Thursday, 1 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, which also falls on the same day as the day set aside for the celebration of the right of workers and labourers around the world, commonly known as either the Labour Day or May Day. On this day, workers around the world celebrate their right to equal pay, treatment and rights, as well as even protesting to demand for more, if they did not receive enough.

Today we celebrate the memory of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, who was also a very diligent worker as a carpenter in the village of Nazareth. St. Joseph is the role model for all workers, not only that he is so diligent and hardworking, but he is also very upright in his actions and did not do things that were in opposition to the Law of God and the teachings of the prophets.

St. Joseph reminded all of us, not just the workers of who we are, namely the children and most beloved of all the creations of the Lord. We were created last by the Lord in creation, and we were made in His image, and as if that is not enough, He also endowed us with His own Spirit that bears life inside each one of us. And yet, we are at the same time, as the first reading from the Book of Genesis mentioned, also made of dust, which the Lord used to craft our mortal bodies of flesh and blood.

Thus the well-known saying that ‘We are dust, and to dust we shall return, which the priest utters every Ash Wednesday as he applies the ash onto our forehead. This is to remind us of our humanity, fragility and mortality, which should keep us to realise that we are in this world as its caretakers and everything that we do, we ought not to do it for our own sake and benefits, but for the sake of the Lord and all our brethren around us.

St. Joseph showed that above all, we should be the bearers of the good will of the Lord, and walk always in the way of God, be righteous in all of our actions and deeds, not turning left or right, or be persuaded or tempted by the world’s persuasions and temptations. As we work, we should always remember to have good work attitudes and openness to suggestions and advice, and not to close ourselves off from cooperating with others.

A truly major problem with our world and its working force is that we no longer work for the good of one another, but we ended up to be in the sole pursuit of one thing, that is money and even other forms of material possessions. As I have often mentioned, money is not necessarily evil, and indeed, it is perfectly neutral and is completely not a vice that we should avoid. The evil lies in us, that is in how we attempt to gain it, how we gain it, and eventually how we use it, and what we use it for.

This world has increasingly become a commercialised and materialistic world, where you can almost literally say that money is king, for those who have more will not just tend to have even more, but that they also are likely to have a better and more enjoyable life. For many of us, working and our actions in work had become nothing more than literally slaving away our lives and our precious time for money, and more money.

We forget that when we work we should be more like St. Joseph, who worked with great simplicity and humility, and while being serious and dedicated to his works, he dedicated it out of love towards God and to his fellow men. As a carpenter, he certainly did not earn much from his works, but certainly from every single furniture he crafted for those who ordered them from him, he gained much gladness and satisfaction, seeing the happiness on their faces seeing the completed product.

Surely we all can visualise and imagine how St. Joseph had worked hard to help provide for the Holy Family, for Jesus our Lord and Mary His mother. It is this kind of simple and yet genuine devotion to one’s work based in love that is the kind of work attitude that we need to have and follow. Sadly the truth is indeed that we have been so caught up in our busy life schedules and careers that we end up forgetting what is the most important thing in our lives.

As St. Joseph has shown us, we cannot discount God out of our lives, as without God our lives will be meaningless and empty, and this is also the reason why so many of us lost our true purpose as we work, that we no longer work for the benefits of others around us, and instead, for our own benefit, that is for our own selves, in our great ego, desire and greed.

It is easy these days to be tempted, brethren, for the temptations of goodness of this world is basically all around us, from all the promotions and commercials that we are exposed to every single day of our lives, that we really cannot escape but notice how much good that this world can grant us. Therefore we are prone to fall into this trap of materialism and commercialism, where we desire more and more the goods of this world, while forgetting that the true purpose we have in this world is to love and to dedicate ourselves completely to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate today’s occasion on the feast of St. Joseph the worker and the day of celebration of labour, let us always be reminded that we should not be working for the sake of working and to seek for more and more material goods. Instead, as we work, let us have a good purpose to it, especially praising and glorifying the Lord our God.

St. Joseph the worker, the foster-father of our Lord, pray for us all, that we will seek less of our own glory and pleasure when we so something or work, that we do not become creature of ego or the servant of material possessions. Help us through your prayers that we may instead work for the good of one another, and be dedicated to our work just as you had been dedicated to yours. May God be with us all and bless our work at all times. Amen.

Friday, 8 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Today, we listened to the words of the Gospel, in which the Lord told His disciples on the parable of the dishonest steward, in which the steward was accused of making dishonest acts with his master’s accounts, and in his fear of his own future, he committed even more dishonesty, all to save himself and provide for himself.

It may seem to some who reads this passage at a face value, that the Lord endorses the actions of the steward, by saying that the master of the steward praises him for his astuteness and crafty nature. In truth, the Lord says that while the methods used by the steward is a good method and a smart move, but that is for this world, and not for the world of the next, that is eternal. It is either eternity in suffering or glory and joy.

We like to trust in our own strength, power, and ability, and we like to follow in the ways of this world, that is deceit, dishonesty, pride, arrogance, that we become over time, more and more like that of the dishonest steward. To be worthy servant of God, then we must break free from the entanglement of the evils of this world. The lures of this world’s pleasures are great indeed. It is up to us to cast out those habits.

