(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Fourth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 54 : 5-14

For your Maker is to marry you : YHVH Sabaoth is His Name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called God of all the earth. For YHVH has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon His first beloved? says your God.

For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather My people. For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says YHVH, your Redeemer.

This is for Me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will My love depart from you, nor My covenant of peace be removed, says YHVH whose compassion is for you.

O afflicted city, lashed by storm and unconsoled, I will set your stones with turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will crown your wall with agate, make your gates crystal, and your ramparts of precious stones.

All your children will be taught by YHVH, and they will prosper greatly. Justice will be your foundation; tyranny and the fear of oppression will never come near you.

Sunday, 27 October 2013 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 16-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me on that day; and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

At my first hearing in court no one supported me; all deserted me. May the Lord not hold it against them. But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 4 October 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest saints of the Church and one of the most well-known saints that we have. He was the founder of the Franciscan religious order, distinguished by their brown habits and simple lifestyle dedicated to the Lord, and his was also the name taken through inspiration, by our current Pope and Vicar of Christ on earth, Pope Francis.

St. Francis of Assisi is well known for his love and devotion to God, and through his numerous good works and contributions for the sake of the Church of God and His people. He was known to be a miracle worker as well, healing many through his ministry, both physically and spiritually. He was honoured with the presence of the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, on his hands and his feet.

St. Francis of Assisi was born of a rich silk and textile merchant, and lived a life of privilege in wealth and complete sufficiency, with no reason to be worried about his life in this world, having all his needs fulfilled. His father wanted him to continue his business as his heir, but the Lord had a different plan for St. Francis.

One day, when St. Francis was praying in a somewhat dilapidated Church, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Rebuild My Church”. St. Francis misunderstood this as rebuilding the dilapidated church building he was praying in, with leaking roofs and dilapidated walls. Therefore, he went and sold some of his father’s expensive silk clothes and fabrics, and used the money to rebuild that church where God had spoken to him.

His father knew about the incident and he was angry at St. Francis for his actions. St. Francis sought the local bishop for protection and counsel, and when his father complained to the bishop regarding St. Francis’ behaviour, St. Francis chose to leave everything he had ever received from his father, including his clothings. He removed all that and were naked before everyone, and before his father and the bishop. St. Francis gave the clothings and the other of his former possessions to his father.

The bishop, visibly touched by what he saw, covered St. Francis’ naked body with his vestment, and since that day onward, St. Francis abandoned all the former privileges he had in his former lifestyle as the son of a rich silk merchant, and become truly a servant of God and a disciple of Christ. One day, when he prayed, he received a vision of Christ crucified, and miraculously, he received the holy wounds of Jesus on himself, as the first known stigmatist.

As we all know, St. Francis went on to be the founder of the Franciscan order, whose members vow themselves to live in complete simplicity and humility, donning brown robes and sandals to show their commitment both to the Lord and to the poor. St. Francis was well-known for his dedication and service to the least in the society, the poor and the ostracised, the sick and the unloved, following the example of Christ Himself who gave Himself to these people whom many in the society looked upon in disgust and rejection.

St. Francis also championed evangelisation of the Gospel of Christ, and worked hard on his own part, to bring the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it or those who still lived in the darkness. He laboured hard for the sake of God and His people. St. Francis was also well known for his ability to speak to animals, and such is his love for God’s creations, that he also preached to those animals.

In today’s readings, we are urged to realise and know the love that God has for us, and the need for us to be proactive in love, both in loving God and in loving our fellow brothers and sisters. And the need for faith and obedience in God. We cannot be creatures of apathy and evil, but we must be full of love, sympathy, compassion, and faith, both in God, and in one another. That is what the Lord wants from us, and that is what He hopes that we will do, that we, as His children, truly are beings of love, as St. Francis of Assisi himself had done, in his love to all, men, animals, and all creations of God alike.

Therefore, brethren, let us reflect on our own lives, on our own actions and dealings with others, on every word that came out from our mouths and uttered by our tongues, whether they are filled with love, care, and compassion, or whether filled with darkness, viciousness, hatred, apathy, and evil. We are often at unawares that our actions do not reflect love, for either God or for our fellow brethren. We often indulge ourselves with our own selves and immerse ourselves in the depth of our pride and even arrogance, that we neglect others and the Lord, to fulfill our own selfish desires.

