Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the great story of the moment when David, chosen to be the king of Israel by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, refused to take the excellent chance and opportunity to strike at Saul, his predecessor who have fallen from grace and yet, as David rightfully mentioned, Saul was still the anointed king of Israel.

Although all the men who were accompanying David persuaded, begged and kept asking David to strike at Saul when he was at his most vulnerable in that cave when Saul came into the cave and rested, not knowing that David and his men were also inside, but David firmly refused to do so. Although those who accompanied David even persuaded him by saying that God had brought Saul into his hands and gave him the opportunity to kill Saul there and then, but David still firmly refused to lay a finger on Saul.

Saul had indeed been affected and tempted by the evil spirits and the devil himself as he felt insecure, angry and jealous at David, plotting to have him killed and destroyed to avoid this upstart to threaten his own authority and kingship. But David would not allow himself to be affected in the same manner, the same trick by which the devil definitely tried to bring down David as well.

David did not allow his pride and his desire to overcome his faith in God, his righteousness and commitment to do what God has shown him to do. He remained steadfast although it must have indeed been hard to resist such a powerful temptation right there and then with so many pressing and persuading him to kill Saul and be freed from everything that he has been suffering from that time.

Yes, we must not forget that it was because of Saul that David had to become a fugitive, running from place to place and living in the wilderness, even having to resort to flee to the territory of the Philistines with some of his followers just that he might escape from Saul and his wrath against him. He was also a rightfully anointed king as Saul was, and had he killed Saul then, he would have no issue in getting the legitimate claim over the kingship of Israel. But then, if he had done so, he would have sinned and stained his life with Saul’s blood.

David gave us a very good example of what we should do as a follower of Christ. As a follower of the Lord, we have been called as Christ called and chosen His Apostles in our Gospel passage today. And we should put God above all else, obeying Him and listening to Him, doing His good works and whatever it is that He has entrusted to us to do. David has done this well, resisting the temptations to fulfil his desires and satisfy his own personal vendetta and agenda.

It is something that we will likely encounter in our lives as well, the moments when we will be tempted to follow our own desires rather than to obey the Lord. Are we able to resist those temptations and do what king David had once done? Let us also not forget how the Apostles of the Lord were surely faced the same temptations, that eventually they fell too into those temptations, one of them betraying the Lord for money, that is Judas Iscariot, while others abandoned Him in the hour of His greatest agony and misery.

Yet, in the end, except for Judas Iscariot, all the rest remained true to their faith and almost all of them gave their lives to the Lord in martyrdom during their many years of ministry in establishing the Church of God. They put God and His greater glory ahead of their own desires and pride, as King David did. And today, we have yet another one of our holy predecessors whose memory we venerate, that is St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and a Doctor of the Church.

St. Francis de Sales was renowned for his role as the Bishop of Geneva in what is now present day Switzerland, at the height of the Protestant reformation, when many of the people left the Church for various heretical and dissident leaders who persuaded them to follow their ideas instead of the truth in the Church. St. Francis de Sales was a great preacher and teacher, and he ministered in that area with great patience and love, facing lots of trials and difficulties as most of the people were not initially interested in what he came to offer.

From the earlier days of his ministry prior to his time in Geneva, St. Francis de Sales had seen how the deteriorating morale and faith among the rulers and the people contributed to the decline in the quality of faith and life, and subsequently leading to further divisions and misunderstandings within the Church. And this is why St. Francis de Sales worked so hard in trying to evangelise with love and compassion as he carried on his missions, first as priest and then as the Bishop of Geneva.

St. Francis de Sales faced much opposition, persecution, challenges and threats during the duration of his ministry, but all these did not dim his passion in reaching out to God’s people including all those who were opposing and rejected him. He preaches with love and care for all those whom he reached out to, as was his motto, ‘those who preach with love, preach effectively’. His care, understanding and mild-mannered behaviour were remembered by many who were touched by his dedication and passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Francis de Sales and his life example has shown us, it is indeed not going to be easy to be a faithful disciple and follower of Christ. But we must persevere and put our trust in God for He will definitely not abandon us and will always be with us no matter what. Let us follow then the good examples of king David and St. Francis de Sales, in serving the Lord with all of their hearts and strength and not allowing their pride and desire to interfere as they lived their lives with faith.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through our respective journeys of faith and life, and may through the intercessions of His servants, king David and St. Francis de Sales, all of us may be inspired to live ever more faithfully and be more dedicated in serving Him and in resisting the many temptations present in this world. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Have mercy on me, o God, have mercy; for my soul takes refuge in You; I will find shelter in the shadow of Your wings, till the disaster has passed.

