15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) -12th July 2020

Theme: THE WORD OF GOD WILL BEAR FRUIT ABUNDANTLY IN SPITE OF  REJECTIONS, PERSECUTIONS AND THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE WORLD

  • Isaiah 55:10-11;
  • Psalm 64 (65):10-14. R/ Lk 8:8;
  • Romans 8:18-23
  • Matthew 13:1-9. 18-23 (Shorter Form) 

Today is the 15th Sunday of the Year, Liturgical Year A. Today is also “Bible Sunday” for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The readings today tell us that the word of God will bear fruit abundantly, in spite of rejections, persecutions and the temptations of the world.

The gospel today tells us of the parable of the sower. The gospel today tells us that a sower went out to sow and as he sowed, some seeds fell besides the path and the birds ate them up. These are the people who reject the word of God. Some seeds fell on rocks where the soil was shallow. They took no root and when the sun rose they were scorched. These are the people who accepted the word of God, but because of persecutions they gave up. Some seeds fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked them. These are the people who at first accepted the word of God, but because of the temptations of the world, they bore no fruit. Some seeds fell on rich soil and they produced a hundred-fold, sixty-fold, thirty-fold. The usual harvest is about eight-fold. (Fuller)

Again, the gospel today tells us that the word of God will ultimately bear abundant fruit, in spite of rejections, persecutions and the temptations of the world. We are therefore to proclaim the word of God in season and out of season!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that the word of God is like the rain. The rain does not return to God empty, but the rain waters the earth to make it bear fruit. The word of God does not return to God empty, but the word of God makes us bear spiritual fruits! Thus we read in the first reading:

“As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.” (Is 55:10-11; SM)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm is a reflection on the first reading. The responsorial psalm also tells us that the word of God makes us bear fruit. Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.” (Lk 8:8; SM)

The responsorial psalm tells us that God sends down rain to water the earth to make the earth bear fruit, to make the wheat grow and the flocks of sheep multiply. In the same way God sends us the word of God to make us bear fruit. Thus we read in the first and fourth stanzas of the responsorial psalm:

“You care for the earth, give it water, you fill it with riches. Your river in heaven brims over to provide its grain.

The hills are girded with joy, the meadows covered with flocks, the valleys are decked with wheat. They shout for joy, yes, they sing.” (Ps 64 (65): 10. 13b-14; SM)

Again, the word of God is like the rain. It makes us bear spiritual fruits!

The second reading does not follow the theme of the Sunday, but the second reading has something important to tell us. The second reading tells us that we are intimately connected to creation, so much so that when we sin, creation also suffers the consequences, but more importantly, when we are saved, creation is also blessed.

An Australian theologian by the name of Denis Edwards tells us that we are intimately connected with creation. He tells us that we all came from the same “Big Bang” about 14 billion years ago, we all came from the same supernova about 5 billion years ago, we all came from the same biological evolution which began on earth about 4 billion years ago, and today we share the same environment.

But more importantly, he tells us that it is in human beings that creation became conscious of itself, that is, self-awareness. And it is in human beings that creation consciously and freely gives praise to God.

But when humans sinned and stop giving praise to God, creation also suffers its consequences. Today, the consequences of human sins can be seen in the destruction of creation, in the destruction of the rainforest, global warming, climate change, the destruction of other species, environmental pollution, desertification, etc.

More importantly, the second reading tells us that when humans are saved from sin, creation will also be blessed and restored to its original and pristine state!

Pope John Paul II said something similar in his “World Day of Peace” Message (1.1.1990) entitled: “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation”.

Today is also “Bible Sunday” for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Regional Biblical Commission of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei has a message for us based on the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI (Verbum Domini – The Word of the Lord, 2010). We will summarize the message in 8 points:

(i) The word of God in Creation. God speaks to us in Creation. 

(ii) The word of God in History. God speaks to us in the History of Israel.

(iii) The word of God in the Prophets. The Prophets help us understand the word of God.

(iv) Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Jesus Christ died, rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit.

(v) The word of God in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church. 

(vi) The word of God in the Church.

(vii) The word of God in the Living Tradition of the Church.

(viii) The word of God in the Bible of the Church.  

Let us then continue to proclaim the word of God, share and pray it in BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities), share and pray it in “Bible-Sharing” groups every Monday, and celebrate it every Wednesday! Amen!

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) – 5th July 2020

 

Theme: HUMILITY: DEPENDENCE ON GOD: THE GREATEST VIRTUE

  • Zechariah 9:9-10;
  • Psalm 144 (145): 1-2. 8-11. 13-14. R/ v. 1;
  • Romans 8:9. 11-13
  • Matthew 11:25-30

Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us about humility. Humility is the greatest virtue, because pride is the greatest sin. Adam and Eve fell because of pride, the Pharisees (“the learned and the clever”; NJB) in today’s gospel fell also because of pride, and Satan himself fell from heaven also because of pride (1 Tim. 3, 6; CGDB). More importantly, Jesus saved the whole world because of humility, that is, because of his total dependence on God his Father!

