Monday, 4 April 2016 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which should have occurred as it does every year on the twenty-fifth day of March, but as that day coincided with the Good Friday celebrations, therefore, it was postponed to this day, the first day after the Easter Octave had ended.

On this occasion, we commemorate that very important moment, when the Good News of God was first announced to us mankind, the sign of salvation for all humanity, the sign of hope beyond all despair and darkness that had covered our world and our lives, like a piercing light through a veil of great darkness. For with the announcement of the Good News of the coming of our Saviour by the Archangel Gabriel, a world once in darkness now has seen the Light of God again.

Today while we continue to celebrate together the joyful season of Easter, we are called to recall once again, how it all began, and of the Lord’s promise, where He had promised His salvation upon us, and His liberation of us all from our enthrallment to sins and to all the wickedness of our sinfulness. He has promised us the coming of a Saviour, and in Jesus Who was announced to the world that fateful day in Nazareth, God made full and perfectly completed, His eternal promise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we see the example of Mary, the Mother of our Lord, the greatest of all saints and the closest to the throne of her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For Mary was an essential instrument in the salvation of all mankind, whom God had prepared from the beginning, special and adorned to be the vessel to bear the Saviour and Lord of all creation Himself in her.

And that was why she was conceived herself without sin, without the taint of sin and wickedness which would make her unworthy to bear the Lord in her. But even more important than this, is that she remained true and faithful to God and all of His plans, even though such a plan was truly so grand and beyond our human understanding. And the burden of such a revelation was truly great indeed. Just imagine, if we are in Mary’s position, and an Archangel of God appearing before us, telling that she would become the mother of the Lord Most High Himself?

Mary, human as she was just like us, she was filled with uncertainty and doubts too. That was why she sought clarification from the Archangel Gabriel, that she was still a virgin, betrothed but had not yet consummated the marriage she was to have with Joseph her betrothed, and yet she was to bear the Son of God in her? And the Archangel Gabriel through his words revealed the truth about our Saviour to the whole world.

That He is the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh, that from the beginning and before the beginning of time, had been with the Father, inseparable and perfect in unity as God, and yet, by the will of the Lord, had been incarnate into the flesh of man, and became as men are, and as the Son of Man, He was to bear all of mankind’s sins and faults, and bearing with Him all these, He was to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice and offering to God for our trespasses.

And thus now, as we glory and rejoice in the outcome of the Lord’s plan for our salvation, and as He had shown us the path to our redemption through our faith in His Son Jesus, our Lord, now we also remember the moment when it all began, when God revealed to the world, that His Saviour is coming, and is entering the world. And as we rejoice together celebrating our Lord’s love and care for us, let us heed the examples of Mary.

For Mary is our example in faith, in her devotion and undying commitment to our God, that she surrendered herself completely to God and entrusting herself to His plans and to His will. She followed on the path God had set up for her, even to following her Son in His ministry, and even all the way through the path of the cross, until she was there at the moment of His crucifixion, through which we have gained the redemption from our sins.

Let us all follow her examples, and practice our faith in our own actions. And as we rejoice in this Easter season, let us all remember those who have little or no joy, and especially our brethren who have yet to hear the word of our God’s salvation. Let us bring to them the light of our God, and may all of us receive salvation together as one people, and one day be able to glorify Him together, with His blessed mother Mary, whose faith is an inspiration to us all. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 4 April 2016 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus.”

“He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Monday, 4 April 2016 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will.

This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Monday, 4 April 2016 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of Me. To do Your will is My delight, o God, for Your law is within My heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in My heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness. I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Monday, 4 April 2016 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask. I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God?”

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name, Immanuel. Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the message of the Holy Scriptures to us is very clear. And it is calling for us to repent from our sins, turn from all the wickedness we are committing, and turn a new leaf, finding our way in the Lord, and no longer disobeying His laws and commandments, let us all go on in our lives with a new purpose, that is to serve the Lord and to love His people, our fellow brethren.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Gospel today spoke of the matter of human pride, selfishness and greed, when Jesus talked about the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who liked to flaunt the rich display of their faith in public, so that the whole people might see their supposed piety and devotion to the Law of God. But they did so seeking not the approval of God, but instead, the approval of men.

