Saturday, 2 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today marks the last day of our current liturgical year, and as tomorrow’s Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent, through the Old Testament readings this week from the Book of Daniel, we heard the reminders for all of us to be ever vigilant, as the Lord is coming again, just as He has promised us, and we will not know the exact time of His coming.

And as Daniel saw in his vision, there will be trouble awaiting many of those who are faithful to God, because the four beasts seen in that vision represent the kingdoms of the world, those historical powers and rulers that persecuted and oppressed the Church and the faithful people of God. These are the domains of Satan, our great enemy and adversary, through which he was planning to bring about our downfall.

If we read on in the Book of Revelations written by St. John the Evangelist about the visions which he received at the island of Patmos, he also received the same vision about the coming of persecution and difficult times for the faithful ones, as those who adhere to Satan’s ways have rallied up against them, and they rejoiced even as the faithful suffer in agony, refusing to give up their faith in God.

Those people are going to do exactly what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel passage today, living their lives hedonistically, enjoying all the pleasures that the world can give, and doing all that are wicked in the eyes of the Lord. But they do not realise that the retribution of the Lord will come at a time they least expect of all. Many will be caught unprepared and unworthy, and their lot will be to share the fate of the evil one.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord is a loving God, Who wants each and every one of us to be with Him, to be reconciled from our disobedience to Him, and therefore to be reunited with us in love. However, at the same time, He also gives us the free will to choose between obedience and disobedience, whether we want to be with God and walk in His ways, or whether we want to choose Satan’s side instead.

There will be great pressures and temptations for us to fall into those temptations the Lord mentioned, the temptations of pleasure and worldliness, which will lure us into the trap of sin. Are we able to resist the devil then in this manner? Are we able to stand up for our faith despite all the challenges and difficulties that we may encounter along the way?

Let us all see the examples of our holy predecessors, those who have been declared as saints and martyrs by the Church. They have done their best to resist and to remain truly devoted to God, and they led holy lives filled with piety, love and compassion for one another. They loved God first and foremost, and show the same love to each other, just as God has commanded them.

In our world today, it is not easy to remain faithful as a Christian. There will be obstacles, challenges, difficulties in our path. And there may even be opposition from those who are close to us, dear to us, and this will be our crosses for us to bear in this life. Are we willing to pick up those crosses and walk together with God, by remaining faithful despite the challenges we may encounter day after day?

Let us devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve the Lord, by our actions, through which we show our love for Him, and also loving one another just as He has commanded us. Let us do our very best to be prepared for the time of His coming, so that we will not be caught unprepared and by surprise. Instead, let us strive to be worthy of Him, that we may partake in the glorious inheritance that He has prepared for all of His faithful ones. May the Lord bless us always and be with us, till the end of time and beyond. Amen.

Saturday, 2 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 21 : 34-36

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Be on your guard : do not immerse yourselves in a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you unaware, like a trap! For, like a snare, will that day come upon all the inhabitants of the earth. But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is going to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Saturday, 2 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Daniel 3 : 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87

All people on earth, praise and exalt Him forever.

Israel, praise and exalt Him forever.

Priests of the Lord, praise and exalt Him forever.

Servants of the Lord, praise and exalt Him forever.

Spirits and souls of the just, praise and exalt Him forever.

Those who are holy and humble of heart, praise and exalt Him forever.

Saturday, 2 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Daniel 7 : 15-27

I, Daniel, was deeply troubled, since these visions terrified me. I approached one of those who were standing there, and asked him to tell me what all this meant. He answered me and gave me the interpretation of these things : ‘These four beasts are four kings who will rise from the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, to possess it eternally, forever and ever.’

Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, different from the others, extraordinarily terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws; that ate, tore into pieces and crushed underfoot whatever remained. I also wanted to know about the ten horns it had on its head, and about the other horn which had sprung up, and the first three horns that fell, and about this horn with eyes and a mouth that spoke with arrogance, and that looked greater than the other horns.

As I looked, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was subduing them until the One of Great Age came, to do justice for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom. Then I was told : ‘The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all the kingdoms. It will devour the earth, crush it and destroy it.’

‘The ten horns are ten kings who shall rise from this kingdom. Another one will rise up after them and destroy three kings. This king shall insult the Most High and persecute the holy ones of the Most High. He shall try to change the feasts and the laws. The holy ones shall be handed over to his power for a time, two times, and half a time.’