We need to open our hearts to love, and following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, to throw aside our sense of vanity and selfishness, to be loving servants of the Lord, to show love in everything we say, in everything we do, and in all our dealings with others and in our dedication to God our Father. Let us take this opportunity to make living the faith we have in God, that we do not end up being just empty in our faith and dedication, but instead having a living and dynamic faith, one that is anchored and strengthened by love.

May the Lord who is love and compassion inspire us to be loving and compassionate as St. Francis of Assisi has done himself, that is to love all men unconditionally, especially those who are poor, rejected, and reviled by the society. We ought to follow his examples and listen to the Lord who heeds us to love, and to follow his commandments, that itself is love. May we remain faithful and loving despite all the oppositions in this world, and despite all the evils and temptations presented to us, to be selfish and to be unloving. God be with us all, always, and may St. Francis of Assisi continue to intercede for us sinners’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the well-known parable on the story of Lazarus the poor beggar and his counterpart, the rich man. We listened to the perils of Lazarus in this life, and after the deaths of both him and the rich man, we again listened to the suffering the rich man endured for eternity in hell.

The story shows the considerable contrast in the reality in our society, both at the time of Jesus and even today in our modern world. The rich lived in great wealth and great comfort, and the poor lived in suffering and a life of deficiency. The rich tends to get richer while the poor tends to get poorer. That is the reality, brethren, even today.

However, it is important to note that, Jesus did not condemn the rich and neither did He condemn their wealth, their money, and their possessions. What He condemned is inaction, the failure of one, whether he is rich or poor, strong or weak, to act, with love, when someone or others around them face difficulties or challenges, which we can help overcome through our actions.

The Lord our God desired that through our actions, we can look at our brethren in suffering, and offer to them a helping hand, and also, our love. That is what He truly wants from us, that we can share the love that He had given us, with one another. This is what the rich man had failed to do in his life. He failed to notice the plight of Lazarus the beggar, the poor man, leaving him to die of hunger, while he feasted every day and every night on endless flow of food and drinks.

Lazarus received his compensation in heaven, for in his suffering, he had built much wealth in heaven, by persevering through life, and presumably, doing what is good in the eyes of the Lord. He was given rest and happiness, in the company of the saints and the angels. On the other hand, the rich man, who feasted without end, and cared nothing on others, received his due, that is eternal suffering in hell.

Therefore, brethren, we are really urged to do something for others, especially those whose suffering and plight can be lessened through the touch of our love, be it in our words or our actions. Let us not be like the rich man, who ignored the plight of the weak, the poor, and the ostracised, and instead let us love them and open our hearts for them.

Today’s readings in fact highlight another important facet of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. In line with the first reading, and the psalm, while we have been cast out of the heavenly glory of God, all because of our sins and faults, He came to give us a new hope, in His saving power, through Jesus His Son, suffering and crucified.

Ever since our ancestors sinned against God, disobeying Him and instead, obeying the words of Satan the deceiver, we have been cast out from the presence of God, because we are unworthy, and because we have hardened our heart against God and His love. His enduring love for us however, continues to burn, with the hope that we may repent our ways and return to Him.

An infinite and uncrossable chasm existed between us and the Lord, and no one could cross this chasm, and we thought that we were doomed to hell prepared for the devil and his fellow rebels, the fallen angels. But God did not intend the hell for us, nor for any of His beloved creations. Yet, many of us throughout the ages failed to escape the snares of hell, falling into temptations of the world and its pleasures, as the rich man had done.

The great suffering in hell is in fact not the flames and heat that torture for all time, as the rich man had endured. That heat is a consequence and a part of the unending suffering that one has to go through, if one does not repent for his or her sins. The main part of the suffering is actually the complete sundering and separation of one from God, of one from the divine love that God has for all of us. That love, which sustains all of us in this world, is no longer there for those who have rejected Him and consequently fall into hell.

Without God’s love and the eternal period of one has to suffer in hell, knowing fully that there is no hope at all to redo what they had done wrongly and what they had failed to do, when they still walked this world. This hopelessness and thus despair, combined with the total separation from God and His graces, are the things that make hell so painful, so unendurable, and so despicable. Brethren, our every breath, and every good things we have, come from the Lord and His love. Can you imagine a state where we are entirely and totally devoid of any form of God’s love, for eternity, and that is hell?

That is why God constantly tried to help us, by sending His messengers through the prophets, to remind mankind of the need for repentance and purification, from the evils and the impurities of the devil inside our hearts. And yet, many of us and our ancestors turned a deaf ear to these reminders, and even slaughtered the prophets of God, spilling innocent blood, and mankind still fell into damnation.

