Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us heard the message of the Scriptures, telling us all to be righteous in all of our ways, heeding all that the Lord had taught us to do, by obeying the laws and rules of the Church, and by living a genuine life of faith, filled with love for God and with love for our fellow men. This is what all of us as Christians have been called to do, to be true disciples of our Lord in all of our words and deeds alike.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how Jesus our Lord spoke to His disciples in parables, and then revealed to them the meaning of those parables. Through those parables, God through His Son, Jesus, wanted to reveal to us, the truth about Himself and how we all ought to strive to achieve our salvation through Him, that is by obeying Him and by walking righteously in His path. This is where we should indeed take heed of what we have heard from the Word of God in the Scriptures today, that we may know how we ought to go forward from now on.

First of all, we heard about the parable of the weeds, in which a sower sowed good seeds in a field, and hoped to see good plants and crops growing in due time, only to see weeds growing amongst the good crops because an enemy had come in the dark and sowed the seeds of the weeds amongst the crops. The enemy surely wanted the crops to fail, and the weeds were scattered among the crops in order to compete against the crops for nutrients, and for the whole crop to be less desirable as a whole.

This parable showed us the works of God amongst us mankind, for God Himself is the sower, who sowed good seeds, that is the seeds of faith in our hearts. The field itself is the world, encompassing all of us mankind, in whom God planted His goodness, His Spirit and presence in all. However, the enemy, that is the devil, is out there, actively trying to undermine the good works of God, by spreading the weeds among us, that is sin and the temptations to sin.

But did God in the parable of the sower immediately ordered all of the wheat crops to be thrown away with the weeds? No, He did not do so. He allowed the wheat to grow first, and mature into mature wheat crops with bountiful fruits, and the weeds also grew alongside them. That is because all of us mankind, who have been tainted by sin ever since our forefathers disobeyed God and His commandments, are still ultimately beloved by God, our Lord and Creator.

He wanted to give us all a second chance, the opportunity for us to redeem ourselves, and that was why, He allowed us to continue to grow and develop in this world, with all of our imperfections in us, all the good and evil within us. What we all need to take note of, is then, what the Lord Jesus then continued to tell His disciples, comparing His heavenly kingdom with the parable of the mustard seed and the rising bread.

The Lord mentioned that the kingdom of Heaven is like that of a mustard seed, very small compared to the other seeds and fruits of more noticeable trees and crops. However, that very small seed, when planted in a good soil, will grow into a large tree, larger than many other trees and scrubs, certainly much larger than what people would normally think such a small seed would grow into.

There are many symbolisms in this particular parable, as the mustard seed represents the faith in all of us. The faith might have begun as a small seed, which we ourselves often do not realise that we have with us. However, given the right conditions, when planted in a good soil, meaning that when we realise that gift of faith present in each one of us, and then doing what we can to cultivate that faith, through our actions in life, through the love which we show to God and to our fellow men, and through our justice and righteousness, we will allow the faith to grow in us.

And indeed, as in the other parable not mentioned in today's readings, the parable of the sower, the seed that fell onto the rich and good soil bear its fruits a thirtyfold, a sixtyfold and even a hundredfold and more! That means, if we are truly faithful to the Lord, and truly practice what we believe in our lives, we are allowing ourselves to grow in the sight of the Lord, like a growing stalk of wheat that is healthy and bountiful.

Otherwise, if we do not do what the Lord had told us to do, but instead preferring to follow the temptations of the devil, we are like those wheat crops that were outcompeted by the weeds and whose life is choked out of it by the wheat. That is the reality of sin, brothers and sisters in Christ. The devil is always trying to tempt us with sin, and indeed sin can often feel very pleasurable and enjoyable. It is easier to do what is considered as sin before God, rather than to obey the will of the Lord.

But if we do not make an active effort to resist the encroaching allures of sin, we will often end up falling into those temptations and commit sin before God, and in the end, as the sower and master of the field ordered his servants to collect all the weeds and burn them in the fire, He will also collect all the unworthy wheat, all those corrupted and destroyed by the weeds, and throw them into the fire, for they are useless and meaningless as a harvest.

We need to ask ourselves, and look deep into our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we doing what the Lord wants us to do? Or are we instead too busy with our wants and desires, with our busy daily schedules and preoccupations in life to take note of what it is that God really wants us to do with our lives? If we are not providing the best condition for God's good works to be realised in us, then how will our faith in God grow and develop?

Just like in the parable of the flour rising as a dough when yeast is added to the flour and mixed in it. All those who have baked before will know that yeast cannot cause the rising of the dough into a fluffy and soft, spongy bread without the proper condition. It requires a seal from outside air, since yeast will only cause fermentation of the flour and creating the fluffy texture of the bread in the absence of oxygen.

