Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we heard firstly the account of what happened during the time of king Josiah of Judah, when the book of the Law of God was rediscovered in the Temple of God after it had been abandoned or presumably lost for quite some time. The king ordered for the Law to be read to him, and what he heard astounded him and made him tore his clothes in regret to the Lord.

King Josiah was a faithful king, who renewed the covenant of God with His people in the kingdom of Judah. He destroyed the pagan worship sites and the pagan idols, destroying their altars and returned the purity to the faith of the people, enforcing once again the righteous and good worship of YHVH, their Lord and God. And he was also renowned for his celebration of the proper Passover again which have not been truly observed since the days of Solomon, several centuries prior.

But then why did he tremble and acted in terror when he heard about the Law of God which were read to him? That is because the Law of God told the people about the blessings which God would give all those who obeyed the Lord and were faithful to Him, while curses and destruction would be the fate of all those who have disobeyed the Lord and abandoned His ways.

And prior to the reign of king Josiah, there had been many wicked and unfaithful kings of Judah, amidst some of those who were faithful. And these led the people of God in Judah into sin, and as a result, God’s wrath was stoked against His people and His anger has blazed against them. And by the time of Josiah, the time of reckoning was at hand, as the time when the people of Judah would be carried off into exile as what their northern brethren had experienced was coming.

A good king produces good results, and led his people into the right paths. And that was what Josiah tried to do, to led the wayward people of God back to His presence, and hopefully the anger of God would be appeased and calmed down. Unfortunately, for a good king like Josiah and some of his predecessors, there were too many of those who had been wicked and unfaithful.

And these wicked leaders led the people into sin as I have mentioned. A bad tree also produces bad and rotten fruits as well. It was what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. And in the end, as Josiah was the last king of Judah who was faithful to God, and the people of God had their last chance of redemption and forgiveness through him. Unfortunately, they continued to live in sin, and thus God scattered them through the foreign lands where they were exiled in, after the Holy City and the Temple of God were destroyed.

In this we heard what are the consequences if we do not keep our faith in God, and if we do what is wicked and evil. If our hearts are filled with impurities and corruptions of the world, then it is likely that our actions will also be filled with sins and wickedness, and as a result, we are in great danger, for if the Lord comes again to judge us, then He may find our faith wanting, and we will be judged amongst those who deserve the eternal suffering of hell.

If we want to be saved, then we must make sure that we walk in the path of righteousness, and lead a just and devoted life. And if we have not done so all these while, then we should start it right now. Otherwise, if we have done so, then we should continue doing what is right and just before God. And indeed, today, we are all blessed with the presence of not just one, but three honourable saints whose feast we commemorate today.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a Roman noble, who was born into privilege and belonged to a distinguished family, who became an official in the government and eventually rising to the rank of the Roman governor of Campania, a very distinguished and privileged position at that time, ruling one of the main provinces and region of Italy, the heart of the Roman Empire.

But despite that influential position, and the wealth and position which he possessed, St. Paulinus of Nola changed his ways almost entirely after he married a Christian to be his wife. He accepted the Lord as his Messiah and Saviour, and was baptised as a Christian. He was once a devoted pagan, but after having been baptised and followed the Lord’s way, he came to realise the errors of his previous ways, and changed his ways almost completely.

After his son died at an early young age, he and his wife shunned all forms of worldly influences and attractions, with St. Paulinus of Nola leaving behind his career as the governor of Campana and embraced wholly the way of the Lord through service to the Church of God and to His people. And St. Paulinus of Nola ministered to the people of God over many years, eventually appointed as the Bishop of Nola.

Meanwhile St. Thomas More was the Chancellor under the employ of the King of England, King Henry VIII. He was a powerful man with great influence, and he has a lot of power and authority being the one most trusted and most powerful beneath the king himself. However, he remained humble and devoted to his works, and in many cases, he did his best for the sake of his kingdom and his Faith.

St. Thomas More in particular was strongly against the heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, the heresy which had spread rapidly throughout Christendom, and caused many people to fall into sin. And he worked closely with the Church, ensuring that the heretical teachings were outlawed and prevented from misleading the people of God into sin.

St. Thomas More remained steadfast even in the midst of the increasing pressure from the king and his allies, all of whom were drifting gradually towards the Protestant camp, with the king having had the grudge against the Church and the Pope for the refusal against the remarriage of the king with another woman as well as his protracted attempt at annulment from his wife, which caused a great scandal at that time.