The gospel today tells us that those of us who labor and are overburdened must come to Jesus and Jesus will give us rest. Carry the yoke of Jesus and learn from him, because he is gentle and humble in heart, and we will find rest for our souls. Yes, the yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden light!

In other words, those of us who labor and are overburdened by the law or by life must come to Jesus and Jesus will give us rest. Carry the cross of Jesus and learn from him, because he is gentle and humble in heart, that is, he depends on God his Father, and we will find rest for our souls. Yes, the yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden light, that is, the cross of Jesus is easy and light! Because Jesus depends on God his Father!

God helps those who help themselves! Indeed, we have to help ourselves, but more importantly, we need the help of God and we need the help of the Community! We cannot do it alone. We cannot go it alone. That would be the sin of pride. There is no such thing as a macho or muscular Christianity! There is no such thing as “Lone-Ranger”, “Tarzan”, “Hercules”, “Superman”, “Spiderman” or “Rambo”. These are fairy tales and worldly idols of self-sufficiency. That is why it is good and important to share and pray the word of God in BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities)!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us of humility. The first reading tells us of a humble king who rides on a donkey to bring peace to the world. The proud kings of Israel rode on horses to make wars, but the humble king rides on a donkey to make peace.

No more chariots of war from the Northern Kingdom of “Ephraim”, and no more horses of war from the Southern Kingdom of “Jerusalem”, and no more bows and arrows of war! The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel will be united in peace! There will be peace not only in Israel, but there will be peace in the whole world!

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy of Zechariah when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey for his passion, death and resurrection, and brought peace (shalom) and salvation to the whole world! (Mt. 21:4ff)

The responsorial psalm is a reflection on the first reading. (SM) The responsorial psalm is a hymn of praise to the humble messianic God King! (NJB) Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“I will bless your name for ever, O God my King.” (Ps 144 (145):1; SM)

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first stanza (v 1-2) tells us to give praise to the King. The second stanza (v 8-9) tells us that we give praise to the King because he is kind, compassionate, slow to anger, and loving. (Ex 34:6) The third stanza (v 10-11) tells all of creation and all the faithful to praise the King. The fourth stanza (v 13-14) echoes the love and faithfulness of the King in the second stanza, especially for the weak and the afflicted. (HCSB)

Again, this psalm is fulfilled in Jesus Christ the humble messianic God King!

The second reading tells us that in baptism we received the Holy Spirit (vv. 9-11). More importantly, the second reading tells us to overcome sin with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we live in sin we will die, but if we overcome sin with the help of the Holy Spirit we will live (vv. 12-13)! (IBC) Thus we read in the second reading:

“So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.” (Rm 8:12-13; SM)

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us to be humble, that is, to depend on God our Father, the Holy Spirit will help us to bring peace and salvation to the world, and the Holy Spirit will help us to overcome sin and live!   Amen.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 28th June 2020

Theme: HOSPITALITY AND DISCIPLESHIP

 

Today is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings today tell us about hospitality! The readings also tell us that we will be reward for our hospitality!

The gospel tells us that if we welcome a prophet of God we will receive the same reward as the prophet, and if we welcome a holy man, we will receive the same reward as the holy man! And if we welcome a disciple of Jesus Christ, we will not lose our reward!

The first reading from the second book of the Kings tells us that a woman from Shunem was hospitable to the prophet Elisha. She built him a room and furnished it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. And she gave him food to eat. And the woman was rewarded with a son though her husband was old!

A son for us symbolizes new life and long life, not only quantitative life, but also qualitative life, eternal life, happy, healthy, loving, peaceful, and joyful life!

The first reading of yesterday’s (Saturday’s) morning mass was from Genesis 18:1-15. It was on the hospitality of Abraham! Abraham welcomed 3 men and gave them food and drink under a tree! The 3 men were God Himself and 2 angels! Abraham did not know that they were God Himself and 2 angels! Abraham was rewarded with a son though both Abraham and his wife Sarah were old and had no son! Abraham’s son was Isaac!

The Church has chosen the readings of today to tell us to be hospitable to the prophets of God, to the holy men of God, and to the disciples of Jesus Christ, and we will be duly rewarded!

All of us who have been baptized are the prophets of God, the holy men of God, and the disciples of Jesus Christ! We have to be hospitable to one another, especially to the poor and the needy!

The prophets of God, and the holy men of God, and the disciples of Jesus Christ are not only the priests, the religious, and the lay missionaries, but they are all who speak God’s word, live holy lives, and are baptized!

