Thursday, 23 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Mark 9 : 41-50

If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear His Name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.

If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out.

And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell.

And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.

Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.

Thursday, 23 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Thursday, 23 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Sirach 5 : 1-8

Do not rely on your wealth. Do not say, “I am self-sufficient.” Do not let yourself be carried away by greed and violence; they would make you their slave. Do not say, “Who can stop me?” For the Lord has power to punish you. Do not say, “I have sinned and nothing has happened!” For the Lord bides His time.

Do not be so sure of pardon when you are heaping sin upon sin. Do not say, “His compassion is great! He will forgive the vast number of my sins!” For with Him is mercy but also anger; His fury will be poured out on sinners.

Do not delay your return to the Lord, do not put it off from day to day. For suddenly the anger of the Lord will blaze forth and you will perish on the day of reckoning. Do not rely on riches wrongfully acquired for they will be of no use to you on the day of wrath.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Gospel reading that we should not hamper the works of those, while not belonging to our group, but they work in the Holy Name of the Lord. Jesus Himself said that it is impossible for those who do not belong to Him and use His authority to be able to perform such miracles as what they had performed.

And in addition to that, I am sure that we had heard some people thinking that this means that, we do not need to belong to the Church to do the work of God, is it not? We can then just be ourselves, so long as we believe in God or some kind of greater being up there, and doing what is good in our lives, then we all can be saved, is it not? Why then bother to join the Church and be troubled by the numerous rules and regulations as laid down by the teachings of the Church?

That is because, while mankind indeed has the capacity to do good, because mankind indeed was created by God who is good, but this kind of goodness that is in them is imperfect. Without the presence of God, goodness remains just superficial, and although they may seem to be real goodness, but they lack the necessary ingredient to make them perfect, and this crucial component is none other than God.

There are those who also quote someone who said that Jesus redemption is for everyone, even for atheists. Who are atheists, my brothers and sisters? Atheists are different from agnostics in that while agnostics believe in the presence of certain superior, ‘supernatural’ being, but atheists reject the notion of this supreme being and God in its entirety.

There had been many atheistic movements rising in our societies in the past decades and centuries, like humanism, and scientific atheism. Many too are their champions, with the most prominent ones being Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who adopted a very aggressive approach in relation to religion. Particularly Dawkins who had been very confrontational in the matter of religion and he even launched a suit to bring the Pope to trial!

Of course, atheists, agnostics, and all the people who do not yet belong to the Church are all belonging to mankind too, brethren, and they are our brothers and sisters too. Even among our own family members, our friends, our relatives and acquaintances, I am sure we will meet many of them, each with beliefs of their own.

And indeed, Jesus may indeed die on the cross in Calvary, for the sake of all mankind, including even those who had persecuted Him and His disciples, and even the chief priests and the Jewish people who had condemned Him to death and cried out for His blood. He forgave them on the cross, especially asking the Father to forgiveness because in their ignorance, the people did not know what they had done, that is killing the Messiah of the Most High God, and the Son of God Himself.

Christ forgave them, and therefore also offered His redemptive death on the cross to all of them, to those who love Him, and also to those who hated Him. Christ certainly did not choose or prefer one over the other, and offered His salvation to everyone. Remember, brethren, that all of us, His children, are equal before Him, and our ranks, our degrees matter no more before Him. But there must be a clear distinction made between redemption and salvation, and this is indeed ought to be misinterpreted by many of the people, especially those not in the Church, but even by many in the Church, especially indeed because the Pope himself had made the utterance.

Misunderstanding the teachings of the Church can be fatal, brethren, because, the Church had been the continuous font of light of Christ, since it was established by Jesus Christ Himself upon Peter, His apostle, and which grew amidst tribulations and happy times, to become the Church as we know it today. The teachings of the Church are not there just to be trifled with, and neither are the teachings to be ignored, since it has been passed down to us, by the Apostles and the early Fathers of the Church themselves, to guide us in the path of salvation.

What then, is the difference between redemption and salvation? Both of them may mean the same thing in the English language, and terms are indeed very confusing at times, but in order to make it clear, let me elaborate that, while Christ offers salvation to all mankind through His death on the cross, by the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood, the blood of the Paschal Lamb of God, but few would eventually receive Him and accept Him and the salvation that He has offered in its fullness. Fewer still, even among those who had accepted Him, would truly do His will and do what is good in His eyes. Of course not to forget, as I mentioned earlier, those who do good in their life, but do not receive Christ and did not take up the offer of salvation that Christ had freely offered to everyone.

When Christ died on the cross, His death and His blood redeems all mankind from their sins, their original sins. This is what redemption is about. Original sins are the sins that remain with us and become a taint in our soul, ever since our ancestors, the first mankind, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord’s commands by falling into the devil’s temptation, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Therefore, when Christ died, He who came as the new Adam, to make a new covenant between God and mankind, which first had been made at creation, but broken by the rebellion of the first mankind, a new covenant was made, and Christ became the source of redemption to all mankind, all who are descended from Adam and his wife, Eve, erasing from them the taint of sin, and releasing them from the slavery of Satan.

But this is where it is important to distinguish between salvation and redemption, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why do I keep referring to all of you as my brothers and sisters, my brethren, in Christ? In Christ because, through our baptism we have become the children of God, and we have therefore become one body, united by Christ, and this one body is our Church. Brethren, salvation is different from just redemption because, salvation requires that necessary step, that is baptism, and entry into the Church of God, which can only be done through baptism.

