life, or have we instead been listening to all the falsehoods, lies and the temptations of the evil one? Have we been true disciples of Our Lord, in all of our words and actions?

Let us today examine the life of a holy and devout servant of God, whose examples we can perhaps incorporate into our own lives. St. Sharbel Makhluf or St. Charbel was a famous saint originating from what is today Lebanon, a member of the Maronite church, who was a faithful and devout monk and priest. He devoted his whole life to God, and was exemplary in his prayer life and dedication to serve God.

St. Sharbel Makhluf has done what he could have done, to love the Lord Who has loved him first. And in his pious devotion to Him, he showed us all, how we mankind should turn away from all of the distractions of the world, and focus our attention towards God instead. It does not mean that we have to join religious life and monkhood as St. Charbel had done, but truly, we must have a change in our life for the better.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, Our God? Are we able to turn away from all the wicked things which we have done in our lives, and have a new life that is centred on God? These are the questions we have to keep asking in our minds and in our hearts, as we continue on living our daily lives in this world.

Let us all renew our commitment to be faithful and good children of God, as those who do the work that God wants us to do, and listen to Him speaking in our hearts and minds, by having a good spiritual relationship with Him through prayer. May God be with us all, and may He continue to bless all the works He has done through us. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 84 : 2-4, 5-6, 7-8

You have favoured Your land, o YHVH; You have brought back the exiles of Jacob. You have forgiven the sin of Your people; You have pardoned their offences. You have withdrawn Your wrath and turned from Your burning rage.

But restore us, God our Saviour; put away, altogether, Your indignation. Will Your anger be ever with us, carried over to all generations?

Will You not give us life anew, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us, o YHVH, Your unfailing love, and grant us Your saving help.