Saturday, 3 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today each and every one of us are reminded of God’s love and His faithfulness to the Covenant which He has made with all of us. From the Book of Job, we heard how the Lord restored Job and blessed him even more than he had been previously blessed after all of his sufferings. And from the Gospel passage we heard the Lord affirming His disciples and followers.

In our first reading today, from the Book of Job we heard how after all the sufferings that Job had to endure, losing everything he possessed and even most of his family members, humiliated and denounced even by his family and close friends, who told him that he must have sinned against God to merit such sufferings. Job remained firm in his faith in God, but through all that he suffered, he did wonder why he had endured all those bitterness, and gave in to despair.

The Lord reminded Job that He has always been by his side even through his darkest moments, and He has always cared for him, and He told Job that it is not right for him to despair and to question His motives, and he needs to put his trust and faith completely in God. As we heard, the Lord opened Job’s perspectives and revealed the magnitude of His plans and works, and how He would bless him for his faith.

Job recognised his errors and repented from his mistakes, and embraced God’s love fully, never having abandoned Him and remaining faithful even through his most difficult days. And God, who brought Job out of his misery, helped and blessed him even much more generously than before. And therefore, God shows us all that those who hold onto Him, despite the trials they may have to endure, will receive eternal glory, true joy and satisfaction in the end.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord proclaimed to His followers and disciples just how blessed and fortunate they were, for having been counted among His followers and how He has been victorious against the forces of Satan, the devil and the great enemy of all the people of God. Satan has been cast down from Heaven and punished with all the other rebel angels. And this is the prelude to the final defeat of Satan and all of his plots and plans against God’s people that will come with the Cross.

Satan and all of his wicked forces have always been trying to crush us and to make our lives difficult. And by the means of many temptations and false promises, they have been working hard in dragging us down with them, as they hoped to turn us against God and to subvert us by persuading us to reject the path of God and embrace instead the seemingly ‘easier’ and ‘better’ path that the devil offered to us. And Satan always makes to think that it is futile to try to oppose him, and he wants us to fear him and to suffer so much that we give in to our temptations and all of his persuasions and coercions.

However, this is where we are all reminded yet again, that no matter what, and no matter how mighty Satan and his forces arrayed against us may seem to be, but they are all nothing compared with the power and the glory of God. And despite all of Satan’s efforts, his power is limited and his might has been crushed, as his rebellion has been defeated, he was cast out and condemned, and his final defeat had been predetermined by God, Who is all powerful and all knowing, revealing before all that we do not need to fear Satan because while he will be cast down into hell for eternity, we, who are God’s people and followers, will be raised to eternal glory and true joy with God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we aware of just how beloved we are by God? We are God’s most beloved ones, and God provides us in everything that we need. As long as we hold strongly to our faith in Him, we shall never be disappointed. Whatever sufferings we may be experiencing now, all these are nothing compared to the joy that is to come for us, in the end and at the conclusion of our faithful journey. But many of us often do not realise this and we are often too busy in trying to get away from fear, all of our insecurities, and we lack the faith in our Lord.

Let us therefore follow the example of Job, and strive to persevere in faith regardless of the challenges and trials that he had faced, and which we are likely to face as well in our own lives. Are we able to persevere in faith the way that our holy and dedicated predecessors had done? We have all been called to follow the path of the Lord, and we are called to entrust ourselves to His cause. And because we have also witnessed and received this faith from the Lord, we are now called to be God’s witnesses among all of our communities in this world today.

Through our actions, our words and our deeds, each and every one of us should become faithful and great inspirations for our fellow brothers and sisters in faith. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey of faith, and help us in resisting the temptations of all the desires and the coercions by which the devil has always been busy using in trying to drag us into the path of sin, and lead us into our downfall. May the Lord strengthen us all and give us the courage and perseverance to be always faithful in each and every moments of our lives. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 2 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, which refers to those Angels whom God had set before us, to be our guide and protector, to be at the frontline of our constant struggle and the war that rages on all the time for our souls. For it is at this moment right now and has been going on all these while, that the conflict between the devil and all those seeking our downfall and destruction occurs against our guardians, those faithful Angels God set before us.

In our Gospel today, we heard the Lord Himself affirming this, as He warned His disciples against misleading the little children in their faith or in harming them, as their Angels in heaven, referring to the Guardian Angels, are constantly seeing His heavenly Father, making pleas on their behalf and interceding for them. Thus, those who cause them to fall into sin, lead them down the wrong path or suffer will all face terrible reckoning for their sinful deeds.

God has always provided for us and protected us, and He sent His Angels before His loved ones, just as our first reading today again affirmed this, as in the Book of Exodus, as the Israelites were making the long and arduous journey through the desert towards the land promised to them by the Lord, the Lord sent His Angels to guard and protect them from their enemies, all those who sought to destroy them.

This is a guarantee that showed God’s enduring love and patience for His people, which was unfortunately often disregarded by those same people that God had cared and loved, and many among them fell not because of the attacks by the enemy, but because of their own stubborn disobedience and refusal to believe in God despite everything that He had done for them.

It is actually a clear reminder for us, that just as the Israelites journeyed through for many years, fell again and again into sin, forgiven and cared for by God, so we have also walked through a similar journey that is our life. And just as God rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and established a Covenant with them, thus, God has also liberated us from the slavery of sin, and led us through the waters of baptism just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. And God, through Christ, established a new Covenant with each and every one of us.

That is why, we must keep in mind that our Christian life and journey does not end at baptism, but instead, was just beginning at our baptism. While baptism makes us God’s own beloved people, and promise us salvation and eternal life, but we can still fall if we are not vigilant against the attacks of the evil one and all of his forces. All the more the devil will increase his attacks on us to prevent us from attaining eternal life and Heaven.

We have to trust in the Lord and follow the path that our Guardian Angels had charted before us. They have always been there for us, praying for us constantly, without cease, but we are often distracted by the many ‘noises’ in this world, all that the devil has been using in trying to lead us astray, whenever we give in to the temptation of worldly desires and power, fame and glory, and others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in a world ever surrounded by darkness, by fears and uncertainties, with attacks and temptations from the forces of evil, we can be overcome by those fears and swallowed by our pride and the greed within us. But we should not be afraid, brethren! Be faithful and fear no more for the Lord and His might is with us, and His Angels are always by our side, guarding us and protecting us in our journey.

Let us pray now, asking for the help of our Guardian Angels, who are always with us, with the words, “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.”

Thursday, 1 October 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the promises of God’s salvation which He made to His servant Isaiah, in our first reading passage today, with the comforting words that God will once again cherish and bless His people, which by the time of Isaiah had faced much difficulty and many trials, and how God will bless them all and make them whole again.

And the fulfilment of these prophecies had been made through Christ, the Saviour of the world, of whom Isaiah spoke extensively about. And God has called on all of us to come to Him and to gather in His presence and receive from Him grace and peace forever. But unfortunately, many of us rejected Him, ignored His call and turned a deaf ear to His pleas to seek our reconciliation with Him.

That is why, in our Gospel today, we heard the Lord gathering little children to Himself and told all of His disciples that unless they were to be like those little children in their faith and in their lives, they would have no place in the kingdom of Heaven. And this came right after the disciples were arguing and debating among themselves on who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven and amongst Christ’s disciples and followers.

The Lord therefore reminds them all that to be His followers we must be humble, make ourselves small and insignificant, for it was our hubris and ego that had led us to our downfall. It was our desire for power, influence, worldly glory, fame, wealth that led us to a path of disobedience and wickedness, and thus these made us to commit sin against God.

And it is not easy for us to be faithful as the Lord had called us to be, to be like little children in our faith, whose faith are pure and without strings attached to worldly desires and temptations. Often, we have too much in mind to be able to focus our attention on God, unlike those little children, whose attention can be wholly centred on Him, as they have not yet been affected by all sorts of worldly matters and concerns.

This is where perhaps we should look upon the examples set by our famous saint of the day, whose life and philosophy embody exactly this call for us to be ‘childlike’ in our faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of Child Jesus and as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’, was a Discalced Carmelite nun who has been very popular during her life and especially more so after her passing. She inspired many people by her virtuous life and was renowned for her ‘Little Way’.

St. Therese certainly did not have an easy life or vocation as a religious, as she was often sickly in her youth, although she was indeed brought up in a loving and devout family. Family tragedy struck early as her mother passed away when she was still a very young child. And St. Therese was also bullied and often suffered in school. She endured all these patiently and with faith.

When one of her elder sister joined the Carmelite nuns, St. Therese was devastated but this in itself led her to desire to join the Carmelites as well. She was often told that she was still too young and her poor health also made it difficult. St. Therese also began to experience spiritual visions which would be more frequent later in her life. It was then on the Christmas Eve of the Year of Our Lord 1886 that she experienced a complete conversion of her soul.

From that point onwards, St. Therese began a new journey of faith, overcoming her sensitivities and self desires, a victory over the desires of the flesh and body, and dedicating herself ever more to God. As she eventually entered the Carmelite monastery after several more years of trials and struggles, and throughout her later time as a postulant and novice religious sister, being devoted and dedicated to the Lord.

And the hallmark of her faith and idea is known as the ‘Little Way’ in which St. Therese put forward the view that in order for us to follow God, what we really ought to do is to be faithful to Him in all things, even in the simplest and smallest of actions. We are called to be faithful through simple and little actions in life. This is what we all need to do, in order to be faithful as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have just heard about St. Therese of Lisieux today, and from the reflections of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to be faithful to God at all times, and to do this through our lives, each and every day of them. Often we have ignored these as we are too busy pursuing worldly ambitions and desires, and by temptations we faced, we have been lured away by desire to walk down the wrong path in life.

This is why we are called to be like little children in our faith, to be genuine in our faith and dedication in God, be more humble and reject all the temptations of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire among others. This is not something easily done as we are often surrounded by all these every moment of our lives, and unless we make a concerted effort to resist those temptations we will falter and fall into sin.

And in addition to that, we often remain passive and inactive in our Christian life because we thought that we cannot do anything significant in the matter of our faith. And this is where we are wrong, as even little actions and commitments are part of that journey of faith, and all of our little actions and contributions combined together, will become a great effort indeed. That is why we really have to embrace God’s call to be witnesses of our faith and as missionaries to spread the Good News of God by our dedication and actions in life.

Let us all therefore strive to be faithful to God at all times, in every little actions we do in our lives, that by following the examples of St. Therese of Child Jesus, the Little Flower of Carmel, we may indeed become truly committed to God and no longer ensnared by the temptations in life. May God help and guide us in this journey, and bless us in our every good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us all! Amen.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the words of Job, the suffering servant of God, as he described the vastness of God’s majesty and power, His infinite greatness and the absoluteness of His will. And we heard how Job lamented and stated just how small and insignificant he was amidst all those things. In the grander scheme of things, whatever Job had experienced, was nothing but a tiny drop in the vast ocean.

To understand all these, we must see it in the context of Job’s great suffering. Job had lost everything that was dear to him, all his possessions and even his beloved family, all in one fell swoop as Satan struck at him to try to make him abandon his faith. Job however remained faithful even when Satan tried harder and struck at his health, making itchy and painful boils to appear all over his body.

Job remained faithful to God despite all of that, and he remained firm in his conviction that God was not the One Who made him to suffer, and even his personal afflictions could not sway him to think otherwise. Nonetheless, all these, coupled with the fact that some of his companions argued that Job must have committed serious sin to have deserved such punishment, as at the time, afflictions as suffered by Job were often seen as the sign of divine punishment and displeasure.

That was why Job despaired and uttered such words, as he desired to be helped by God and to be freed from his sufferings, but he thought that it was by his own fault that he has deserved all of those, and thus, with lamentation, he accepted his fate humbly, to suffer and remain obedient to God. Contextually we also need to realise that this was from a time when the fullness of truth of God’s providence has not been revealed yet.

Most importantly, we see how Job, although he was suffering and beset by many troubles, friends who abandoned him and even accused him of wrongdoing, he remained committed to God and to righteousness. And he blamed neither God nor the others for his misfortunes. And this is what each and every one of us need to take note of as we respond to God’s call highlighted to us in the Gospel today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to those who followed Him and desired to follow Him what it means for all of them to follow Him and being His disciples. While it might seem that the Lord was very harsh when He said that those who have chosen to follow Him and looked back were not fit for the kingdom of God, and how He said that those who died ought to be left on their own to be buried, the Lord in fact wanted to emphasise and highlight that to be His follower is something that requires commitment from us, and that we may even have to make sacrifices at times.

Like Job, we must have faith and trust in God even when we have nothing left with us. If we still put our trust and depend on worldly attachments, then it will be difficult for us to endure in the path as Christians. It does not mean that we must literally abandon everything and leave all behind as those who followed the Lord had done. Rather, it is the attachment, excessive and unhealthy desires and temptations for worldliness that we must rid ourselves from.

Today, we should also look upon the inspiration and example showed by St. Jerome, one of the great Church fathers and one of the original Doctors of the Church. This year is also significant as this feast day today celebrating St. Jerome marked the sixteen centuries that had passed from his passing, and his contributions to the Church and the Christian faithful cannot be underestimated.

St. Jerome was particularly remembered for his compilation of the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible, which at that time had been the canon of the Scriptures of the Church. This Latin translation is known as the Latin Vulgate Bible, written in the contemporary or Vulgar Latin, and became the basis for many future versions of the Sacred Scriptures.

However, what was not often known was how St. Jerome was quite promiscuous and hedonistic in his youth, experiencing all sorts of worldly pleasures when he was still a pagan student of philosophy. But after years of discovery and journey, his conscience eventually led him to convert to the Christian faith and renounce all of us his past sinful ways of life. And St. Jerome devoted himself deeply into the study of the Scriptures, from which eventually would stem his works in the Latin Vulgate among many other writings.

St. Jerome also became an ascetic, spending his life in secluded cave where the Lord and Saviour Himself was born, in Bethlehem, for the rest of his life in the intellectual pursuit of faith, writing many treatises and writings on the matter of the faith that still influenced many even to this day. The life and works of St. Jerome is an inspiration for us, that as Christians we should leave behind our past life of attachments to worldly pleasures and instead seek to follow God with a new heart filled with faith.

Let us all discern our lives’ path going forward as we remember the story of Job, his sufferings and despite of all those, continuing to be faithful to God. And let us all be inspired by the story of the life and faith, the conversion and the dedication of St. Jerome, and strive to be holy and dedicated to God as he had done. May the Lord bless us always, and be with us, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, three of the seven Archangels who stand in the presence of God and are the mightiest of all of His heavenly forces. Today we dedicate ourselves to God through the guidance and protection of St. Michael the Archangel, the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, St. Gabriel the Archangel, the Messenger of God, and St. Raphael the Archangel, the Healing and Mercy of God.

In each of these mighty Archangels of God, we have powerful allies in our constant struggle and fight in the spiritual warfare for the sake of our souls. For the devil, the great enemy of all mankind and all of God’s faithful children, is out there, ever plotting our downfall and destruction, sending out his forces against us, trying to tempt us into sin and therefore, leading us to our downfall.

And first of all, St. Michael the Archangel, as mentioned is the Prince and leader of the Heavenly Hosts. He was the same Michael that showed himself to Joshua, the successor of Moses before he was about to enter into the Promised Land, reassuring him and the people of Israel that God Himself would march before them and guide them all to victory. And he is also the same Michael mentioned in the Book of Revelations as well.

In that vision of St. John the Apostle, we heard how he saw the great War in Heaven, which in fact predated all the events of history, as all these happened early in the history of creation. This happened as according to Scripture, Church tradition and the Church fathers, the devil himself was once a mighty and brilliant Archangel of God. In fact, as Lucifer, the Angel of Light, he was the most brilliant and mightiest among all of God’s Angels.

But it was there then Lucifer fell into pride, hubris and ambition, succumbing to the desire to seek the Throne of God, as written in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, that he desired nothing less than the Throne of Heaven and to raise himself over the stars of God, a reference to the Angels of God. His unbridled ambition led him to aspire to rebellion against God, and he swayed many among the Angels to side with him.

It was told that when God went up from His Throne, Lucifer dared to sit on the Throne and thus proclaimed his rebellion. It was Michael, although not as powerful or brilliant as Lucifer, who brought God’s wrath and retribution on him and the other rebel Angels. Michael, whose name means ‘Who is like God’ led the faithful Angels against Lucifer, after which would be known as Satan, the devil and the great enemy, as well as those rebel angels who supported him.

Thus that was how the War in Heaven brought about the downfall of Satan, who was crushed and defeated, cast out from Heaven and together with all the fallen angels, were cast out and condemned. St. Michael the Archangel, who led the loyal Angels in defeating the proud Satan. He might not have been the mightiest and most brilliant among the Angels like Satan before his fall, but he was faithful, humble and dedicated. It was told that he would tremble in the presence of God and yet fearless in the face of the enemy.

That was why God made St. Michael to be the Prince and leader of the Heavenly Hosts. He is the terror of the devil and all of the forces of evil, our chief defender in the constant battle and struggle against all those who sought our destruction. To St. Michael the Archangel, we pray this prayer, which was composed by Pope Leo XIII, ‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And may you, o Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell and with him those other wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.’

And not to forget St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, the other two Archangels who are also God’s great champions in the fight against the devil. St. Gabriel the Archangel is God’s esteemed Messenger, being the one sent to proclaim the Good News to the world, the one who appeared to Mary announcing the coming of God’s Saviour, Jesus Christ, and was also likely the Angel who appeared to Zechariah proclaiming about John, the one who was to be the Herald of the Messiah.

The name Gabriel means ‘God is my strength’ and with his words, he struck fear into Satan and all the forces of the wicked, as he announced the coming of God’s final victory against evil, the coming of His Saviour by which all the machinations and efforts of the devil would all be defeated and crushed. Just as St. Michael leads the forces of God into battle, St. Gabriel announces God’s retribution and battlecry against all His enemies.

Meanwhile St. Raphael the Archangel was known through his participation in the events described in the Book of Tobit. St. Raphael, whose name means ‘God has healed’ brought healing and help to both Tobit and Sara, who both were faithful but had suffered either physically for the case of Tobit, blinded and unable to see, or spiritually in the case of Sara, who was beset by the powerful demon Asmodeus that had killed seven of her past husbands.

Through his journey with Tobias, the son of Tobit, disguised as a man, St. Raphael eventually chased Asmodeus away and bound him, freeing Sara who was once tormented by that demon. And as Tobias gained Sara as a lawfully wedded wife, St. Raphael also brought healing to the eyes of Tobit, and revealing his true identity before all of them, he showed God’s healing and mercy, undoing the wicked plots and works of the devil and his forces against us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this day in memory of the Holy Archangels of God, let us renew our faith in God, and renew our conviction and desire to serve Him faithfully, that we may all walk ever more righteously in His path, and no longer be afraid of the devil and all of his wicked plots. The Lord has set His Archangels and His mighty Heavenly Hosts between us and the evil ones.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle and help us to be humble like you, that we may not fall into pride and ambition, greed and vanity like the devil, but remain firm in our commitment to serve God faithfully with all our might. St. Gabriel the Archangel, bearer of God’s Good News and triumph, help us to trust in the Lord and His providence, that we may always hope in God as our Strength, that no evil will prevail against us as long as we put our faith in God.

And St. Raphael the Archangel, bearer of God’s healing and mercy, help us to seek healing in God, for the weakness of our flesh and especially for the corruption of our souls by sin. Just as Tobit and Sara was healed by your intercession on their behalf to God, intercede for us sinners as well. O Holy Archangels of God, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, pray for us, be with us and guide us in battle, in the constant struggle for our souls. Amen!

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listen to the beginning of the story of Job, as we heard how that servant of God suffered under the attacks of Satan, who wanted to tempt him to abandon God out of despair and suffering. Satan said to God that Job’s faith was only strong because he was so blessed and protected by God, and should he lose them all, then he would surely abandon God and curse Him.

That was why Satan struck at Job and took away everything he had, his large family and his immense possessions, only sparing his life because God expressly forbid him from touching his life. And certainly, to Satan’s amazement, Job remained faithful, even when Satan stepped up his attacks on him and caused terrible and painful boils to appear throughout his entire body.

Job remained firm in his faith, and even though he suffered and even despaired at times, as the whole Book of Job essentially detailed out this struggle he had, especially when his close associates came to him and instead of consoling him, argued that Job must have sinned and disobeyed God to suffer such a terrible fate. Yet, even with all of these, