Saturday, 24 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshan in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great event and a great day of prayer and asking for supplication, that is for the suffering that our brethren in faith suffers even this very moment, as they had for the past decades, of the great persecution and hostility against the faith and the faithful in China. Today is the day of universal prayer, when we, as one Church of God, pray as one for the deliverance of our brethren who are daily persecuted just because they remain faithful and true to the fullness of the truth that God has revealed and kept within His Church.

Today we also commemorate, perhaps very appropriately, the feast of our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her aspect as the Help of Christians, as the hope for all mankind who are in the darkness of this world and under the dominion of Satan, for Mary, as the mother of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, is the vessel through whom the Lord worked His great graces and power, that led to our salvation in Jesus.

Today also we celebrate the feast of our Lady of Sheshan, who is the representation of Mary the Help of Christians, the patroness of the Basilica at Sheshan near Shanghai in China, which was famous both in China and around the world, and one of the lasting symbol of the perseverance of the faithful throughout the many decades of persecutions against the faith and the faithful ones of God.

Today’s celebration and prayerful devotion is a vivid and strong reminder to all of us, that in our world today, despite it being generally easier for us to live in the world, with all the amenities and goodness and improvements in the living quality and standards, especially for those who live in the developed countries, not everything is always good for us. Persecution against the faithful is real, even in this day, and we should never think that persecution is only a thing in the past or during the Roman times.

These days, being a faithful person is getting ever more difficult, especially because there are more and more oppositions against the faith and as mankind grew in their power and achievements, they also grew in pride, and loathed having to be ‘ordered’ around by someone whom they deem to be inexistent in their faulty and lacking sense of understanding. Mankind grew in their opposition and resistance to the love of God and His ways, preferring to follow their own ways.

That is precisely the condition of the Church besieged around the world, from the West and the developed world in general where the faith is under serious attacks from the so-called secularism and relativism, especially in terms of moral and scientific relativism, which undermined the teachings of the Church on the faith in the hearts and minds of many among the faithful, leading them to fall into corruption and trap of the evil one. Mankind misused the wisdom and intellect given to them to serve their own purposes, and this even lead to them doubting about God and thinking that He is not present, using their scientific discoveries to try and proof that in vain.

Then, there are also many oppositions and persecutions by those affected by the heresies of the faith, and by those whose eyes had been clouded by the devil and therefore unable to comprehend the truth of the Lord, which He had revealed through Jesus, and from Him, through the Church and its teachings. These persecutions occur throughout the world, and many of our brethren suffer from it. Daily, there are new persecutions everywhere in the world, that even new martyrs arise every single day.

And we come to the main point of importance for this day, that is the persecution of our brethren in faith in China, and to a lesser extent, the persecution of the faithful and mankind in general, in other Communist and authoritarian states, most notorious being the state of North Korea, which continuously and without regards to human rights and nature, punish and torture countless peoples for opposing their authorities and out of fear of losing their absolute control and power over the people.

Let me give a brief history and explanation of how the Church in China came into this sad and unfortunate state of affairs. The faith was brought to China by many missionaries of the faith centuries ago, who persevered through oppositions and persecutions. The faith grew very rapidly and soon millions of the faithful came forth in that country with the oldest civilisation in the world. They managed to reconcile their faith with their culture and all the differences between them.

As the Chinese monarchy and Empire crumbled and replaced by republican governments just over a century ago, and the people and the faith went through a difficult time, and wars and conflicts were commonplace in those turbulent years, culminating in a deadly and devastating war, between China and Japan that took the lives of millions. And yet, during those difficult times, the faith continued to grow rapidly.

But the devil certainly did not rest and he worked hard to undermine the successes that we had achieved. The Communists that first spread from Russia and then into China, brought great ruin and suffering for the faithful. They followed the godless, atheistic and anarchic teachings and ideologies of Karl Marx, or Marxism, who argued that religion is the opium of the masses that is the people, because to him religion gave people false hope. This shows how mistaken Karl Marx was and how ignorant he was in the faith, the one true and only faith.

Yet, people took the idea seriously, and as Marxist ideas propagate by rising along the line of class divide and class warfare, gaining the support of the poor supermajority, Communism became very popular and brought about great trouble for the faithful, in many parts of the world. And although persecution of this nature had ended with the inevitable fall of many Communist regimes around the world just around two decades ago, but in countries like China and North Korea, persecution continues right until today.

