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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 29 : 2, 4-6, 11-13

I extol You, o Lord, for You have rescued me; my enemies will not gloat over me.

O Lord, You have brought me up from the grave, You gave me life when I was going to the pit. Sing to the Lord, o you His saints, give thanks and praise to His Holy Name.

For His anger lasts but a little while, and His kindness all through life. Weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes with the dawn.

Hear, o Lord, and have mercy on me; o Lord, be my protector. But now, You have turned my mourning into rejoicing; You have taken off my sackcloth and wrapped me in the garments of gladness.

And so, my soul, no longer silent, now sings praise without ceasing, o Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 54 : 5-14

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Galatians 5 : 18-25

But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law. You know what comes from the flesh : fornication, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and sorcery, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I again say to you what I have already said : those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. For such things there is no Law or punishment. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us live in a spiritual way.

(Usus Antiquior) Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (II Classis) – Sunday, 7 September 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Holy Gospel in which we heard about how Jesus Christ our Lord have made full ten lepers who were cast out from the society of their time because of their leprosy, and yet only one out of the ten healed lepers, a Samaritan, returned to Lord Jesus and gave thanks to Him, showing the faith that he had.

And in the Epistle we heard how St. Paul reminded the faithful in the Church in Galata on the inheritance of Abraham, and what God had in store for mankind, the descendants of Abraham, the father of nations, and who are also the children of God. St. Paul mentioned how the Lord tried to bring mankind back to His grace and love, and how He cared for these wayward children of His, that He desires to heal them from their afflictions, that is none other than sin.

For if the Gospel today talked about the healing of the ten lepers, who suffered from the physical condition called leprosy, then all mankind are also afflicted with leprosy, namely the leprosy of the soul, the corruption of our beings by sin and evil. These sins and darkness in the world are blemishes that keep us away from the goodness and perfection in the Lord, and prevent us from truly seeking Him and finding our way to Him.

We have to first understand, the importance and how leprosy was a serious condition and affliction for the people of Israel at the time. It was a contagious disease, one that caused someone to feel numb in the extremities of the organ, and eventually lose those limbs, be it fingers, toes, or even limbs without feeling the pain. And the leprosy disease also caused a visible change to the appearance of the parts that it infected, which allow others to tell of someone suffer from leprosy.

We now know that this condition is caused by a virus that affects and attacks the nervous system and the skin, which caused the symptoms shown above. And as such, this is also why this disease is contagious, as it can spread from one person to another. This disease was therefore seen by the society as a sign that someone is unclean and that these people should be cast out from the society to prevent them from infecting others.

Thus, if we look at the laws of Moses, in which the Lord made evident His Law and precepts to the people through Moses His servant, one dealt specifically with the issue of leprosy and what to do with those who were afflicted with them, the lepers. These people ought to leave their homes and their communities, and wonder away in the wilderness and the desert until they are healed, that is until when they no longer show a symptom of the disease.

If we look at it further, the purpose of the Law may seem to be quite harsh on the people, although indeed we can see how it is useful and beneficial for the society as a whole, as if not for this law and regulation, then more people might be affected and more lives might be lost, and thus the whole society itself might be affected. It is therefore there for a practical reason.

However, it over time led to the persecution and total rejection of these people afflicted with the disease, that even after they have been healed, the stigma would remain. In essence, this is no different from when in other societies, those who suffer from infectious diseases, some of them sexually transmitted, became a stigma in the society, and this stigma remains with them even if they are to be cured. They are ostracised and cast out of the society.

Thus, what Jesus today wanted to tell us is that all of the children of God are beloved by the Lord, as St. Paul mentioned, that everyone are the descendants of Abraham, and just as God had made the covenant with the faithful Abraham and his descendants, we too will enjoy the fruits of that covenant as long as we remain faithful to the Lord. And therefore, we should not be judgmental or be proud of our own achievements and goodness over others’ apparent lack or disabilities.