‘But judgment will come and dominion will be taken from him; he shall be destroyed and utterly wiped out. The kingship, dominion and leadership of all the kingdoms of the world shall be given to the people of the holy ones of God Most High : His kingdom will be without end. All the kingdoms shall serve Him and be subject to Him.’

Friday, 1 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the coming of the end of this liturgical year, we heard first of all the vision of Daniel the prophet in Babylon, who saw the vision of the future ages to come, at the time of the end, when the devil and all the enemies of the Lord and His people would rise up one last time to destroy the faithful and the people of God, at the end of time. This is the same vision which St. John the Evangelist also witnessed at the island of Patmos in Greece, which he wrote for us in the Book of the Revelations.

The four great and wicked beasts which Daniel saw in the vision were similar to what St. John also saw in his Book of Revelation vision, representing Satan, the chief enemy of all the faithful, the great devil, as well as his allies, his forces and all those whom he had assembled in order to wage war against the faithful and the Church. These are the premonitions of what is to come for all the faithful, and indeed, the devil is never stop at work, trying to undermine the good works of God among His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, throughout the history of the Church, we have seen there were so many difficulties and challenges that the faithful had to face and encounter, from the time of the earliest days of the Church, when the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord were hunted down and arrested because of their faith, when many went to their martyrdom in the arena, thrown into the beasts and beheaded, as well as many other sufferings that they had to endure for the sake of the Lord.

Yet, those faithful servants of God did not give up and remained strong in their faith despite the opposition against them and the challenges they had to face. They persevered through the difficult times even though some did fall to temptation and chose to abandon their faith in exchange for safety and reconciliation with the worldly ways of the devil.

How does this then relate to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? We live at a time when the Church and many of its teachings have been ignored and abandoned not just by those outside the Church, but even those who are within the Church. There are many lukewarm Christians who no longer truly believe in their faith, and they do not even practice their faith regularly in their own lives.

There are many of those who would rather conform with the world and its ways rather than to walk faithfully in the Lord’s way. It is increasingly becoming more and more difficult to be Christians these days, because more and more people judge all those who still adhere to the Lord and His ways, and label all of us just because we believe in Him. There are sadly many of us who have fallen to the same temptations and allures which the devil is using to trap us and bring us to our downfall.

If we think that the Church today is no longer persecuted, then we should look at the various parts of the world, where being Christians equal being mocked, being persecuted, being ostracised, being laughed at, being rejected by the community, and where even the faithful have to practice their faith in secret, as being Christians may equal death sentence and suffering for them.

Therefore, today, as we reflect on all these, let us all think about what we can do to help all those who are suffering, by praying for them and asking the Lord to show His mercy to our brethren. And at the same time, we should also live our lives faithfully and resist the temptations to sin and abandon our faith in God. That is because as we see from the passages today, the Lord will ultimately triumph, and Satan as well as his beasts and allies will be defeated in the end.

Should we abandon our faith in God in exchange for a brief respite and temporary joy in this world, indeed our lives in this world will be pleasant and good, but if we are then numbered together with the devil and his allies, and judged to be thrown into the eternal suffering and fire, is that what we want with ourselves?

Therefore, let us be examples and role models in faith to one another, encouraging everyone to be faithful to God at all times. Let us all seek to be ever more devoted through our actions, loving God above all other things and showing the same love for our brethren as well. May the Lord be with us always and bless us forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 1 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 29-33

At that time, Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Friday, 1 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 3 : 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81

Mountains and hills, praise and exalt Him forever.

Everything that sprouts on the earth, praise and exalt Him forever.

Springs of water, praise and exalt Him forever.

Seas and rivers, praise and exalt Him forever.

Whales and fishes, praise and exalt Him forever.

All the birds of heaven, praise and exalt Him forever.

Animals, wild and tame, praise and exalt Him forever.

Friday, 1 December 2017 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 7 : 2-14

Daniel said, “I saw the following in my vision : the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea, and four great beasts, each one different from the other, came out of the sea. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings. As I looked at it, its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, stood up on its feet like a man, and was given a human heart.”

“The second was a beast like a bear; it was raised up on one side and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told : Go and devour much flesh. I went on looking and saw another beast like a leopard with four wings on its back; it had four heads and dominion was given to it.”

