Sunday, 5 February 2023 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are reminded of the responsibilities and the calling which all of us as Christians are called to do in our lives. Each and every one of us as the disciples and followers of the Lord are expected to be good, committed, faithful and active servants and followers of God, in that each one of us are always active in living our lives with faith, practicing whatever we believe in with sincerity and devotion at all times. We cannot be true Christians unless our actions and dealings, works and interactions, words and all that we do are in alignment with the path and the way that the Lord has shown us. Otherwise, if we do not do or say or act as how we profess to believe in God, we are no better than hypocrites, and we may even cause scandal for our faith and besmirch the Holy Name of God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people and calling upon them all through Isaiah to do what is right and just, as He has taught and shown them through His many messengers and prophets. The Lord wanted all of them to live worthily of Him, by showing love to one another and to show compassion on the poor and the weak, to be merciful and just in their way of life and actions, as examples to one another so that more and more hopefully may come to believe in the Lord as well, through our exemplary lives and role models. This can only be achieved if we learn to resist the temptations of our desires for selfish pleasures and wants in life, and if we can learn to put God at the forefront and centre of our whole lives and existence, and if we can truly dedicate ourselves to the service of God and to do what He has told us to do, then surely we will have lived our lives worthily of the Lord.

In our second reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful people of God in the city of Corinth, in which St. Paul told the people about his perseverance in proclaiming the message of God’s truth and Good News in their midst, resisting the temptations of worldly power and glory, and instead, proclaiming fearlessly about the Crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, to an audience that were sometimes lukewarm and at times even hostile against his efforts. Nonetheless, the Apostle continued to labour hard and spent a lot of effort and time to glorify God and to proclaim Him, which eventually bore much fruits as more and more people came to believe in the Lord through the efforts that St. Paul had put into place in proclaiming the Gospels of Christ.

He was doing what the Lord Jesus Himself had spoken about in our Gospel passage today, as we recall in that passage the words of the parable of the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Lord Jesus spoke of this parable to His disciples comparing them all to the all-important salt and light, two commodities that are still important and crucial today, but which were even more indispensable and important back then. For without salt and light, the world at the time of the Lord Jesus cannot operate much, as salt and light both played very important roles in the communities of the people, in everyone’s homes and in many activities involving daily living and actions, in work and more things, more than what we may need of those two things today, that is salt and light in our lives.

First of all, salt is used as an important flavouring agent, which is necessary to impart taste and flavour to food which could usually be rather bland tasteless. Salt is also important for the body in order to replenish certain ions and substances that our bodies require in order to function properly. While salt may be easily available these days and many even have problems of excessive consumption of salt, back then, many people did not even have steady supply of salt, as salt production was rather difficult, labour intensive and tightly controlled by the state back then, and without modern technologies that allowed mass production of salt, salt became a rather expensive commodity that was widely sought and desired, and was truly a precious item back then. Salt was also used in the preservation of food, which was important in the era before the advent of effective refrigeration as is present in our world today.

Meanwhile, light was also something very important as although light is abundant from the Sun during the daytime, but at night time, light was often lacking, as even the full brightness of the Full Moon and the stars of the sky paled in comparison with the brightness of the Sun. Night time was therefore often dark, particularly during the time when the Moon was not visible. The roads and the areas outside towns and villages were often very dark and treacherous, filled with all sorts of wild animals and predators, and nobody dared to travel alone or in the dark without the guidance of any light, in the form of lanterns and torches, which could provide assurance and protection for anyone who wished to travel in the dark times. Otherwise, people would rather wait until the morning before they continued to travel. And this was the reality of a world before the advent of electricity and easily available lighting from electricity, a world that we may not be truly familiar with.

