Saturday, 9 November 2019 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great day and occasion, we together with the whole Church, the entire Christendom rejoice for the Holy Mother Church, because today we mark the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Mother and Head of all the churches of the whole entire world. On this day we mark solemnly the remembrance of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, which is also the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, our Pope.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran was one of the earliest churches to be built after the ending of the official persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, after the Emperor Constantine the Great extended toleration of Christians through the Edict of Milan and soon took up the Christian cause by donating lands and money to support the growing Christian Church, beginning a vigorous program of church buildings, including that of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in the middle of the ancient city of Rome.

A lot of people may not know that the Basilica of St. John Lateran or the Lateran Basilica is actually the Cathedral of the Pope and not the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. Although the latter Basilica is truly of great importance, second only to that of the Lateran Basilica, being the Basilica built over the Tomb of St. Peter and his place of martyrdom and being the largest and most wonderful of all churches in Christendom by architecture and also being the place where the Pope celebrates most of his liturgical celebrations, but it is in the Lateran Basilica that the Cathedra of the Bishop of Rome is placed.

A Cathedral is the mother church of the entire diocese and is the seat of the bishop, as that is where the Cathedra or the official seat or throne of the bishop is placed. Since the earliest days of the Church and also following ancient customs, the seat of authority is the mark of a ruler’s authority and power, and they are also used to denote the teaching and preaching authority in religious context. When Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death, he was also seated on the Seat of Judgement, or Gabbatha in Hebrew.

Similarly therefore, the bishop’s Cathedra is the preeminent symbol of his authority over the whole diocese, and the church where the Cathedra is placed, is called the Cathedral of the diocese, the most important and preeminent of all the churches in that entire diocese. In the same way therefore, the Cathedra of the Popes being located in the Lateran Basilica means that the Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and its most important church.

And Rome being the heart and centre of all Christendom being the seat of the Vicar of Christ as the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle made the Lateran Basilica all the more important, as this particular House of God and church is not just an ordinary Cathedral for any bishops, but is the Cathedral and the primary church of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope himself. As a result, this is reflected in its title being the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, dedicated to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, and also given the additional title of being the Head and Mother of all the churches in Rome and in the whole world.

Therefore today, we rejoice with the whole church for this Dedication anniversary and remembrance of the greatest church and House of God on earth, calling to mind the suffering and the pains endured by the many martyrs of the early Church who had to go through persecutions before the triumph of Christianity and the faith in the time when this great Basilica was built, as a symbol of victory of the true faith over the pagan religions and the false gods of ancient Rome.

And also, we reaffirm our loyalty, obedience and unity to the Church of Rome, to the Vicar of Christ, currently His Holiness Pope Francis, the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the leader of the entire universal Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. By celebrating this Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, we show our unity to the whole Church, and adhering ourselves to the bounds and the rules of the Universal Church as espoused in the divine authority invested in our Popes, seated on his Cathedra in the Lateran Basilica.

This is why we have to keep in mind this unity and this faith we have, which is very important, considering the many bitter divisions of Christians over the past two millennia, bitter divisions that still last to this very day, although efforts had been made towards the reunion of the splintered Church of God. We have to pray fervently and do our best in whatever small ways we can do, to maintain and foster unity among all Christians.

Hopefully one day, soon, the entire Christendom and all those who believe in the Lord will be reunited as one united Church as how it was in the early days of the Church, united under the leadership of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope and Bishop of Rome, together with the entire episcopate, the College of Bishops and all the leaders of the Church. This is why as we celebrate today’s glorious occasion we also have to pray for the unity in the Church and also the unity of all Christians.

And now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all today also called to reflect on ourselves, for one thing that we must also not forget is the fact that each and every one of us are truly also Temple of God’s Holy Presence, where God truly dwells and made us all to be His House. His Spirit He has given to us, and through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, by which He has transformed the essence of bread and wine into His own Precious Body and Blood, we have received Him into ourselves.

Therefore, all of us are God’s living Church, the true Church of God that is even more important than all the physical church buildings we have. For while all those churches are built by men, we are all built by God Himself, and we were made to be good and perfect, had it not been for sins that made us to be defiled and corrupted. And yet, God’s love for each and every one of us is still so great that despite even all of that, He wants to forgive us and be reconciled with us.

And thus, we have to realise just how seriously we have to take God’s love for us, His compassion and merciful heart always directed towards us. If we take very good care of our churches and make sure that only the best are given to God, in our worship and in the careful prescription of the liturgical laws and norms, then we must also show the same attitude and commitment in our own lives as well. For we are all God’s living Church, and He is truly present within us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the famous story of the Lord Jesus clearing the Temple from all the merchants who were peddling their goods and exchanging money in the courtyards of the Temple. In that story, we saw the Lord’s great anger as He chased out all those merchants and overturned all their tables and ceased all of their transactions, all because they have actually defiled the sanctity of the Temple by their actions.

