Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture passages reminding us all of the need for each and every one of us to trust in the teachings and the ways that the Lord has shown us all, and not in our own human abilities and power, and neither in the matters of the world. All of us heard that we are called to turn towards God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. God will bless us all greatly and wonderfully if we have done so.

In our first reading today, we heard the sayings of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the prophet cursed all those who trusted in their worldly power and in their own human glory, on how those people would never find true happiness in life as long as they continued to trust in the powers of the world. Instead, all those who trusted in God and in His power would be blessed and would receive all goodness in due time, as God has promised. They would receive true joy and happiness from God Himself.

Then, in the second reading today, we heard from St. Paul in the Epistle he wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, where he spoke of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the proof of the faith that all of the faithful had believed, that they had not believed in vain in the Lord, Who had overcome even death itself, our greatest enemy of all. Death is the result and consequence of sin, just as sin is caused by our disobedience against the will of God.

This is the proof that it is the faith and trust in God alone that will overcome all sorts of difficulties and challenges. There is no other foundation or any thing in this universe capable of replacing the Lord as the centre, focus and hope of our lives. Any other foundation and trust in other things beyond the Lord is superficial and illusory in nature, and we will not be able to gain true joy, assurance and satisfaction because we will never find true peace unless if we go through God.

Why is that so? Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should look upon the history of our humanity’s past, at all the various actions and things that we mankind had done and which we had experienced throughout time. We see how mankind always tried to do their best, to attain the best for themselves, to gain the most joy, pleasure, happiness, glory, fame, power, and all sorts of good things for themselves, and yet, they were never truly happy and secure in their lives.

On the other hand, instead of experiencing true joy, peace and happiness, our predecessors experienced much sorrow, agony, pain, suffering, despair and lack of peace in their lives, all because of them putting their trust and their focus on the wrong things, as they placed their trust on worldly assurances of money, of human glory, prestige, of pleasure of the body and the temptation of greatness and hubris, ambition and pride.

Everyone suffered, when those who had power, greatness, wealth, prestige and the means of worldliness oppressed those who have less, little or none, in their pursuit to gain more of those worldly desires and temptations for themselves. But they did not gain more happiness, joy and satisfaction among themselves, because by our nature, greed will only lead to even more greed and desire, and when we have something, we naturally desire even more.

That is why, we can never be satisfied by anything of this world, no matter how hard we try it. And we must not forget, just as the Lord Himself said in another parable He taught His disciples, showing the futility of those who sought to enrich themselves with many worldly things, that a rich man who tore down his many barns in order to accommodate even more goods in them, but was told by the Lord of his foolishness, as his own life would be taken away from him that very night, and none of his amassed wealth and glory would be his any longer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why as I have mentioned earlier, death is our greatest enemy, for death marks the moment when our earthly life and existence ended. And that is why, throughout history and time, men had tried again and again, futilely, in order to try to overcome and cheat death. Many spent much money and resources, efforts and trying various methods in order to attain for themselves eternal life and youth. Many tried to keep themselves alive and appearing good, without success.

People had been spending a lot on beauty products and those things that were claimed to have life-lengthening and rejuvenating effects on the body. But in the end, no one can extend one’s life even by a millionth of a second, for everything is according to God’s will, and when God calls us back, and to give an account of our respective lives, we have no way to refuse this call. And none of our earthly glories and power will follow us through.

That is why, today’s Gospel passage, in which the Lord went through with His disciples and followers a series of blessings and curses for certain groups of people, which we know better as the Sermon on the Mount or the Eight Beatitudes, we heard exactly what we have just been discussing on our search for happiness, our often futile efforts to preserve ourselves from death, by searching and desiring for more worldly things, and allowing ourselves to be tempted by the devil.

In the Beatitudes, the Lord reminded all of us His people, that unless we learn and try to let go of all these wicked desires, and restrain all those thoughts of pride, ambition, and not allowing our ego and pride to overcome us, we will end up falling into sin, deeper and deeper, and eventually, as mentioned, sin leads to death, and not just any death, but eternal death and damnation. For those who sin and does not repent, they have no part in the Covenant that God had made with all those who are faithful to Him.

