Tuesday, 25 February 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Be righteous, be humble and be faithful. These are the key takeaways from today’s readings, from both the letter of St. James, urging us to seek the Lord and His will in our lives, and to be humble, and in the Gospel today, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, that we may have a genuine faith, that is like the faith of a young children.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the things that were reality at the time of Jesus, and indeed is still a reality even today. We squabble and fight with our own friends and neighbours, because we desire certain things, be it power, affluence, wealth, friendships, and many other things, and we as mankind, has in our nature to be greedy and to desire for more and more things.

And in the end we often miss the point on what it means to be the children and disciples of the Lord. We often seek power and glory, position and honour, that we often forget about the Lord. We did not keep faithful to His commandments but instead walk in our own ways, that is following the ways of this world, which include violence, hatred, prejudice and many other things.

We follow the ways of the world often because it offers us very many things, things that look beautiful and tempting in our eyes. It offers us influence, power, authority, wealth and other things that may prevent us from reaching out to the truth in God. The reality is that, while these things seem to be very enjoyable and pleasurable to us, they are merely temporary. The pursuit of these things will not bear us much fruits, other than bitterness and regret at the end of our lives.

For if we make friends with the ways of the world, in all its corruption by evil, then we are no longer following God or remain as His disciples. We instead walk in the rebellious path of the devil. And God does not want this to happen to us, and that is why He sent to us Jesus His own Son, to straighten the path for us and to make us aware what it truly means to be followers of the Lord.

We have to be genuine in our faith and love for God, and we have to change our mindset and actions, that we no longer adhere to the ways of the world, but instead follow the Lord in His ways and walk in His ways. We cannot be half-hearted in our faith, because we must be firm and strong in resisting the temptations and challenges of this world.

We have to put away our pride and dull the edge of our human ego. At the same time, we should also remain humble, and keep strong this humility at all times in our life. Pride and arrogance often separates us from the Lord, and they act as barriers preventing us from accessing the Lord, keeping us away from His salvation. Humility, on the other hand, allow us to open ourselves to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the Lord and His call. Let us not turn our back towards Him, and let us give Him our full attention without divide. We have to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, and practice it in our words, deeds and actions. As the prophet Micah said, let us walk humbly with our God, and let us follow Him with all of our hearts. Amen.

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Today brethren, as we continue through the Christmas Octave, we celebrate a great feast day, that is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Holy Family symbolises the perfect family, of which we should based our families and indeed our lives on. Our families must be modeled like that of the Holy Family, filled with love, hope, and in total faith and devotion to the Lord our God.

The Holy Family is holy because of Jesus, the Holy One of God is in their midst, but also because the holiness and piety of both Mary and Joseph, who devoted themselves in their own ways, to God, through their lives and their actions, and ultimately through their respective roles in the Holy Family. They were the ones who gave human love, care, and attention to Jesus, who was born into this world, as a weak and fragile Baby, as weak and fragile as we were when we were still infants.

Jesus is the Son, both as the Son of God, the Word of God made incarnate as humankind, made from the divinity and emptied Himself into our humanity, but He is, as mentioned, also the Son of Man, after making Himself to be one of us, sharing in our humanity through Mary, His mother. Jesus is truly the role model for all children, and for all sons and daughters, that they should follow.

Jesus is obedient to His parents, and He listened to them and their words. He obeyed them and was a truly dutiful son. He learnt about this human life and culture of His people from both His father and mother, that is Joseph and Mary. His family showed Him love, affection, and genuine care. He listened to their advices and words, like when Jesus was left behind in the Temple when He was twelve years old. Despite Him wanting to stay behind in the House of His true Father in heaven, He obeyed to their parents and followed them back home to Nazareth.

The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph might not have been a perfect family from the values and perspectives of our modern world, but they are perfect and they are our role models in family building, because they have love in them. They may not be rich or endowed with wealth, and they did not have a big and marvellous house to live in, but they have love in them. And that is, brethren, what our families should all emulate.

