Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the 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 messenger 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.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the readings today we continue the discourse from the Book of the prophet Daniel as our first reading, where we heard how the successor of Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon, Belshazzar, sinned greatly against God because he disrespected the sanctity of God’s Temple and its various precious vessels, reserved solely for the use of worship, and used them in his parties and merrymaking.

The king then saw hands writing on the wall of his palace, and was terrified. When he asked Daniel, he received a premonition of destruction and wrath of God, as the Lord was angry at him for desecrating and disrespecting His Temple and its vessels. Yet, the king refused to listen to Daniel, and bestowed on him much honour and prestige. That very night, the armies of Cyrus, king of Persia came quietly and defeated Belshazzar and seized his kingdom from him.

This was just the beginning of the salvation for the people of God, the exiles from Israel and Judah, who had languished in exile for seventy years or so by that time. The people of Israel would be freed by king Cyrus of Persia and was free to return to their own land. He even mandated the rebuilding of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.

In the Gospel passage today, we see how the same theme applies, as the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples that the reality of their discipleship is one of persecution and difficulty, as there would surely be challenges and opposition which they will face. He was preparing them for the difficult time ahead, when they would be persecuted and arrested because of their faith in Him and because they preached in His Name.

But the Lord reassured them that He would be with them, and that they did not need to worry, because even though their closest relatives and friends might betray them, the Lord will always be faithful and He will not abandon them. Even though they suffer and feel anguish in pain, but the Lord will ultimately remember all their deeds and faith without exception, and He will bring them out of their predicament.

How do all these relate to us, then, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all God’s people, and we have walked in His path, and sometimes we do stumble on the way. Nevertheless, as long as we are faithful to the Lord, and continue to walk in His path, there will surely be moments when we will even want to give up walking with God because of all the temptations, difficulties and obstacles we will face on our way.

Are we able to resist the temptations and pressures for us to give up our faith, the temptation to give in just because we think that the world has more to offer us, in both joy and pleasure, in satisfaction and happiness as compared to God? Then, let us all always remember of what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, that not even the mightiest of kings and rulers would be exempt from their fate, that is death. Not even their glory and worldly power will be able to save them from the final judgment, in which the Lord, the Author of all power and authority will judge them depending on their deeds in life.

The Lord is the only one Who we can completely trust our whole life to, and not to any man or beings in this world, and He is always faithful even though we have often been unfaithful. Now, what matters is for us to recommit ourselves and reorientate our lives, that we will no longer fall into the temptations to disobey God and sin, but instead, persevere to live faithfully in accordance with God’s will, and loving Him to the best of our abilities. May God be with us always and bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 3 : 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67

Sun and moon, praise and exalt Him forever.

Stars of heaven, praise and exalt Him forever.

Rain and dew, praise and exalt Him forever.

All winds, praise and exalt Him forever.

Fire and heat, praise and exalt Him forever.

Cold and heat, praise and exalt Him forever.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 5 : 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his nobles; a thousand of them attended; and he drank wine with them. Under the influence of wine, he ordered that the gold and silver vessels his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem be brought in, so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines might drink from them.

The gold and silver vessels taken from God’s Temple were brought in; and the king and his nobles, his wives and concubines drank from them. While they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly a man’s fingers appeared opposite the lamp stand and wrote on the plastered wall of the king’s palace.

Watching the hand as it wrote, the king turned pale. So terrified was he that his knees knocked and his legs gave way. Daniel was brought in and questioned by the king, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father brought from Judah? I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods, that you have insight and extraordinary wisdom. I have heard that you can interpret dreams and solve problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple, wear a gold chain around your neck, and be appointed third in rank in my kingdom.”

Daniel replied, “You may keep your gifts or give them to someone else. Just the same, I will read and interpret the writing for you. You have defied the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels from His Temple brought to you, and, together with your nobles, your wives and concubines, you drank wine from them. You praised the idols made of silver and gold, of bronze, iron and stones, which neither see, nor hear, nor understand; but you never glorified God Who has power over your life and all your fortunes.”

“So He sent the hand that wrote the inscription which read MENE, TEKEL, PHARSIN. And these words mean : MENE, God has numbered the days of your reign and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PHARSIN, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the book of the prophet Daniel, firstly about the vision which the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had received in his dreams. The king was disturbed by what he had dreamt, and no one could interpret his dream other than the prophet Daniel. Daniel explained the meaning of the dream to the king.

And that dream revealed the future to the king of Babylon, who was known to be a great and mighty king. The king was proud and arrogant because of his conquests and triumphs, his riches and his might, to the point that if we read the entirety of the Book of Daniel, we would know how he built a huge golden statue of his own image, and forced many people to worship the statue as a god.

That great statue and all the other proud acts and hubris of Nebuchadnezzar is also represented in the dream which the king received, where he saw another huge statue made of an amalgamation of various materials and metals, which represent the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, and then the subsequent Persian Empire which conquered the Babylonians afterwards, and also the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, and possibly the Roman Empire.

Then in the dream, the king saw a huge boulder which smashed against the statue and crushed it completely, so much so that it was no longer recognisable as a statue, where it once stood. And this is related to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, as we heard how the Lord Jesus speaking to the people who admired the grandeur and beauty of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was a great edifice rebuilt and expanded by king Herod the Great.

The Lord spoke of how that great Temple and indeed the city of Jerusalem itself would be destroyed, as a premonition and revelation of what was to come. This would come true just a few decades afterwards, when the Romans and their armies destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem and the city, after the failed Jewish rebellion against the Roman rule. Nothing was left of the Temple and the city afterwards save for a small portion of the wall which remained until today.

