Wednesday, 17 February 2021 : Ash Wednesday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 16 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Word of God, the story of the Great Flood that happened during the early history of mankind, which came about due to the sins and wickedness committed by man, so much so that out of all humanity, only Noah and his immediate family alone were considered righteous and just. Then in the Gospel passage today, the Lord reminded His disciples of everything He had done in the past two miracles He performed in feeding five thousand men and four thousand men respectively.

Through these Scripture readings, the Lord wanted to remind us that while we may be so stubborn and hard-hearted in refusing to accept Him and His truth, in our constant disobedience and rebellion against His will, He still remembers us and wants us to be reconciled to Him. He loved us all even when we disobeyed Him and ignored Him from time to time, again and again. Of course there is a limit to God’s patience, and if we continued on to reject Him, eventually it will be too late for us. But meanwhile, God keeps on trying to reach out to us.

To that extent, He has rescued Noah and his family, and entrusted to him the future of man, when He wiped the world clean of all the wickedness of the other sons and daughters of mankind, all who have consistently and persistently rejected God and His patient offer of mercy and love. He wanted to show us that He does not condemn us because we are human beings, but rather it was because of our sins that we have been condemned for.

He rescued Noah and instructed him to build the Ark because in the end of the day, it was not His desire to see us mankind being destroyed. However, at the same time, our sins and wickedness are great obstacles and barriers that prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord. As long as we persist in our sinful and rebellious ways, we will be constantly resisting Him, rejecting Him and abandoning Him for all sorts of worldly pursuits, ambitions and desires.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples with regards to the miracles He performed in feeding the five thousand men and four thousand men respectively, in which He fed the people until fully satisfied with just five loaves of bread and two fishes in the former, and seven loaves of bread in the latter, revealing that truly He loved His people that He wanted to take care of them and provide for them, and that was why He asked His disciples if they truly had believed in Him in whatever He had done before them.

Many of the people, including even the disciples were still lacking in faith, and they had not fully put their trust in the Lord either. As a result, they failed to appreciate the full meaning of the miraculous things that had happened before them. The Lord wanted them all to know that the love He has for them endures, and He patiently waited for all of us to return to Him and to be reconciled to Him. But we must allow Him to reach out to us and to touch us in our lives. He has given us plenty of opportunities and chances to do this, and it is unfortunately we who procrastinate, unwilling to commit and unwilling to follow Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, tomorrow we mark the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of reflection and recollection of our lives. During this period of holy reconciliation, we have been given yet another opportunity to be thankful for the Lord and all that He had done for us. Had He not intervened for our sake and devoted Himself to rescue us from our predicament, we would have perished and be consigned to eternal damnation.

Instead, God emptied and humbled Himself by becoming a Man, and reached out to us through His loving Cross, not just in feeding the multitudes of men and women with bread, but with the Bread of His own Precious Body and Blood, that Bread of Life broken for us and given to us freely, and the Lamb of God, sacrificed and offered for our sake, for the atonement of our sins.

In this upcoming season of Lent, we are all called once again to recall the great love of God which He has generously extended upon us. He has never wavered in His commitment to us, and if only we put our trust and faith in Him, we shall not be disappointed. That is why we have to make good use of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves wholeheartedly and turn with a new spirit and love towards God.

May the Lord be our strength and may He guide us in our journey, that He will help us to persevere well against all the temptations and challenges that may come our way. Let us all commit ourselves to the Covenant that God has made with us out of love, His most generous love, and prepare ourselves, heart and mind that we may make best use of this season of Lent to be ever closer to God. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Tuesday, 16 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9b-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The God of glory thunders, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 6 : 5-8 and Genesis 7 : 1-5, 10

YHVH saw how great was the wickedness of man on the earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart. YHVH regretted having created man on the earth and His heart grieved. He said, “I will destroy man whom I created and blot him out from the face of the earth, as well as the beasts, creeping creatures and birds, for I am sorry I made them.” But Noah was pleasing to God.

YHVH said to Noah, “Go into the Ark, you and all your household, for I see that you are just in this generation. Of all the clean animals, you are to take with you seven of each kind, male and female, and a pair of unclean animals, a male and a female. In the same way for the birds of the air, take seven and seven, male and female, to keep their kind alive over all the earth, for in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. I will blot out from the face of the earth all the living creatures I have created.”

Noah did all as YHVH had commanded. And after seven days the waters of the flood were over the earth.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture all of us are reminded of the need for us to be vigilant and to be careful not to allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of pride and desire, lest we may end up falling into sin as what our predecessors had experienced, in them falling deep into sinful ways and in failing to acknowledge the Lord’s truth.

In our first reading today we heard of the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, who was known because Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and anger, when he saw that his offerings were not accepted by God while the offerings of Abel was accepted by the Lord. As a result, man fell deeper into sin, as they allowed the temptations to sin, their desire and anger to control them and their actions.