Yes, they prayed and worshipped in public places, making a great scenery with loud voices and displays, so that they might be praised for whatever they had done. It was not because they truly loved the Lord or wanting to obey Him and His commandments that they had done so, but they rather loved themselves more, and wanted themselves to enjoy the satisfaction of power and pleasure of the flesh, satiating their own ego and greed.

To them, the laws of God represented an opportunity to do so, which they gladly accepted and made full use of. And thus, they misused what God had given them to be a guide for the people of God to find their way to the Lord Himself, and instead using them to further their own human agenda. They did not truly care about those whom God had entrusted to them, as leaders and shepherds to guide them to the way of the Lord.

And as a result, they sinned not just because they have not done what the Lord had expected of them as those entrusted to shepherd God’s people, but also because they had misled them and acted wickedly for their own self benefits. And that was why Jesus was so critical at them. He rebuked them harshly because of their own self-serving actions that were incompatible with what God teaches us to do.

It is difficult indeed in our world today for us to live faithfully in accordance with the will of God, and we have the tendency to be swayed and to be tempted and pulled into the lures of the devil, who with his allies and forces in this world is always trying to lay trap for us, and to bring us into our downfall that we may share with him the fate of eternal fire and damnation. And in order to do this, he is making use of our own pride, our own greed and desires, and all the things that keep us tied into the immorality of this world.

This is why it is important for us, during this season of Lent, to practice the method of self-restraint and abstinence, and as we do our fasting and abstinence, and by expanding our good works and charity, we limit and restrain our own ego, our own human pride, greed and desire, resisting the temptation of the evil one to us, and therefore gain for ourselves the rewards for our righteousness and faith to the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the feast day of St. Polycarp, a holy bishop and martyr of the Church and the Faith. St. Polycarp was told to be the disciple of St. John the Apostle, the youngest of the Twelve Apostles of Christ, and who was appointed as the overseer or bishop of the region in Roman Asia known then as Smyrna. He ministered to the faithful there and helped to establish the foundations of the Church.

But he did not have an easy time, as many oppositions and challenges faced him, the Church and the faithful entrusted under his care. Nevertheless, St. Polycarp continued to work hard for the benefit of the faithful, the flock of the Lord placed under his care as their shepherd. It was told that he met his martyrdom at the hands of those who forced the faithful to reject the Lord and to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor, and St. Polycarp remained resolute and strong in his commitment to the Lord and to his faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take note of the examples of St. Polycarp, and let us live our lives with the same kind of courage and strength, to resist the temptations of the world to defile ourselves, and thus, deliver ourselves free from all the bonds of sin that had held us back all these while. Let us resolve to live our lives free of sin in this season of Lent, and by striving to deepen our faith and spirituality, let us draw ever closer to our Lord and to His salvation.

May God strengthen us in faith and love, and may in all of our actions, we continue to show our faith, through our charities and care for our fellow brethren. May God be with us all in all of our endeavours. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself, shall be made great.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 1 : 10, 16-20

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.

“Come,” says the Lord, “Let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be as crimson red, they will be white as wool. If you will obey Me, you will eat the goods of the earth, but if you resist and rebel, the sword will eat you instead.” Truly the Lord has spoken.

Sunday, 24 January 2016 : Third (3rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour: Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened the message of the Holy Scriptures speaking to us about the mercy and the deliverance which our Lord had brought to us all through Jesus His Son, as He entered into the world and brought us all a new hope, a new hope and light amidst the despair and darkness filling up our world.

In the first reading from the book of the prophet Nehemiah, we heard about how after the people of Israel were allowed to return from the land of their exile in Babylon and beyond to the land promised to their ancestors, they were allowed to rebuild all that had been destroyed, the Temple of God and all of their homes and dwellings, and the priest and prophet Ezra was also among them.

When the people heard about the Law and all of its tenets being read to them, they lamented and became very sorrowful and sorry, as they would have heard what the Lord would do with all those who have disobeyed His commandments, walked away from His laws and teachings, worshipped pagan gods and idols and lived in wickedness. Their portion would have been rejection and condemnation, but God would say otherwise.