In China, the advent of the Communist power in there spelt trouble for the faithful and for the Church, when in 1949, the Communists won the power struggle for the ultimate power and control in China, and persecution had continued ever since in various ways and methods. For more than six decades, the faithful had been subjected to varying degrees of persecution, be it openly or subtly, and many martyr were born out of this great persecution.

The Communist and atheist government tried to control the Church by creating their own ‘official church’ which they controlled with absolute power and tyranny to partially give a facade that the government tolerated freedom of religion and faith, but in fact, until today, is greatly fearful and opposed to the Church and to the faith, rightly so because they built their authorities on the power of the devil, and with the faith, the devil shall fall, and so will those who depend on his power.

They forced the faithful to go through forced labour and intense concentration camps, through various tortures and punishments, and yet they failed miserably, as the faith will only grow ever stronger with persecutions, and they will not succeed. They acted in desperation for they fear of losing their power, but the Holy Spirit will certain not remain silent. As He had done before, He will come and then transform this world anew, and yes, transform China anew!

Brothers and sisters, let us all pray, and pray hard for the deliverance of our brethren in faith, who are persecuted and discriminated daily for their perseverance to remain faithful to the truth in the Lord. We are in this sense, very fortunate that we have such freedom to practice our faith, but again, we have to be ever vigilant, that we do not fall into the trap and temptations of Satan. Let us pray for the many missionaries who work in spreading the Good News, be it openly or clandestinely in the country of China and North Korea, and many other parts of the world that are still in darkness.

May our Lord, together with His blessed mother Mary, the help of all Christians, protect and help all those who suffer for His sake, and those who keep alive faithfully their faith and devotion to Him. May they all be safe and be blessed day after day, and may we also be inspired by their perseverance and dedication to Your Most Holy Name. Lord, bless China and her people, and may Your Name be known throughout that country, that the whole people may know You and turn to You as their Lord and Saviour. Amen!

Saturday, 24 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshan in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 18-21

If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of this world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.

Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecute Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

Saturday, 24 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshan in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 24 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshan in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together and listen to the words of Jesus, and that of St. Paul, heeding us to live righteously and in the spirit of true faith in God, and not in the belief of any human power or pride, that is what is very common for many of us to do.

Jesus warns us that we should not be hypocrites as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were, and we must truly practice what we preach, and practice what we believe in. And that our righteousness comes truly from the inside and not just the purity of the outside that makes us all righteous in the eyes of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law or the Scribes were entirely preoccupied in their own set of laws, rules, and regulations that were very strict and restrictive at the same time. They have rules regulating everything in the daily life of peoples, even to the most minute details regarding the washing of the hands before meals and how it is supposed to be done.

The washing of the hands before meals according to the laws of the Pharisees involve the thorough rinsing of both hands with water all the way to the elbow. While the intention was indeed good, that is for hygiene purposes, in its application, such rules and laws made by men often caused us to lose sight on what is truly important, that is to love and serve the Lord our God, and obey His commandments of love.

That is because the people become so preoccupied with the procedures and the rules, that they obey them for the sake of obeying the rules, instead of understanding the true meaning and purpose of those laws. The Lord did not have His Laws to punish or make the lives of the people to be difficult, as what He intended out of His commandments is that the people can remain in His righteous path and remain in His love, loving one another and loving Him as their Father and Lord.

Yes, brethren, for the commandments of God is the commandments of love, as Christ had aptly summarised it as the commandments to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strengths, and doing the same to love our brothers and sisters, and our neighbours around us, all our fellow mankind.

The Pharisees did not do these commandments, and neither did they ‘do’ them for the love of God, but instead for the praise of men. They loved to show their great piety, their supposed full obedience to the laws of the Lord, while in fact, they were great sinners within. They cleaned the exterior but cared nothing for the interior, that is their heart and soul.

That is why Jesus rebuked them, that they were only beautiful to behold from the outside, but inside, they were truly rotten and corrupt. Worse still is that they did not just do this to themselves, but also to the people of God whom they were entrusted with, and therefore made them to fall as well. The Lord’s wrath is therefore justly raised against them, these deceivers and hypocrites.

