Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture passages we are all called to reflect on those words we received and which we have heard, that we may continue to hold on to the hope we have in the Lord, in His light and truth, and in our genuine desire to be reconciled and be reunited with Him. We are all called to focus our attention on the Lord as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, this blessed time of preparation and renewal that is meant for us to rediscover our faith in the Lord.

We heard in our first reading today the words of the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, in which He spoke of the coming of the good times in the future, the time of His providence and reckoning. God spoke to His people reassuring them on the coming of the days of rest after the long periods of challenges and trials. The Lord will bless all those who have persevered in their faith and those who have devoted their time and effort to love Him and to commit themselves to the works that the Lord has entrusted to them.

Contextually, the people of God at the time of the prophet Isaiah as I mentioned before earlier in the week, had been suffering humiliation, oppressions and challenges from the pressures exerted by the great powers of the region, their neighbouring states and others because of their disobedience, wickedness and lack of faith in God. Those sufferings were the just consequences of their wrongdoings and their fortunes then were at an all-time low. But God did not abandon them and still cared for them.

That was why He sent prophets and messengers to them, to show them the way and to lead and guide them through their journey so that they may know how to find their way to the Lord. God revealed to them that in the end, His love for them shall endure and they shall see His great love being shown at the end. The people of God shall not be disappointed if they place their faith in God, unlike if they place their faith in the worldly things which they hope to give them consolation and support. That is because His promise and grace is everlasting while the world is not.

In today’s Gospel passage we have also heard the Lord carrying out His works and missions all over the whole land, performing miracles, healing many people who came to Him, caring for the needs of those who were searching for fulfilment and longing for His truth. He spent much time and many hours among all of them, showing them how much God loved them and committed Himself to them. The Lord truly remembered His people and cared for them despite their infidelities and wickedness. He has always been patient in reaching out to them and wanting to be reconciled with them.

He mentioned how the harvests of the Lord were plentiful but there were few labourers to collect them. And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that in this world, there are numerous opportunities for us to bring forth the truth of God, His light and hope among many of those who still remain lost to the Lord. God has bestowed on us all Christians with the truth, and He has shown us what it means to be beloved by Him, and it is up to us to do as He has taught us to do.

Many people have yet to believe in God simply because in many of us who are Christians and consider ourselves as such have not truly believed in God ourselves, in our words, thoughts and actions, many of which have shown lack of faith and even things that are contrary to the Divine truth and love of God. This is why we often ended up causing others to turn away from God and even have misunderstandings of God’s works and truths in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to be missionaries and good examples of our Christian faith in our respective societies and communities. Through us and our actions, God reveals His truth to more and more people, and with that, He may touch the hearts and souls of many more people that they may be stirred to follow Him and entrust themselves to Him. And the same can be said to all of us as well, especially those among us who are lukewarm in our faith.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. St. John of Damascus was a renowned Church father and theologian, a monk and teacher of the faith who was well-known for his commitment to God, his piety and dedication to the Lord. St. John of Damascus was credited with a lot of works on treatises of the many aspects of the faith, on our relationship with God, the love and actions of God, as well as the nature of the Holy Trinity and others.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great holiness, his love for God and also concern and compassion for his fellow brethren. He was indeed a role model for many Christians through his words, works, actions and many other examples of his virtues. He was also most influential in the opposition against then raging heresy of iconoclasm which was supported by the Emperor of the Roman Empire and the highest echelons of those who were in power, even among the clergy.

Through his passionate defence of the truth of God, his commitment to God and his truth, his tireless efforts and works, among all the many other contributions he had made, we all can see how we ourselves can become model Christians ourselves, in what we do, in what we act and say, so that in all things, we may indeed be exemplary and be inspiration to others just as how St. John of Damascus is an inspiration to us and many others out there.

Let us all seek the Lord, our loving God with renewed faith and zeal. Let us all grow ever more in faith and devotion, following the great examples set before us by St. John of Damascus and the many other holy men and women of God. May the Lord be with us all in our journey and may we all put our trust more in Him, Who alone is our hope and light. Amen.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great saints of God, one of His most faithful and dedicated servants in delivering the truth of the Gospel and the Good News of God’s salvation to the far-off lands, spending much of his life, his time and effort to spread the Word of God in many distant shores, enduring trials and challenges for the sake of the Lord, and for the many people to whom he had endeavoured to bring God’s truth, light and hope.

St. Francis Xavier was born in the Kingdom of Navarre in the early sixteenth century, at the town of Javier, then known as Xavier, which was to become part of his name. He was born as a son of the seneschal or court official of the Xavier castle, and his family became embroiled in the war of conquest that the king of Aragon and Castile waged for the control over the dominion of Navarre. It was at that same war that St. Ignatius of Loyola experienced his life-changing conversion which led to him later on establishing the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, which St. Francis Xavier himself would later join.

