Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard a key message from the Scripture passages and the Gospel we heard today, namely that each and every one of us Christians have been given gifts from the Lord, and we have the responsibility to cultivate those gifts that we may bear rich fruits of the gifts God had given us, and thus become the source of grace for all who have come into touch with us.

It is a reminder for us all, that we as Christians cannot be passive, and neither can we be ignorant of what we need to do, our roles in this world. For indeed, as we all should be aware of, we are saved not just by saying to the Lord, “Lord, Lord, I believe in You.” But also through an active and genuine faith, meaning that we practice and do things as how our faith in God had taught us and shown us.

A faith that is not practiced nor lived to its fullness is a meaningless and empty faith. Faith must be vibrant and genuine, and not merely an empty proclamation or declaration. It was what the Lord wanted to tell is in the Gospel today. He mentioned about people who died in a terrible accident, and how these compared to the others who died in normal circumstances.

It was not due to their fault that they have suffered the kind of terrible death they endured, but even though it was not so, but everyone ultimately will face death at the end of their lives. It is God alone Who knows how and when we will meet the end of our earthly existence, but then what truly matters will be the deeds and actions we have done in this life we have, be it short or long, and regardless of how we meet our end, which God alone knows.

There is nothing that we have done, or which we have not done, that the Lord will not know and find out through His most omniscient understanding and knowledge, He Who knows everything, even the very deepest secrets that we mankind have hidden from Him, and from one another. But this is where what we do with our lives make a difference with us.

It is here that Jesus used the example of the fig tree in His parable, in order to show the fate of those who were faithful versus those who have not been faithful to God in their ways. The fig tree represent each and every one of us, while the owner and master of the field is the Lord our God. And as fig tree bears fruits that are sweet and nice to be eaten, when the owner planted the fig trees he must have been looking forward to collect those sweet fruits, and either eat them or sell them for profit.

But he was not happy when the fig tree was found to be barren despite what must have been the best of conditions it had been planted in, the best soil, sufficient water, sunlight and all that the plant needs in order to grow well and bear many fruits, sweet and good. But instead, there were none at all. Imagine then, how is this a parallel to us. We have been given many gifts by the Lord, but are we utilising them and cultivating them in our own lives?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul in his letter to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus reminded them and from them to each and every one of us, that from God, the Holy Spirit has been given to us all who believe in Him, and from the Spirit we have received a rich multitudes of gifts, which were given to us. And he mentioned that to different people, different gifts have been given.

It is a reminder to each and every one of us, members of the Church, that we have our respective roles to play, to contribute and do what we can in order to fulfil our parts as God’s people and servants. Fulfilling God’s will is what made us all to grow in strength and faith, and therefore to bear the rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, faith, hope, joy and many others.

And perhaps, we should follow the examples of the great saint whose feast we are celebrating on this day, one whom many of us are familiar with, our own Holy Father for many years, the leader of the Universal Church, Bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter the Apostle, the Vicar of Christ, Pope St. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, and one of the great figures of the last century.

He was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Krakow in the year 1920 of our Lord, and he had a loving family who cared for him, but he had a rough early years of his life, when one by one his family members were taken away from him. His elder brother passed away due to sickness, his mother also passed away, and eventually during the great conflict of the Second World War, he also lost his father.

But despite the personal tragedies, the difficulties he encountered, and the very fact that his own nation was obliterated and millions of others suffered because of the great war that had happened at that time. He himself brushed against death in many occasions, and had to endure great hardships at that moment of suffering. But that did not stop him from pursuing the path to which God had called him, that is the path of service, the path of priesthood.

Karol Wojtyla was eventually ordained a priest after the war, but just as one problem ended for his country and fellow countrymen, another even bigger problem came to the fore, when Communism came to power in Poland, causing great difficulties for the Church and the faithful in Poland and in other parts of Eastern Europe under the atheist Communist rule.

Nevertheless, he persevered through, and having been made first as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II, led the people of God in persistence and perseverance against the many forms of discriminations and persecutions that they faced.

When the Communist authorities banned and prevented the construction of a new church building in the suburb of Nowa Huta of Krakow, which the authorities intended to be the first town without a church, in opposition to the Church and a new way to oppress it and the faithful people of God. Archbishop Wojtyla refused to budge and led a silent but real opposition against it, and championed the establishment of a church despite the persecution and challenges.

And he continued to devote himself to serve the Lord’s Church and His people even as he was made a Cardinal and thus a Prince of the Church, and then later on was elected as Pope and successor to St. Peter the Apostle and thus leader of the entire Church in 1978. His many works as Pope, his dedications in bringing down the tyranny of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the world, and his contributions towards peace are truly remarkable.