That is why, brethren, He sent Jesus His Son, to be the great deliverance of His beloved children, from the slavery of sin and death, and from their fate of eternal punishment in hell. Jesus is the bridge, the narrow bridge that bridged the infinite chasm existing between us and God, that through Him, we may cross that chasm towards the Lord, our most loving God.

The Lord Jesus Christ  made our crossing towards the Lord possible, but as I mentioned, as much as He is the only bridge, that is the only way to salvation in God, that bridge is also very, very narrow at the same time. As such, the way to the Lord is not an easy one. We tend to face difficulties and challenges along the way, that would make us to detour from our true path, and fall into damnation, if we are not careful. After all, that path is really narrow indeed.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, it must be reiterated that, God loves everyone and cares for everyone, be it that they are poor or rich, weak or strong, beggar or prince, all have a place in the Lord’s plan of salvation. God does not condemn the rich nor their wealth nor their privileges. What He condemns is the lack of charity, by anyone, even among the weak and the poor, for others.

It is these shortcomings, the lack of charity, the lack of love, and the lack of care for one another, which dooms us to failure, as we walk across the cross of salvation, that is the bridge Christ had made upon His death, to bridge the gap between mankind and their Father in heaven. In fact, as Christ had told His disciples, that to those who had been given much, much will also be expected from them. Therefore, as those who have more in terms of possessions and monetary well-being had been given a greater share of grace by the Lord, much is also expected from them, to share their joy with those who lack them, that in sharing, all the children of God will rejoice together as one.

We certainly do not want to suffer as the rich man had suffered in hell, for eternity. The way to the Lord is there, brethren, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but it is narrow. Let us resolve then to proceed on our way towards God without delay, and ensure that we stay on that path, by our faith in the crucified Christ and the Risen Christ, and that faith which is made alive through our love, reflected in our words and actions.

Let us therefore offer a helping hand to anyone around us who are in need of help, giving them the love, care, and attention, following the example of Christ Himself, who had given His complete and perfect love to everyone, to all of us sinners, to even His enemies who cried for His death and those who persecuted Him and the people of God.

May the Lord nurture in all of us, within our hearts, the enduring love and compassion, that from now on we will give our love to our brethren around us, sharing with them our joy and love. And the Lord who sees our obedience and faith, will reward us, with nothing else than eternal life in the presence of God, filled with joy, in the same way as Lazarus the poor beggar, had been treated. God bless us all and remain with us, within our hearts forever. Amen.

Saturday, 28 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Mass of our Lady)

Beloved brother and sisters in Christ, today we continue to listen to the reality of the Lord’s mission in this world, that is to be betrayed by His beloved, to be forsaken, rejected, and finally to suffer death although He is innocent, that through His death, all may gain eternal life in Him.

The Lord had come to be the Saviour of all, the One who bring forth the light of God into the darkened world, and into the darkened hearts of men. Through His coming and saving works, He had brought the hopelessness of mankind in the face of death and sin, into a new dawn of hope, the hope in He who died for all that they may live.

Dear brethren, as the Lord Himself had said, He came into the world to ransom His people, to deliver them from the fate they were to suffer for eternity, all for following the devil and listening to his lies instead of the truths of God. He ransomed all of us, from the hands of the devil, our slavemaster, not through gold, silver, or any form of material possessions and money, but through His own Most Precious Blood, the Blood of the Lamb.

That Blood is blood that saves and purifies, and which washes us clean from the filth of our sins and faults, making us perfect again in the eyes of God. That once we who were unworthy of God and His kingdom, now be made worthy and ready to be accepted again. The Blood shed from the innocent and purest lamb of all, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

He did not resist at all when the chief priests and the Pharisees captured Him and tortured Him. He was indeed like a lamb being led to the slaughter, never complaining and in complete obedience to the will of God, the Father of all. Jesus is our Paschal Lamb, the One who offered Himself as the perfect and acceptable sacrifice to the throne of God.

That He was willing to suffer in place of us for the punishments intended to us, to bear that cross for our sake, and to bear all the humiliations imaginable, just that we may have hope and be saved, should have awakened us from our slumber, from our ignorance, yes, ignorance from the love of God most kind and forgiving,

Without Him, there can be no hope, and without His suffering, all of us will suffer, suffer from the consequences of our sins and of our wayward ways, away from the Lord our God. It is in the suffering of Christ that He shared our sufferings and bore it upon Himself, that we are freed from the weight of that yoke, the yoke of sin. And in His glorious resurrection, He lifted us all up from our old ways, from our old slavery to death, into a new life that He guaranteed through His own resurrection, as One who had conquered death.

