Thursday, 15 August 2019 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as a whole universal Church, the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most holy Mother of God. On this day we commemorate the moment when Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, in body and soul, by the grace of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Solemnity of the Assumption has its parallel in our Eastern Christian brethren in the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin.

This Assumption of Mary into heaven refers therefore to the taking up of Mary, God’s own beloved mother, into heaven directly in the whole of her being, body and soul. There are those who according to the various traditions ascribed Mary having gone to ‘sleep’ and was reunited with her Son in the heavenly glory He has prepared for her, and also those who ascribed her disappearing from this world for she has been taken up body and soul into heaven.

But the key message and consideration in this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is the fact that Mary has been saved from death, unlike other men and women, all of us who have to face death at the appointed time, time which we will never know, a time of God’s choosing and will, the moment when we end our worldly existence and move on into the life that is to come and give an account of our life before God.

And death, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, is the sting of sin. It means that because of sin, which is itself caused by disobedience against the will of God and against His laws and commandments, have caused us to suffer the consequence that is death, the ending of our mortal and worldly existence in this world. That is just also because life is a gift from God to us, and sin makes us to be separated from God.

Thus, because of our sins, death is a natural consequence of our disobedience against God, and hence all of us are mortal, will eventually face death in the face. However, what if someone is so virtuous and great, and so pure and immaculate so as to be worthy of God and to escape death altogether? Is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Scripture provides us with an answer, in several individuals known to have been brought up to God without going through death.

First of all from the Book of Genesis we have Enoch, one of the early descendants of Adam who was described as a very virtuous and righteous person who is a friend of God, and after spending three hundred and sixty-five years in this world, was taken up to God’s side, and no longer walked on earth among men. And then we also heard of the prophet Elijah whom God took up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the Book of Kings.

And last and greatest of all, was Mary herself, who by Apostolic tradition of the Church, passed into the realm of eternal glory in the same manner, for among all men and women, surpassing all others, save that of her Son alone, she has been prepared and made worthy to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world and the Master of all the universe in her. And that is why Mary was assumed into heaven and celebrated today in this most Solemn feast of the Assumption.

For we heard in the Scripture reading for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption that the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem led by king David, the king of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object and the centre focus of all the whole nation of Israel, because in the Ark of the Covenant was contained the two tablets of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron used by Moses during the Exodus and the manna, bread from heaven that God has given to His people during that time.

And God’s presence came down frequently on the Ark of the Covenant as mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the subsequent books mentioning about the moments when the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant occupied the centre place in the entire community at the centre of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as the symbolic representation of God being present in the midst of His people.

That was why the Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, from gold and most precious wood and best of earthly matters available, to be the throne of God Himself on earth among His people. And in one incident just before the Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark during its transfer was struck dead because of the misdeed. All of these served to show just how sacred and great that Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God’s Holy Presence is.

Now, then, let us all compare that old Ark of the Covenant, made by human hands using the best materials that the world can provide, and containing the old Covenant and Law of God as revealed through Moses, with the New Covenant that Christ has brought with Himself into this world, the fullness of the truth of God as He Himself revealed, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophecies of the Lord.

And Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant just as Jesus Christ her Son, our Lord is the New Covenant between us and God. That is why the Church from the time of the Apostles has held and taught the core belief that Mary has always been pure and free from the state of original sin, by the grace of God. She is called the Immaculate Conception because she alone has received the grace to be free entirely from the corruption of sin, and she remained pure throughout her life.

As mentioned earlier, God has made her to be special because she is truly the New Ark of the Covenant which far surpassed the old Ark of the Covenant. Through her, the Lord and Saviour of this world Himself came into this world, Who spent nine months in her womb. If the old Ark contained the tablets of stone of the Law and the bread of manna, then in Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, was the Law Himself, the complete fullness of the Law and the Bread of Life.