Similarly, if our lives are not devoid of all of its wickedness and all of the sins which we have committed, and if we do not make the conscious and active effort in order to turn ourselves away from those sins, how will we then grow closer and more devoted to God? We will only draw further and further away from Him, and when the time of judgment comes upon us, we shall end up on the wrong side of the judgment. Do we want to end up in the eternal torment prepared for the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels? Do we want to be counted among those rejected by God?

Now, indeed, it is the right time for us to do something with our lives. Many of us often like and prefer to delay and to put off doing what we can in fact do now, at this very moment, beginning from this minute. But, do we realise that our lives are at the mercy of God? Do we all realise that we may just meet the end of our lives at any moment that God wishes it? Should we wait until it is too late for us and then regret about it?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all begin from this moment on, in every little things we do in our respective lives, to be faithful to God in all of our ways. In this manner, slowly we are providing for ourselves a rich and fertile soil for the seeds of faith inside each one of us to germinate and to grow, providing rich fruits of the Spirit inside us. And the Lord, Who knows all that we are thinking and doing, will reward us in the end.

Let us all make it a habit to do what is good according to God's will, by loving our brethren, by showing mercy and forgiveness to those who have caused us hurt and suffering. Let us all show our faith by example, and not just by mere words alone. Let us all be ever more devoted and committed disciples of the Lord, so that in the end, all of us will share the eternal joy and glory of our Lord in His kingdom in Heaven. May God bless us all forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 24-43

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'"

"He answered them, 'This is the work of an enemy.' They asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' He told them, 'No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Jesus offered them another parable : "The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches."

He told them another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast that a woman took, and hid in three measures of flour, until the whole mass of dough began to rise."

Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet : I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.

Then He sent the crowds away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." Jesus answered them, "The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the Angels."

"Just as the weeds are pulled up and burnt in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send His Angels, and they will weed out His kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear."

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, "The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, 'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'"

"He answered them, 'This is the work of an enemy.' They asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' He told them, 'No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 8 : 26-27

Likewise, the Spirit helps is in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us, without words, as if with groans. And He, Who sees inner secrets, knows the desires of the Spirit, for He asks for the holy ones, what is pleasing to God.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 85 : 5-6, 9-10, 15-16a

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

All the nations You have made will come; they will worship before You, o YHVH, and bring glory to Your Name. For You are great, and wonderful are Your deeds; You alone, are God.

But You, o YHVH God, are merciful, slow to anger, loving and faithful. Turn to me, take pity on me.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom 12 : 13, 16-19

For there is no other god besides You, One Who cares for everyone, who could ask You to justify Your judgments. Your strength is the source of Your justice and because You are the Lord of all, You can be merciful to everyone.

To those who doubt Your sovereign power You show Your strength and You confound the insolence of those who ignore it. But You, the Lord of strength, judge with prudence and govern us with great patience, because You are able to do anything at the time You want.

In this way You have taught Your people that a righteous person must love his human fellows; You have also given Your people cause for hope by prompting them to repent of their sin.

Sunday, 16 July 2017 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us gather together listening to the words of the Scriptures, which are indeed the Word of God, which in accordance with what we heard from the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. The Word of God has come into the world, and the Word had been sent from God to dwell among us, He Who is none other than Christ, Son of God and Word of God incarnate in flesh of Man.

The entire theme of this Sunday’s readings is about the growth of seeds and plants, in which the Word of God is likened to seeds that God planted in each and every one of us. In the Psalm, we sing to the glory of God, remembering how He nurtures the earth and cares for it. In the same manner, He nurtured us all and allow us to flourish in this world. But how about that seed, the Word of God which He planted inside each one of us?

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known parable of the sower, in which Jesus our Lord spoke to His disciples about how the sower of the seeds sowed his seeds in various places, only for the seeds to end up in various end results. Some of the seeds ended up on the roadside, eaten up by the birds, while some others fell on a rocky soil, unable to grow because they were unable to establish their roots, and while some others fell among thistles and brambles, which choke the life out of the newly grown plants, and last of all, some fell on rich soil, where the seeds grew and bore in multiples of what had been planted.

The Lord Himself has explained the meaning of each of the segments of this parable, explaining to His disciples what they all need to do in order to blossom in their faith, allowing the Word of God to grow in them and to encompass them completely. However, it is also important for us all that we must heed its message, so that each and every one of us know how we ourselves should live in accordance with God’s will, and be able to flourish best in our faith.

First of all, we heard of the case where the seeds fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky. The Lord Jesus explained that this is the case when the devil came by and took the Word away from the people, who therefore did not believe because of that. It is a clear reminder for every one of us that we have a great adversary in the devil, the one who is always active, prowling about seeking to drag our souls into damnation. He is always active and continue to plot for the downfall of all mankind, God’s beloved creation.

We must be careful lest the devil comes to us and snatches from us the Word of God, because of all his lies and all the things that he tempted us with, pulling us away from the path to salvation and leading us into the path of ruin. He is always ever active seeking for those whose faith in the Lord are weak, and all those who do not have a good relationship with God, whose faith is superficial and lacking in strength.

