Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we are all reminded both of the dangers and the threats of sin and evil present all around us, and at the same time we are also reassured through what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, of the guidance, help and providence which God has given us, just as the examples highlighted of the past, our predecessors should inspire and strengthen our faith and resolve to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and faithfully, entrusting ourselves completely and wholeheartedly to the cause of the Lord, and to be ever righteous, good and worthy of Him in all of our lives.

In our first reading today, we heard of the well-known story of the time when God sent a Great Flood to wipe out almost the entire race of mankind and other living things, due to the great wickedness of many of them who refused to believe in Him, and their continued disobedience and rebellion against the Lord and His Law. All of these great wickedness had come into the world due to the disobedience of man against God’s will and commandments, and then as we have just heard earlier in yesterday’s readings, on the murder of Abel by Cain, his own brother, the temptations of pride, ego, worldly sins and wickedness, all of these had led mankind further and further down the path towards evil and damnation.

As we heard in that passage from the Book of Genesis today, God was determined to save the only ones among the people who were still righteous and obedient to the will of the Lord, namely Noah and his family. That was how Noah was instructed by God to construct the immense Ark by which he would save not only his own family but also the living things all over the world, which God had chosen to spare amidst the destruction that He would bring to cleanse the world from all the wickedness, sins and evils. God showed how He treasured those whom He loves and cares for, those who are faithful to Him, while those who refused to obey Him and continued to live in sin, will suffer the just consequences for their wickedness.

We heard how the Ark saved Noah and his family amidst all the destruction of the Great Flood. The other people laughed at Noah when he built the Ark and refused to listen to his warnings and heedings, and hence, no one else save from Noah and his family were saved from the Flood. The whole world was covered with the wrath of God’s Flood, and was cleansed from all the wickedness that had afflicted it throughout. Noah was saved in the Ark, and when the Flood receded, we heard how God promised Noah and his descendants, that is all of us, that He would never again destroy the world and us with the water, with the rainbow as the sign of this promise. That is the story how rainbow appears after the rain, as reminders to both God and us of what had happened once.

This does not mean however that sin has no more consequences afterwards. Sin is still afflicting us, and through disobedience and sin, many more people since the days of Noah would fall into sin, right up to the present day. The Lord however did not give up on us and continued to love us and care for us, as He sent us His promised salvation in Jesus Christ, His own beloved and begotten Son, Who gave Himself to us, walking in our midst and reaching out to us, encouraging and strengthening us with the concrete show of God’s love and compassionate mercy. Through Him, we have seen yet again the proof of God’s ever enduring and persistent love for all of us. He has shown us His love as mentioned the Gospel passage today, by His feeding of the multitudes and many thousands of people.

At the same time, He also warned His disciples of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ and the ‘yeast of Herod’, which were actually reminders to them and also all of us to be ever vigilant against the temptations and allures of sin which are always present all around us. If we are not careful, we may end up falling into the same pride, ego and ambitions which became the downfall of many of the Pharisees, who refused to believe in the Lord because they hardened their hearts and minds, and remained in their stubborn refusal to believe. Meanwhile, the ‘yeast of Herod’ is a reminder for all of us not to allow the vices of worldly pleasures, the corruption of the sins of the flesh to mislead and corrupt us down the wrong path in life. We have to resist those temptations to sin and remain virtuous, good and worthy of God all the time, remembering all the good things and the love that God has lavished on us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence today let us all discern our path in life very carefully, minding the examples shown to us from the time of Noah and the Great Flood, to the sins of the Pharisees and Herod which the Lord warned His disciples against, and all the loving actions that God had done for us. Let us all also heed upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, namely the great saints and brothers, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the Patron Saints of Europe and great missionaries of the Christian faith, renowned for their great commitment to the spreading and proclamation of the Good News of God amidst the Slavic peoples, who were still mostly pagan back then, and by whose works, many of them eventually turned to the Christian faith and embracing the Lord as their Saviour and God.

They spent a lot of time and effort to evangelise in various places, and at the same time also developing the alphabets for the Slavic peoples that will eventually be known as the Glagolitic and the Cyrillic alphabets, and they also spent a lot of energy in reaching out to many people, both the rulers and the commoners alike, in introducing God and His truth to all of them. God has truly done His many great and wonderful works amongst His people through St. Cyril and St. Methodius. He has led them all to do His great deeds, and He has strengthened us all through their great inspiration and actions as our great role models. Can we all follow the Lord faithfully in the same way that St. Cyril and St. Methodius had done, brothers and sisters?

Let us all hence draw ever closer to the Lord, and let us continue to dedicate our time, our lives, actions and efforts to glorify the Lord by our lives, by our every words, actions and works in every time and in every opportunities provided to us. Let us all continue to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, distancing ourselves from sin and from the temptations to sin and to disobey the Lord, reminding ourselves and one another each time, to continue to walk the path of God’s righteousness and love, at all times. May God be with us always, and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The God of glory thunders, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.

