Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we continue the discourse we had from the previous Sunday, on the Lord’s words to the people of Him being the Bread of Life, giving His own Flesh and Body to all of them to share and eat. But we heard how the people refused to believe in Him and even uttered disgustingly at such a suggestion, saying, how can such a Man give them something to eat from His own Body?

That is because they did not have faith in them, and they did not believe that Jesus is more than just a mere Man like them, even when they have seen all the miracles that He had performed in their midst and despite all that He had taught them, just as the prophets had written that the Saviour would have done. They have hardened their hearts and minds and refused to believe in the Lord’s truth.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Kings, we heard about the prophet Elijah who at that time was fleeing the harsh persecutions he had endured for quite a long time under the wicked kings of Israel and their idol-worshipping followers. The prophet Elijah was at the end of his wits and was in great despair, wanting the Lord to end his suffering there and then right away. It is quite understandable considering the kind of treatment that Elijah had received at the hands of his enemies.

But the Lord sent His Angel to provide food for Elijah to eat, and He commanded the prophet to eat through the Angel, for the upcoming journey He had to take would be a perilous one. Elijah was likely still hesitant, but in the end, he obeyed the Lord’s commands, and ate the bread and food given to Him. The food gave him sustenance and strength to go on a long journey of forty days and nights towards the mountain of God, Mount Horeb, where Moses once received God’s laws.

It was there that God met Elijah, and spoke to him, and strengthened his faith. And ever since then, Elijah continued his ministry, braving through persecutions and trials, carrying out what God wanted him to do, faithfully and with great zeal. This is also a reminder of God’s sustenance and care for His entire people, when He gave them manna, bread from heaven to eat for the entire period of forty years of their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

But as the Lord Jesus said in the Gospel passage highlighted the fact that those bread that God gave, while they gave sustenance to the physical body and made them all satisfied and filled, with strength to carry on the long journey, to the Promised Land for the Israelites and to Mount Horeb for the prophet Elijah, but eventually those bread are food that sustains only our physical flesh and body, and ultimately, they are nothing compared to the True Bread and Food from heaven that God would come to give His people, that is His own Flesh and Blood.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, speaking about going in a journey, are we all aware that each and every one of us are also currently in a journey? Our lives are journeys for each one of us, and we embark on this journey of life, with the ultimate destination of being reconciled with God and being in full union with Him, at the end of our lives, when we may be reunited with Him in full grace and love.

We have to make this journey in life because of our sins, the original sin of Adam and Eve, our forefathers, and all of our own mortal and venial sins that have caused us to be separated and sundered from God’s love and grace. Our life on earth, in this world, and all of the sufferings we encounter is this journey of life that we are taking, and we are all on our way towards God.

But on the way, many of us will be distracted and fall off the path, going to the wrong way and direction, and there are many other offerings out there that may seem to be more attractive to us than our original intended destination. That is the devil at work, together with all of his forces and allies, bound on making us to fall into temptation and therefore fall into the eternal damnation in hellfire.

That is why, just as all those who are going on a journey need food to sustain themselves, and not just any type of food, but good, nourishing and hygienic food, not rotten or useless for us in terms of nutrition. Let us imagine if one were to bring perishable food to places like a desert, where there is no way for us to preserve those food. In that case, the food will spoil and if we eat this food, we will be in trouble.

And what is the right food for this kind of journey? It is none other than the Holy Eucharist, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself, the Bread of Life, Who has promised all of us who share in His Body, of everlasting life and union with God. We may see that it is just a mere bread and mere wine, as others in the world would also have seen them, but what is different for us, is that we have faith.

The most important part of our faith is our belief that the priest in the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, by the power and authority given to him, has turned and transformed the bread and the wine into the very essence and material of the Lord Himself, His Real Presence in the Eucharist. It was not bread or wine that we receive during the Holy Communion, and neither have we received just a mere symbol of His Body and Blood.

Though by appearance it may seem to remain as bread and wine, but in reality, the Eucharist is the Lord Himself, fully present in our midst and within us, as the physical Body and Blood of Our Lord that has dwelled within us. The Eucharist is the sustenance which the Lord Himself has given us, to share in His Body and Blood, that we may share in His death and resurrection, dying to our past sins and rising to our new life in Him.

The Lord sustains us through the Eucharist, which is eternally linked to the same sacrifice which Our Lord had performed at Calvary, and this sustenance give us the strength and the power to go on in our faith and in how we lived our lives. But have we often taken our reception of the Eucharist for granted? Many of us have, in our attitude towards the Eucharist and in our understanding of its significance.

We still received the Eucharist when we are in a state of sin, and have not repented from our sins and confessed them, and we did not show proper deference and respect for the Lord, even though in our faith, we know that it is Him truly present in our midst. This is the attitude which we must avoid, and discard immediately should we have it with us at the moment.

