Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are all called to remember the salvation that God has revealed to us and which He has also fulfilled through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus has brought the salvation to our midst by coming into this world and as we all know, He took upon Himself all of our sins and iniquities, bearing our heavy burdens on His Cross, and therefore, suffered and died for our sake on the across for the salvation of the whole world.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of the Lord spoken through Isaiah, detailing on a prophecy of the coming Messiah or Saviour from God. This prophecy of the Messiah, detailing about a Servant of God Who would be made to suffer for the sake of all the people must have sounded strange to the people, considering that at that time and afterwards, the people hoped and thought that the Messiah would be a great and mighty conquering King from the line and house of David who would unite the descendants of the Israelites.

Common understanding at that time was that the Messiah that God would send to His people would restore the greatness of the old united Kingdom of David and Solomon, when Israel was preeminent, mighty and powerful among the nations. At the time of the ministry and work of Isaiah, it was during the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel while the southern kingdom of Judah also faced great troubles with the Assyrians almost conquering and besieging the city of Jerusalem itself, under King Sennacherib, and only God’s intervention stopped it from happening.

Thus, it was not surprising that as the people of God encountered calamities and humiliations one after another, and forced into exile in many parts of the world, so they hoped that the Lord would deliver them and return their inheritance and glory to them, through the Messiah that He has promised to them through His prophets. Isaiah in particular spoke a lot regarding the prophesied Messiah, and some of what he had revealed in his prophecy spoke of a suffering Messiah, Who would be crushed, broken and suffering for the sake of all of God’s people.

And Jesus was the One Who fulfilled all these prophecies, as He came into this world bringing God’s healing and salvation, healing the sick and casting out demons, making the blind to see once again, the deaf and mute to be able to hear and speak once again, and even raised the dead back to life. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed that His coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, and He would then predict His own end, how He would be rejected and condemned to die, made to bear the Cross and die on it in Calvary.

In our second reading today, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in explaining the role of Jesus, the Messiah or Saviour of the world to the Jewish converts to the Christian faith and also to other Jews, focused on the role that the Lord took on as the High Priest offering the sacrifice to God, on behalf of all the people of God. This is something that the Jewish people could well relate to, as they regularly took part in the sacrifices offered at the Temple for their sins to be forgiven by God, offered by the priests on behalf of the people.

However, what was unique in this one particular sacrifice, was that the High Priest Who offered it, was Himself the Offering and Sacrifice, as He offered His own Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, sacrificed and slain on the Altar of the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, that day two millennia ago, which we celebrate yearly on Good Friday. It was the moment of the revelation of God’s supreme act of love and ultimate selfless act in reaching out to us sinners, in order to offer us His most generous mercy and compassionate love.

But in doing so, Christ had to suffer a lot, enduring the burden of rejection, humiliation and the most painful sufferings that were caused by our many, innumerable sins. Yet, He bore them all patiently and faithfully, fully obedient to the will of His heavenly Father, enduring and drinking from the cup of suffering that He mentioned both in today’s Gospel passage and during the time of His great agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before He was about to begin the moments of His Passion and suffering.

He did all of these out of His enduring and infinite love for each and every one of us, out of the desire to be reconciled with us and not to allow us to be lost from Him, He Who is also our Good Shepherd, Who knew each and every one of us, and had done whatever He could, just as He shared the story of the Good Shepherd to His disciples, to reach out to us, His lost sheep, and to find us and gather us back into His presence, to be part of His flock in the Church of God. He showed us His love through real action and not just through words.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard how two of the Lord’s disciples came to Him and asked Him for special favours to be given to them. These two were the sons of Zebedee, the brothers St. James the Apostle also known as St. James the Greater, as well as St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. Both of them were among the closest disciples of the Lord, and together with St. Peter the Apostle, who was the leader of the disciples, were often brought by the Lord to various events only exclusive to them, such as the Transfiguration, the moment when He raised the daughter of Jairus back to life, as well as the aforementioned Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane itself.

As such, as it was probably common and expected at that time, as it is still today, they were tempted to seek for special favours and position as the closest confidants of the Lord, to gain power, prestige and influence, among other things. This is showing us in fact, as I mentioned earlier, the prevalent attitude and understanding of the people at that time, who viewed the Messiah as the One Who would conquer the enemies of the people of God, reunite the Israelites and all the descendants of Jacob, and restore the Kingdom of Israel as it was during David and Solomon’s time.

