Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us mark the occasion of the World Mission Sunday, reminding all of us that all of us as Christians are called to be missionaries of our faith, of the truth and love of God. All of us through our baptism have received this mission from the Lord, the same mission that all of us share in our Christian faith, and we must never have the thinking that only those who are called as missionaries or those who are members of the ordained or the religious brothers and sisters who are called to a life of mission for God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, the words of the Lord proclaiming His care and love for His people, in gathering all of them, scattered from among the nations and lost, humiliated and without a leader, as He would become their Lord and guide once again, and reunite them into the land that He would lead them into. And this was the promise and reassurance that the Lord made to His people, who at that time were in the midst of the lowest points of their fortunes, surrounded and oppressed by their neighbouring nations.

At that time, the prophet Jeremiah ministered to the people of God in Judah, at the last years of its existence, after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians for over a century previously, and its people exiled and scattered among the nations. Judah would also follow suit shortly as it was attacked, its capital Jerusalem besieged and destroyed by the Babylonians, and most of the populations brought off into exile in Babylon and other placed, while some sought refuge in Egypt. All these happened during the lifetime and ministry of prophet Jeremiah.

Therefore, at that time, Jeremiah spoke the word of God in consoling and reassuring His people at the time of their great misfortune and misery. The Lord wanted all of them to know that He did not leave them alone, and He was always with them even through their darkest moments, and He sent to them Jeremiah to be the one to reveal to them His will, His intention and love. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jeremiah was sent as not just a prophet but also as a missionary to reveal God’s truth and love to His people.

Then, in our psalm today this is reiterated again, as the song of joy speaks of how God brought back the exiles and all those people that had been scattered, and how they went in sorrow and God reunited them and returned them to their homeland in great joy. God had done great things for His people, and He came to them, seeking them, sending prophets, messengers as missionaries to find them and to reach out to them, and to touch their hearts and minds, to put in them once again the love and faith for God.

In our second reading today, we heard of the passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which, as repeatedly mentioned throughout that Epistle, the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of all mankind and the whole world was presented as the High Priest of all, in presenting His offering on behalf of all of us, which is worthy for the atonement of all of our innumerable sins. That is because Christ acted as the High Priest of all, by offering the perfect and worthy offering, of Himself as the Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, put to death and slain on the Cross, which is His Altar.

Through this Epistle, the author of the Epistle, which was directed to the Jewish converts and other Jews among the people, both in Judea and around the world, wanted to tell all of them the same message that God has given their ancestors through the prophet Jeremiah. God loved all of them and wanted to be reunited with them, and as all of us had been separated from Him through sin, He sent us all the deliverance through His Saviour, Who is none other than His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, born into this world, the Divine Word Incarnate that became our Light and Salvation.

This is the same Christ Who in our Gospel passage today heard the cries of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, who was blind for a long time. He cried out for the Lord to have mercy on Him and to heal him from his affliction. And when the people around him scolded him and tried to silence him, he cried out all the louder, calling on the Lord, Who heard him perfectly and came to him. The Lord wanted to heal him and restore his sight, and asked the blind man if that was what he desired, and then healed his eyes, by the power of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, all of us are reminded through today’s Scripture passages of our mission as Christians, as those who have answered God’s call and received baptism to be members of His Church. All of us share this calling to be evangelistic and missionary in our lives, which is not just limited to those who have given themselves to the sacred orders or the consecrated life as religious brothers and sisters. The Lord calls on each and every one of us to play our part in the mission of the Church.

And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is why we have to recall what we have just heard in our Scripture passages today, as well as what we have just discussed and reflected just now. The Lord is calling us to do whatever we can, in our respective capacities and abilities, in whatever opportunities we have, in reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters, to show them the truth and love of God and to be exemplary and as inspirations in how each one of us ought to live out our lives as good and dedicated Christians.

That is the essence of the Lord’s Great Commission to all of us, His Church, as He proclaimed to His disciples just before He was about to ascend to Heaven, that they all are to go forth to the peoples of all the nations, and to make disciples of them, and to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the mission which the Lord has entrusted to all of us, for us to be His missionaries in this world, through our everyday living and our actions that lead many others to God and His salvation.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this World Mission Sunday today, all of us must not be idle in living our Christian lives with true and genuine faith. We cannot be hypocrites who profess to believe in God and yet our actions show otherwise. Not only that it does not lead others towards God, but worse still, if our lives cause scandal to our faith, we can end up leading more people to leave the Church and to turn away from God’s truth and salvation. And with that, the responsibility for such event will hang heavily upon us.

We have to live our lives with faith, to reach out to the marginalised and those who are without hope and are downtrodden. Just like the Lord reassuring His people, gathering the lost and scattered ones back and calling on them to return to Him, and just as He has shown mercy and love on the blind man, healing Bartimaeus from his blindness, so all of us have also been called to follow Our Lord’s examples in love, in sharing this love He has for us, through us, with one another.

How do we do this? By genuinely loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and all those whom we encounter in life. We have to show our love for our loved ones, for our neighbours, friends and others, and even to acquaintances and strangers, and also, our enemies and those who hate us, that through our love and patience with them, we may even make them realise the errors of their ways, and be reconciled with them, just as the Lord had sought to be reconciled with us. It has to begin with us and our attitudes towards each other. As long as we are genuine in living our faith, then we are already good missionaries.

On this World Mission Sunday therefore, let us pray for one another, that we may be ever more effective and sincere missionaries of our Christian faith, that we may ever be more genuine in how we live up to our faith that we may always inspire more and more people to follow the Lord, and to touch the lives of more people, especially those who have not known or have distanced themselves from God. We should then also pray for those who have dedicated themselves especially to missionary work all over the world, all those who dedicated themselves to proclaim and teach the faith to diverse groups of peoples, both within and outside our Church communities.

May the Lord continue to be with us and guide us in our journey of faith and help us all to be good and dedicated missionaries that are committed to serve the Lord and His people daily, at all times. May God bless all of our good works, efforts and endeavours from now on, all for His greater glory, the holy mission of His Church for the salvation of souls. Amen.

Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 46-52

At that time, Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he began to call out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying, “Take heart! Get up, He is calling you!” He immediately threw aside his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Master, let me see again!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” And, immediately, he could see, and he followed Jesus along the road.

Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 5 : 1-6

Every High Priest is taken from among mortals and appointed to be their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring for he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices for his sins as well as for the sins of the people.

Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become High Priest in taking upon Himself this dignity, but it was given to Him by the One Who says : You are My Son, I have begotten You today. And in another place : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 7-9

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

“Look, I will bring them back from the land of the north, gather them from the ends of the earth, the lame and the blind, mothers and women in labour – a great throng will return. They went away weeping, they will return in joy. I will lead them by the streams of water, on a level path so that no one will stumble, for I am Israel’s Father and Ephraim is My firstborn.”

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.