We all knew of his deeds and contributions both to the Church and to the world. And we have to take note that he is just a man like us, and as I have mentioned earlier on, he did not exactly had an easy life, and he lost most of his family early on in his life. And yet, all of those did not stop him from doing so many good works that throughout his life, and impacted the life of so many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if Pope St. John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had shown to us how to be a fruitful son of God, bearing rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, making use of the many gifts God had given him, then we too can also do the same as well. And each of us can contribute in our own ways. Many of us will continue to do as what we have done in this world, the laity, who help the Church in numerous groundwork, while some of us may be called by the Lord to serve Him and His people as priests and religious.

May the Lord help us to realise our vocation in this life, that we may give our best and devote our whole life in full hearted commitment to the Lord and to His ways, and may He bless us and keep us forever in His grace, deliver unto us the fullness of His blessings. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, one day some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.

Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did. And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish as they did.”

And Jesus continued with this story, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it use up the ground?'”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.'”

Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!”

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the Assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Ephesians 4 : 7-16

But to each of us divine grace is given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said : When He ascended to the heights, He brought captives and gives His gifts to people. He ascended, what does it mean but that He had also descended to the lower parts of the world? He Himself Who went down, then ascended far above all the heavens fill all things.

As for His gifts, to some He gave to be Apostles, to others prophets, or even evangelists, or pastors and teachers. So He prepared those who belong to Him for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Then no longer shall we be like children tossed about by any wave or wind of doctrine, and deceived by the cunning of people who drag them along into error. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we shall grow in every way towards Him Who is the Head, Christ. From Him comes the growth of the whole body to which a network of joints gives order and cohesion, taking into account and making use of the function of each one. So the body builds itself in love.

Sunday, 27 April 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Canonisation of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the Second Sunday of Easter, or since a few years ago, we also celebrate the greatness of our Lord’s merciful heart and love for us, in the Feast of the Divine Mercy. We celebrate today not just the joy of Easter and the resurrection of Christ, but the very love and mercy that God had shown us in giving us Jesus to be our Saviour and redeem us from certain death because of sin.

Today we have to reflect on this great mercy God had shown us through Jesus. Without this mercy, mankind would still dwell in darkness of this world and engulfed in sin, and therefore, condemned to damnation with Satan and his fellow fallen angels in the eternal torture of hell, bereft of God’s love and mercy in its entirety, where there is no longer any hope for us.

Instead, God who loves us resolved to let Himself be humiliated, scourged, tortured and mocked for our sake. He let Himself to be wounded and punished with the entirety of the weight of our sins, no matter how heavy they are. For our sins are the wounds that He bear, and His cross is our rebelliousness that He bore for our sake, that we may not suffer the consequences of our sins.

Today we celebrate the rising of two great and yet humble men to the Altar, that is our beloved Popes, the Successors of St. Peter, Blesseds Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. The now Saints Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were great workers of love and mercy, proclaiming to the world the virtues of the Most Divine Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope St. John XXIII was the great proponent and champion of peace, seeking peace in a world beset by conflicts and hatred between one another, building bridges of dialogue and reconciliation where there were anger, hatred and violence. This is one of the great aspect and essence of mercy, showing to the world that we mankind should shun evil and hatred, as well as violence and dispute, in favour of love, forgiveness, cooperation and genuine mercy.

Divine Mercy of our Lord was truly at work, when Pope St. John XXIII carried out his mission as the Successor of St. Peter as the head of the Universal Church. Even in his life prior to his election as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII had been the embodiment of our Lord’s Divine Mercy, by acting in accordance to the Lord’s love, reaching out in particular to those who are bereft and longing for the Lord’s beautiful mercy.

Pope St. John XXIII as Angelo Roncalli prior to his election as Pope was sent as the diplomat of the Holy See, representing the Pope and the Church in various countries where strife was rampant, and divisions were evident among the faithful people of God, as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria, he helped to bridge the differences between the faithful belonging to the Church and our separated brethren of the Constantinopolitan communion or the Eastern Orthodox. He helped foster a good relationship among the faithful and did not fear to help out a fellow brethren in need.

In essence, therefore, he had exercised the merciful aspect of the Lord who is the Divine Mercy. Pope St. John XXIII has also emulated the same example of Christ’s mercy by helping the Jews who were hunted down by the NAZIs to be exterminated by working hard to arrange their escape when he was the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, and when a trainload of Jewish exiles attempted to escape death through Turkey.

There were much mercy in this new saint’s actions, and that is why he is today elevated to the glory of the Altar and officially recognised by the Church as a saint worthy of heavenly glory and honour. The other saint elevated today, Pope St. John Paul II whom many if us dearly and fondly remembered as the Pope of our time, also was a great man of mercy and love.

Pope St. John Paul II and his predecessors worked on the vision of a religious sister, who is known now as St. Faustina Kowalska on the Lord as the Divine Mercy. The Lord appeared to St. Faustina Kowalska asking for mankind to repent and change their sinful ways, and cling to His most merciful heart, which became the origin for the devotion towards the Divine Mercy of God, and the origin for today’s celebration on the Feast of the Divine Mercy, which falls on the second Sunday of Easter.

