Sunday, 1 December 2013 : First Sunday of Advent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is coming soon, and He made it clear again to us today, as we hear the words of the Gospel. Christ will come again in His glorious Second Coming, and He will judge all creations, all mankind. There will be a scourging and separation of the righteous from the wicked, and the faithful from the apostates.

We must be ready for that time, because the Lord will come like a vengeful conqueror, to harvest the good wheat that He had planted and get rid of the weeds of darkness. He will not show mercy to those which have repeatedly showed rebelliousness and challenged His will at all times and did not change. He will gather those He regards as His own and discard those who are against Him or those who are not worthy.

We are like the people at the time of Noah, if you realised it. What happened during the time of Noah? You all know who Noah was. He was the one saved by the Lord by building an ark as the Lord instructed him to, in order to avoid the great Flood which covered the entire earth and destroyed all lives except all those which had been saved through the ark.

Why did the Lord do all this? Did He not love all of His children with all of His loving heart? Is He not love personified Himself? Yes, these are all true, and God is indeed Love that He is. However, mankind at the time of Noah had grown proud of themselves, and not just proud and filled with ego, but they also had grown to be very wicked. They disregarded all the laws of the Lord and lead a life entirely in abandon of the Lord.

The Lord grew angry at them and tried to bring them back to righteousness, and yet they did not listen, they turned deaf ears to His calling. And in that wicked world before the Flood, only Noah and his family remained righteous and obedient to the Lord. That was why the Lord called him to save him, by commissioning him to build a massive ark, to safeguard the righteous from the coming catastrophe and punishment that would befall the wicked ones.

The people of Noah’s time mocked him as he built the ark, and did not repent until it was too late. After the door of the ark had been closed, there was no hope left for them. They were left behind to perish, and perish they did. Noah was saved, as a righteous one, while the wicked were destroyed. And indeed, the same can be drawn as a parallel on the present day situation.

For our world today is also growing increasingly wicked. Wickedness does not necessarily mean doing things clearly defined as evil, such as murder, stealing, or adultery. Wickedness can also come about in even things such as greed and desire. Yes, for our world today increasingly distance itself away from the Lord and from the ways of the Lord. We are increasingly more and more engulfed in the corruption of evil and sin.

And the coming of the Lord is like the Flood, which came unexpected to those who ignore the warnings and heedings of the Lord. That is because many of us, like the people of Noah’s time, are hard-hearted and hardened our hearts towards the Lord and His love. We grew proud and arrogant, trusting in our power and achievements, and blasphemed more and more against the Lord our God. We had forgotten His love and the promise He has made for us.

The Lord comes at a time when we are most unprepared, when we are most deceived by the lies of the evil one through the world. He will come and judge us, for our actions and deeds, whether we are worthy of Him or not. And He will judge us not only based on our actions and deeds, be it good or bad, but also our failures, the failures to do things in accordance with His will and His ways.

Will we then choose to be like Noah? Or to be like those others who mocked and ridiculed Noah as he built that ark? We have a choice, brethren, and we have indeed been given the instruction on how to built our own ark of salvation, and the materials to do so. We have been well equipped by the Lord, with all these materials, that is none other than love, hope, and faith, and alas, many of us remain ignorant of our gifts and did not use them.

Hence, brethren, if we have not begun to work on towards our salvation in God, do not wait, and begin now. For the Lord does not wait on us to execute His will. He may come again any time, even in the next year, next month, tomorrow, or even in the next hour and even now! If He comes and we are caught wanting and unworthy, that is the end for all of us.

Do not fear, brethren, if we have done lots of bad and evil things in our lives. Our Lord hates sin and evil, but He is also rich in mercy and love. If we are truly sincere in our dedication to Him, to change our sinful ways and turn over a new page in our respective lives, the Lord will forgive us, and we will be well on our way towards salvation. Remember that many of the greatest and holiest saints were themselves once great sinners. What differentiated them from the condemned ones is that they change and were committed to changing their lives, to be in accordance with the will of God.

May the Lord our God, show us His everlasting mercy and love, giving us a new lease of life, one where we will once again walk in His ways, and be righteous and faithful. Amen.

Sunday, 1 December 2013 : First Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 24 : 37-44

At the coming of the Son of Man, it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until that day when Noah went into the Ark. Yet they did not know what would happen, until the flood came and swept them away.

So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man : of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left; of two women, grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.

Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.

