Monday, 2 November 2020 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate on the day after All Saints’ Day, the Feast of All Souls. On this All Souls’ Day, we commemorate all the souls of the faithful who have departed from this world. We remember our loved ones who have passed on and all others who have gone before us, those whose earthly lives and existences had come to an end.

On this All Souls’ Day, we pray for those holy souls in purgatory, those who are also part of the universal Church of God. They are the Church Suffering just as the glorious saints in Heaven are the Church Triumphant and we who are still living in this world are part of the Church Militant. We are all united as part of this same Church of God and through the Church we have been brought together as one family of people who have called God as our Father, Lord and Master.

While the saints have already attained the glory of Heaven, those holy souls in purgatory we are remembering and praying for today and throughout this whole month in particular are those who have yet to merit immediately the glory of Heaven. Their sins, unrepented and unforgiven, while judged by God not to be great enough to be condemned for eternity in hell, were significant enough that they could not enter immediately into heavenly glory unlike the saints.

They had passed through what the Church called as the ‘particular judgment’, which refers to the judgment of everyone’s souls right at the moment of their passing from the earthly life. This is distinct from the general judgment that will happen at the end of time, also better known as the Last Judgment, when everyone righteous will be judged to be worthy, and their bodies will be raised again and reunited with their holy souls, in a new glorious existence with God as described at the end of the Book of Revelations.

Thus, the holy souls in purgatory have been judged to be worthy and will never end up in hell, hence being considered as holy. It is a misconception to think that purgatory is a place in between heaven and hell, and that people may still end up in hell after purgatory. Those who have ended up in purgatory and will be there in time to come, which include many of us, not holy enough to be like the saints, or wicked enough to deserve hell, we shall endure the flames of purgatory on our way to Heaven.

What is purgatory like, brothers and sisters in Christ? There had been several descriptions of purgatory by the Church fathers, saints and other authors, but they agreed that purgatory while it is a place where the souls of the righteous were awaiting their entry into Heaven, but it is also a place of great suffering, not because of their wickedness but rather because their residual sins, unforgiven, that made them to suffer for their love of God.

Those who have significant sins and ended up in purgatory cannot come directly to the holy presence of God because no sin, no matter how small or insignificant it may be, can be in the presence of God. Thus, those in purgatory are waiting for the expiation or the atonement of their sins. They suffer because they all love God and to be in the presence of God, but they were not yet able to do so.

The flames of purgatory were often described in descriptions of purgatory, but in truth, the flames and the sufferings of purgatory are symbolic of the burning love of God that are in each and every one of the holy souls there. It is their burning love and desire to be with God, and the sorrow and repentance over the sins which prevented them from attaining the fullness of heavenly glory that made them to suffer.

It is indeed good that all these souls are already destined for Heaven, in time to come. For some, it will be shorter while others had to wait for longer time. But regardless of this, the suffering of the holy souls in purgatory is real, and some saints, including St. John Vianney have written their experiences of interacting with the souls in purgatory, as for example, in one occasion, saw the holy souls in purgatory and their sufferings, and how through prayer, and offering of the Holy Mass with intentions for those souls in purgatory, the souls were liberated and brought into heavenly glory.

Through what we have heard, discussed and listened today on the matter of the holy souls in purgatory, many of whom we may have known, and one day which may be our turn to be there in purgatory, we are all called to pray for the sake of those souls in purgatory still waiting for the complete expiation and purification from all of their sins and their residual evils, that had prevented them from being completely reunited with God.

We are praying for them because they cannot pray for themselves. And in fact, the saints are also constantly, daily, praying for all these holy souls that have yet to be able to join them in the glory of Heaven. We should also pray for them because we are after all, members of the same Church of God. If one part of the Body of Christ, the Church suffers hurt, then it is natural for all the other parts to feel the hurt and pain as well. Therefore, today, and throughout this whole month, as Pope Francis has recently extended the plenary indulgences for the holy souls in purgatory by the authority of the Church, let us all pray for the holy souls in purgatory, for all the faithful departed, and offer intentions in the Holy Mass for them, that the priests may offer the Mass for their sake.

