Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard that familiar word from the Gospel, “Come to Me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” And also another one, “For My yoke is good and My burden is light.” In this we see God as One in Whom we can find rest and succour amidst our burdens of life and amidst the challenges and difficulties we often encounter in this world.

However, the problem lies in the fact that the devil is never tired of trying to pull us away from God’s salvation, by presenting to us temptations and persuasions, making it seems as if his way is more attractive and a better option for us, because it seems to be less challenging, lighter and easier on us as compared to the way that God offers to us.

As human beings, it is in our nature to be lazy and to be slothful, preferring the easier way out than the difficult ones. We tend to seek the path that is favourable to us, and most beneficial to us. But what we have to take note of is the outcome at the end. Are we going towards eternal life and salvation, or are we instead heading to damnation in hell for eternity?

The path of the Lord is light and yet we often perceived as difficult and troublesome, because we are often focused on the sufferings at the moment. We tend to focus on the challenges we encounter as a follower of the Lord, as His disciples and bearers of His Good News. We think that it is too difficult for us to carry on when we are faced with ridicule, rejection and even persecution because of our faith and because of what we believe in the Lord.

And therefore, there are several ways we can go ahead with this, that is either we conform with the expectations of the world, meaning that we choose instead the path other than the path God has provided us with, following instead what the world expects us to do, enjoying ourselves and living without restraint from sinning, or we can also pretend not to know the way of the Lord, which was exactly as what St. Peter did when he was asked three times by the bystanders on whether he knew the Lord. He denied Him all the three times.

The other way is for us to endure the path of the Lord, by being true to our faith despite the challenges and difficulties. This is the path followed by the saints and the martyrs, all those who have remained true to the Lord despite of the persuasions to do otherwise. They chose to remain true because they know that, while there are difficulties to be faced at present, what awaits them is an eternity of joy and happiness with God. The current challenges are only temporary.

The way that the devil offers us seems to be easier, less difficult to be done, with no opposition and challenge to us. However, if we follow this path through sinning and disobeying God, while now we enjoy the time and the present moment we have, we are looking forward to an eternity of despair, suffering and torment, when the Lord judges us for our failure to remain faithful to Him, and He will cast us all into hell where we suffer because of that eternal separation from God’s love and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have been given an opportunity to reexamine our lives, on our actions and deeds. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties? Have we instead chosen to conform to the way of the wicked because we fear the repercussions or because we are ambivalent and lukewarm about our faith?

Today we commemorate the feast of St. Ambrose, the great and renowned Church father and Doctor of the Church from the early days of the Church, who was the Bishop of Milan and one of the most influential leaders of the Church of his time. He was a Roman noble who was renowned for his great piety to the Lord, who was an administrator and governor of the region now known as northern Italy.

But at that time, there was a great discord within the Church, due to the heresy of Arianism, a false teaching proclaiming that Jesus our Lord is mere Man and not God. And many of the faithful were swayed by this false teaching and followed the way of heresy, including even many of the priests and bishops, and also those in power, even the Roman Emperors themselves.

At a time when there was a dispute in the succession of the Bishop of Milan and disagreement of the two parties, the Holy Spirit guided the Church to elect St. Ambrose as Bishop by acclamation, and since then, he devoted himself wholly to the Church and his flock despite his initial doubt and uncertainty. And soon, St. Ambrose promoted the teachings of the true faith among his flock, and encountered many troubles with those in power, those who believe in the Arian heresy.

But St. Ambrose did not give up, and even it was said that he openly rebuked the Roman Empress for her Arian heresy and for her attempt to promote the Arian heretics to positions within the Imperial court and the Church. And later on, when the true faith returned to the leadership of the Empire, St. Ambrose was renowned for his courageous act of formally rebuking and excommunicating the Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great for his involvement in the massacre of the people of the city of Thessalonica.

The Emperor regretted his sins and openly repented for his sins before St. Ambrose and the faithful, and St. Ambrose welcomed the Emperor back to the Church. From all these examples, we see how St. Ambrose is such a great role model for us on how we should live our lives faithfully before the Lord. We must not be afraid to stand up to our faith and indeed, point out to each other so that we may help and guide each other that we may remain strong in our faith and stay on the right track towards our salvation in God.

Let us all ask for St. Ambrose to intercede for us, that he may ask God to strengthen our courage and commitment to Him, and in all that we say and do, we may be able to show all others that we are the disciples and followers of the Lord, and be examples for one another to lead us all towards the Lord. May the Lord bless us and help our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come to Me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you. 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 good, and My burden is light.”