Today, we celebrate the feast of several saints, first of which is St. Wenceslas or Wenceslaus, one of the first kings of Bohemia in the early Medieval era Germany, one of the first converts to the faith in that nation, which just a generation before was the nation of pagans and barbarians who ransacked many of Christendom’s countries. Even at the time of St. Wenceslaus, there were still strong pagan elements in the country, opposed to him and his rule as a Christian ruler.

Nevertheless, St. Wenceslaus remained faithful and committed to the cause of the Lord, and was known to be a good and caring ruler, who cared especially for the poor and the oppressed among his people, and worked hard to help spread the faith in the country where he ruled. This of course resulted in opposition to build up from the pagan elements in the society and among the nobles.

St. Wenceslaus was martyred for the faith, when he was murdered on his way to the church by his brother and his noble supporters. While his brother was a Christian himself, but many of the nobles who supported him were not, and they resented St. Wenceslaus’ attempts to bring the faith to them. Therefore, in the defense of his faith, St. Wenceslaus had given his life, and his blood, for the sake of the Lord, for the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of his people.

St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions are the other saints whom we commemorate on this day, also as martyrs of the faith, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord. St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first saint of the Philippines, who was martyred with several others in Japan. He was born in the Philippines during the early seventeenth century, when Spain owned the Philippines. He lived a relatively normal life until he was falsely accused of a crime, which prompted him to hide in exile, which happened to be in a ship bound for Japan.

St. Lawrence Ruiz arrived in Japan at a time of very great difficulty for any of the faithful of the Lord. Although just decades before Japan was truly a ripe ground for evangelisation, which saw hundreds of thousands converted into the faith, during the time of St. Lawrence Ruiz in Japan, the new Tokugawa shogunate government had changed their policy against Christians from tolerance and warmth into an open and vicious persecution.

Christians everywhere in Japan were threatened to abandon their faith or lose their lives through harsh torture and pain. Many recanted their faith following these threats, but equally many persevered in their faith and ended up being martyred, through various methods like crucifixion, beheading, and burning, many of them cruel and painful in nature.

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions were also captured and subjected to these torturous methods, and were asked to abandon their faith in God. They resisted and remained staunch in their undying faith to God. They forsake their earthly life in order to obtain the life in heaven, which is eternal, from the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, after listening to the life stories of these courageous and faithful martyrs of the Lord, who did not shy from even risking their lives for the true faith, and recalling the very sacrifice Jesus had endured on the cross for our salvation, let us then, brethren, be proactive in our faith, no longer sitting down and let what God has given us go to waste, and instead, let us bravely take up our crosses, as the martyrs and saints had done, and go to proclaim to the whole world, the salvation of our Lord, offered to all those who believe in Him.

May the Lord continue to empower and strengthen us, in our mind, body, and speech, that we will be able to be strong and courageous bearers of His holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear the long preaching by St. Paul in the first reading, on the criteria required of one to be the overseer of the people of God, that is in the more contemporary language, means to be bishops and leaders of the Universal Church, including the Pope himself, our leader and the Vicar of Christ.

Just as not anybody can become the ordained ministers of the Lord, that is priests and deacons, therefore, the higher ordained orders demand even greater requirements and even stricter criteria. That is important because, just as the Pharisees and the chief priests had led their people into ruin, the leaders of the Church and their capabilities are essential to lead the people of God into the right way, that is towards the Lord.

If the bishops are improperly chosen, and if the early Church had not carefully decided on whom should be the overseers, there would certainly be chaos and divisions within the Church, damaging the unity and structure of the Church of God. Bishops should be upright men, who placed the Lord first before all other things, and avoid any form of fornication or impurities that may cause them to deviate from the path of truth.

Bishops, the overseers of God’s work, did not have it easy brethren, as they certainly had much oppositions, and also heavy demands and expectations on their shoulders. That was why, St. Paul was very strict in his criteria of who should be chosen as overseers, as bishops of the Church, especially the Pope, the bishop of Rome, whom all believers look up to, as their moral authority in this world, representing Christ Himself.

The people look up to them as teachers and leaders, and uprightness and righteousness are important priorities for the selection criteria, those with commitment to the Lord and dedication to doing good for the sake of others, and for the sake of God, and those with the heart and dedication for service of the Lord and for His people in the Church. Certainly not someone who desires the position because they desire power, money, and privileges attached such positions.