These days, we tend to forget the true values of a family, and instead think and follow in the ways of the world, and of how the world perceives family today. Families are often no longer based on love, and neither did they instill in them the examples and values of the Holy Family, that we had heard today in the first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach, as well as from the letter of St. Paul in the second reading.

People tend to take family lightly and treat it without honour. And this is well-linked to the decline in respect towards marriage and devotion between husbands and their respective wives. Marriage, which forms families, should be based on love and true dedication between the parties involved. Yet, these days, it is quite often that people are not married for love, but instead for lust, for money, and for material benefits rather than true love.

And this can be linked to the continuously increasing rate of divorce between couples, even among those who had just recently married and also among those who had been married for many, many years. In out faith, divorce is sinful before the eyes of God and it is an abhorrence.

Why so? That is because as God had said, that He had made us men and women, that when we join ourselves with one another, and make the solemn vow before God, we are made one by the Lord, and what the Lord had united as one, no one should ever divide. Yet, the reality is that the number of divorces just keep on increasing year after year.

And who is suffering from all these? It is the children, the fruits of the love of marriage. It is the children who suffer when the parents broke their commitment of love and chose to separate the holy bond placed by God between them. They suffer because they can no longer see their parents in their loving unity, and instead what they see is just division and the bitterness between their parents.

This is why it is very, very important for us to consider deeply the true meaning of marriage. We cannot base our marriage on the basis of lust or money, for these are the things that always end up taking advantage of us and destroying relationships more often than they do not. Love is the basis of a happy and loving marriage, as well as that of a happy family. And this is what we should really base our families on, like that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Joseph, as the saying goes, was a much older man compared to Mary, who was then just a young virgin betrothed to Joseph to be her husband. And yet, despite their age difference, both of them truly loved one another. And even though Jesus was not technically his son, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit as God Incarnate, Joseph still loved and cared for Jesus as if He was his own.

Joseph was a role model to all fathers, in his upright life, that he did not engage in licentious acts or any act of wickedness in opposition to the way of the Lord. Joseph offered protection to both Mary and the Child Jesus, when they were in difficulty, providing support to Mary throughout her pregnancy with Jesus, and then led them to Egypt when he was warned that King Herod wanted Jesus dead.

Joseph worked hard as a carpenter, in order to provide for both Mary and Jesus. Even though he was a poor carpenter, he did not complain. That is why St. Joseph, besides as the foster father of Jesus, is also known to be the patron saint of workers. He also dutifully fulfilled his role as the father figure to Jesus.

And Mary, as we all know, is totally devoted to her Son. She followed Him through many places, and in many important moments of His life. Ever since Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit in her womb, to His birth, and through His suffering and path towards Calvary, Mary is always at the side of Jesus, her Son.

Indeed, all these showed how a family should function, that is in togetherness, in unity, and in love. The father loves the mother and the child, the mother loves the father and the child, and the child loves the father and the mother. Everyone in the family should be dedicated to each other and give no way for dissensions or disunity to happen. That is why, from the example of the Holy Family, we too should follow what Jesus and His family had done, and implement it in our own.

And lastly, indeed, our families should be holy, just as the Holy Family is holy. We must base our family in love, as well as in prayer and in faith. Our families cannot be separated from God nor can we build a lasting family without the presence of God in each and every member of the family. The reason why many families did not last is because they never pray together, and they do not even sit down together to talk, or eat together, or do activities together as one family.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the festivities of Christmas, let us also heed of the examples of Christ and His family as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family. Treasure our families and make sure that we keep faith and love at the centre of our families. Pray together as a family, that is important. Keep God at the centre of our family lives, and be assured that our family lives will be transformed such that we will be truly be grateful.

