Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, all of us heard the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures reminding us that all of us have been called and chosen by Him and we are all called to respond to His call for us to follow Him and to be His disciples. And this is in essence, what it truly means for us to be Christians, that we devote ourselves to the Lord and do what He has commanded us to do, His will and commandments.

In our first reading today we heard of the calling of the prophet Samuel when he was merely just a young boy in the care of Eli, the Judge and leader of Israel. The Lord called Samuel, who was sleeping and was still so young that he had not yet comprehend who the Lord truly was. He thought that Eli had called him and came to ask him again and again, only for Eli eventually to realise that the Lord had called Samuel. And Samuel answered the Lord call innocently and honestly, and God was with him through his life from then on.

Samuel would become a great leader over all of Israel succeeding Eli, as Judge and Leader, as well as a great Prophet and also a Priest of the Lord, for Jewish tradition stated that he belonged to the tribe of Levi. Samuel dedicated his life to the Lord, guiding and shepherding all of the Israelites through difficult moments, especially when they fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord. He gave Israel their first king when he anointed Saul as the king of Israel after the people complained and insisted to have a king over them. And even still he did not stop doing works for the sake of the people.

All the more in fact Samuel’s work grew as we should know how king Saul eventually disobeyed the Lord and became unfaithful. Samuel often stood up against Saul and rebuked him for his unfaithfulness, something that must have indeed required a lot of courage and faith, which Samuel had in his service to the Lord and His people. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel to replace Saul, and although he was to disappear from the records of the Scripture not long afterwards, likely as he was already very old at that time, but his contributions to the people of God cannot indeed be underestimated.

In our Gospel reading then we heard of the calling of the first disciples by the Lord, when He came to the River Jordan and was baptised by St. John the Baptist, and then the latter revealed to two of his own disciples Who Jesus really was, the Lamb of God and promised Messiah or Saviour of the world. Those disciples, one of whom was St. Andrew the Apostle, then decided to follow the Lord and asked Him firstly where He stayed.

The Lord then asked them to follow Him, and from then on, they were convinced by the Lord, and St. Andrew introduced Him to his brother Simon, as well as the other fishermen, the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. St. Andrew introduced the Lord as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. The Lord called them to follow Him as well, and they all followed the Lord as well, leaving behind their boats and professions, and walked with God from then on.

The Lord gave Simon a new name, that is Cephas, the Aramaic word for ‘stone’, which is Greek is Petros, and in Latin, Petrus, and thus, henceforth, he would be known as St. Peter the Apostle. They all followed the Lord, and with other followers and disciples, listened to the Lord, did what He asked them to do, and eventually, after His Passion, death and Resurrection, were commissioned and sent to the many peoples of the nations, establishing the Church of God.

In those two readings therefore we heard of the Lord calling His people to follow Him, with the example of Samuel, when he was but just a young boy, and then the poor fishermen of Galilee, the brothers Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee. They all acted on the Lord’s call, responded, not just with words, but with action and eventually, a lifetime of dedication and commitment. Samuel dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and all the brothers-turned-Apostles mentioned suffered martyrdom for their faith and dedication.

How about us all then, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all as well, through our common baptism. As we become part of the Church through baptism, we have had a share in the same calling and mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and followers, especially the Great Commission, to ‘go forth to the nations and be witnesses of the Lord and His Good News, and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

All of us share in this same mission by our common baptism, and all of us are urged to be active in contributing ourselves to the works of the Church, and to live our lives as good and faithful Christians at all times and in all things. We cannot call ourselves as Christians unless we are active in living our faith, and doing whatever we can to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites who believe one thing and then act in a different and even contradictory way.

Then, if we are all wondering if we are up to the task of doing what we have been called to do, we should look no further than those whom the Lord Himself had called. Samuel was just merely a boy when he was called, while the fishermen of Galilee were illiterate, poor, unknown and had no prior experience in the faith. They had little knowledge of the Scriptures and little wealth or means to support themselves. But that was where then they learnt to trust in the Lord, to allow the Lord to lead and guide them, to teach them and show them the way to go to.

That was also the contrast between them and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were highly educated and highly knowledgeable on the Scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and the elders. Many of them refused to believe in the Lord and follow Him because they presumed that they knew more and better than others. It was this ego and pride that became stumbling block in their way to the Lord. But some among them, like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and others, they were humble and willing to listen to the Lord, and thus, were counted among the Lord’s disciples themselves.

We can see that one does not have to be qualified and capable to follow the Lord. A poor man can be a disciple just as a rich man can, a man without education or much knowledge, intellect or abilities can be a follower of the Lord just as a smart or genius can, and a sinner, no matter how great, can also be a follower of the Lord, provided that the sinner is willing to abandon his or her sinful ways, turn their back against their past, wicked ways, and embrace the Lord fully and be His true disciple.

