Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the fifth and last Sunday of Lent, we come ever closer to the holy season of Easter and to the Week when we will celebrate the most important mysteries and features of our faith, when Jesus Christ our Lord gave Himself for us and died for us. And today that is why if we notice the readings, they all drew the same conclusion, that deliverance is upon us, and God has prepared deliverance for all of us without exception.

Yes, we are all God’s beloved children and people, and therefore it is just natural that God would intend good things for us. He did not intend us any harm or let destruction be our fate, because He created us in His love, and He wanted only good things and blessings for us. It was we ourselves, mankind, who cursed ourselves and turned our back on the love of God, that we were headed into doom and eternal destruction.

Yet, we are truly special in the sight of the Lord, for unlike Satan and his fellow fallen angels who rebelled against God, we were all given a second chance of eternal life and salvation, because God loved us so much, so much so that He gave us that love in the form of Himself, in Jesus His Son, the Word made flesh and born into this world through the Virgin that He might save us all.

That is why Jesus our Lord is the hope for all lives, for all of us in this world, past, present and the future. That is because through Him, mankind were given hope once again, a light which pierced through the darkness of our souls and the darkness of the world around us. He breathed new life into us, and through His teachings, He showed us how to love God and be in His eternal grace.

Today we heard the very well-known story on the Resurrection of Lazarus, who was brought back into life by Jesus after he had died of an illness for a few days. Through this wondrous miracle, we were shown that Jesus is Lord and He is all powerful, being God, having absolute and complete power over life and death. And as He is the Master of life, life is His to bestow, and on Lazarus, man among whom He loved, He gave that life so that all who saw it may also believe in Him and therefore themselves gained life for themselves.

Yet it is also important that today we make a clear distinction so that we will not be confused later on. Lazarus was resurrected and was returned to life, but not by His own power or will, but by the grace and power of God through Jesus. The same also happened during the time of the prophet Elijah, who returned the life to the son of a suffering widow whom he was staying with.

Jesus, on the other hand, who is God and who was with God as His Word, rose from the dead by the power of His own will and might, as the Lord over life and death. That was the key difference between Christ and Lazarus in their respective resurrections. And this is also to show that Christ is the Saviour, the new hope for all mankind, that all who believe in Him and in the Father who sent Him, He will raise up to new life like that of Lazarus, and even more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have often forgotten about Christ in our own busy schedule in life, and in all our occupations and works, that we have turned away from the Lord and in the life and salvation that He offered us all. That is why, we have to constantly remind ourselves of the fact of our frailty and weakness, that we are predisposed to sin and vulnerable to committing trespasses to God.

It is why this Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for all of us to repent and commit ourselves to change our ways. This Lenten season is the time for renewal and rejuvenation of our souls, in which we can reorientate ourselves that we may forsake what is evil and harmful for our salvation and seek the love and mercy of God.

We should not waste this perfect opportunity, and make best use of it, so that we will be able to reach out for the Lord and His salvation, and we should humbly ask the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness rather than hardening our hearts as what the people of God had once done, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. God is rich with His mercy and love and He will not forsake us, providing that we ourselves are open to accepting His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the life, and the bringer of the new life in salvation that He freely offers us all. We should all take the time from now on to make concrete our love and devotion for the Lord, that we may commit to changing our ways for the better and dedicate ourselves to God without reservations. We should be like the two sisters Mary and Martha, who loved the Lord, who had faith in Him and believed in Him.

Let us all now resolve to seek God and to have Him always in our heart, committing ourselves to total change of self, abandoning all things that are evil in the sight of God, washing ourselves clean from these taints, and commit to doing good from now on. May the Lord our God and Father, see always the good that is in us, and our desire to be reunited with Him, and thus forgive us our trespasses and welcome us back into the grace and blessings He had prepared for all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Monday, 27 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Psalm 88 : 20, 21-22, 25-26

In the past You spoke in a vision; You said of Your faithful servant : “I have set the crown upon a mighty one; on one chosen from the people.”

I have found David My servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will ever be with him and My arm will sustain him.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers.

Monday, 27 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

2 Samuel 5 : 1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And YHVH said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of My people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel.'”

Before YHVH, King David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron, and they anointed him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years : he reigned over Judah, from Hebron, seven and a half years; and over Israel and Judah, from Jerusalem, for thirty-three years.

The king and his men set out for Jerusalem to fight the Jebusites who lived there. They said to David, “If you try to break in here, the blind and the lame will drive you away,” which meant that David could not get in. Yet David captured the fortress of Zion that became the “city of David.”

And David grew more powerful, for YHVH, the God of hosts, was with him.

Saturday, 25 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in this city when I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our Law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus and I set out to arrest those who were there and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered : ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus the Nazarean whom you persecute.'”

“The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet the brightness of that light had blinded me and so I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions.”

