Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the most wonderful love of God which He has shown us by sharing with us His blessings and graces, His kindness and providence by the sharing of food and sustenance for His people, as highlighted in our Scripture readings today. The Lord also wants to unite His people through the same breaking and sharing of the bread that is in essence, at the centre of our Christian faith.

In our first reading today we heard the account of the activity of the prophet Elisha from the Book of Kings during his ministry in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Elisha was followed by a large number of people, about a hundred in total, and a man they encountered brought them offering of bread from barley and wheat, about twenty loaves all in all. Those bread were nowhere near enough to sustain the whole multitude of people, and hence, the follower of the prophet asked him how he could get enough food to feed all of them.

The prophet reminded that follower and told him to do what he asked him to do, to give all the offered bread and food to everyone, and that God would provide for His beloved ones and they would not be lacking. True enough, everyone miraculously had enough to eat, and everyone had their fill just as the prophet had said, as God miraculously multiplied the bread for them all, and gave them all the share of bread and food to eat in the midst of their ministry and works.

This is a close parallel to what we know even better in the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of others in the Gospel as we heard earlier today. In that occasion, the Lord fed the whole multitudes of thousands assembled before Him, with even much fewer food, only five loaves of bread and two fishes offered by a young boy. The Apostles, especially St. Philip wondered how they were to go and obtain the food and sustenance to provide for all those people when the Lord asked them to provide the whole multitudes with food.

The Lord prayed and broke the loaves of bread, and also did the same with the fish, distributing them to the disciples who then gave the food to the assembled multitudes, all of whom received enough food and things to eat, had their fill, and still, twelve basket-full of leftovers were gathered. Everyone had enough and were happy, and the Lord showed to all of them, as well as to all of us again how wonderful God’s love and grace is, how He cared for each one of us. He did not send the people away, but fed them from the food which had been offered to Him, and provided for them in their hour of need.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is exactly how it is like at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the offertory, we bring the bread and the wine as offerings to the Lord, which the priests gathered and took, giving thanks to the Lord just in the same manner as the Lord Jesus having given thanks to His Father, and then gave the bread for all of us to partake and share. But even much more so than what had happened in the past, at the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted at the Last Supper, He gave Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood to all.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, at the pinnacle of our faith, at its very core, is our belief in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, that in miracle that surpasses any other miracles, not only that God feeds us and gave us all food to eat, but He Himself came down upon us, to be in our midst and to be with us. He has given us all Himself as the sustenance and food, to be partaken and shared among us that we truly become part of that One and united Body of Christ, the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Church of God of which we are part of is united through this Communion, by the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the Holy Mass and the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God did not just provide for us in our physical needs, but even more importantly, He shared with us the spiritual nourishment, His true and Real Presence that comes to dwell within us, and we become the Temple of His Presence, as He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in our path in life.

And as we therefore reflect on all these words of the Scripture we received this Sunday, then we should spend some time to discern and reflect on our attitude in the Church as one united community in Christ. Unfortunately, in the past few years and decades, especially in recent years, there have been those who wanted to harm the unity of the Church, either by being exclusive and Pharisaical, extremist and hardline in their ideologies and way of thinking, or by disrespecting and disobeying the core tenets and teachings of the Church.

I refer to those fundamentals and extreme groups who sought to either change the Church teachings or to adapt activities and ways that are not in accordance with our faith or sacred tradition, as well as those who have taken in to the extremes ideas such as being against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that had been legitimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit through the assembly and discussion of all the bishops and the assembled prelates of the Church.

All these things caused divisions within the Church, as it had happened previously in the long history of the Church. It set brothers against fellow brothers, families against others, and segments of the faithful against other segments, groups against groups. And because of this, we ended up losing sight on the true calling we have as Christians, to keep the unity among us and to live together with faith, celebrating and sharing together the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity in the Holy Mass.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and reflect on the love which God has shown to all of us, His faithful and beloved people, let us all therefore strive to put aside our differences, and abandon our illogical and unhealthy ideologies, especially those based not on the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, but on the basis of human prejudices, ambition, and even selfishness and evil. Let us all put aside all the things that divide us, and instead, focus our attention on the Lord, our God.

