Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we focus our attention to Our Lord as our loving Shepherd, Teacher and Guide, by looking at what He had done for us, in various times and opportunities, to lead us into the right path and to the reconciliation with God, our loving Father. And this is ought to be contrasted to those who have misled and misguided the people of God, those who have made them to fall into sin.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke to His people through Jeremiah, condemning all those who have misled His beloved ones into sin, and He would scatter and destroy all of those who were responsible, because they chose to disobey Him and even to teach the falsehoods and lies to the others, especially those entrusted under their care. At that time, this referred to the kings and the false prophets and guides in the society.

But the Lord ultimately did not hate His people or wish for their destruction. Truly, He had shown us His anger, in many occasions throughout the Scriptures, but all of these were directed at the wicked and sinful acts we have committed in life. In that same passage taken from the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord also spoke of the hope that He would come to gather His people once again, to bring them back to His side, and to regain what He has lost to the darkness.

And St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, our second reading passage today, made it clear how this has come about, through none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whose coming, reconciliation and healing has come upon us mankind. Once we were divided and broken by our hatred and jealousy towards each other, by misunderstandings and lack of proper guidance.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus is the One and only Shepherd and Guide, the Good Shepherd, Whom all of us ought to follow, and not those who have not been faithful to the way of the Lord. All those were the false and evil shepherds, who were not at all concerned with the fate and the well-being of the sheep, that is the Lord’s people who had been placed under their care and stewardship.

The kings and the lords of the people had abused the power and authority given to them, by being transfixed and preoccupied with power and worldly glory. They accumulated for themselves wealth, honour, prestige, fame and all things that we always desire from the world, but in the process, they oppressed the people and led them away from the path of salvation, by forcing them to worship the pagan idols and false gods.

Similarly, during the time of Jesus, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, those who were greatly revered in the Jewish society at that time, because of their role in safeguarding the Jewish laws and customs, have also abused their privileges and authority as shepherds and leaders of the people, by misguiding them away from the true path of God, and into the false ways of empty and meaningless faith as how they prescribed it.

They placed their many customs, practices and rituals, developed over centuries and many generations of the Jewish traditions, as the most important part of the Law of God. They enforced the heavy burden of fulfilling these rules and regulations to the people, while they themselves did nothing to help the people to manage their burden. In fact, they themselves did not fulfil what they have asked others to fulfil, in the obligations to the law.

This is precisely what St. Paul mentioned in the second reading passage today, about the Law that the Lord would come to repeal and destroy. It was not so much as the destruction of the laws of Moses, but rather, the destruction and removal of the old laws and customs, which had been brought about by centuries of misunderstanding and lack of insight into what the Law of God was truly given to us for.

We need to come back again to the fact and reality that God loves each and every one of us, and by no means He wants us to feel burdened in coming to Him. In the Gospel passage today, we saw how the Lord Jesus came to a place to rest, and instead saw a large crowd of people who had been waiting for Him to teach them. Jesus and His disciples were tired, as they had been going around from places to places, teaching the people and ministering to them.

Yet, the Lord had pity and compassion on His people, whom He saw as a large flock without a shepherd, that is without anyone or any guide or authority to lead them. They were clueless and lost, and they came to Jesus, seeing in Him, the hope and the guidance which they had longed for. And the Lord had mercy on them, and loving them, spent hours more to teach them all, despite Him being physically tired from all the journeys and the activities.

That is what the Lord wants to show us, Who is the true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd of all. The Good Shepherd knows all of His sheep, and He cares for all of them, that He does not want even a single one to be lost from Him. In another occasion, the Lord Jesus told His disciples about the parable of the lost sheep, in which the shepherd went all out to look for a single lost sheep amidst ninety-nine others who were with him.

And that is what the Lord Jesus had done, going all out for the sake of His people, who were lost, leaderless and without guide, or having been misled and misguided by the wrong and irresponsible authority figures, they were in real need for true guidance and leadership, which He alone could have provided. And there were so many of them, that the Lord could not have, in His most loving and compassionate heart, refused them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on this reality, and on the love which the Lord, our Good Shepherd has shown to all of us. And we are called to reflect the same love which God has shown to each and every one of us. He has loved us all so much that He has given us His all, even to the point of being crucified and suffer such an imaginably great agony, just so that, because He died for us, all of us may live.

This is, in essence, what all of us as Christians must be for one another. We must be like Christ in all of our actions, and it means that we must be good shepherds, in our actions and in how we deal with others around us. We must show genuine love, care and concern, especially to those whom we know, who are in difficulty and in trouble. And therefore, as we know that sin is our greatest obstacle and trouble, we must indeed be ready to help all those who are trapped in the darkness of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today therefore, renew our conviction in faith and our commitment to God, to live our lives worthily and filled with true love and devotion, first of all to God, and then also to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all reach out, like our loving God and Shepherd, to those who have no one to care for them. This is our obligation and responsibility as Christians, to be like Christ and to devote ourselves as the Lord Himself has shown us.