As such, Mary has to be pure and spotless, without the corruption of sin and immaculate, to be the bearer of God Himself in her. For Jesus Christ her Son is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, having in Him the two natures of God and Man. If the old Ark of the Covenant was so sacred, then Mary must indeed be special and sacred as well. And thus, it has implication in what we are celebrating today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

That is because at the start of today’s discourse, we mention about death being the sting of sin, meaning that it is because of sin that we have to endure and experience death. But then, Mary is immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. How can she then suffer the consequence for sin when she herself was free from the taint of sin throughout her life?

And how can the mother of the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin and death be subjected to the same suffering and the pain of death that her own Son has conquered and triumphed against by His victory on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead? That is why, we all believe firmly and fervently that Mary truly has been granted the grace by God to pass over death itself and hence was assumed body and soul directly into heaven without experiencing death.

Today, all of us ought to look upon Mary, and see in her the perfect example of who we all as Christians should be in our own lives. Mary has been the faithful servant all her life, not just because she has been set aside by God to be pure and immaculate, free from sin, but even throughout her life, she has loved the Lord so much, and loved her Son with all of her strength, that she continued to live in a state of grace throughout to the moment of the end of her earthly presence at the Assumption.

We see in Mary a reflection of our own glorified persons, as the sure promise of the Lord to us when we are faithful to Him that He will do with us as what He has done with His mother. He has promised us all that all of us who are faithful and worthy will be with Him for eternity, to enjoy forever the true happiness and joy in His presence, and Mary is showing us the way forward to reach this state of grace with her Son.

And she is constantly helping us in reaching out to her Son, by her constant prayers and intercessions for our sake. Now that she is in the glory of heaven by the side of her Son’s Throne, Mary is truly the greatest of all saints, the one who is nearest to Our Lord and Saviour, being concerned all the time for us. For we must not forget that from His Cross, Our Lord has symbolically entrusted Mary to be our mother too through His Apostle St. John, and also vice versa, all of us as her children.

Let us all therefore pray together, brothers and sisters in Christ, and ask Mary, the glorious Mother of God assumed into heaven, to intercede for our sake always before her Son’s Throne, that we may always be persistent and courageous in living our lives with faith. Let us all also follow the examples of Mary’s obedience and faith in God, and be ever closer to her Son through her. May all of us be filled with God’s grace and be worthy of His inheritance. Amen.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about Wisdom, how it calls upon the foolish and the unenlightened, so that they may abandon their foolishness and embrace true wisdom and understanding. And what is this Wisdom about? It is the wisdom which can come from God alone, the understanding of all things and whatever happens around us, and not the false wisdom of men, or the false wisdom of the world.

If we read the exhortation by St. Paul in his letter to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, then we would realise what is the distinguishing factor between the wisdom and ways of the Lord, and ways and the wisdom of this world, of mankind. The wisdom of God is far better than the wisdom of men, and the ways of the Lord are far beyond what men know in what they do.

But we are often too proud of what we know to let go of our own selfishness and pride, pride in the wisdom which we thought would lead us to greatness, to fame, to affluence and to might. And yet, these lead us only into destruction and annihilation in the end. For we have gained knowledge and wisdom through disobedience and sin, by our ancestors who wrongly ate of the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan tempted us to find a shortcut in life, by tempting them with knowledge and power. He tempted them by saying that if they follow what he said, then they would become like God. And in their foolishness, they believed in Satan and forgot or placed aside the restriction and prohibition which God had put in place, ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and once they found out what happened, they were ashamed and they felt guilty.

In the Gospel today, we heard about how the Jews doubted about what Jesus said about Himself, and they refused to believe that He could give His flesh for them to eat, and His blood for them to drink. To them, to have such a notion or idea was totally repulsive, and they could not comprehend what He meant when He said those words.

As a result, they abandoned Him, and many of the disciples of Jesus rejected and renounced Him after they heard this truth from Him. They might have thought of Him as a crazy Man who ranted on something that is both impossible and repulsive, but they did not know or understand, that it was their human wisdom and presumptive behaviour that had prevented them from seeing the truth in Christ.