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Isaiah 40 : 25-31

To whom, then, will you liken Me or make Me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see : Who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is His power, so great His strength, that not one of them is missing.

How can you say, o Jacob, how can you complain, o Israel, that your destiny is hidden from me, that your rights are ignored by YHVH? Have you not known, have you not heard that YHVH is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, His knowledge is without limit.

He gives strength to the enfeebled, He gives vigour to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in YHVH will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.

Monday, 4 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together to celebrate the feast of a great and yet humble saint, that is St. Charles Borromeo, or San Carlo Borromeo as he is known in his native Italy. He was the Archbishop of Milan, the most influential and largest of the dioceses in the world today, and even then during the lifetime of St. Charles Borromeo. He was also a Cardinal of the Roman Church based on his position as Archbishop of Milan. Truly he was a very influential prelate during his time.

Yet, despite all that, St. Charles Borromeo remained, above all else, a humble, devout, and loving person, and a dedicated servant of God Most High, putting God always before himself in all things. He committed himself to the service of those who had been entrusted to him, like that of a shepherd caring for his sheep with all of his might and attention, as well as love.

St. Charles Borromeo was born from a rich family, and yet he rejected the culture of waste and excessive glamour that characterised the nobles and the wealthy during that period. He was completely dedicated and devoted to the poor, and he took his duties as Archbishop of Milan seriously, working hard for his people, and in humility, he often walked in the streets barefooted and with a cord around his neck, to symbolise the burdens he carried as the shepherd of God’s people.

St. Charles Borromeo, made a cardinal in his youth, showed great zeal as well in the affairs of the Universal Church, giving great contributions towards the effort to stem the tide of the heretical Protestantism, and spearheading, together with many other contemporary saints, the Counter-Reformation, particularly through the Council of Trent. St. Charles Borromeo ensured that the Church was thoroughly reformed and cleansed of any corruptions that had permeated the Church of God in the past centuries.

St. Charles Borromeo, despite his zeal, great dedication, and commitment to the good of the Church and God’s people, faced much opposition and resistance. Despite all those oppositions, though, he persevered, and his hard works gave a solid foundation for the Church, from which the Church and Christendom may heal from the terrible heresy of Protestantism and other heresies running rampant at that time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Charles Borromeo truly embodied what the Lord said in our Gospel reading today. That we have to love and care for the poor, and dare to step out from our comfort zone. We should not just enclose ourselves in our comfort zone, but we must take action, just as St. Charles Borromeo had done, that we love our brethren, especially the poorest, the last, the lost, the least, and the unloved, namely those rejected by society.

Being wealthy and having many possessions is God’s grace, brothers and sisters. It is a sign of God’s blessing and favour upon us. But He did not intend for us to keep all of these blessings and graces for ourselves. We ought to share those blessings with one another, and enjoy these blessings together. We should not rejoice over the suffering of others, especially not those who have nothing or little.

The Lord urged us to show love, care, and compassion to these brothers and sisters of ours. Everyone ought to have enough and sufficient for themselves, and nobody should be lacking and suffer from that. Following the examples set by St. Charles Borromeo and other saints, we should open up ourselves and not withdraw into ourselves. We cannot become mere closet Christians, but rather we must go out and be courageous to proclaim God and His love to all, especially through our own words, deeds, and actions.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to us who have been given much, let us share with one another the joy He had given us, that our less fortunate brethren may also have the taste of this joy, and rejoice together with us as one people in God, all of whom are His children. And to those of us who have less, we too can share our joy with one another. It does not mean that because we have less then we cannot be joyful or rejoice. Be happy and glad, and celebrate life with one another, sharing the joy.

Yes, brethren, share the joy and blessings we have, that all of us, rich or poor, powerful or weak, can together praise and glorify the Lord as one people, without discriminating against each other or rejoicing over another’s suffering. May the Lord who loves us all, continues to watch over us, bless us, and embrace us with His love. God be with us, always and forever. Amen.

Monday, 4 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)

Luke 14 : 12-14

Jesus also addressed the man who had invited Him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid.

When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you; you will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.

Monday, 4 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)

Psalm 68 : 30-31, 33-34, 36-37

But I myself am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise those in captivity.

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. His people shall dwell in the land and possess it; the children of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His Name will dwell in it.