Through Him we have received this new life, for He Who is the Bread of Life, has given us all new life, that we receive, partake and share not just mere bread alone, but in truth, we have received nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we who partake worthily of Him, become one Body and one Church, and through this unity and the sharing of this holy union with God, we are made whole once again, and receive the assurance of eternal glory and true joy in Him.

Let us all remember what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Ephesians, part of which is our second reading today, that we all have to strive for unity of the Church, through the Holy Spirit, and nurture a spirit of charity and love, of generosity and kindness towards one another, that we share this blessing and grace of God we have received with each other, that we remind ourselves of the need to build a truly united and harmonious community of the faithful and Church, that we do not only love the Lord with all of our might and strength, but also our fellow brethren, as part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God.

Let us all therefore grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, deepen our relationships with Him, and entrust ourselves to Him with ever greater commitment and devotion, with greater trust and desire to seek Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live together as one united Church, one united community of the faithful. May God bless us all and our every good works and good endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 4 : 1-6

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 15-16, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

All creatures look to You to be fed in due season; with open hand, You satisfy the living, according to their needs.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 4 : 42-44

A man came from Baal-shal-ishah bringing bread and wheat to the man of God. These were from the first part of the harvest, twenty loaves of barley and wheat. Elisha told him, “Give the loaves to these men that they may eat.”

His servant said to him, “How am I to divide these loaves among one hundred men?” Elisha insisted, “Give them to the men that they may eat, for YHVH says : ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So the man set it before them; and they ate and had some left, as YHVH had said.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all called to seek the Lord, our true Guide and Shepherd, that we should turn our focus to Him, and follow Him and dedicate ourselves as His faithful disciples and flock, and remember the love with which He has patiently guided us, showed us the way forward, and nurtured us all with generous love and dedication. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, the Lord has always loved us and showed us His kindness, wanting us all to return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people regarding the presence of wicked and unfaithful shepherds who had misled the people of God into the path of sin, as they cared more about themselves and their desires and ambitions rather than about those whom they had been entrusted with, which resulted in the people of God walking down the wrong path and losing their way, and in the end, were picked up easily by the devil and all seeking our downfall and destruction.

Contextually, by the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people had gone through a long way in falling deeper and deeper in the path of disobedience and sinfulness against God, in their rebellious attitude against their Lord and Master. Far from the days of David and Solomon when the people of Israel were faithful and true to the Lord, for many generations they had fallen into sin, and lost their way, amidst the many temptations of the world. They were tempted and swayed by worldly glory, wealth, possessions and pleasures, that they began to veer off the path that the Lord has shown them.

And most responsible for this was the attitude and actions of the leaders of the people, the kings of Israel and Judah, and the elders of the people. Many of them were unfaithful and wicked in their ways of life and in how they exercised their authority. Their indulgence in worldly excesses and unlawful actions, and their promotion of pagan idol worship and the pagan gods led to many among the people to be swayed and turning away from God as well. That was why the Lord sent many prophets and messengers to His people, as He wanted all of them to be reconciled to Him, and to find their way to Him.

But the people were stubborn and refused to listen to the truth and to reason, abandoning the Lord ever more and persecuting His prophets and messengers. The Lord patiently reached out to them nonetheless, and sent more and more servants on their way to both Israel and Judah, leading the people and hoping that they would come to see reason and the love with which He has loved them. From the very beginning, God has always been committed to us, and He never forgot why He created us. It was out of love that He created us, and His desire to share that love with us, overflowing from His Heart.

This is what He has resolved to do, to continue to love us and to reconcile us, just as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, that Christ Jesus, the Lord and Saviour of all, had come into this world to reconcile all of God’s beloved ones to Himself, and to break the barriers and walls that separated us from God, that nothing else can hinder us from the fullness of God’s love and grace. This is what He desired to do, and which He had intended for us, and by His coming into this world, Christ has opened for us the path to God and to fullness of grace in Him.