“I continued seeing my visions of the night and saw a terrible fourth beast. It was fearful and extraordinarily strong; it had great iron teeth; it ate, tore into pieces, and crushed underfoot whatever remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns. I was looking at the horns, when another small horn sprang among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for the new. It had eyes like human eyes and a mouth that uttered insolent words.”

“I looked and saw the following : Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took His seat. His robe was white, as snow, His hair, white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before Him. Thousands upon thousands served Him and a countless multitude stood before Him. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book.”

“But as I remembered the haughty words of the horn with human eyes and mouth, which I had seen before, this animal was killed before my eyes; and its body destroyed and cast into the fire. Dominion was taken from the other animals, though they were allowed to stay alive for a time, until the fixed time.”

“I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.”

Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of one of the great Apostles, among the Twelve chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ, and this Apostle was also known to be the first among all of them to be called, as the first disciple of Jesus, right after He was baptised at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. St. Andrew the Apostle and the First Called was once a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but having heard from St. John himself that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Messiah Who comes, he went on to become the disciple of Jesus.

And St. Andrew was the younger brother of St. Peter the Apostle, another very prominent Apostle, who is the first Vicar of Christ, the predecessor of our current Pope and Bishop of Rome. The Lord Jesus has established His Church in this world, founded upon the strong foundation of faith of the Apostles, and indeed the Apostles are the pillars of the Church, its support and strength. If not for all the good works and commitment of the Apostles, the Church as we know it today would not have existed.

The first Apostles were called by Jesus as He walked along the lake, and those were fishermen, as St. Peter and St. Andrew were, as well as St. James and St. John the Evangelist. They were plying their trade at the lakeside, catching fishes to be sold to the market as their livelihood, but the Lord called them to a greater purpose in life, that is to follow Him, to become His disciple, and therefore to commit and dedicate their whole lives to Him, to be His messengers of the Good News.

He called them to become the fishers of men, meaning that they would be the instruments through which God would call His people to Himself, to gather them in and to embrace them with reconciliation, love and compassion. They were the ones who would go on to preach the Good News of the Gospel in various areas and places, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, that they bore courageous witness to the Lord’s life, death and resurrection.

And thus St. Andrew also went on to preach the Gospel in various areas after the Lord ascended to heaven and the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Andrew went through the area of what is now the Black Sea coasts, from the present day Turkey to Russia and the northern regions, and also to what was then Roman Greece, preaching the Gospel of Christ, and many were converted through his works.

In the end, the Roman authorities persecuted Christians throughout its realm, and St. Andrew was among those who were arrested and persecuted, and was put to death by crucifixion. Just like his brother, St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, who refused to die in the same way as the Lord had died on the cross, and thus was crucified upside down instead, St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is now famously known as the cross of St. Andrew.

The life and work of St. Andrew the Apostle should become an inspiration to all of us as Christians, because we cannot think that the works of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord are done or completed. There are still many things to be done, and the works of the Church are always ever present in our world, past, present and future to come. There are still many people out there who have not heard the Good News of the Lord, and even more importantly, there are many within the Church itself who have lapsed away from our faith.

All of us are the continuation of the Apostles, who have been called to the same mission that the Lord gave the Apostles and the other disciples just before He was about to be lifted up from us, ascending in His glory to heaven. He commanded all of the Church to go forth, and spread the Good News of God’s salvation to all parts of the world, that every people from every nations may come to God and receive holy baptism, and marked therefore as the Lord’s own people.

There are still many things which each and every one of us as Christians can do, to be part of the Church’s effort of evangelisation and missionary works. We do not have to follow the way of the Apostles strictly in a sense that we should go forth to many places and preach in the streets, or even encounter persecution and martyrdom. There are indeed those among us whom God has called for such a purpose, and then for others, we should begin with ourselves, in our own families and communities, and among those whom we know.

What does this mean? That means each and every one of us as Christians must preach the Gospel of Christ, not by mere words alone, but also through real and concrete actions based on our faith, listening to what the Lord had commanded us all to do, to love one another tenderly just as He has loved us, by showing love, mercy, care and compassion for the poor and for those who are less fortunate. Let us all do all these, that through us, many more will come to believe in the Lord and be saved.

May the Lord help us all Christians, that we too may also become the fishers of men as the Apostles had been, by living the faith we have with genuine commitment and sincerity, so that all those who see our faith will come to believe in God as well, and therefore together as one people we may receive eternal glory from Our Lord and rejoice with the Apostles forevermore. St. Andrew the Apostle, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.