Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd 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 as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture, we are again reminded of God’s providence and love for each and every one of us that He would not let us to be destroyed by those who sought our ruin and destruction. As we heard in our first reading, God protected David, His chosen one from the plots and attacks from king Saul, while in the Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord healed all those who were afflicted especially those possessed by the evil spirits.

King Saul was the first king of Israel who was chosen from among the people. He was initially good, faithful and obedient to God, but he ended up disobeying God and following his own will and desires, pursuing his own agenda and leading the people into sin. As he was not repentant and insisted on doing things his own way, God withdrew His support from him and chose David to be his successor as the king over the people of Israel.

David became very famous among the people after he defeated the giant champion of the Philistines, Goliath in single combat. And as David became more and more prominent through his many victories in battle, as the Lord was with him, the people began to laud him more and more and king Saul became jealous and felt very insecure over his position as king, probably knowing that Samuel the prophet had anointed David as the new king of Israel succeeding him.

That was how the devil entered into king Saul, as specifically mentioned in the Book of the prophet Samuel. The devil manipulated Saul and made him even more angry, jealous and insecure, and thus wanted to have David killed and destroyed before he became a threat to his kingship and rule. But God was with David, and as we heard in our reading today, he had a great ally in one of Saul’s own sons, Jonathan, with whom David had a great friendship with.

Through Jonathan, God helped David to escape from his predicament, as Jonathan helped David to get away from Saul and his plots against him. Jonathan helped David on several occasions and God also led him through the challenges and trials that he had to go through for years in the run from Saul, even when he had to wander among the Philistines and in the wilderness. God provided for the needs of His servant and remained with him until the day when David succeeded as king, and continued to bless him and his house afterwards.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of God Whom through His Son was healing many of the people who came to Him for all their sick and those who were afflicted in all sorts of ways. Those who were possessed by evil spirits, whom none other could have helped, sought the Lord and the evil spirits were cast out by Him. All those demons and spirits knew Whom the Lord Jesus was, but He would not allow them to reveal the truth as that might jeopardise His works and efforts.

Through all of these we have seen how God constantly cared for us and showed His generous love towards us. He does not want any one of us to fall into the traps of the devil and his wicked allies, and like how He cared and provided for David, He also provides for each and every one of us in His own way too. But too often we do not realise this, and we tend to forget about God and ignore His constant show of love and kindness towards us.

We have allowed ourselves instead to be made busy by the many temptations of pleasure, glory, materialism and all sorts of these things in this world. And this in fact is yet another sinister tactic by the devil in trying to bring us down with him into damnation, as he tries very hard to keep us away from reaching out to God and embracing the fullness of His grace, love and mercy. We really need to wake up and realise how it is very important for us to overcome these many temptations and redirect our attention back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to love the Lord more and more, just as David loved the Lord and dedicated himself to Him. Let us be ever more faithful and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, being thankful and grateful for all that He has done for our sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us in everything we do. Amen.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 3 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing toward Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 55 : 2-3, 9-10ab, 10c-11, 12-13

O God, show Your mercy to me, for my foes are in hot pursuit; they press their attack on me all the time. My accusers pursue me all day long; many attack me.

You have a record of my laments; my tears are stored in Your wineskin. Are they not written on Your scroll? My enemies turn back when I call on You for help.

Now I know, that God is for me. In God, Whose word I praise.

In God I trust, without fear. What can mortals do against me? I am bound to You by vows, o God; I shall offer my thanksgiving.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 18 : 6-9 and 1 Samuel 19 : 1-7

When they arrived after David had slain the Philistine, the women came out from the cities of Israel to meet king Saul singing and dancing with timbrels and musical instruments. They were merrily singing this song : “Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very displeased with this song and said, “They have given tens of thousands to David but to me only thousands! By now he has everything but the kingdom!” From then on, Saul became very distrustful of David.

