Monday, 7 December 2020 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to look upon the healing that God has presented to us, the healing that He has offered us and promised us, if we are faithful to Him and if we look upon Him with faith and hope, entrusting ourselves to His care, love and providence. If we are willing to open ourselves to God’s love and grace, we shall receive His most wonderful love and mercy.

In our first reading today, we have heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah on the reassurance that God gave His people through Isaiah, of a new hope and strength that He gave them, that through His saving grace, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the paralytic and the weak would all run free, and those who were possessed by evil spirits and demons would be purified and liberated from their enslavement by those vile beings.

We heard of all these coming to fruition and fulfilment in Christ, as we heard in our Gospel passage today of the healing of the paralytic man by the Lord Jesus, as with many other examples of miracles and healing powers that the Lord had shown to multitudes of people, just exactly as how the prophet Isaiah had said it. But the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were skeptical and doubted the Lord, refusing to believe in Him as they kept holding onto their pride and hardened their hearts against God’s truth and love manifested through Christ.

The Lord has shown them many wonders and a lot of genuine expressions of God’s love, and yet, some accused Him of blasphemy and colluding with the evil spirits, refusing to acknowledge that He has the authority over those spirits and as the promised Saviour of the world, the Son of God Most High, He has the power to forgive sins and to liberate mankind from their bondage to sins and death. He showed those dissidents, the true power of God and His love by healing the paralytic and restored him to good health.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these readings and reflect on the wonderful love of God, we are all reminded of our own shortcomings and weaknesses, our own predicaments, troubles and indeed, sickness. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? We may be perfectly healthy in body and mind, and yet, because of sin, we are spiritually sick and corrupted.

For sin corrupts our very innermost beings, and sin is truly very wicked and terrible, for while other diseases and conditions have some form of cure or ways to alleviate them, only God alone can forgive us our sins. It is by God’s grace and mercy alone that we are forgiven our sins and all the evils we have committed in our respective lives. We have to trust in His mercy and grace, and embrace His loving grace if we are to be forgiven and healed from this terrible affliction.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself specifically and explicitly mentioned that He, as God, has the power to forgive sins and to heal us all from all of our shortcomings. He can make us all whole again, but are we all willing to embrace His love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness? Let us all consider all these, brothers and sisters in Christ, and if we are still stubborn in our refusal to embrace God’s love and mercy, let us harden our hearts no longer and open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord.

In this season of Advent, we are all called to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, and to prepare ourselves well, especially spiritually that we may celebrate Christmas with true joy and with true appreciation of its importance to us. We have been given this great opportunity for us to rediscover our faith in God, and therefore, we should take this opportunity well, embracing God’s love at all times, and rethinking how we can continue living our lives with faith.

Today, we can also be inspired by St. Ambrose of Milan, a great saint and one of the original Doctors of the Church whose feast day we celebrate. St. Ambrose of Milan was truly a very influential leader of the Church as the Archbishop of Milan, head of one of the largest Christian communities of his time, just as it is still one of the largest today. In addition, his leadership and influence in the contemporary Church at the time, his contributions were truly immense.

St. Ambrose was well-known for being chosen as bishop by acclamation from the community, both the laity and the clergy alike at the time when the community was bitterly divided between the followers of the Arian heresy and those who remained faithful to the true Christian teachings. As both parties bickered especially in the decision of who was to succeed as Bishop of Milan, considering that the previous bishop had been an Arian heretic, the choice fell to St. Ambrose, well-respected by the people as the righteous and just administrator and governor of the region.

St. Ambrose worked hard to root out the corruption of heresy, particularly the Arian heresy aforementioned. In this, he faced a lot of opposition especially from the Arian clergy and also from powerful nobles who were favourable to the Arian cause and were Arian believers themselves. This included the Emperor and his family, where the Empress herself was an ardent believer of the heresy.

St. Ambrose did not let these to hinder his works or discourage him from doing what he had to do in leading his flock to the true faith. St. Ambrose spoke publicly and fearlessly against those who refused to believe in the truth, and even the Empress herself. He had to suffer a lot in the process, threatened and received a lot of trials, but, he remained firm and strong in his conviction and faith.

In later years, when the faithful Emperor Theodosius the Great ruled over the entire Empire, and worked against the Arian heresy, St. Ambrose was also remembered for his courage in standing up to the Emperor, when he was complicit in a massacre that happened in the city of Thessalonica. St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor, and only when the Emperor humbly made a public confession and repentance, that St. Ambrose welcomed him back to the Church with joy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have heard all that St. Ambrose had done, his faith and contributions to the Church. Are we willing and able to follow his examples, in living our faith with genuine devotion, in being righteous and in the courage to remain strong in faith even against oppositions from the world? We have also heard of the power of God’s love and forgiveness, as what happened with the Emperor Theodosius when he committed a grave sin, and through repentance, he was welcomed back to the Church and God’s grace.

