Sunday, 30 January 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 4 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people of Nazareth in the synagogue, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?”

So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal yourself! Do here, in Your town, what they say You did in Capernaum.” Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country.” Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land.”

“Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Sunday, 30 January 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 13 : 13

Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

If I could speak all the human and Angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things, with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burnt, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways.

Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

1 Corinthians 13 : 4-13

Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered, nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offences. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways.

Likewise, at present, we see dimly, as in a mirror, but, then, it shall be face to face. Now, we know, in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now, we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, 30 January 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o YHVH, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me; turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my hope; my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Sunday, 30 January 2022 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 1 : 4-5, 17-19

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

“But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence! See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land.”

“They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the special occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, on which we recall the importance of the Word of God in our lives, the central role of the Sacred Scriptures in our life as Christians, which cannot be separated from our daily life. The Word of God is central as part of our Christian way of life and we have to put it as the centre and focus of our whole existence. That is the great importance and significance of the Word for us.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted this Sunday of the Word of God just recently a few years ago to remind us of this importance, so that as Christians we do not end up sidelining the centrality of the Scriptures. We cannot be true Christians unless we have appreciated and understood the Scriptures, spent the time to read them and to put them into our hearts and minds. Each and every Christian families, all of us must put our effort to read and study the Scriptures together. We must always strive to help one another to understand the Scripture better.

However, too many of us sidelined the Scriptures, not spending the time to even read the Bible at all. Many of us always find excuses trying to justify why we couldn’t do so. We were either too busy with our work and career, or with whatever it was that fancied our thoughts and minds, not being able to focus ourselves on the Lord and His words. And we also find excuses saying that reading the Bible is boring and not interesting at all, because we prefer to read other things that excite us more.

That is what happened when we do not have the genuine faith and desire to love God. We put other things instead of God as the focus of our lives then easily we will end up forgetting about Him and His truth, and His words have no place inside of us. It is time for us to reflect on this before it is too late for us and since each and every one of us are called today this Sunday to reflect on the importance of this Word of God, we should make the effort to read the Scriptures more, spending the time to deepen our understanding of God’s words and truth, and also how He has done so much throughout our history of salvation.

Let us now also look through our Scripture readings today, as we first recall the words of the prophet Ezra to the people of Israel in the Book of Nehemiah. At that time, the people of Israel had just returned from their exile in the land of the Babylonians, as they were allowed to return to their homeland by King Cyrus the Great of the Persians. The Lord had touched the king’s heart to allow His people to return to their homeland. Therefore, they took the journey to return to their homeland, and they went back to the ruins of Jerusalem and their cities to begin rebuilding their homeland in earnest.

The priest and prophet Ezra led the people in the reading of the Law of God, the Law, commandments and the rules which God had laid down to His people through Moses. Those Law and commandments had long been neglected, and through the years of the kingdom of Israel and Judah they had often been ignored and disregarded. The Lord’s people had abandoned Him and persecuted His prophets and messengers, and as a result, they had to suffer the consequences of their infidelity, to be humiliated among the nations.

But God still had mercy and compassion and them, and He still loved them no matter what. That was why He sent Ezra to the people, and assisted by Nehemiah, the servant and scribe of the Persian King, to remind the people to know the Law and the commandments. For all those time when their ancestors had neglected the Law, it was even possible that they did not bother to get to know the Law and the truth of God more. They did not make the effort to know the Lord more even though the Law and the words of the Lord had always been available to them. To all of us, we have also received these same Law and commandments in the Scriptures. The same Law that Ezra spoke of that day, is the same one that is contained in our Sacred Scriptures.

Today, all of us also heard in our Gospel passage today, the words of the Lord Jesus as He proclaimed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of His own hometown. The people there were astonished when they heard how He spoke with such great Wisdom and authority, as He revealed the truth of God to all, how everything that the prophets had spoken would be fulfilled through Him. He was the One Whom the prophets had revealed, and all these were written in the Scriptures. But, the people often refused to believe in Him as they could not accept how He could be the Messiah of God.

And ironically it was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were often up against Him and His works, doubting Him and trying hard to undermine His credibility at every possible opportunities. Those were the ones who supposedly should have known the best about the Scriptures and the Law, and they should have been the first to recognise the Saviour of God when He came into this world. Yet, they were the ones who rejected Him and made His works difficult as they refused to believe that He was truly the One promised by God.

That was despite the fact that they had seen all that the Lord had performed before them, in healing the sick people and opening the eyes of the blind, releasing the tongues of the mute and opening the ears of the deaf, and in casting out demons among many other miracles He had performed, all of which were the words of the Scriptures, the prophets and messengers of God all coming to perfect fulfilment in Him. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were too proud to admit that there could be One Who could be superior to them.