Yes, brethren, we need someone who is truly dedicated and devoted to his position as leaders and shepherds of the faithful. We need good shepherds, modelled after Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, who gave His all to His sheep, that is all of us, fully dedicated to us, and most importantly filled with love for us, those who had been entrusted to Him. The same too, therefore, ought to be expected of those who had been entrusted with positions of authority in the Church.

Yes, loving in the same way that Jesus had loved His people, the people of God, especially those who are suffering, those who are unloved, and those who are rejected by the society. Today, He showed His love to the widow of Naim, who had just lost her son to death. He showed His love to her and to everyone, by exercising His authority over life and death, bringing the son of the widow back to life.

He was so moved with compassion over the sorrow of the widow, who had lost the only one she had possessed in this world, her beloved. The Lord truly understood that feeling. Imagine, brethren! How would the Lord feel, with each one of us lost day by day, to sin and damnation, that is to be separated for eternity from He who loves all of us, without exception. If we suffer from such separation, imagine the wounds that cause to the loving heart of our God.

Therefore, we truly need good and dedicated and loving leaders in this Church of God, to be the ones leading us in our approach towards the Lord. We need someone who follow the Lord and His love for those entrusted to Him, and not someone who will immediately run away at the first sign of trouble, or someone who do not love the sheep and do not put all of his heart and effort to his ministry. For those are the false and bad shepherds, the hired men who care not for those given to them.

However, brethren, this should not just be limited to just our bishops, our priests and those in the position of leadership. It is also important for us, to also follow in their footsteps, emulating the examples of the Lord, and become role models and leaders for one another. It is important for us that we help one another and support one another, that we help each other in our journey towards salvation, guided by our chosen leaders, the priests, and particularly the bishops.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great religious and leader of the Universal Church, as both a Jesuit and a Cardinal. He lived at the era of upheaval in the Church, where heresies and rebellion against the faith were commonplace. St. Robert Bellarmine was appointed to positions of influence and entrusted with much responsibilities. Yet, he did not remain idle, and instead plunged himself into the work, totally committed to his vocation in life, that is to serve the people of God and uphold the truth of the faith.

St. Robert Bellarmine wrote extensively on the matters of the faith, contributing greatly to the advancement and enrichment of the faith in the Church. Through his works and contributions, many people returned to the faith, and his valuable writings remain widely studied even until today. St. Robert Bellarmine supported the Church’s attempt to counter Protestantism through the Countet-Reformation, working hard to protect the Holy Mother Church.

May the Lord continue to shower us with His love, and especially to our leaders, that we all will continue to reflect Christ and His love, love for all of us,  and the love He had once shown to the widow of Naim. Let us be loving and compassionate to our fellow men, showing them the care Christ had shown to us.

Inspired also by the examples of St. Robert Bellarmine, who committed himself fully to his appointed mission, and through his passionate defender of the faith, let us not be ignorant of the suffering of others, but let us empathise and open our hearts to those who need our love. And do not forget to always pray for our priests! Amen.

Thursday, 29 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate a great feast in our faith, that is the Passion of St. John the Baptist, when he died in the prison of King Herod because of his uprightness, his faith, and his courage. St. John the Baptist, as we all know, is a relative to Jesus, the son of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, the Mother of our Lord. He was the one to open the way for Christ and straighten His path in this world.

St. John the Baptist was a truly upright man, who followed the Lord faithfully even unto his suffering and death. He was not even afraid of chastising a king, scolding him for having improper relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. He suffered prison, but he did not fear. He had also suffered rejection, mockery, and doubt, by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who disliked whatever he was doing when he baptised many people in the Jordan, and even questioned his authority.

He stood up courageously and rebuked them as an evil nest of vipers, just as he had in the same way rebuked Herod and his new wife. He feared not human hatred nor opposition, because to Him, it is the love of God that truly mattered to him. His death is part of the Lord’s plan for salvation, that his work in preparing the way for the Lord was then complete, having initiated our Lord Jesus through His baptism at the Jordan, marking the formal beginning of the Lord’s ministry on earth.

St. John the Baptist took his ministry seriously and dutifully, and he truly loved God and was glad of the part he had done in the Lord’s plan of salvation. When Jesus’ ministry began and many people began to come to Jesus instead of John, he was happy and slowly and quietly drifting away into nothingness, while still doing whatever he could to the people who came to him, and directed them to Christ the Lord. He showed true humility, unlike the Pharisees and the chief priests who viewed both him and Jesus as threats to their teaching authority.

