Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, we can hear how God is calling us all to follow Him, that is to abandon all of our past, sinful ways, and turn towards Him with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with all of our capabilities. He is calling us to have a total conversion of the heart, mind and of our whole being, to become His people, His beloved children.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Micah, it was an exhortation by the prophet, which is both in form, a prayer and a reminder for the people of the great love which God has shown His people, Israel, ever since the time He chose them to be His people, all the time He has blessed them and guided them, giving a bountiful land to be their inheritance. The prophet Micah was calling the people to repent from their sins and turn towards God once again.

God is always ever merciful and loving towards His people, despite His anger at the sins and disobedience which they have constantly shown to Him. But of course, His mercy and love requires us to be receptive and to actively accept His generous offer of mercy for it to take effect in our lives. We cannot assume that we will be forgiven if we refuse to obey the Lord, and continue to live our lives in our usual, sinful ways.

Instead, He wants us to have a conversion as mentioned, from those who walked in sin and disobeyed Him, to be those who listen to His will, and do what is right and just in our lives, as He mentioned in the Gospel passage today to the people, telling them that all those who have done God’s will, is the mother, brothers and sisters of the Lord. It means that all those who obey God, belongs to God.

And those who belong to God, will not be lost from God, for the Lord will gather all of His sheep, His beloved ones, as a loving and good Shepherd. God will not abandon all those who have been faithful to Him, and indeed, even to those who have not been obedient, He is always ever obedient to the Covenant and the promise which He has made to all of us mankind.

That is why, He chose willingly to accept suffering and death on the cross, for our sake. No one in the right mind and in the right worldly logic will consider suffering, less still to die for someone else, if he or she does not love that person so much, that he or she is willing to do such an act of selfless love and compassion. And as St. Paul said, Christ is even better, for He chose willingly to die for us all, sinners and disobedient people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to reflect on our lives, on whether we have been good disciples of the Lord all these while. Have we obeyed the Lord with our actions and deeds in life, or have we instead been listening to all the falsehoods, lies and the temptations of the evil one? Have we been true disciples of Our Lord, in all of our words and actions?

Let us today examine the life of a holy and devout servant of God, whose examples we can perhaps incorporate into our own lives. St. Sharbel Makhluf or St. Charbel was a famous saint originating from what is today Lebanon, a member of the Maronite church, who was a faithful and devout monk and priest. He devoted his whole life to God, and was exemplary in his prayer life and dedication to serve God.

St. Sharbel Makhluf has done what he could have done, to love the Lord Who has loved him first. And in his pious devotion to Him, he showed us all, how we mankind should turn away from all of the distractions of the world, and focus our attention towards God instead. It does not mean that we have to join religious life and monkhood as St. Charbel had done, but truly, we must have a change in our life for the better.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, Our God? Are we able to turn away from all the wicked things which we have done in our lives, and have a new life that is centred on God? These are the questions we have to keep asking in our minds and in our hearts, as we continue on living our daily lives in this world.

Let us all renew our commitment to be faithful and good children of God, as those who do the work that God wants us to do, and listen to Him speaking in our hearts and minds, by having a good spiritual relationship with Him through prayer. May God be with us all, and may He continue to bless all the works He has done through us. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 84 : 2-4, 5-6, 7-8

You have favoured Your land, o YHVH; You have brought back the exiles of Jacob. You have forgiven the sin of Your people; You have pardoned their offences. You have withdrawn Your wrath and turned from Your burning rage.

But restore us, God our Saviour; put away, altogether, Your indignation. Will Your anger be ever with us, carried over to all generations?

Will You not give us life anew, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us, o YHVH, Your unfailing love, and grant us Your saving help.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20

Shepherd Your people with Your staff, shepherd the flock of Your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when You went out of Egypt. Show us Your wonders.