The context of this action was that those merchants were tolerated or were probably even encouraged by the Temple authorities as they were beneficial to each other, with the merchants’ livelihood depending on the presence of the Temple and its many worshippers and visitors and the continuous activities in that Temple. Meanwhile, the Temple authorities, the priests and the elders gained from the presence of the bustling merchant activities as they were the ones who also sold the necessary sacrificial animals to the worshippers coming to the Temple.

However, as they did so, they ended up being greedy and corrupt in their practices, tricking the worshippers coming from afar by being unfair and unjust, as the prophets themselves once foretold, of the wickedness of those who would treat their brethren with contempt and seeking only their personal benefits, overcharging for their goods and services, and gaining plenty of profits from the losses incurred by innocent people who came to the Lord seeking to worship Him.

That was why the Lord was rightfully angry, as He cleared the Temple grounds from all those corruptions as a stern reminder for each and every one of us, that we should not allow those corruptions from defiling our own House of God either, that is the Temple of our body, our heart, mind, soul and our whole being, for God is truly present in us, and He Who dwells in us is all holy and perfect. Should we willingly and consciously defile our own Temple, we shall suffer grievously in the end.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having been reminded that we are all God’s living Church and that we are the Temple of His holy Presence, let us all strive from now on to be righteous and to be faithful in all things. Let us all distance ourselves from sin and from its many temptations, so that while we may fall into sin again from time to time, but by our resolve and by our desire to love God wholeheartedly, we will always remain anchored strongly to God.

Let us all strive to be holy and be exemplary in our actions in life from now on then, so that we may be beacons of light and hope for our fellow brethren, that despite the challenges and darkness in our lives, we will always be focused on God and will be ever closer to Him. Let us all seek to love God and be faithful to Him ever more, with each and every passing days. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 9 November 2019 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 2 : 13-22

At that time, as the Passover of the Jews was at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple court He found merchants selling oxen, sheep and doves, and money-changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the Temple court, together with the oxen and sheep. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers, scattering the coins, and ordered the people selling doves, “Take all this away, and stop making a marketplace of My Father’s house!” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture : Zeal for Your house devours me like fire.

The Jews then questioned Jesus, “Where are the miraculous signs which give You the right to do this?” And Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then replied, “The building of this Temple has already taken forty-six years, and will You raise it up in three days?”

Actually, Jesus was referring to the Temple of His Body. Only when He had risen from the dead did His disciples remember these words; then they believed both the Scripture and the words Jesus had spoken.

Saturday, 9 November 2019 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 45 : 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

God is our strength and protection, an ever-present help in affliction. We will not fear, therefore; though the earth be shaken and the mountains plunge into the seas.

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the City of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells. God is within, the city cannot quake, for God’s help is upon it at the break of day.

For with us is YHVH of hosts, the God of Jacob, our refuge. Come, see the works of YHVH – the marvellous things He has done in the world.

Saturday, 9 November 2019 : Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 47 : 1-2, 8-9, 12

The Man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastward. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the Altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside, to the outer gate facing the east; and there I saw the stream coming from the south side.

He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul-smelling water, the water will become wholesome. Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful; and the seawater will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound.”

“Near the river on both banks, there will be all kinds of fruit trees, with foliage that will not wither; and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop, because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 3 : 9c-11, 16-17

But you are God’s field and building. I, as good architect, according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation, and another is to build upon it. Each one must be careful how to build upon it. No one can lay a foundation other than the One which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the Temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s Temple is holy, and you are this Temple.

Friday, 8 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that in our lives in this world, we will always ever be tempted to walk down the path of sin, following the whims of our desires, the desires of our flesh, the desires for money and worldly possessions, all sorts of things that distract us from God and His ways. And unless we persistently and actively seek to restrain ourselves from those temptations and sins.

Today we listened to the words of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage in which He spoke to His disciples and followers using the parable of the dishonest steward to highlight the importance of dedicating oneself to God and not to other, worldly things. In that parable, we heard of the story of a steward who was dishonest and corrupt in his actions, whose corrupt practices led him to enrich himself off his master’s money.

When he was discovered by his master and was dealt with a notice of dismissal, he panicked and then did whatever he had been used to doing all the while. As we heard how he approached another two servants of his master, we heard how he cunningly manipulated the debts that those two servants had towards his master, a practice that he probably had done all the times while he was still embezzling his master’s money.

The master praised the astuteness of the dishonest servant, but actually if we understood both the intention of the Lord’s use of this particular parable and also the context of the story and the situation, we should see just how sarcastic the master was when he praised that dishonest steward. Essentially he was rebuking the same steward who had been corrupt and showed how that steward was doing whatever he knew how to do, in being dishonest to safeguard himself and his own interests.

Then this leads to what the Lord then continued on, in highlighting how man cannot love two masters at the same time, and how man cannot serve both God and money. He explained saying how if one love one of the masters, then that man will be bound to love the other one less or even despise the other one. Similarly therefore, we cannot claim or endeavour to serve both God and also the ways of this world.