Today we are reminded, and indeed urged to do more good and less of the vices, things abhorred in the eyes of the Lord our God. We are urged to follow the examples of St. John the Baptist while keeping away from the vices of Herod and Herodias, wicked people in the eyes of God. Yet, it is very natural for all of us to follow the path of Herod rather than that of John. Why is it so, brothers and sisters? Precisely because we all are weak, weak to sin, open to sin, and vulnerable to sin.

It is most likely that Herodias, even after she was widowed by Philip, the brother of Herod, remained very attractive and beautiful, and that was what attracted Herod to his own brother’s wife, even though as king, he could have had many women as his partner, he chose to follow his urges and desires and chose Herodias. The same can be said of Herodias, the wife. She certainly craved power and authority and wealth that only a king could muster, and that was why she was complicit in the improper relations between her and Herod, her husband’s brother.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded today of the unjust death of St. John the Baptist, messenger of God and the one who prepared the way before the Lord, that we too should be upright, just, and truthful in our lives, in all our words, actions, deeds, and dealings with others, and not be led by our human emotions and even less so to fall into the temptations of the devil and embrace them.

We must not let ourselves be swayed like Herod had done, in promising even up to half of his kingdom to the daughter of Herodias, just because he was fascinated by her and her dance. Lust, passion, and desire can indeed bring us to destruction, just as it had done to Herod. Herod killed the messenger of God, John the Baptist, and therefore incurred for certainty, the eternal wrath of God, all because of the vow he made to the daughter of Herodias, words that came out of desire and lust, which later on came back to haunt him.

Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, follow the example of John, that we will be ever courageous to stand up for our faith, to stand up for what we believe in, to be faithful defenders of the Lord in our increasingly hostile world. Let us not be afraid of saying the truth and live an upright life just as John had done. Guard our emotions and have a strong and healthy prayer life, that the devil will not be able to enter into our hearts and corrupt them, as he had done to Herod.

John showed his disciples that Christ is the Lamb of God, and therefore, today he too showed us to Christ, as the pathway and the only door to salvation. Let us be faithful to Christ our Lord, and be inspired by John His servant and messenger, and let us also adopt his humility, in not seeking human glory and human praise, but seeking the greater glory and praise in God instead. Let us strive to love God more by acting on His will, and do as He wants us, that is to love Him with all our strength and our being, and to give ourselves in love to our brethren, especially those who are unloved, those who are lonely, and those who are abandoned. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 19 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priest)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings, particularly the Gospel, brings our attention strongly on the need for all of us to love and serve the Lord our God, with all our hearts, with all our beings, and with all our attentions and our full, wholehearted dedication. We must never be half-hearted in our love for the Lord, for a half-hearted love is easily shaken, and will open us to harm, to the temptations of Satan and his evil forces, waiting daily to prey on us, and bring us away from salvation promised in the Lord, as he had once done to God’s beloved people, Israel.

Yes, brethren, the people of Israel had fallen into temptation, and had fallen into the worship of the devil instead of the One True God, through their worship of the pagan idols and following pagan practices, such as even the abominable sacrifice of children, licentiousness, and embracing the pleasures of the flesh with great impropriety. Such things had made the people of Israel to sin gravely before the eyes of the Lord their God, who punished them by giving them up to the hands of their enemies, and yes, indeed, they suffered grievously for their rebellion against God and His love.

The people of Israel put their trust in their own power, in their own wisdom, and in their own desires, and therefore, they failed to see that in God lies power, wisdom, and the truth, that they cannot gain through their own power. They have been given much, in the Promised Land God had promised to their forefathers, the land which their rebellious forefathers in the desert after the Exodus failed to gain because of their rebellion against God and Moses, His servant. yet, they repeated the same mistake and once again disobey the Lord their God who had shown them much good and showered them with many blessings.

The people of Israel indulged themselves too much in the pleasures of the land, and the goodness of the promise that God had given them had made them lax in their morality and in their judgments. Therefore, they have fallen into the trap Satan laid for them, and they fell into the pit of sin. Yet, God still loves them, and He did not give up on them, and that was why He sent them redeemers in the form of judges, who, empowered by the blessings of the Lord, and the people of God were saved, even though momentarily.

