Monday, 1 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded yet again on the importance of understanding the will and the nature of God, and how He worked His wonders and good works in our lives, learning to trust more of His love and kindness and casting away from our hearts all forms of prejudice, bias, judgmental attitude and self-righteousness.

We mankind are all prone to all of these, as we have been created with much abilities and gifts given to us. Among all of creations, we are special in that we have such an intellect and ability to discern the right and the wrong, partly because our ancestors committed sin by eating the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In that, we all are aware of the things around us and we are able to discern, but because our intellect, the human intellect, and our human wisdom are not divine in nature, what we have in us, in our minds are limited and flawed by its nature. That is how we fall into the trap of prejudice, bias and judgmental attitude towards others, thinking that we are righteous over other peoples, and in our selfishness, which is part of our nature, we condemn and judge others based on our own standards.

It is common for us to look at someone and judge them based on their character, on what we observed from them, in terms of what clothes they are wearing, what accessories they are wearing, and what company of friends and background someone has. We judge others based on what we observe from them, and we tend to look at the exterior, on appearances to make our judgments, and once we have judged, it is hard for us to remove that bias and prejudice from our minds.

The same happened to Jesus, who went to His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee. He went there to continue doing the good works He had done during His ministry in this world to fulfill and accomplish the long promised salvation for the people of God, the Messiah and Saviour who had eventually come to bring all of His people into a new life in harmony with God and His will.

Yet, as we all know, Jesus among men were seen as a mere carpenter’s son, the son of a simple and humble yet hardworking carpenter named Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, and through this, became His foster-father. Yet, the people even when presented with the truth, that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and the Son of God, and Joseph was His foster-parent refused to change their bias and prejudice, choosing to reject Him rather than listening to His truth.

Why is this so? Because every men are by nature selfish and they are always concerned about themselves and their own self-preservation. This is our nature, and it is not easy to change unless through a determined effort and understanding of the teachings which Jesus had passed down to us. Those people in Nazareth must be thinking, that how is this Son of a humble and simple carpenter, a noteworthy job and yet one that did not bring about much respect due to its low position in the hierarchy of the society, can be the Messiah.

They thought not in divine terms but in the terms of men and the world. They judged Jesus for His supposed simple and low-rank birth to a carpenter and from there they developed the prejudice that prevented them from truly listening to the words which Jesus had to say. And this did not happen to just Jesus, as many of the prophets as mentioned also suffered the same fate, rejected especially by those who knew them and those who shared their homes with these prophets.

We always like to presume that we know it all, and we know all about those around us by just looking at them and we judge them based on how they look and how they act in the society. And Jesus wanted to tell us that this attitude is wrong. We must never be judgmental to others as we too can be judged if we judge others. And that we should look deeper and not just be focused on the appearances, but also on what are inside a person’s hearts and minds.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives, on whether we have done what the people of Nazareth had done, in prejudicing and in being judgmental against others. Let us all change our ways if we had done so, and become better children and servants of our Lord. Let us stop our selfishness and judgmental attitudes, and from there let us all instead work together with one another, so that we may live in harmony and love together, and love sincerely and love tenderly.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us on our way, and strengthen the love and faith which He had planted in our hearts, awakening in us the desire to love one another and to love our God, our Lord and Creator, He who also loves us so much that He gave us Jesus, His Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 4 : 16-30

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?” So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal Yourself! Do here in Your town what they say You did in Capernaum.”

Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon.”

“There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Monday, 12 May 2014 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are affirmed with the love of the Lord, who had given us that love through His gift of Jesus, His only beloved Son to us, as a fitting sacrificial victim and the intermediary between us sinners to He who is perfect in heaven. Through Christ all were made worthy of the Lord and were promised the glorious eternal life in heaven.

Yes, and this promise was extended to all mankind, to all the beloved creations of the Lord Most High, and not just to a certain group of people. If we read the Old Testament, it is very easy for us to have the misconception that the people of Israel, or the Jews, are the chosen people of God, whom the Lord chose over all the other nations.

God did choose the descendants of Jacob, and therefore, the descendants of Abraham, to be His first chosen, to be the ones to whom He first revealed Himself to, and the ones to whom He revealed His will and His love. But this does not mean that God excludes all the other nations from His love. He loved them equally just the same, just as we have our breath of life every single moments of our lives.

The shepherd, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of all the people of God, did not choose favourites among His people. Indeed, He came first to the Jews, just as His Father had first chosen them to be His people. But this does not mean that His salvation is intended only for them to the exclusion and damnation of all the other nations.

He loves us all, and wishes us all to be saved, and therefore, that is why He commended the disciples to go and spread the Good News to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. That is His intention, and He desires that we all be reunited with God in eternal bliss of splendour and happiness. And thus, He sanctifies all mankind through His death and resurrection.

We must never be haughty and judge ourselves, just like the Jews who thought themselves of being worthy of salvation, because they misunderstood the intentions and actions of the Lord as one of favouritism, particularly the chief priests and the Pharisees. They judged themselves worthy and condemned others who did not share their opinions, to the point of persecuting Jesus and His followers in their ministry.

God showed His mercy to mankind, and He forgave them all, on the account of His love and dedication for them. The Lord is loving to all, and He readily shows His love for us all. He comforts us when we suffer and when we are sad, and He lifts us up when we fall down into despair and hopelessness. He shows His care for us without any discrimination.

Today we celebrate the feast of many saints, namely St. Nereus and Achilles, as well as St. Pancras, all of whom were slaves and servants of the Empress or Augusta of the early era Roman Empire. They were the servants of the wife of the Emperor Domitian or Domitianus, who was infamous for his great persecutions against the faithful and the Church, who carried out the one of the great persecution against the Church.

