Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded that as Christians we are all called to glorify the Lord through our lives and follow in the examples of the Apostles and the saints, in all that they had done for the greater glory of God. The Lord has come into this world proclaiming His truth and revealed everything about Himself to us through His Church, and yet, there were still plenty of obstacles that He encountered because of the stubbornness of those who refused to believe in Him.

For example, the chief priests and the Pharisees opposed the Lord and questioned His motives and works, when whatever He had done clearly came from God. He had performed many miracles, signs and wonders before them, just as many among the Pharisees and the priests had witnessed the works of the Lord as they followed Him from place to place, some among them hoping to catch the Lord in making mistakes and that they could then charge Him and destroy His reputation among His followers.

Why were the chief priests and the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord and in all the truth and things that He has brought into this world? That is because of their pride and worldly attachments, so much so that they also refused to believe in the servant whom God had sent to go before Him, namely that of St. John the Baptist, precisely because he was so popular and so many people went to him seeking to be baptised and converted to the Lord, that the chief priests and the Pharisees were afraid that everyone were turning away from them, toward St. John the Baptist earlier on, and then, towards the Lord Jesus.

The Lord yet did not allow all these to stop Him or to dissuade Him from continuing on with His ministry and works. On the contrary, He continued to push on and persevere through the challenges He faced, and refuted the chief priests and the Pharisees such that they were not able to respond back to Him in kind, as shown in our Gospel passage today. He showed all of us that to be Christians, we have to be first and foremost be committed to the Lord and resist the temptations to give up our commitment and struggles just because we may encounter challenges and trials along the way.

Instead, we have to deepen our commitment, and share in the sufferings of Christ, as we walk through our journey of faith in life. This is what we should be doing with our lives, and today, we can also be further inspired by the examples of a great saint and Pope, whose lives and works through a difficult and turbulent time faced by the Universal Church can help us to remain firm in our own faith in the Lord, and also to discover the calling and the mission entrusted to us by Him, by our renewed conviction and faith.

Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was one of the more recent Popes, the predecessor of Pope St. John Paul II and his own predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who passed away just over forty years ago in the Year of Our Lord 1978. Pope St. Paul VI lived through difficult times, surviving through two World Wars that devastated much of Europe and other parts of the world. He was born into a small noble Italian family, who joined the seminary with the intention to become a priest during the midst of the First World War. He went on to complete his studies and was ordained a priest a few years after he joined the seminary.

Later on he would then continue to serve the Church in the Holy See, as part of the Secretariat of State through which he worked closely with Pope Pius XII and other prominent members of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See. During the difficult years of the Second World War, he helped the Pope in his numerous efforts and missions to mediate between the warring sides and to save many people who were suffering persecutions, as well as managing the affairs of the Church in places that were devastated by conflict and war.

It was later on after many years of service then that the Pope appointed then Father Montini as Archbishop of Milan, tasked with the governance and guidance of the largest Archdiocese in Italy and one of the most important in the whole world. During this tenure as the Archbishop of Milan, and later on as Cardinal under Pope St. John XXIII, the future Pope St. Paul VI laboured hard in dedicating himself to his flock in the Archdiocese of Milan, and was also deeply involved in many other projects and charitable works of the Church.

Then as one of the key members of the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council and as the succeeding Pope, in leading the Church in completing the Ecumenical Council and the management of the Church during those times of transitions, Pope St. Paul VI worked hard to help the Church to survive through those difficult years, when many left the Church and abandoned their faith in God. His landmark Humanae Vitae papal encyclical, widely praised for his staunch defence of Church teachings was condemned and rejected by many segments of the Church. Nonetheless, Pope St. Paul VI continued to labour hard and to persuade those who have erred in their path and faith, to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring example set by Pope St. Paul VI and reminding ourselves of the good examples set by so many other wonderful holy saints and martyrs, God’s holy people, then let us ask ourselves if we have been living our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, like how those saints had lived their lives. Or have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and ways, that we hardened our hearts and minds much like those chief priests and the Pharisees? If we have done the latter, then we must realise that it is still not too late for us to turn away from these sinful ways and return to the Lord.

Let us all therefore live our lives faithfully from now on, giving our very best to be righteous and just, to be committed to the Lord at all times. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen us all to remain resolute and committed to walk in His path regardless of the challenges and trials we may encounter. Amen.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Mark 11 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus and His disciples were once again in Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders came to Him, and asked, “What authority do You have to act like this? Who gave You authority to do the things You do.”

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question, only one, and if you give me an answer, then I will tell you what authority I have to act like this. Was John’s preaching and baptism a work of God, or was it merely something human? Answer Me.”

And they kept arguing among themselves, “If we answer that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” But neither could they answer before the people that the baptism of John was merely something human, for everyone regarded John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you what authority I have to act as I do.”

Alternative reading

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Alternative Psalm

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name.

Proclaim His salvation, day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name.

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Sirach 51 : 12a-20

I will give You thanks and praise and bless the Name of the Lord. In my youth, before I set out on my travels, I openly sought wisdom in prayer; before the Temple I asked for her and I will pursue her to the end of my days. While she blossomed like a ripening cluster, my heart was delighted in her; my feet followed the right path, because from my youth I searched for her.

As soon as I began listening to her, she was given to me, and with her, much instruction. With her help I made progress and I will glorify Him Who gives me wisdom, for I decided to put it into practice and ardently seek what is good. I shall not regret it. My soul has struggled to possess her. I have been attentive to observe the Law, and after my faults I have stretched out my hands to heaven and lamented my ignorance of her.

My love for her increased and I found her in repentance. It was through her from the beginning that I learnt to possess my heart. She will not forsake me.

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

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.”