Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are told of the matter of faith and obedience to God. We are presented with two stories, one from our first reading, the second Book of the prophet Samuel, on the account of the moment when king David brought the Ark of God, also known as the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, the new capital of the kingdom of Israel.

Previously, the Ark has always been in the field, originally carried and brought with the Israelites as they journeyed in the desert during their Exodus from Egypt and a Holy Tent was built to house this Ark of the Covenant, which was a very sacred and important part of the community of the Israelites at that time. The people made their dwellings around the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Tent, and when they have reached the Promised Land, the Ark and the Holy Tent were prominently placed in the heart of the land of the Israelites.

For the Ark of the Covenant is not just the symbolic representation of the Covenant between God and His people, but is also the real focus and emphasis of the bond between God and the Israelites, for the stones on which the Ten Commandments were written were placed in the Ark, and more importantly, God’s very presence and holiness descended upon the Ark when the Holy Tent was dedicated and consecrated to God. The Ark of God was the place where God Himself dwelled, inside the Holy Tent built over it.

David wanted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, that it may then visibly dwell in the heart of the land, in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. And when he did so, he honoured the Lord and humbled himself before Him as we heard in our first reading passage today, dancing and rejoicing before the Lord with great joy. David obeyed the Lord and did everything he could to follow His commandments, and gave his all to Him. What we have heard in our first reading today was how he put God first before all else, even his pride and honour.

And not just in this matter, but king David has also been a good and faithful king and steward of God’s people, leading the people on the right path and guiding them with right conduct and devotion. Of course David was not perfect, as he did sin and make mistakes sometimes, but in the end, his love and commitment to God prevailed, and he remained mostly true to his calling and ministry as king. He did what was right in the sight of God and brought God’s people closer to Him, and for this, God blessed David and made an assurance to him that his house would reign as king forever.

This is then linked to our Gospel passage today, when the family of Jesus came to Him to meet Him while He was teaching to the people gathered before Him. In that occasion, the Lord told the people that His brothers, sisters, mother and family are those who do the will of God and obey Him. When we heard what the Lord Jesus said, without understanding the context and purpose of what He said, we may think that the Lord was being rude to His family and to His mother Mary. But the truth is actually different.

The Lord had no intention to be rude or condescending to His family and His mother. Rather, He wanted to make a good example and also to make it clear to the people, and all of us, that if we obey God and do His will, are faithful and devoted to Him, God will surely be with us and will bless us bountifully as He had done with David, His faithful servant. And of course, Mary, the mother of God is herself the most faithful one of all, and she is indeed one called the most blessed of all women and of all people.

Today, we also remember the memory of a great saint, whose life, works and dedication to God can be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, just as king David and Mary had done. St. Thomas Aquinas is a great Doctor of the Church and a master theologian known well by his nickname Doctor Angelicus or the Angelic Doctor. St. Thomas Aquinas was well-known for his many contributions to theology and philosophy, sparking a great renewal in the intellectual dimension of the Church and the faithful.

Summa Theologica, the great masterful work of St. Thomas Aquinas still continues to influence the Church, the priests and the leaders of the Church for many centuries right up to this day, and is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant works that man has ever made. The impact of St. Thomas Aquinas, his works and contributions cannot be underrated, and we should be inspired by his commitment and love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that we should do then? We should be more faithful and committed to God ourselves from now on, imitating the examples of king David, of Mary, God’s own mother, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and many other saints and holy predecessors we have, that we can look up to for inspiration. Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do our best to love God with ever more effort and commitment, putting Him ever at the centre of our lives and existence.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, that we may ever be courageous and strong to live up to our faith and be good servants of His truth, in proclaiming His truth and His salvation to all the peoples by our faith and obedience. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the need for us to be truly faithful to God in everything and not just having superficial and empty faith. God wants us to love Him and to be focused on Him in our lives and not to be distracted by worldly temptations and desires, and what we heard in our Scripture passages today are a great reminder to that fact.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to pick one of the seven sons of Jesse to become the new king of Israel succeeding Saul, the previous and first king of Israel who had disobeyed God and led Israel into sin. This brought Samuel to the land of Judah to find Jesse and he met six of his sons whom Jesse presented all before the prophet to find the one with whom God was pleased and had chosen.