How should we strengthen our faith in God then? It is by deepening our relationship with Him, through prayer and time which we spend with Him. We should not be too busy with ourselves and whatever it is that we are doing in life. It is often that we leave the Lord to the last priority in our lives, and as a result, we open ourselves to the devil to come into our hearts and snatch whatever it is that God had placed in us. We end up falling into sin and evil, because of our inability to strengthen that relationship we ought to have with God, and God is not at the centre of our lives.

This is related with what we then heard about the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, where they were able to grow quickly and yet, they were unable to form proper roots due to the rocky soil, and they ended up being scorched and destroyed from the lack of water and the intense heat. This is what happened when all of us are closing up ourselves to the Lord, because of what I had just mentioned, when we ended up being so busy with ourselves and our daily business, that we end up shoving God away from the centre of our lives.

Let us ask ourselves, how many of us find going to the Holy Mass to be tedious and as a chore? How many of us are always looking at our watches, wondering when the celebrant of the Mass will finish his long homily or when we will be able to leave the Mass to continue with our daily proceedings and business? How many of us grumble because we have to go to the church on Sundays and on certain Holy Days of Obligation?

If we do not prioritise God in our lives, and if we find serving and worshipping the Lord as a chore, that is exactly when we have the seeds spread by God landing on a rocky soil, on our souls, hearts and minds that are filled with so many distractions and other preoccupations that we do not allow the Word of God to take roots and grow deep inside each one of us. That is when we start to wander off, away from God’s salvation and into damnation, since the Word of God has no place in us and thus we also will have no place in God’s kingdom

Then, for the case when the seeds fell among the thistles and brambles, as the Lord Jesus explained to His disciples, were those who have accepted the word of God, and yet when challenges and troubles come, when the concerns of this world come, they ended up losing the faith and the Word of God was cast out from them, as they abandon God when they were unable to commit to Him wholeheartedly as they should have.

This is quite clear cut for us, as it is often that as Christians, we will encounter difficulties and challenges, when those who are around us, even from our friends and families, who do not agree with us and with what we believe in our faith in God. There will be difficulties, obstacles and even rejection, and there will be moments when we will stumble and be tempted to give up, to compromise our faith and to appease those who demand that we change our ways and abandon our faith.

It is our human nature for us all to think about ourselves first, and to preserve ourselves. And it is also our human nature for us to want to feel accepted by others, and that is why, many of us will be tempted to make compromises and to abandon tenets of our faith. That is when we falter, and when we fail in our faith. If we do not have the courage to stand up for our faith and continue to walk righteously before God, how then will God find us worthy of Him, if we are not capable of committing ourselves to Him?

There will be plenty of temptations awaiting us the faithful people of God, from the temptation of physical goods such as money, wealth and possession, that had indeed kept many of us occupied, in how we spent so much time in our career, trying to accumulate for ourselves all these worldly goods, or in order to achieve acclaim and worldly fame and glory. These are some of the common temptations that had caused so many among us to stumble in our way.

Rather, all of us as Christians are called to be like the case where the seeds fell onto rich soil, grew healthily and produce tremendous amounts of returns in the form of products, in many multiples, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold or even more than these. This is when all of us do not just receive the Word of God and remain passive, ignorant or lukewarm in our faith, but instead, we must embody what we believe in and be genuine with our faith.

This is how we provide a good soil for the Word of God to grow and blossom, by providing an environment filled with faith, hope and love. All of us are called to be true and living disciples of the Lord, filled with compassion and love for others, with mercy and forgiveness for our brethren who have caused us pain and suffering, those who have hurt us or hated us, and then also for us to be truly just and righteous in all of our ways and actions.

Just as farmers need to toil the soil, to provide ample amount of air in the soil, and as they also need to place animal droppings or chemical fertilisers on the soil in order to keep the plant healthy, in the same manner, our faith and the Word of God within us, the seeds of faith God has planted in us require us to commit ourselves to action that accentuates our faith and make what we believe no longer just mere words but also a reality.

That is how we make ourselves to be fruitful in the sight of the Lord, by devoting ourselves to do what He wants us to do, to walk in His path and to do what His will is for us. It is how we take what God had given to us, and then make it into a rich harvest, which the Lord will reap at the end, and seeing our great and bountiful faith, He shall bless us all with everlasting life and eternal glory.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us all to live in accordance with His will, filled with joy knowing that because all that we have done, all the hard work and toiling we have given for the sake of the Lord, all of these are meant for the glorification of God, as what St. Paul in his Epistle in our second reading today mentioned. We await for the coming of the Lord, Who will come in His glory and reward all those who are faithful to Him. May He look favourably on our faith in Him, and bless all of our works. Amen.

Sunday, 16 July 2017 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 13 : 1-23

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Then His disciples came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

“Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath. The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the Word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the Word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the Word; but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the Word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the Word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)
Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”