Therefore, when St. James and St. John together came to the Lord, it was made with this context in mind, in seeking the special favours for them, that when Christ restored Israel and rule as the new King of Israel, they would become His most trusted advisors and important persona in the new realm. However, this was a misunderstanding and failure to appreciate the true nature of Christ’s mission in this world. That was why the Lord told them and the other disciples gathered that in truth, to be His followers, they had to share in His sufferings, and that they indeed would suffer, as they all later on would suffer a martyr’s death, with the sole exception of St. John the Apostle himself, who nonetheless suffered for many years in prison and exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, where do all these then lead us? In truth, all of these things which we have just discussed and reflected on, are reminders for all of us to remember the love which God has constantly showed to us, and every time we look upon the Cross, with His Body laid suffering and dying on it, the Crucifix, we are reminded of this act of supreme love and ultimate selflessness, in Him giving us His life, so that by all of us sharing in His death on the Cross, we may receive new life and the Resurrection through Him.

And as Christians, we must always be ready to face suffering and persecution, rejection and challenges in life just as Our Lord Himself has suffered. This is because the world, its norms and ways that had rejected the Lord and His salvation, will also reject all of us who believe in the Lord and His truth, and suffering may come our way if we remain faithful to Him. Yet, we must never be disheartened or discouraged by these. Instead, we have to be ever more steady in following the Lord, wholeheartedly and with real and genuine love for Him.

What we heard today from the Scriptures, especially from the Gospel in particular is a reminder for us that being Christians is not about ourselves or our own search for personal glory or ambition, or personal satisfaction and happiness. Rather, it is to seek the Lord and to follow Him, picking up our crosses with Him, just as He has called us, and dedicate our entire lives in loving service to Him. This is the attitude that all of us must cultivate as Christians, to be genuine in faith and action, and to give our best to the Lord.

Let us all therefore strive to follow the Lord ever more faithfully, and to be more worthy in how we live our lives from now on. Let us all embrace God’s love and most generous mercy and compassion, resisting the temptations to sin and allowing God to lead us down the right path, so that by our own exemplary lives, we may inspire many others to follow us, just as we ourselves have been inspired by the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors who have led most worthy lives before us. May God bless us always, in our every efforts and good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 35-45

At that time, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to Him, “Master, we want You to grant us what we are going to ask of You.” And He said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They answered, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, when You come in Your glory.”

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptised in the way I am baptised?” They answered, “We can.” And Jesus told them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink; and you will be baptised in the way that I am baptised; but to sit at My right or at My left is not Mine to grant. It has been prepared for others.”

On hearing this, the other ten were angry with James and John. Jesus then called them to Him and said, “As you know, the so-called rulers of the nations behave like tyrants, and those in authority oppress the people. But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave of all.”

“Think of the Son of Man, Who has not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 10 : 42-45

At that time, Jesus then called His disciples to Him and said, “As you know, the so-called rulers of the nations behave like tyrants, and those in authority oppress the people. But it shall not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you shall make himself slave of all.”

“Think of the Son of Man, Who has not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 4 : 14-16

We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, Who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our High Priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning.

Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through His favour, help in due time.

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 32 : 4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

In hope we wait for the Lord for He is our help and our shield. O Lord, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 53 : 10-11

Yet it was the will of YHVH to crush Him with grief. When He makes Himself an offering for sin, He will have a long life and see His descendants. Through Him the will of YHVH is done. For the anguish He suffered, He will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just Servant will justify the multitude; He will bear and take away their guilt.

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all presented with the words of God’s truth and wisdom, and to all of us God has presented a very important question for us to consider and think about, to ponder and to reflect as we live our lives in this world. This question is, ‘What is the most important thing in our lives?’ And also, ‘Is God important for us in our lives?’ These are the two simple questions that we should spend time pondering and reflecting on even as we discuss the meaning of today’s readings.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we heard the words of the author who spoke of his prayer and desire for Wisdom, the Wisdom, knowledge and understanding from God. The author of the Book of Wisdom told everyone that there is essentially nothing more valuable, worthy or great other than the truth of God, the gift of Wisdom that God has given to us all. The Wisdom of the Holy Spirit has been granted to us, and if only we appreciate this great gift in its fullness then we can understand just how precious this gift that we have received, but often overlooked, ignored and squandered.