That is what the Lord really wants us to avoid, that is to avoid being trapped by the devil and his temptations of this world. We must say those prayers meaningfully and with great sincerity and not just for the sake of being considered ‘holy’, as what those Pharisees had once done. True holiness comes not from the outside, but from the inside.

If we are truly holy inside, that is if we truly love the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him, then it will certainly show through, and the light that is within us, will shine brightly through, and the Lord will recognise us as His possession. On the other hand, if we are truly wicked on the inside and tried to maintain a facade of purity and ‘holiness’ on the outside, the darkness inside us will also show through, and the Lord will cast us away from His presence.

Today, brethren, we also commemorate the feast day of St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa of Avila was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She was made so, because of her own great piety and well-known faith in God, as well as through her numerous writings and works, many of which influence us even till today, and also played a significant role in addressing heresies and divisions among the faithful in her time and beyond.

St. Teresa of Avila received visions and experienced great joy in God through ecstatic experiences, through which the Lord especially revealed to her the nature and the result of sin, mortal sins, and how terrible they are. She went through much suffering and persecution throughout her life, with some even doubting her faith in God, as strong and great as it is. Nevertheless, with the strength of God, St. Teresa of Avila continued to march on, and persevered through those time of difficulties.

St. Teresa of Avila is our role model, that we ought to give ourselves in entirely to the Lord, and to open ourselves fully to His divine love and divine providence, that we will become truly the possession of Christ, and Christ becomes a possession of ourselves, that He will live in us, just as we live in His loving embrace. May St. Teresa of Avila intercede for us, asking the Lord to strengthen our faith, and deepen our commitment and conviction for His cause. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, or in short our Guardian Angels, who care for us, watch us in our daily lives and intercede for our sake before the Lord, especially when we are lost in darkness, and when we are being pulled apart by the forces of the darkness.

The Lord had not left us all in this world empty-handed and without guidance. Just as He gave us His helpers through His disciples, who passed down their authority to our priests and bishops, who minister to us, He had also sent even His angels to each one of us, to be our protector, companion, and guide. That is what the meaning of the Guardian Angels is about.

An angel created by the Lord had rebelled against Him in his pride, in his arrogance. That is Lucifer, now known as Satan. Once the most brilliant and the mightiest of the angels, he had been thrown down and fell so low that he is the most disgusting of all creations, as the great Enemy, the deceiver. And with him, came down many angels who followed him into his rebellion against God. These are the fallen angels.

Satan and his fallen angels were certainly not pleased of their failed rebellion and were committed to destroy the ones that God loves, that is His creation, particularly in mankind. He came down as the snake at the gardens of Eden, to deceive Eve and Adam, our ancestors. He successfully did so, and mankind fell into sin.

God certainly did not remain silent, but He sent His help over the generations through the prophets and messengers to help bring His beloved creations back to Him, by shunning their lives of sin and embrace instead the love of God. But mankind is easily tempted, by the allures of the pleasures that are in the world, and by the temptations of Satan himself, who sent his fallen angels daily to tempt mankind and sow darkness in the hearts of each one of them.

That is where the Guardian Angels, our Guardian Angels come in. They are in constant spiritual battle against the fallen Angels Satan had sent to us, in battle for our soul, for salvation over damnation of this soul we have in us. The Guardian Angels is at the forefront of this daily spiritual battle, as is all of us. We are always barraged daily with the forces of evil, through temptations and deceit, and we must be strong if we want to persevere through this challenge to the end.

The Lord does not want us to fall into sin and into hell, which He did not prepare for us, but for the devil and his angels. That is why He sent us His angels to protect us and to help prevent us from falling to that fate. These angels, our Guardian Angels are truly noble beings, committed to our salvation, working tirelessly day and night to ensure that this happens.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, have we all then, appreciate what the Lord had done for us, all these while, through His angels that He stationed around us for our sake? Have we listened to their advice and follow their guidance? Or have we rather followed our own desires and the temptations of the evil one? We have a choice in this, brothers and sisters, and it is up to us to decide.

Let us, together with our guardian angels, persevere and fight on against the forces of evil, supporting one another in this daily struggle of the faith. We cannot be idle, but we must be proactive, reaching out at our brethren, especially those who are struggling in their faith, those who have fallen into the state of sin, and those whose life is filled with all forms of evils and corruptions of Satan.