And contrasted with the false, wicked and evil shepherds that were highlighted by the prophet Jeremiah, here was the one true Shepherd of all, the Good Shepherd of all of God’s people, the One Who would gather all of them into one flock, calling on all of the scattered flock of the Lord to be reunited to Him, and through Him to God, Whose love for them endures forever. While in the past, the sins and wickedness of the people of Israel and Judah had led them to be scattered among the nations, as they were defeated and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively, but God had gathered them back and returned them to their homeland, as they repented from their past faults and disobedience.

Thus, in the same manner, God is also seeking to gather us all, His scattered flock, just as He came into this world, revealing the truth of His love and the salvation He promised to all. He has come as our Shepherd and Guide, showing the path for us to be reconciled with Him. In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord saw that the multitudes of people following Him had been following Him and seeking for guidance and help, like that of sheep without a guide or shepherd. That is why, the Lord came to their midst and taught amongst them.

Such was His love for them that even though He and His disciples were tired and exhausted from their ministry, but He still taught them patiently and revealed to them even more about God’s love. He has shown us yet and again, just how much He loves each and every one of us, despite all of our stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to Him. If we are to reject Him and continue to refuse to believe in Him, then it is our own conscious refusal that we shall be judged against. God has made His mercy and love available for us, easily and generously, and we have to appreciate the chances we have received.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these this Sunday, let us all spend some good time to reflect and ponder upon all that God had done for us, all the love which He has shown us, His great and enduring patience in seeking us and hoping that we may be turned away from our waywardness and end our stubborn refusal to listen to Him and obey His will. He as our Good Shepherd has always devoted Himself to us, and patiently sought us out, that every single one of God’s lost and scattered flock may be found and reunited with Him.

Such was His love for us, that to this extent, that He laid down His life for our sake, just as He Himself said how the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. The Good Shepherd put Himself between us and danger, the destruction that is due upon us because of sin and death, and instead, bearing His Cross, He took upon Himself all these burdens and consequences of our sins and our punishment, and died on the Cross out of pure love for us, that by His wounds and His death, we can be healed and restored to perfection through Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all, from now on, bear witness to this ever wonderful and generous love of God, and be thankful for all that God has done for us. Let us all never take Him again for granted, but do our best from now on, striving to live faithfully in His presence, and to follow Him with all of our might and abilities, and do whatever we can in order to seek Him, and to make Him known to more and more people. Let us all be shepherds to one another as well, guiding each other in our journey of faith and life, that we will not be easily swayed and tempted to abandon God and His truth.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, our most loving God and Father, continue to watch over us and strengthen us at all times, that He may always help us to persevere through the trials and challenges in life, and that He may always guide us down the right path, resisting the temptations and pressures that lead us to the path of sin. Let us all renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, our loving Shepherd, and be ever more faithful from now on, ever onwards. May God bless us all, in each and every one of our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 2 : 13-18

But now, in Christ Jesus, and by His Blood, you, who were once far off, have come near. For Christ is our peace; He, Who has made the two people, one; destroying, in His own flesh, the wall – the hatred – which separated us. He abolished the Law, with its commandments and precepts. He made peace, in uniting the two people, in Him; creating, out of the two, one New Man.

He destroyed hatred and reconciled us both to God, through the cross, making the two, one body. He came to proclaim peace; peace to you who were far off, peace to the Jews who were near. Through Him, we – the two people – approach the Father, in one Spirit.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 23 : 1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” This is the message of YHVH, God of Israel, to the shepherds in charge of My people, “You have scattered My sheep and driven them away instead of caring for them. Now I will deal with you because of your evil deeds.”

“I will gather the remnant of My sheep from every land to which I have driven them and I will bring them back to the grasslands. They will be fruitful and increase in number. I will appoint shepherds who will take care of them. No longer will they fear or be terrified. No one will be lost.”

YHVH further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a King Who is David’s righteous Successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called YHVH-Our-Justice!”