Tuesday, 14 February 2023 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 6 : 5-8 and Genesis 7 : 1-5, 10

YHVH saw how great was the wickedness of man on the earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart. YHVH regretted having created man on the earth and His heart grieved. He said, “I will destroy man whom I created and blot him out from the face of the earth, as well as the beasts, creeping creatures and birds, for I am sorry I made them.” But Noah was pleasing to God.

YHVH said to Noah, “Go into the Ark, you and all your household, for I see that you are just in this generation. Of all the clean animals, you are to take with you seven of each kind, male and female, and a pair of unclean animals, a male and a female. In the same way for the birds of the air, take seven and seven, male and female, to keep their kind alive over all the earth, for in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. I will blot out from the face of the earth all the living creatures I have created.”

Noah did all as YHVH had commanded. And after seven days the waters of the flood were over the earth.

Monday, 14 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to keep our faith in the Lord and do not let ourselves be swayed by the temptations of worldliness and vices all around us that we end up falling into the path of doubt and sin just as many of our predecessors had suffered from. We have to learn from their lessons so that we will not end up suffering the same fate as well. Believing in God is something that we have to inculcate in our hearts and minds.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. James in which the Apostle St. James spoke of the expectations for all of us as Christians in what each and every one of us should do in our respective lives. As Christians we have to put our faith and trust in the Lord, and not be easily swayed or frightened by trials and challenges of the world, and we have to believe in His providence and wisdom. We have to put ourselves in His hands and not depend only on our own worldly means and power.

For those who have no faith in God, they will be more easily tempted and swayed to follow the whims of their desires and worldly expectations, and they would also easily falter into the path of sin as they would end up closing their hearts and minds to the Lord and His truth as what had exactly happened to many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those who worked hard to oppose the Lord and His many good works, all simply because they were too caught up in their jealousy and their fear of losing their worldly privileges and status.

That was why save for Nicodemus and some others among them like Joseph of Arimathea, many if not most of the Pharisees resisted the Lord for a long time, refusing to believe in His signs and miracles, in all of His wonderful works and the truth found in His Wisdom and words, although they were the ones supposedly most knowledgeable about the Scriptures and the Law, and knew the most about the prophets and their prophecies regarding the coming of the Lord, the Saviour of all, which had come to fruition and fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the One Whom they had seen with their own eyes.

And that was why they still doubted Him and asked Him for signs although obviously they had seen many of those signs. They were the ones who allowed their worldly desires and concerns, their desire to hold onto the power, privilege and status they had, to muddle their thoughts and faith, and ended up blinding them to the truth of God. They were the ones who were healthy in their physical vision and yet, blind in their spiritual vision as their own hearts and minds had been closed up tight against God, not allowing Him to enter even as He continued to knock on their doors.

That is why today, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are also reminded of this so that we may be more vigilant and careful in life, reminded that we should do our very best to follow the Lord and to be faithful to Him. We must restrain ourselves and our desires, and be vigilant against the temptations to sin against God. We should not let our worldly attachments to delude us and to distract us from the need for us to be faithful to the Lord. We are called to follow Him wholeheartedly and are reminded of this today through what we have heard from the Scriptures.

Today we can also look upon the great examples set by two of our holy and faithful predecessors, namely that of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the two great servants of God and missionaries of faith, who are also the Patron Saints and Protector of the heart of Christendom in Europe. They were remembered for their dedication and great works in bringing the Christian faith to the people in Central and Eastern parts of Europe, the areas inhabited by the Slavic peoples, which by the efforts of St. Cyril and St. Methodius became Christians, which remain so until the present day.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius dedicated themselves to the Lord and to the mission entrusted to them, and they both spent their lives to minister to the people among whom they had been sent to proclaim the truth of God, and they were also remembered for their role in translating the texts of the Sacred Scriptures into the local Slavic language and in the development of the Cyrillic alphabet which are still in use until this day. Their contributions and hard work were truly inspirational and all of us Christians can do well to follow in their footsteps and heed their examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to be idle any longer? Are we going to ignore our calling as Christians and turn a deaf ear to the Lord’s call and to the plight of our brothers and sisters who are in need of our attention and love? Are we going to continue to be idle in our lives and instead indulging in our own personal desires and ambitions? Let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed faith and conviction, and let us do our best to glorify the Lord by our lives and follow in the footsteps of His faithful servants, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, to walk ever more courageously in proclaiming the love of God and His truth in our community today. May God be with us always and may He bless us at all times. Amen.

Monday, 14 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again and went to the other side of the lake.

Monday, 14 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 76

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

It is good for me to have been afflicted, for I have deeply learnt Your statutes.

Your Law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

I know, o YHVH, that Your laws are just; and there is justice in my affliction.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Monday, 14 February 2022 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

James 1 : 1-11

James, a servant of God, and of Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Consider yourselves fortunate, my brothers and sisters, when you meet with every kind of trial, for you know, that the testing of your faith makes you steadfast. Let your steadfastness become perfect, with deeds, that you, yourselves, may be perfect and blameless, without any defect.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, Who gives to all easily and unconditionally. But ask with faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed on the sea by the wind. Such a person should not expect anything from the Lord, since the doubter has two minds and his conduct will always be insecure.