May the Lord our God, Jesus Christ, bless us that our families too can be like His own family in this world, with His mother Mary and Joseph His foster-father. May the Lord bless our families and let His love be within our families, each and every day of our lives. God be with us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brethren in Christ, the Lord loves us all, without exception. He gave us all many gifts and graces, and yet, many of us are not aware of this, or even reject these gifts He had given us, all for free. All that the Lord asks from us is in fact just that we should love Him back and dedicate ourselves and our hearts to Him alone. After all, He had given us so much, including this very life that sustains us in this world, that He does deserve our love.

However, the true fact is that many of us do not appreciate His love and kindness to us. We spurned His love and turned away from His mercy. We were not grateful at what He had done for our sake. He had given Himself up to be condemned to death, and suffer grievously in our place, as a punishment for all our sins. Yet in that suffering, He invited all of us to a great banquet, that is the banquet and feast of salvation.

Why so? That is because He offered His own flesh and blood, that is His Most Precious Body and Blood, His own Essence, to us, that all who receive them worthily and believe in Him, will receive the reward of life eternal in heaven. This is the reality of our faith. Yes, the centrepiece of our faith, that the Lord crucified, the Lamb of sacrifice, offered His own flesh and blood, just as the immaculate lambs were sacrificed at the first Jewish Passover, marking them from death.

And just as the blood of the lambs marked the house of the people of Israel, to distinguish them from their Egyptian slave masters, and therefore the angel of death passed over them, so had Jesus, the Lamb of God, with His Blood, marked all of us who believe, that death will not have dominion nor authority over us. We have been marked that we belong to God and God alone.

Even so, even many among us who had been marked, likened to the guests invited by the master of the house to his banquet, still go astray from our path, and erred. We were still easily swayed by the forces of this world, belonging to the evil one, the devil, that is the forces of darkness. And just like the guests, who made excuses not to come to the event, we too like to make excuses to God, numerous excuses to excuse us from coming closer to God and His love.

Indeed, it is often that this world and the world of material offer us so much and in a way so enticing, that it is hard for us to gaze away from them. This is what happened exactly, as the Lord showed it through the reluctant and unfaithful guests, who preferred their own personal matter and preoccupied with their own dealings, to break the promise they had made in God, and to ignore His calling.

That is also what happened, when the voice of God speaking softly in our hearts was drowned by the noise of this world, by the noise of our surroundings. We cannot focus on the Lord simply because the world around us is too attractive, and too distractive, that we often end up busying ourselves with this world’s dealings rather than spending time with our Lord who loves us.

That is why, the Lord highlighted the type of people He wants, that is, those who are humble and loving, and those who truly seek the Lord, those who truly have God in their hearts. That is what is expected from us all, brethren! We must find time for our Lord, and open our hearts to Him. Do not neglect our Lord by turning away from Him or ignoring Him. Do not be like those ungrateful guests who turned away the invitation of the Lord.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, let us resolve to be closer to God, to be open to His love, and to open the doors of our hearts and ears to His words and wisdom. We can do this by devoting ourselves to Him in prayer. Pray hard and pray devoutly, and talk to God often, and at the same time, allowing Him to speak within our heart. May the Lord our God then grant us His blessing, that all of us will remain always and ever in His love. Amen.

Friday, 4 October 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Baruch 1 : 15-22

You will say : May everyone recognise the justice of our God but, on this day, shame and confusion befit the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – our kings and princes, our prophets, and our fathers, because we have sinned before the Lord.

We have disobeyed Him and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, nor have we followed the commandments which the Lord had put before us. From the day that the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until this day, we have disobeyed the Lord our God and we have rebelled against Him instead of listening to His voice.

Because of this, from the day on which the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, so as to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the evils and the curse which the Lord pronounced by Moses, His servant, have dogged our footsteps right down to the present day.

We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God speaking through the words of the prophets whom He sent to us, but each one of us followed his perverted heart, serving false gods and doing what displeases the Lord our God.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Lord who told His disciples on their mission and how they should perform it. We also listened to how the Lord was merciful to His people, even after they have transgressed against Him and disobeyed His commandments, causing great disappointments to Him who has loved us so much.