Those who are proud and ambitious, those who oppress and persecute others just so that they can earn for themselves more worldly glory, power, wealth, riches, majesty, fame and all other things we often desire, all of us who choose to put our trust in all these worldly things, will find ourselves disappointed because even though now we may enjoy what we have, and indulge in the pleasures they provided us, but these things will not last forever.

The time will come when the reckoning of our lives will be upon us, and unless we have done what the Lord has commanded us to do, then we may end up falling into eternal damnation, and has no share in the Covenant, the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Saviour has brought upon us by His sacrifice on the cross. Only those who are humble, those who are poor in spirit, meaning those who look at themselves not with pride but instead with humility before God, will receive the fullness of God’s glory.

And through the Beatitudes, God is calling us all to follow this path that He had set before us all. He is calling us to be faithful, in all things and in all of our dealings and actions, that we place God as the very core and centre of our lives and existences. We are called to be peacemakers, to be those who bring the love of God to one another, sharing the love and blessings which He has so generously given us, so that each and every one of us may enjoy the fruits of God’s wonderful love.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, if we have not done so, let us all grow in faith in God, and devote ourselves to love God and to turn ourselves away from the path of sin and wickedness. Let us all strive to overcome our attachment to worldly temptations and goods, and instead, make the effort to put our complete trust in God. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our strength, and let us all grow ever closer to Him, from now on, through the lessons of the Beatitudes, and bear the fruits of the Beatitudes of Christ in our daily living. Amen.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 6 : 17, 20-26

At that time, coming down the hill with His disciples, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of His disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.

Then, looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.”

“Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets.”

“But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.”

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 15 : 12, 16-20

Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin.

Also, those who fall asleep, in Christ, are lost. If it is only for this life, that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 17 : 5-8

This is what YHVH says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from YHVH!”

He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in YHVH and whose confidence is in Him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.

Sunday, 10 February 2019 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the message from the Scripture readings that we have heard is very clear, and that is, for us all as Christians, each and every one of us have been called by God to be His followers and disciples, as those whom He has willingly bestowed His love and grace to, and we have been called with a purpose and mission given to us, to become His witnesses and messengers among the nations.

But as we heard from the Scripture passages today, we saw how many of those whom God had called, felt that they were unworthy to be called by God, feeling that as they have committed sins before God, they would not be considered clean and worthy enough to become the ones through whom God would perform His many wonderful works among the people. In the Old Testament, we heard this in the calling of the prophet Isaiah as a prophet, and then in the Gospel in the calling of the Apostles.

But it was exactly for this reason that the Lord has called and chosen those whom He deemed to be worthy to become His servants and messengers, witnesses and champions among the people. Instead of boasting of their might and greatness, their abilities and their talents, they humbly admitted their imperfections, their corrupted nature due to sin, and their weak selves, as mere men amidst the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of all.

This is why the Lord chose them, although they were sinners and imperfect, because they were willing to admit humbly of that fact, and not putting their own selfish desires and ego above their commitment and desire to love the Lord, their God. And that was why the Apostles, the prophets of old, and the many other faithful servants and messengers of God were able to give their whole life in commitment to the works of God, despite the challenges that they had to encounter throughout their lives and respective ministries.

Many of them had to labour hard and endured hardships throughout their ministries. The prophet Isaiah had to withstand the stubbornness and rejection of the wicked pagans and idol worshippers among the people of the kingdom of Judah, especially early during his ministry. In one occasion, he had to confront the king of Judah, Ahaz for his lack of faith, and openly proclaimed God’s words before him, promising the coming of the Messiah, as Ahaz showed false humility and doubt in the power of God.

And as what the Apostles themselves, St. Peter and the other of the Twelve, with the many other disciples of the Lord, St. Paul the Apostle, the many other holy men and women, many of them martyrs of the Church, had shown us through the many accounts of their works throughout the New Testament and as told to us through the tradition of the Church and the story of the lives of those saints and martyrs, we have heard how in those numerous occasions, those faithful predecessors of ours have given their all to God.