Hence, imagine just how useless it is for salt to lose its taste and flavour, its saltiness and hence the ability to give flavour and to prevent food from spoiling and becoming bad. How useless and pointless it is also therefore for light to be hidden without been used to dispel the darkness wherever they are needed, for this light to be hidden and not used as a source of inspiration, hope and assurance, in the times of darkness. What the Lord wanted to say to us in providing this parable to us all through His disciples is that, our lives have to be meaningful, virtuous, righteous, good and just, filled with the virtues and righteousness of God, with Christian values and goodness, with all the things that the Lord Himself has shown and taught us to do. However, many of us as Christians are still ignorant of this calling and this mission which each and every one of us have in this life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are therefore called and reminded yet again by the Lord to be active in living our Christian lives, full of commitment and devotion to God, and full of the sincerity and the desire to serve the Lord, and to do what He Himself has taught us to do, and to make it such that our every words and actions in our respective lives truly become great sources of inspiration and good examples for others to follow, just like the salt of the earth and light of the world. God has provided each and every one of us with so many distinct and unique sets of gifts, talents, abilities, blessings and opportunities, giving us many chances to make good use of them for everyone’s benefits and for the greater glory of God. Now the question is, are we willing to embrace God’s call and are we willing to follow Him and walk in His path, faithfully and with conviction?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence help one another to remain firm in faith and to be ever more active in reaching out to our fellow men and women, in our respective communities and in whatever areas that we are able to contribute in. Let us no longer be ignorant of the many opportunities and chances that God had provided us in being able to live up to our Christian mission and calling. Like the Apostles, St. Paul and many other holy men and women of God, let us all truly be the flavourful salt of the earth and the ever wonderful light of the world, proclaiming the love and truth of God, in our daily living, in our every words, actions and deeds, at all times. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, as salt of the earth and light of the world. Amen.

Sunday, 5 February 2023 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 13-16

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it.”

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead it is put on a lampstand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.”

Sunday, 5 February 2023 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 2 : 1-5

When I came to reveal to you the mystery of God’s plan I did not count on eloquence or on a show of learning. I was determined not to know anything among you but Jesus, the Messiah, and a crucified Messiah. I myself came weak, fearful and trembling; my words and preaching were not brilliant or clever to win listeners.

It was, rather, a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might be a matter not of human wisdom, but of God’s power.

Sunday, 5 February 2023 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 111 : 4-5, 6-7, 8a and 9

The Lord is for the righteous a Light in the darkness, He is kind, merciful and upright. It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty.

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever. He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is confident, he needs not fear. He gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.

Sunday, 5 February 2023 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 58 : 7-10

Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the Glory of YHVH your rearguard.

Then you will call and YHVH will answer, you will cry and He will say, I am here. If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word, if you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us as Christians we are all reminded to be ever more righteous and committed to the path which the Lord has shown and taught us all, and each one of us are called to embody what the Lord taught His disciples and hence all of us, as He laid out for us in the Eight Beatitudes that we heard in our Gospel passage today. Each one of us as Christians are expected to be exemplary in our lives and we are all reminded that our actions and way of life do affect others and can either be an inspiration to one another to follow or can instead be a source of scandal for the Lord and His Church.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the about the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah, a prophet who lived and ministered during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of that kingdom and in the last decades of Judah as an independent entity. Zephaniah called on the people of the Lord to be meek, humble and just, as well as to seek refuge in the Lord so that on the Day of Judgment, they may truly find rest and consolation in God, their Hope and their Strength. Zephaniah spoke of these in the context of how the people of God in the past centuries before that time had often refused to obey the Lord and His words, and had acted proudly and with ambition, seeking worldly glory and satisfaction, all of which led them down the path of sin.

And due to their sins, they had been sundered from God’s grace and love, and suffered the consequences of their sins. They had been defeated, crushed and conquered by their enemies, their cities and towns destroyed and burnt, their houses and dwelling places turned upside down and occupied by the others brought in to dwell in their lands. Many of the people of God themselves were also brought into exile as what happened when the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of the people of God, were destroyed by the Assyrians, and many of its people were brought away to distant lands by the victorious Assyrians. This happened just a few decades before the time of the prophet Zephaniah and his ministry.

Hence, what Zephaniah delivered before the people is a reminder to the people that each one of them ought to return once again to the path that God has shown them, to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide and lead them down the right path instead of insisting on walking down the path of rebelliousness, pride, greed and ambition that many of their ancestors had taken. Zephaniah assured them of the Lord’s guidance and that if they remained faithful in God, then the Lord would provide for them and that they would be preserved and protected. They would once again be God’s people and they would be restored once again to their honourable state and position. Unfortunately, the people of God lapsed again into sinful ways after King Josiah passed on, rebelling against God and hardening their hearts against Him, eventually leading to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, much like how the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel earlier on.