Indeed, as the prophet Ezra had said, that as long as the people of God sincerely wanted to repent from their past sins and atone the wrongdoings of their ancestors and of their own, then the path forward for them will be open, as God will show His mercy and love to them, and He will bless them once again, and a people once forsaken by God for their sins will rejoice once again.

Through our sins and disobedience against God, we have indeed been sundered away from God’s love and grace, and we have been cast out of the inheritance promised to the faithful, but through our Lord’s great love for us all, He is giving us a new chance and opportunity for us to be redeemed from our fate of destruction, and give us the hope and the promise and the assurance of the entry into the eternal life found only in Him.

In the second reading we heard a long discourse by St. Paul who wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth of the Church of God which he compared to a body, and how it works as compared to how a body actually works. This is because the Church is the Body of Christ, and it is in union with Christ Who is the true Head of the Church, and by which unity the Church exists in grace and doing the good works which Christ had initiated in this world.

Separated from the Lord, the Church can do nothing, and indeed, therefore, the Church serves the Lord and does His good works, and because of that, all of us are also called to do the same, because each and every one of us who have believed in the Lord and followed Him through baptism, have been made members of God’s Church, His own Body, the Body of Christ.

Yes, just as the limbs, the organs and all parts of the body, our body are all united in our one body in each one of us, then all of us are also part of the Church, and we all should be united and function as one, just as all the parts of the body should work in tandem together. If one part of the body is missing or is taken out, then the whole body itself cannot function properly as a part is missing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us in the Church, as different we are in the background and in our personalities or categories, we are all together in this as one people, and as one functional body together. We should not let our differences or our personal desires and emotions to come in the way, as it is easy for us to succumb to those desires and instead of working together, we undermine the good works and the stability of the Church.

Most of us are the laity, those who continue to live our own worldly lives while we profess our faith in the Lord and doing His good works. Meanwhile, those who have dedicated themselves to the Lord in a life of chastity and commitment, they are the priesthood, our priests, bishops and the Pope who represent Christ the true Head, as the representatives of the Lord in this earth.

Each cannot work on its own, having own agendas or plans that especially came in contrast to each other. If this happens, then just as Jesus had said to the Pharisees in His rebuke of them when they accused Him of using the power of demons against demons, that when a kingdom or nation is divided, then the same will also happen to the Church of God, which when divided, it shall be hampered in its works of grace for the sake of the people of God.

And thus we are all brought to the reality of how divided the Church is today, where since ages past, there had been so many people who thought themselves as better than the Apostles and the Church fathers, coming up with their own teachings and innovations to the faith, leading many into heresy and separation from the Church of God.

As they bicker and fight amongst themselves, refusing to return to the true teachings of the Holy Mother Church, the Catholic Church, they weaken the unity and the good works of the Church in saving the people of God from harm and damnation. In the Gospel, Jesus our Lord had laid out the things that He had promised to bring into this world, which through His hands and continued by those who work through His Church, has made that promise a reality.

How shall we bring mercy and love to the poor and those who have fallen on the path, if we ourselves are bickering amongst ourselves? I am not just referring to the division that existed between the Church and those who have willingly and openly rejected the teachings of the Church, but also even within the Church itself, where factions and peoples are in conflict against each other, disagreeing and grumbling against each other.

That is why, on this day, as we continue to progress through this week of prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray together as one Church, that all the divisions and disagreements may cease, and unity may be restored in good harmony to all those who have been divided and separated from the love of God in the Church, and we pray that those who have willingly and openly rejected and separated themselves from the Church will repent and return to the unity of the Body of Christ in the Church.

May God bless us all in our endeavours, and may He strengthen our resolve to reunite all the divided splinters of the Body of Christ, the Church. Let us all be reunited in the Lord, as one people divided no longer, but in perfect obedience to all the teachings of the Lord as kept in the Catholic Church, that we may together give praise to Him and glorify Him, and bring His good works and salvation to more people throughout the world. Amen.