Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are reminded of the love that God has for all of us, and how all of us are called to put our faith in Him and to entrust ourselves in His care. And the message from today’s Scripture readings is indeed apt and fitting especially during these days when we are facing so many challenges and trials, hardships and troubles all around us.

All of us have heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Zechariah in our first reading today, in which the Lord promised the coming of salvation when the King Himself would come to Jerusalem and bring forth salvation and new life to all of His beloved people. This is also the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, seated on a humble donkey, which would be fulfilled when Christ came to Jerusalem on the donkey just before His Passion, suffering and death.

In that same passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of how there would no longer be chariots in Ephraim and neither there would be horses in Jerusalem. These spoke of the means of war represented by the chariots and horses, between Ephraim, where the northern kingdom of Israel was centred and Jerusalem, the centre of the southern kingdom of Judah. Both kingdoms had been divided since the time of king Solomon’s death, and feuded for the next few centuries since.

Therefore, the Lord spoke of the coming of the good time when the people would no longer be divided, of the times when they would be restored and strengthened, when the veil of shame and humiliation would be lifted from them, after each kingdoms were subjugated, conquered and their populations exiled and enslaved by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively. The Lord would bring them all out of their misery just as He had once done with them as He delivered them from the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This was then fulfilled in Christ, when He came into this world and revealed the fulfilment of God’s long planned salvation of His people, as the Gospel passage today had told us, that He, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of all, has brought with Him the truth of God, how He was going to save all of us mankind, and how there is only one path to salvation, that is through Him, by believing in Him and trusting in Him.

He calls on all of us to come to Him, to seek Him and to put our trust in Him as His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and we ought to seek our rest in Him. But are we willing to come to Him and to seek Him? Or have we instead been distracted and swayed to follow the wrong and false paths promoted by the devil and all those seeking to turn us away from God? This is where as Christians we must indeed show good examples, and strive our best to put our strong, living and genuine faith in Him.

From what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, and from what many of our predecessors in faith had experienced, all of us have to realise that being Christians is not meant to be an easy and trivial one. When the Lord mentioned that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He exactly meant what He said, that there will still be yoke and burden for us to shoulder and endure. Some among us had held the misunderstandings and wrong impression that when we follow the Lord then we will have an easy and comfortable life, but this was not what the Lord meant.

What the Lord wants us to realise is that by putting our trust in Him, we gain the assurance of the true glory and joy, the guarantee of eternity of rest and new life, a new existence with Him, free from the shackles and chains of sin, and reconciled completely to Him. We must not instead think in worldly terms and matters, seeking glory and worldly satisfaction, fame and pleasure, and these are not what we are going to get from following God and being faithful to Him.

St. Paul spoke of this as he wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, part of which is our second reading today. He spoke of all of us Christians who have believed in God and received the baptism into the Church as those who no longer live in accordance with the flesh, and instead, we are living by the spirit of God. If we still continue to persist in living in the flesh, it means that we still allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the allures of worldly desires and sin.

St. Paul reminds us that we have all shared in the death of Christ through our baptism, and by His death, all of us have been redeemed by His loving sacrifice on the Cross. And that is not all, for as the Lord triumphed over death and conquered sin, as He rose in glory in Resurrection, all of us have therefore also shared in His Resurrection into a new life, a new Christian way of life that each and every one of us have been called to live up to by the Lord Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures and remember again what we have just heard, and as we look into our own lives thus far, our actions and our faith, let us all ask ourselves now. Have we all been good and faithful as Christians living our lives in this world? Have we spent our time well thus far, in trusting in the Lord? Or have we been living for ourselves, putting trust in all the things the world offer us and which we have spent our lives gathering and desiring for?

During these first few months of this year, we have seen and witnessed for ourselves how the usual order of this world have been completely disturbed and affected. The coronavirus pandemic and its multiple negative effects on the world’s economy, society and various other factors, coupled with societal instabilities and issues, racism and violence, interstate conflicts and more, reasonably heightened due to the fear and the uncertainties brought about by the combination of all these, natural disasters among others, all these had made this year among the worst for us to live in.

Many of us have suffered in one way or another, and many among us had been disturbed in more than one way, some among us losing our work and employment, losing that iron bowl of income that we once thought to be secure and good. People had been losing their savings and income in all the economic recessions and instabilities that occurred. People had been sickened, lost their loved ones to the illness, or be disabled by what had happened, among other things.