Saul told his son Jonathan and his servants of his intention to kill David. But Jonathan, who liked David very much, said to David, “My father Saul wants to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning and hide yourself in a secret place. I will go out and keep my father company in the countryside where you are and I will speak to him about you. If I find out something, I will let you know.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul and said, “Let not the king sin against his servant David for he has not sinned against you. On the contrary, what he has done has benefitted you. He risked his life in killing the Philistine and YHVH brought about a great victory for Israel. You yourself saw this and greatly rejoiced. Why then sin against innocent blood and kill David without cause?”

Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore, “As YHVH lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and told him all these things. He then brought him to Saul and David was back in Saul’s service as before.

Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue the readings from the early chapters of the Book of the prophet Samuel and also the beginning of Our Lord’s ministry among His people as recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark, we are reminded that God loved us all and wants us to be reconciled to Him, but we must be willing to listen to Him and obey Him and His words.

In the first reading today, we heard of the account of a great battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, a neighbouring people of the Israelites who at that time oppressed the people of Israel and often raided into the lands of Israel. The Israelites were beaten hard and they began to think that if they brought the Ark of God or the Ark of the Covenant with them, God would be by their side and they would win against their enemies.

At that time, the Israelites were led by the judge Eli, who was also the mentor of the young prophet Samuel. But Eli was then already old, and in the earlier parts of the same Book of the prophet Samuel from which our first reading today was taken, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were the ones who actually held the rein over the people, and were the ones who carried out the sacrifices at the Tent of God.

But those two men were corrupt, and they did not obey the will of God. Rather, they served themselves and their own greed. They would keep the best portions of the sacrifices for themselves when the Law clearly stated that those should have been given to God. Their corrupt behaviour and attitude were wicked in the eyes of God, and that was why, God was not on the side of Israel when those two men led the Israelites bearing the Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines.

Then we heard of the result, how the Israelites were soundly defeated, the two wicked sons of Eli were slain in battle and the Ark of the Covenant itself was captured by the enemy. It was a great blow to the whole nation of Israel, and soon after the news came to Eli, the elderly judge of Israel passed away in grief, likely from hearing that the Ark of God had been captured by the enemy, on top of losing both of his sons.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a different account, of how the Lord Jesus healed a person who was suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was a disease that was greatly feared and dreaded by the people for its supposed contagiousness and its terrible appearance. Those who have contracted leprosy had to stay away from the rest of the community and remain in the wilderness until they were proven to be cured of their leprosy.

The Lord healed the man who sought healing from his leprosy, and the man was told to report to the priest to be allowed back to the community while at the same time strictly ordering him not to tell anything about how Jesus had healed him. But the man disobeyed the Lord and went to tell everyone what had happened to him. This made things difficult for the Lord and as mentioned in the Gospel passage, Jesus had to remain outside of the towns and could not enter to those cities.

Why is that so? First of all, it is possible that the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who upon hearing what He had done, made it difficult for Him and His disciples to enter the cities and towns. In addition, it was also possible that because the Lord healed the leper by touching him, something that no one at the time would consider doing, that made Him appear to be unclean in the eyes of some people, and they distanced themselves from Him.

Regardless of whatever the reason was, the disobedience of the man against what the Lord had told him caused difficulties and also loss for many others whom the Lord could have healed then. This was just as how the disobedience and wickedness of the two sons of Eli had led the Israelites into great defeat and losing the Ark of the Covenant to their enemies. Through their disobedience and stubbornness, man has sinned against God and should have walked into destruction.

But in the end, God is still willing to forgive us and to give us another chance. That was precisely why He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. Yet, are we making good use of this opportunity that He has given to us? Shall we appreciate the great and generous love that God has given us and is willing to give us even more? Let us all reflect on this and think in what way we can seek God with greater desire to love Him and to embrace Him with all of our strength from now on.

Let us not disobey God any longer but instead open our hearts and minds, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us to be better persons and to be better Christians. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us through this journey in life. May God bless us all and our many good works for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

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, 16 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?