Tuesday, 25 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded as we come to approach the beginning of the season of Lent tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, of the need for all of us as Christians to have a change of heart and mind, as the time of Lent is meant for us to reflect on our lives and our actions thus far, whether we have been faithful to God or whether we have been negligent in our faith.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. James, we heard the Apostle reminding the faithful of the need for them to purify themselves, their hearts and minds from earthly desires and greed, as he mentioned how they bickered, argued, fought and ended up in conflict over certain things they wanted and desired, and when they prayed for what they wanted, they did so with those longing and desire, the cravings that are not compatible with our Christian faith.

St. James reminded the faithful not to put their emphasis and focus on worldly matters, as he put it plainly that ‘those who seek to become the world’s friend, is an enemy of the Lord’. What St. James actually meant here in the context of his time and his audience, is that we, as Christians, must resist the temptations present in our world today, especially since we are surrounded by so much materialistic lifestyle and the glorification of power, wealth, fame, and all sorts of things that we mankind often crave for.

For as long as our attention and focus are placed on those things, we will never be able to find true peace and we will not be able to connect meaningfully with God. And the reality is that we mankind can never be satisfied with all these desires and wants. As long as we have what we want, this will lead to us desiring for even more of what we have already had, the craving and temptation that will continue to grow as time passes. That is why we should then heed what the Lord said in our Gospel passage today, that our faith must be like that of the faith of children.

What did the Lord mean by that? It is the fact that a child is still innocent and pure, and the faith that a child is the purest that there can be among us mankind. For their faith and love for God has not been affected by all sorts of worldly concerns and desires that slowly crept into our minds and hearts as we grow up and become older. The Lord wants all of us to be true in our faith, and to purify ourselves from all the unhealthy attachments and obsessions we have, for all sorts of worldly temptations.

We are called to have once again, pure, unbridled faith in God, and to love Him with all of our hearts and with all of our might. And this is what we all need to take heed of, even as we proceed through towards the season of Lent. This holy and blessed time of Lent that begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, is the perfect opportunity for us to reorientate our lives and to rediscover the true faith and love deep within our hearts towards God. For all these while, they have been buried under layers of our worldliness, our desire, our pride and ego.

How do we then proceed, knowing that we need to get rid from ourselves all these obstacles and hindrances? During this upcoming season of Lent, let us all open ourselves to God more, allowing Him to enter into our hearts and trust in His guidance and providence for us. Let us make good use of the opportunity to be reconciled with God, by going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess our sins and faults, that we may be forgiven and find peace with God.

And let us all also live up to the spirit of the Lenten season, by meaningfully practicing all the practices such as fasting and abstinence as according to the Church laws, and make good use of them to restrain our desires and wants, and deepen our relationship with God in the meanwhile by having a good and meaningful prayer life, that is opening ourselves to God and allowing Him to speak with us in the depth and silence of our hearts and minds. Let us also be more charitable towards our less fortunate brothers and sisters, that we may learn to be more selfless and to love more, rather than loving only ourselves and being selfish.

May the Lord continue to guide us throughout this upcoming season of Lent, that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may deepen our love for Him, and be ever more worthy of God with each and every passing moments in our lives. I would like to wish everyone, a good and most blessed and fruitful season of Lent ahead! Amen.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 54 : 7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

I said, “If I had wings, like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest; I would seek a home in the desert.”

“I would hurry to find a cave, for shelter from the tempest.” O YHVH, shatter their plans.

In the city, I see strife and violence; day and night, they prowl about its walls.

Place your burden on YHVH, and He will sustain you; for He never allows the upright to fall.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 4 : 1-10

What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings, that make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it, and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want, because you do not pray for it.

