Saturday, 15 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the day after we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation and the Triumph of the Holy Cross, we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On this day we remember the sorrow, anguish and pain which Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ experienced, when she saw her beloved Son suffering the pain of the crucifixion.

We can just imagine the greatness of the sorrow and anguish she experienced as a mother, who had to see her own Son suffering, and dying on the Cross. This is especially coming from a mother who is exceptionally loving towards her Son, having been the one who raised Him up and protected Him throughout life, and who journeyed with Him throughout the years of His ministry among the people of God.

She saw how her Son obediently followed the will of God, His Father, in taking up humbly, all the sins of mankind, as what He has been sent into the world for, and by taking all of those sins upon Himself, He let Himself be humbled, be humiliated and stripped off completely of any glory, privileges, and even basic human dignity, as He was tortured and spat upon by the people and those who have condemned Him to death.

This is what the prophet Simeon had spoken, in one of our two possible Gospel passages today, when he spoke to Mary, about the heart of Mary that would be pierced by a sword, to show the extent of pain and anguish she would suffer, in seeing her own Son suffering to such an extent. The sorrow which Mary felt must indeed have been very great. And yet, she remained true to her commitment to God, and in her love for her Son.

Most importantly, Mary has seen the suffering that her Son suffered, the sufferings that were intended for each one of us sinners. And this is why, we have seen many Marian apparitions throughout many centuries, especially at times when we mankind are undergoing periods of troubles, wickedness and evil. Mary appeared to us, as a loving mother who is concerned with our actions and our sins, our lack of faith and our apparent path towards damnation.

Why is that so? That is because, as we heard in the Gospel passage today taken from the account of the crucifixion by St. John, we heard how the Lord Jesus entrusted His mother Mary to the disciple He loved, that is St. John himself, and then also entrusted St. John to Mary, His mother, that she might be his mother and that he might be like her own son. In this way, the Lord has actually entrusted her to all of us mankind, to be our mother, and vice versa, that all of us have been entrusted to her as her own children.

You can imagine the kind of sorrow that Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows has experienced, when she saw all the sins that we continue to commit in our lives, all the actions lacking in faith and in all the vile deeds and wicked words we uttered, even among us all who have been considered as members of God’s Church, as baptised Christians. Many of us have not lived in accordance with what God has called us all to be, and our attention, heart and mind have not yet been centred on God.

Unless something is done, many of us, through our sins, are on our way to eternal damnation, because of all the good things and deeds which we have been told to do, and which are indeed our obligations as Christians, and yet which we have failed to do. Many of us have sought not true satisfaction in God, but rather the entertainment and the merrymaking ways of the world, seeking to satisfy the pleasures and desires of our flesh and bodies, and in how we ignore the plight of those who are crying out for justice and for our help.

In this context, how can Mary then stay silent in the midst of all these things that happened? How we mankind treated one another with contempt, with hatred, with jealousy, with ignorance of the sanctity of human life, when we cause suffering upon others, and even loss of life, just so that we might get what we wanted and satisfy our greed and pride? That was why Mary made her appearance at Fatima in Portugal, during the height of the First World War, calling for the conversion of mankind, and for them to turn away from their sinful ways.

She knows that if nothing was done for them, and they continued to walk down the path of sin, then what lies in the end will surely be the pain and eternal suffering in hell, when because of their sins, there would be those who encounter downfall into that state of eternal despair and rejection by God. As a mother, she cannot bear to see us suffer in the same manner as that of her Son, and therefore, she continues to pray for us, to guide us to the right path, to follow her Son, and find our way to salvation in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as those whom the Mother of God herself has considered as her own children, are we then so insolent and ungrateful, so as to make our dear mother even more saddened by our actions and wicked deeds? If we truly love God, we will also love His mother, and vice versa, and how do we love God and His mother Mary? It is by genuine conversion of heart and renewed commitment to live and serve the Lord at all times.

Let us all repent from all of our wicked ways and turn away from all the sins which we have committed in life thus far. Let us all have faith in God, and let us all grow to love Him more and more, and draw ever closer to Him, with each and every passing moments. May the Lord bless us all, and may He continue to guide us all through life. O Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us sinners always, that we will no longer add more sorrows to your grieving heart, through our conversion of hearts. Amen.

Saturday, 15 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 19 : 25-27

At that time, near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.”

Then He said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 33-35

At that time, the father and mother of Jesus wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign; a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Saturday, 15 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 30 : 2-3a, 3bc-4, 5-6, 15-16, 20

In You, o YHVH, I take refuge, may I never be disgraced; deliver me in Your justice. Give heed to my plea, and make haste to rescue me.

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Free me from the snare that they have set for me. Indeed You are my Protector. Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed me, o YHVH, faithful God.

But I put my trust in You, o YHVH, I said : “You are my God.” My days are in Your hand. Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin.

How great is the goodness which You have stored for those who fear You, which You show, for all to see, to those who take refuge in You!

Saturday, 15 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 5 : 7-9

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him, Who could save Him from death, and He was heard, because of His humble submission. Although He was Son, He learnt, through suffering, what obedience was, and, once made perfect, He became the Source of eternal salvation, for those who obey Him.

Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering that Holy Cross through which we have received our salvation, by none other than the suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord on that same Holy Cross, at Calvary, as the Altar of His offering and perfect love for us.

The cross is the first and most visible symbol of our Christian faith, the mark which has been given to us, not as a symbol of shame and punishment, as how it was intended to be, but rather as a symbol of triumph and victory against sin and death, the final victory which God has won for us all, against the tyranny of the sins that have bound us for time immemorial ever since the first time we disobeyed God and fell into the temptation of Satan.

And let us keep this key tenet of the importance of the Cross to our faith, as we continue along our today’s discourse. First of all, let us begin by looking at the passage from the Book of Numbers, in which we heard about the moment when the people of Israel rebelled against God, so much so that despite all that God had done for their sake, liberating them from the Egyptians, protecting them from their enemies and providing for their needs along the way even while in the middle of the desert.

But they continued to grumble and to complain, even rising up against Moses, wanting to kill him and replace him, and providing for themselves an alternative ‘god’ and idol, in the golden calf and in the pagan gods and idols of the neighbouring people. This disobedience and rebelliousness is the same kind of disobedience that Adam and Eve have once shown the Lord, and therefore, brought sin into the hearts of those people.

And the just consequence and punishment for sin, is the separation from God, by our own deliberate and willing rejection of God’s love and grace. And when we are separated from God, Who is the source of all creation and life, what is left for us is death. That is why, in the first reading, this is symbolised dramatically with the moment when God sent the serpents to strike at the disobedient and sinful people of Israel, and many died as a result.

That represents the death that comes about because of sin and disobedience. The serpents represent the sting of sin, the poison of sin, that will bring about death, should nothing be done to try and save those who were bitten by its poison. But the people regretted their sinful attitudes and begged God through Moses to show mercy on them and save them. And God showed clearly how He truly did not wish for their destruction, but rather, for them to be reconciled and be saved.

In the first place, if God did not love us or has wished for us to be destroyed, He would not even have created us in the first place. God is all good and perfect, and He could not have created us just that we can be destroyed and annihilated. Instead, as mentioned, it was our own conscious and willing rejection of God’s love and grace that has caused us to fall into eternal damnation in hell. Hell is in reality, a state of total separation from God because of our own rejection of Him.

But again, linking back to what we have discussed at the start of this discourse, the Cross is the symbol of God’s perfect love for us, which He made evident, clear and real through none other than His beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, that God so loved the world that He gave us all His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, that through Him, all who believe in Him may not perish but instead receive eternal life.

In the first reading, we heard how God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent placed on a staff, where the bronze serpent was displayed and lifted up high before all. All those who have been bitten by the serpents would not die should they look upon the bronze serpent. And this is linked to what the Lord Jesus Himself did at the time of the fulfilment of His ministry and work, that is His crucifixion.

As the Lord Himself explained to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, just as the bronze serpent was raised high in the desert at the time of Moses to be the sign of hope and deliverance for all those who have suffered from the fiery serpents, He too would be raised up for the salvation of all mankind, who have been ‘bitten’ by the sting of sin.

The Lord gathered willingly towards Himself, the sins of all mankind, from the beginning of time, to the present and to the end of time, that all of us have been, by the will of God and His grace, by His loving and most selfless sacrificial act on the Cross, the Man Who was without blame and sin, but made to suffer the consequences of everyone’s sins, on the Holy Cross on Calvary.

This is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us, that despite all that we have done, in our disobedience and refusal to listen to Him, God’s love for us is so great, that He was willing to do everything, even to suffer such great pain and suffering, of bearing the whole weight and burden of our sins, by dying on the Cross. The cross at that time was the symbol of ultimate shame and suffering, reserved by the Romans who ruled Judea, where the Lord Jesus was, to be the punishment for the worst of criminals.

But this symbol of ultimate shaming, disgrace and humiliation has been transformed completely by what the Lord has done, in taking the symbol of the Cross to be the sign of certain and sure victory in the battle between good and evil, and in the ultimate downfall of Satan and all those who have brought us all to sin. The Cross is the proof of God’s triumph over sin and death.

That is why, the Cross occupies such a central and important part in our faith. The sign of the Cross is the sign of our Christian faith, and is the profession of our faith and belief in the Lord’s saving grace and love. All of us who look upon the Cross, on our Crucified Messiah, have seen a new hope, and we who believe in Him and seek His merciful love, will be saved and will receive new life in God.

As St. Paul said, in his Epistle to the Romans, Jesus is the New Adam, Who is unlike the old Adam. While in old Adam, through the disobedience and sin committed, all of us have suffered the consequences of sin and therefore, all of us are bound to die, but through the New Adam, that is Christ, all of us are brought to share in His death, in dying to our old ways of sin, and embrace the new life He offers us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice together and exalting the glory of the Holy Cross, the triumph and victory which Our Lord has won over the dominion of sin and death, let us all therefore rediscover our love and genuine devotion to God, especially through the Cross by which He has shown us His perfect, selfless and ultimate love for each one of us, without exception.

Let us now therefore renew our commitment to live like true Christians, as we turn ourselves towards the Cross, and be people of the Cross, bearing proudly within ourselves, the symbol of our faith, this Holy Cross, by which we have been saved. Let us keep in mind always, God’s everlasting love for us all. Amen.

Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.