The Lord reminded His people, just as He had shown the king of Babylon through his dreams, that ultimately, it does not matter how rich we are, how powerful we are, or how mighty are our worldly achievements and glory, all of these will eventually perish and disappear, should we put our trust in them, and not in God. The king of Babylon was proud with his greatness, and yet, his kingdom did not last and was destroyed, as with the other great kingdoms and empires throughout time.

That rock which destroyed the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represents God Himself, His power and majesty, which surpasses all forms of earthly power, glory and majesty. And as He has promised, He shall come again at the end of time, at the time of His own choosing, to gather together all of those who have been faithful to Him, and bring all of them into the joy of His eternal glory.

That was what the Lord Jesus also mentioned in the Gospel passage today, that we must be be prepared for the coming of the end, but at the same time, we must not be distracted by those who seek to profit from it, by being false prophets of doom, and worse still, by claiming to be the Lord Who comes again. Instead, we should learn from now on, to trust in God and live faithfully according to His ways, no longer giving ourselves to sin.

May the Lord Our God be our guide in this life, and may we all draw ever closer to Him, day after day, as we continue to draw our strength from Him, and place our trust in Him. Let us pray that He will continue to take care of us and bless us, as He has blessed Daniel and his friends, as well as the old widow for their faith and devotion. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 5-11

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Jesus said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come in My Name, saying, ‘I am He; the time is near at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen.”

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 3 : 57, 58, 59, 60, 61

All the works of the Lord, bless Him, praise Him, exalt Him forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless Him, praise and glorify Him forever.

Heavens, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him forever.

All the waters above the heavens, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him forever.

All the powers of the Lord, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him forever.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 2 : 31-45

Daniel said to king Nebuchadnezzar, “In your vision you saw a statue – very large, very bright; terrible to look at. Its head was of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. As you watched, a rock cut from a mountain, but not by human hands, struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay; smashing them.”

“All at once the iron, clay, bronze, silver and gold crumbled into pieces, as fine as chaff on the threshing floor in summer. The wind swept them off and not a trace was left. But the rock that struck the statue became a great mountain that filled the whole earth.”

“That was the dream. Now the interpretation. You, o king, are king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given dominion, strength, power and glory, and into whose hand He has placed humankind, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, making you ruler over them. You are that head of gold.”

“After you, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise. Then a third kingdom, of bronze, will rule the whole world. Last shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; and just as iron breaks and crushes everything else, so will it break and smash all the others.”

“The partly-clay and partly-iron feet and toes mean that it will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of the iron, just as you saw iron mixed with clay. And as the toes were partly iron and partly clay, the kingdom will be partly strong and partly weak. Just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, the people will be a mixture but will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.”

“In the time of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom, never to be destroyed or delivered up to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and put an end to them; and it will endure forever. This is the meaning of your vision of a rock cut from a mountain not by human hands; the rock, which struck the statue and broke into pieces the iron, bronze, clay, silver and gold. The great God has shown the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation reliable.”

Monday, 27 November 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages which told us about Daniel the prophet and servant of God, in how in his youth he was captured by the Babylonians when they sacked Jerusalem and Judah, and brought to Babylon, where he spent his life in exile with many other Israelites. He and some of his fellow countrymen were chosen to be those who would serve the king Nebuchadnezzar.

But Daniel and his compatriots refused to partake in the food and wine which were provided for them by the king’s steward. Why is that so? That is because the food and the wine had likely been used for the offering to the pagan gods, and it was forbidden for them to eat and drink the food and items which had been offered to the pagan gods. Hence, they requested that they be given vegetables instead to eat.

And despite the concerns by the steward, by the grace of God, even though they seemingly have not eaten as much and as lavishly as the other servants, who were fed with the finest worldly food and drink available, Daniel and his friends grew to be healthier and better than those other servants. God was with them, and they were rescued from their predicament.

In the Gospel today, then we heard about the well known story of how Jesus praised the poor old widow for her donation of two small bronze coins to the Temple treasury. He praised her because what she had put inside the treasury is basically she had to survive for herself. Meanwhile, many other rich people came and gave large amount of donations to the Temple treasury, who gave out of their plenty.

In this story, in fact, Jesus did not rebuke or look down on the rich people who have donated to the Temple treasury. What He wanted to point out is the fact that the old widow placed herself so completely in the hands of God that she gave from even her poverty, from what she had enough only to survive for herself. She gave it all to the Lord, without hesitation.

And it was this great faith which the Lord Jesus praised the woman for. It is the same faith which Daniel and his friends had in the Lord, putting their full trust in God. This is also the faith which each one of us as Christians should have and what we are expected to do in our lives as well. We should indeed ask ourselves this question : ‘Have we had the same faith which those people I mentioned, had?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives and our every actions. Let us all think of what we have done thus far in our lives, and let us think if we have placed our trust and faith in God, or whether we have rather placed our trust in our own human power, ability, intellect or skills. Let us all come to the realisation that while all those things can be reliable, but there is nothing that is more reliable or certain as compared to God’s love and grace.

If we place our trust in God, we are essentially building up for ourselves a lasting inheritance that will never run out or perish, unlike if we depend on this world’s goods and our own human abilities, power and intellect. This is what each one of us as Christians must aspire to do, to be truly faithful to God in all the things we do. Let us start from ourselves, by doing what we can to do God’s will, by loving one another, by acting justly and helping those who are in need.

May the Lord be with us always, and bless all of us, just as He has blessed His servants Daniel and his friends, those who have been faithful to Him and remain true to Him despite the challenges and difficulties they faced in their lives. May we all draw ever closer to God, so that in all that we act and do, we will always do them for the greater glory of God. Amen.