Tuesday, 6 August 2019 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, recalling the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, was revealed in all of His divine and heavenly glory on Mount Tabor before three of His Apostles, St. Peter, St. James and St. John. At that moment, the two greatest among the Lord’s servants from the time of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah appeared at Mount Tabor and talked with the Lord Jesus.

This important moment of the Transfiguration is a very powerful and vivid revelation of the truth of God, in revealing before His people, albeit only the select few at first, what He was going to do to fulfil His Covenant and the promises He had made to His people throughout the ages. Through the Transfiguration, the three Apostles, as representatives of humanity, witnessed Who the Lord Jesus truly is, as a person fully God and fully Man united in His person.

At that moment, the Lord revealed a glimpse of His true heavenly glory, as the Divine Word of God, Incarnate in the flesh, fully and completely God as shown by the pure white and dazzling appearance of His Transfigured Self, while still remaining fully Man in the flesh. And through this same Person, through Jesus Christ, all of mankind were about to receive their salvation and liberation from the tyranny of sin and bondage to death.

In the Transfiguration we see in fact a prefigurement and revelation of what will happen to us all in the end, when we remain faithful and committed to the Lord, as He will glorify us and our whole existence, in the body and spirit to be glorified and exalted just as Christ has been glorified and exalted at Mount Tabor. All of us through the fulfilment of the Covenant of God have received the assurance from Him that we shall receive the fullness of God’s glorious inheritance.

Just as the Lord Jesus revealed His divinity that is united to His humanity, through the Transfiguration the Lord unites our humanity to His own humanity, and all of us who share in His humanity now receive the glory of our future existence with God. Essentially, we see in Christ the reflection of our own future glorious self, the true calling for us all mankind who have not been intended to live in sin and darkness, but in the fullness of light as God’s beloved children.

By our sins we have been made dirty, corrupted and unworthy, and sin is caused by our conscious rejection and refusal of God’s generous love. Sin has caused us to lose that glory which should have been ours from the beginning, the true nature of ourselves, and not the sinful and wicked selves we have now. But the Lord, through His Transfiguration, has shown us all that through Him, we can once again be wholesome as we have been intended to.

At the same time, through what happened in the Transfiguration, when the Lord Jesus met and talked with Moses and Elijah, the Lord also willingly revealed to His people about the mission which He has been sent into this world for, as the Saviour of all. Moses and Elijah were among two of the most important persona in the whole of the Old Testament and were counted among the ones closest to God, as His faithful servants.

Moses represented the Law which God had first revealed through him in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the collection of which made up the entirety of the Mosaic laws of Israel that were preserved through the many centuries after, centred on the Ten Commandments that God has also given at the same time. And Moses was also symbolic of God’s saving help and grace for His people, as He led His people out of Egypt from their slavery into freedom.

Meanwhile, Elijah was among the greatest of the many prophets of the Old Testament era, and he performed many good works and miracles for the Lord before His people, struggling against numerous challenges and obstacles in his prophetic ministry and journey. He proclaimed the truth of God and called the people to repent and turn away from their sins, to reject the pagan idols of Baal and other Canaanite false gods and embrace the Lord YHVH, their one and only true God.

He had to endure a lot of difficulties, on the run from his enemies that included the king and especially Jezebel the queen and many of the powerful men in the kingdom of Israel and the priesthood of Baal among many others. He had to strive alone against the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal as they contested at the Mount Carmel who the true God is, whether it was YHVH or Baal.

That these two servants of God appeared before the Lord Jesus at the moment of His Transfiguration served to reveal before us the mission of Our Lord and Saviour, Who like Moses has been sent to all of us, God’s people, to deliver us. But while the Israelites were delivered from the slavery under the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, through Christ all of us mankind have been delivered from the slavery under sin.

And like Elijah, the Lord proclaimed the salvation of God to His people, performing wonderful miracles and power to show the true extent of God’s love and mercy for His beloved people, calling on them to turn away from sin and to embrace God’s love fully, through the Law of God, first revealed through Moses and now, explained in its fullness by Christ Himself, to bring all of us closer to God.