This is a reminder for all of us as Christians that God should be the primary focus of our lives, of our every actions and deeds, of our every effort and considerations. God should be at the very centre of our lives and our existences, and that befits our role and identity as Christians who believe in God and in His salvation and providence. If we do things otherwise, and choose to follow instead the path of worldliness, how can we call ourselves as Christians then?

Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that many of us Christians have not been truly faithful to God as we should have. We have often put God aside in our relentless and continued pursuit of worldly glory and satisfaction, in our desire for money and material goods, for fame and status within the community, for praise and adulation, for pleasures of the mind and the body among many others.

This is where as Christians all of us are called and challenged to be different, and to resist those temptations that had made so many of us to fall into the darkness of sin. It will not be easy for us to resist those many temptations and wickedness, but unless we put conscious effort and do our best to be righteous and good in the presence of God, then it may be difficult for us to embrace our calling fully to live as faithful Christians.

Let us all therefore do our best in our respective lives, for each and every moments, to be followers of Christ by our good examples in life, and by our dedication and commitment to do His will and not just on formality only. Let our faith in God be a great and sincere one, and let us all draw ever closer to Him and to His saving grace. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 8 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him because of fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question, ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 8 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Friday, 8 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Romans 15 : 14-21

As for me, brothers and sisters, I am convinced, that you have goodwill, knowledge, and the capacity to advise each other; nevertheless, I have written boldly in some parts of this letter, to remind you of what you already know. I do this, according to the grace God has given to me, when I was sent to the pagan nations. I dedicated myself to the service of the Good News of God, as a minister of Christ Jesus, in order to present the non-Jews to God, as an agreeable offering, consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This service of God is, for me, a cause of pride, in Christ Jesus.

Of course, I would not dare to speak of other things, but what Christ, Himself, has done, through me, my words and my works, with miracles and signs, by the power of the Holy Spirit – so, that, non-Jews may obey the faith. In this way, I have extended the Good News to all parts, from Jerusalem to Illyricum.

I have been very careful, however, and I am proud of this, not to preach in places where Christ is already known, and not to build upon foundations laid by others. Let it be as Scripture says : Those not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.

Thursday, 7 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are called to reflect on how God has loved each and every one of us so much that every single one of us are precious before Him and He does not want us to be lost to the darkness. Sin has caused us to be separated from Him and has created the chasm and separation between us and God’s fullness of grace and love.

Fortunately, God’s love for us is even more powerful and greater than all of that. That is proven because even though we have committed many acts of sin throughout our lives, He never ceased to reach out to us and calling us to be repentant and to turn away from those sins. He wants us to be cleansed from those sins and therefore become worthy of the fullness of God’s grace and inheritance. He is always on the lookout for us, being concerned for our souls.

This is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about the matter of God seeking His people as being compared to that of a shepherd who is looking for his one lost sheep, or likened to a person looking for a lost coin. In those cases, the shepherd and the person looking for the lost coin would have done all they could to find the one thing they loved and desired the most.

And this ought to be compared with and seen in the light of how God loves us all very dearly and how each and every one of us are precious to Him. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were making vicious and wicked comments on the Lord and His actions when He reached out to those whom the community in general considered as sinners and as people who were unworthy of God. These were the tax collectors and prostitutes, as well as people who were crippled and inflicted with diseases.

The Pharisees were in particular critical of all those people, seeing them as sinners unworthy of God’s help and grace. But in the process they have overlooked the very fact that they themselves were sinners who were equally unworthy and whom the Lord in fact also sought. The Lord came into this world to reconcile all of His people with Him, and even that included all those who had persecuted, hated and ridiculed Him.

That was what St. Paul spoke about in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, in our first reading today, as he reminded all the faithful of how God has extended His loving mercy, compassion and forgiveness to us, in seeking us the lost sheep of His. He came into this world and willingly took up His Cross, and bearing in our stead and for our sake, the mighty and the many burdens of our sins, He died for us that we may live.

The Lord loves us that much that He was willing to endure all of the sufferings of our sake. It was His love, the love of the true and Good Shepherd that allowed Him to go through all of that. Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what then has been our response to God’s love? Have we embraced His love, mercy and forgiveness with the same kind of love and faith? Or have we instead spurned His love and rejected Him?

If we harden our hearts like that of the Pharisees, being so full of themselves and filled with pride and selfish thoughts, then there is going to be hardly any space in our hearts to allow God to enter into our hearts and transform us. Instead, we should humble ourselves and not judge each other by our sins, for ultimately we are all sinners before God. And rather than judging and being condescending to others or comparing our sins and worthiness, we should instead focus on helping one another to live virtuously and righteously in accordance with God’s will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to discern how we will proceed in life from now on, knowing what we need to do in order to be truly righteous and to seek God in all things we do, reaching out to Him Who has always been ready to welcome us back and to be reconciled with us. Let us all do our best therefore to follow God and be obedient to His will from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 7 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 15 : 1-10

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner.”