St. Francis Xavier encountered St. Ignatius of Loyola and another future Jesuit saint, St. Peter Faber during his studies in Paris. It was there that St. Ignatius of Loyola, who had gathered ideas to establish a new order dedicated to serving the Lord and His Church, persuaded St. Peter Faber to become a priest. However, St. Francis Xavier was initially not convinced by what St. Ignatius of Loyola had told him, as he was still considering and desiring worldly advancement and glory, something that St. Ignatius of Loyola himself was once longing for.

Eventually, according to one tradition, after St. Ignatius of Loyola asked him, in the words of the Lord Himself, ‘What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’, these words left a great impact on St. Francis Xavier. He eventually decided to join with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Faber and some other men to establish the Society of Jesus, vowing chastity, poverty, and obedience to the Pope, committing themselves to the missions of the Church. The Jesuits were involved deeply in the Counter Reformation efforts in Christendom and also in the missionary efforts to the newly discovered foreign lands in the Americas, Africa and the Far East.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those tasked with the mission in the newly discovered lands, as he was sent along with Portuguese explorers upon the request of their ruler, who was concerned that the Christian faith was being eroded among them. He was therefore sent to the mission, and he never returned to the lands that he came from. He spent most of his life in those territories, travelling from places to places, preaching about God among the Christian populace who were already there and also revealing Him to many others who have not known Him yet.

He travelled the long journey to India, to Malacca and explored the Malayan Archipelago, visiting many islands and communities, braving through storms and dangers along the journey, in very tough living conditions. He had to learn the local languages and brave through opposition from the local populace among many other hardships, but all of that did not discourage St. Francis Xavier from doing his best to serve the Lord and His people, committing himself to more and more efforts at evangelisation and outreach.

He went further to Japan and other far-flung islands, helping to establish the foothold for the Christian faith and Church in all those places. He worked tirelessly in explaining the faith to the local people and was involved in establishing diplomatic relationships with the local rulers. St. Francis Xavier also wished to go to China, his ultimate destination to evangelise to that great nation, but he did not make it as while waiting to enter China at Shangchuan Island he passed away. Nonetheless, his efforts and determination had helped the cause and the works of the Church greatly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the life story and works of St. Francis Xavier, surely we know why he was made the Patron Saint of Missions, for all missionaries and all those who dedicated themselves to the great works of the Church’s evangelisation and outreach. But even more important as we recall his great works and contributions, is the need for us to remember that each and every one of us are also called to be missionaries and to contribute to the great work and effort of the Church in whatever way we can.

We are not just mere idle players that have no part in the works of mission of the Church. And we should not think that only missionaries, priests, religious brothers and sisters that are involved in the works of evangelisation and the work of the Church. All of us, each and every one of us are part of this work of evangelisation even through the very smallest things we do and act on in our respective lives. And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is through our own commitment throughout life.

In even the smallest things we do on each day, each and every one of us should live our lives in manner as Christian-like as possible, and we must really live our lives in accordance to the path that Our Lord has shown us, through His teachings and truth. That is how we make others to come to know God. It is not by mere words that we can convince others to believe in God but also through our real action, as we heard in our Scripture passages today and from the life and example of St. Francis Xavier, our holy patron of missions.

May the Lord be with us all and may He encourage us all to live our lives as faithful Christians so that we may be great missionaries in our everyday living moments. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must place our faith and hope in the Lord, and in Him alone. We should not easily be distracted by temptations and by fear to abandon God for other false idols and other false assurances of this world. Through what we have heard today we are again reminded that despite all the challenges that we face in this life, we can always put our trust in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke to His people through Isaiah regarding the Lord’s providence and glory, all that He has done for His beloved ones and how He has trampled on the mighty and the proud, all those who have disobeyed Him and oppressed His people. And He spoke of these things not based on mere words alone, but He Himself has shown it with real actions throughout history.

God has showed His power to the people of Israel, long before the days of Isaiah, as we all knew, how He liberated the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, how He delivered them from their slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them out free through ten great plagues that He sent to Egypt for their constant stubborn refusal to let the people of God go. And surely we all also know of the story how God opened the Red Sea and made His people walk on the dry seabed and crushed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent after them.

God has always guided His people throughout history despite their history of constant disobedience and rebellions against Him, by sending His servants, the Judges and the leaders and messengers that He had given His people to lead and guide them all to Him, to help them to live righteously according to the Law that He had given and revealed to them, and the Covenant that He had made with them. He has remained faithful and committed to His Covenant and sent them messengers and prophets to remind His people to do the same.

Then, during the time of the prophet Isaiah himself, God has shown His love and providence for His people yet again. The forces of the Assyrians and their king, which had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as the Arameans and other great nations that had troubled the people of God for a long time, came to Jerusalem and other cities of Judah, besieging them with such a mighty force that there could not have been anything for them to do but to be defeated or to surrender.

Yet, while previously the people had depended on other means, on alliances and other means of this world to protect and provide for themselves, and all these failed, God came and listened to the prayers of His faithful ones, of which Isaiah himself was present in that occasion, and it was written that God sent His mighty Angels to destroy the whole army of the Assyrians overnight, that out of such a great host little remained, and the king of Assyria had to return to his homeland in shame.

