Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the the healing which the Lord Jesus performed on a person who suffered from leprosy. The leper came up to Him and begged Him to heal his afflictions. The Lord was moved by the faith and the effort showed by the leper, and He healed him from the leprosy, allowing the leper to return to the larger community from where he had been exiled from.

And this is linked to what we have heard in the first reading today, the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the people and the faithful among the Jewish community, reminding them of the need for conversion of hearts and minds, to turn away from their past sinful ways and actions. It was mentioned how sin is the fruit of rebelliousness of man, who disobeyed God and refused to listen to His will. And the reason for this link, is because sin is also a form of sickness.

If leprosy is a disease that strikes at the flesh, damaging the muscles and the tissues of our body, which eventually can cause death unless it is treated and managed, then sin is also a disease that is far more serious, as it affects very deeply within our beings, corrupting and attacking at the very souls and cores of our whole beings. This corruption will end up causing us, our whole being, to fall deeper and deeper in the trap of sin, and eventually, may fall into eternal damnation.

In order to be healed, it is often that we cannot heal ourselves just by waiting and doing nothing at all. We will need to actively seek for healing, by coming to those who are able to heal us. That was how many of us managed to be healed, because we got our conditions diagnosed properly and then received the right medicine to help us to recover from the illness or sickness as quickly as possible.

In the same way, we also need healing for our sins, to be touched by God Who is able to forgive us from our sins. It is by God’s grace and forgiveness alone that we can be healed from our sins. Unless we humble ourselves before God and seek His love and mercy, it may be very difficult for us to overcome this great obstacle of sin, which prevented us from being fully loved and embraced by God.

And unfortunately, the reason for why it is often difficult for us to seek God’s mercy is because of our own ego and pride, which became a major obstacle in the journey towards our forgiveness. In our ego and pride, we often think that we cannot go wrong, that we know what is best for us. And we are often reluctant to acknowledge our sins because we fear God’s anger, or because we are not sure how we should proceed to settle those sins.

This is caused by our own ignorance and failure to understand and to appreciate the love which God has for each and every one of us. If only we can try to know more about His love and mercy being constantly present in our midst, and accept that generous offer of forgiveness and reconciliation that He had offered to us. Today, we celebrate the feast of a holy man and devout servant of God, whose life can probably be an inspiration for us on how we should become closer in love for God.

St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great lived during the mid fourth century after the birth of Christ, as one of the famous early Christian monks, who helped to popularise the concept of monasticism among the faithful. He lived in then the Roman province of Egypt, born to a wealthy landowning family but then chose to leave everything behind and sold his properties to feed the poor, and went to the desert to be a monk.

St. Anthony lived a life totally devoted to the Lord in seclusion and prayer, and wandered the desert and the caves for many years, leading a very holy and exemplary life. However, the devil did not remain passive amidst all of those years, and actively tried to attack and tempt St. Anthony by various means. It was told that many evil spirits and demons physically and spiritually struck at the holy man, with many temptations. But St. Anthony overcame all of them with prayer.

The holiness and dedication that St. Anthony the Great had shown all of us should become an inspiration on how we should live our own lives in this world. There are indeed plenty of temptations and pressures for us to follow the ways of the world, that is the way of Satan, and not the way of the Lord. And it is indeed difficult to resist those temptations, which will come at any time and from various sources, just as those evil spirits and tempters that attacked St. Anthony had done.

However, we can follow the example shown by St. Anthony, in his prayerful dedication to the Lord, that is his constant and ever-fervent connection with his God, Who is his anchor, strength and protection. With the Lord by his side, St. Anthony was able to resist the temptations of the devil and all of his wicked forces, and became a light of inspiration for countless others among the faithful throughout the subsequent centuries and millennia, to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to walk in the footsteps of this holy man of God? We are called in our own respective capacities, in whatever we do in life, to bring glory to God by aligning ourselves closer to Him, and not to succumb to the many temptations of life. We are called to love the Lord ever more, and open ourselves to receive His love and mercy, and not to harden our hearts and minds against Him. That is why we need to pray more, and have good quality of prayerful life from now on, each and every days of our life.

May God, our loving Father, continue to love us and bless us in all of our deeds, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of life, so that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify His Name, and walk in His ways. St. Anthony the Great, holy Abbot and servant of God, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 94 : 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

For forty years they wearied Me and I said, “They are a people of inconsistent heart; they have not known My ways.” So I declared an oath in My anger, “Never shall they enter My rest.”