He wanted His disciples to be the true messengers of the Gospel, to be the bearers of the Lord’s message to the world, by their ministry among them, to the people who have yet to receive the Good News of the Lord. Therefore, as Christ had asked of His disciples as their mission before He departed from this world, the same too is expected of us today, we, who are the present day disciples and followers of Christ.

Into His disciples, Christ had given the same authority He possessed, the power that He has over evils and diseases, the teaching authority and the revelation of the Word of God and the Law. That is the same power and authority that had been passed down to our Church leaders, the bishops and the priests, to heal those who are hurt, and to help all of us on our way towards the Lord in salvation.

Armed with these gifts and endowment, the Lord sent them forth into the world, to the people of God, especially those who still lived in the depths of their sins. They were sent in pairs and went from place to place, visiting each of them and telling them on the Good News of salvation. They were to live humbly and act humbly, as the servants of God, that they would remain pure in their intentions, and would not veer away from their mission.

Yes, indeed, that is because mankind is inherently weak, especially against the temptations of the world. In our vulnerability lies a great risk, that we will misuse what we have been given, and use them for wickedness instead of using them for things that we are supposed to do, as the servants and children of God. That was what many of us today had done, and even among our priests and bishops, the shepherds appointed over us.

We either neglect the mission God had entrusted us with, and instead following the ways of the world, we live in wickedness and darkness, and we often drag even others with us into darkness. And the leaders of the faithful had also sometimes went wayward and caused much harm and divisions within the Church in various ways. This neglect and abandonment of the works that we ought to do, cause disruption and come against the plan that God has for each of us.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to get rid of the worldly distractions in our lives and in our mission as the bringer of the Good News to mankind. We are urged to forgo things that may steer us away from our true purpose in life, that is to love one another and to love the Lord our God. It is very easy for us to lose our purpose, if we put out focus in the wrong things, such as money, possessions, and in worldly desires.

As I have often mentioned, that money, wealth, and material goods are not in themselves bad or evil. It is a fuel for evil or for good depending on how we utilise them, the way that we use them. We can use them for love and charity, as well as for selfishness and evil. It is in our hands that they can become tool for good or for bad. However, indeed, mankind often use them disproportionately for negative purposes, because the temptation of the devil is indeed very great.

Therefore, brethren, it is important for us to avoid falling into the same trap of the devil, that we do not become ensnared with the false promises of pleasure and money, that we end up cursed and damned because we failed to look away from the temporary pleasures the devil has offered. What we need is prayer, a good and vibrant prayer life that we have a strong faith, that whatever the devil offers us, we will be able to resist.

It is also important for us to love, and to serve our community, especially to our brethren in need, that we reinforce in ourselves the love God has given us. And not only that, in doing so, we also obey the commands of Jesus our Lord, who had sent His disciples to serve all the children of God, giving to them their love, care, and attention.

Let us all be faithful, loving, and committed to the Lord, that we can truly carry out His will and the mission He had entrusted us all with, to love sincerely, and to resist all the approaches of Satan, using whatever graces we have given with, especially in material possessions, wisely and carefully, for the good and benefits of one another. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear the long preaching by St. Paul in the first reading, on the criteria required of one to be the overseer of the people of God, that is in the more contemporary language, means to be bishops and leaders of the Universal Church, including the Pope himself, our leader and the Vicar of Christ.

Just as not anybody can become the ordained ministers of the Lord, that is priests and deacons, therefore, the higher ordained orders demand even greater requirements and even stricter criteria. That is important because, just as the Pharisees and the chief priests had led their people into ruin, the leaders of the Church and their capabilities are essential to lead the people of God into the right way, that is towards the Lord.

If the bishops are improperly chosen, and if the early Church had not carefully decided on whom should be the overseers, there would certainly be chaos and divisions within the Church, damaging the unity and structure of the Church of God. Bishops should be upright men, who placed the Lord first before all other things, and avoid any form of fornication or impurities that may cause them to deviate from the path of truth.