In our second reading passage today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth, in which he told them how God chose the seemingly weak and unimportant people to receive His grace and salvation, and how God will strengthen and give His grace, wisdom and strength to the weak and the humble, all so that they can indeed gain glory through the Lord, and be saved, as opposed to the proud and the haughty, all those who trusted in their own power and greatness more than they trust in the Lord and His providence. The Apostle hence reminded the people of God not to follow the path of worldliness, greed, pride and ambition, which the world advocates, but to follow the Lord and the path He has shown us all and taught to us.

That brings us now to the Eight Beatitudes itself, which the Lord pointed out in His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as detailed in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes highlighted to us some of the great virtues that all of us as God’s faithful and righteous people ought to have in our lives. Unless we live our lives according to the Beatitudes, we cannot truly call ourselves as true and genuine Christians, as if we profess to have faith in God and yet, our actions are otherwise, and in opposition to what He has presented in the Beatitudes, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. Through His presentation of the Beatitudes, the Lord is exhorting and reminding us all to model our lives based on the Beatitudes, to be good and righteous just as He is good and righteous.

As we heard from the Beatitudes, the virtues of being a Christian is essentially to be able to put God as the focus and centre of our lives and existence, and removing from ourselves the taint of pride and ego, to put the need of others and our fellow brothers and sisters around us ahead of our own selfish desires, ambition and greed. A good Christian and a good follower of the Lord is someone who seeks the Lord with all of his or her heart and strength, who loves Him and who desires to obey Him and His will, and who wants to walk with Him in the path of righteousness, justice and peace. That is what is meant by being poor in spirit, as it refers to our internal desire to let God come into our lives and transform us to be His righteous and good servants, realising the limitations of our own human power and ability.

And allowing God to lead us, all of us ought then to seek for a good and holy life, one that is filled with the same love that God has for each one of us, in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, in seeking peace and harmony between all the peoples, and in doing what is right and just in every opportunities available to us, and in enduring the persecutions, challenges and trials that may come our way in the midst of our journey as Christians wandering through this world filled with sin, evil and darkness. We should be good examples and role models for one another, living our lives faithfully and commit ourselves each day with faith, so that all others who witness our actions and hear our words, see our way of life, may all come to believe in God and know Him as well through us.

The Lord Himself has said and reassured us that if we live in the way that He has taught and shown us, in the way of the Beatitudes, then we truly will be blessed and be filled with His grace, and on the Day of Judgment, mercy and love shall be shown us, as the gates of Heaven and eternal life will surely be opened to us. However, if we continue to persist in our state of sin, in our disobedience and rebellion against God, then we will end up falling deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation and destruction, as what had happened to many among our predecessors. And if we recall what we have just discussed earlier on, all these were caused by their failure to adhere to the values and virtues espoused in the Beatitudes. As good Christians, we truly need to live our lives according to the Beatitudes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best (if we have not done so yet) to live our lives according to the Beatitudes. Let us all be that examples of virtue and love, of righteousness and justice in our daily actions and living, so that by our faith and dedication to God, we may continue to inspire one another in living our Christian lives faithfully, and we may also remain humble and committed to the Lord, and not be easily swayed by the many worldly temptations all around us, which can indeed mislead us down the wrong path in life. Let us all resist those many temptations and attachments we may have to worldly vices and evils, and get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly matters and desires, so that we may indeed grow ever closer to the Lord and be ever more worthy of Him and His grace and salvation.

May God be with us all and may He empower all of us with the strength and courage, the virtues and the goodness in us so that we may truly walk in the path of His Beatitudes, ever reminding ourselves to be good and righteous in all things and at all opportunities available to us. May He show us His love always and may all of us continue to live worthily in His Presence, loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may all inspire one another to get ever closer to the Lord, our Saviour and loving Father. May God bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all of our actions and dealings, interactions and more. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become our wisdom from God, and Who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Zephaniah 2 : 3 and Zephaniah 3 : 12-13

Seek YHVH, all you poor of the land who fulfil His commands, do justice and be meek, and perhaps you will find refuge on the day YHVH comes to judge.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.