Let us not be filled with pride and desire, for worldly things and temptations as those who have fallen into the trap of those temptations throughout the Old and New Testament had shown us. Let us all instead be filled with humility and with love, that in everything we do, we do not do it for ourselves, but instead for God and for our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 2 : 13-18

But now, in Christ Jesus, and by His Blood, you, who were once far off, have come near. For Christ is our peace; He, Who has made the two people, one; destroying, in His own flesh, the wall – the hatred – which separated us. He abolished the Law, with its commandments and precepts. He made peace, in uniting the two people, in Him; creating, out of the two, one New Man.

He destroyed hatred and reconciled us both to God, through the cross, making the two, one body. He came to proclaim peace; peace to you who were far off, peace to the Jews who were near. Through Him, we – the two people – approach the Father, in one Spirit.

Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 23 : 1-6

“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” This is the message of YHVH, God of Israel, to the shepherds in charge of My people, “You have scattered My sheep and driven them away instead of caring for them. Now I will deal with you because of your evil deeds.”

“I will gather the remnant of My sheep from every land to which I have driven them and I will bring them back to the grasslands. They will be fruitful and increase in number. I will appoint shepherds who will take care of them. No longer will they fear or be terrified. No one will be lost.”

YHVH further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a King Who is David’s righteous Successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called YHVH-Our-Justice!”

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the reading from the Scriptures telling us about the lamentation of the prophet Micah who spoke against the wickedness of the people of God, who have sinned against Him and acted wickedly against His laws and commandments. This come at a time when the prophet Micah was going up against the whole nation of Israel.

In the Book of Kings, the prophet Micah was also mentioned, speaking up against the King of Israel, Ahab going to a battle against his enemies. There were other, false prophets who were with him, who spoke favourably of the king’s plan and assured him that God was with the king, while in fact, they were lying to him. Micah spoke the truth before the king and was rebuked harshly by the false prophets. Yet, in the end, it was Micah’s prediction that came to reality.

Therefore, this is in fact one way in which what we heard in the first reading passage today was fulfilled. God gave those who have disobeyed Him and betrayed Him to the pagan gods, the just and rightful consequences for their sins and disobediences. He wanted them to be reconciled to Him, and He wanted to forgive them from their sins, but it was the people themselves who were the difficult stumbling blocks in the path of reconciliation with God.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the same issue which the Lord Jesus had encountered with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who opposed Him and His works. They stubbornly hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord, just as those false prophets during the time of Micah hardened the hearts of the people of God because of their lies and falsehoods.

Yet, in all of these, we can see just how much the Lord cared for us all, despite our sinfulness, and despite how rebellious and unreasonable we have been. We have hardened our hearts against God for generation after generation, but God has always been ready to reconcile us to Himself, as long as we come to realise the extent of our wrongdoings and sins. This is why God kept sending to us so many of His messengers and servants, to call us to Himself.

And He sent us, as the Gospel today mentioned, the One Whom the prophets including Isaiah and many others had prophesied about, the Messiah or Saviour Who was to come into the world in order to save us all, God’s beloved people. This is why He sent us Jesus, His own Beloved and only begotten Son, to be that Saviour, to bring unto us the salvation which He has promised to us, to bring a new and everlasting Covenant to us.

And He gave us His all, to the point that He surrendered all and emptied Himself, and let Himself to be raised on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary. He became for us the source and hope of our salvation. What He wants from each one of us is that we may have a change of heart and mind, and be open to His love and compassion, to the forgiveness which He offers freely to each and every one of us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to accept this great love which God has given us so freely and willingly? Or do we rather continue in our path of rebellion against God? What is the choice that we want to make for ourselves? This is what we must decide, as the Lord has given us free will, to choose our path in the time to come. He has offered us His forgiveness, mercy and love freely, but ultimately, it is up to us, to collaborate with God in His mercy.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, a renowned Capuchin priest who was a great theologian, who produced a lot of works on theology and various other areas of the Church teachings and the faith. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, in how he worked among the people of God and inspired many others, both through his actions and writings, to return to a life of holiness in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the holiness and inspirational life of St. Lawrence of Brindisi should also be our inspiration, in how each one of us should live our lives from now on. Are we able to turn towards the Lord with faith, with all of our hearts and minds, opening ourselves fully to His love? And are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Lawrence, whose work and ministry among the people caused many who have fallen into heresy and falsehood to return to the true faith?

May the Lord be our strength and our Guide, that each one of us will always look up to Him as we continue to carry out our actions in our daily living. May the Lord bless us all and our every work, that in all things, we will always remember to glorify His Name and to be filled with grace at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 21 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. But He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : Here is My Servant, Whom I have chosen; the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him; and He will announce My judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick until He brings justice to victory, and in Him, all the nations will put their hope.