Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.