In our second reading today, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle spoke about the Word of God that revealed all things in all mankind, Who pierced and penetrated deep into our hearts and minds, the Word of truth that illuminated all and knew all in us, and through which we have also received the same truth and the revelation from God. By welcoming the Word of God into our hearts, into our beings, we have opened ourselves to welcome the Wisdom of God and received the truth, and because of that, we should rejoice at what we have received.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you find the message of these readings to be rather cryptic and hard to comprehend, that is perhaps because we have not yet appreciated the truth of God that we have received through none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Why is that so? Then we should recall how the Lord has given us Himself so completely for our sake, in emptying and humbling Himself, from all glory and power, and carrying His Cross, He endured all the wounds, sufferings and pains for our sake, that is to deliver us all from the torments of our sins.

God has revealed His love for us through His Son, that we who have once been destined to doom and damnation because of our sins and wickedness, have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life because of the enduring love that He has for us. His love for us is so great that He was willing to endure the most bitter and terrible punishments and pain just so that we may be freed from our enslavement by sin. He has not only sent His servants and messengers to remind us to turn back to the true path, but even came Himself into our midst to bring the truth to light and reveal them to us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers regarding the matter of what it means to follow Him and to dedicate themselves to Him. At that time, a man who had been dedicated and wholesome in his obedience to the Law of God asked the Lord what was it that he still needed to do in order to attain the kingdom of God. The Lord then responded by saying that what he needed to do was to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor, leaving everything behind and then follow Him as His disciple. The man left in great sorrow as for him it was impossible to part from his great wealth.

Actually, before we think that the Lord asked or even demanded us to surrender all of our wealth and worldly possessions, that was not what He intended and we should not interpret everything just based on literal understanding. Rather, what He wanted to emphasise to the man and also to all of His disciples and also therefore all of us is that, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, we must put Him first and foremost above all and every other things. We cannot allow our many attachments or even preoccupations with worldly matters, for fame, glory, wealth and influence to keep us away from God and His salvation.

In truth, the Lord is telling us that if we depend on worldly wisdom and power, on our own might and strength, then we shall falter and fall. It is only by trusting in His providence and entrusting ourselves to Him and His guidance that we shall find our way to true glory and happiness, which we cannot find through other means. This truth has been given to us, and the Lord Himself has revealed to us through His Church, and the Holy Spirit has also been sent to our midst to be our Advocate, our Helper and our Guide. He has given us Wisdom, and yet, are we willing to accept His Wisdom into our hearts and minds?

In the same way, have we let the Word to enter into our hearts? The Word of God, Christ Himself, Incarnate in the flesh, Who has given Himself, His Most Precious Body and Blood to us in the Eucharist? We may have accepted and received Him, but have we truly believed and have that faith we ought to have in Him? Have we committed ourselves to the Lord above all else, and resist the many temptations of worldly pleasures and glory, of fame and influence among other things that kept us away from truly being able to follow the Lord?

This Sunday, let us all spent some time to discern carefully, and to pray for the gift of Wisdom and for God to strengthen us all through the Holy Spirit, Whom He has sent to us to be our Guide and Helper. Let us all grow ever more in faith, and allow God to lead us down the path of righteousness, and no longer seeking just the temporary and impermanent pleasures of this world. Rather, let us seek the Lord and our true inheritance and glory in Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 17-30

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.”

Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Mark 10 : 17-27

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.”

Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 4 : 12-13

For the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces, to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart.

All creation is transparent to Him; everything is uncovered and laid bare, to the eyes of Him, to Whom we render account.

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 89 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Make joy endure, as the misery did, and the years in which we were afflicted.

Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom 7 : 7-11

I prayed and understanding was given to me; I asked earnestly and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to sceptres and thrones and I considered wealth as nothing compared with her.

I preferred her to any jewel of inestimable value, since gold beside her is nothing but a few grains of sand, and silver but mud. I loved her more than wealth and beauty and even preferred her to light, because her radiance never dies.

She brought with her all other good things, untold riches in her hands.