We all have been made the stewards of creation, given to all of us as our charge, at the time when God created all of us. We have been entrusted this world as our dominion, that we would divide, multiply, and ultimately be responsible for all those who had been granted to us as our rightful possessions. It is in our power and dominion, to choose whether to do what is good or what is bad and deceitful, on our duty as stewards of God and His creation.

Be honest, be faithful, and be true to God and to our fellow men. We should not let our ego or our desire to affect our actions and our deeds. We ought to rise from the depth of our sinfulness and egoistic nature, thinking and caring only for ourselves, and rise up to love and commit ourselves towards caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the way that we should follow, indeed as the Lord asked of us, to die to ourselves, and to die to our ego. That we cast away this veil of ego and embrace humility.

The root of corruption and evil is truly when one succumbs to his or her own ego, and allow that ego to take over themselves and their actions. When we begin to put ourselves and our own interests ahead of that of the others, then we begin our path to downfall and destruction. But this does not mean that we cannot escape from that path. It requires great effort and dedication to the cause, for us to reorientate ourselves to the path of righteousness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, much is expected from us, as we have been given much. We have been given our skills, abilities, and talents, that we are indeed expected to utilise them, for good and for the benefit of all those around us. We cannot be negligent and ignorant of what has been entrusted to us. Let us therefore, from now on, resolve to become, truly better stewards and caretakers of God’s creations.

May the Lord who is love and mercy, and may He who grant us His gifts and goodness, empower us with His Spirit, that we will always be strong, against temptations and assaults by the evil one. Be with us Lord and strengthen us, that we, Your children, will be always loving as You are. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Once again, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded, just as in yesterday’s reading, the importance of being ever-ready, and preparedness in our lives, that when the Lord comes again unexpected, we will not be caught unprepared and unworthy. Sin is in particular something that we must always beware of, in our daily lives, that we be ever vigilant, against any commitment of sin that corrupts us and brings us away from the salvation in God.

All of us, brethren, had in fact been entrusted with much responsibilities by our Lord and God, and we had been made as stewards over God’s creations. Remember that when the Lord created mankind, He had commanded all creations to be within our sphere of responsibility. We are effectively made the stewards of this world, the caretaker of God’s creatures.

Yet as we all know, many of us are not always faithful to the Lord and His ways. Although we had been made stewards, the Lord is still our Master, and we have to follow Him and His ways, and not go our own way. That is essentially what many of us have done. We have cast away the words of the Lord and prefer to trust in our own human judgments and wisdom, rather than trusting in God.

Then, some of us also did not become good stewards of God’s creation, and we neglect our duties that we ought to do. We prefer to care and worry about ourselves, instead of giving ourselves to love and care for those entrusted to us. And remember that the more we had been given with, the more too will be expected from us. That is why, our possessions, our love, and our material goods can become both a great source of blessing and grace, as well as to be a vicious trap that blocks our path to the Lord our God.

We are often too happy with ourselves, with our comfortable life, that we end up forgetting about what we ought to do in our lives. It is completely not wrong for us to enjoy our lives and to gather or gain worldly things and possessions. It is, as I need to reiterate once again, the way that we use those gifts and graces the Lord had granted us, and our attitude towards others, which determine whether we are righteous or not.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John of Capestrano, a priest who lived in the early Renaissance Italy, who was once a secular noble and governor of the land. He relinquished his position and wealth after he received a calling, and together with the future St. Bernardine of Siena, he studied to become a priest, a monk, and a preacher, eventually joining the Franciscans.

St. John of Capestrano went on to preach in many different parts of Europe and Christendom as a whole, and his charisma is such that he always drew massive crowds, into tens of thousands and even over a hundred thousand people in some occasions, turning many back into the path of the Lord, and affirming many in the way of the Lord. In doing that, he had brought countless souls back on the path towards salvation in God.

St. John of Capestrano worked hard for the sake of the Lord even until his old age, preaching and urging the people to rise up and defend the true faith in God against any form of heresies and diabolical onslaught of the devil forces, especially in the pagan Ottoman Empire forces, which rose to prominence and power. He worked hard until he caught illness of the bubonic plague and died, ever still faithful and devoted towards the mission he had as the servant of God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the examples of St. John of Capestrano, and also the examples of many other saints, who had worked hard for the glory of God, let us all then also follow in his footsteps, to be truly dutiful and faithful in our mission in this world, that is to be faithful, obedient, and loving servants and stewards of the Lord our God, as the steward over all creation.

May we all therefore be strengthened in our faith, and become ever more dedicated to the Lord our God, and through the intercession of St. John of Capestrano, we are made closer to our Lord and God. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 22 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate an important feast in our faith, that is on the Queenship of Mary, the Mother of God, as a Queen and an honoured one, because of what she had done in her life, because of her exemplary role in our world, and most importantly, because of her crucial and irreplaceable role in the plan of salvation, by bearing the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God Most High.