I call on God the Most High; on God, Who has done everything for me : may He send from heaven, a Saviour, and put my oppressors to shame. May God send me His love and faithfulness.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth! For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the works that the Lord had performed among the people, fulfilling what the Lord Himself has promised to His people, that He would send upon them His salvation and deliverance, His light amidst the darkness of this world, which He fulfilled through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of all mankind.

He came into this world, fulfilling the promises that God had made all of throughout history, bringing the salvation and light of hope into our midst, and what we heard in the Gospel passage today is the fulfilment of what He had promised through His prophet Isaiah, as well as many other prophets, the promise of the healing from God, where the blind would see again, the deaf would hear again, the mute would speak again, the paralytic would walk and move again, and more.

And even the evil spirits and demons recognised Who He is, the One God had sent into this world to be its Saviour. All the works that the Lord had done, all of them were possible because God Himself was behind those actions, revealing to the whole world the coming of the salvation which He has promised, and fulfilling those words He had spoken to His people earlier, the Covenant He has made and renewed with His chosen people.

And the means by which He did this, once and for all, was revealed in today’s first reading, in the passage taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Hebrews. In that passage, St. Paul explained how the Lord Jesus has embraced the role of our one and true High Priest, linking to the Jewish tradition and the Torah, where the role of the priests of God were highlighted and kept to the time of Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the one and ony perfect Priest far surpassing any others.

That is because, as St. Paul explained, the priests of the time of old Israel up to the time of Jesus’ life offered the sacrificial offerings at the Temple, of the blood of animals, of lambs and goats, and others, for the temporary atonement of the sins of the people. But because the people continued to sin, again and again, disobeying God’s laws and commandments, many times, then the offerings and sacrifices need to be done frequently.

But the Lord Jesus is special unlike all the other priests, because He did not offer the offering of the blood of animals, which although have been chosen from among those that were unblemished, but those were nothing compared to the truly perfect and worthy offering of the Blood of the Lamb of God, Our Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord as our High Priest has offered Himself willingly on the altar of the cross, bearing upon Himself our many sins and wickedness, so that we may be forgiven from those sins and gain eternal life with Him.

And He is willing to go through all the pain and sufferings for this because of the great and boundless love that He has for each and every one of us. He Who created us out of love will not abandon us to destruction, but will do whatever He can do in order to save us and prevent our annihilation. That was why, He did what He had done, bearing the painful cross of suffering for the sake of our salvation.

We have seen how great the love of God is, and therefore now, it is only then right that we, as His beloved ones, should also love Him in the same manner as He has loved us. And today we should emulate the examples shown by one of the Lord’s faithful followers, St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Salesian religious order, whose life is truly an inspiration for each one of us on how we should live up to our faith.

St. Francis de Sales devoted much of his life to the service of God, educating the faithful through his sermons and writings, and by leading a virtuous and prayerful life, through which he convinced many to return to the true Christian faith at the time when many abandoned the Church due to the so-called ‘reformation’. He also helped to reorganise the Church clergy and structure of the local Church where he has been appointed as bishop.

St. Francis de Sales devoted his time and effort, out of the great love that he has for God and for His people, those who has been entrusted to him as their shepherd. Not only that he showed his great faith to the Lord, but even more importantly, he followed the example of Christ, in the role of priesthood that he has embraced, as the representative of the Lord among His people.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then also able to love and serve the Lord as St. Francis de Sales and the many other holy men and women of God had done? Let us all do the same with our own lives, and dedicate ourselves to love the One Who has given us His all, for our salvation, that He was willing to bear the painful cross of our sins, for our sake. May we grow ever more in our love and dedication for Him, day after day, each and every days of our life, from now on. Amen.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 7-12

At that tine, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing towards Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “The Lord is great.”