May the Lord continue to watch over us, through His angels that He had sent for us, to be our protectors, that they will continue to pray for our sake, interceding for our purpose. May we continue to be loving in our actions, that we will remain in God’s favour, and also reject Satan and all of his approaches and persuasions. Let us continue to fight a good battle with our Guardian Angels and give thanks to them for their commitment, and to God for having sent them. Amen.

Sunday, 25 August 2013 : 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Lay Apostolate Sunday (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listen to the warning and reminder from Jesus Christ our Lord, to be ever ready and ever alert on the coming of the kingdom of God, that is the time when God will finally make His move to end all the tyranny of sin and evil, and break the power of Satan for eternity, for a final time. That is the time when Christ comes as a conquering and victorious king, who will reward all who had followed Him faithfully and even suffer for His sake, and also punish those who had opposed Him and barred His way.

Following the Lord is not enough with just being with Him, and being idle. That was exactly what Jesus was referring to, when He mentioned the rebuke of the many, who cannot enter the kingdom of God, because they were unworthy, and because they were unprepared for the coming of the kingdom of God. They are caught asleep when the Lord comes again to claim His people for His own, and the Lord rebukes them and rejects them, denying them the reward He reserves only for those He deems to be worthy.

God is our Father and our Saviour, and He loves all of us very much, without condition. He truly cares for all of us, just like a father loves and cares for his own son, for his own children. He gives His love freely for everyone without exception, to the point that He even gave Himself in flesh and blood, His own Body, through the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, in His most loving Passion. He endured rejection, mockery, and suffering out of His love for us, that we will not die, die an eternal death in damnation, but may attain life eternal with Him for all ages.

Therefore, out of His great and unconditional love and compassion for us, He who gave us His life through His flesh and blood, wants us to be righteous, upright and worthy of Him. That is why, He corrects us, punishes us, and rebukes us when we make mistakes in our life, and when we go astray from the path to salvation, when the devil begin to take over our hearts. It is to ensure that we remain in Him and not fall into the temptations of Satan.

It may seem to many of us, that the devil seems to be very friendly to us, and yes, brethren, he will always present his smiling face to us, deceiving us into believing his lies and his alluring tactics. Remember, brethren, that the devil was once Lucifer, the greatest, brightest, and mightiest of all the angels of heaven. It is therefore easy for him to show his ‘bright’ and less sinister side to us, in order to deceive us into sin and disobedience against God, just as he had done with Adam and Eve, our ancestors.

We must always remember, that he is also Satan, the devil, the deceiver, the evil snake, and the great enemy of God and all that is good. We must be careful lest we be tempted and fall into his traps. The devil envies the Lord and all mankind, and he will certainly do his best, and use all the resources at his disposal, in order to make us fall. He had done that to our forefathers, and he will certainly do the same again to all of us.

God had given us His help and assistance to us, through His prophets, His messengers, and His own Son in the end. He gave us much assistance, and gave us His Law through Moses, first to His people Israel, and then to us. the core of that Law is the Ten Commandments, which was made clear by our Lord Jesus, as the commandments of love, the love for God and the love for our fellow men. The purpose of these laws? They are meant to be our guide, and our focus, that we will not be easily swayed by the sweet promises of the devil. Yes, brethren, sweet on the outside but bitter within indeed!

The devil placed many obstacles in our path towards the Lord, and that is why, following the Lord our God will not be easy, and it will not be like a walk in the park. Following our Lord will kean a constant, daily struggle, struggle against evil and all the temptations that threaten to divert us from salvation in God. Yes, as Jesus Himself had said, that following Him means to take up our own crosses and follow Him in carrying His cross to Calvary, yes, to our own Calvary.

To follow the Lord indeed means to die to ourselves, and to die to our sins. It is to die to our old lives with Christ’s own death. We die in this way through our own baptism, when we were welcomed and entered into the Church of God, as one family of the faithful ones. Through that ‘death’ we have also been risen up together with Christ, who had triumphed and conquered death, evil, and broke all the powers of Satan through His glorious Resurrection.

Once again, I will reiterate the great difficulty of following the Lord and to remain obedient to Him, His will, and His love, as the devil uses all the resources in his disposal to prevent us from being saved, to suffer and accompany him for eternity in damnation. He deceives and betrays all who believe in him, but he is sweet and smart in his ways, that we will see him as friend and someone good, but truly, nothing good can come of working with the devil. It is a choice we need to make, between the seemingly tough and challenging path of the Lord, but one that leads to eternal life, or the other path that seems to be easy and enjoyable, but is a path to damnation.