Therefore, God has revealed before us today, through His glorious Transfiguration at Mount Tabor, what we all can become if we truly believe in Him and put our complete faith and trust in Him. He has come into this world to reveal His truth and wisdom to us, and to show us how we can find our way to reach the promised glory, true happiness and inheritance He has promised us in the Covenant He had made with us.

But we must then take note of the action of the Lord Jesus and that of His disciples in the latter part of today’s Gospel passage. The three disciples wanted to stay on in that place as it must indeed have felt so wonderful to be present in the plain view and experience of the Lord’s glory on that mountain. They wanted to make three tents for the Lord, Moses and Elijah each precisely because they wanted that blissful experience to remain with them.

However, the Lord reminded them to obey the will of God, and the Lord Jesus led them down the mountain, leaving the glorious moment of His Transfiguration and soon after, embracing the moment of His Passion, suffering and death, where He would lay down His life and perform the ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation. And this is a reminder to each and every one of us that we should be aware that being Christians, as followers of Our Lord, more often than not we will encounter sufferings and challenges as part of our lives.

But we must always keep up hope in the Lord, remembering that despite the challenges and sufferings we may have to endure, at the end, the ever loving and faithful God will glorify us and give us the fullness of our promised inheritance, and the Transfigured Body of Christ will also be ours as we who are worthy will be transfigured and glorified in the same way to enjoy forever God’s loving grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our journey and may He continue to bless us and our good works in our daily living so that each and every one of us may strive to be ever faithful despite the challenges and obstacles we may encounter in our daily living. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 28b-36

At that time, Jesus took Peter, John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the aspect of His face was changed, and His clothing became dazzling white. Two men were taking with Jesus : Moses and Elijah. Appearing in the glory of heaven, Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about His departure from this life, which was to take place in Jerusalem.

Peter and His companions had fallen asleep; but they awoke suddenly, and they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. As Moses and Elijah were about to leave, Peter – not knowing what to say – said to Jesus, “Master, how good it is for us to be here! Let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

And no sooner had he spoken, than a cloud appeared and covered them; and the disciples were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then these words came from the cloud, “This is My Son, My Beloved, listen to Him.” And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was there alone. The disciples kept this to themselves at the time, telling no one of anything they had seen.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 9

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 7 : 9-10, 13-14

I looked and saw the following : Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took His seat. His robe was white, as snow, His hair, white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before Him. Thousands upon thousands served Him and a countless multitude stood before Him.

Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book. I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.

Alternative reading

2 Peter 1 : 16-19

Indeed, what we taught you about the power, and the return of Christ Jesus our Lord, was not drawn from myths or formulated theories. We, ourselves, were eyewitnesses of His majesty, when He received glory and honour from God, the Father, when, from the magnificent glory, this most extraordinary word came upon Him : “This is My beloved Son, this is My Chosen One.”

We, ourselves, heard this voice from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain. Therefore, we believe most firmly in the message of the prophets, which you should consider rightly, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the break of day, when the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of one of the four Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, namely that of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, or Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the principal Marian shrine and church in the whole Christendom, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Protector of Rome, in the icon Salus Populi Romani venerated by many of the faithful.

The icon of Our Blessed Mother and the related celebration of Our Lady of the Snows have long history since the early days of Christendom, as the current Basilica of St. Mary Major is one of the oldest extant churches in the world, being established and built just right after the end of Christian persecutions of its early centuries, by the support of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and his successors.

It was told that a Roman patrician or noble named John and his wife asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, as they were without child and wanted to make a donation of their resources and properties to the Church. They wanted to donate their properties in her honour and build a church dedicated to her, the Mother of God. And therefore, it was told that at the height of summer, which is on this date, the fifth of August, snow miraculously fell on the site on which now the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands.