Thursday, 17 January 2019 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 3 : 7-14

Listen to what the Holy Spirit says : If only you would hear God’s voice today! Do not be stubborn, as they were in the place called Rebellion, when your ancestors challenged Me in the desert, although they had seen My deeds for forty years. That is why I was angry with those people and said : Their hearts are always going astray and they do not understand My ways. I was angry and made a solemn vow : They will never enter My rest.

So, brothers, be careful lest some of you come to have an evil and unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. Encourage one another, day by day, as long as it is called today. Let no one become hardened in the deceitful way of sin. We are associated with Christ provided we hold steadfastly to our initial hope until the end.

Thursday, 10 January 2019 : Thursday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the love of God, which we need to show in our own lives, just as St. John wrote in his Epistle, that each and every one of us who wants to love God, must also love one another just as He has loved us first. He has shown us His perfect love, by the generous giving of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has become Our Saviour. He has given us His commandments and laws, which are then revealed in its perfection by Himself.

That was when the Lord Jesus came into this world, bearing the truth which we mankind have longed to see. He has revealed to us just how great God’s love is for us, that in essence, all the Law and the commandments He has given His people, is founded upon the love which He has for us, from the very beginning, love that is not selfish and filled with ego, but instead love that is pure, selfless and genuine.

In the Gospel passage, we heard the Lord Himself proclaiming the fulfilment of the prophecies which God has given His people through His prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah had written in his book that the Lord would anoint His Messiah to bear the salvation and new joy into this world, the healing of the sick, the opening of the eyes of the blind, and how those who were paralysed would be able to walk again, and prisoners would be set free. And Jesus came to fulfil all of these.

How did God fulfil His promises of love? It is by liberating us from the source of all of our misery and sufferings, that is sin. Sin is caused by our refusal to obey God’s will, and by our own selfish desires in trying to satisfy our own greed and wants. Sin has corrupted us and made us to suffer, because it made us to be separated from God, and away from God we have no certainty in life. Our conflicting desires and actions cause us to act unjustly towards one another, causing us to suffer.

We suffer because others oppress us, manipulate us and trying to gain more by taking what should have been ours. And we suffer because, even when we have gained what we wanted in life, in terms of all sorts of worldly glory and achievement, money and material possessions, fame and influence, we often do not feel happy, as we end up craving for even more than what we have already had. Life is never fully and truly happy, as we desire for these worldly things, that we can never be fully satisfied from.

We love ourselves more than anything else, but this is what have led us down the path of sin, as well as the path of suffering and unhappiness. That is why, God showed us the way out of this predicament, by showing us what a true love is all about. Through Jesus, we have seen the perfect example of obedience to the Law, which He summarised into two key points, namely, first of all, the love for God, and then the love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

He loved His Father so perfectly, that everything He did, He did because of the love He has for His Father in heaven, obeying Him and doing His will on earth. And this is translated into the love which He showed to all those Whom the Father has loved, His brothers and sisters, each and every one of us, the sons and daughters of man. And this love is made perfect, by the total surrender and obedience to the will of the Father, at the Passion when He willingly suffered for us, because of His love, that by His suffering and by bearing all of our sins, we may receive liberation from those sins, and find our way to eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord has shown us what it means to love, and He Himself has shown it by what He has done for every single one of us. He loves us all so tenderly, that He did not mind to suffer the pain of the cross, so that by enduring the suffering due for our sins, we may be saved and not perish in hell. This is just how great God’s love is for us, and we should imitate the same love in our own lives. Therefore, first of all, let us love God and put Him at the very centre of our lives, and then, love others just in the same way as we have love God and ourselves.

Let us no longer be selfish and greedy in life, and let us realise that all of our worldly glory and possessions cannot satisfy us, and that they only bring about more sufferings and pains if we continue to desire and crave for them. Instead, let us overcome those selfish desires in us, and learn instead to love more tenderly and generously, and let us all be loving and be willing to share the blessings that we have received from God with one another. Let us be loving just as Christ Our Lord has loved us. Amen.

Thursday, 10 January 2019 : Thursday after the Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 4 : 14-22a

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.” All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God.

Thursday, 10 January 2019 : Thursday after the Epiphany (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 14 and 15c, 17

God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

He rescues them from oppression and strife, for their life is precious to Him. May people always pray for Him, and blessings be invoked for Him all day.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him; and He will be praised by all nations.