All of those examples and proofs were more than sufficient to show that God is indeed a sure assurance and a solid bedrock for us to depend on and to build our foundations on, just as we listened to the Gospel passage today of the famous parable of the Lord on the foundation of sand and the foundation of solid bedrock. That parable is a reminder to all of us that we must not depend on things that are not fully trustworthy, and in God alone we can be fully committed without fear.

In our fast changing world today, especially for the past two years or so, we all know how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted our world and most of our society, wherever we are in the world. The world that we once knew was gone. The security and iron bowl that many of us had once had, are now no more, and many people, as we knew, lost their jobs and livelihood during the pandemic, and many more were affected in the months that passed.

Even to this day, while there are increasingly more glimpse of hope and light at the end of the darkened tunnel, but there are still many uncertainties and there are still many fears that we have. Many of us fear of falling sick and dying, and many of us fear losing our loved ones and friends. Many of us fear losing our job and livelihood, and many of us fear of how the world will turn out to be, and how next year, next month, next week and even tomorrow will be like for us.

Today, through what we have heard in our readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded that we have to trust the Lord more. The things that we used to depend on may have failed us, but God will not fail us. We have to persevere and have trust in Him, knowing that in the end, no matter what challenges and trials we may face, we shall triumph in the end together with God, Who will always remember those who are faithful to Him.

And what is important for us to do now is for us to help one another, to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our God and Father. To each one of us, God has given unique talents, capabilities and opportunities, and in this pandemic and unfortunate situation that we are facing now, we are all called to be less selfish and more caring towards one another, to share whatever excess we have for those who have less or even none.

We must remember that even in the midst of our misfortune, there are still many others who are facing even greater misfortunes. We must help one another and love each other, and not be divided and be selfish in our actions. For we may not realise it, but in fact, God is working through us, through our seemingly small and little actions of love, to show His love and providence to us. He has called us in our hearts and minds to do these, but are we all willing to respond to His call and do as He asked us to do?

Let us all discern carefully how we can be more Christ-like in our actions and how we can be more generous in giving and in sharing our love with one another especially during these difficult times that we are all facing now. Let us all put our faith in God, our solid foundation, and help one another to rebuild ourselves, our families and our world, together with the grace and blessings of God. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the accounts of God’s love and presence, His providence and genuine care for each one of us. God has reminded us all of this fact as we embark on this Advent journey, preparing ourselves in our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into our existence and lives. Thus, we are all called to renew our love for Him and our faith in Him, remembering just how much He has loved us first.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which we heard how God promised His people through Isaiah that He will always provide for them and that He will bring about His salvation and eternal happiness to those whom He loves. He will gather them all from among the nations and bless them, where they shall have no more fear and doubt, as they enter into the kingdom that God has prepared for all of them. This is the assurance that the Lord had given to all of us.

At that time, the prophet Isaiah was ministering to the people of the kingdom of Judah, who had suffered for a long time under oppression and wars from their neighbours and other great powers. The old days of great glory of the kingdom of David and Solomon were long gone, and their very existence as a nation and people was under a great threat, just as how the northern kingdom of Israel, composed of the ten separated tribes oft the Israelites, had been crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians.

The same Assyrians also almost did the same to the kingdom of Judah, having brought their full might to Jerusalem, besieging it and almost conquering it if not for the Lord’s most gracious intervention. The Lord listened to the prayers of his faithful, the king of Judah, Isaiah, who himself was also there and the people of Judah, sending His Angel to wipe out the entire mighty army of the Assyrian king overnight. Thus, God saved His people and provided for their need at the hour of their greatest need, showing His love and dedication to us.

In today’s Gospel passage we then heard of the works of the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour, Who had been sent into this world to be the bearer of our salvation. The Lord Jesus healed many people and performed many wonders, and He taught the people with such authority, bringing them message of the Good News and the salvation in God, that many flocked to Him, in the thousands and more even though He was doing His works in the wilderness far from the cities and towns, because of the opposition from the Jewish leaders.

And it was also there that the Lord performed one of His most well known miracles, when He fed the multitudes of people gathered there, with just a few loaves of bread, seven of them, and a few small fishes. There were thousands of people over there, and that have not even counted the women and children that came along as well. The Lord again showed us all His love and providence, in caring for the needs of those who have sought Him and wanted to be with Him. He blessed them, gave them food and nourishment, breaking the bread and miraculously giving them enough food to satisfy the whole multitude.

This is part of the fulfilment of what we have heard earlier on from the passage of the prophet Isaiah, of God fulfilling His promise to provide for the needs of His beloved ones. And yet, this was not the only thing that God would about to give us. He did not just feed His people with food and make them physically nourished and satisfied, but even more importantly, He gave them spiritual nourishment and provision through His Good News and truth. And that is just a foretaste of what all of us shall receive in the end, in the everlasting kingdom of glory, the heavenly joy that the saints and martyrs already enjoys in their beatific vision and graceful state.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, and as we are reminded of the love and faithfulness of God that He has shown to us all these while. The Lord has provided for us and He is always ever concerned about us, and wanting to gather us all into His loving presence. But more often than not, we are really very stubborn in refusing to listen to Him and obey Him. We prefer to follow our own paths and trust in our own flawed judgments without contemplating God’s Wisdom and guidance.

