Saturday, 2 November 2019 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to celebrate through the Allhallowtide period, as we move on from the glorious celebrations of yesterday’s Solemnity of All Saints to the more sombre commemoration of All Souls Day today. While yesterday we focus our attention on the glorious holy men and women, the saints of God who are already in heaven, today we remember the memory of the holy souls departed from us.

On this All Souls Day, we remember all those our brethren who have departed from this world, having met the end of their earthly existence and are now not yet worthy of the glory of heaven unlike those saints who are already there with God. Instead, these souls are now waiting in purgatory, in a place where they are purified from their sins before they are allowed to enter into the heavenly glory with God. They are worthy enough to evade the eternal damnation in hell but not yet worthy of heaven at the moment.

Today we remember those holy souls, who are holy because in life they have been righteous and faithful, and not those who have completely rejected and refused to believe in God right up to their dying breath. However, because of their remaining substantial sins, be it venial sins or more serious sins that are yet to be confessed or forgiven by God, they are considered to be yet fully worthy of God, for we must remember that while God loves us all very much and wants us to be with Him, but He is also all good and perfect.

And thus with that in mind, we must understand that sin has no place at all before God, no matter how small or insignificant those sins are. Sin is corruption of our flesh, our mind, our heart, our soul and our very being, and therefore, as long as we have any remaining sin in us, we are still yet unworthy of entering the glory of heaven directly unlike the saints whose virtues so exceed their shortcomings or that they have lived lives full of virtue that they deserved immediate entry into heaven.

Therefore, the Church taught us the doctrine of purgatory, as a place in the afterlife where the departed holy souls are being purified in the ‘flames’ of purgatory, as their residual sins are being purified from them so that eventually they will merit the glory of heaven. The greater the residual sins one has, consequently the longer he or she has to spend in purgatory prior to joining with God in the fullness of heavenly glory.

Those holy souls in purgatory are often described as suffering, suffering not from any physical injury or even flames as those depictions of purgatory like to project to us. But rather, it is the unbearable separation from God, Who is already so close to them and yet still distant from them that made them to suffer. They love God very much, and yet there is still the chasm between them and God caused by their residual sins.

Of course their suffering is different from those in hell as those in hell have absolutely no hope and have been shut off from the Lord for eternity, but nonetheless, the moments that the holy souls in purgatory spend there being separated from God must have been a tough suffering indeed. There has been verified witnesses and events in the history of the Church when the holy souls in purgatory had appeared or made known to us how they are suffering there, waiting for the full reunion with God.

Now, having discussed about the holy souls in purgatory, let us then move on to the significance of this day, the All Souls Day. On this day in particular, we focus our attention on all those holy souls still in purgatory waiting for entry into heaven. Just as yesterday we remember the saints who are still part of the Church as much as we are as the Church Triumphant in heaven and we as the Church Militant on earth, thus the holy souls in purgatory are also still part of the Church, the Church Suffering.

The Church Suffering are praying with us, for our sake, that we may live our lives virtuously so hopefully we may avoid the same fate that they are now enduring in facing a period of lengthened wait before they can enter into heavenly glory and joy. But they cannot pray for themselves, and they need our help in this regard. We can pray for the holy souls in purgatory, asking God to help them and to reduce the amount of time they have to spend there, because we remind God of the love which He has for us, to forgive us all our sins.

That is why it is important that today we recall the memory of our loved ones and all those whom we know, who are no longer with us and are probably waiting in purgatory this very moment. Let us all pray for each and every one of them, and let us all help them to be purified and be forgiven their sins that they may enter the gates of heaven at the soonest possible moment. And let this day also be a reminder for us that we may end up spending a long time in purgatory too, unless we straighten up our lives.

This means that as we remember the holy souls in purgatory, we have to keep in mind and reflect on our own way of life too. We have to live our lives faithfully at all times, distancing ourselves from sinful and wicked acts and things in life. That way, we may be worthy enough that our virtues and goodness will allow us to go right up to the heavens, just as the saints are. While we have breath in us and time given by God, let us not wait until it is too late for us.