Do not forget, brothers and sisters, that we ourselves are still on the journey as well. Because of that, we should keep in mind the sufferings of the holy souls in purgatory as a reminder that we ourselves must live as holy a life as possible in this world. Let us all distance ourselves from wickedness and sin, and repent from our sinful ways as soon as possible, if not now. Remember that every sins that we have, unrepented and unforgiven, will be judged against us on the day of the particular judgment when we die and pass on from this world, and also at the final judgment.

Let us pray for the holy souls in purgatory, so that one day, when we too are probably in purgatory ourselves, these holy souls who have gone before us to Heaven will then in turn pray for us, remembering our love and fraternal kindness, as brothers and sisters in the same Lord, that we, although separated between this world and purgatory, our bonds of faith in Christ remain the same, and remain strong as always. Let us all ask God for His mercy and compassion, on all of us, and on all those who are still now enduring the flames of purgatory. May God lead them all into His heavenly glory, in His good time, and by His enduring love for all of them. Amen.

Monday, 2 November 2020 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Matthew 11 : 25-30

At that time, Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I praise You; because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to simple people. Yes, Father, this was Your gracious will.”

“Everything has been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Monday, 2 November 2020 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Romans 5 : 5-11

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

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

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

Monday, 2 November 2020 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 2 November 2020 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple/Violet

Isaiah 25 : 6-9

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

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

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints, that coincides with a Sunday this year. On this day, which marks the celebration of the glory of all the saints, holy men and women of God. All the innumerable saints of God are an integral part of our Christian faith and the Church as well.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, the saints are very much part of the Church, as the Church Triumphant, which are part of the Universal Church together with us, the Church Militant, those who are still in this world struggling daily in the spiritual struggles for our souls and enduring the lives in this world, and of course also the Church Suffering, made up of those souls of the faithful departed in purgatory, still waiting for their time to enter the glory of Heaven.

All these three groups are part of the whole Universal Church, and are united in our faith together in God. And today we focus our attentions on those who have been officially proclaimed by the Church to merit the official veneration as saints, through the process known as Canonisation. All the saints through their various virtues and through courageous witness of their faith have been declared as worthy of heavenly glory and veneration by all Christians.

There are those who misunderstood our veneration of saints, a practice that had originated from the very beginning of the Church itself, and which had roots even from before the time of Christ, as the people in Jesus’ time did believe that some of the holy people were in heaven, like that of Enoch who was taken up into heaven, as was the prophet Elijah and others like Abraham, alluded in the Lord’s parable when He spoke of the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

All of these pointed out to the universal belief of the Church and the faithful that there were those whom God had called and excelled such that they merited the glory of Heaven, and that they are our intercessors, namely those who pray for us before God. Those who misunderstood this veneration of saints drew their misunderstanding from the excesses and the lack of proper catechism for those who venerated the saints.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, there are numerous devotions to the saints, chief and most popular of which is of course that of Mary, the Mother of God herself and the greatest among all the saints. Also we have St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, the other Apostles, particularly St. Jude, patron of hopeless and lost cases. In more recent saints we have devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pope St. John Paul II among others.

But many of those who practiced the devotions and venerated these saints sadly did not fully understand what they were doing. They adored the saints as if they were like God and became superstitious in their practices, thinking that the saints could grant them whatever it is that they wanted. They thought of the saints as miracle and wonder worker for their own various desires, giving them the answer to what they wanted.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is we often get wrong about saints. Saints are not like gods and goddesses, deities like that of other beliefs and religions. On the contrary, saints exist and are declared as such by the Church to glorify God, and to elevate the glory of God even further by the examples and faith of the saints. And they also serve as inspirations and good examples for us to follow that we ourselves too can become holy as they are. Through their intercessions, they brought our petitions with them and presenting them before the Lord.

If someone were to ask why do we seek the intercession of the saints, then we can indeed explain it in this way, that we are asking these wonderful, pious and faithful predecessors of ours to pray for us, just like how we ask our friends and one another to pray for us and for them. If we can ask those who are still in this world to pray for us, then why can’t and shouldn’t we ask those whose lives have been deemed and considered holy and pious that they are now standing in the glorious presence of God?

As the saints are nearer to God than us, and especially more so that of Mary, the Lord’s own mother, then surely with more people praying for us, our prayers will be so much more powerful. Through our combined prayers, God will work wonders, and through the intercessions of the saints on our behalf, God will help and provide for us in our hour of need. Indeed, it is so wonderful to know that we are all not alone in this journey of faith, and besides all those whom we know to be journeying with us in this world, we have even those who have gone before us, and praying for us, journeying with us and showing us the way.