Today, brethren, we celebrate Lay Apostolate Sunday, and the purpose of this celebration is indeed to remain us, indeed all of us who belong to the laity, and also the priests alike, must all be apostles to one another, and ultimately be the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, just as the Apostles of the Lord, who gave their all for the sake of God, and spread the Word of God to the four corners of the world, and even gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, we too should follow in their footsteps.

Christ had repeatedly warned them and therefore, all of us, that the path that He leads is not easy, and challenges are sure to be plentiful. The world itself will hate us, but we cannot fight back hatred with hate, brothers and sisters. We must reach out to them, reach out with our own love, the love God had given to all of us. That is the meaning of Lay Apostolate, that even all of us who do not belong to the priesthood, that is the laity, all of us, have an important part to play in our Church, in our faith. How? Precisely by making sure that we obey God and His commandments, that is love. Yes, love!

The gate to heaven is narrow, brethren, and that is why it is a narrow way. But with love, and with God’s love behind us, nothing is impossible. Yes, what is impossible for man is possible for God. For from men’s perspective, we had been far too dirty and unworthy of the perfection of heaven to have even the slightest hope of redemption, and yet, through Christ, the manifestation of Divine light, we have been promised salvation, as long as we remain faithful to Him and keep true to His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today resolve, and indeed, vow to do our best, for the Church of God, for our brethren in need. Show them our great love, care, and compassion. Extend our hands towards them, and accept them into our embrace. The door is narrow, but to all of us who love, and who obey the Word of God, it is not narrow, brethren, but it is wide open for us! And do not forget to pray and support our priests, because just as we have much tasks to do ahead of us, to secure our salvation and the salvation of others in Christ through our actions and deeds, our priests have even greater responsibility. Continue to pray for them, support them in any way we can, while we continue to play our own part and contribute to the work of salvation, the good works of our Lord, made evident in this world, through us, His children and His apostles. God be with us, and bless us all always. Amen.

Saturday, 17 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today Christ reminds us that we all need to be like children. Yes, like children, but not in childish ways, but in the purity of their thoughts, their minds and their hearts, and in the true faith that they have in the Lord. Yes, if we notice it well, children, who are pure and uncorrupted, often are able to give their all, their full and undivided attention to the Lord.

This pure faith of children is what we must have in each one of us, the faith untainted by the worry of the world, or the desires of the flesh for the pleasures of this world. That is why we should not reject these children and dismiss them as naive and without wisdom, for indeed, we can learn much even from these little children! And remember that the Lord Himself had said to His disciples, and therefore to us, that those who welcome these little children, also welcome Him. Those who reject them therefore, also reject the Lord.

Compare the faith of the children to that of the people of Israel as we see in the Book of Joshua from the First Reading. Why do you think that Joshua had to repeatedly ask the people to make a choice whether they are to serve the Lord or the pagan gods of Mesopotamia of their ancestors or the pagan gods of the Amorites their neighbours? That was exactly because they have often rebelled against the Lord, in their Exodus from Egypt, when they constantly complained against the Lord their God, tested Him and even worshiped pagan gods of the Midians and their own golden calf, that made God punish them severely.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, their disobedience had brought about their death and condemnation, because they had not kept the faith of their fathers and instead putting their trust in their own power, in their own desires and evils, and in the pagan gods that the Lord had forbid them from worshiping. Yes, their disobedience truly contrasts with the faith of the little children that God had praised and God had sought for, that He also expect from all of us.

Yes, brethren, like the people of Israel, we do have a choice too, either to follow the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and with our full dedication, following faithfully all of His laws and commandments, or to follow ourselves, that is we follow the path of the devil, immersing ourselves in the worldly pleasures and desires, and doing everything that we want, but brought the disgust of the Lord our God?

It is entirely within our own power, within our own conscience to make a stand, to make a choice, and indeed, to make a difference in our own lives. It is not that it is wrong to seek happiness for ourselves, pleasures and joy while we are in this world. But what is important is that we do not become overindulged on them, and lose the true focus of our lives, that is the Lord our God and His love. It is often that we become blind to God and His love, because we are simply too busy with our own selves, with our own desires, to notice Him.