Ever since then, this great Basilica, the House of God and shrine to His Mother Mary has become a great place of refuge and as a focus of pilgrimage and devotions attracting the faithful from all over Christendom, far and beyond. And on this day, through the Scripture passages, all of us are also called to reflect on the love which God has often shown His people, and which He has shown us especially through the same love His mother Mary has for us, her beloved children.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account from the Book of Numbers telling us of the great complaints of the Israelites who grumbled against God and against His servant Moses, as they craved the food and things they used to eat and have in the land of Egypt, even as slaves to the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. And even though God has given them the miraculous manna, the bread from heaven itself to eat, they complained and grumbled on the ‘tastelessness’ of the manna.

What we have heard in that passage essentially told us of the greed and wicked desires, the cravings in mankind’s hearts, which made them to be so ungrateful and so lacking of gratitude for God’s generosity and love for each and every one of them. God has loved His people so generously and faithfully that He not only freed them from the hands of the Egyptians and crushed the armies of the Pharaoh sent to chase after them, but He also performed many miracles and fed them through the dry and lifeless desert for so many years without cease.

In the Gospel today, we heard a similar story of God feeding His people with love, and this time, it is the famous feeding of the five thousand men and countless other women and children by the Lord Jesus, Who miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fishes into the amount of food sufficient to feed the entirety of the people until they were all satisfied and with twelve baskets of leftovers in the end.

In all of these, we see how God so loved His people that He cared for them, had pity on them when they were hungry and suffering, and not just in one occasion, but many occasions throughout history. And He was ever patient despite of our own impatience and rebelliousness. Even despite all that the Israelites complained against Him and all of their wickedness, God still fed them with manna and also large birds and crystal clear water throughout their forty years of journey in the desert.

And God gave us all the most wonderful gift in His Son, Jesus Christ, His own Begotten Son, by Whom all of us have been brought into reconciliation with Him and salvation through His suffering and death on the Cross. And Christ has also given us His love through His own mother Mary, whom He has entrusted to us as our own mother, and all of us have also been entrusted to her as her own children.

Therefore today, as we rejoice in the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, let us all recall the wonderful love that God has given us, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and also through His mother Mary, our greatest intercessor and protector. Let us all ask Mary for her intercession before the throne of her beloved Son in heaven, that we may be forgiven our sins and be brought ever closer to salvation in Him.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide our path in this journey of life, and may He strengthen our courage and resolve to live ever more faithfully in His presence, day after day, from now on, to glorify God at all times by our words, actions and deeds. Amen.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Matthew 14 : 13-21

At that time, when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, He set out by boat for a secluded place, to be alone. But the people heard of it, and they followed Him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, He saw the crowd gathered there, and He had compassion on them. And He healed their sick.

Late in the afternoon, His disciples came to Him and said, “We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so that they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.” Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to Me.”

Then He made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised His eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there, besides women and children.

Alternative reading

Matthew 14 : 22-36

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone.

Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it. At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!”

Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

They came ashore at Gennesaret. The local people recognised Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought to Him all the sick people, begging Him to let them touch just the hem of His cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Psalm 80 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

But My people did not listen; Israel did not obey. So I gave them over to their stubbornness and they followed their own counsels.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways, I would quickly subdue their adversaries and turn My hand against their enemies.

Those who hate YHVH would cringe before Him, and their panic would last forever. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Numbers 11 : 4b-15

The Israelites wept and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone; there is nothing to look at, nothing but manna.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed and had the appearance of bedellium. The people went about gathering it up and then ground it between millstones or pounded it in a mortar. They boiled it in a pot and made cakes with it which tasted like cakes made with oil. As soon as dew fell at night in the camp, the manna came with it.

Moses heard the people crying, family by family at the entrance to their tent and YHVH became very angry. This displeased Moses. Then Moses said to YHVH, “Why have You treated Your servant so badly? Is it because You do not love me that You burdened me with this people? Did I conceive all these people and did I give them birth?”

“And now You want me to carry them in my bosom as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their fathers? Where would I get meat for all these people, when they cry to me saying :’Give us meat that we may eat?'”

“I cannot, myself alone, carry all these people; the burden is too heavy for me. Kill me rather than treat me like this, I beg of You, if You look kindly on me, and let me not see Your anger.”