They were martyred in the defense of their faith, and they refused to recant their devotion and commitment to the Lord. They stayed faithful to the end and received holy martyrdom, and now they are revered by us in the Church as saints of the holy Church, worthy of heaven and interceding for our sake daily before the Lord.

In their example, we see how even the people considered to be unworthy by many in Jesus’ time can become saints and holy martyrs, by their following of the teachings of the Lord and by walking faithfully in His ways. Thus, we too should not be afraid and instead, walk courageously in the footsteps of these holy men to be also faithful disciples of the Lord and be courageous in our works, that we may bring even more souls to salvation.

May the Lord open our minds and hearts today, that we will learn to be inclusive and not to exclude others or be judgmental, and instead be humble in seeking the Lord’s forgiveness and love. May He guide us always that we may approach ever closer to His throne of mercy and to His loving embrace. Amen.

Friday, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem; come along, I will send you to them.”

So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!”

But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save Joseph from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well. Now the well was empty, without water.

They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt. Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this.

So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Thursday, 7 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 15 : 1-10

Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the Scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So. Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders?”

“Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!'”

“I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Sunday, 3 November 2013 : 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we hear today how the Lord loves all, even the rich, the privileged, and the sinners. He cares for everyone without distinction of class or rank. What matters to Him is, how dedicated we can be to Him, giving all of our very beings, committed to Him in prayer.

Today, we heard the story of Zaccheus the dwarf, who was a tax collector and a rich man. He climbed the tree despite the obvious difficulty he faced because of his height, just so that he can see Jesus who came to visit the area. The Lord praised him and his faith, particularly in front of those who slander him and Jesus Himself for interacting with a person widely considered as a traitor and a great sinner at the time of Jesus.

This was because, at that time, the place where Jesus conducted His ministry, the present day Israel and Palestine, was under the rule and authority of the Roman Empire, as the province of Judea. The Romans imposed taxes on all their provinces and territories, and in this, they employed the local merchants and agents to conduct the tax collection.

Those people then became wealthy, as they were well paid by their Roman employers, but they became the objects of scorn by their own people, seeing them as traitors who sold their race and their nation to the Romans and get profits and much money from doing so. This is of course not true, but it is what most people believed in, and as such, they developed stereotypes against the tax collectors like Zaccheus and dissociated themselves from these ‘wicked’ people.

That was why the people sneered when Jesus said to Zaccheus that He wanted to have a meal at his place and eat together with him. They did so because they must have thought, how can a teacher and a prophet (to them) like Jesus be mingling together with such sinners, traitors in fact no less. This is compared to the Pharisees who were well respected in the Jewish society, who disdained sinners and considered themselves holy above all others.

It is their pride that became their downfall. They pride themselves in their holiness and great piety, which they had achieved through prayer and rituals they went through every day. But in fact, in their hearts, they do not have God. God was absent from their hearts, and His love did not take root in them. Instead, it is in ‘sinful’ man like Zaccheus, where the Lord truly resided, and made his heart His residence.

Our Lord and God is truly loving and merciful, brothers and sisters, because He is willing to forgive the sins of even great sinners like Zaccheus, providing that they come and seek His mercy and love in humility. And that was precisely what Zaccheus had done. He surrendered himself, baring his sins to God, and made a public proclamation of faith to God. He was sinful, yes, and yet through his humility and love for God, he was forgiven and given glory, while those who slandered sinners and did not acknowledge their sins were rebuked.

God gives mankind many chances to repent, to acknowledge their sinfulness, abandon their old lifestyle of sin, and embrace His laws and precepts, that is basically love, following what Christ had told us in His ministry. Yet, to many of us, it is not easy for us to look away from our sins and instead focus ourselves towards God. We have often been so immersed in our sins, that we have been ensnared deeply by them. Yet, that does not mean that we have no hope.

Indeed, as I always would like to say, the greater the sinner is, the more likely that one is to be aware and to be ashamed of his or her sins. The greater a sinner is, the more that the person can be aware of how evil his or her actions, words, and deeds had been, and consequently approach closer and closer towards the throne of the Divine Mercy, that is God.

This is of course not for everyone, as not many will come to realisation of their sins, or have the desire to repent from those sins. Regardless of how great and how many the sins we have committed, it is often that we either ignore the sins we have committed or commit even more sins. As such, we fall deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation, and away from God our loving Father.

We have to be more like Zaccheus, for despite his sinfulness and how he was slandered in the society for their perception of him, he did not shy himself from meeting the Lord and making the effort to come and see Him, again despite his short stature which made it difficult for him to do so. We ought to be more like him, in making that effort, to seek the Lord, remorseful and shameful of our own sins, and make the same commitment as Zaccheus, to do what is good from then on. Either as an act of charity as Zaccheus had done, or through even simple acts of love to others in need.

Another thing that we have been taught today is, not to become like the people who slandered Zaccheus and Jesus our Lord, simply because of their prejudices and bias, formed by preformed concepts they had on Zaccheus as the ‘traitorous’ tax collector. We should not be quick to judge others for what they are, and indeed we must not judge, as Jesus, in other instances had taught us so.

Why so? That is because if we judge others, then we too can be judged, and often that we who did not notice our own sins, will be judged more than the one whom we had judged. We should never form any prejudice or preconceptions in our minds about anyone, and even if the person has shortcomings in him or her. Rather, what we should do is that we should encourage and help each other, supporting each other on the path towards salvation.

Therefore, let us today aspire to become more like Zaccheus, seeking the Lord in our lives, and vow to change our ways for the better. May the Lord who loves us continue to watch over us, bless us, and empower us always. Amen.

Sunday, 3 November 2013 : 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 19 : 1-10

When Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him, Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”