Are we willing to repent from our sinful ways, too, brothers and sisters in Christ? We have been given this great opportunity this Advent to seek the Lord and His forgiveness, and to purify ourselves from these corruptions of sin. Let us all make good use of the time and opportunity, and do our very best to serve the Lord faithfully from now on. May the Lord bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us may serve the Lord with ever greater dedication from now on. Amen.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the need for us to consider the path going forward in our lives, on whether we want to follow the path that the Lord has set before us, or whether we rather choose the alternative path of this world and not following the Lord and His ways. All of these have been given to us freely to choose, and we have been given the wisdom and free will to decide.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples and the people using a parable in which He described the actions of kings and rulers of nations who were about to go to war with each other, as well as builders and architects who wanted to build a house. The Lord used these as examples to show that no matter in what situation, everyone’s actions are often likely planned and well-thought of beforehand.

Yes, definitely there will be unforeseen circumstances and changes along the way no matter how well we have planned for everything. Yet to go and enter into something, or to act without any plans at all often leads to not just negative, but even disastrous outcomes and consequences. And the Lord linked all these to what He said before He told them the parable.

The Lord said that no one who loves their fathers, mothers, family members, spouses, relatives and friends, or anyone else more than they love Him can have any share in His kingdom, and unless they carry the burden of their crosses and follow Christ, they cannot be His disciples and consequently have no part of the grace and inheritance God had promised them through Christ, His Son.

What the Lord told the people did not mean that He asked them to abandon everyone and love Him alone, as what some people would have easily misunderstood the true meaning and purpose of what He had said. In truth, through these words, the Lord is reminding each and every one of us His faithful, that we must not forget that God must be first of all and first in our focus, attention and love. And if we love God, then we naturally will also love all those whom God had loved, that is our brothers and sisters.

We should not love something or someone greater than our love for God, but we are called to love everyone as greatly as how we have loved God and ourselves. This is the true intention and meaning of His words and the parable He mentioned, in presenting before us, the truth that He has unveiled before us, and the clear choices that we have to make if we are to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. We cannot treat our faith as a mere formality alone.

We know that the path that we follow in the Lord will lead us to eternal life and glory with God, for it is what He Himself has revealed to us. And yet, we often rather chose to follow different paths in life, refusing to follow the Lord and indulging in our own personal desires and selfish agendas. Truly, we know that doing so will lead us to ruin and yet we still carry it out nonetheless. Truly, we have been fools more often than we are not!

That is why today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by St. Charles Borromeo, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan and great Reformer of the Church, a paragon of faith and virtue in his many contributions especially in his efforts in spearheading the Counter-Reformation within his diocese and beyond as an influential adviser to the Pope and the Roman Curia. St. Charles Borromeo, despite his great influence and power at that time, was however a humble person, who cared for the people of God and spent his life in reaching out to them.

St. Charles Borromeo loved God above all things, and at that time, when many of the clergy and also laypeople were corrupted by the excesses of worldly wealth and glory, he worked hard to purge the corruptions from within the Church, reforming the way the Church and the priests and its laypeople lived, to distance themselves from sin and evil, and to embrace fully the way of the Lord. Clearly, St. Charles Borromeo had chosen the Lord’s path to be his path, and we too should do the same.

St. Charles Borromeo dedicated himself to the people whom God had entrusted to him, showing just how he loved God first and greatest of all, and then he showed the same love to his brethren as well, and not putting or allowing his selfish desires and the temptations to sin to distract him. It was told that he tried his best to feed his flock when a great famine struck Milan and its surroundings, and the holy man of God devoted much of his effort to care for the most needy.

Are we able and willing to follow in the footsteps of St. Charles Borromeo, brothers and sisters in Christ? As mentioned earlier, we have given the choice to make, to choose between God and His righteous path, or the path of the world and personal self-satisfaction and indulgence. Shall we choose consciously with faith, the path that we are going to take in life, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all commit ourselves to God anew as Christians from now on, in each and every moments of our lives, that by our every actions, words and deeds, we will always glorify God in all things. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 25-33

At that time, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, He turned and said to them, “If you come to Me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not follow Me, carrying his own cross, cannot be My disciple.”

“Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, if you, have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you : ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”

“And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become My disciple, if he does not give up everything he has.”

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, 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.

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

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Philippians 2 : 12-18

Therefore, my dearest friends, as you always obeyed me while I was with you, even more, now, that I am far from you, continue working out your salvation “with fear and trembling.” It is God Who makes you, not only wish but also, carry out what pleases Him.

Do everything without grumbling, so, that, without fault or blame, you will be children of God, without reproach, among a crooked and perverse generation. You are a light among them, like stars in the universe, holding to the word of life. I shall feel proud of you, on the day of Christ, on seeing that my effort and labour have not been in vain.