We have all been called to be holy like all of those saints, as in truth, all of us have the potential to be saints. Just less than a month ago, a young teenager who was a computer geek and a seemingly ordinary young man was just beatified, and is now known as Blessed Carlo Acutis. He had deep faith in God and devotion to the saints, especially that of Mary, the Mother of God of whom he documented the many Marian apparitions as well as the many Eucharistic miracles that more people might come to know of them, just before he passed away due to leukaemia.

We also have many examples of saints who were once wretched and sinful. For example, St. Mary Magdalene was once according to tradition, an adulterer and had committed terrible deeds and sins before God. Yet, she was completely remorseful and sought to be forgiven and reconciled with God. And indeed, the Lord welcomed her back with open hands, and she became one of His closest and most trusted followers, whose faith and conversion experience became inspiration for many from then on.

There were many other examples of sinners turned saints throughout the history of the Church, and all of them can teach and show us that, no one is beyond God’s redemption, forgiveness and mercy. As long as one is willing to turn away from their sins and embrace wholeheartedly the Lord’s path and willingly walk in His path, then the path of the glory of Heaven will be open to us. We are all called to be like the saints in their lives and actions, in their contributions and efforts as the members of the same Church of God.

Saints are often compared to the beautiful stained glasses in our churches, which also frequently used to depict the lives of those saints. Surely we have had the experience of seeing how those stained glasses were so beautiful and wonderful, and they made the whole church became even more conducive for worship and for us to recognise the presence of God within. That is exactly how saints are like, brothers and sisters in Christ, for they are the stained glasses that give out no light on their own, but with light passing through them, their beauty are revealed to all to see.

And all of us are also like those stained glasses, brothers and sisters in Christ! Our lives in this world, our every actions and interactions, all shall either show holiness and faith, or instead, wickedness and evil. Just as there are those saints whose lives bring inspiration and hope to others, and righteousness and justice, there are also those who scandalised the Church and the faith by their actions, and by their refusal to repent and change their ways. The Lord said, nothing that is secret will stay hidden, and the light will reveal everything. So, just as good deeds will be discovered, our wicked deeds, no matter how hidden, will eventually be revealed.

Which one do we want to be then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we want to be those whose lives bring sadness, sorrow and suffering for others, by our own selfish actions, by our lack of faith and irresponsible behaviour and attitudes that led to others to question their faith, scandalising this Christian faith we have? Or do we rather be like the saints, whose lives bring about hope, renewal of faith and courage for one to love God?

God has given us free will to choose which path we want to take, and we have so many good examples to choose from the saints. If we wonder why is it that so many people have passed through this world, and yet, out of them, even though we have had so many people recognised as saints and blesseds, but all of these are still minuscule compared to the whole of mankind, that is exactly because it is so difficult to become saints unless we consciously make the effort to resist the temptations of evil in our world today.

All of us must realise that each and every one of us have the potential to be saints, and indeed, we are all called to be saints, to share in the love and grace of God. God has given us His love and blessings, and His sanctifying grace through our baptism. Through His Holy Spirit that He has given to us, He has given us faith and wisdom, the wisdom to choose what is right from what is wrong. Now, what matters is whether our love for Him is greater than our attachments to sin and evil, and whether our faith is stronger than the temptations that face us constantly and daily, all around us.

Today, as we celebrate and rejoice in the memory of all the glorious saints of God, let us all ask them all for their intercessions, especially from our blessed Mother Mary, and our own respective patron saints. Let us all ask for their continued intercession that God may strengthen us all in our resolve to live faithfully and walk with ever greater commitment in the path that He has set before us. Let us all look ever more carefully on the examples of the saints, holy men and women who had gone before us, and gain inspirations from their good examples, that we may also do the same in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be like the saints in all things, live as they had lived and model our own faith lives like their own. May the Lord, through the intercession of His many saints, help us and strengthen us all to be more courageous and committed to serve Him, and to love Him, becoming ourselves great examples of faith and inspirations to even more people. May God bless us all in all things and in all of our good endeavours and efforts. O Holy saints of God, our inspiration and source of hope, pray for us all, your brothers and sisters still struggling in this world, that we may one day join all of you in the glory of Heaven to praise God together. Amen.

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Sunday, 1 November 2020 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”