That is how children have the advantage over us, brothers and sisters in Christ, not because they are smarter, and not because they are stronger, or wiser than us, but because they keep the clarity of mind that we often no longer possess. We often worry too much in our daily lives, concerning ourselves with our daily needs, wants, and desires. We often worry about what we are to eat, what we are to have, where are we to go for our outings and many other things that fill up our mind, so much that we no longer have any space reserved for the Lord, not in our minds, not in our hearts.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, after today, do we then resolve to be more like those children in our faith? That is to worry less about this world and be swayed less by the temptations and pleasures of this world, and instead seek the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our focus, and with all our strength? Let us today renew our commitment for Him, and proclaim Him indeed, as the Lord our God, just as the people of Israel had done in Shechem with Joshua, pledging ourselves to only serve Him and worship Him and not any other god.

Yes, not any other god, and these gods are not just the pagan gods of old, but also our modern day ‘gods’, yes, the gods of money, wealth, fame, and many other things that often distract us from our path towards the Lord. Let us resolve to continue our journey of faith towards God and be not swayed by the evils of this world, remaining firm in our faith and dedication towards the Lord and towards His beloved people, our fellow brethren. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 5 August 2013 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of the Dedication of a Basilica)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we hear today of the Lord’s great kindness and compassion to us, His great love to us, that He provides for us daily what we need in our lives. He is our Father, who created us from dust and gave life to us. Yet, He did not just stop there and leave us to our own devices. He continues to care for us, nurture us as we grow, giving us His love that pours out from His heart.

He shows us compassion whenever we are hungry, whenever we are without love, whenever we are oppressed unjustly, and whenever we are under great distress. He is a loving Father who always makes Himself available to all of us. Never will He leave us without help. In His own mysterious ways, He sends us many help along the way in our lives, whether we realise it or not.

He gives us food, the physical food and nutrition we need for our survival, the sustenance of our physical bodies, the same way Christ had fed the five thousand men, and many more women and children. We receive these food through our parents, our families, our friends, and even those whom we buy the food from. He truly works His grace for us through various ways. Have we realised this, and realised His great love for us?

However, He does not only provide us with physical food to sustain us, but also the spiritual food of His love, the spiritual food of His words, which He gave us through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He poured His love into our hearts, that we may not only be physically satisfied, but also spiritually satisfied and whole. That is why we must take good care of our spiritual health. Remember always the rebuke Christ made to Satan when He was first tempted in the desert, that men does not live on bread alone, but from every Word that came from the Lord, that is our spiritual sustenance.

The Lord does not forget us when we are in trouble, nor will He turn us away when we come to Him to seek His help. He sent Moses to deliver His beloved people, Israel, from slavery and suffering in Egypt, delivering through Moses His wrath to Israel’s slave masters, the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He delivered them through the Red Sea and gave them even food from heaven, the divine manna. Who else may claim that their God feed them with food that came from His own table in heaven?

He also delivered the people of Israel from the threat of utter destruction, by sending an unlikely deliverer, in Judith the widow, who courageously went through the enemy’s camp and slaying the enemy commander with God’s power and grace. He gave power to the weak to bring down the proud and the powerful, and giving freedom to His people living in fear and oppression under tyranny of evil. He does not forget His people, but instead walks among them and support them all the time of their lives.

And most important of all, there is no great gift and providence our Lord had given all of us, without exception, than the gift of Himself, through Jesus Christ His Son, the Word of God made flesh, who descended into the world to become our Saviour, our great Redeemer. Just as the people of Israel was under the tyranny of the Pharaohs, and later under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who sent his general Holofernes to destroy them, so did all of us fall under the tyranny of evil, of sin, and of Satan, our jailor.

He sent us Jesus to be our Saviour, to be the One who broke forever the chains of sin that kept us bound to death that was our fate. It is not that we will not die, but we will no longer suffer eternal death, that is eternal separation from God who is life, if we put our trust in Jesus our Lord and accept Him as our Saviour.

He offered His salvation to all by the outpouring of His love to all of us, the ultimate nourishment for us and our souls, that He gave us through His disciples, the Most Precious Body and Blood of His own Body, in what we now know as the Most Holy Eucharist, that we regularly receive at the Holy Mass in the Holy Communion. Now truly, we should all be able to see and realise how great the love that God has for all of us, His children!