Yet, the people remained in rebellion, because they continue to open themselves to temptations and the pleasures of the world, the easy life offered to them by their environment, by the world they live in. The same happened to that young man, although he indeed was in better position than the people of Israel in the time of the judges, because he had at least fulfilled the commandments of the Lord. Yes, he did obey the Lord and did not worship the pagan gods, but he lacked the will and determination to follow through with His dedication, and still had his worldly attachment that he could not let go, and therefore, his heart was not entirely with the Lord his God.

It is not that we all have to forsake all our possessions, our wealth, our money, and everything we have in order to follow the Lord. Yes, there is a danger in translating every single words of Christ literally. In fact, Christ was making an analogy and indeed, an example to teach the disciples and all of us, about the importance of loving God and letting no evils corrupt our hearts and our true purpose in this life. We must not be distracted nor deviate from the Lord and His path.

It is very easy for us to be consumed by our desires, fueled especially by this world and its increasing emphasis consumerism. With every advertisements and enticing promotions we see, we read, and we hear in the media and in everywhere around us, our minds can gradually grow to be accustomed to such things that we will certainly grow to desire, if we do not keep our faith in the Lord strong in our hearts. We have been fed with much evils and temptations, all the desires in this world, be it gluttony, lust, greed, or any kind of vices subconsciously through our increasingly commercialised and materialistic world.

Again, it is not wrong for us to have wealth, gadgets, and all the earthly possessions that we do possess now, and may have more in the future. What is important is that we must be able to control them, and make sure that they do not control us in return. These should be our great asset in our daily lives, and use them for the betterment of everyone, ourselves, and even more importantly, others, especially those who lacks, and those who needs our help. What the Lord warns us is that we must not become so attached to our possessions and this world, that they become indispensable and we cannot literally live without them.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. John Eudes, a French missionary and founder of several religious congregations. He was a devout man, who went through much suffering and even illness, in his service to the less fortunate, the poor, and the sick in the society at the time. He promoted the devotion to both the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and through his dedication to them and through his service, he had brought much love to the society, reminding many of the task and the duties entrusted by the Lord to all of them.

St. John Eudes worked hard for the sake of the Lord, and he kept the Lord foremost in his heart, through his strong devotion to the love of God in His most Sacred Heart. He kept the Lord always in his heart, as the treasure of his life. It is an example that we too should follow and emulate, that is to place the Lord foremost in our lives and consider Him as the treasures of our life, the true purpose of our existence.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we hear the example of St. John Eudes and his works, and heeding the words of Christ and the example of the Israelites during the time of the judges, let us remind ourselves of the importance of God in our own lives, and whether we have really loved Him and dedicated ourselves to Him and His cause, that is love for all of us, for the least privileged among ourselves.

Our possessions and wealth are fine as it is, and we need not hate them or shun them, as long as we are able to detach ourselves from them, and do not consider them as essential in our lives. When we begin to entangle ourselves in these things and be ensnared by them, we will most likely will divert away our attention from the Lord, and not only the Lord, but also our brethren who need our love and attention. Let us resolve from now on to continue loving and committing ourselves to God and our brothers and sisters in God, helping one another, loving one another, and praying for one another.

May the Lord who loves us comfort us, strengthen us, and bless us daily at all times, and continue to foster within us, love, compassion, and dedication to His own Sacred Heart, following the example of St. John Eudes and those who followed him, from now on. God be with us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Saints Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 31 : 1-8

When Moses finished telling all Israel these words, he said, “I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I can no longer deal with anything – Remember that YHVH told me that I shall not cross the Jordan River. Now Joshua shall be at your head, as YHVH has said. He, your God, will go before you to destroy these nations before you, and you will drive them away.

YHVH shall deal with these cities as He dealt with Sihon and Og, the Amorite kings, and their land, which He destroyed. So when He has given these nations over to you, you shall do the same, according to what I have commanded you.

Be valiant and strong, do not fear or tremble before them for YHVH, your God, is with you; He will not leave you or abandon you.” After this, Moses called Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel : “Be valiant and strong, you shall go with this people into the land which YHVH swore to their ancestors He would give them and you shall give it to them as their possession. YHVH shall go before you. He shall be with you; He shall not leave you or abandon you. Do not fear, then, or be discouraged.”

Monday, 12 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about the obligations we have in our lives, the obligations we have to this world, to our nations and our states, and most importantly, the obligation we have to the One True God, our Lord in heaven. Today’s Gospel reading is related to the similar case when the chief priests and the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus in His own words, by asking whether the people should or should not pay tax to Caesar as the Romans imposed on all their subject peoples.