And lastly, let us all pray for those holy souls in purgatory who may have no one to pray for them, so that through our prayers, they too may be helped. And maybe we should also remember even those who have used to be our enemies and treated us badly in life, and are now in purgatory. Let us all forgive them what they have done to us and pray for them so that as what God has said Himself, that He may forgive us our sins just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.

May the Lord, our ever loving and wonderful God continue to love us and bless us, and may He give the holy souls in purgatory a reprieve from their suffering out of love for Him, that they may be reunited completely with Him in the heavenly glory they have yearned for. And may we all too be faithful and be righteous that one day we will also merit the entry into His glorious kingdom. Amen.

Saturday, 2 November 2019 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us. God has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

Saturday, 2 November 2019 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Romans 5 : 5-11

And hope does not disappoint us, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; and we have become just, through His Blood. With much more reason now He will save us from any condemnation. Once enemies, we have been reconciled with God through the death of His Son; with much more reason, now we may be saved, through His life.

Not only that, but we even boast in God because of Christ Jesus, our Lord, through Whom we have been reconciled.

Saturday, 2 November 2019 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 7-9, 13-14

YHVH is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? YHVH is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of YHVH, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His Sanctuary.

Hear my voice when I call, o YHVH, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You, “I seek Your face, o YHVH.” Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my protector, do not reject me; abandon me not, o God my Saviour!

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of YHVH in the land of the living. Trust in YHVH, be strong and courageous, yes, put your hope in YHVH!

Saturday, 2 November 2019 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Isaiah 25 : 6-9

On this mountain YHVH Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain He will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more.

The Lord YHVH will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; He will take away the humiliation of His people all over the world : for YHVH has spoken. On that day you will say : This is our God. We have waited for Him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints as part of what is usually called the Allhallowtide, a period of time when we focus our attention on the matter of life and the life to come, when we look upon the glory of the saints as how we usually celebrate the All Saints Day and also remember our beloved ones who have departed from us, on All Souls Day tomorrow.

On this day, we focus our attention on our great and holy predecessors, holy men and women whom the Church has thoroughly examined and determined to be worthy of the glory of heaven. They are those who have been canonised and declared as saints, as those who are believed to be with God in heaven by the many virtues of their lives, by their faith and dedication to God, and quite a few of them laid down their lives for their faith.

Today as we look upon those virtuous and inspiring predecessors of ours, we must understand well who the saints are, how they can help us in our own journey of faith, and what we can do to emulate their own good examples in our own lives. There are unfortunately many among us Christians who do not truly understand or even misunderstood the role of saints in the Church, and who the saints truly are.

First of all, saints are not equal or similar to gods or deities unlike those of the polytheistic religions or beliefs. We do not worship or adore the saints on the same level as our worship or adoration of God. Many Christians within the Church misunderstood or are confused with this and ended up worshipping the saints and prayed to them as if they are able to help us by their own power and might.

And there are also many outside the Church, both Christians and non-Christians alike who also thought that the saints are worshipped in the manner of the worship of the divine, which is clearly not true at all, and is a gross misinterpretation of our true Christian faith and practices. Instead, the saints are venerated and respected, as those who can intercede and pray for us before God.

It is important for us to take note that while saints are those who have departed from this world into the heavenly glory with God, this does not mean that they have been separated from us. In truth, they are still as much part of the Church as we are part of God’s Church. It is just that unlike us who are still struggling through the challenges and temptations of this world, as those who are part of the Church Militant, the saints of God are those who have triumphed through life and are enjoying the fruits of their virtuous life, as the Church Triumphant.

And as the members of God’s one and same Church, and having once walked on this world as we are now, certainly the saints of God are always thinking of us and praying for us. They want us to join them in the glory of heaven praising God as fellow brothers and sisters in faith. However, they cannot help us on their own power or ability as mentioned, as they are neither gods nor deities.

Instead, when we ask the saints to pray for us, they can then exercise that privilege they have, being closer in the presence of God than us, and having lived virtuously in faith, to ask God for favours on our behalf. This is what true intercession of saints is like, and not as what many have misunderstood in the true intention and purpose of saints in the life of the Church. The saints of God are essentially reflections of God’s light and glory.