Samuel thought that the first son was handsome and great in the sight of man, as was the other elder sons, with intellect, appearance and charisma that seemed to make them acceptable and likely to be God’s chosen one. But God told Samuel that despite what he had seen and thought, God had not chosen any one of them at all. Instead, it was David, the youngest and seventh son of Jesse, a young man still in his early youth, a shepherd of the field whom God had chosen to become the king over His people Israel.

What this passage is telling us is that God chose the one whom He deemed to be worthy and not the one who made himself or herself to be worthy of God. No one is truly worthy of God and the more pride, greed and ambition there are in our hearts and in our minds, the further we will end up being from God. Saul, the first king was overcome by his pride and greed, in wanting to do things in his own way and probably in wanting to gain worldly benefits that he ended up disobeying God and therefore was replaced as king by David.

In our Gospel passage, we heard something that is quite similar in nature as we heard of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who complained about the behaviour of His disciples as they picked the grains of wheat in the field on the Sabbath day, something that the Pharisees interpreted to be a grave sin and mistake to be done on the sacred day dedicated to God.

But the Lord then told the Pharisees the story of how king David and his followers when they were exhausted and completely hungry as they fled from their enemies, namely king Saul and his soldiers who wanted David dead, David and his followers went to the house of God and the High Priest gave them the bread that was normally reserved only for the priests. They ate and they had their fill and they then continued on their journey, eventually by God’s grace, succeeded in surviving and David succeeded Saul as king of Israel when the latter was killed in the battle with the Philistines.

Through that story, the Lord again wanted not just the Pharisees but also all of us to understand and to realise that the Law of God cannot be understood just superficially, and this also then requires us to have a faith that is deeper than just the superficial appearances. If outwardly we are good but inside our hearts and minds we are conflicted and not united with God, then we do not truly have genuine faith in God and can even be considered as hypocrites like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

What God wants us to know is that we do not just obey the Law and fulfil its requirements just for the sake of doing it or for appearances. We must truly love God and have that love for God within our hearts underlying all of our actions and deeds. David was chosen not because of the superior nature of his physical build or appearances but rather because he truly had a genuine love for God. Although as a man he was not perfect and sinned, but as can see throughout his life, he remained faithful to the Lord and devoted his life and reign to His glory.

In the same manner, all of us as Christians we are all called to be truly faithful to God in all things and not to be merely superficial in our obedience to the Lord and to His Law. We are all called to love God with all of our strength and with all of our heart. And today, we can also look upon the examples set by the faithful St. Agnes, a holy martyr of the faith renowned to the whole Church.

St. Agnes was a beautiful Roman noble woman who was a Christian at the time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was chased after by many men whom she declined because she wanted to dedicate herself out of purity and maintain the sanctity of her holy virginity to God. As a result, those men who were rejected reported her to the authorities for her supposed Christian faith, and the prefect in charge at the time subjected her to arrest and suffering.

She was dragged naked through the streets to a brothel and made to be raped by men, but miraculously by God’s intervention, all those who attempted to do so were struck blind. It was told that the son of the prefect was struck dead and through the prayers of St. Agnes, he was revived, and the prefect, visibly touched by this, had to pass on the judgment to another person, who then condemned St. Agnes to die by burning at the stake.

Again, the flames would not burn her and she was completely unharmed. It was only when an officer stabbed her and beheaded her with his sword that St. Agnes was finally martyred for her faith. Despite all the sufferings she had to go through, she remained completely faithful to God, because she truly had faith and genuine love for God from her heart, and her faith was not just merely superficial or only for appearances. This is why all of us should also be inspired by the faith that St. Agnes had and strive to live our lives faithfully from now on as she once had lived hers.

May the Lord always be with us and may He continue to strengthen us all in our journey of faith. May He through the intercessions of St. Agnes, holy virgin and martyr, continue to guide us all and bless us in everything we do, that we may be courageous in faith and in loving God with all of our heart from now on. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 2 : 23-28

At that time, on one Sabbath Jesus was walking through grain fields. As His disciples walked along with Him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!”

And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need; when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the House of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate; the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Master even of the Sabbath.”

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 27-28

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.

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.