Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are approaching the end of the current liturgical year, as usual, this Sunday’s readings are on the theme of the upcoming end of times, the Apocalypse and time of the Final Judgment of the whole creation. All of us heard of these reminders from the readings of today’s Scriptures so that we may discern carefully how we are to live our lives from now on and strive to be more faithful and genuine in following the Lord as Christians, those who believe in Him.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel the revelation of God to Daniel how the end of times will come, and St. Michael the Archangel, the great Prince of Heavenly Host and leader of the Angels of God was also mentioned. Echoing what would later on be revealed further in the Book of Revelations by St. John the Apostle, we heard how trials and tribulations will come for those who are faithful to God, and how they, all of us will suffer because of our faith and commitment to God.

Yet, at the same time, the Lord reassured all of us that He will not leave us all alone without any help or protection, for He will send unto us the great Heavenly Host, His Angels, led by St. Michael the Archangel himself, to guide and protect us. God will not abandon us to total destruction and annihilation, and while we may suffer persecution and oppression, enduring hardships and trials, but in the end, we will be triumphant together with God.

That is the sentiment presented to us by the Gospel passage today taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, as we heard how God will send His Angels to gather all His faithful ones from all over the world, and will provide for them on the end of days, when the Son of Man comes again in His glory, as He Himself has promised. Christ, the Son of Man, will come again at the end of time, the time of the Final Judgment, to destroy sin and evil, winning a final triumph against them while gathering all the faithful, the living and the dead into the eternal glory and joy of the kingdom of God.

All of these messages and reminders, as well as what we know from the Book of Revelations are evidence for us to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not to be distracted by the temptations to sin and to follow the path of evil in this world. And we have also heard that the coming of this time of reckoning, of the Final Judgment and the end of times is something that will be most unpredictable and unknown to us, as no one but the Lord Himself knows the exact time of His second coming into this world.

This means that we must not be complacent in living our lives, thinking that we have the time to repent and change our ways. Certainly none of us want to be caught unprepared, when the time comes, and even more so, closer to us, we know that all of us will die one day, and do we want to wait until death claims us before we repent and change our sinful ways? Some are fortunate enough to have the opportunity and time for conversion and change, but many others did not and will not have that privilege.

As we listened to these words of the Scriptures presented to us at the end of each liturgical year cycle, we are all constantly being reminded of the fragile nature of our human existence and lives, and how close we can be to either Heaven or Hell, just by our choice of actions in life. And this month of November, as we dedicate it to the holy souls in Purgatory, we are constantly being reminded of what will happen to us after death. Those in Purgatory are still the lucky ones, as they will all eventually go to Heaven. However, what if we end up in Hell instead?

Then, we may be wondering based on what we heard in our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the author highlighted in today’s segment in particular, of how the Lord Jesus Christ, frequently presented as the High Priest to all mankind in that Epistle, has already offered the perfect and everlasting sacrifice that surpassed any other sacrifices of animals of the old times. His own Sacrifice was His own Most Precious Body and Blood which He offered Himself from the Cross at Calvary.

Indeed, the Lord has already made that Sacrifice once and for all, which is the same Sacrifice that we celebrate at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the same Sacrifice at Calvary. And every time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the very same Most Precious Body and Blood that the Lord has given us from the Cross, that He has willingly done for us, to provide for us and to free and redeem us from our innumerable sins, faults and trespasses. And we have received salvation through our faith in Him.

However, if that makes us think that we have been saved and then we can do whatever we want in our lives, in indulging ourselves in worldly desires and sinful things, then we will have no part in the Lord’s promise and inheritance. And that is because as St. James mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as dead. This is the opinion shared by the other Apostles and the Lord Himself, as faith alone without us living genuinely according to that faith we have in God is meaningless and empty.

That is why many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often criticised by the Lord for their lack of real and genuine faith, as they were outwardly faithful and pious, and yet they did not have true love for the Lord. Many of them showed their piety in action to gain more fame and prestige for themselves, and to satisfy their own ego and pride. As such, they had not been truly faithful to the Lord and ended up doing things that in fact brought about obstacles and challenges to the Lord and His mission.