Sunday, 1 December 2013 : First Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 13 : 11-14a

You know what hour it is. This is the time to awake, for our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed; the night is almost over and day is at hand. Let us discard, therefore, everything that belongs to darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

As we live in the full light of day, let us behave with decency; no banquets with drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, no fighting or jealousy. Put on, rather, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 1 December 2013 : First Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stands the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls and security within your citadels!”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be with you!” For the sake of the house of our Lord, I will pray for your good.

Sunday, 1 December 2013 : First Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 2 : 1-5

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In the last days, the mountain of YHVH’s House shall be set over the highest mountains and shall tower over the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, saying, “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and we may walk in His paths. For the Teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of YHVH.”

“He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more. O nation of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Apostles, that is St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, the leader of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew is also known as St. Andrew the first-called, because he was known to be the first Apostle to be called out of the Twelve Jesus had chosen. It was St. Andrew who brought his brother Simon, who is St. Peter, to the Lord and introduced the Lord to him.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of the city and Archdiocese of Constantinople, or New Rome. It is known as such because the Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, established a new capital in the eastern part of the Empire, in the city he built and named after his own name, which is today known as Istanbul, after its fall to the evil and pagan forces of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Not much is known of the actions of St. Andrew in the New Testament, but the Church tradition showed that he established many Christian communities in today’s Greece, particularly in the area now known as Thrace, especially the Christian community of Byzantium, later known as Constantinople when the Emperor established his new city and capital there.

St. Andrew laboured hard for the sake of the Gospel and preached to the unbelievers in the area, earning many converts for the sake of the Lord. Despite difficulties and oppositions and rejections, he continued his ministry with faith, and the faithful communities under his care flourished. And as many of the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he followed the Lord into death.

St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which from then on became known as the St. Andrew’s cross. His dedication and faith to the Lord did not make him hesitate to sacrifice even his own life for the sake of the Lord, shedding his blood and giving up his own life for the growth and spread of the Gospel, and for the salvation of more souls to God.

Today we rejoice with our brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church, headed by the venerable Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle, who had first founded the see of that city. That is why today, we celebrate this great feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the see of our brethren in Constantinople, our brethren in faith, and One as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

It is lamentable and sad indeed, that due to petty political and personal ambitions of the corrupt Patriarch of Constantinople at that time, Michael Cerularius, that this very sad and preventable tragic division of the faithful had to occur, in what is known as the Great Schism of 1054, almost a thousand years ago. It is in the best interest of all the faithful that we all put aside our differences and throw far away the lies, rumours, prejudices, and misconceptions which keeps up the enmity and divisions in our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We are called today, as St. Paul has shown in the first reading, that we ought to preach the Good News to many people of many nations, and we have to reach out to them, and show them the love of God so that they will be converted to the cause of the Lord, just as St. Andrew himself had done. But we certainly cannot do this, if we ourselves are divided against ourselves.

Yes, first we must show our unity, the unity of the Church as one, the One and only Church of God, which Christ had established Himself on Peter, His Apostle, whom the Lord Jesus had appointed as the first Vicar of His will on this world. Sadly, many people, driven by ambition and human greed would like to see and keep the Church divided as it is, not for the glory of God, but for their own glory, for their own ego.

Following the footsteps of St. Andrew and the other Apostles, that of St. Peter, his brother, let us today, as we celebrate the feast of this great saint, as one Church, remember the mission that the Lord has given to us through His disciples, that we have to go out, and proclaim the words of the Lord, the Good News of Salvation, the salvation in Jesus Christ. And that before all these can be completely done, we must resolve to seek unity among ourselves, to avoid divisions and infighting among ourselves.

We are called to become the fishers of men, as we will catch mankind by thousands, tens of thousands, millions and more, bringing them closer to the Lord. That is why the Lord said to His disciples that they will become fishers of men. We too therefore have been called to be the same as they were, to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world. But fishermen cannot catch the fish if they first fight among themselves, instead of catching the fish and waste much energy, effort, and time in the process, and many fish will be lost.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the feast of St. Andrew, we rejoice and celebrate together with our brethren in the Church of Constantinople, that is the Eastern Orthodox Christians. We resolve that we will aim and seek for unity between us, that we will be able to soon once again be perfectly reunited in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the one and only Church that our Lord had built in this world, which He entrusted to Peter and his successors to lead and to be His Vicar in this world.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our loving Church, and bring it closer ever to unity, and with the help of the intercession of St. Andrew, may we be one again, as our Lord is One. Amen.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved.

For Scripture says : ‘No one who believes in Him will be ashamed.’ Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him?  And how can they believe in Him without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : ‘How beautiful are the feet of the messengers of Good News.’ Although not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : ‘Lord, who has believed in our preaching?’