Nowadays, all of us are faced with many tough challenges and trials in life. This year and the past year we have faced a lot of uncertainties and many among us had experienced suffering and even loss of our loved ones due to the impact of this still ongoing pandemic, not withstanding its impacts on the economy and our society. Many among us face depression and many are struggling on daily basis, with the end of suffering nowhere in sight yet. Many of us are worried if our livelihood will be alright and if tomorrow will be good for us. This is where we need to have more trust in the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us not doubt God’s providence any longer. He has always been with us from the very beginning and all throughout our darkest moments. But we are often too busy and too distracted by our many fears, concerns, insecurities and doubts that we ended up not realising that God has been with us, journeying with us and providing us all that we need along our journey. He sent us our fellow brethren whom we meet along the way to encourage us and strengthen us, and that is often how God works wonders in His most mysterious ways.

Therefore, all of us are called and challenged to be loving Christians in our every actions and in our every interactions with one another. We are all called to bring hope to each other, to strengthen and accompany one another, especially those who are depressed and downtrodden, all those who had no one to cheer them up and to journey with them. Let us all do whatever we can to remind each other that God is always by our side, and through each one of us, He has also shown His companionship and love, through how we as Christians care for our fellow brethren in need.

Let this Advent season be a time of reminder for each one of us that we prepare ourselves not just to celebrate Christmas but also to truly welcome the Lord into our hearts, by devoting our time, effort and attention to live a most wholesome and genuine Christian life, for each and every one of us to do whatever we can to serve the Lord, and to be faithful and obedient to Him, at all times. May God be with us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and give us the gift of Hope and Wisdom, that we will always stay faithful to His path, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles and in fact the first one among them to be called, that is St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Simon, who was later known as St. Peter the Apostle, leader of all the Apostles and the Church. St. Andrew was according to the tradition, one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of his disciples that decided to follow the Lord right after He was baptised at the Jordan.

As such, he was the first one of the Apostles to be called and to respond to that call, which is why he is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called. Through him, he likely introduced his brother Simon, the later St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee to the Lord. They were all fishermen at the Lake of Galilee where they worked and laboured every day. The Lord came by there after His baptism and preparation in the desert, calling the first of His disciples to follow Him.

As one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Andrew was a close confidant of the Lord and was present in much of the Lord’s works and ministry, and he was also present at the most important events in the work of God’s salvation. Receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he was empowered and strengthened to carry out the mission entrusted to him and many others to spread the Good News of God to all the nations and peoples.

According to Church tradition and history, St. Andrew went to far-off regions including the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus, in what is today Ukraine and Crimean region, spreading the Christian faith and the Good News of God to places as far as the northern reaches of Russia. He also went to Greece and other places in the vicinity, helping to build the foundation of the Church in those places. By tradition, during his journey, he also established the foundation of the present day See of Constantinople, then known as Byzantium at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

That is why St. Andrew is regarded as the Apostolic origin of the current Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the second most important See in Christendom and also the leader of our separated brethren in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Andrew meanwhile was arrested and martyred in the city of Patras in the Peloponnesus region of Greece, for his perseverance in evangelisation and preaching the Good News among the pagans and many people. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross which is now popularly known as St. Andrew’s cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the life, work and ministry, the faith and dedication showed by St. Andrew in his mission and life today on his feast day, in fact all of us are also called to reflect on our own lives and our own mission that has been entrusted to each one of us as fellow disciples of Christ. What St. Andrew had done in his life and ministry is part of the greater works and efforts of the Lord through His Church to bring His truth, salvation and Good News to more and more people, and this work is still far from being done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord has called His disciples and Apostles from various backgrounds, empowered them and gave them the mission to evangelise the Good News, then through our baptism we too have been called to be missionaries of our faith, the faith that we have in the Lord and which we are all called to share with zeal and conviction, and with genuine desire for the salvation of souls and for the love of our fellow brothers and sisters. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the commitment to follow the Lord and to do His will in our daily lives?

St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of are reminded of the faith we have in the Lord and the salvation and wonders that we have received with full assurance from Him. And he reminded us all, the faithful that those who bring with them the message of God’s Good News and truth will be blessed, and God’s grace will be with them. It means that despite the trials and challenges that we may face in our journey as Christians and despite the obstacles we may encounter in our mission as faithful servants of God, we must not be easily disheartened by setbacks and sufferings.

God will be with us and He will be by our side, providing for us and our needs, and even if we suffer, we suffer together with Him, He Who Himself has been persecuted for the truth, and Who had suffered and died for our sake. We do not need to be afraid and be hesitant to stand up to our Christian faith and beliefs, and instead we should inspire one another not just with words, but through genuine actions and commitment in our daily living. After all, it is not by our own power and might that we do the work of God successfully, but God Who empowers us to be His instruments in this world.