Lepers were highly looked down upon by the Jews of Jesus’ time, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular had very low opinion on them. They were not welcome at the Temples and people fled in fear when a leper came towards them or even when a leper was merely in the vicinity. But Jesus did things differently, and He did not mind at all to be approached by the ten lepers, who openly asked the Lord for mercy and healing, and that He granted them, making them whole once again.

He blessed them and made them whole, for indeed He had authority over all things, even all diseases and afflictions of the body and soul. But what is interesting is what came next after Jesus told them to go and present themselves to the priests. They were not immediately made clean and whole by Jesus, but they were made clean as they proceeded to the priests. Yet, as they realised their wholeness and healing, only one out of the ten turned back and give thanks to the Lord, to Jesus, who is Lord and God.

How many times is it in our lives that we are given goodness and blessings by the Lord, and we did not give Him thanks? And instead we spite Him and became angry at Him whenever we did not get what we wanted. We always demanded the Lord to listen to our pleas, and even to our desires and wants, and yet we never stopped to listen and to give thanks to Him whenever He did something good to us.

In this, the ten lepers were different, in that only one of them were truly made clean and whole by Jesus our Lord, that is the Samaritan. The Samaritan recognised what God had done for him, and consequently, returned to give thanks first in joy to the Lord, and rejoice together with Him, while the other nine lepers went happily on their way, thinking that they have been made clean.

The other nine lepers represented many of us in this world, who are still often plagued not by the leprosy of the body and the skin, but by the leprosy of the soul, that is sin! And indeed, mankind are truly vulnerable to this leprosy of the soul, which is equally if not more contagious than the physical leprosy. Desire, greed, pride, arrogance, anger, wroth and other negative emotions and things in life are only some of the aspects of this leprosy.

Thus the nine other lepers did not return to give thanks, because in the leprotic state of their hearts and souls, their pride and selfishness grew strong, and therefore they were loath to lower themselves to give thanks to God for their healing. Instead, they gave in to their joy and pleasure, and forgot about God, just as many of us often did. We often became so engrossed in our joy and in the pleasures of the world, so as to forget the love of God, who so generously gave us everything we need.

And lastly, why the Samaritans are always portrayed on the good side? If we remember last Sunday’s readings on the Good Samaritan helping the man attacked by bandits on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, while the priest and the Levite walked pass him by, and then link it to today’s readings on the grateful Samaritan, then we can see indeed, that Jesus wanted to make an example to others.

As we all should know, the nation of the Samaritans, known as the region of Samaria, was once the heart of the northern kingdom of Israel. It was where the ten tribes of Israel, the lost ones of the Lord were plucked out of their homes and cast into exile by the King of the Assyrians, who destroyed the northern kingdom seven centuries before the birth of Christ.

In their place, many nations conquered by the Assyrians were resettled on the area, together with some leftovers of the ten lost tribes of Israel. They intermingled and eventually became known as the Samaritans, based on where they resided in, in the land of Samaria. The Jews were the descendants of the exiles of the kingdom of Judah, the southern kingdom, who were jealously and proudly proud of their orthodoxy and in their vigilance in maintaining the faith of their fathers.

As such, they despised heavily the Samaritans to the point that no one ought to talk to them, and they were considered as pagans, barbarians and lesser than humans, to the point that they were seemingly condemned to oblivion and damnation, while the Jews thought of themselves as the chosen race of God and thus the only ones worthy of salvation. What Jesus did and what the example of the Samaritan served to break all that prejudice and false ideas.

As St. Paul put it clearly, that transgressions and sin had caused our separation from the Lord and His love, and it is this love that made God to send no one else other than Jesus, His own Son to be the Saviour of all mankind, to make whole again an entire people tainted by sin. It was stressed that salvation comes through the Mediator, who is Jesus Christ our Lord, who through His sacrifice on the cross had made us worthy, but only to those who believe in Him.