In the same way therefore, all of us are called to follow the Lord faithfully not just in mere words and formality only, but also through genuine actions and deeds, through real and growing love that we have for Him, and not just that, but also for our fellow brothers and sisters whom the Lord also loves as much as He loves each and every one of us. And we must also distance ourselves from sin and wicked things in life, striving our best to turn away from those unworthy things that have often kept many away from the Lord and His salvation.

Today, we also celebrate the World Day of the Poor, in which all of us are reminded of the poor and all those who are suffering from neglect and lack of care in our various communities. The poor are all around us, and often we may not realise that there are poverty present in our midst, even ironically from those who are close to us. Why is that so? That is because we are often too self-centred and often think only about ourselves without much regards to others around us.

Then, we often hear this, that if God is so kind and loving, then why would He have allowed people to be poor and to suffer from poverty? Should He not have cared for everyone and all those people so that they would not have to suffer? This is where we must understand that poverty and suffering in this world happen because of the abuse of our free will and freedom of actions, in which we misused the opportunities and time given to us to advance our own selfish desires and ambitions, and as a result, caused suffering on others, whether directly or indirectly, and whether unintended or deliberate.

Poverty is often caused by the culture of exploitation and the unbridled desires of man who sought more of what they already had aplenty. And when man acted in this manner, that ended up causing those who already have plenty to amass even more of what they already had, while those who were poor became even poorer. Note however that I am not saying that God is against the rich and powerful or that those who are rich, powerful, famous and privileged are evil and wicked. That is not the case.

As a matter of fact, in many countries, there are many cases even of those who are poor who oppressed and made life difficult, exploiting those who are poorer, weaker and less capable than they are. Again, they did this for many reasons, but all these are reminders for all of us that all of us have to be grateful with the blessings that we have received and be generous if we have extra and are given the opportunity to help others who are not as fortunate as us. Let us remember that everything we have are gifts and blessings from God, and not something that we should hoard or boast about.

And let us also be reminded of the Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of those who are poor in spirit and how blessed they are. All of us are called to be poor in spirit, and that means for us to abandon our pride and arrogance, all of our stubbornness and greed, all the things that prevented us from seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness for our many sins. Let us all be humble before the Lord, allowing the Lord to guide us in our path through life, and let us allow the Lord to fill our hearts with love and generosity, so that we may be more generous in giving and loving others, especially those who are poorer and less fortunate than us.

Therefore, through our genuine deeds and actions, our generosity in love and care for our fellow brothers and sisters, let us all live our lives as Christians to the best of our abilities so that all of us may be worthy of the Lord and when He comes again at the end of time, all of us will not be found wanting and lacking in true faith. May God, our loving Lord and Master, continue to bless us and love us all, especially the poor in our midst, and may He help them through our generous hands and deeds. Amen.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 13 : 24-32

Later on in those days, after that disastrous time, the sun will grow dark, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall out of the sky, and the whole universe will be shaken. Then people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And He will send the Angels to gather His chosen people from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.

Learn a lesson from the fig tree : as soon as its branches become tender and it begins to sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the time is near, even at the door. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

But, regarding that day and that hour, no one knows when it will come, not even the Angels, not even the Son, but only the Father.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 10 : 11-14, 18

So, whereas every priest stands, daily, by the Altar, offering, repeatedly, the same sacrifices, that can never take away sins, Christ has offered, for all times, a single sacrifice for sins, and has taken His seat at the right hand of God, waiting, until God puts His enemies as a footstool under His feet.

By a single sacrifice He has brought those who are sanctified to what is perfect forever. So, if sins are forgiven, there is no longer need of any sacrifice for sin.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 15 : 5 and 8, 9-10, 11

O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.

I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured.

For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 12 : 1-3

At that time, Michael will rise, the Great Commander who defends your people. It shall be a time of anguish as never before, since the nations first existed until this very day. Then, all those, whose names are written in the book, will be saved.