But to be hospitable to the disciples of Jesus Christ also means that we become the disciples of Jesus Christ ourselves, because to welcome the disciples of Jesus Christ is to welcome Jesus Christ, and to welcome Jesus Christ is to welcome the Father who sent him, and to welcome the Father who sent him is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ!

In fact, taken on its own, the main message of the gospel of today is about discipleship!

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:37-39/CSB)!

We love Jesus Christ more than father or mother, son or daughter, or even oneself, because Jesus Christ loves us more than our fathers and mothers love us, we love Jesus Christ more than our sons and daughters, because Jesus Christ loves us more than our sons and daughters love us, and we love Jesus Christ more than we love ourselves, because Jesus Christ loves us more than we love ourselves, and Jesus Christ loves us more than he loves himself!

He died in love for us! He rose from the dead in love for us! He gave the Holy Spirit in love for us! And he gave us new and eternal life in love for us!

St. Paul tells us in the second reading from the letter to the Romans that this is the meaning of baptism! In baptism we die and rise with Jesus Christ to a new life! In baptism we die to sin and we live a new life for God in Jesus Christ! We become the disciples of Jesus Christ!

Today in this Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us his Holy Spirit, and make us into his disciples! Amen!

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) – 21st June 2020

Theme: WITH EVIL WITHIN US AND AROUND US, WE TRUST IN GOD 

  • Jeremiah 20:10 – 13
  • Psalm 68:8-10. 14. 17. 33-35
  • Romans 5:12-15
  • Matthew 10:26-33 

The theme for today’s readings (Gospel and first reading) is on preaching God’s word faithfully without fear even in times of persecution for God will protect and vindicate his prophets and apostles.

But there is a wider and more relevant theme in today’s readings. That is, when we are surrounded by evil and evil men, we have to trust in God and pray, and God will protect us and vindicate us.

The first reading from the prophet Jeremiah tells us that Jeremiah was being persecuted for proclaiming the bad news that Jerusalem will be destroyed. Jeremiah’s mission was “to uproot and to tear down and to plant and to build”. But up to today’s first reading – chapter 20 – Jeremiah was still tearing down and uprooting. Jeremiah was persecuted for proclaiming bad news.

However Jeremiah trusted in God and prayed to God to take revenge on the enemy and to save him from the hands of the evil men.

The Responsorial Psalm has been chosen to go with the first reading. It is the prayer of a man who has been persecuted for doing God’s will and work. It is a prayer asking God to save the good man from the evil man.

The Gospel tells us that the apostles will be persecuted for proclaiming the Good News, and again, the gospel tells us that God will protect them and vindicate them.

God has counted every hair on their heads and God who cares even for worthless sparrows will surely take care of them who are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

But for me personally, I am most struck by the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. St. Paul tells us in the second reading from the letter to the Romans that just as Adam brought sin and death into the world, Jesus Christ brought grace and eternal life to the world. But much more than that Paul tells us that the grace and eternal life that Jesus Christ brought far outweighed the sin and death brought by the first Adam. And that is why on Easter Vigil night we can sing in the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation): “oh happy fault, oh necessary sin of Adam, that has won for us so great a redeemer”! And that is why I always say that the life of grace after sin is even better than the life of innocence before sin! “Oh happy fault, oh necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

Again, I am personally touched by this second reading because I realize that sin is not only outside us in our enemies, but sin is also deeply rooted in each of us. In fact modern spiritual psychologists tell us that it is in our unconscious and subconscious minds. Modern geneticists tell us that it is even in our genes! In fact the doctrine of Original sin taught by the Catholic Church is based on this text of Paul to the Romans – Romans 5:12!

We are born with sin and death and that is what Original Sin is all about! But more importantly, the second reading tells us that through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, grace and eternal life is even more abundant than sin and death!

Today’s second reading is taken from Romans 5:12-15, but if we were to read the whole section on “Adam and Jesus Christ” in the NJB, up to Romans 5:12-21, we will read that ‘where sin increased, grace increased all the more! The more sin the more grace!

I am not a politician or an expert in race relations and religions, but when I look at the present war in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Israelites, I get the feeling that they see evil only outside themselves in their enemies and they see salvation only of themselves and they see destruction only of the enemy. And they see salvation coming from themselves, from their own hands and from their own tanks or bombs.

But for us Christians we see evil first and foremost in ourselves, and our salvation do not come from ourselves, but from Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ does not save us with tanks and bombs – Jesus Christ is not a political and much less a military Messiah – but with grace, love and forgiveness!

We Christians also see that salvation is not only for ourselves, but for everybody, especially for sinners. We believe that God hates sin, but God loves the sinner! We believe that God hates evil, but he loves the evil man. St. Paul tells us that what proves that God loves us is that Jesus Christ died for us while we were still sinners!