And the Samaritan believed, and he returned to give thanks, acknowledging what God had done for him, and in that he was saved. The others did not believe what God had done to them through Jesus, and as many others, including many of us whose actions do not represent our status as the children and servants of God, and therefore we are in danger of being cast out of salvation which God reserved only for those who truly believed and those who truly loved the Lord with the fullness of their heart and soul.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together and celebrate with the Lord His sacrifice on the cross, let us all examine our own actions and deeds in this life. We have to ask ourselves, on whether we have lived according to the way the Lord had pointed to us, or whether we acted more like the nine other lepers who gave in to their carnal desires and to the temptations of the world? Shall we not rather do our best to resist the corruption of this leprosy of the soul that is sin?

Remember brethren, that this world is full of challenges, and although our divine inheritance is waiting for us, the covenant which God had established with us through Jesus, but we cannot be complacent. We must be ever vigilant, that our faith should remain strong and that we remain closely guarded against all the lies and temptations of the evil one, that we may not fall into damnation. Remember the Lord always in all things, giving Him thanks when it is due, for all the goodness He had showered us with.

May Almighty God clean us and make us whole once again, casting out the leprosy of our soul, that is sin which tainted our heart and mind, so that our body and soul cleansed, we may together rejoice in the Lord and be accepted with fullness of gladness and joy at the end of our road, when the Lord welcomes us back into His loving embrace, to enjoy the inheritance He had promised us through Jesus. Let us all do our best to live righteously and courageously, and to proactively protect ourselves and avoid committing any forms of sin that mag corrupt our soul. May God bless us forever and ever. Amen.

Friday, 14 March 2014 : 1st Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

In our faith, brothers and sisters, we must always be genuine. We cannot take our faith for granted, and neither can we only keep an outward profession for faith, but inside we truly lack the faith and do not believe in God. True faith in God requires us to devote ourselves to Him and be committed in our actions and deeds to show our true faith to God.

We must heed what the Lord wants from us, in our actions and deeds, in every single aspects of our lives. We often end up doing lip-service to the Lord and following superficially the laws and rules He had given us, instead of truly devoting ourselves to His cause. This we cannot do, brothers and sisters in Christ.

And we certainly will have to do and act in the way that we preach. We cannot say one thing and yet do another, different thing from what we had said. If we do so then our faith is shallow and not genuine, and can be easily swayed by the wickedness that is in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord loves us, and I have to repeat it again and again, that God loves us, very much, that He gave us Jesus His Son to be our helper, and to show us the way, how to devote ourselves entirely to Him, by teaching us and showing us the examples of being a good and faithful servant of God.

The key thing of all these is that we have to love, and we have to base all our actions on love, and in all of our actions and dealings, we have to always align ourselves with the ways of the Lord, that is righteousness. We have to adhere to the principles that God had established, in His laws and tenets that we ought to know, understand, and obey.

God wants all of us to love, and to love tenderly, and to forgive when someone slighted us or made mistakes to us. He wants us to do the same too, when we have slighted someone else. He wants us to be reconciled with one another, and forgoing all the hatred and differences that kept us apart, that we all may once again serve Him together as one, united people, united in love.

And He wants to show us that faith in Him cannot be just limited to observations of rituals and obligations according to the law. We cannot be just bystanders and followers, following the instructions of our faith to the letter, without understanding it. What I mean is that, we have to truly understand what we are doing, and in doing so we will make our faith much more meaningful.

And that is why God wants us to forgive one another first and be reconciled before we make our offerings to Him. What He wants from us is a heart of love, untainted by hatred, jealousy and all the other negative feelings that mar the perfection of our hearts. Let this be a lesson to all of us, that we may take note of it, whenever we do something, and whenever we say something, that we truly reflect that we belong to God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us make a resolution before the Lord, that we will be ever better servants of His will, that we will forsake the way of hatred, jealousy and other negative ill-feelings, and change them for the way of love, practicing what we have believed in, that is our faith in the One and only True God, Jesus Christ, who came to us in love to save us. Amen.

Friday, 14 February 2014 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk, and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Let all who have ears listen and those who have eyes see, and those who have tongues speak of the power and the glory of God! Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we witnessed Jesus’ healing of the man who was deaf and mute, and opening his ears and tongue, Jesus revealed to us all the true authority He has over all, and the truth about Himself, that He came to open our minds and our hearts, to welcome into them the Lord.

