Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Marian apparition to St. Bernadette Soubirous in what is now famous as the pilgrimage site of Lourdes in southern part of France. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God appeared to the young St. Bernadette Soubirous, calling mankind to repentance and to be forgiven from their sins, by sincerely turning away from their past wickedness and embrace God’s mercy.

And during those apparitions, the Blessed Virgin showed St. Bernadette the place of a spring which gushed forth from the ground, and have ever since been gushing out water, which is holy and blessed, and have for the past one and a half century since the apparition, shown miraculous properties, and healed many of those who came to visit Lourdes on pilgrimage. Pope St. John Paul II himself went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes just a year before his passing, having long suffered from his illnesses.

That is why it is all the more fitting that today’s Scripture passages match so well with the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, celebrated every year on the eleventh day of February, the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes as mentioned earlier. In the first reading today we heard what God instructed to Moses and Aaron with regards to the disease most feared in those days, namely leprosy, while in the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself healing a leper.

In the Old Testament, God gave to Moses the laws which He had established to be followed and obeyed by the people, which included many aspects of societal life, including what to be done when a person fell ill with diseases, in particular leprosy, which was likely a highly contagious version of the leprosy as we know it today, easily spreading from one person to another, unless certain measures were taken to prevent the outbreak of a pandemic.

Understanding the Law which God has passed on to Moses require us to look carefully into what had happened at that time, the historical and societal background of the Israelites at the time when the laws were given to them. At that time, Israel were travelling on the long journey from Egypt towards the Promised Land, travelling in a desert where staying together in a closely knitted community would be essential to survival.

Wandering off alone in the desert would bring about great risks to the people, who could end up getting lost or struck by predators without being able to get the necessary help. However, staying close together in camps and tents within the community of Israel at the time, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands if not more, exposed the whole community to great risk of disease outbreak.

That is the reason why God made the rule for the occasion such that, all those who contracted contagious disease such as leprosy were obliged to leave the camp and live outside the community until his disease and all of its symptoms have been healed. Otherwise many more people in the community would be infected by the contagious disease, and many more would have suffered.

Yet, this did not mean that those lepers who were obliged to live outside the community were forgotten. God did include the rule that should their condition improved and their disease were cured, they would be able to return to the community of the people of Israel, after having presented themselves to the priests who would then judge whether the person was to be allowed to return or not.

In the Gospel passage today, it is evident that whatever the practices were during the time of Jesus, it was no different from the practices at the time of Moses. The lepers were feared and shunned, just as it was in the past, forced to live away from the people and outside of the community until they were able to show that they have recovered from their leprosy. And it was on that occasion mentioned in the Gospel passage today that Jesus met one of those lepers who asked Him to heal him.

Indeed, He had mercy on the man and healed him from his leprosy. That is what God truly wanted with His people, for He loves each and every one of them without exception, equally and without prejudice. That was why He wanted them to be healed from their pains and sufferings, including the stigma and suffering caused by the leprosy the man and many others contracted.

This is what each of us should know, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are all afflicted and sick. We may be perfectly healthy in the physique and the body, and we may be surprised that truly, we are all sick at the moment. You may not believe what I have just said, but what I meant is that, we are sick because of our unworthiness, our wicked actions, our disobedience against God and therefore, our sins.

Sin is the culprit for all of our sufferings and sorrows, ever since mankind first fell into sin, beginning with our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, who failed to resist the temptations of Satan. Sin is therefore a disease that strike at our soul, at the very depths and innermost part of our beings. If we are not careful, sin will eventually swallow us up entirely, just as we can succumb to the diseases that strike at our flesh and body. And sin is much worse than any of our physical illnesses, as sin defiles everything and destroys everything.

Parallel to what we have discussed earlier about the treatment of those who fell ill with leprosy, forced to live outside of the community of the Israelites until they were healed, and certified as such by the priests, then it is not different at all with all of us mankind, who suffer from the disease of the soul, that is our sins. If we read the Book of Genesis, surely we would have remembered how Adam and Eve, our ancestors, were driven out of the gardens of Eden, from the presence of God, because they have sinned against God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect and ask ourselves this question, ‘What is it that we want from God?’ and ‘Do we want to be healed by God?’. These questions serve as reminders for us that in our sickened state, and as we suffer the consequences of our disobedience in this world, we are indeed in need of healing, and that we are not in a good condition at all.