And if I am being poured out, as a libation over the sacrifice, and the offering of your faith, I rejoice and continue to share your joy; and, you, likewise should rejoice and share my joy.

Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Sacred Scriptures the moment when St. Paul was about to embark to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire after he appealed to the Emperor against judgements and charges set up against him by the Jewish authorities. We heard the conversation between king Agrippa, one of the rulers of the Jewish lands and Festus, the procurator or governor of Judea regarding the matter.

In that occasion, king Agrippa went through with Festus the background of the conflict between St. Paul and the Jewish Council, while as we heard in today’s portion, Festus recalled his frustration as the Jewish leaders wanted St. Paul to be condemned to death, although to the Roman governor, St. Paul did not do anything wrong at all, and less still, deserve anything that resemble a punishment, for it was considered religious disagreements and bickering among the Jews.

But the Jewish leaders insisted, and when Festus was caught in quandary, St. Paul as a Roman citizen, a very great privilege and position at that time, made use of his privilege to be tried in Rome before the Emperor and let the Emperor to be his judge. This was to be St. Paul’s last missionary journey, as God had called him, to be the bearers of the Good News to the people in Rome, and it was in Rome that both St. Paul and St. Peter, who had been in Rome earlier as the first Bishop of Rome and Pope, would be martyred.

In what we have heard today on the case and trial of St. Paul, we may feel a great sense of familiarity, as we surely can relate what had happened to St. Paul with what the Lord Jesus Himself had faced, as He stood before the Sanhedrin, being accused of the faults and crimes He did not commit, and given false accusations and testimonies by false witnesses. Like his Lord and Master, St. Paul faced the same trial and challenge, and eventually, he too would follow Him into his own death for the sake of glorifying Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord calling His Apostle St. Peter by the lake of Galilee, after the moment when He appeared to His disciples shortly after His Resurrection as promised. The disciples were out fishing in the lake and gained nothing, and when the Lord told them to follow His instructions, immediately they gained so many fishes, and they recognised the Lord. Then, the Lord spoke to St. Peter as we heard in our Gospel today, commending to him the care and guardianship over His Church and His flock.

Earlier on, before His suffering, crucifixion and death, the Lord had entrusted to St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and said to him how he would be the ‘Rock’ on which He would establish His Church. And then, with His threefold questions to St. Peter, it was symbolic of not just that the Lord had forgiven him for his threefold denial at the moment of His arrest and suffering, but also that, the Lord reaffirmed His entrustment of His Church and His flock at the hands of St. Peter, the first Pope and leader of the entire Universal Church.

St. Peter was also called to a great ministry that he would fulfil faithfully over many years and decades, which ended in the city of Rome like St. Paul. St. Peter also established the important Church in Antioch, becoming its first Bishop, before heading to Rome and establishing the Church there as its first Bishop as well. In the end, as the Lord Himself had told him, in St. Peter’s old age and end of ministry, he would be chained and arrested, and eventually martyred under the Roman Emperor Nero during one of the brutal early Christian persecutions.

Today then we also celebrate the feast of one of his successors as the Pope and Supreme Pontiff, as Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Universal Church, Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Batista Montini, formerly Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan. He was renowned as a holy man and dedicated servant of God who was committed to the care of the flock entrusted under his care, from the early days of his priesthood ministry, to his days as the Archbishop of Milan, and finally in his fifteen years Pontificate.

Pope St. Paul VI also encountered tremendous challenges from outside and from within the Church. He was tasked with bringing the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council began by his predecessor, Pope St. John XXIII into a successful conclusion. Often he had to tread the middle ground between those who advocated strict adherence to the ancient customs and ways, from the extremists who sought to disband and dismantle much of the Church teachings and tenets.

Pope St. Paul VI was also instrumental in continuing the efforts of his predecessors in restoring Church unity that culminated with the Common Declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church in annulling the common declarations of anathema and excommunication that happened between the Churches East and West over nine centuries earlier in the Great Schism of the year 1054. Both leaders faced criticism and opposition for these works.

Pope St. Paul VI was also known for his great encyclicals, most well-remembered one is the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, on the sanctity of all human life, opposing all those, both within and outside the Church who tried to impose and influence the Church and the faithful to adopt contraception and artificial reproductive methods like birth control that are against Church teachings and violating human rights and the sanctity of life. Pope St. Paul VI again faced bitter opposition and ridicule from not just many in the world, but even from among his own flock.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard in today’s readings, as well from the lives of the saints, we can clearly see that to follow God will often require us to give our all and often we have to endure suffering and challenges as well along the way. If we want to commit ourselves to the Lord, then we should not be half-hearted or be lukewarm about it. Instead, following the examples of our holy predecessors, we should be willing to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly from now on.

May God be with us always throughout this journey, and may He help us in our way, that we may remain firm and faithful, filled with conviction and dedication to serve God with all of our hearts despite the challenges and trials we may face along our journey. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”