Yes, brethren, it is imperative for all of us to open wide the doors of our hearts and sharpen the edge of our senses, that we may know when the Lord comes to us, so that we may welcome Him and bring Him to dwell in ourselves. We have to be responsive to the Lord calling for us, that we may heed His call and come to Him.

We ought to avoid the fate and punishment that fell on Solomon and his descendants, who because of Solomon’s obstinate attitude and refusal to listen to the Lord had resulted in the kingdom of Israel being torn apart, together with the community of the people of God. Solomon was wise, and was greatly blessed with wisdom, power, and authority by the Lord, but these were also the cause for his greatest undoing.

In continuation with yesterday’s reflection on the readings, Solomon fell because he put his trust more and more in his human power and glory, and gradually less and less on the Lord, unlike his father David, who constantly kept up his faith and devotion in the Lord throughout his life. Solomon was swayed by the devil, through his wives and concubines, who blinded him and deafened him from the calling of God, asking him to keep faithful the commandments his father had kep so faithfully.

That is exactly what can also happen to us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, because power, authority, worldly glamour and prestige are all the things that keep our attention away from the Lord and blinds us against His truth, and deafens us from His call, and closes our tongue that we may not call on Him. These prevent us from reaching the Lord and the Lord from reaching us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we let what had happened to Solomon also affect us? Shall we let ourselves be punished for our disobedience because we refuse to listen to the Lord as Solomon had done? Shall we let ourselves be condemned because the Lord saw wickedness in us because we refuse to obey the Lord and walk in His ways as Solomon had done?

It is easy for us all to forget about the Lord and become engrossed in ourselves, in all the glory we have, and in all the good things that the world can offer us. As you know, especially in our world today, where more and more things are being commercialised and consumerism is getting at a dangerously high levels, it is even easier for us to be led astray by the temptations of the world than ever before.

That is why the Lord sent Jesus into the world, to send His own Son to open the eyes, the ears, and the tongues of the people, that He may resensitise them and reopen the senses of their hearts to the love of God, and to the truth that is in the Lord. Through His teachings and revelations of God’s nature and love, which He passed down through His apostles and disciples, we receive the revelations and our minds are opened.

God wants to open our minds, and to let our eyes see, and our ears hear, that we may believe in Jesus, and break free from the chains of pride and arrogance, from the shackle of desire and greed, and from the oppression of lust and anger. He wants to free us from all the distractions that burdened us and kept us away from Him, but we too need to work hard and do our best, so that we may break free and return to the Lord our God who loves us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of two saints, said to be brothers, that of St. Cyril and St. Methodius who converted many pagan nations and peoples in central Europe during the Dark Ages, and they helped to bring many people who lived in darkness into the light of God. That was why they were also known as the Patron Saints of Europe, due to their hard and zealous works in bringing so many people of that continent into the faith.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius helped to translate many works of the faith into the language of the then pagan peoples, and through their preachings and works, they truly, just as Jesus had done, opened the eyes and the ears and the tongues of those people, who then witnessed the truth about the Lord, the folly of their old ways, and the need for them to repent and follow the Lord, and that they did.

The two saints converted many souls and brought many to salvation in God. A people who lived in darkness had seen a great light indeed, that is the Light of Christ reflected in the actions, words, and deeds of both St. Cyril and St. Methodius, without whom many people would have been lost to damnation and hell.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, the example of Solomon and the two saints, as well as Jesus Himself, showed us the need for us to strongly reaffirm our faith in God and to reorientate ourselves that in all things we align with our Lord and God. And it is important for us to seek Him out in humility and ask Him for His healing and mercy, that we may have the doors of our hearts and senses opened, that we may truly experience His love and mercy.

May the Lord our God continue to bless us, empower us, and open ever wider the doors of our hearts to Him, while closing it to any influences of the devil. May He remove from us all the distractions of this world that we may then be truly faithful to Him without any hindrance. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 7 : 14-23

Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?”

Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”