Let us all entrust ourselves to the Lord and His providence, and remembering the faith and courage with which St. Andrew, Holy Apostle of Our Lord has laboured hard for the glory of God and for the salvation of all His people, may all of us be inspired to follow in his footsteps and be ever more committed to live our every moment with genuine and devout Christian faith. Let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves wholly, to be worthy to welcome the Lord into our midst, from now on and always. Amen.

Monday, 29 November 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to have faith in the Lord, in Whom alone is our salvation and glory, and through Whom we shall receive true happiness and joy, true satisfaction and fulfilment, for the Lord is our Hope and our Light, the Light of our salvation and our redemption. As we enter into this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on this truth and redirect our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.

Today in our first reading we heard from the passage in the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord spoke to Isaiah regarding the coming of God and His salvation to His people, Israel and all the nations, in the vision that He has given to Isaiah, then a prophet working in the kingdom of Judah. At that time, the land of Judah was in turmoil and far from its past glory days during the glorious reigns of King David and King Solomon. The northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed by the Assyrians and their king, and its cities destroyed, its population mostly brought away into exile in far-off land.

Then the kingdom of Judah was also attacked by the same Assyrians, just as they had endured centuries of humiliation and hardships under attack from their neighbours and other great powers of the region. The kingdom and people of Judah themselves would later on be crushed by the Babylonians over a century after the time of the prophet Isaiah, due to their continued disobedience of God and refusal to repent from their sinful ways. But as we heard from the words of the Scriptures today, that despite all these, God actually still loved His people.

He loves all of us and although we are sinners, He does not despise us, but rather our many sins. The fact that He still sent His prophets, messengers and many others to His people, including that of Isaiah and speaking the words that we have heard today, the promises of the coming of God’s glory and kingdom, the coming of His salvation and days of rule over all the nations are proof enough that God cares for all of us, without exception. Had He despised all of us, He could have erased us all from existence and condemned us all immediately into hell without giving any of us a chance for repentance and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is an important truth that we must realise as we enter into this holy season and time of Advent, a time for purification and reorientation of our lives, a time for discernment and self-introspection that we may find our path in life going forward, ever closer to God. We must have faith in Him and hold on fast to that hope and faith that we have in Him, and believe that in God alone is our salvation, and that He alone is our Hope and our desire, through our repentance and the forgiveness of our many sins.

In our Gospel passage today that we have heard earlier on, we should be inspired by the faith of the army centurion or the officer whom the Lord met in His way. The army centurion had heard about the Lord and His miracles and power, and being an army officer, he likely must have been a Roman, whom as an officer was an even more prestigious member of the community. As a high-ranking persona, he had no need to humble himself, and yet that was exactly what he did before the Lord and everyone.

He asked the Lord to heal his beloved servant, who was very sick to the point of death, and he believed wholeheartedly that the Lord has the power to heal his servant. His faith was such that he did not need to see or witness the Lord performing the healing, and humbling himself before the Lord by saying that he was unworthy to welcome the Lord in his house, likely due to the common belief among the Jews at the time that one should not enter the house of a Gentile or risk becoming impure, the army officer asked the Lord to say and to command that everything is to be as He said.

This was a genuine faith that the army centurion had in the Lord, believing without even seeing the action, as compared to many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had seen many of the miracles and yet, still refused to believe and stubbornly opposing the Lord and His works. The Lord then praised his faith and commanded that everything be as He said, and true enough, later on the army centurion’s servant was healed, and it was likely that after this, the army centurion’s faith in the Lord became even firmer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to have the same faith as showed by the army centurion? Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly in the same way, to believe in Him and the Hope that He has brought unto us, and not be distracted by the many temptations found in this world? We are all challenged to have deeper faith in the Lord and to discern our path in life as we enter this blessed season of Advent, so that we may truly be ready to welcome the Lord, not just for Christmas, but for the time when He comes again one day, to claim us all as His own.

Let us all make our Advent season to be a blessed and most fruitful one, by committing ourselves anew to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the perfect manifestation of God’s Love in our midst. Let us seek the Lord wholeheartedly and sincerely repent from our sinful ways, abandoning our wicked and evil ways and desires, turning away from those and be reconciled with our most loving God and Father. May God bless us always and may He remain with us, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 28 November 2021 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the beginning of a new liturgical year and more significantly, the beginning of the season of Advent, the time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, which we are going to celebrate in about four weeks’ time. This season of Advent is a blessed and great time for all of us to reflect, take a step back and see how our lives have been, and how ready we are to welcome the Lord into our hearts and families, into our lives this Christmas.

If we all walk around and see the shopping malls and many other places, we would have seen the Christmas decorations are already up in full force, in some places even as early as from September onwards. We surely have heard the usual Christmas songs and the festive mood being all around us, with Christmas sales and shopping on the upswing literally everywhere. But before we jump into the craze and start to be swallowed by that Christmas festivities, let us all remind ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, what Christmas is truly all about.