Yes, brethren, Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, and therefore, the Mother of God or Theotokos. She is a queen precisely because of this, that is because Jesus is the King of all kings, the King and ruler of all the universe, the God Most High, therefore, Mary, His mother is accorded that queenship. To her had been attributed many titles of queenship, including but not limited to, the Queen of heaven, the Queen of angels, and the Queen of all saints.

These titles revealed her importance to all of us, and the importance of her role, in the world and in heaven. Yes, this is because she is our greatest connector with our God, indeed due to her unique role in being the bearer of our divine Saviour as He descended into this world as man like us. Through her, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord who is divine was incarnate as man in Jesus, fully man, fully divine. Mary surrendered herself fully to the will of God, accepting what had been charged upon her through the archangel Gabriel.

By becoming the mother of our Saviour and King, Jesus Christ, she had become a Queen, not because of her wealth, power, or beauty, but because of her complete obedience, compliance, and surrender to the will of God, and the love she has for God and for His precepts. And here, it is important to note the difference between worshipping someone and venerating or honouring someone, as many had misunderstood the role that Mary, our Queen has.

Many thought that we in the Church and we who possess the true faith worship Mary as an equal to God, and their suspicions seemed to come true looking at how we refer to Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus as Queen, as a Holy Queen, the Queen of heaven, the Queen of angels and saints, as if we are making her a goddess in her own right. No, brothers and sisters, this is simply not the case. Anyone who believed in such things had been seduced by the evil one, that the truth presented to them had been twisted into lies by Satan. Yes, misinformation and misunderstanding of one’s faith is dangerous indeed.

We venerate, honour, and glorify Mary, as the mother of our God, the one through whom the deliverance came into this world, and because of her exemplary piety and obedience to God, but she remains a human being like us, and not a goddess, but she is now in heaven, having been lifted up to heaven in the glorious Assumption, which feast we had just celebrated last week. She is the first of all saints, and the most preeminent one amongst all that God had created.

Mary sits closest to the Lord in heaven, right at the side of her Son Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, as the Holy Trinity. She is a great advisor and a great intercessor for us, the greatest among all saints, because of her close proximity to Christ her Son. That is why we call Mary, the Queen of all saints, because she is truly the first and greatest of all saints, both by virtue of her being the Mother of God and through her own piety and virtue.

She is also Queen of angels because she is also preeminent among all creations, and mankind is truly even greater than angels. Mary leads the angels in praying for us, interceding for us, and guiding us in our way, our journey towards the Lord our God, the Son of Mary. She is truly our great helper, the one who can help us in our path towards salvation in God. Truly, “Ad Iesum per Mariam” which means “to Jesus through Mary”, because just as Mary had stood beside the cross when Christ went through His Passion, she also stands even now, on the way to salvation, to her Son Jesus.

The cross is the path to our salvation, because through the cross, Jesus had died and through His death, He had broken the yoke and chains that bound us to hell, the yoke of sin that Satan had imposed on us ever since he had tricked our ancestors into disobeying the Lord our God. Through the cross, the chasm between us and heaven, the gap that exists between us and the Lord had been bridged by the glorious and triumphant cross. The gates of heaven had been opened for us sinners, through the Blood of the suffering and slaughtered Lamb of God.

Jesus suffered for all our sins, because even though He is blameless and pure, but He had been charged to die for all our faults, for all our trespasses, against God and our fellow men. The nails that pierced His hands and feet, the weight of that cross, the pain of His wounds, are the consequence of the sins and evils we had committed. He bore all that for us, and His mother watched Him suffer, and followed Him faithfully along the way to Calvary until He died. Mary is truly exemplary, for her complete obedience to God, and notice that she never complained about having to be the mother of our Saviour, and she never complained even though sorrowful, when she went to follow her Son to her death.

Mary is our Queen not because of her royal birth or her beauty, but because of her complete obedience and love she showed to the Lord. She is our Queen because without her and her love for God, we will not have our King, Jesus Christ, the promised Saviour, as told by Isaiah and the other prophets of God. She is Queen because she is the Mother of our God, and indeed, we are hers, just as she is ours, and that is why Mary is also the Queen of all mankind.

Why is it so? That is because she had been entrusted to all of us by her Son Himself from the cross, as He entrusted Mary to John, His disciple. In the same way, therefore, she had been entrusted to us. But Jesus did not just stop at there. He went on further, by entrusting His own disciple to His mother Mary. Therefore, in the same way, all of us, all of mankind had been entrusted to Mary, so that she becomes our mother too. Yes, Mary truly is our mother and our Queen.

We venerate and honour our mother and Queen, because she had loved us and cared for us, just as she had loved and cared for her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Let us, brothers and sisters in Christ, give thanks to Him who had given us such a great gift in Mary, His mother. Let us also then thank Mary our mother and our Queen, for having been such a great guide and intercessor for our sake, helping us all these while on the path to salvation.

May Mary our mother, the mother of Jesus our Lord, the Queen of heaven, the Queen of Angels, the Queen of all saints, and the Queen of all mankind, pray for us sinners and intercede for us before Christ her Son on His throne. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.