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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 90 : 1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who rest in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the Lord, “My stronghold, my refuge, my God in Whom I trust!”

No harm will come upon you, no disaster will draw near your home. For He will command His Angels to guard you in all your ways.

They will lift you up with their hands so that your foot will not hit a stone. You will tread on wildcats and snakes and trample the lion and the dragon.

“Because they cling to Me, I will rescue them,” says the Lord. “I will protect those who know My Name. When they call to Me, I will answer; in time of trouble I will be with them; I will deliver and honour them.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 4-10

Moses said, “Then the priest shall take the large basket from your hands and place it before the Altar of YHVH, your God, and you shall say these words before YHVH, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean. He went down to Egypt to find refuge there, while still few in number; but in that country, he became a great and powerful nation.'”

“‘The Egyptians maltreated us, oppressed us and subjected us to harsh slavery. So we called to YHVH, the God of our ancestors, and YHVH listened to us. He saw our humiliation, our hard labour and the oppression to which we were subjected. He brought us out of Egypt with a firm hand, manifesting His power with signs and awesome wonders.'”

“‘And He brought us here to give us this land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring and offer the first fruits of the land which You, YHVH, have given me.'”

Sunday, 15 November 2015 : Thirty-Third (33rd) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this sacred day we celebrate together the Holy Mass in remembrance of the fact which the the Lord Who had offered and given Himself for our sake, that through Him and through His loving works, we may be given safety and assurance of the eternal life, which God has promised to all of those who remain faithful to Him.

And His desire is for us to bring us out of the darkness and back into the light. And through His works, He will liberate us from all the wickedness and vile things that held us back from our path to salvation. God will deliver us from the punishment and the suffering that awaits us all if we continue to progress on this path towards damnation. This path is the path of selfishness, of individualism and indifference and apathy towards God and His people.

Many of us in our human nature, we have the tendency to satisfy our own needs and desires first before the needs of others, and it is often that we even trample on the rights of others and bring suffering to others in order to make ourselves feel happy and satisfied. As a result, through these behaviours, we committed sin before the Lord, and thus we sink deeper into the darkness that seeks to claim our souls.

At first, indeed, there seemed to be no hope out of the darkness, for through sin, our ancestors had been cast out of the good and wonderful life they had led in the Gardens of Eden, and for their sins they had to suffer the consequences of their disobedience, succumbing to the sentence and the power of death. And death would have won the final victory had it not been for our Lord Himself, Who endeavoured and did His best to help us all.

Because of sin, we have been defiled and corrupted in our bodies, hearts, minds and souls. And because of the filth and corruption, we have been sundered from the Lord our God, Who is all good and perfect, as no evil and wickedness can withstand His presence. But this does not mean that we have been condemned forever or assured of hell, as sin is just like debt, and debt can indeed be paid for.

In the past, the priests offered sacrifices for the sake of the people by sacrificing unblemished lamb and other animals, shedding their blood and pouring them on the altar. The sweet offering of these goods pleased the Lord, who took them as the payment for our debts, that is our sins. The sweet smell of the offerings and the blood which is then sprayed on the people of God are the symbol of purification from the sins that had assailed them.

But these sacrifices and the blood of the lamb and the other animals are only temporary solutions to our problem of sin, as these do not offer us lasting protection and absolution from all of our sins. No amount of mortal blood, sacrifices and offerings can remove from us the multitudes and the huge amounts of our wickedness, sins, and unworthiness.

We may not realise it, but in our own lives, we have committed so many sins in our life, from the beginning to its end, and even now for us still living in this world, our sins are still adding up and growing in amount. Even all the small sins we have committed will be considered, as we have to realise that no matter how small the sin is, it will still impact us and prevent us from reaching out to the Lord our God, for sin has no place in His presence.

And many of us are unaware of this fact, thinking that we are all alright and have no issues in living our lives, in ignorance of the sins which we committed. And even more of us are likely to be unaware of the very important role that our Lord had taken up and in which capacity He had endeavoured to bring us all into the salvation and eternal life which He had promised all of His faithful ones.

He has taken up the role to be our Saviour, and to be the One High Priest, the True High Priest, as Priest of all priests, to offer the perfect sacrifice through which He would sanctify all of His beloved people, purifying all of us mankind from the taints of our original sins, the accumulated sins of our rebellion and our iniquities since the very beginning of time and creation.

And He did not offer the blood of animals, or their flesh to be immolated and offered to God, but rather, He came down to us in the flesh of Man, that by mingling Himself with our substance, we become sharers in His divine mission, through which, He offered His own Most Precious Body and the Most Precious Blood to be the perfect sacrifice and offering, through which the salvation of this world came from.

He did not offer this offering many times, as the priests of old had done. Instead, through the one and only sacrifice which He performed on that fateful day at the hills of Calvary, bearing His cross on His back, He was lifted up high as the very perfect sacrifice that becomes the sacrifice which obliterates and absolves all of us from the taints of our sins. And this purification He offered to all of us, and to all of us who receive Him as our Lord and Saviour, He will bless us with the eternal life and blessings that He had promised all of us.

But this comes with a reminder, that all of us, even after we have been baptised into the Faith in God, and received as the members of His Church, we are still susceptible to the corrupting power of sin, and temptations are always abound around us. Satan and all of his allies, his fellow fallen angels, the demons and the tempters are always trying day and night to assault us, corrupt us and turn us away from the path towards salvation and instead into damnation.

It is important therefore that we are prepared for what is to come, that we must know that the Lord Jesus, our Lord, Saviour and God will come again just as He has said and promised to all of us, that when He comes again at the end of time, He shall judge all of creation, and all those who are righteous He will gather up and keep to Himself, while those who have not walked in His path will be rejected and cast out to eternal darkness.

What is important is that we must take note that the time of His coming will not be known to us. Only God alone knows at what exact and precise time He will come again to judge all things. This means that we cannot be lax and ignorant of this fact, living our lives as we please and as we want it, committing sins day and night, big and small, while thinking that we are assured of salvation.

Rather, all of us must always be vigilant and be ever ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again, and when He comes again, we want ourselves to be found worthy and in His grace, and thus merit the eternal life and joy He has promised to all those who remain true to Him to the end. Let us all strive for goodness in all things and commit ourselves to do good in all of our actions, trusting in God and in all of His promises, and make ourselves ever worthy of Him. God bless us all. Amen.