Who is a God like You, Who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of His inheritance? Who is like You Whose anger does not last? For You delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again You will show us Your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Scriptures mentioned to us first of all, God’s assurance to His people in the kingdom of Judah, led by king Ahaz that He would be with them regardless of the opposition and troubles that they were facing at the time. At that time there were many enemies rising up against Judah, composed of the kingdom of Aram and the northern kingdom of Israel. The two kingdoms have allied themselves in a plot to destroy Judah.

The people had no faith in God, as they have often disobeyed Him and worshipped pagan idols and gods instead of worshipping Him. All of these they have done, despite the fact that God had performed so many good deeds and miracles among the people. He had delivered them from the hands of their former Egyptian masters who enslaved the Israelites for many years, and the enemies of Israel, such as the Amalekites, Philistines and many others were defeated by God’s might.

They did not have a faith that lasted a long time, and their lukewarm attitude and preoccupation in worldly matters ended up tempting them to walk away from the path which the Lord had shown them. That is because their hearts were filled not with love and desire to love God, but instead with pride, with selfishness and all sorts of wickedness that prevented them from being truly faithful.

In the Gospel passage today, the same problems were faced by the Lord Jesus, Our God and Saviour, Who went to His people in various parts of Galilee, performing miracles and many good works before the people. He healed the sick, including the mother of St. Peter among them, opened the eyes of the blind, loosened the tongues of the mute and opened the ears of the deaf. He even raised people back from the dead, as He had done with the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Naim and many more.

Despite all of these obvious signs, many of the people still refused to listen to the Lord or to believe in Him. They doubted Him and presumed to know Him, especially those who have known Him in Nazareth and having seen Him growing up in their midst, and therefore, assuming that He could not have performed all those miraculous deeds on His own, and doubting Him.

They failed to believe in Him, because they were too focused on the things of this world, and view everything from the perspective of the world. They allowed themselves to be swayed by the falsehoods and all the lies which Satan placed in their hearts to make them doubt and to harden their hearts and minds against the Lord Who tried to speak to them and to show them the truth.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the accounts from the Scriptures telling us both of what happened during the years of the Old Testament, and during the time when the Lord Jesus performed His earthly ministry, all of us are called to reflect on our own attitude in life and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been faithful to the Lord, or have we instead lived our lives in our own way?

We are often too preoccupied in our respective, busy lives, filled with many concerns and desired of worldly nature, which prevent us from listening to the Lord calling us to Him, and which distract us from the path which we ought to take in our journey towards Him. That is why so many of us failed to respond to God’s call, and walked the same path as those who have disobeyed the Lord in the past.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to continue this attitude in life? Are we going to continue to live in sin and refuse to follow the Lord just because we think that we know what is better for us? Let us all today learn to be humble, that first and foremost, we must place God at the centre of our lives, as our focus and priority, and know that not everything in this world is about us.

And we have to learn to quieten ourselves, in our minds and in our hearts, so that we can find out better what it is that the Lord wants us to do in our own respective lives. This is why it is so important that all of us as Christians must know how to pray, and pray with the correct intention and faith. By having an active and vibrant prayer life, we can then better resist the temptations to sin and know better God’s will and love for us.

May the Lord be with us and be our Guide, that throughout our struggles and journey in life, and despite the challenges and tribulations that come our way, we will always remain strong and resolute in our faith and dedication to God. Let us all strive with a renewed faith, day after day, to be ever more faithful to the Lord in our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 11 : 20-24

At that time, Jesus began to denounce the cities in which He had performed most of His miracles, because the people there did not change their ways.

“Alas for you Chorazin and Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I assure you, for Tyre and Sidon; it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.”

“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead! For if the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would still be there today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Tuesday, 17 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 47 : 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6, 7-8

Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise in the City of God, His holy mountain. Beautifully elevated, it is the joy of all the earth.

Mount Zion, heavenly mountain, the City of the great King. Here, within her lines of defence, God has shown Himself to be a sure fortress.

The kings assembled together, advanced toward the city. But as soon as they saw it, they were astounded; they panicked and took to flight.

Seized with fear, they trembled, like a woman in travail, or like ships of Tarshish, shattered by a strong wind from the east.