Christmas is not about all the bling and the festivities, all the glamour, food and drinks, all the merrymaking and songs. What is Christmas, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is, just as its name says, something about Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It is a celebration that is about and should be focused on Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Saviour of the world, Our Lord and King, Who unfortunately have often been sidelined and even excluded from His own celebration. It is the celebration of His birth into this world, the moment when He revealed Himself in the flesh to all, after having spent nine months in His mother’s womb.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah regarding the salvation that God would send His people Israel, a liberation and redemption for the people of Judah and the descendant of the Israelites coming from the House of David, the Shoot of Righteousness and the Shoot of Jesse. This was the same prophecy and revelation that the Lord had given through His other prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah’s predecessor.

Contextually, at that time the prophet Jeremiah lived in the last years of the kingdom of Judah when it was about to be destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians. For many years, the kingdom and the people of Judah had been beset by various troubles and crushed by their neighbours and enemies. They had not been faithful to the Lord and did what were wicked in the sight of the Lord and men alike. Thus, the Lord meted out His justice and punished their wrongdoing, and they had to endure those sufferings and humiliation as a result of their infidelities.

However, at the same time, God still loved them all wholeheartedly, and ever since the beginning, just as all of us mankind had fallen into sin, He had never given up on us. He has always reached out to us, calling on us to return to Him, sending to us prophets and messengers to reveal His message of truth and love, calling on all of us, His beloved people, to turn away from our wicked and sinful ways, embracing His mercy and compassionate love, and find reconciliation through Him. In that same way, God sent Jeremiah to the people of Judah to deliver the message of Hope.

Christ is the fulfilment of this prophecy that the Lord has given His people through all the ages, the perfect fulfilment of God’s promises and the manifestation of His Love. Through Christ, a world in darkness has seen a great light, that is the true Light of Christ, the Light of His Hope and salvation. And it is this Hope that we are focusing at on this First Sunday of Advent today. Each of the Sundays of Advent has a specific theme to prepare us for the coming of Christmas, which in order is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Thus, we open this season of Advent with a firm reminder of the Hope in Our Lord and His salvation.

Just as Jeremiah was sent to the people of Judah at the time of their darkest moments to remind them of God’s light, truth and hope, thus all of us are reminded that in Christ lies our true Hope and He is the One that all of us should be heading towards and focusing on, and not on the glamours and excessive celebrations that are not focused on Christ but rather on ourselves and our greedy desires. We must ask ourselves, when we celebrate and rejoice this Christmas, do we rejoice because of Christ and the Hope and Salvation that He brings, or is it because of our own desire for self-indulgence and pleasure?

Today we listened in our Gospel passage today the words of the Lord Jesus Himself to His disciples from the Gospel of St. Luke, which spoke of the end of times and the coming of sufferings for those who are faithful to God, which we have heard in the past week at the end of our previous liturgical year. It is a reminder for us that just as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, which marks the moment of the Lord’s first coming and appearance in this world, two millennia ago, we are also called to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Second Coming, which will happen at the end of days.

The Lord has told His disciples and all of us to be prepared for the coming trials and challenges, to be ready for His coming whenever it will be. No one knows the time of His coming and no one has any idea when everything will happen as the Lord has told us, but it will surely happen and we have to be prepared for it. Otherwise, we may realise that we are caught unaware and unprepared, and have an eternity of regret when we are judged to be lacking in faith and are cast to the eternal damnation and darkness. And it is not because God did not love us, but rather because we ourselves have rejected Him and His generous offer of love and forgiveness.

The Lord has reminded us of this so that we may prepare ourselves well and be ready to welcome Him when He comes again. This Advent, all of us are reminded of this reality and that Christmas is not all about merrymaking, partying and excesses in our feasting, jolly making and the gifts and other things we usually associate with Christmas. Instead, it is a time for us to be truly joyful knowing that the Lord has loved us so much that He has given us our Hope and Salvation in Christ, Who was incarnate in the flesh and born the Son of Mary in Bethlehem.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we prepare ourselves this First Sunday of Advent let us all reflect deeply on the Hope that Christ has brought to us by His coming into this world. Let us rediscover the true Spirit of Christmas, not one of excesses and greed, not one of unbridled feasting and desire to outdo one another in opulence, but rather a renewed faith in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And it is important that as we prepare ourselves this Advent, we also begin a journey of self-rediscovery, to rediscover our faith in God and to realise that newfound Hope that we have in Him, that no matter how difficult and challenging our lives may be now, the Lord will always be by our side and will provide for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves well, in heart, body and mind so that we will be ready to welcome the Lord in our hearts, into our families and houses, and make Him truly the King of our entire existence. Let us all be the bearers of His Hope and Light, His Truth and His Love to our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. Let us be the witnesses of His loving kindness by showing that same love and generosity to our fellow men, especially to those who are lacking in love and ostracised, the poor and the needy.