They might have known the letter of the Law and the contents of the Word of God, but they did not truly appreciate and understand its meaning and significance, and as a result that was why they ended up doing all sorts of things that were unbecoming of them as the guardians of the faith of the people. This is in fact a reminder for us that we ourselves can also fall to the same pitfall unless we are careful not to lose our vigilance and guard against our pride and ego, and all the worldly temptations and desires.

Then lastly in our second reading today, we heard how St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that the Church of God is truly the one united and indivisible Body of Christ formed from the unity of all the faithful people of God. That Church was founded by the Lord Himself, established in this world with Himself as its Foundation and Focus. The Church of God was founded upon this very Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate. The Church is founded on the base of the Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Therefore, as we also celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week, we have to spend some time to reflect on what we can do to foster unity within the Church. But we cannot do this if we ourselves are weak and ignorant of the truth of God as contained within His Word in the Sacred Scriptures. We have to deepen our relationship with God first and our understanding of His words and His truth as contained within the Scriptures, if we are to seek true unity in the Church among all Christians everywhere. We are all called and challenged to seek the Word of God in every available opportunity and share it with others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of this opportunity on the Sunday of the Word of God to renew our commitment to place the Word at the centre of our Christian lives and amidst our respective families. We are all called to be the bearers of the Word of God and be His witnesses in our respective communities and in the various places we are living in. Are we able to live virtuously and in obedience of the Lord’s commandments and Law as He has entrusted them to us?

These are the things that we have to consider as we reflect and discern on our path forward in life. Are we going to continue down the same path towards ruin as what those Israelites and the ones who had ignored the Word of God and His truth had done? Or shall we instead do our very best to live our lives in accordance with the Word of truth, and strive to be exemplary each day and every moments in life to be most committed in all things? Let us all strive towards true Christian Unity by solidifying our foundation of faith through the frequent study and appreciation of the Scriptures, the Word of God.

Let us all make good use of these opportunities that God has given to us, to be His most dedicated followers and disciples, now and always, that more and more may come to believe in God and His salvation. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 1 : 1-4 and Luke 4 : 14-21

Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, as they were told by the first witnesses, who later became ministers of the word. After I, myself, had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught.

At that time, Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on His return to Galilee, the news about Him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogue of the Jews and everyone praised Him.

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-30

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

If the foot should say, “I do not belong to the body for I am not a hand,” it would be wrong : it is part of the body! Even though the ear says, “I do not belong to the body for I am not an eye,” it is part of the body. If all the body were eye, how would we hear? And if all the body were ear, how would we smell?

God has arranged all the members, placing each part of the body as He pleased. If all were the same part where would the body be? But there are many members and one body. The eye cannot tell the hand, “I do not need you,” nor the head tell the feet, “I do not need you.”

Still more, the parts of our body that we most need are those that seem to be the weakest; the parts that we consider lower are treated with much care, and we cover them with more modesty because they are less presentable, whereas the others do not need such attention. God, Himself, arranged the body in this way, giving more honour to those parts that need it, so that the body may not be divided, but, rather, each member may care for the others. When one suffers, all of them suffer, and when one receives honour, all rejoice together.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First Apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues.

Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues?

Alternative reading (shorter version)

1 Corinthians 12 : 12-14, 27

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit, to form one Body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The Body has not just one member, but many.

Now, you are the Body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it.

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgements of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Nehemiah 8 : 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men, women and all the children who could understand what was being read. It was the first day of the seventh month.

So he read it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from dawn till noon, before the men, women and those children who could understand. All the people were eager to hear the book of the law. Ezra, the teacher of the law, stood on a wooden platform built for that occasion.

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was in a higher place; and when he opened it, all the people stood. Ezra praised YHVH the great God; and all the people lifted up their hands and answered, “Amen! Amen!” And they bowed their heads to the ground.

They read from the book of the law of God, clarifying and interpreting the meaning, so that everyone might understand what they were hearing. Then Ezra, the teacher of the law, said to the people, “This day is dedicated to YHVH, your God, so do not be sad or weep.”

He said this because all wept when they heard the reading of the law. Then he said to them, “Go and eat rich foods, drink sweet wine and share with him who has nothing prepared. This day is dedicated to the Lord, so do not be sad. The joy of YHVH is our strength.”