Pope St. John Paul II himself, as many of us know, is a man of great mercy, whose works of love and perseverance for the sake of the faithful is well known throughout the world. When he met an assassination attempt in 1981, on the day of the Feast of our Lady of Fatima, he forgave his to-be-assassin, and visited him in the prison, reconciling himself with the assassin in love.

This is one of the many examples of his acts of mercy, which is firmly founded on the foundations of faith, and his perseverance in fighting for the rights of the faithful against the Communist regime in Poland, his country, was truly remarkable. He did not fight the violence of the atheistic government with violence of his own, even when the people were on his side. He fought for the people with prayers and activism, promoting and championing for the faith through real action firmly grounded on the Christian faith.

Pope St. John Paul II was also well known for his championing of the Universal Call to Holiness, in which the faithful and people of God are encouraged to be models of the faith and walk in a life of holiness, which he helped encourage by the elevation of many holy men and women whose lives had been exemplary to be the role model for the faithful, that is for all of us to follow. These are the examples of the manifestation of the Lord’s love and mercy which came true in the lives of these holy men and women, including that of Popes St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II themselves.

In celebrating the elevation of these two great and yet humble Popes to the holy sainthood, we celebrate together with the entire Church for the propagation of the Lord’s Divine Mercy and love to all the peoples of all the nations, that from today on, through the examples in the lives of these two new saints and countless other holy men and women of God, we may learn of the Lord’s Divine Mercy and understand this great act of mercy.

God did not want us to suffer for the consequences of our sins, which entered our hearts and bodies and minds ever since Adam and Eve our first ancestors disobeyed the Lord and His will. That is why He sent us the greatest gift and help that He can provide us, in Jesus His Son, who suffered in our place, bearing our sins and all their burdens on His shoulders to the cross, where He laid down His own life for us, and by rising from the dead, He gave new hope of a new life to all of us who believe and who are ready to cast away our old lives of sin.

Yet we also have to remember at all times that God hates sin, in all its forms, no matter whether it is a small or a large sin. A sin is still a sin, and it separates us from being able to be perfectly reunited with the Lord who loves us. Sin is the barrier that prevents mankind from being free from the bonds and chains of death, and therefore, it is imperative for us to take the initiative to get rid of our sinfulness.

And the Lord who is also the Divine Mercy as He had revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska, has offered much mercy and opportunity for all of us to repent and turn again towards Him from our past sinful lives. It does not mean that God hates sin then we who have sinned will be condemned to perdition and death. It does not mean that we will be cast into hell immediately for our sins. Mankind are often very aware of their sins, but the danger of this is that because of this awareness, mankind became fearful of God and were afraid to seek God’s forgiveness and therefore fall deeper into sin.

We must not have this mentality or attitude towards God, because we know that the Lord is rich in mercy and slow to anger. Yes, just as much as He is wrathful and hateful against sins that we commit. What matters is for us to open our hearts to Him and allow His mercy to work wonders in us, and allowing His mercy to pierce to the greatest depths of our hearts that He may dwell in us and work His forgiveness in us.

Remember what Pope St. John Paul II had said to us? That we must not be afraid and open the doors wide to the Lord? And yes, therefore, we have to heed the words of this wise saint, and open wide the doors of our hearts to the forgiveness and mercy of God. Do not be afraid indeed, or else God’s mercy and forgiveness will not work its wonders on us, and we will remain in sin.

The problem with many of us and therefore mankind in general is that, not only that we fear the Lord and His wrath, but we also have great pride in us that we do not want to seek the Lord for forgiveness because of our ego. We keep our ego and heads held high, but for what? In the end, keeping our ego and pride will cost us dearly and we may be thrown into hell to suffer for eternity just because we refuse to lower ourselves before the mercy of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we rejoice with the entire Universal Church for the elevation of the two new saints from among our Popes, let us follow their examples and heed their words, that we show mercy in our own actions and open our hearts to the Lord, that His mercy and love may be poured into us, and make us all truly worthy and holy children of His, showing the examples of mercy in all our words, actions and deeds.

O, Pope St. John XXIII, pray and intercede for us that we may be agents of peace in this world, to show love and mercy of God to all through our actions, that may all hatred and violence cease, and that men will be brought closer to God, just as you had once worked hard for the sake of peace and equality for all mankind before God.

O, Pope St. John Paul II, pray and intercede for us that we may have our hearts opened for the Lord to enter, that we will not shut tight our doors before the Lord who knocks daily at them. Pray for us that we will not be afraid to open ourselves for others and show love and mercy in all of our actions, that we will be witnesses of the Lord’s most Divine Mercy.

May the Lord show His infinite mercy to us on this day, that we who have sinned before Him may turn our back against our past and sinful lives, that we may take concrete and real steps towards full reconciliation with our God. O, most Divine Mercy and loving Jesus, forgive us sinners and bring us closer to Your most loving heart. Amen.