Many of those who sleep in the Region of the Dust will awake, some to everlasting life but others to eternal horror and shame. Those who acquired knowledge will shine, like the brilliance of the firmament; those who taught people to be just will shine, like the stars, for all eternity.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday being the last of the Sundays before the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, the second last Sunday in our current liturgical year, we celebrate the occasion of the World Day of the Poor for the fourth time after it was instituted by our current Pope and Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis in the year of our Lord 2017.

On this Sunday therefore we are all reminded of the poor, those among us in our community who are often lacking basic needs and provisions, those who do not have enough to live comfortably without assistance from others. Poverty had been a great issue facing our community and the world since time immemorial, and as long as there are inequalities and injustices in our society, poverty will always be around, unless the whole community work together selflessly for the benefit of everyone.

We may be wondering then why there is so much poverty in the world today, just as it had been in the past, and just as how it will be in the future. That is because of our own selfishness and the abuse of the freedom that God had given to each and every one of us. We are all free to choose how we are to act in life, and how we interact with one another. Yet, we are often tempted by the many temptations of this world, the temptations of money and material possessions, the temptations of fame and glory among others.

And it does not help that we live in a world where we are accustomed and encouraged to satisfy our needs and wants first, to be selfish and individualistic and not be bothered by the plight and sufferings of others. In addition, in many occasions, we ended up being the sources of others’ sufferings and poverty, when people manipulated and exploited others who were less fortunate, weaker and poorer than they were.

As a result, many people who were poor remained poor. Many of them were unable to escape the vicious cycle of poverty and remain poor due to various circumstances. It is often the case that the rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer. This is unfortunately how things are in the world today, and on this Sunday, the World Day of the Poor, as Christians our attention is brought closely to this matter at hand.

In our first reading passage today taken from the Book of Proverbs we heard the author writing about an archetypal woman who was exemplary and good in all of her actions, worthy of praise and good in the sight of God and mankind alike. And we have to pay attention to the fact that this woman reached out to the helpless and cared for the poor. Through this particular passage to begin the series of this Sunday’s readings we are called to reflect on what it really means for us to be Christians.

It means that as Christians we should not be ignorant of the sufferings and plight of the poor in our community. We should not turn a deaf ear to their cries for help, and we should not be blind to their needs, especially when we are in the position to help and are able to alleviate their sufferings even in small, little ways. And this is summarised even better by the Lord Jesus Himself in our Gospel passage today in the parable of the silver talents.

In that parable, we heard of a master who entrusted his servants with different numbers of silver talents for them to make good use of during the time when he was away. A silver talent refers to a fixed mass of silver measured in ‘talent’ at the time, which was also a rather significant amount. Nonetheless we heard how two of the servants invested and made good use of the silver talents that by the time the master returned, the silver talents had earned double its original value.

And one of the servants instead chose to hide his talent of silver, and did not do anything to it at all, that when he returned the silver talent he had not earned anything at all. Why did this servant behave in this way, brothers and sisters? From his response and remark to his master upon returning the silver talent we can paint a good picture of his thoughts and ideas relating to this matter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that last servant refused to do anything with the silver talent and feared his master and even spoke of his exacting nature because he feared that he might be blamed for not gaining good returns or even if he made a loss instead. He did not want to be responsible over what he has been entrusted with by his master and thus he chose to hide the silver talent without doing anything at all.

How does this then relate to us and to our commemoration today of the World Day of the Poor? The master represents the Lord Himself while the servants represent all of us, each and every one of us as the followers of the Lord. And just as the master entrusted the silver talents to his servants, God has also entrusted to us the ‘talents’ that is the blessings, gifts, abilities and other things that had been with us.

Just as each servants received different amounts of the silver talents from the master thus the Lord has also blessed some of us with more while others have less. But we often forgot the fact that all these we have received is not for ours to keep and hide, but to be put into good use for the benefit of all. We should not be selfish and thinking of our own benefits, satisfaction and pleasure, because as Christians we must first think of the good of the whole community.