You pray for something, and you do not get it, because you pray with the wrong motive, of indulging your pleasures. You adulterers! Do you not know, that making friends with the world makes you enemies of God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

Can you not see the point of the saying in the Scripture : “The longing of the Spirit, He sent to dwell in us, is a jealous longing?” But God has something better to give, and Scripture also says, “God opposes the proud but He gives His favour to the humble.” Give in, then, to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Draw close to God and He will come close to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubters. Recognise your distress, be miserable and weep. Turn your laughter into tears and your joy into sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will raise you up.

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened the words of the Sacred Scriptures each one of us are reminded of the faith and trust that we need to have in God, and as Christians, we must indeed be filled with faith, with obedience and humility before God. Otherwise, we will be easy prey for the devil and all of his wicked allies, the demons and evil spirits ever roaming around seeking our downfall and destruction.

Unless our relationship with God is strong, we will fall easily to the temptations and coercions of these wicked spirits. This is what we have ourselves heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord cast down evil spirits from a possessed boy whom His disciples had not been able to handle. The disciples brought the man to Jesus and the Lord cast out the demon from the boy almost immediately. He rebuked His own disciples for their lack of faith, and said if they really just had a little bit of true faith, they would be able to heal the boy.

And the father of the boy himself was stuttering in his faith, as when the Lord asked him, he responded with some ambivalence, that while he had faith in Jesus, yet there was also doubt in his heart that Jesus would be able to do something to help his boy from his demonic possession trouble. Though in the end, he made a firmer profession of the faith, that he did believe in Jesus and asked Him to help him in whatever little faith he had.

Essentially, what this means is that we have to have that faith in us, believing that no matter what, first of all, we always have God by our side. If only that we put our complete trust in Him and allow Him to be in our hearts and in our whole being, and being attuned to Him, we have no need to fear of anything, especially against the forces of evil. For as we have heard in the Gospel today, even the powerful and fearsome evil spirits had to obey the Lord, Who is their Master and Creator after all.

The devil and all the forces of evil know this very well, and that is exactly why they are always busy at work trying to persuade us and to tempt us to follow the path of sin, and to be distracted from our attention towards God. They sow the seeds of doubt and unfaithfulness inside our hearts, by playing into our pride, ego, desires and fears, and in doing so, they hope to drive a wedge between God and us. And this is why, the Lord mentioned in the end of our Gospel passage today, after He cast out the demons, that only prayer can drive out this one, nothing else.

For through prayer and indeed having a healthy and good prayer life is a necessity for us to have a good relationship with God. And that is how we anchor ourselves firmly in God and put ourselves firmly in His powerful embrace and protection. If we have this kind of faith, not only that we will be protected and can stand strong against the devil and his wicked demonic forces, no matter how powerful they may seem to be, but we can even help others who are troubled by these spirits, through prayer and other means.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us as Christians, we are all called to reexamine our lives and our faith. Have we been living our lives thus far with real faith or have we been living our lives with just a superficial faith and seeking instead the glory of the world and its many satisfaction? We should think carefully about it, and ask ourselves if all these distractions have indeed prevented us from having a strong trust and faith in God.

Let us all heed what the Apostle St. James wrote in his Epistle in our first reading today, as he exhorted us the faithful to put our trust not in the ways and wisdom of the world but instead in the wisdom of God. He also warned us all against all sorts of jealousy, ambition, pride and desire, exactly what I have just mentioned earlier, as these are the tools and means by which the devil and his allies used frequently to drive a wedge separating us from God, and distracting us from His love and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live a more Christian way of living from this moment onwards if we have not done so? Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord with ever greater reverence and commitment? Let us bring ourselves closer to God through prayer and through our lives, made ever more dedicated with each and every passing moments. Let us deepen our relationship with God, that He may truly become our strength and our shield that we have nothing to fear even from the evil one, for God is by our side, always.

May the Lord bless us all and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live courageously in accordance with His will, that we may resist the many temptations present in this world and live our lives as true Christians and good followers of Our God. Amen.

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 14-29

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples, Peter, James and John came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the Law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet Him.

He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered Him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked Your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.”

Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” And the brought the boy to Him. As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground, and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth.

Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If You can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.” Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so He ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you : Leave the boy and never enter him again.”

The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not drive out the spirit?”

And He answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of YHVH is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of YHVH is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of YHVH are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of YHVH are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of YHVH is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of YHVH are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o YHVH – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Monday, 24 February 2020 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 3 : 13-18

If you consider yourself wise and learnt, show it by your good life, and let your actions, in all humility, be an example for others. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy, and ambition, do not try to show off; that would be covering up the truth; this kind of wisdom does not come from above, but from the world, and it is earthly and devilish.

Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord, and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding, and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers, who sow peace, reap a harvest of justice?

Sunday, 23 February 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we are preparing for the coming of the penitential season Lent which will begin this Wednesday with the commemoration of Ash Wednesday, all of us are reminded in good time through our Scripture passages today, of the need for us as Christians to be faithful to God in the manner which He Himself had revealed to us and taught us through His Church, passed down through generations from the time of the Apostles.

The essence of our faith and how we ought to live our lives according to that same faith are at the centre of our Scripture reflection today, as we heard of the reminders from God for His people in the Book of Leviticus to be holy and good, loving and caring towards one another, and then followed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth exhorting them to be loving and good, and to maintain the sanctity of their Temple of the Holy Spirit, and followed finally by the same reminder by the Lord Himself in our Gospel passage, to do exactly the same in our lives.

All of the readings spoke of the need of us mankind and people of God to show love for one another just as God has loved us, that each and every one of us may love our fellow brothers and sisters without making distinction or prejudices, and to show this love, care and concern in every moments of our lives. Beginning with the words we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of Leviticus, was an injunction and commandment from God to His people, telling them to be holy just as He is holy.

And the path to this holiness come from love, that the people ought to love and not hate, to be compassionate and not be filled with anger and jealousy, to show care and concern for others instead of being selfish and greedy. This is something that the Lord has given to His people in order to guide them in His ways, and to break free from their constant attachments and obsessions over selfish desires and worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory and fame among others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called by the Lord to show love in everything we say and do, and in our Gospel today, the Lord Himself said that we should love even our enemies and show that love to those who hate us and persecute us. That is the measure of our Christian love, which is to love unconditionally and without prejudice, the same love which Our Lord Himself has shown to us in many occasions.

The Lord showed us all His love and mercy, and blessed all of us regardless of who we are, and He mentioned how God blessed all and let the sun shine and the rain to fall on everyone, be it that they were righteous or wicked. In the same way, we must remember how the Lord Jesus Himself loved every single one of us without any exception. It is easy for us to remember how He loved the sinners rejected by the society, like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but it is difficult for us to remember how He has also loved even those people who persecuted Him and condemned Him to suffering and death.

Do you remember how Jesus forgave those who condemned Him to die even as He hung from the Cross? He prayed to His Father in heaven, saying, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ and He did not want to hold them accountable for what they have done out of their ignorance for the truth. In the end, Christ suffered and died on the Cross for everyone, including those chief priests, elders, Pharisees and all His enemies who had worked to condemn Him to such humiliation and death.

Indeed, it is not easy for us to love one another, less still to love even those who have hated us and persecuted us. But we must all realise how God created every single one of us out of love, and He loves each one of us regardless of our sins and our different natures and backgrounds. He recognises in all of us that there is good in each one of us because ultimately as all creation are, all of us have been created good and wonderful by God as described in the Book of Genesis, although tainted by sin.

Take for example, the Apostle St. Paul, a classic example of sinner turned saint. As Saul, in the early years of his life, Saul was not just a sinner but a great enemy of the Church and the faith, who caused countless and untold sufferings for many of the early Christian communities. As described in the Acts of the Apostles, in his blind obedience to the Law as a Pharisee and in misplaced and misguided zeal, he persecuted many Christians and brought many to prison and misery.