Cain was overcome with jealousy and anger, as he despised the fact that his younger brother got the better of him, and despite their close relationship by blood as brothers, this led to Cain murdering Abel, a grievous and mortal sin, done consciously and by Cain’s own free will. And initially, he did not even show remorse as shown when God confronted Cain, he refused to admit his vile deed.

Cain was overcome by those temptations, the temptations of pride and ego, not willing to lose to his brother and that led him down the path of no return, falling deep into sin. But yet, as we heard, the Lord was still patient and loving even towards Cain, that when he pleaded with the Lord for the punishment that he had to bore, God protected him from anyone who would harm him or wanted to kill him.

Then, we heard how in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees who stubbornly refused to believe in Him and did all they could to sow doubts and disagreements before Him, in trying to prevent others from following the Lord. They challenged the Lord in many occasions and as we heard, they also demanded signs and wonders from the Lord, to perform great miracles before them, often saying that they would not believe unless they had seen the wonders of the Lord.

In truth, the Lord Himself had performed many miracles beforehand, and the Pharisees themselves often witnessed the signs and wonders that He had done. Yet, they still could not believe or refused to believe in the Lord because they could not resist the temptations and the pressure of their own pride and ego, all the things that kept them resisting the Lord’s call and love. We can see in all these how dangerous and wicked sin can be, in leading us down the wrong path in life.

At the same time, we are also reassured that the Lord has always been patient with us, in loving us and in wanting to be reconciled with us. Yet, all those temptations and our predispositions to sin, our weakness and willingness to embrace the actions that lead us to sin make us truly vulnerable. Unless we are vigilant and do our best to resist those temptations, we may find it difficult to avoid falling deeper and deeper to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from the experiences of our predecessors, their shortcomings and all that we have learnt and the truth about the Lord’s love and providence to strengthen our desire and resolve in following the Lord and to be righteous in all of our actions and deeds. Let us all not fall again into the same trap that Cain, the Pharisees and many others had fallen into, and entrust ourselves to the Lord with a new faith and a renewed love for Him.

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in faith, that we may draw ever closer to Him and His ways. May He empower us all to be good and dedicated Christians at all times. May God bless us all, and may He be our Guide at all times. Amen.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 11-13

At that time, the Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass Him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then His Spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.”

Then He left them, got into the boat again and went to the other side of the lake.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 49 : 1 and 8, 16bc-17, 20-21

The God of gods, the Lord has spoken, He summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

You speak ill of your brother, and slander your own mother’s son. Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you.

Monday, 15 February 2021 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Genesis 4 : 1-15, 25

Adam had intercourse with Eve his wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a child. She named him Cain, for she said, “I have got a man with help from YHVH.” She later gave birth to Abel, his brother. Abel was a shepherd and kept flocks, and Cain tilled the soil.

It happened after a time that Cain brought fruits of the soil as an offering to YHVH. Abel for his part brought the firstborn of his flock, and some fat as well. Now YHVH was well pleased with Abel and his offering, but towards Cain and his offering He showed no pleasure. This made Cain very angry and downcast.

Then YHVH said to Cain, “Why are you angry and downcast? If you do right, why do you not look up? But if you are not doing what is right, sin is lurking at the door. It is striving to get you, but you must control it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go to the fields.” Once there, Cain turned on his brother Abel and killed him. YHVH said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” He answered, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

YHVH asked, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. Now be cursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood that your hand had shed. When you till the soil, it will no longer yield you its produce. You will be a fugitive wandering on the earth.”

Cain said to YHVH, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today You drive me from this land. I must hide from You and be a wanderer and a fugitive on the earth, and it will so happen that whoever meets me will kill me.” YHVH said to him, “Well then, whoever kills Cain, will suffer vengeance seven times.” And YHVH put a mark on Cain to prevent anyone who met him from killing him.

Adam again had intercourse with his wife and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth; for she said, “YHVH has given me another child in place of Abel since Cain killed him.”

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to focus our attention on the Lord and His love for us that He was willing to reach out to us and to rescue us from our deepest troubles and predicaments, to lead us out of the abyss and deliver us from the sufferings we experienced due to sin. And we are all called as Christians to reflect on what our faith truly means for us.

In our first reading today from the Book of Leviticus, Moses revealed to the people of Israel the laws and rules of the Lord, which he delivered to them and asked them to keep in their hearts and minds, and to pass them on from time to time, as they journeyed from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. And today we focus in particular on the laws regarding the treatment of those who suffered from leprosy, what to be done with them.

At that time, the cause for leprosy was not well known, and the disease was often misunderstood. Leprosy is actually caused by bacterial infection that can be spread through direct contact, either with the other person or with the items that the infected person has been using or wearing. Although leprosy was not particularly infectious and it was actually not easy to contract leprosy unless through frequent contact, but we must then understand the context of the circumstances of the Exodus.

During the Exodus, the Israelites journeyed through the desert and stayed together in a close-knit community due to the harsh desert conditions of the Sinai desert and the other places they journeyed through. As a result, the density of the population within the community was likely quite high and people lived in close contact with each other regularly. And as it was in the desert, where water was scarce and although the Lord did provide water for the people to drink, but it was likely that hygiene might have been a problem for the people then.