Let the believer who is poor, boast, in being uplifted, and let the rich one boast, in being humbled, because he will pass away like the flower of the field. The sun rises and its heat dries the grass; the flower withers and its beauty vanishes. So, too, will the rich person fade away, even in the midst of his pursuits.

Friday, 14 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the continuation of the story from the Book of Kings on the kingdom of Israel after the time of king Solomon. At that time, after king Solomon has passed away, the kingdom passed to his heir Rehoboam, who followed in the sins of his father’s last years of reign and disregarded God’s will and wisdom, reigning tyrannically and ended up causing the division of Israel as God had foretold His people.

Jeroboam was given the command and kingship over the northern portion of the kingdom of Israel, consisting of the ten tribes of the Israelites who went up in rebellion against king Rehoboam and the house of David. This division happened because of the disobedience that Solomon and then his son Rehoboam had shown before God. And unfortunately, Jeroboam himself also fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord, and as a result, his family’s rule too eventually did not last, and other kings took over the throne of the northern kingdom.

All of these accounts of the downfall of the glorious days of the ancient united kingdom of Israel highlighted to us how in God we can have reassurance and true happiness, while away from Him there can only be division, misery and darkness. Many of the kings of Israel and Judah were unfaithful to God and led the people further and further into sin, embroiling them into bitter conflicts and wars that eventually led to the downfall and conquest of both kingdoms by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively.

Then we have our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute, by touching His ears and tongue, saying the word, ‘Ephphata!’ that means ‘Be opened!’ which caused the man to be immediately healed from his afflictions and was able to speak and hear again. Through the Lord’s hands and power, the man was cured and made whole again, and everyone who saw the miracle believed in Jesus.

And this is the fulfilment of the prophecy which the Lord gave to His people through His prophets, that His salvation would come to them through His Messiah, the Saviour Whom He promised to them all. And Our Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Saviour, Who came bearing God’s truth and His salvation, touching those who were sick and troubled, and calling many to repent from their sins and to turn towards righteousness in God.

The essence of our Scripture passages today is therefore a reminder that while we may have fallen into sin and become afflicted, struck with divisions and troubles because of those sins and disobedience, but God is the One Who is able and indeed the only One Who can truly heal us from our afflictions and deliver us from our troubles and issues. And what we must all realise is just how much God loves each and every one of us, and how He wants us to be reconciled to Him.

And that is why He gave us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Redeemer, to loosen the tongues of those who are mute, open the ears of the deaf, make the blind see, allow those who are paralysed to move and work again, and even raise the dead back into life. Through Him, we mankind are restored and made whole, to be reconciled with God the Father, through His singular act of supreme and ultimate love, that is His sacrifice on the Cross.

But do we appreciate what God has done for us? More often than not we ignore His love and generous offer for forgiveness and mercy. We turn a blind eye and brush aside His compassionate care for us. We prefer to carry on living in sin, and allow ourselves to be tempted again and again by the devil rather than to walk in His path, just as how the people of Israel and Judah once lived, rebelling constantly against God, eventually leading to their own downfall and exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we need to embrace a new way of life, that is the way of Christ. Let us all now take a look at the lives and inspiring examples of two saints who have been made the Patron Saints of Europe for their wonderful many contributions to evangelisation and the conversion of many souls. They are St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who were two brothers highly credited with bringing the Christian faith to the Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe and for codifying the Cyrilic alphabets, named after St. Cyril himself, now widely used in that region.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius were born in Greece and later on were sent on missions to different areas and territories across Eastern Europe and Western Asia, spreading the Christian faith and conducting diplomacy with the foreign powers in the regions they visited. They were then sent to the Slavic areas upon invitation from one of the kings who requested missionaries to evangelise the people who were mostly still pagan then.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius dedicated themselves to the mission they have been entrusted with, and did even more than what they have been called to do, in helping not just the conversion of the people but even as mentioned, the ordering of the Slavic alphabets and language, as well as codification of laws and customs modelled on the laws of the Roman Empire and the laws of the Church at that time. They truly showed what it means for us to be Christians, in serving God with all of their heart and might.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Cyril and St. Methodius? Are we willing to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote our lives from now on with greater love and fidelity to God? Let us all seek to be ever more faithful, each and every days of our lives, making good use of all the opportunities that God has given us in this world. May God be with us always and may He bless us with faith and strength to live our lives according to His will, and heal us from our afflictions. Amen.

Friday, 14 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 7 : 31-37

At that time, again Jesus set out : from the country of Tyre He passed through Sidon and, skirting the sea of Galilee, He came to the territory of Decapolis. There, a deaf man, who also had difficulty in speaking, was brought to Him. They asked Jesus to lay His hand upon him.

Jesus took him apart from the crowd, and put His fingers into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, He said with a deep sigh, “Ephphata!” that is, “Be opened!”

And immediately, his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it; but the more He insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said, “He has done all things well; He makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”