May our Advent journey be meaningful and fruitful, and may God be our guide and strength, our compass and light, our hope and courage in the midst of the darkness and trials in this world. May God bless us all and strengthen us, that our Advent preparation and our upcoming Christmas celebrations will be truly wonderful. Amen.

Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day on the last day before Christmas, the last of the season of Advent, we are yet reminded again of the Lord’s promise that He will be with us and provide for us just as He has promised and reassured His servants in the past, like how He had reassured David, the king of Israel as we heard in our first reading, and how through Zechariah, filled with joy at the birth of his son St. John the Baptist in old age, proclaimed the Lord’s glory and providence.

In our first reading today, we heard the Lord speaking through His prophet Nathan to king David, when the king had already been secure in his reign and the Lord had delivered to him the rule over all the Israelites and over their neighbours, after many wars and conflicts that happened earlier. King David wanted to build a proper House and Temple for the Lord’s presence and worship, as at that time, the Lord was still dwelling in the Ark in the Holy Tent of Meeting. He did not feel quite right that he dwelled in a great palace while the Lord dwelled in a mere tent.

But the Lord had a different idea and He told David that it would be his son, the king Solomon who would build the House and Temple of His presence, and thus was how the famous Temple of Solomon was built all those years ago. The Lord promised and reassured David at that occasion that his reign and throne will be forever secure, and all of these have indeed been fulfilled completely through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Heir of David and Saviour of the world, King of Israel and King of Kings born and celebrated on this Christmas day.

That is why, today, together with Zechariah’s joyful proclamation, as he was filled with the Holy Spirit, of the joy of seeing the Lord’s glory and salvation, we are called to reflect again on the joy of Christmas that we are going to celebrate beginning tonight and throughout the Christmas season. We have been preparing for this throughout this season of Advent, and we should ask ourselves whether we have prepared ourselves properly and well?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Christmas comes amidst a most unusual year and a most unfortunate moment for many of us. This year had been a very challenging one, as many people had suffered and even lost their loved ones to the pandemic, to the racial, social and national instabilities and troubles we have heard and witnessed throughout this year. Many are still suffering and indeed, not in a position to celebrate in any way this Christmas.

This is when our understanding and appreciation of what Christmas is truly about ought to be challenged and changed. Christmas should no longer be about ourselves, about our glamorous and lavish parties and revelries, of large gatherings and gift exchanges, and neither should Christmas be about those gifts and many other things usually associated with Christmas.

Instead of all these, let us all remind ourselves and one another that even in this darkness, all of us should and ought to celebrate Christmas indeed, with all of our hearts and with all of our might. Why is that so? That is because Christmas is the celebration of Hope, the coming of the Light of Christ that will dispel the darkness and the evils in the world, as what we know had happened through His coming into this world two millennia ago.

And then, even more significantly, the Lord promised us too that He will come again, and in Christmas we therefore do not just celebrate the past and historical coming of the Lord, but also the future coming of the Lord in the end of time, when the Lord will gather all of His beloved and faithful ones to Himself, and wipe away all of our tears and sorrows. There shall be no more suffering, pain and darkness, and only the light, hope, peace, joy and the love of God in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we look forward to this blissful time, and we should embody this attitude in our actions and in how we celebrate Christmas. This year, a most difficult year, is coming to an end, and so, let us now renew the hope in one another, by showing the Light of Christmas, the Light of Our Lord and Saviour in the midst of all these darkness, by celebrating Christmas with Christ at its very centre.

May the Lord bless our Christmas celebrations, and may He bless us always, in our every faithful and good endeavours. Let our Christmas be truly joyful and be truly blessed, and may God bless this darkened and sickened world, and may His light dispel all the darkness of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the servant of God sent before the coming of the Messiah, that is St. John the Baptist, the one to announce the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, and the one who would prepare the way for Him, as prophesied by the prophets and as promised by God to His people.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Malachi, of the promise of God regarding the sending of the messenger who would come ahead of the Lord Himself to clear the way and prepare the path for His coming, who would be like the prophet Elijah, whose faith had been tested by fire and trials, and whose works would lead many people to the Lord.

The prophet Malachi was one of the last prophets of the Old Testament, and his book is placed at the very last place as the last chapter of the Old Testament, just before the coming of the New Testament, that came through Christ. Therefore, it is significant indeed that Malachi spoke of the coming of the one to prepare the path for the Lord, that clearly referred to St. John the Baptist.

In our Gospel today then we heard of the moment when St. John the Baptist was born, and all of his relatives gathered at his house and wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, as was common during that time. Zechariah had been mute and unable to talk ever since the Angel of God revealed to him that his wife, Elizabeth was about to bear the one whom the prophet Malachi prophesied about, the Herald of the Messiah.

Just as the prophet Isaiah also proclaimed in another prophecy, this servant of God, whose name had been known before he was even born, as revealed by the Angel, was to be the one to lead the people of God to their Lord and Saviour. He came into this world, born miraculously of an old couple who had been barren throughout, as the first miracle of God’s approaching salvation, and as proof that God truly loved His people.