So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ. I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But of course they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth and their voice was heard to the ends of the world.

Friday, 29 November 2013 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the kingdom of God is near, and it is approaching! Yes, that is the key message of the readings, especially that of the Gospel we heard today. And indeed, the kingdom of God is already here, with us, and dwelling in us. This is precisely as Christ had proclaimed to the people of the coming of His kingdom.

In the first reading, we heard about how Daniel showed his vision of the end of times, in which the Lord revealed to him of the difficult times that would come to the people of God. The beast was known to be the infamous Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, about one and a half centuries before the birth of Christ.

And that beast, king Antiochus, persecuted the people of God, those who still keep up their faith and devotion to the One, True God. The evil king enforced pagan rules and rites on the people, and many people apostatised their faith out of fear for punishment and death. The Temple and House of the Lord in Jerusalem was desecrated and made into a house of pagans.

Suffering was great at that time, under the reign and tyranny of the evil king, the loathsome beast on the horn, the one seen by Daniel. The people who kept their faith were tortured, imprison, and met their end in painful death. They were forced by the king to disobey the laws of God and to commit acts profane in the Lord’s eyes. Yet, there are many who resisted, and preferred death to disobedience.

But the Lord did not just leave His people in suffering without help or hope. For He raised the deliverance of the people through the Maccabees, who fought empowered by God’s providence and eventually liberated the people from the tyranny of the evil king Antiochus. The king himself was punished with painful death, with excruciating pain and endless suffering till the end of his life. That was when the beast in the vision of Daniel was punished and destroyed by the power of God.

That is a foreshadowing of the events that is to come, and I am sure you are all familiar with the Book of Revelation by St. John the Evangelist. For the devil too will, in much the same way, persecute the faithful ones, swaying many people to his side in rebellion against the Lord, in one final and futile attempt to defy the Lord’s will.

Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of all mankind, will come at the end of time, in order to bring all creation towards Himself, and make everything good once again. The devil and all his followers, and all the filths and taints of sin He will destroy and cast into the lake of eternal fire, in damnation. Jesus who had once come into this world as the Son of Man, to suffer and die for our sins, will come again at the end of time as a victorious and triumphant King.

Jesus is the Son of Man seen by Daniel in His vision, the promised One who is given dominion over all things, including over us mankind. For, ever since we have rebelled against God through our forefathers’ sins, the devil who is lord of all evil has dominion, power and authority over us. In order to free us from our bondage to the evil one, a pure and unblemished sacrifice for the purification of our sins.

That is when Jesus came, as the Son of Man, the long promised Messiah. He was prophesied by the many prophets and servants of God throughout the ages. The Lord Jesus brought forth with Him, the salvation of mankind. Jesus revealed the great plan that God had crafted for the sake of our salvation. And He too revealed the imminent coming of the kingdom of God as I had mentioned.

Why did Jesus say that the kingdom is coming soon? And why did He mention that the generation would not pass before the coming of the kingdom? That is because, the kingdom of God was ushered into the world, and to all of us, precisely by a single important moment in the history of our world. That is none other than the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Himself. Through this singular event, the kingdom of God appears and is present to all of us, even today.

It is through the selfless and perfect sacrifice of our Lord that we receive this new life and the hope of salvation. Before the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no hope for us mankind, but with the death and resurrection of Jesus, a new hope had dawned. That is the kingdom of God made manifest into this world. And, the Lord Himself gave freely to all of us, His own flesh and blood, just as He gave them to His disciples at the Last Supper.

Remember the words of Jesus, that all those who eat the bread that is the Body of the Lord, and drink the wine that is the Blood of the Lord, will not die but live forever. That is because the Lord Himself, in His Most Holy Presence in the bread and wine we partake, comes and dwells in each one of us. Each of us essentially become the House of the Most High God, and consequently, we are all experiencing the kingdom of God, even now, in ourselves.

Yes, brethren, for we have received the Lord in the Eucharist, and consequently, our lives too have been transformed to mirror that of the kingdom of God. We are experiencing the kingdom even as we live day by day. And that is also the reason, why even though our lives will be difficult, and challenges scattered on our path, we should not be worried. The Lord Himself guides us along the way, and we ought to follow Him all the way to the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why, today onwards, let us uphold our faith in Christ and proudly walk forth as the children of God, and as His disciples. Do not fear evil and his forces, and rather, let us do our best to obey the will of God. May the Lord continue to guide us, provide for us, and help us so that we will eventually reach the glory of heaven, when the Lord Jesus comes again in His glorious Second Coming. God bless us all. Amen.