Aren’t all of us sinners too, brothers and sisters in Christ? Whether our sins be small or great, in some way or another, we have sinned against Him, and even after we have been baptised, we may end up falling again and again into sin through the many temptations present all around us. But this should not discourage us from embracing the Lord and responding to His call. Just as He has called His disciples from all sorts of origins, and some, like His own Apostles, were sinners, and committed sins and faults, like how St. Peter denied the Lord three times at His Passion, and how the others abandoned Him at the same time, no disciple of the Lord is perfect.

Instead, we must allow the Lord to take our imperfections, and allow Him to lead us down the path towards perfection in Him. For the Lord made worthy those whom He had chosen, and not we who make ourselves worthy for the Lord. If we think that we are more worthy than others, that is when we allow pride and ego, jealousy and ambition to cloud our thoughts and judgments, distracting us from our true intention and purpose of following God. Rather, we should focus on the Lord and our faith in Him, and discern in what way we can contribute for the work of the Church.

We should make use of this opportunity to make use of whatever God has given us to be the true witnesses of our Christian faith, by being exemplary in life and in all the things we do, in our every interactions and in even the smallest actions we carry out daily. In our second reading today, St. Paul reminded all of us that we are all the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. By our baptism, the Lord Himself has dwelled among us, and being present within us. Therefore, we should do our very best to uphold an exemplary Christian life, one that is filled with genuine action and righteousness.

Let us all not worry about how we are going to follow the Lord. Have faith in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His hands just as how the Apostles had done, and He will lead us down the right path. And the Lord will make us all worthy, strengthening and empowering us to do what He wants us to do, in glorifying His Name and proclaiming His truth in the world today. Let us all be the beacons of God’s light, living an honest and good Christian living that our lives will become genuine examples and inspiration for others to follow.

May the Lord Who calls us to be His disciples be with us always and bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, that we may serve Him from now on, in leading more and more souls to the salvation in God, continuing the good works began by the Apostles and faithful servants of God, following Him faithfully like them and the prophet Samuel of old. Amen.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 1 : 35-42

At that time, John was standing at the River Jordan, with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at Him and said, “There is the Lamb of God.” On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and He said to them, “What are you looking for?”

They answered, “Rabbi (which means Master), where are You staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where He stayed, and spent the rest of that day with Him. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and followed Jesus. Early the next morning, he found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah (which means the Christ),” and he brought Simon to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas (which means Rock).”

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 6 : 13c-15a, 17-20

Yet the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. And God, Who raised the Lord, will also raise us with His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

On the contrary, anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him. Avoid unlawful sex entirely. Any other sin a person commits is outside the body; but those who commit sexual immorality sin against their own body.

Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, given by God? You belong no longer to yourselves. Remember at what price you have been bought, and make your body serve the glory of God.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 39 : 2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

With resolve I waited for YHVH; He listened and heard me beg. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

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 YHVH, I did not seal – You know that very well.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 3 : 3b-10, 19

Samuel also lay in the house of YHVH near the Ark of God. Then YHVH called, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “I am here!” and ran to Eli saying, “I am here, did you not call me?” But Eli said, “I did not call. Go back to sleep.” So he went and lay down.

Then YHVH called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel stood up and went to Eli saying, “You called me; I am here.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.” Samuel did not yet know YHVH; and the word of YHVH had not yet been revealed to him. But YHVH called Samuel for the third time; and he went again to Eli saying, “I am here for you have called me.”

Eli realised that it was YHVH calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if He calls you again, answer : ‘Speak, YHVH, Your servant listens.’” Then YHVH came and stood there calling “Samuel! Samuel!” as He did before. And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant listens.”

Samuel grew. YHVH was with him and made all his words become true.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last day of the liturgical season of Christmas as beginning tomorrow we will begin the Ordinary Time that will last up to the day before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. And today as mentioned, we recall the extraordinary occasion of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan by St. John the Baptist, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world.

On this day, we remember that moment when the Lord came to the River Jordan, asking St. John the Baptist to do what he was supposed to do, in baptising Him so that by passing through the water of baptism, He may come to share in our baptism and show unto us the depths of God’s amazing love for each and every one of us. Through the Lord’s baptism, all of us are brought closer to experience the fullness of the truth about God’s love.

We may be wondering why is it that the Lord had to undergo His baptism at the Jordan, because the baptism of St. John was the baptism of repentance, of the desire of man to turn back against their sinful and wicked ways, and embrace God’s love and grace. But the Lord was without any sin, and sin has no place in Him, so how is it then that the Lord asked for baptism from St. John?

This was precisely also why St. John was completely taken by surprise when the Lord asked him to baptise Him, and in fact St. John told the Lord that it was Him Who was supposed to baptise him, a human and a sinner as he was, even though he was indeed the Herald of the Saviour. St. John the Baptist himself had said that he was unworthy to even untie the sandals of the Lord, Who would come after him.