The moment that Zechariah wrote down the name that the Angel had revealed to him, and wanted his son to be named John, hence, Zechariah could speak again and praised God for all His wonders. All of the people gathered were astonished and praised God as well for the wonders He had done. And through St. John the Baptist, God would lead many of His people down the path to salvation, as he laboured and called many to repent from their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do all these relate to us then? All of us have heard of God’s salvation and received the Good News, and we have believed in the Lord and all that He had done through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. But have we proclaimed Him in our lives, and truly show that we are Christians not just in name only, but also in deeds and in all of our actions? Have we shown that Christ is truly the centre of our celebrations in Christmas, and not only just that, but also the centre of our whole lives and existences?

Today, as we are just two days away from Christmas, we are all called to look upon our lives and actions, and we should reflect on whether our actions have shown our true Christian faith at all times. We should dedicate our actions to the Lord and strive our best to follow Him and His saints’ examples, especially for today, that of St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius, whose feast day we celebrate.

St. John of Kanty was a Polish saint whose life and work as a priest, philosopher and theologian was truly inspirational as he dedicated much of his life to the Lord, and spent a lot of effort in his numerous academic works and in the advancement of the Christian theology and teachings. But not only that, St. John of Kanty also dedicated much of time caring for the poor and the needy, being especially charitable towards them.

St. John of Kanty was remembered for his outreach and generosity to the poor, and also to the needy students in the university in which he taught as a professor. He was remembered for his almsgiving and his genuine faith and humility. He made pious pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Rome, and some of those pilgrimages were made on foot. His life and work remain an inspiration for many long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples set by St. John of Kanty, and as we approach Christmas, let us all seek to celebrate it wholeheartedly with a new attitude of faith, renewed in love for our God, and dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him so that all who witness us and our actions, as well as our Christ-centric life and celebration of Christmas, may come to believe in Him as well, so that by our lives and actions, even more people can be saved and share in our joy.

Let us all discern on this carefully as we come to the joyful celebration of Christmas, that we may truly celebrate it with true joy and with genuine celebration, so that we may draw ever closer to the Lord and be worthy of Him and the everlasting glory that He has promised us all. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the Lord’s providence and help for us, His strength and love for each and every one of us. We are reminded that the Lord is a loving God and Father Who listens to us and all of our needs. He will not abandon us in our hour of need, and He is always by our side at all times, no matter what happens.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel, regarding how Samuel the great prophet came to be born. His mother Hannah had been without child for many years despite being in a loving marriage to her husband Elkanah. Her husband’s other wife, Penninah often mocked Hannah for her barrenness and often showed off just how many children she had with Hannah.

Hannah came to the Lord in sorrow and frustration because of this, and she prayed to the Lord to help and rescue her from her troubles. The Lord heard her prayers, and He blessed Hannah with a child, who was to be known as Samuel. Hannah had promised that if she had a son, she would dedicate and offer him to the Lord, and thus, in our first reading today, we heard Hannah joyfully coming to the Lord and offered Samuel to be God’s servant.

And thus that was how Samuel, the prophet of God was born and came to be in the service of God. His mother Hannah had more children with her husband, Elkanah, as a sign of God’s love and favour, while Samuel grew up strong in faith under the tutelage of Eli, the Judge and priest of Israel, and eventually became a great prophet and Judge himself, leading the people of Israel just before the days of the kings.

The Lord showed His love and kindness to Hannah, and she rejoiced after the period of her humiliation and suffering. Our Psalm today is the great song of joy that Hannah sang, full of God’s Spirit, declaring the greatness of God and how fortunate all of us have been to be beloved by God. The Lord has not forgotten His people, and the same was then echoed as we heard of the great song of rejoicing that Mary sang in our Gospel today, known as the Magnificat.

Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth at the time, who had been long barren and was unable to conceive a child just like Hannah, but by the Lord’s grace, she came to bear St. John the Baptist, and Mary found that what the Lord had revealed to her through the Archangel Gabriel was indeed true, that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived and had a child in her old age.

And Mary herself as we knew, came to have Child without any human relations, since by the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself came to dwell in her and through her, He would be born into the world, as the Saviour long promised by Himself. All of these and the joy of the Holy Spirit in her made Mary to rejoice such, for all the wonders of God’s love and glory that He has shown to all of His people. It was truly a great and joyful moment, that each and every one of us ought to share as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to understand just how wretched and miserable our existence once had been, as through sin we have been sundered from God’s love and grace. And it was thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved from our predicament and troubles, and the sure path towards eternity of joy and happiness have been shown to us. And this Christmas we celebrate all of these, that God Himself has intervened on our behalf, and did everything in order to save us.

Therefore, let us all prepare ourselves that within the time left for us to get ready for Christmas, we will be able to redirect our focus and attention to the Lord, and thus celebrate the joyful festivities of Christmas in a Christ-centric manner, to rejoice in the love that God has shown us, that He willingly gave Himself to us, dwelling among us and suffering and dying for our sake on the Cross. We rejoice in this ultimate expression of God’s everlasting love, and let us share our joy with one another, always. Amen.