“There a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the Law and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there. As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment I could see and I looked at him. He then said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One and to hear the words from His mouth.'”

“‘From now on you shall be His witness before all the pagan peoples and tell them all that you have seen and heard. And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised and have your sins washed away by calling upon His Name.'”

Alternative Reading

 

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?”

And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. Now get up and go into the city; there you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go at once to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem, and now he is here with authority from the High Priest to arrest all who call upon Your Name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I Myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may receive your sight and be filled with Holy Spirit.” Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out in Jerusalem all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful, and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Friday, 24 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 13-19

Then Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘apostles’. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 17 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White (Priests and Abbots)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we reflect on the kingship and authority of the Lord, and how it can be compared to the authority of kings, princes, and any other earthly powers and authorities. We heard today of the clamour and the request of the people of Israel, that they be granted a king to rule over them, as lord to be their king and protector, much in the same way that their neighbours and other states have kings and princes to rule over them.

Continuing the catechesis in the theme of the prophet Samuel, during his ministry, Samuel faced much difficulties in dealing with the people of Israel, as even though they revered him as the prophet of the Lord, and following the way of the Lord as he ruled them as the judge of the Lord, they were not satisfied, and as before, had been bought over by the forces of the world. They clamoured for and desired for things of the world, including modelling themselves after the ways of the world.

This, even despite the fact that they had been chosen by the Lord, as a chosen race, and a chosen people. They were set aside from others, to be the ones whom God loved the most, as the chosen ones among His creation. Yet, they continuously fought against His will and chose to walk on their own way, and persistently asked to be given a king to rule over them, chosen from among them.

The people of Israel had no king over them, because the Lord their God is their King, the One who lead them and the only One who truly have authority over them. Indeed, the Lord God is not just the King of Israel, but also King over the entire universe, that is over the entire creation. He is Lord over all creation, and therefore over all mankind, over all states and dominions.

The Lord is the font of power and authority, from whom alone power and authority may come. Without the Lord, there can be no true power or authority, but instead there will often be tyranny or abuse of power. That was what the prophet Samuel warned the people about, to try to dissuade them from the foolishness of insisting having a king over them. The people did not listen to him.

The king as the leader of the people of Israel would have enormous dominion and power over his people, and by the standards of monarchical rule at the time, kings and their authority are often absolute. The word of the king is often law and unchallengeable. Thus, the people could not just refuse or reject any orders, demands, or desire from their respective kings.

As long as the king is faithful to the Lord, and lead them in his own behaviour and actions in accordance with the will of God, the people would prosper and be blessed, just as long as the people would stay faithful to the Lord. However, if the king is not faithful to the Lord and refuse to worship Him, and instead follow his own way in things, then great suffering and tragedy would happen to the people of God.

A clear example would be the behaviour of the first king himself. The king whom had been demanded by the people of God, led them to ruin and condemnation. For Saul, although supposedly was anointed king over Israel, but he did not remain faithful throughout his reign. While the prophet Samuel passed to him the will and commandments of the Lord, Saul did not fully obey them, and let his human judgments to allow him to corrupt the power he had been entrusted with.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This often repeated phrase is indeed true in this case. Saul abused the power and authority given to him, and he began to act tyrannically and without the spirit of the Lord in him. It was not only king Saul, but in fact, many of the kings of Israel, especially the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel after division of Israel, were tyrants and wicked people, who brought the people of God to sin even more before the eyes of God.

It may seem that having kings over them might be a very bad choice for the people of Israel, but in fact, not all kings were bad rulers and unfaithful. The king David and Solomon for example, as well as some of the kings after them, such as Hezekiah and Josiah, were faithful and zealous kings, who followed the commandments of the Lord and exercised their power as the vicar of the Lord. They acted justly and in accordance with the will of God, and the people were blessed by God during their reign.

In the end, God would not let the devil to corrupt and destroy His beloved people, for the truth about the Lord is that God is love! He loves us completely and could not have given Himself to abandon and destroy us on purpose. It is often our own actions and deeds that condemned and doomed us rather than any divine actions. God cares for us, and He truly loves us.

That was why, to fulfill the promise He made to mankind, as well as other promises He had made to David his servant, which He made clearly known through the numerous prophets and messengers He sent over the ages, He came down upon the world, to be one of us, and to reassume the kingship He had over His people, that He, the true King and King over all other kings and lords, would once again lead their people.

Jesus came bearing the message of love, and love He had shown for mankind, by showing the authority He had over spirits and illnesses, and also the authority over sin and its forgiveness. He is Lord, God who was made into flesh by His own power. Yet the people continued in their resistance against Him, and they rejected Him, even though He, their King, had come to them to liberate them from the tyranny of sin and evil.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony, also known as St. Anthony the Great, a well-known abbot and religious, who lived during the late period of the Roman Empire in what is now the present day Egypt. St. Anthony was one of the first monks, who sought life in seclusion from the world and one of complete dedication to the Lord. That was why St. Anthony pioneered the trend which became common in the years after him, of those going into the wilderness and the desert to seek that consolation and relationship with God through prayer.