Let us all therefore realise that for whatever assurances and strengths we used to think we have in this world, all of those stood for nothing and would be meaningless in the end, as there is nothing in this world, no matter how great or plentiful, that will last forever. Instead, let us all make use of this opportunity to realise again just how fortunate we are to be beloved by God, to have One Who has always cared for us and lavished His love and attention towards us. It is in God alone that we have sure hope and trust. Are we going to take Him and His love for granted?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, renew our faith and commitment in Him and devote ourselves to Him. Let us seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Let us all take on the yoke and burden the Lord has given us with faith, entrusting ourselves to God, no matter what we may face in the future. Let us all carry on living our lives as good and genuine Christians, committing ourselves to Him daily, and be inspiration and good examples for one another.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, as we carry on our journey in life with faith. May He help us to persevere through the challenges and trials we encounter, and renew our hope and trust in Him, as we still endure the current effects of this pandemic, our societal problems among others. May the Lord show us the path forward and give us the courage and strength to endure it. Amen.

Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 11 : 25-30

At that time, Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I praise You; because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to simple people. Yes, Father, this was Your gracious will. Everything has been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 8 : 9, 11-13

Yet, your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him. And if the Spirit of Him, Who raised Jesus from the dead, is within you, He, Who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it, through His Spirit, Who dwells within you.

Then, brothers, let us leave the flesh and no longer live according to it. If not, we will die. Rather, walking in the spirit, let us put to death the body’s deeds, so that we may live.

Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 144 : 1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13cd-14

I will extol You, my God and King; I will praise Your Name forever. I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever.

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom; and speak of Your power.

YHVH is true to His promises and lets His mercy show in all He does. YHVH lifts up those who are falling and raises those who are beaten down.

Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Zechariah 9 : 9-10

Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! For your King is coming, just and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

No more chariots in Ephraim, no more horses in Jerusalem, for He will do away with them. The warrior’s bow shall be broken when He dictates peace to the nations. He will reign from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are yet again reminded of what it means for us to be called as Christians, that is as people who are truly believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Divine Word Incarnate, by Whose deeds and sacrifice on the Cross all of us have been saved and redeemed from certain death. To all of us who have kept our faith in Him, the Lord has given us the reassurance of eternal life and true glory in Him.

Unfortunately, this is what many of us have forgotten in the midst of the hectic life we have in this world, all the experiences we have encountered in life among others. Many of us have forgotten God and ignored Him, and instead of trusting Him and having faith in Him, we worry and focus on the many distractions present in this world. We placed our trust in our own strength and power, and we are therefore bound to fall unless we are able to trust in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Second Book of Kings, about the prophet Elisha who came by the city of Shunem, and a rich woman and her family sheltered him and took good care of him during his stay. First of all, the rich woman recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and treated him nicely, giving him as good as an accommodation possible. At the time when being a follower of God and prophet was truly tough, as many among the people and the king worshipped pagan idols and disobeyed God, such a treatment for the prophet Elisha must have been really rare indeed.

And the Lord knew well what has been done to His faithful servant, and the woman did it without having certain ulterior motive or desire for her own selfish wants or purposes. Not knowing much more from the Scriptural sources, it can safely be assumed that the woman was simply a God-fearing woman and someone who believed in God enough that she respected His prophet Elisha very much, and treated him well. And the result of this was that, as the rich woman and her husband did not have a child of their own, God, through His prophet Elisha, granted them the child of their loving union.

This is related well to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the matter of following God and becoming His disciples. In the first part, the Lord mentioned how being His followers would require them to give their all, to commit themselves body and soul, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, taking up and carrying their crosses together with the Lord, which means that they would face sufferings and difficulties, rejection and challenges just as the Lord Himself had faced these from the world.

But then, in the second part of the Gospel, the Lord said what had been recounted in the first reading, as He spoke of those who welcome the disciples and followers as having welcomed the Lord as well, and those who listened to them and treated them well as having listened and treated the Lord well too. This was clearly related to what had happened to the rich woman who welcomed the prophet Elisha to her home and treated him well, and God blessed her and her whole household because of that.

What then, is the significance of all these passages from the Scriptures today, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we must first of all be willing to follow God, and to trust ourselves in His providence and care, not worrying about what will happen to us or what we have to endure during the journey. Whether we will have an easy or difficult time in living up to our Christian calling is not something that we can predict or compare between us. Some of us may have to suffer a lot while others may suffer less or little, but nonetheless, what is important is that we serve God all the same.

Why I mention this is that, there are many of us who are afraid or unsure of following God and His path, and we always tend to delay, postpone and push aside God’s calling for us, and we tend to keep away from those responsibilities and duties we have been called to do as Christians and members of the Church. We are often worried about ourselves and our state in this world, our livelihood and all the things we have. We worry that if we follow the Lord, then we have to abandon whatever we have possessed and whatever we are comfortable with.

But, let us all not forget that, this is first of all, our responsibilities given to us as part of our Christian baptism, which in our second reading today, St. Paul highlighted that through baptism, we share in the death of Christ, that by plunging through the sacred waters of baptism, we go through that passage from death into life, recalling the journey of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to their freedom through the Red Sea, and unite us all to the sufferings of Christ, Who took upon Himself all of our sins and the punishments due for those sins.