Both he and St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, refused to obey the king on the matters in which he had caused a break between the Church in England from Rome. St. Thomas More resigned his Chancellorship and remained true to his faith, and openly with St. John Fisher stood against the tide of heresy and wickedness that had engulfed the king and his court.

They were the examples of good trees that produce good fruits, for their steadfast faith led to great courage and bravery to stand up even against overwhelming forces, and even in the face of suffering and death. They were martyred for their Faith, and from their examples, inspirations and hope remained for many people to keep up their faith even amidst persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today reflect on all these, and think about what all of us as the people of God can do, so that our actions, words and deeds may be filled with righteousness because our hearts and minds are filled with the Law of God, as well as obedience to His laws and the justice and strength which God has given to all of His faithful ones. Let us all commit ourselves anew to God, and do our best to be righteous in His sight always. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 7 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus spoke to the people and to His disciples, “Beware of false prophets : they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are wild wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Do you ever pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

“A good tree always produces good fruit, a rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot bear good fruit. Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire. So you will know them by their fruit.”

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 118 : 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40

Explain to me, o Lord, Your commandments, and I will be ever faithful to them.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law with all my heart.

Guide me in obeying Your instructions, for my pleasure lies in them.

Incline my heart to follow Your will and not my own selfish desire.

Turn my eyes away from vanities and direct them to Your life-giving word.

Oh, how I long for Your precepts! Renew my life in Your righteousness.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop and St. John Fisher, Bishop and St. Thomas More, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops) or Red (Martyrs)

2 Kings 22 : 8-13 and 2 Kings 23 : 1-3

At that moment Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan, the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the House of YHVH.” And he entrusted the Book to Shaphan who read it. Then Shaphan went to the king and said, “We have gathered the money in the House, and this has been turned over to the overtakers of the House to make the repairs.”

And Shaphan added, “The priest Hilkiah has turned over a book to me.” And Shaphan read the book to the king. When the king heard the contents of the book, he tore his clothes and commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, the secretary Shaphan, and Asaiah, his minister, to do the following, “Go and consult YHVH about the threats in this book which you have found. Consult Him for me, for the people and for the whole of Judah, since our fathers did not listen to what this book says nor to its ordinances. This is why the anger of YHVH is ready to burn against us.”

The king summoned to his side all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then he went up to the House of YHVH followed by all the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The priests with the prophets and all the people went with him, from the youngest to the oldest. When all were gathered, he read to them the book of the Law found in the House of YHVH.

The king stood by the pillar; he made a covenant in the presence of YHVH, promising to follow Him, to keep His commandments and laws, and to respect His ordinances. He promised to keep this covenant according to what was written in the book with all his heart and with all his soul. And all the people promised with him.

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate our first Sunday in the season of Lent, we always hear about the temptation of Jesus Christ our Lord in the desert by the devil, who tried to tempt Him three times without avail, and who then retreated, trying to undermine the works of the Lord in another way. This temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ is tied closely to our own observation of this Lenten period, and also to the history of our faith.

Mankind, ever since the days of Adam and Eve, our forebears and ancestors, had been afflicted with the disease of sin, as Satan managed to tempt them to disobey the Lord and by making use of our human desires to subvert us and to turn us against God, by disobeying His commandments, and by selfishly giving in to our desires. Satan had many weapons, and his greatest one is our pride, our greed and our insatiable desire to fulfil ourselves and our wants.

In the Gospel, as we heard about Jesus being tempted three times, we are heeded to take note of our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities, which Satan and his agents can easily take advantage of, in their attempt to destroy us and bring us into the eternal darkness with them. First of all, is the temptation of our stomach, the needs and wants of our body, our flesh, the temptation of food and greed.

We all know that all living things require food in order to continue living and to survive, and without food we will eventually die of starvation and hunger. But we should also be aware of the distinction and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in our world today. All of us are indeed aware, and we should have indeed heard about how many of the poor people in places and parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in the developed countries and regions, who had not enough food even to sustain themselves, less still for their children and for their families.

And yet, we also know that there are many excesses that people in our time today had committed, squandering much money and wealth in pursuit of good food and good lifestyle, a lifestyle of hedonism and excess, where a lot of waste and a lot of injustice are being done to those who have little or even none for themselves, even to keep themselves alive. And yet, there are those who rejoice, revel at themselves and feast on top of the suffering of others.