There are two ways I can think of in order for us to be able to understand the concept of saints better. Let us all first think of the beautiful stained glasses of our churches, where those stained glasses usually depict the many stories of the lives of the Lord, His blessed mother Mary and also the many saints and martyrs of the Church. Those stained glasses are beautiful, but let me ask this of you, can the stained glass be seen when the whole church building is in total darkness without any source of light at all?

Certainly in that scenario, we cannot see the stained glasses at all, no matter how beautiful they are. They do not give light on their own accord. In the same manner therefore, the saints do not become glorious or mighty by their own power, but rather they embody the power and the glory of God. Just as the stained glass can be visible because of the light that pass through them, thus the saints also reflect the wonderful light of God through their own lives and examples.

God created us all to be beautiful and wonderful, but we have chosen to cover all those beauty and wonders by our sins and rebelliousness, preferring to act in the manner that is contrary to God and His will rather than to obey and follow Him. Compared to the stained glass metaphor again, it is as if we are like the stained glasses that are so filled with dirt and grime that they cannot be seen even with light being all around them.

The saints themselves were not perfect, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were just like us, same with us, as stubborn and sinful as we were, as wicked and unfaithful, unjust and corrupted by sin as we are. But what is most important is the fact that they made a conscious choice in each of their lives to turn away from sin and to embrace God and His ways fully, taking up His cross and followed Him wholeheartedly.

And then now, another way that we can compare or liken the saints to, is like that of a candle that cannot be seen on its own accord in the darkness, for candles cannot produce light on their own. Candles can produce light only when heat comes together with oxygen and the matter of the candle to produce beautiful flame that creates light. This is precisely the light that makes candles very precious, especially in the past before the advent of electrical power.

In the same manner then, let us all see the candles as our own lives. As long as the necessary conditions are not available, or that we prevent those conditions from coming together, the flame will not be initiated and no light will ever be produced from the candles. And thus, as long as our lives are deprived of the necessary conditions for us to be holy and just as the saints have been, we cannot follow in their footsteps.

And what are these conditions? It is the openness to the love and presence of God in our lives, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us from once beings of darkness and sin, into beings of light and filled with obedience to God. And as we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives and transform us by our words, actions and deeds, then we will reflect the light and glory of God just as the saints and holy people of God had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must truly be thankful that we have all those wonderful role models for us to follow, all those many saints and dedicated holy men and women. And the greatest among all these is none other than Mary herself, the ever blessed Mother of God. For Mary is the greatest among all saints and the most wonderful among all of God’s creatures, having not just been the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, but she was also exemplary in her faith and dedication to God all her life.

Mary’s total obedience to the will of God even at the moment of her greatest uncertainty and perhaps even fear, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her bearing the Good News that she was to bear a Child, showed us what true Christian living and discipleship truly means. And she was not just virtuous and righteous throughout her life, but she even followed her Son all the way to Calvary, seeing Him bearing the burden of Cross and having to die for the sake of all mankind.

Mary’s amazing faith and her role as the Mother of God give her the special privilege and status being the one closest to Jesus, her Son in His glory in heaven. This is why many of us Christians have particularly strong devotion to Mary because we believe that as the greatest among all saints and as the one whom her Son loves dearly, she is indeed our greatest intercessor before God, just as she is also the perfect role model for us Christians to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having discussed all these, let us all think and discern how we can make our own lives to be holy like those of the saints. Let us discern how we can allow God to enter into our lives and make us to shine brightly with His light so that we too can be examples and inspiration for one another in living our lives with good faith. Are we able to commit ourselves to God and to His path following the examples set by our holy predecessors?

Let us all be thankful for the wonderful gifts and opportunities we have, in having so many wonderful role models in our saints. Let us all therefore commit ourselves to a new life filled with holiness from now on, living our lives according to how the Lord has shown and taught us to live, following His laws and commandments, devoting ourselves in each and every days of our lives so that one day we too may share in the eternal glory of the saints of God in heaven. May God be with us all. Amen.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”