Therefore, let us be sincere in our faith in the Lord’s ultimate gift in His own Body and Blood, in the Eucharist that He has bestowed upon us through the Church and the holy priests He has appointed to be our shepherds. Let us all love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength. Let us all turn back towards Him, with a heart that is filled with love for Him, and the desire to be reconciled and reunited with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore realise what it is that we need to do in order to reach out to the Lord from the way that He has shown us all. It is by receiving the sustenance of the Eucharist, Most Precious and Holy Body of Christ, worthily and with faith in Him. Let us grow ever stronger in our commitment to love God and to follow His path, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 6 : 41-51

At that time, the Jews murmured because Jesus had said, “I am the Bread Which comes from heaven.” And they said, “This Man is the Son of Joseph, is He not? We know His father and mother. How can He say that He has come from heaven?”

Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless he is drawn by the Father Who sent Me; and I will raise him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets : They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to Me. For no one has seen the Father except the One Who comes from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

“I am the Bread of Life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the Bread from heaven, so that you may eat of It, and not die. I am the living Bread from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My Flesh, and I will give It for the life of the world.”

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 4 : 30 – Ephesians 5 : 2

Do not sadden the Holy Spirit of God, Who you were marked with. He will be your distinctive mark on the day of salvation. Do away with all quarrelling, rage, anger, insults and every kind of malice : be good and understanding, mutually forgiving one another as God forgave you in Christ.

As most beloved children of God, strive to imitate Him. Follow the way of love, the example of Christ Who loved you. He gave Himself up for us and became the offering and sacrificial victim Whose fragrance rises to God.

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

The Lord’s Angel encamps and patrols to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of the Lord! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 19 : 4-8

Elijah himself disappeared into the desert going on a day’s journey. Then he sat down under a broom tree and prayed to die, “That is enough, YHVH, take away my life for I am dying.”

He lay down and went to sleep under the broom tree. Then an Angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked and saw, at his head, a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and went back to sleep. The Angel of YHVH came a second time to him, saying, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too long for you.”

He got up, ate and drank, and on the strength of that food, he travelled for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

Sunday, 5 August 2018 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we listened from the Scriptures, through which we heard about the Lord Who fed His people with food, to sustain them through life, beginning from the time of the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites traversed the desert for forty years in order to reach the Promised Land. They took so long on the journey because they disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him. They made complaints after complaints, that the Lord punished them for their disobedience.

But God never intended for them to be destroyed, and He never wanted to punish them unless it was necessary for Him to do so. When He punished them, He was like a father who disciplines his children, wanting them to be developing well and not be spoilt by their own lack of discipline and understanding of what it means to grow up into a good and obedient child. God was doing what was necessary to ensure that His children would not end up falling further into sin.

The Israelites were swayed by the ways of their neighbours and those they have encountered during their journey, including that of their Egyptian former slave-masters. Although their ancestors and they themselves worshipped the one and only True God Who has brought them out of slavery, but the love of gold and worldly pleasures tempted them into sin, as they could not resist the temptation of gold and the wealth of the world, when they carried off many golden vessels and items given to them by the Egyptians.

They ended up making the golden image of a calf, likely modelled after the pagan gods of the Egyptians, and claimed it to be their god. They would rather worship an empty, human-made idol made by human hands rather than the One Who created all of them and the entire universe, the One Who had also shown His might and power before them, by His ten plagues and the many miracles which He had performed in their midst.

And that is the story behind what happened to the people of Israel, and why they constantly sinned against God, grumbling and complaining, because they sought worldly pleasures and they wanted to satisfy their body’s desires. They felt the urge of their bodies to satisfy themselves with food and sustenance of this world, and when they could not get what they wanted, they rebelled against God Who has loved them so much.

But against these people, these unfaithful and ever ungrateful children, God was ever patient and loving, and He provided them with food, food from heaven itself, the bread called the manna, as well as large flock of birds that flew into the encampment of the people of Israel. They had enough food to eat, for not just a short moment of time, but for the entire forty years period of their journey. They were well taken care of, and when they were thirsty in the middle of the desert, God gave them crystal clear water to drink.

Last Sunday, we also heard about God Who fed His people, especially the Lord Jesus Who fed the multitudes of the five thousand men and countless more women and children. He blessed and broke the bread that miraculously were able to feed all of them, despite there was being only five loaves present, and with twelve baskets of leftovers. God loved His people, and He knew of their hunger, and that was why He fed them with food, to make sure that they did not suffer from the hunger.

However, today, it is reminded to each and every one of us, that we have received an infinitely greater gift of sustenance from God, one that does not merely satisfy just the hunger of our physical bodies. On the contrary, this perfect gift from God satisfies all of our needs, fulfilling our hearts, minds, souls and indeed, our entire being. This gift is none other than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Most Holy Eucharist.