And here we see the Lord instead humbling Himself and abasing Himself so lowly that He was willing to take the place and position of a servant and a sinner, by asking to be baptised by St. John. Through His baptism, the Lord showed us that He truly wants to reach out to us, and to rescue us from our sins. And by this baptism, the Lord revealed before all, what He would do in order to save us all.

We celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord just right after the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord because traditionally together with the events of the Epiphany, as well as the Wedding at Cana, the Lord manifested and revealed Himself, His nature and the purpose of His coming into this world to all of us plainly, revealed before all of us that we may come to know of the infinite love of God.

The Lord at His Baptism was revealed by the Father Himself to be His Son, as the heavens were opened and the Lord’s voice was heard, ‘This is My Son, My Beloved, My favour rests on Him’. And a dove came down on the Lord, descending on Him from the Father, the symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, at that very moment, the Lord did not just reveal His Son to be the Saviour of all, but also His nature as a God in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

At Christmas, we have seen the salvation of our God coming down to us in the flesh, born as Man, through the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit through Mary, the Mother of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Our Lord, Jesus Christ, we have therefore seen the perfect manifestation of God’s love and His desire to save us all mankind, to make us whole again and to heal us from our predicaments and bondage to sin.

Now that we all know of how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God and how we have received this share in the glory and salvation in God through our own Christian baptism, sharing in the baptism of Christ, then we must reflect on just how important our baptism is to us, and what is meant for us to be Christians, having been brought into the Church through the holy water of baptism.

Through baptism, all of us have received a share in Christ, sharing in His humanity and in all that He had suffered, as He gathered all of our sins and their consequences to Himself, all nailed to the Cross as He suffered and eventually died. And through our baptism, we have been led through the waters, just as the Israelites of old passed through the Red Sea on their journey from slavery into freedom.

Thus, we have died to our old lives of sin and bondage to those sins, and brought through the power of God, via the holy waters of our Baptismal sacrament, and became new, free sons and daughters of mankind, and also becoming the children of God, by adoption because if Christ is the Son of God, then all of us who share in the humanity of Christ also become sons and daughters of God.

And as God’s beloved children and the people of the Light of God, today as we recall in the Lord’s baptism, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world, all of us are then reminded of the great commission that the Lord Himself has entrusted to us, to all baptised Christians and members of His Church. This commission is for us to go forth to the nations and baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be the bearers of God’s truth and love to the nations, to all the people as members and parts of the Church. There are still so many people out there who have not yet received God’s truth and appreciate or know God’s love, unlike what we have ourselves received and experienced. And it is indeed up to us to share and reveal what we know to others.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is not by loud words and proclamations, but rather through our every actions in life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be. Even the smallest actions can either make people to come to believe in God through us, or to push people away from God and His salvation. It is by all these that we can either inspire or prevent people from coming to God.

We can become genuine and good witnesses of our Christian faith through our dedication and faithful actions, in showing love and kindness, compassion and empathy to others whenever we can, in showing care and concern for those who need them, in loving sincerely and generously just as the Lord has loved us. Or have we instead caused scandal for our faith by our immoral and wicked actions?

These are some things that we really need to think about and consider carefully as we proceed in life. That is why, as we end this season of Christmas and begin the season of Ordinary Time, are we going to make these next few weeks be truly ordinary, brothers and sisters in Christ? Although they are called the days and season of the Ordinary Time, by no means in fact that they should be ordinary.

Rather, it means that it is time for us to get our actions ready and to do something, to participate as we should in the good works of the Church, just as the Lord Himself began His ministry after His baptism. Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, brothers and sisters in Christ, but it is in fact the beginning of a new journey, a journey filled with God’s grace and blessed by Him.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be fully dedicated to the Lord at all times, and to do whatever we can with the time and the opportunities given to us. Let us all contribute to the good works of the Church, and be faithful and genuine witnesses of Christ through our lives, and through how we touch the lives of others positively, at all times. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 7-11

John preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And the moment He came up out of the water, heaven opened before Him, and He saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove.

And these words were heard from heaven, “You are My Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 1-9

All those, who believe that Jesus is the Anointed, are born of God; whoever loves the Father, loves the Son. How may we know, that we love the children of God? If we love God and fulfil His commands, for God’s love requires us to keep His commands.

In fact, His commandments are not a burden because all those born of God overcome the world. And the victory, which overcomes the world, is our faith. Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through blood. Not only water, but water and blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to Him, for the Spirit is truth. There are, then, three testimonies : the Spirit, the water and the blood, and these three witnesses agree.

If we accept human testimony, with greater reason must we accept that of God, given in favour of His Son.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 55 : 1-11

Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labour for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare.

Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, I will fulfil in you My promises to David. See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people. Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has promoted you.

Seek YHVH while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to YHVH for He will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways, says YHVH.

For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : It will not return to Me idle, but It shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.