Today, brothers and sisters, we also commemorate the memorial of the dedication of Basilica of St. Mary Major or Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. This basilica is one of the four Papal Basilicas, and one of the most important sites of Christendom. This basilica was dedicated to the Mother of our Lord, our Blessed Virgin Mary herself, who is also the protector of the city of Rome. Our current Pope Francis went to visit the Basilica to ask for the Lady’s protection and intercession for his Pontificate on the day after his election as our Pope.

You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all blessed that the Lord Himself cared so much about all of us sinners in this world, that He sent to us not only His Son, Jesus to be our Saviour, but also even earlier on, His mother Mary, to be our greatest intercessor before her Son, to be our greatest defender and help, when we are in the darkest depth of sin and evil. That is because the best way to the Lord is indeed by Christ, through Mary His mother. Mary is an example to all of us through her numerous deeds and righteousness, and her dedication to her Son, our Lord Jesus and the love she has for all mankind.

Remember that Christ had entrusted His mother to John, His beloved disciple and vice versa. In this way, Christ did not just give Mary to John, nor did He just give John to Mary to care for one another, because in fact, Christ, through John, gave His own mother to all of us, all mankind, without exception! Mary is our great intercessor, as she pleads for our sake, for our case, before her Son in heaven.

Remember again what happened in Cana, in the wedding, when Christ politely rejected the request to perform His first miracle to help the wedding couple in trouble because they ran out of wine. Yet, at the urging and persistence of Mary, in her own words, asking the servants to follow whatever the Lord said, He eventually helped and performed His first miracle, to the relief of the couple.

Yes, the same can also happen to us, brothers and sisters, as the Lord Himself had said, that if we want something, we should ask for it, and we should knock the door, if we want the door to be opened for us. He is generous for mercy, forgiveness, and love, but only if we ask Him, and persistently ask Him. He will give us all that we need, and provide us with everything we need, be it food, physical or spiritual, and other things that we require. Where does our mother, Mary come in this? She is, as I had mentioned, our greatest intercessor, the greatest of all saints, and the one nearest to the throne of mercy, to the throne of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through the intercession of Mary, we can be closer to God, and through her, many souls can be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven. That is why, brothers and sisters, it is important for us to promote the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, our mother and the mother of our God. Ask her for help and for her intercession for our sake before her Son, and our prayers will be heard.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, and henceforth, let us remember always the kindness and love God had showered us with, all the blessings He had given all of us. Let us always thank Him for the daily bread and blessings He had given us, remembering His love, and His dedication for us, that He even gave Himself to us, that we may live and have eternal life with Him in the glory and bliss of heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 4 August 2013 : 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord today warns us against the sin of greed, the sin of pride, and the sin of selfishness. Especially in the aimless accumulation of wealth and accumulation of possessions, that we lose sight of the true aim in our life, that is our Lord and God. Wealth and accumulation are well-known sources of temptations that can divert us and our attention away from the path to salvation, that is the path to God.

The Lord also reminded us that we are mortals, mortals because of the original sins of our ancestors, and we are dust, because we are created from dust. Yet, though we are dust, we have life in us because the Lord breathed into us the breath of life, that is the Spirit of life. Yet, we still have limit in our lives in this world. Our lives are temporary, and everyone will eventually meet the end of their respective lives, at the appointed time that God has for all of us.

That is why, the Lord always stresses the importance of being ever vigilant in our lives, to always lead a righteous and upright life, filled with love and obedience to the will of God. We may be mortal and our lives may be short, but if we put our faith and complete trust in God, we will be immortals! Why? That is because the Lord had promised all of us salvation through His Son, and with the Risen Lord Jesus, we too will be reborn to a new life, and receive at the end of our earthly lives, new and eternal life in the glory and bliss of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Yes, that is our inheritance, brothers and sisters in Christ, the true inheritance that we will receive from the Lord, that He had promised us, and Christ His Son had made available to all of us through His death and resurrection from the dead. It is important that we seek the true treasure and not false treasures of the world. Seek what brings us true happiness, the true happiness that only God can give.