Unfortunately, many of us are too proud to admit that we have been wrong, that we are in need of help and assistance. We refused to listen to God speaking to us in our hearts and through those who we encounter in life, and many of us stubbornly continued on in our way of life, filled with sin, with greed and desires of the world, with violence and jealousy for one another, and all sorts of things that kept us away from reconciliation with God.

Yet, we are fortunate to have God Who is ever and always kind and loving towards us, Who is always ever generous with His mercy and forgiveness. His arms are always open towards us, waiting for us to return to His embrace that we may be fully reconciled with Him. But to be able to be fully reconciled with God, we must be willing to listen to Him and follow His ways, the examples through which He showed us to guide us to Him.

Let us all look at the action of the man whom Jesus had healed from his leprosy. Jesus strictly told him not to tell anyone that it was He Who healed him from his illness, but the man went on regardless, telling everyone that it was Jesus Who healed him. As a result, the people shunned Jesus and the priests made it very difficult for Jesus and His disciples to work among the people, barring Him from their towns and cities.

This was because they must have heard how Jesus approached the leper and touched him in order to heal him, which was taboo according to the laws of Moses. In a sense, God made Himself ‘unclean’ in the eyes of the law in order to make the man clean, and it was to that extent that He was willing to do, in order to care for mankind, to love us and to embrace us sinners.

God knew best what was to be done, and that was why He told the man not to tell anyone about what He had done. But it was likely the man’s pride and hubris that made him to falter, as if he had told the priests he was healed naturally as Jesus told him to do, that would be entirely ordinary and usual. Instead, while it was not mentioned in the Gospel passage, but from our human experiences, it is likely that the man told everyone because being healed in such a miraculous way is something to be boasted and proud about.

And that is exactly how mankind fell into sin, when we start to put the ‘I’ or the ‘We’ ahead of everything else. Pride, ambition, hubris, jealousy, desire, and all these other obstacles to our good and loving relationship with God which will result in our downfall. It is therefore important for us all to realise that we are in need of God’s healing and mercy, because all of us are unworthy, sinners and delinquents.

Let us all learn to distance ourselves from all of those obstacles I have mentioned just earlier, the obstacle of pride, of greed, of human ambition and worldly greed and many more. Let us desire to be healed and to be reconciled fully with God, through genuine conversion and change of heart, abandoning our past sinful ways and embracing fully God’s generous and everlasting love for us all.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us all, pray for us who are physically sick, and also all of us who are sinners, sick of this disease of the soul, our sins, that we may seek your Son, to be healed and to be made whole once again through our faith in Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 40-45

At that time, 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.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 10 : 31 – 1 Corinthians 11 : 1

Then, whatever you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Give no offence to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything. I do not seek my own interest, but that of many, this is : that they be saved.

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 11

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

Rejoice in YHVH, and be glad, you who are upright; sing and shout for joy, you who are clean of heart.

Sunday, 11 February 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Leviticus 13 : 1-2, 44-46

YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has a boil, an inflammation or a sore on his skin which could develop into leprosy, he must be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests, his descendants.”

“This means that the man is leprous : he is unclean. The priest shall declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’”

“As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore, he must live away from others : he must live outside the camp.”

Saturday, 11 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as the whole Church the celebration of Mary, whom we know to be the Mother of God, of our Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to us mankind in various occasions throughout history, one of the latest of which is the famous apparition at the site of Lourdes in southern France.

Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to the simple and humble woman, St. Bernadette Soubirous, a simple daughter of a miller to whom the Blessed Mother of our Lord had given the privilege of witnessing her apparition at Lourdes, then a garbage dump and a place of little importance. She appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in a series of visions, totalling eighteen times, in which she revealed to her, of the need for mankind to seek penance and forgiveness from their sins.

Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to St. Bernadette imploring mankind to atone for their sins and lead a prayerful and repentant life, and to that extent, she wanted St. Bernadette to pass on the messages she had given her to the people around her, that more and more people will heed her messages, and come to believe in the Lord through her. And through the spring which St. Bernadette dug up on the instruction from the Blessed Virgin, healing came upon many of those who came in faith.

Thus the famous healing miracles of Lourdes was brought forth, and many countless people had experienced the miracles of being healed by the holy and blessed water of the spring at the grotto of Lourdes. Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, many have received the healing from the Lord, and many of them had been healed from their bodily and spiritual afflictions, and became whole again.

What is the significance of this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us have deep spiritual devotion to Mary, the Blessed Mother of our Lord, but many of us may not understand fully or even misunderstood why we have such a devotion. In the Scripture readings specially selected for this occasion, we see how God fulfilled the promises He had made to all of us mankind through one woman, that is Mary, who was to become the new Eve, as a renewal over the old Eve.

While the old Eve, the first woman had sinned and failed to overcome the temptations of the devil, and therefore by that action, with the first man Adam, sinned before the Lord and fall into the darkness, bringing all of mankind with them, the new Eve, Mary, showed her steadfastness and faith before God and before men alike. She is the epitome of faith and commitment, of purity and righteousness, showing all others how to become a true disciple of the Lord.

And as the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has the privilege of being a mother, to have her Son listening to her. As we see in the reading on the Wedding at Cana, which many of us should be quite familiar with, Jesus listened to His mother, who pleaded for the sake of the wedding couple who were in trouble as they ran out of wine during the celebrations.

At that time, for someone to not have provided enough wine and provisions for a celebration as important as a wedding would have been a very major mishap and a very embarrassing moment for both the bride and the groom and their respective families. That was why Mary wanted to help them, and she knew that her Son could help them, but at first He refused to do so, because it was then not yet His time to reveal Himself.

But Mary continued to persist in her attempt, and asked the servants to listen to what Jesus would tell them. And therefore, Jesus performed His first miracle there at Cana, turning the jugs of water into sweetest and highest quality wine, which saved the wedding couple from the predicament. That was how Mary saved the couple and through her intercession, they were rescued by the Lord, Who showed His love and mercy to them.

Mary is the one whom God had promised to us mankind, to our forefathers, when He stood before them and Satan, coming in between them and the deceiver, promising that while Satan would hound the sons and daughters of mankind, becoming a thorn at their side for many ages, but deliverance will come from God through the Woman, and through her, the Saviour Lord that was to come into the world, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Mary mother of God, who appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous over one and a half centuries ago, we are all called to heed her calling, that we should turn towards God, and do penance and reparation for our sins and wickedness. Today as we remember the moment of the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, we ask our Blessed Mother, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, to intercede for the sake of all who were sick, suffering and dying.

And not least of all, for all of us as well. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as although we may be perfectly healthy in the body and mind, but because of our sins, we have been made diseased and corrupted in our hearts and souls. We need help from the Lord to make us whole again, pure and clean from all the afflictions of our sins. We need to pray for each other, that God will come to us and bring us from the darkness of our sins and into the light of His grace.

Let us all follow the example of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, in her faith, piety and dedication to the Lord our God. Let us imitate her in all of her examples, in all that she had done to obey the will of God, that through her faith, so many good things had come into the world, the greatest of which is the salvation we find in our Lord Jesus, her Son. O, Our Lady of Lourdes, Mary, mother of our God, pray for us sinners and those who are sickened by sin, that we will be blessed with His healing grace and be made worthy of His glorious eternal life. Amen.

Saturday, 11 February 2017 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes)
Mark 8 : 1-10

At that time, soon afterwards Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So He called His disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.”

His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, He broke them, and handed them to His disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish, so Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well.

The people ate and were satisfied. The broken pieces were collected, seven wicker baskets full of leftovers. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)
John 2 : 1-11

At that time, three days after Jesus called Nathanael, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” However His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.