This is contrasted to the attitude of those who claimed themselves to be great and pious during the history of the people of Israel. During the time of Isaiah and the other prophets, especially that of Jeremiah, who came after the former, who had to contend with many who claimed themselves to be the Lord’s prophets and accused Jeremiah of falsehoods and lying to the king, when in truth Jeremiah prophesied the truth about the coming of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The false prophets meanwhile wanted to gain more power, influence and glory for themselves, by trying to please the king and his nobles with false promises and lies.

And at the time of the Lord Jesus, we heard of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, two groups of people among whom, many rose up to oppose the works of the Lord and His disciples, because they saw the Lord and His disciples as rivals to their own teaching authority and positions of privilege and honour within the community of the Jewish people. They did not want to lose all that they have gained in privilege and power.

That was why they allowed their ego and pride to overcome them and to get in the way of their faith and obedience to God. In essence, they put their own ego, pride, ambition and desire at the centre of their existence, and set God aside. And when this happened, that is why they did not allow God’s truth to enter into their hearts and minds, and although they have seen and witnessed His miracles and power for themselves, they refused to believe because of their stubborn hearts and closed minds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for each and every one of us, we have been called to reflect on what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, to know what it means for us to be called by God to be His servants. If we can understand our direction in life and our purpose in following and serving God, then surely we will be able to follow the Lord, and serve and love Him better than what we may have been doing all these while.

First of all, there are two important lessons that we must take from today’s words of the Lord. It is the lesson on humility and commitment, that each and everyone of us must heed in becoming God’s followers and servants. By following the examples of the prophets, the Apostles and the holy saints who have gone before us, we can find ways to be better in our faith life and devotion to God.

To follow the Lord, we must learn to trust Him with all of our hearts and with all of our effort. And this often requires us to have that humility of heart and willingness to listen, to have an open mind ready for receiving His words and listening to His will for us. Otherwise, we will be easily swayed by worldly temptations and concerns, just as the false prophets, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had shown us, in their refusal to listen to God because of their own sense of pride, ego and the greed in their hearts.

And then, we also need commitment, because a lot of the work and missions that the Lord has given and entrusted to us require us to put our hearts and minds to them, devoting our whole effort and abilities to do what the Lord has commanded us to do. And often, as the Lord Jesus said to the Apostles, as they were fishing in the lake, that they need to ‘put out into the deep’, and this means that more effort is required for us to do what we are supposed to do as God’s servants. A fisherman who could not find any more fishes to catch in the waters near the coast need to go further in order to catch more fishes in the deeper waters. And hence, it is often that we need to challenge ourselves beyond the ordinary to do the good works of God.

We often think that we are unworthy and that we are incapable of such deeds, or that the challenges that we have to face are too great to be overcome. Then we need to remember that God did not call the perfect and those who considered themselves as great and mighty ones to do His will. He called imperfect and sinful people, many of them were poor, uneducated, brash and also ambitious, filled with wickedness and unworthiness.

It was God Who made all those whom He called worthy, as we heard how the Seraph touched the lips of Isaiah with the burning charcoal from the altar of heaven, symbolically showing the divine providence by which Isaiah would speak, with the authority of God. And then the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles and the disciples, and the same Holy Spirit came to dwell in the faithful in the Church, the fullness of His many gifts, that revealed the truth of God and guided the disciples of the Lord in their ministry.

This is a reminder to all of us as Christians, that each and every one of us have been called by God to follow Him and to do what He has commanded us to do. He will give us the necessary strength and abilities in order to be able to do what we are supposed to do, and He will be with us, guiding us on our way through the challenges and the difficulties we may encounter along the journey. We have to put our trust in the Lord and give our very best in our service to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, and love Him with greater fidelity and learn to commit ourselves more thoroughly and wholeheartedly from now on, that our every words and actions, everything we say and do, will be for the greater glory and honour of God, and not for ourselves and our selfish desires and ambition. May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us all in our faith, from now on, and always. Amen.

Sunday, 10 February 2019 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.