Tuesday, 19 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 2 : 23-28

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was walking through grainfields. 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, 19 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 4-5, 9 and 10c

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; the Lord is merciful and kind. Always mindful of His covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His holy Name is to be revered! To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 6 : 10-20

God is not unjust and will not forget everything you have done for love of His Name; you have helped and still help the believers. We desire each of you to have, until the end, the same zeal for reaching what you have hoped for. Do not grow careless but imitate those who, by their faith and determination, inherit the promise.

Remember God’s promise to Abraham, God wanted to confirm it with an oath and, as no one is higher than God, He swore by Himself : I shall bless you and give you many descendants. By just patiently waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.

People are used to swearing by someone higher than themselves and their oath affirms everything that could be denied. So God committed Himself with an oath in order to convince those who were to wait for His promise that He would never change His mind.

Thus we have two certainties in which it is impossible that God be proved false : promise and oath. That is enough to encourage us strongly when we leave everything to hold to the hope set before us. This hope is like a steadfast anchor of the soul, secure and firm, thrust beyond the curtain of the Temple into the sanctuary itself, where Jesus has entered ahead of us – Jesus, High Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today we heard first of all the continuation of the discourse on the High Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, highlighting the role of the Lord Jesus that He took in order to bring the people of God to salvation through Him and His ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross.

The author first began by highlighting the role that priests had in those days, as according to the law of God revealed through Moses, the priests were to offer sacrifices for the sake of the people, for many purposes. But those sacrifices were especially meant as means for mankind to be reconciled with God, for through those sacrifices, God would then forgive the people their sins. The priests interceded for the sake of the people as they offered the sacrifices on the Altar.

However, those sacrifices, which involved the offering of slaughtered animals like lambs and doves, were not permanent and lasting, and the priests had to offer the sacrifices again and again for themselves as well as for the people, for all were sinners and fell again and again into the traps and temptations to sin. And therefore the priests had continued offering the sacrifices for the people’s sins for all the centuries right up to the time of Jesus and His ministry.

The Epistle to the Hebrews directed at the believers from among the Jews and the Jewish people in general explained that with His coming, the Lord Jesus has brought about the perfection of the old Law, by revealing Himself as the one and Eternal true High Priest for all of us. He is the High Priest Who offered the one and final offering for the sake of our salvation, and by His offering, He has opened the path for all of us to reach God’s grace and everlasting love.

The Lord Jesus offered not the blood and sacrifice of animals on the Altar like what the priests had done earlier. Instead, He as the High Priest, was also the sacrificial Lamb of offering, the Paschal Lamb that was slain for us on the Altar of the Cross, when the Lord bore His Cross to Calvary and died, shedding His Precious Body and Blood for the sake of all of us. From the Cross, He lifted up that perfect and most worthy offering to His heavenly Father, completing once and for all the redemption of all mankind.

This is what we have heard from the Gospel passage today as well. In that passage we heard the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who argued with the Lord and asked Him why He and His disciples did not fast as stipulated by the laws of God revealed through Moses, which the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John the Baptist did. And then, the Lord said that He was revealing the truth about all things, and using the parable of the wine and wineskin, the new and old piece of cloth, He told them all of the new way that He Himself was about to show them.

That parable of the wine and the wineskin, as well as the parable of the new and old pieces of cloth spoke of the incompatibility between old and new ways, the old and new practices. The Lord was highlighting the differences between the way that the Law used to be practiced and interpreted, and preserved by the Pharisees, and the truth that He had then brought to the midst of the people.

The Lord has made a New and everlasting Covenant with each and every one of us, as our one and true Eternal High Priest. No longer that the sin offerings and animal sacrifices need to be made, for the Lord Himself has offered the perfect offering to the Lord, His own Self, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, slaughtered and made to die on the Altar of the Cross. And by His own Precious Blood, He sealed this New Covenant between God and us mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard today’s readings, let us all first of all be grateful of the great love that the Lord has for each and every one of us, that for our sake, He willingly went through the worst of sufferings, and picked up upon Himself our punishment, that through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, He may free us all from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death, and by sharing in His Resurrection, we too may enter into the glorious new existence and life in Him.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us on our journey of faith, at all times. May all of us grow ever stronger in faith and our love of the Lord, so that no matter what happens, we will be ever faithful and be good witnesses of our Christian faith, our love for God, in our communities, as shining beacons and examples of the truth of God, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 2 : 18-22

At that time, one day, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but Yours do not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the Bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

“No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 109 : 1, 2, 3, 4

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your foes Your footstool.”

From Zion the Lord will extend Your mighty sceptre and You will rule in the midst of Your enemies.

Yours is royal dignity from the day You were born in holy majesty. Like dew from the womb of the dawn, I have begotten You.

The Lord has sworn, and He will not take back His word : “You are a Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 5 : 1-10

Every High Priest is taken from among mortals and appointed to be their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring for he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices for his sins as well as for the sins of the people.

Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become High Priest in taking upon Himself this dignity, but it was given to Him by the One Who says : You are My Son, I have begotten You today. And in another place : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him Who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him. This is how God proclaimed Him Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast in the Church as we recall the important moment when the Lord called St. Paul, then known as Saul, a young and zealous Pharisee who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the faithful. Saul was very adamant on hunting all the followers of Christ and strove to put them all into prison, and approved even their killing as what has happened to St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.

Saul was in the midst of this zealous pursuit when he went to Damascus in trying to eradicate all the faithful people of God who had taken refuge and lived there. The fact that Saul was even willing to venture far outside the land of Judah and even Galilee, was a testament to just how persistent he was in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian faith. Or so he thought, as in the end, he never managed to fulfil what he had planned and wanted.

As we heard in our first reading today, when Saul was still on his way to Damascus, God appeared to him in a great vision in which He revealed Himself to Saul as the One Whom he has been persecuting all the while when he was on a misguided rampage and attack against those who followed the Lord. Saul must have certainly been struck by that experience, and he was also struck blind by that vision.

We heard how Saul had to be helped and assisted, as his whole world turned into darkness for three days without being able to do anything at all. But God then sent Ananias to heal Saul, and after Ananias prayed over him, Saul was healed and received baptism in the Name of the Lord. This was a very significant moment in the history of the Church as the one who used to be a great enemy and persecutor of the Church had in a short moment become its greatest defender instead.

Saul had been called by God and had a moment of great revelation which entirely changed his life and direction. What he had once firmly believed in and championed in defending the purity of the Jewish customs, tradition and faith against the then thought to be ‘heretical’ teachings of Jesus Christ, had instead been overturned completely and the truth was revealed to him that in fact Jesus was the One Who had been right all along.

In the end, Saul became a Christian and as we can see throughout most of the Acts of the Apostles, he became a great champion of the Christian faith. He was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, through his tireless and extensive missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and in his visits to the many communities of the faithful at that time. He also wrote and communicated extensively with those communities by letters, many of which are preserved in our New Testament.

Saul took up the name Paul eventually as a very symbolic act of total conversion as he left behind completely his past life as an enemy of Christ and His followers and embarked on a journey of total devotion to God, suffering so many trials and tribulations, rejected by many and were almost stoned to death and killed on more than one occasion, because he served the Lord and did nothing else than to glorify God.

We have heard and known of how remarkable this conversion that had happened to Saul, becoming St. Paul and had a complete turnover in his life, called to serve God from being a great sinner and enemy of the Lord’s faithful. But what is the real significance for us? How does this real life story of the conversion of St. Paul has to do with us? And the answer is that all of us are just like St. Paul in one way or another.

We must all understand that every single one of us are sinners, and God sees us all equally and we are all the same and equal before Him. He is not prejudiced at all with us, regardless whether we have the greater or lesser sins. In the end, sins, no matter how great or small, significant or insignificant, are still sins that we need to be forgiven from by God. And because we are all sinners, we all need God’s healing and mercy, which He will readily extend and give to us.

If God Himself has called Saul, a great sinner and someone who had caused so much suffering and misery in the lives of many of the early Christians, it means that He must have forgiven him completely and did not take his many sins into account after he had had a change of heart and mind. Through baptism, Saul had been reborn into new life that God has called him into, the new Christian life that he dedicated himself, as Paul from then on. Then, all of us too have been called by God to follow the example of St. Paul.

We must not despise or judge anyone just because we think that we are better than them in any way, especially with regards to sin. If a very terrible sinner like Saul could change and be converted, then so can the worst of sinners as long as they are willing to open their hearts and minds to allow God to enter into their lives and transform them as He once did with Saul. And before we judge or be prejudiced against anyone, we should first look at ourselves.

In this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, all of us are also called by God to reflect on the conversion of this great saint so as to emulate it in our own respective lives. If we have not been faithful to God, if we have forgotten about Him in the midst of our very busy life schedules and works, if we have abandoned Him and preferred something else to Him, not being thankful to Him for all the love and care that He has shown us, and if we have been being angry at Him just because we thought that He did not listen to our prayers, then I am sure that we need this time to contemplate.

I am certain that each and every one of us, being sinner and imperfect, need God’s healing grace and mercy. But we often closed our hearts and minds against Him that we ended up acting as how Saul once acted in the years of his youth, zealous and very energetic but completely misguided and misled by blind faith and blind obedience. In the same manner, we have often acted out of disobedience and we fell into sin because we prefer to follow our own ways and disregard God’s will.

All of that led us to be lost and separated from God. We must realise that there are still lots of temptations and forces out there trying to keep us away from God and His salvation. Are we then able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as St. Paul has committed his? He has shown us what it truly means by a genuine conversion, that his whole life was changed for the greater glory of God as he lived for the sole purpose of glorifying God from the moment of his conversion.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to allow God to transform us as well? Are we able to go through a genuine and wholehearted conversion in life, changing our attitude from now on? If we have been lukewarm in our faith, may we be more faithful from now on and love God more. And if we have been distant from God, let us all strive to be closer to Him and to renew our relationships with Him. If we have been sinful all these while, let us all sin no more and seek to live our lives from now with faith.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His Apostle St. Paul, continue to bless us all and guide us in our respective journeys in life. May He strengthen us all and empower each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully in His presence. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.