This Lent, we are fasting because we ought to resist the temptation of our flesh. Our human needs and wants is such that, hunger and starvation can lead men to hurt or even kill one another, in order to get what we need and want. If we do not restrain ourselves, then surely we shall fall into the deep trap of sin that Satan has prepared for us. Thus, let us heed what Jesus said, that we do not live on bread or food alone, as these give us just what we need in this earthly life, but we should put our trust in the word of God, our true sustenance, for it is through the Word that we can find our way to salvation.

But we have to be careful, lest the devil used our lack of understanding of God’s words in order to deceive us and tempt us further. We saw how the devil was trying to use the verses from the Scriptures to tempt Jesus to show Himself to the people, by jumping off from the pinnacle of the Temple. Indeed, the verse meant that God will protect His people, and He will send His Angels to protect us from harm, but if we test God and try to see if He really will protect us, that means we have no faith in Him.

And the second temptation was also the temptation of pride, for we mankind are all inherently vulnerable to this trait, the pride and haughtiness in each and everyone of us. We see in many people, the desire to be recognised and to be praised, so that someone will praise us and recognise us for what we have done. But at times, we can be so desperate or our desire for such things may be so great, in the end, we lose sight and focus on what we ought to do, and again, we bring harm to others.

We see how people fight and jostle with one another, either with cunning, or trickery, with words of mouth, or even through physical violence, just so that they can have an edge over another people, and gain what they desire, that is power, honour, glory, fame and many others. And this is what the devil tried to tempt Jesu with, in his third attempt, as he brought Him to the highest mountain, offering all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus would only worship him as lord.

But Jesus was not swayed, and He was not tempted. He knew that power, human praise, fame and glory, all forms of other temptations in the world were superficial and illusory in nature. They do not give lasting satisfaction and happiness, which can only be truly found in God alone. Power in particular is very dangerous, as the saying goes, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This means that if we allow ourselves to be tempted, and to seek more things for ourselves, in power and all the goods the world is offering us, then we will only get ourselves dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness, and we will never be satisfied ourselves. We should already know that, it is our tendency that once we have something that we desire, we tend to desire even more.

And this is why we abstain, and do penitential works, during this season of Lent. It was not just a mere obligation or something we have to do as part of our observation of the laws of the Church and the faith. If we look at it as that, then our focus is wrong, and what we have done will avail little at helping us to strive for God’s salvation.

Instead, we have to do what we must do in this period of Lent with proper understanding and with good faith, so that whatever we do, we do it because of our love for the Lord, and the deep and burning desire in our hearts to be cleansed of our sins and wickedness, and the desire to reject Satan and all of his lies, and be freed from our enslavement to our pride, to our greed and all forms of the temptations of the flesh and the heart.

Let us all follow our Lord Jesus’ examples, resisting the devil and all of his temptations, and through our actions during this time of Lent, let us all grow stronger in faith, and spiritually, so that we will grow more capable of resisting the advances of evil and all of its forces in the time to come. Let us all love one another, giving alms and helping those who are less fortunate than us during this time, sharing whatever goods, food or care that we have, so that all of us will be able to live comfortably and harmoniously in this world.

May Almighty God bless us and forgive us our sins, and may this season of Lent be a fruitful one in the salvation of our souls. Amen.

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 4 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus was then full of Holy Spirit. As He returned from the Jordan, the Spirit led Him into the desert where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. He did not eat anything during that time, and at the end He was hungry. The devil then said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “Scripture says : People cannot live on bread alone.”

Then the devil took Him up to a high place, and showed Him in a flash all the nations of the world. And he said to Jesus, “I can give You power over all the nations, and their wealth will be Yours; for power and wealth have been delivered to me, and I give them to whom I wish. All this will be Yours, provided You worship me.” But Jesus replied, “Scripture says : You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone.”

Then the devil took Him up to Jerusalem, and set Him on the highest wall of the Temple; and he said, “If You are God’s Son, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written : God will order His Angels to take care of You; and again : They will hold You in their hands, lest You hurt Your foot on the stones.” But Jesus replied, “It is written : You shall not challenge the Lord your God.”

When the devil had exhausted every way of tempting Jesus, he left Him, to return another time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 10 : 8-13

True righteousness coming from faith also says : The word of God is near you, on your lips and in your hearts. This is the message that we preach, and this is faith. You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the dead.

By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved. For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.”