Today, all of us are reminded that Christ Our Lord is the Bread of Life, as He Himself mentioned in the Gospel passage we have today. And this life is not just the earthly life and existence which we have now, but true life, that is everlasting, our eternal existence with God. Just as we need to eat food in order to sustain ourselves bodily and physically, and how those who lack food will eventually die, without the Bread of Life, we will perish eternally and suffer an eternity of true death.

Now, brothers and sisters, do we all realise just how beloved and fortunate each and every one of us have been? We are truly very fortunate and blessed to have God, Our loving Father, Who devoted Himself to our care and to our whole well-being. Just as He had taken care of the people of Israel every single day for forty years in the desert, He has also taken care of every single one of us.

First of all, He gave us life, so that we can live in this world. He gave us opportunities, one after another, to find our way and path to Him. And then, He gave us the promise of eternal life through His Passion, suffering and death on the cross. He gave us nothing less than His own life, so that we can live. And not just any life, but life of eternity, and an eternity of loving existence with God, through the sharing in His Body and Blood.

The Holy Mass is as we know it, the sacrifice of the Lord on Calvary which is happening at every moment the priest offers up the bread and the wine, and relating what happened at the Last Supper, when the Lord Jesus said, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is My Body…” and also “Take this all of you and drink of it, for this is the chalice of My Blood…” It is the same sacrifice of Our Lord that we participate in, and the same Body and Blood which He has given to His disciples at the Last Supper.

It is the essence and reality of bread and wine that has been completely transformed by the priest, in persona Christi, by His power and through the Holy Spirit, into the Lord’s own Body and Blood, which we receive as the sign of our reception of the Lord into ourselves and our Communion with the whole body of the Universal Church. The Lord Himself has come into us, in flesh and blood, and we took Him into our own body, which has then become God’s Holy Temple.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few of us who do not realise this truth, or that they chose to ignore this fact. Many of us do not show the proper reverence to the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, treating it nothing more than receiving and consuming a piece of bread. And many of us treat the Eucharist lightly and even with contempt, by the way that we receive the Lord.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? We all know that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, but yet, some of us come to receive Him when we are not in a proper state to receive Him, meaning that we are not in a state of grace. We committed all sorts of mortal and serious sins, and yet, we come to receive the Lord with our sins without repentance and without regret for them.

Now, this is a serious sin against God and a scandal for our Church and our faith. St. Paul reminded us all through his Epistle to the Corinthians that each and every one of us is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God Himself. And it is therefore right and just for us to make sure that we keep this Temple holy and clean from defilement. Yet, many of us have defiled God’s holy Temple by our own sins and by our own refusal to repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore let us all reflect on our own lives. Let us all look again at all the things we have done in life thus far, both good and evil, and think of whether we have done what we should have done as the followers of Christ, or whether we have wandered off far away from God’s path. Let us all seek to rediscover the true purpose of our lives, that is to serve God and to glorify Him.

Let us all distance ourselves from the many idols and distractions present in our lives, so that we will no longer fall into the same predicament as that of the Israelites. Let us all distance ourselves from all these distractions and temptations, and do our very best to love the Lord from now on. God has loved each and every one of us so much that we could not have existed and lived without Him. We must repent from our sins and truly regret all the wicked things we have done in His presence.

Are we thankful to God Who has loved us and given us what we need in life? Have we taken His love for granted, and even betrayed Him or else abandoned Him for something we deemed to be better than Him, when He has done everything He could to provide for us and to give us His love, that He gave us nothing less than His life, bearing His cross and die for us? Should we not love Him with the same generosity and conviction in love?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to turn to the Lord, Our God, with a renewed sense of purpose and with a new commitment, to love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds and with all of our might. He, the Bread of Life, has given us so much, for our sake, that now, we have to also love Him in the same way, devoting ourselves to Him, from now onwards.

May the Lord, Who gave us life and Who loves us dearly, continue to bless us and to be with us, every single day of our lives, that we may continue to draw ever closer to Him, and to love Him with ever greater passion, through our every actions, words and deeds. Let us all have the Lord as the centre and focus of our lives, that we may no longer be separated with Him, but growing ever more intimate in our relationship with Him, day after day.

O Lord, Bread of Life, be with us always, and dwell within our hearts that we may be sanctified by Your presence. May all of us be holy just as You are holy, in our every words, in our every dealings with others, and in how we show the same love You have shown us from the beginning of time, to one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in You, Our loving Father. Amen.

Sunday, 5 August 2018 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 6 : 24-35

At that time, when the people saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Master, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for Me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for He is the One on Whom the Father has put His mark.”

Then the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this : that you believe in the One Whom God has sent.” They then said, “Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe You. What sign do You perform? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says : They were given bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the True Bread from heaven. The Bread God gives is the One Who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” And they said to Him, “Give us this Bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty.”