Christ answered the Pharisees aptly, and similarly in this case, when He showed His great wisdom and understanding, which shows the same kind of answer presented to the challenge and test made by the Pharisees aimed at trapping Jesus in His own words. Christ showed that we should obey the law be it divine law or the law of the world, by respectively paying what is due to us to each of these laws and fulfill our obligations respectively.

Yes, that means, as in Christ’s own words, what is due to Caesar, give it to the Caesar, and what is due to the Lord, give it to the Lord. If the people of Jesus’ time are obliged to pay taxes to the Romans because of their position as subject of the Roman Empire, then so be it. But even more importantly, they are also at the same time, the subjects, the servants, and the people of the One, True God, and therefore, they too, should serve the Lord their God and give to Him what is expected by the Lord from all of them.

If we pay taxes to our world authorities, our nations and our governments, the analogues we have today with the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, with money, with gold and silver, with worldly possession, then how do we pay our due to the Lord our God? We pay our God with our love, with the love that we pour out of our hearts towards Him, and towards our fellow brothers and sisters, the same children of God. That is what He truly wants from us, the love and dedication from us, and not just mere sacrifice or words.

Our nation, our government had given us much, through money, goods, security, care, and many other ways that they can make our lives in this world more comfortable, more convenient, and more relaxed. Through their works and services we had benefited much, just as what had happened during the time of the Roman Empire. Indeed, the Jews did suffer under the rule of the Romans, but they also enjoyed much from the rule by the Romans.

The Romans brought stability to the region and better livelihood to the Jews, who had been living in a turbulent time, in a region fought between the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great’s Empire. Those who read the Book of the Maccabees will certainly know of the difficulties and struggles faced by the people before the time of Jesus, when the region of Judea was under constant warfare and conflicts. The Romans gave stable livelihood and relative peace to the people that the society of the Jews during the time of Jesus was roughly at peace.

Then, without delving too much into the history of the land, why then do we pay tribute to our Lord and God, the way that we had given tribute to the secular and worldly authorities? That was because just as the governments, authorities, and nations had taken care of us and done good things for us, the Lord our God had done even greater things for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, He had given much to mankind, and He had poured out His love and grace to His beloved people, and not least of all, the descendants of Abraham His servants, that is the people of Israel themselves, whom He cared for and watched from generations to generations. He gave them all that they needed, and He delivered their enemies into their hands to be destroyed, as well as bringing them from the land of their slavery into the land He had promised their fathers. And even when they disobeyed Him and rebelled against His will, He remained faithful and loving to them, and even gave then a new hope, the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

It is therefore to this wonderful and ever-loving God that we give thanks and our wholehearted dedication. It is truly to The Lord that we must give our true allegiance and obedience, to His laws and commandments, superceding any other laws even those of this world. However, this does not mean that we should disobey any kind of worldly authorities that our governments and nations have over us. Instead, just as Christ had done Himself, in advocating to pay taxes to the Emperor and to the Temple, He taught all of us to obey our caretakers in this world as well as our Lord, as long as those caretakers do the duties entrusted to them by God dutifully and do not veer away from the path of the Lord.

Today, brethren, we commemorate the feast of a wonderful and holy saint, that is St. Jane Frances de Chantal. She left all that she had after the death of her husband at the end of the sixteenth century France, and joined the religious life, eventually setting up a religious order on her own, and opened many chapters and branches which works extended to the poor and the unloved ones of the society, giving them love, care, and compassion.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal gave her all in loving her fellow brethren in faith, and she wholeheartedly gave her full dedication to them, and therefore, at the same time, showing her own love and dedication to the Lord our God. That is her way of showing her gratitude and ‘paying her due’ to the Lord. She gave the Lord the wonderful offering of her love, both for Him and for His children, particularly the least of all of them. Yet, she was also dutiful to her own dedication to the society, remaining faithful to the laws of the land, that is the laws of the world.

Through the example set by St. Jane Frances de Chantal, let us be more inspired to do more for the Lord, for our fellow brethren, and for our society, giving our heart, our love, and our dedication to all of them, and in the process making sure that we always put the Lord our God before everything, and always keep Him in our hearts as we proceed with our daily lives and activities. May the Lord who bless us daily and protect us with the power of His hands strengthen us, and renew our faith, our hope, and our love for Him and for all of His people, that is all of us. God bless us all. Amen.