St. Anthony was often at odds with the devil and his forces, in his piety and constant life of prayer, dedicated to God who loved mankind. The devil often opposed St. Anthony during his various journeys and sojourns in the desert, even at times striking him physically and threatening him with considerable danger. Nevertheless, St. Anthony never feared the devil, not even a bit, and laughed off his attacks.

That was because St. Anthony had complete and deep faith in God and in His power, who has all the authority that there is in heaven or on earth. That was why St. Anthony often rebuked Satan by saying that despite all the challenges, temptations, and threats that he posed on St. Anthony, he has no authority or power whatsoever over him, and that the Lord protects all those who remain faithful to Him, and remain in His love.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to emulate the exemplary faith of St. Anthony? And his love of the Lord? That he and many others had gone into seclusion just so that they could be truly with God and dedicated their lives to Him? We do not have to go to the extent of leaving everything we have and going to the wilderness as St. Anthony had done, but what we can learn from him are his examples in life and his attitude towards faith.

We must be dedicated to our Lord, brethren, for we cannot hope to both dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to the devil. Our faith in God must be genuine, and we should always seek out for the Lord in our lives, as St. Anthony had done. That is why it is important for us, every single day, to spend some time with God in prayer. St. Anthony’s devotion and strong prayer life protected him from the machinations of the devil.

The Lord too will therefore be with us and guide us, if we pray often, and if we pray devoutly, and dedicate ourselves completely to Him. May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ the King, bless us, strengthen us, and protect us, that our faith may be strong and our love may be truly genuine and tender, just as that which St. Anthony had. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 11 January 2014 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

We may be confused at first, when we listened to the first reading today, how that there are two kinds of sin, one that does not lead to death and one that leads to death. But indeed, there are indeed two kinds of sin that we know of in the Church, one being the venial sins, the lesser sins that are not very serious, and the other being the mortal sins, sins that are both heavy and serious in consequences.

But this does not mean that we should not take all sins seriously. Indeed, every kind of sins are serious and deadly, no matter how light or small they are. We cannot treat sinfulness lightly or we may end up in death. What is this death? As we all know, that the Lord is the Lord of life, and in Him, we have hope of eternal life, and liberation from the power of sin and death.

If we sin, that we are no longer worthy of the Lord, who is perfect in goodness. Yes, goodness that is not marred by sin. Sin, no matter how small, prevents us from truly reuniting ourselves with the love of God. And you all know that even if you build a building slowly, brick by brick, it will eventually become a large building. So it is the same as our sins then.

That is why as the Church had taught us, it is important for us to go to confession frequently, and not just that, but resolve to live a life without sin, as best as we can, every single day of our life. Confession should not be taken lightly, nor should we fear it. That is because the priests who hear our confession has been given with the authority from on high to forgive sins, just as with Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is Lord over all and had the authority to forgive sins, which He imparted to His disciples and from them, to our priests.

Do not fear, for the priests are also charged with the maintenance of the seal of confession, that is nothing that is shared by us to the priests should ever be made known to anyone else other than the priest. We should not fear to confess even our most secret sin. After all, the Lord is a loving and forgiving God, who will see that we are sorry for having sinned against Him and if we truly repented our sinfulness.

Sin is serious, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should be conscious of our own sins, and understand the malice of sin above all else. Venial sins or small sins may not be a big hinder to our relationship with God, but they do make up to a big mountain of sin if we continue to do them without considering our state of sin.

We should indeed adopt the example of St. John the Baptist, who in great humility proclaimed the greatness of God, how great He was as compared to himself who is just mere servant of God. He readily said to his own disciples how he should decrease in importance while the Lord rose in importance. He did not let His human pride to get in the way, unlike many of us.

We often let fear and our human pride in the way of forgiveness. We do not let the Lord to come and absolve us from our sinfulness. We stood by our pride and let the devil to urge us to continue with our rebellion against God. No, this is not the way we should follow. Instead, cast aside our pride and fear, and instead put in a complete trust in the Lord and in His love and forgiveness.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, follow the steps of St. John the Baptist, lowering ourselves humbly before God, and asking for His forgiveness from our sins, that we will be made righteous once again through our. Lord Jesus Christ, who sanctified and made holy all those who believe in Him. Let us be thrall of sin and evil no more, and let us from this day henceforth, be free and liberated!

Go often to confession and confess our wrongs to God, for our loving Father will surely hear us, forgive us, and embrace us with His love. God forgive our sins and be with us all always. Amen.