Bishops, the overseers of God’s work, did not have it easy brethren, as they certainly had much oppositions, and also heavy demands and expectations on their shoulders. That was why, St. Paul was very strict in his criteria of who should be chosen as overseers, as bishops of the Church, especially the Pope, the bishop of Rome, whom all believers look up to, as their moral authority in this world, representing Christ Himself.

The people look up to them as teachers and leaders, and uprightness and righteousness are important priorities for the selection criteria, those with commitment to the Lord and dedication to doing good for the sake of others, and for the sake of God, and those with the heart and dedication for service of the Lord and for His people in the Church. Certainly not someone who desires the position because they desire power, money, and privileges attached such positions.

Yes, brethren, we need someone who is truly dedicated and devoted to his position as leaders and shepherds of the faithful. We need good shepherds, modelled after Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, who gave His all to His sheep, that is all of us, fully dedicated to us, and most importantly filled with love for us, those who had been entrusted to Him. The same too, therefore, ought to be expected of those who had been entrusted with positions of authority in the Church.

Yes, loving in the same way that Jesus had loved His people, the people of God, especially those who are suffering, those who are unloved, and those who are rejected by the society. Today, He showed His love to the widow of Naim, who had just lost her son to death. He showed His love to her and to everyone, by exercising His authority over life and death, bringing the son of the widow back to life.

He was so moved with compassion over the sorrow of the widow, who had lost the only one she had possessed in this world, her beloved. The Lord truly understood that feeling. Imagine, brethren! How would the Lord feel, with each one of us lost day by day, to sin and damnation, that is to be separated for eternity from He who loves all of us, without exception. If we suffer from such separation, imagine the wounds that cause to the loving heart of our God.

Therefore, we truly need good and dedicated and loving leaders in this Church of God, to be the ones leading us in our approach towards the Lord. We need someone who follow the Lord and His love for those entrusted to Him, and not someone who will immediately run away at the first sign of trouble, or someone who do not love the sheep and do not put all of his heart and effort to his ministry. For those are the false and bad shepherds, the hired men who care not for those given to them.

However, brethren, this should not just be limited to just our bishops, our priests and those in the position of leadership. It is also important for us, to also follow in their footsteps, emulating the examples of the Lord, and become role models and leaders for one another. It is important for us that we help one another and support one another, that we help each other in our journey towards salvation, guided by our chosen leaders, the priests, and particularly the bishops.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great religious and leader of the Universal Church, as both a Jesuit and a Cardinal. He lived at the era of upheaval in the Church, where heresies and rebellion against the faith were commonplace. St. Robert Bellarmine was appointed to positions of influence and entrusted with much responsibilities. Yet, he did not remain idle, and instead plunged himself into the work, totally committed to his vocation in life, that is to serve the people of God and uphold the truth of the faith.

St. Robert Bellarmine wrote extensively on the matters of the faith, contributing greatly to the advancement and enrichment of the faith in the Church. Through his works and contributions, many people returned to the faith, and his valuable writings remain widely studied even until today. St. Robert Bellarmine supported the Church’s attempt to counter Protestantism through the Countet-Reformation, working hard to protect the Holy Mother Church.

May the Lord continue to shower us with His love, and especially to our leaders, that we all will continue to reflect Christ and His love, love for all of us,  and the love He had once shown to the widow of Naim. Let us be loving and compassionate to our fellow men, showing them the care Christ had shown to us.

Inspired also by the examples of St. Robert Bellarmine, who committed himself fully to his appointed mission, and through his passionate defender of the faith, let us not be ignorant of the suffering of others, but let us empathise and open our hearts to those who need our love. And do not forget to always pray for our priests! Amen.

Monday, 26 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear the woes that Jesus said bluntly towards the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, and the religious leaders of God’s people, the chief priests and all who were supposedly holy and became examples for the people to follow. Yet, they abused their authority and subverted the true purpose of their works and instead of serving God and His people, they truly serve only themselves.