We have to choose brothers and sisters, just because we cannot serve two masters as Christ had made it clear to His disciples, we too have to choose between the wealth of the world, and the eternal wealth of the Lord. It does not mean that one is entirely in opposition to the other though. It does not mean that we have to impoverish ourselves of one while we seek the other. What is important is, that we know that ultimately, the wealth and possessions of this world serve only a temporary purpose, bring only a temporary satisfaction, and only temporary pleasure and happiness, while the wealth that we have in God is eternal, and is perfectly and completely satisfying to all of us.

Yes, we can be both rich in this world and in the world after, that is in the eyes of man, and in the eyes of God. That is if we are able to wisely use whatever had been given to us, and look beyond the temptations of the evil one and the allure of wealth, and also to be able to look beyond ourselves and our own desires and needs, to see the true use and function of the wealth and possessions we have received in this world.

We must never ever have the mentality of selfishness in ourselves, and only thinking about our own benefits and happiness, especially at the expense of others, which usually happen when we begin to put our own interests first. We must not be like the rich man who wasted his time in this world worrying about his own future and thus accumulated much wealth which he stored in barns and storage spaces, that he would, in his mind, think that he has a secure and prosperous future to be spent in happiness.

Yes, I want to again stress of our own mortality and the fragility of our own lives. It is unwise to spend so much time worrying about the future and then close ourselves from any concerns beside concerns for ourselves. We do not know when our death will be, nor in what way our death will come to us. It will come to us whenever we are most unprepared, just as the Second Coming of Christ will be. The time is appointed by the Lord, and we have no way to know about it.

Many of us are obsessed with maintaining our beauty, our lives and attempting to even make it better whenever possible. Plastic surgery, and even genetic manipulations to ensure that we can live longer and live more prosperously, gaining more fame through beauty and our possessions. Yet what do these all do? These things will not ensure our beauty nor our prosperity forever. If death knocks at our door tomorrow, despite all these things that we do, would they not all be wasted?

Much more resources should have been allocated to other, better purposes in our lives. It is not that we cannot indulge ourselves or bring happiness to ourselves, but we must never be consumed by our search for such wealth or happiness, that we forget about everything else, about those beloved to us, about God, and about everyone around us who needs us, who needs our love, care, and compassion.

Our wealth in this world is also not permanent. Many things may happen that can wipe out all of our hard-earned savings and ‘happiness’ in an instant, and after that a lifetime of work may be wasted. Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, fires, and many other natural calamities that may happen anytime in our world unexpectedly, will wipe out most of our hard work if not all in much shorter time than that required to gather them.

And yes, death. What would those goods stored in barns and storages do if we die at the time appointed for us to die? Will they be able to provide anything for us in the afterlife? Or perhaps help us to climb from hell into paradise? No, they have not such power. Only God has such power, that is through Christ His Son, whose death had provided us all with a means to reach the true reward, that is everlasting life.

Seek not to build wealth that can be destroyed or wealth that can be stolen or disappear any moment, with or without our knowledge. Seek not wealth or pleasure that are short-lived and temporary, and disappear as quickly as the fleeting motion of our short, mortal lives on earth. Seek rather the eternal wealth and treasure in God, in heaven, that will never disappear, that will never expire, and that will never be destroyed. Let us all, while we still have the time, begin and continue to build our treasury in heaven, filling up with the wealth of our true treasure, that is love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow the advice of the Lord, and begin from today, to open the storage of the things we have kept only for ourselves, and offer them to everyone in need. No, I am not just talking about money, wealth, or material possessions. Most important of all treasures is love itself, which God has placed in all of us, but we like to lock it deep within our hearts, that it does not become visible or evident. The same happens to faith and hope.

As long as we remain shut to the world and to the love of God and the plight of others, our wealth in God will never grow, because we never make use the gifts that God had given us and bless us with, that is in His Holy Spirit. If we exercise the faith, the hope, and the love He had given all of us through the Spirit, it will grow and multiply, thirty, sixty, hundredfold and more. Let us begin from today, if we have not done so, to invest in the building of our wealth in heaven, that when we are called back to God, He will truly see us as wealthy in His eyes. Not the wealth of the world, but the true and undiminished wealth of love.

May the Lord inflame in us the fire of His love, and may He push us to go out and render our service to others who are in need of our help and our love. May we be able to share our love with one another, as fellow children of God who loves us. God bless us all, always and forevermore. Amen.