Yet, God called the same Saul to be His servant and to follow Him. Saul had a great change of heart and from a great and zealous enemy of the faithful, he became one of the greatest and most courageous defenders of the Christian faith and the champion of Christ, enduring many years of suffering, challenges, persecutions and trials himself. Here we can see the great power of God’s wonderful providence, how He showed us that even the worst of our enemies and the most despicable of men can even become a great saint.

This is no different for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Each and every one of us are sinners, in our various ways of sins and disobedience against God. We are all delinquents, rebels and people who have been tainted by sin throughout our lives. And yet, many of us often like to compare with each other, be biased and prejudiced against one another, even thinking that we are better or more worthy than some others just because they seem to be more sinful and more wicked than we are.

This is where then divisions and conflicts came from, that we end up despising and hating one another, and from there, most un-Christian behaviours came from, even among us Christians. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have just discussed, God has called us to be loving and be filled with love for everyone, and yet, let us think, how many times have we, in our own lives, caused hurt to others just because we gossip about people, because we backstab people behind their back, betraying friends and relatives alike, and by doing things that cause suffering and pain for others just because it can satisfy us our desires and wants?

All of these are caused by the selfishness, greed and desire in us, and that is why, when we love others, it is often that we love because we have ulterior motives in our hearts. This is the most common kind of love that we see around us in the world today. We love because we desire something from the other person, and when we do not get what we wanted, that is when we end up bickering and disagreeing, and often times, disagreements are also caused by the times when our desires and wants, our pride and ego clashed with each other.

This is not the kind of Christian love that we are called to be witnesses of, brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, this is what we have often done daily, as it is indeed much easier for us to indulge in ourselves and to satisfy our selfish desires, as well as to get what we want rather than to give our love and to be generous, even when we have nothing in return. That is exactly what the Lord has done, that He loves each and every one of us so much that even when we are still sinners and rebels, rejecting His love and kindness, He loves us all nonetheless.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to the Lord’s call for us to be more Christian-like in our way of life? It is by opening ourselves to God and His love, and allow God to transform our lives as we conduct our way of life in a manner that is more Christ-like, that when we were once filled with prejudice and bias against other people, let us realise that all of us are equal before God and that there is good in everyone. And while we were once filled with selfish desires and the temptations to satisfy ourselves, let us all learn to restrain ourselves and purge from ourselves unhealthy attachments and obsessions, that we may overcome this selfishness of ours, and learn to be more selfless like Christ.

And while we were once filled with selfish love, love that demands from other people, love that seek satisfaction of oneself and thinking of what we can gain from that love which we give, let us all now have a change of mindset and outlook, that when we love, instead of wondering of what we can gain and receive from the love and relationship, we think instead of what we can give into that relationship and love. For true, selfless and purest love is love that gives and still gives even without expecting any returns, as what Our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself had done.

Are we able to love one another in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is the challenge that God has given us today that as we carry on living our lives from now on as Christians, we should be first of all, seek to be holy just as the Lord is holy, for we are His children and His people, and it is just right that we live in holiness as sons and daughters of God. But in order for us to be truly holy and good, then we need to embrace this pure Christian way of living and also Christian love, as we live our lives focusing not on our own personal desires and ambitions, but rather on glorifying God through our love for Him and also our love for our fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on this matter and consider how we can, in each of our own distinctive and unique way of life, fulfil this calling of Our Lord in loving one another more sincerely and tenderly, showing true love from our hearts towards others, including even those who have hurt us, persecuted us and made our lives miserable, forgiving our enemies and seeing that even they are our brothers and sisters, whom God also loves just like us, and that there is indeed good in every man.

May the Lord be with us always, His blessed and holy people, that we may aspire and achieve this sanctity in life, through our following of the examples which Christ has set before us, the love that is selfless, pure and true. May God bless us all and our many good works, bless His Church and may He bless even those who hate us and are still opposed to us, that they too may have a change of heart and mind, and may experience God’s love through us. Amen.

Sunday, 23 February 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 38-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this : do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well.”

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”