To be the disciples and children of God is not enough with just superficial and momentary devotion and prayers to the Lord our God. That is not enough, brothers and sisters, as these mean that most likely we do not have true faith in our hearts, we do not have true love, especially love for our God and love for all His children. Empty prayers and rituals are meaningless and do not have any relevance for our love of God.

That was exactly what the Pharisees and the chief priests, with the teachers of the Law were doing in the time of Jesus and His ministry. They were truly influential leaders of the faithful, as no king had been present in Israel ever since the fall of Jerusalem six hundred years earlier, and the exile of Judah to Babylon. Ever since, the priesthood and the priests had taken control and leadership over the society, and in the process, grow ever more excessive in their worldly excesses and things that displeased the Lord.

Doubling their role as both the religious leaders of the people, and also as leaders in the matters of the world such as politics, economics, and others had corrupted their true purpose, that is to lead the people towards the Lord, and leading them in worshipping the One God who loves them. Instead, they misused their authority to keep everyone in check, that no one should overstep their boundaries and challenge their teaching authority, which they claimed came from the Law itself.

The Lord gave His commandments and laws to His people, that they will continue to walk in His path and remain in His love, and that they will know what is love, both the love for God and the love for men, fellow brothers and sisters, the same children of God. Yet, the Pharisees had made distinctions between peoples, and looked down on those whom they deemed as not pious enough, or rather not as ‘pious’ as themselves. To them piety meant strict observation of the Law and also visible acts of piety such as holy acts and public prayers.

The Pharisees paid much attention into their rites and human-made laws. They worried so much and put so much attention into detail of such laws, such as the absurdity of the handwashing laws, which dictated that they have to observe washing their hands entirely and thoroughly without fail, a washing that entailed complete washing of the entire arm, from the tip of the finger towards the elbow. Failing to do such observances would certainly bring jeers from the Pharisees, as they precisely had done on the disciples of Christ, whom to them were not as pious as them, for not following the ‘Law’.

As you can see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, and the chief priests entirely missed the point of having the Law of God in the first place. The Law is not to be followed for the sake of being followed, nor should it be a kind of obligation or punishment, a yoke placed on the shoulders of peoples, that they live under the slavery of the Law.

Indeed, the Law is intended by God for love, that the love between Him and His people become ever more perfect, stronger, and bound with the seal of that Law. That all of His children learn the value of love, and take care of one another, as the same brothers and sisters, children of the same, One God. He did not wish to add more burden to us, after we had been burdened by the yoke of slavery of sin. Yes, brethren, He in fact had come into this world in Jesus Christ, in order to save it, and free all of us from that bondage to sin and evil.

That is why, as is proper for them, the Lord Jesus rebuked the leadership, the authority, and the moral uprightness of the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law, before all the people, that all will learn of the true nature of the Law, and indeed the true nature of God. God is a loving God who is loving, merciful, and slow to anger, and not an angry God who presses hard on His people with strict laws and punishments.

And Jesus Himself made a great example of God’s love, through His own loving actions, teaching the Law in all its fullness, and showing His care for the people of God, in food, in fulfilling their spiritual hunger, and also satisfy their thirst with the everlasting water of life. What is this water of life? It is in all our hearts, brethren, it is none other than love! And Jesus died on the cross, shedding His own life, that we all may live and share His divine and infinite love for us, and ultimately that we may be free.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ever be mindful of the love God had shown us, through His giving of laws to us that we may remain in His love, and by the giving of Himself for our sake through Jesus Christ our Lord, that we will uphold His Laws, the commandments of love. Let us be loving children of God, and truly be obedient to God instead of paying lip service as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. It is not that rituals and observances are wrong, brethren, but we must always remind ourselves that we do them not for the sake of doing them, or for boasting, but for the glory of God and for the love of God. God bless us all. Amen.