Through baptism, all of us have been made the members of the Church, and God has made us all His own beloved children, that all of us have become adopted sons and daughters of His, as we share in the death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and by the common humanity we share with Him. But then, we must not forget, that as we share in the death of Christ, as St. Paul told us, we also share in the new life He has brought us into through His glorious resurrection.

And that is what we need to take note of, as we heard from the closing part of our second reading today, ‘So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.’ That is exactly why we have to abandon our old fears and uncertainties, and embrace the Lord’s calling for us all with enthusiasm and desire to commit our lives in the service for His greater glory. God has called us all to various purposes in life, and we have received various talents, capabilities, skills and abilities to be used for this purpose.

There is no single calling that is better than the other in the Church and among us the faithful people of God. Some of us might have the misconception and wrong idea thinking that the ordained ministry, priesthood and religious life are better and higher compared to the lay ministry. Some of us glorify the holy orders and those in consecrated life as those who are better and holier than us, and that they are the ones doing all the work and the ministry, and some even misunderstood thinking that we then can be the content, receiving end of all the benefits without contributing much.

But we must forget that the lay ministry is equally as important, and we must dispel from our thoughts any preconceived notion that the lay ministry is anywhere less important. In fact, without active participation from the laity in proclaiming the Gospel in our daily living, then those in the holy orders, and those in religious and consecrated lives will also be affected badly in how they conduct their efforts. They cannot do what they are supposed to do, unless the laity and all work together to achieve the greater aims of the Church in obeying God’s will.

Each and every members of the Church are indivisibly part of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church, and just as how all the organs need to work together to achieve the same purpose of sustaining the body, thus, all of us the faithful people of God must also do our part for the same purpose. Then, at the same time, each and every members of the Church also have their own respective and specific functions, and each can do best in their area of responsibilities, not competing but rather supporting each other.

Just as each organ are best in doing whatever they were designed to work as, thus, each and every one of us in the Church are also bound to do our best in whatever we have been called to, in our respective calling, to be holy priests, deacons and bishops, to be holy religious brothers and sisters, to be good missionaries and friars, prayerful monastics and all dedicating themselves to ascetic lifestyle, and of course to be good as laypeople, as singles or as married couples, as fathers and mothers, as sons and daughters, as members of good Christian families.

As the Lord Himself said, that ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.’, this means that if all of us support one another, and do what we can to serve God in our respective capacities, abilities, talents and opportunities, then just as the rich woman and her husband in our first reading today were blessed by God, then we too will enjoy the wonders of God’s providence and blessings. But we must not desire them or focus ourselves on them, lest we be distracted and fall into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith and conviction to serve God at all times, with all of our strength and with all of our efforts. Let us all be the sources of strength and inspiration for one another, especially all the more important during these days when our world is facing so many troubles and great tragedies. Almost half a million people had lost their lives to the current coronavirus pandemic, and there had been so many acts of violence and divisions in our communities in the past few months alone, and it is our calling as Christians, to do whatever we can, be it as those in holy orders or the laypeople, to show the love and truth of God to all mankind.

Let us all be the light in the darkness for others, and let our words, actions and deeds bring hope and strength, encouragement and renewal for those who have been downtrodden, sorrowful and in despair. May the Lord continue to do His most amazing and wonderful works through our actions in life. May God bless us all in our good endeavours in fulfilling our Christian calling through our baptism, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 37-42

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 6 : 3-4, 8-11

Do you not know, that in baptism, which unites us to Christ, we are all baptised and plunged into His death? By this baptism in His death, we were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, we begin walking in a new life.

But, if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him. We know, that Christ, once risen from the dead, will not die again, and death has no more dominion over Him. For, by dying, He is dead to sin, once and for all, and, now, the life that He lives, is life with God.

So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 16-17, 18-19

I will sing forever, o YHVH, of Your love, and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day, Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

You give us glory and power; and Your favour gives us victory. Our king is in the hands of YHVH; the God of Israel is our Shield.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 4 : 8-11, 14-16a

One day Elisha went to Shunem, and a rich woman invited him to eat. Afterward, whenever he went to that town, he would go to her house to eat. The woman said to her husband, “See, this man who constantly passes by our house is a holy man of God. If you want, we can make a small upper room for him, and place a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp in it. So when he comes, he may stay and rest.”

One day when Elisha came, he went to the upper room and lay down. So Elisha said to Gehazi, “What can we do for her?” The young man answered, “She has no children and her husband is now old.” And so Elisha said to him, “Call her.” The young man called her; and as the woman stood by the door, Elisha said, “By this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.”