Tuesday, 23 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, relating to us firstly about the moment when king David brought the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s covenant and promise with His people, into the city of Jerusalem, after the Ark had resided for many months outside of the city, due to an accident that happened during the earlier attempt to bring it into Jerusalem.

King David himself accompanied the Ark with many other people, with priests bearing up the Ark which symbolised God’s presence and dwelling among His people Israel. It was told in that same reading how king David danced with all of his might and passion before the Lord in the Ark. The people celebrated and rejoiced because the Lord has come to dwell among His people, as symbolised by His entry into Jerusalem, the capital of the whole nation of Israel.

King David was truly blessed because he obeyed God, and he devoted himself wholeheartedly and entirely to serve his Lord and Master. He did not even hesitate to dance before the Lord, to show Him his jubilation and adoration, before the entire people of Israel. This is something that had not been seen yet in all of the history of the people of God, as it was extremely uncommon and indeed, in the eyes of many, unbecoming for a king to lower himself such as to dance before his people.

That was exactly what Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom David took to be one of his wives, told him in mockery, after having seen David wearing the ephod cloth and danced before the Lord in the procession. Yet, this roused the anger of God against Michal, who have slandered her own husband and mocked him, that she was made barren and without child from then on, as the clear sign of God’s anger upon her.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the exchange between the Lord Jesus and the people who were listening to His teachings, as it was conveyed to Him that His family was waiting for Him outside the place where He was teaching the people. But He told the people that all those who listened to the word of God and obeyed Him, they would become the children of God, as the Lord Jesus Himself would consider them to be His brothers and sisters, as His own family.

This should be understood in the context of how Jesus and His actions would be seen by many, including from those among His own family as being controversial and weird, and in another occasion, they even pulled Jesus out from the crowd, because He was spending so much time with the people, teaching them about the Word of God, that they took Him away, saying to the others that He was out of His mind.

What does these two occasions that happened to the king David of Israel and to Our Lord Jesus Christ tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the revelation to us that if we are to become true disciples of the Lord and devote ourselves wholeheartedly in His ways, then we must be prepared that there will be those who slander us, attack us and doubt us. There will even be those who ridicule us and reject us, based on what we believe in the Lord.

After all, if such criticisms and difficulties were experienced by Our Lord Himself, then we can expect that the same will also happen to us if we are to obey Him and to follow Him wholeheartedly. But we must not lose faith or try to conform to whatever ways that the world expects us to do. We have to stand by our faith in the Lord and persevere through those challenging times, that we may be able to find our foundation in the Lord.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen our faith, so that even when the world and even those who are close to us ridicule our faith and commitment to God, we will always be ready to do our best, to give our very best and commit ourselves completely, to the One Who has loved us so much since the beginning of time following in the examples of David and Our Lord Jesus, as we heard in the Scriptures today. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 31-35

At that time, the mother and brothers of Jesus came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.” He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”

And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 23 : 7, 8, 9, 10

Lift up, o gateways, your lintels, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? YHVH, the Strong, the Mighty, YHVH, valiant in battle.

Lift up Your lintels, o gateways, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? YHVH of Hosts, He is the King of glory!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Samuel 6 : 12b-15, 17-19

King David went to bring up the Ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David, rejoicing. After those who carried the Ark of YHVH had walked six paces, they sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf. David whirled round dancing with all his heart before YHVH, wearing a linen ephod, for he and all the Israelites brought up the Ark of YHVH, shouting joyfully and sounding the horn.

They brought in the Ark of YHVH and laid it in its place, in the tent which David had pitched for it. Then David offered burnt and peace offerings before YHVH. Once the offerings had been made, David blessed the people in the Name of YHVH of hosts, and distributed to each man and woman of the entire assembly of Israel, a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a raisin cake. With this, all the people left for their homes.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

“No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past, You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and, with My holy oil, I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him; and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him; and, by My help, he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.