And just like the ones who received five talents and two talents of silver each invested their silver well, whether we have more or less, we should not compare or worse still complain, but we should dedicate ourselves to do what we can to help one another especially those who are the poorest and had nothing to keep them struggling on the many challenges of life. The Lord has taught us all these and showed us what it means for us to be genuine Christians especially in how we show our love towards one another particularly the poor and the underprivileged, those who are persecuted and suffering in any forms.

As Christians we have to reach out to one another, to be generous in giving and caring, not only in terms of material goods and money, but even more importantly in terms of how we genuinely love everyone without exception. It is indeed possible for someone to help the poor such as with generous donations but with ulterior motives such as for publicity and to gain benefits for oneself such as through fame and glory among other things. While this may not sound as bad as not giving anything at all, as Christians this is not our true calling.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday let us carefully reflect on our calling and responsibilities as the children of the Light as St. Paul had spoken of in his Epistle to the Thessalonians in our second reading passage today. We have all been entrusted by God with different abilities and gifts, blessings and good things that we should make good use of for everyone’s benefit. And one common obstacle to this is that we often compare with one another.

We often ask why those who are richer or having more have not given to the poor or be generous in their giving. For our information, just because we have not seen the generous act in display does not mean that the person is not generous or selfish. Many people who gives, does not give because they want to be seen or acknowledged just as there are those who give for ulterior motives. Therefore, rather than comparing and complaining, we really should begin from ourselves, by being generous ourselves, to help whenever there is a need, to touch the lives of others positively whenever there is a chance to do so.

And we do not have to be afraid that our actions are small, insignificant or too little to make a difference. This is yet another obstacle preventing us from giving from our heart and helping others who are in need. We do not have to think about this, brethren, for no action done in good intention and for the benefit of others is ever too small. We must not forget that we are not doing this alone but together with everyone else. If everyone just do whatever they can, in their respective capabilities, certainly all the combined efforts will make a great difference.

Especially this year, with the still raging Covid-19 pandemic and all the many issues and uncertainties we have been facing, we heard more and more people facing financial difficulties and inabilities to make ends meet, even those who once had been able to do so comfortably and easily. Many had lost their jobs and sources of income, and many more were suffering from sickness, the pandemic or otherwise, and from other maladies and issues.

Therefore as Christians, we are all called today to reach out and touch the lives of others positively. In whatever way we can, in whatever we have been called to do, with our various and unique talents, abilities, gifts and blessings, much like those servants in the Gospel parable today, let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to His people, doing our very best to make good use of what God has given to us and blessed us all with.

May the Lord awaken in us all a spirit of true charity and generosity, to be the examples of true love and goodness, compassion and care for one another especially for the poor and the underprivileged, for those who have been ostracised and lacking in love. Let us all bring happiness and joy to them, and share in their burden and help even in small ways, to alleviate their burdens and hardships as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. May God bless us all in our every generous efforts and works, now and always, and may He have mercy on those who are poor and suffering. Amen.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.'”

“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, thrown him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 25 : 14-15, 19-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Thessalonians 5 : 1-6

You do not need anyone to write to you about the delay, and the appointed time for these events. You know, that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people feel secure, and at peace, the disaster will suddenly come upon them, as the birth pangs of a woman in labour, and they will not escape.

But you, beloved, are not in darkness; so that day will not surprise you like a thief. All of you are citizens of the light and the day; we do not belong to night and darkness. Let us not, therefore, sleep as others do, but remain alert and sober.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear YHVH and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots, will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears YHVH. May YHVH praise you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 15 November 2020 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fourth World Day of the Poor (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Proverbs 31 : 10-13, 19-20, 30-31

The woman of character, where is she to be found? She is more precious than any jewel. Her husband has complete confidence in her; she will be of great benefit to him. She brings him only good and not evil, all the days of her life. She has obtained wool and flax, and works them with skilful hands.

She puts her hand to the distaff and her fingers hold the spindle. She reaches out her hand to the helpless and gives to the poor. Charm is deceptive and beauty useless; the woman who is wise is the one to praise. May she enjoy the fruits of her labour and may all praise her for her works.