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second 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 Scriptures, we are called to remember the most wonderful and generous gifts from God to us. God has given us His love and kindness and it is up to us to treasure these gifts from God. He has revealed Himself to us out of love, and revealed the salvation for the whole world through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of hope that the Lord presented to His people, the revelation of what God would do to save all those whom He loved and had called and chosen. At that time, during the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God has faced a lot of trials and tribulations as they suffered the consequences of their disobedience and sins. Their waywardness and refusal to budge from their sinfulness became their undoing, as they faced humiliation one after another.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed and conquered by the Assyrians, who destroyed their cities, razed their capital and brought many of their people into exile in faraway lands of Assyria, Mesopotamia and beyond. And there were many peoples from other countries and places that were brought in to dwell in their place in the land of the ancestors of God’s people, the promised land of Israel. The same fate would eventually fall upon the people of the southern kingdom of Judah as well, after the time of the prophet Isaiah.

That was why, understanding this context, we can see just how significant God’s words of encouragement to His people was. Those words were clear reminders for all of them that God never forgot about them, and although they had often betrayed and abandoned Him, but He still always thought about them and sought them out at every possible opportunities. And while they had to endure the consequences of their disobedience and sins, God wanted them to learn from their mistakes and embrace the forgiveness that He freely offered to them.

In that same passage we then also heard a peculiar reference at the end regarding how the Lord Himself will come to gather His people, and how they will one day again be blessed and be honoured, to be the crown of glory for all to see. And it was also mentioned how the Builder will marry the people, metaphorically represented as the bride. This Builder is a reference to God Himself as the Creator of all, and this symbolised the new union between God and mankind that became a reality in Jesus Christ, the Saviour Who has been prophesied by Isaiah and the other prophets.

For through our Lord Jesus, as He symbolically showed it at the Wedding at Cana in out Gospel passage today, God’s love and salvation for His people has become manifested in the flesh and dwelled among us. He came to us in our moment of need, and as He has shown in the miracle that He performed in the Wedding at Cana, He showed us that through Him everything is possible and that the days of our shame will be behind us if only we trust Him and listen to Him, obeying God’s will and the Law and commandments He has given to us.

At that well-known Wedding at Cana, as many of us would have known, the wedding couple was encountering a particularly difficult and potentially very humiliating problem as they somehow ran out of wine. Regardless of the reason for this shortage, running out of wine at such a happy and great occasion of a wedding is something that would have brought great shame on both the groom and bride, as well as their families, as they were the ones responsible in hosting and preparing for the celebrations.

It was at that moment, that Mary, the Lord’s Mother, who have come to know of the couple’s predicament, came to see Jesus and asked Him to do something to help them. The Lord initially showed His intention not to help as it was not yet His time to do so, and yet, as Mary did not yet give up on trying to help the couple, she told the servants to follow whatever her Son told them to do. That was thus how the Lord performed His first miracle, in a hidden and unknown way, as the servants themselves might not have fully realised what were actually happening.

The wedding couple was saved because they had the Lord by their side, and the celebrations could proceed without any further issues. And it is yet another reminder for us that the Lord always provides, and only if we trust in Him and His love and providence. Sometimes we are too impatient or blinded by our own desires and by the many temptations all around us to be able to see His loving presence in our midst. The Lord has always reached out to us through many people, through others whom we encounter in our daily lives.

Then, as mentioned by St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, that there are many gifts that God had given to us, the gift of intelligence, of speech and of other means to bring happiness to others and joy to many more people. He has given us various talents, gifts and abilities that are unique to each and every one of us. Because of that, all of us are called to reflect on these gifts that we have received and reflect how we can make better use of them in our lives.

All of us have been called by God to be involved in making good use of our various gifts and talents, all the blessings that we have received from the Lord. We should listen to the Lord speaking to us, asking us to do His will and telling us what we ought to do with our lives. We should do our best to live up to our Christian faith and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments to be faithful to God, to be loving to others and to be concerned with the needs of those who are less fortunate than us.

After all, that is what the Lord had done for us, loving us when we have done so many wicked things towards Him, in refusing to listen to Him and in shutting Him out of our hearts and minds. He still patiently reached out to us and offered us His hands, pulling us out of the darkness of our sins, just as He has promised. By His coming into this world, He revealed not just His love but He also took everything upon Himself, gathering all His scattered children from the world, and calling them to Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our baptism we have become a part and member of the Church, the Body of Christ, becoming united to God and to our fellow brothers and sisters, and share in the salvation that the Lord Himself has brought us through His Son. And by the virtue of our baptism too, we have been made sharers in the love and the inheritance that God has promised to us. What remains for us to do is, for us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, and do our best to walk in His path, at all times.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed heart and mind, brothers and sisters, knowing that God has loved us so much, and how beloved we are, that He gave us His Son to be our Saviour. And now, let us listen to Him and obey Him, sin no more and do whatever we can, making use of the talents and opportunities for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and guidance to walk in His path, now and always, and that we ourselves may become great role models for one another. May our lives be fruitful in God and may we always be blessed in all things. Amen.