As a result, the Law was very strict with regards to leprosy, as an outbreak of leprosy could be dangerous at the time when the people were living in such close proximity. Since leprosy is also a slow-acting and chronic infection that slowly affected those who were infected, allowing the people who got leprosy to roam around freely in the close-knit community could be harmful to the greater community. Hence, those afflicted with leprosy, which showed its symptoms quite clearly, had to stay outside the community until they could prove that they were freed from the leprosy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of this focus on leprosy that we have heard today? In our Gospel passage today we also heard the Lord healing a man who had been afflicted with leprosy. Until that time, over a thousand years after the Law was first revealed by Moses, the rules and traditions of the Law had been preserved and passed down for so long that the original meaning and intention, the context and appreciation of the reason of those rules had been forgotten.

That is why many of the rules and regulations enforced by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often opposed by the Lord, Who came to straighten up the truth and to reveal the true meaning and intention of the Law. He wanted all of us to know that God was not some distant, angry and wrathful God Who demanded total obedience and submission from the people, but rather, a caring and compassionate, most loving and generous God Who will bless all of us and Who seeks to be reconciled with us.

And this is where we then look again at how leprosy had been dangerous for the people back then, and how it affected them, slowly ‘eating’ through their bodies and making them to lose their body parts in time unless they could get the leprosy cured. When the man who had leprosy came to the Lord asking for Him to heal him, certainly he had been suffering and had great predicaments and troubles, being excluded and shut out for his condition. The Lord healed the man and made him good and whole again.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is in fact very symbolic of what the Lord Himself would do for our sake, in healing us from another ‘leprosy’ which is far more dangerous than the worldly leprosy. What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the leprosy of the soul, which is sin. Yes, sin is like that of leprosy, a disease and corruption that is even far more dangerous than the bodily leprosy. Why is that? That is because while leprosy only affects the body, sin affects everything, our every aspects of life.

And while leprosy could still be cured, and like how it has been largely eradicated today due to the advance of modern medicine and better hygiene practices, but there is nothing that can be done with regards to sin. Only God alone can forgive us our sins and heal us from its corruptions. That is why, as the Lord came and approached the man suffering from leprosy, not only that He showed us His power to heal earthly diseases, but He also revealed to us how He would also forgive us our sins.

In another miraculous occasion, the Lord healed a paralytic man and said to the man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law immediately made issue with this statement. Yet, the Lord was speaking the truth, that He indeed had the authority to forgive us our sins, and therefore heal us from this leprosy that is eating up on all of us, afflicting us and leading us down the path of suffering.

Now, what matters is whether we are willing to let Him to touch us and heal us, as He did with the man suffering from the physical leprosy. The man who suffered from leprosy wanted to be healed and he also had faith in the Lord. Hence, he was healed and made whole, and happily he went to see the priest so that he could be readmitted into the greater community, no longer exiled and cast out due to his condition.

Sin has also made us to be exiled and cast out, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is why again it is often referred to as the ‘leprosy of our souls’. It was due to sin that we have been cast out from the Gardens of Eden, separated from God and the fullness of His grace and blessings. Sin corrupted us and made us to be unworthy to stand in God’s presence. We should have fallen into eternal damnation and share the fate of the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels, condemned for eternity if not for the love that God has for us.

God sent us nothing less than the best gift of all, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom we have been given the sure promise of salvation and healing from our sins, which He alone can heal and forgive. And He generously showed us this forgiveness and compassion, as He gathered to Himself all of our sins, bearing them down upon Himself, on His Cross that He carried up to Calvary. And by dying for us on the Cross, He offered Himself as the perfect offering for our sins, to absolve us from all those combined sins we have committed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us as Christians are called to reflect on how fortunate and blessed we are to have received God’s truth, and how fortunate we are to have been loved in such a way by the Lord, so generous with His love and so patient in always trying to reach out to us and to forgive us when we seek Him with a heart full of contrition and regret for our many committed sins, as well as the sins of omission that we have had with us.

Have we taken God’s love for granted, and ignored His great love and the great patience He had in dealing with us? Let us not disregard our loving Father’s call for us to Him anymore, and let us respond to Him with a genuine desire to commit ourselves to Him, rejecting all the temptations to sin and to disobey against His laws and commandments.

Let us realise that in God alone we can fully put our trust and be made whole, healed and liberated from all the sins that have held us down and kept us away from the true happiness that can be found with God and Him alone. And as Christians, we should be inspirations and examples to each other in the way we live our lives, filled with faith and virtue, trust in God and righteousness that all who see us and interact with us, may also come to know God through us.

May the Lord remind us always of His love and compassion, His care and dedication towards us that we too may grow in our faith and dedication towards Him, and that we may strive well against the many temptations and pressures that try to keep us away from God and His path. May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all into life everlasting in Him, and make us all His exemplary and faithful disciples before all the peoples of all the nations. God bless us all, now and always. Amen.