It was also the same with the people of Nazareth, who had rejected Jesus when He came and proclaimed Himself before them, telling them who He was and what He was about to do in their midst. They did not believe in Him because they thought that they knew who He was, namely the humble Son of a mere village carpenter. They thought that it was impossible for a carpenter’s Son, and Jesus was likely a carpenter Himself, such a menial and thankless job to be able to bring about such things as Jesus Himself proclaimed.

In their hearts, they were blinded by hubris and pride, thinking of themselves as better than others. It is in our human nature to be competitive and critical of others, as our ego and pride often fill us up to the extent that we are unable to think with good reason, and then we commit things that are wicked in the sight of the Lord, and made a fool of ourselves, piling up one sin after another.

Today we are all reminded that we are mere mortals, and our knowledge of things in this world is not perfect and neither it is comprehensive. Our knowledge is flawed and imperfect, and what we know is often marred and corrupted by our desires, by the lies of Satan and the temptations he had given us through this world, and our pride and arrogance also often became our undoing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we learn to be humble and to accept our weaknesses as a reality? Shall we all acknowledge how we can often be wrong in our own human wisdom and intellect, and how we can commit mistakes and faults if we depend only on our own power and intellect. And this include doubting the Lord who is Himself truly and really present in the Most Holy Eucharist.

There had been many people who doubted this, and they like the Jews did not and refused to believe that Jesus had given Himself, in the form of bread and wine transformed completely in matter and reality to be the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour. It was by this giving of the Body and Blood, willingly shed and given, that we have received a new hope from the Lord, the hope of a new and everlasting life, freed from sin and all of its snares, and where the true wisdom is revealed to us.

It may seem to be impossible for us that this happens, but we have to remember that nothing is truly impossible for our Lord, as everything that seem impossible for us, is possible for God. Remember that His ways are far beyond our worldly ways, and His wisdom is far greater than our human wisdom and intellect. It is therefore naive for us to think that we can try to explain what happened with our mere human wisdom and intellect alone, if we do not have the wisdom which our Lord had given to us.

Therefore, let us all today commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and throw far, far away hubris, pride and haughtiness from our hearts and minds, and humble ourselves before the Lord, He who knows everything, and everything inside our hearts and minds as well. Let us not put our trust in our own strength but give it all to the Lord our God, whose wisdom shall guide our path to righteousness.

May Almighty God, Holy Wisdom and the Truth, the Way and the Life be our guide always, and may He awaken in all of us the strong desire to love Him and to follow Him, walking in His ways and remain righteous and true to the end. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 15 August 2015 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate a great feast of the Church. It is a special solemnity in honour of the Assumption of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption refers to the moment when Mary did not suffer earthly and bodily death, but was lifted up by the power of God, or assumed, into heaven, body and soul altogether.

This is a great occasion, which the Church and faithful had believed in for quite some time, even since the days of the early Church, when the tradition of the Apostles and the Church passed down through the ages told us about how the Blessed Virgin Mary spent the rest of her earthly life after the death and resurrection of Jesus her Son, and how she was assumed into heaven at the end of her worldly existence.

This belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is presented richly in the Scripture readings which we heard during the Vigil Mass and the Mass of the Day of this special solemnity. We heard a lot about the Ark of the Covenant, crafted at the time of Moses from precious ornaments and materials, in order to contain the Law of God, the two stones containing the Ten Commandments God had given to His people.

And how is it relevant to today’s celebrations and festivities? This is because while the old Ark of the Covenant has been lost, especially at the time when the First Temple of God built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians during the fall of Jerusalem about five hundred and eighty-six years before the birth of Christ, we now have a new and everlasting Ark of the Covenant, that is no longer something perishable and destroyable by fire and by human means.

The old Ark of the Covenant contained the two stones of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments which represents the Law. And besides the two stones, it also contained the manna, the bread which kept the people of Israel alive during their time in the desert where there is no life, for over forty years during the entirety of their journey. And then last of all, it also contained the staff of Aaron, the staff of priesthood and authority as given by God.