Today Jesus Christ continues his work of Salvation in the Holy Spirit, in the Church, in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Today as we celebrate the Eucharist, as we celebrate his death and resurrection, he will pour out his graces upon us to forgive our sins, to free us from death and to give us eternal life!

And through us he will pour out his graces upon the whole world, forgiving their sins, freeing them from death and giving them eternal life! This is the Good News for the whole world! Amen!

Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ) Year A – 14th June 2020

Theme: WHEN WE EAT THE BODY OF CHRIST WE EAT THE RISEN BODY OF CHRIST

  • Deuteronomy 8:2-3. 14-16;
  • Psalm 147:12-15. 19-20. R/ v. 12;
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
  • John 6:51-58

A happy and a blessed Corpus Christi to all of you! “Corpus Christi” means “Body of Christ”! Today we celebrate the Solemnity of “The Body and Blood of Christ”, Liturgical Year A.

The gospel today tells us that if we eat the body of Christ and drink his blood we will live forever, but if we do not eat the body of Christ and drink his blood we will not have life in us!

It is most important to know that when we eat the body of Christ we eat the risen body of Christ! The transformed body of Christ! The gospel of John, chapter 20, tells us that after his resurrection Jesus could enter locked doors and be at any place at an instance! He was not limited by time and place!

In the same way his risen body can enter into the bread and change it into his body and when we eat the bread which is his body he can enter into us and change us into his body!

Again, when we eat the body of Christ we eat the risen body of Christ! At the “Breaking of Bread” the priest puts a piece of the bread into the chalice symbolizing the unity of the body and blood of Christ, that is, his resurrection and life! And when we eat his risen body we receive his Holy Spirit of eternal life! The risen Lord gives us the Holy Spirit of eternal life!

Thus we read in the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM), number 83.2:

“The Priest breaks the Bread and puts a piece of the host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation, namely, of the Body of Jesus Christ, living and glorious”.    

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading is a foreshadow of our Sunday Mass! The first reading has two parts. The first part tells us that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God! The second part tells us that God gave the people of Israel food and drink in the desert!

Our Mass also has two parts, namely, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist! Both parts are important! In fact, the Word gives faith and when we celebrate the sacrament of sacraments, that is, the mystery of mysteries, the Eucharist, with faith, the Holy Spirit will come and build the community, the Church and the Kingdom of God!

That is why the duty of the Bishop and his priests is to teach, to sanctify and to govern, that is, to teach the Word of God, to sanctify with the Sacraments and to build the community, the Church and the Kingdom of God! And the first of the three duties is to teach the word of God!

And that is also why we must not come late for Mass and miss the Word of God. Instead, we must come early for Mass to read the word of God before Mass to prepare ourselves for the Mass!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us that “God’s Word Restores Jerusalem” (Catholic Study Bible (CSB)). Again, the importance of the word of God! The word of God in creation and the word of God in salvation! Verse 15 tells us of the word of God in creation:

“He sends out his word to the earth and swiftly runs his command”.

Verse 19 tells us of the word of God in salvation:

“He makes his word known to Jacob, to Israel his laws and decrees”.   

That is why in the BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) we share and pray personally and spiritually on the Sunday Mass readings! We can celebrate the Word without the Eucharist, but we cannot celebrate the Eucharist without the Word! In our BECs we do not celebrate the Eucharist, we only celebrate the Word! We celebrate the Eucharist in the Church where and when all the BECs are gathered together as One Big Community!

The second reading tells us that when we receive Holy Communion, we are in communion with God and with one another! That is, we are in love and unity with God and with one another! Two Sundays ago, on Pentecost Sunday, we have seen that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of love and unity. Last Sunday, Trinity Sunday, we saw that the Holy Trinity is the mystery of God’s love and unity. Today, Corpus Christi, we see that our Eucharist is a Eucharist of love and unity! That is why we build small Christian communities of love and unity! That is why we build BECs!

At the Communion Rite the priest breaks the bread symbolizing that though we are many we make up one body of Christ! Thus we read in the GIRM, no. 83.1:

“The gesture of breaking bread done by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the entire Eucharistic action its name, signifies that the many faithful are made one body (1 Cor 10:17) by receiving Communion from the one bread of life, which is Christ, who for the salvation of the world died and rose again”.

Together with “1 Cor 11:23-26”, the second reading today is the most ancient written text on the Eucharist (56 A.D.)!

Now to complete our understanding of the Eucharist let us look at “1Corinthains 11:23-26”:

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (CSB) 

This text tells us 4 important things:

(i) The four actions of the Eucharist: (a) take (offertory), (b) thank (Eucharistic Prayer), (c) break (breaking of bread), (d) give (Communion).

(ii) Jesus’ self-giving in his body and blood.

(iii) We are to repeat Jesus’ action in remembrance of him.

(iv) The last verse which we acclaim at “The mystery of faith”: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your (saving) Death, O Lord, until you come again (when all will be saved)”.