Why is baptism so important? Because, at baptism, we place ourselves humbly before God, and ask Him for forgiveness, and at the same time, mark ourselves with the eternal mark of baptism, which sealed us in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, essentially sealing us as a children of God in the Holy Trinity.

Therefore, brethren in Christ, if anyone who does not belong to the Church and the faith asks you, if we can just be good people and do good in this world, in the absence of God, why then do we even need to bother with joining the Church at all? Why then do we need to be Catholics and follow the teachings of the Church if we can just be good person, be a good man, and doing good to our brethren?

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the first word you should tell them, and that while goodness is indeed possible for those not within the Church, as indeed Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is it not? Therefore, they would have been able to identify what is evil from what is good, and capable therefore of doing good, just as they were able of doing what is evil. The same therefore also applies to us living in this world today.

Thus, goodness and doing good alone is not enough. That is why, while our salvation comes not from faith alone, as some would have it, but neither is our salvation from good works and service alone. Anyone can be good and does good service to the poor, to all mankind, if they wish to, but that does not give them salvation, because, although Christ redeemed them through His death on the cross, they did not accept the salvation He offered, by having faith in Him.

Neither can then, that we just have faith in Christ without doing anything good at all. Many Christians in fact are ‘do-nothing’ Christians, Sunday Christians, and passive Christians, because they do not make use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that had been granted them. Our faith must be made alive through action, and through service that is grounded in love. Without love, we are dead, and if we do not make use of the love that is in us, and keep it to ourselves, we will also perish.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to step up evangelisation, to ensure that the many good people in the world out there, who does good things and service for the sake of their fellow mankind, can gain true salvation by accepting Christ as their Lord, their God, and their Saviour, through baptism, when they, like all of us once, will be sealed with the Lord’s seal of the Holy Trinity’s Name.

And of course not to forget those Christians who had grown complacent and cool in their faith, that through our action, we can reawaken the flames of the Holy Spirit once again in them, and allowing them to truly make use of the gifts they have in them, and do good things for the sake of God, and for their fellow men.

Finally, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we also commemorate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a religious sister who was made a saint out of her great piety and endurance for the faith, despite being abused and hurt by her former husband before she joined the religious profession. Her life was truly exemplary to all of us, through her loving actions in ensuring that her family remained in the love of God, and her teaching of the value of forgiveness and kindness to her son. Through her actions, she made great peace between the feuding families of her hometown, which had resulted in her husband’s assassination.

St. Rita of Cascia is therefore, brethren, a perfect example of what we need to learn today, that we need both faith and good works in order to gain greatness, glory of God, and salvation. St. Rita of Cascia’s strong and inviolable faith in the Lord enabled her to endure her suffering and anchored her against the hatred and corruption of the world, and as a result, transformed those around her, and this, coupled with her numerous good works, are great examples of faith lived through action, of faith made alive and vibrant through good deeds, and not mere words and devotions.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, let us reflect on ourselves, whether we have already done what the Lord wants us to do, that is to fully accept Him as our Lord and God, and to accept His teachings that are reflected in the teachings of the Church, that is our faith, and whether we have already implemented this faith in the reality of the world, through service and good deeds to others. And not to forget also, that we need to accomplish the mission God has placed on us, that is to make disciples of all nations, and seal them with baptism in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.

Remember, redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is not enough for salvation, for in that redemption, Christ freely offered Himself to us, and if we do not accept Him, we can have no part in Him, and we will be condemned, even if we have done good things in our life, because we often do it not for God, but for ourselves, for our own pride and glory. And be careful not to misinterpret the Scripture, and hence, learn the Scripture through credible and authoritative source, that is the Church. That man who performed miracles in the Name of Christ, did those miracles because he has faith in Christ, and therefore belonging to Christ, in the same way as baptism marks us as children of God, and the saved ones, so long as we also do good in the practice of our faith.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, pray, and pray hard that more and more people will come and see the light of Christ, especially through our own actions, that reflect Christ, that more people who are good, and who do good things, but have yet to believe and accept Christ, can truly be saved, through the waters of baptism. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Mark 9 : 38-40

John said to Him, “Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him because he does not belong to our group.”

Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My Name can soon after speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Psalm 118 : 165, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175

Lovers of Your Law have found great peace; nothing can make them stumble, not even distress.

I obey Your precepts and Your decrees; my ways are always before You.

Let my lips overflow with praise, for You teach me Your decrees.

Let my tongue sing of Your good news, for all You say is true.

I long for Your salvation, o Lord; I delight in Your Law.

Long may I live to sing Your praise, may Your ordinances always be my help!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Sirach 4 : 12-22

Whoever loves her loves life. Those who rise early in the morning in search of her will be filled with joy. Whoever possesses her will have glory and wherever he goes blessings will follow. Those who serve her are ministers of the Holy One; those who love her are loved of the Lord. He who listens to her will have good judgment. He who obeys her will rest in safety.

Whoever trusts in her will possess her and his children after him will inherit her. For in the beginning she will lead him by rough paths, causing him to fear and be terrified; she will plague him with her discipline until she can count on him; and she will put him to the test by her demands.

Then she will lead him on a level path, give him joy and reveal her secrets to him. But if he wanders from the path, she will abandon him and allow him to be lost.

In every situation weigh the pros and cons and avoid evil. A wrong kind of shame could harm you. There is a shame which leads to sin and there is a shame which merits praise and respect. Do not act against your better self to win favour from others. Do not let this kind of shame lead you into sin.