Do you know that Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, our God, is the new Ark of the Covenant? We may not be able to notice this, but let me elaborate in a while. She is the new Ark of the Covenant, because firstly, she contained all of the same things that the old Ark had contained, but all were even far better than the original Ark.

For she bore within her, in her womb, the Lord God Himself, Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life, the High Priest and the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets of God. In Jesus all the things that were stored in the first Ark of the Covenant, were also present. And through this comparison, we can already see what the purpose of Jesus and His coming into the world were.

He came to bring life and care to His people, by shedding for them His own Body and Blood, offering it as a perfect offering and sacrifice to the Lord, as the atonement for all of our sins, as the High Priest for all of us mankind, and by doing this, He fulfilled perfectly what the Law had said, and which the Prophets had prophesied about. And He made a new Covenant with all of mankind, a new Covenant sealed with His own Blood.

And He came into this world, in a vessel great and far purer than any vessel that this earth could have given Him. For while the original Ark of the Covenant was made with pure gold and precious goods of the earth, the new Ark of the Covenant, that is Mary, the bearer of the new Covenant made in Jesus Christ, is pure, immaculate, both body and soul, free from the taint of sin, as God had intended her to be, and in her life, her actions were flawless.

This is why, as the mother of our Lord, the Master and Lord of all life, and One who has conquered death, Mary did not suffer death nor the consequences of sin, which had brought death upon all mankind. And it is therefore fitting for the mother of the Master of Life, the new Ark of the Covenant, to be spared from death which all of us mortals have to endure, as the consequence of our sins. This is firstly because she has no sin to begin with, set aside from the rest of mankind as the bearer of the Lord.

And then, as the mother of God, it is completely comprehensible that the Lord would not let death to claim her, for He Himself had conquered death. Thus, this is why, we believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the symbol of triumph against death, as God Himself had prophesied at the beginning of time, when men first fall into sin.

The woman would crush the head of the serpent, and this is the triumph that man would bring to Satan and his forces, who have hounded us and endangered us for so long. This is the triumph against evil that God had promised us. Through Mary, we saw a great light and had hope once again. A world in darkness, a future of hopelessness, because of Mary who bear the new Covenant, the Promise of the Lord, had crushed forever our oppressor.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, however, one thing that we have to take note today is that all of us too, are in fact the Ark of the Covenant. Why is this so? That is because we have received the Lord into ourselves too! We who have received Him in the Eucharist, have the Lord Himself dwell inside us, because the bread we eat is His real Body, and the wine we drink, is the very Blood of our Lord Himself.

What is important for us to take note is that we have to be aware that just as the Ark of the Covenant was prepared with the best materials possible, and the new Ark, Mary, who bore our Lord in her womb, was prepared immaculate, holy and perfect, we too have to do the same with our own Ark, which is our body, our heart and our soul. Otherwise, truly we have sinned and blasphemed against our Lord.

Remember that St. Paul reminded us in his letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that we are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit? That mean we have been made the Temple of the Holy Presence of God Himself. And if we defile the sacredness and the sanctity of this Temple, then truly, we would make ourselves unworthy of our Lord and condemn ourselves to the eternity of suffering in hell.

Therefore, today, all of us ought to leave the Mass knowing that we all have been challenged, so that we can take note of our own words, actions and deeds, so that in all things we do and say, we can try to achieve and maintain the sanctity of our lives, our body, heart and soul. This is what we need to do, and what we can do, in order to keep ourselves worthy of our Lord, who does not tolerate sin, and yet He gives us chance after chance, for He is loving and merciful.

May Almighty God, and His mother, the Blessed Virgin assumed into heaven, body and soul, continue to be with us, and help to guide us, that we may find our way to Him, and so that we can keep ourselves holy and worthy, so that at the end of the day, we will be worthy of the eternal inheritance promised to us, God bless us all. Amen.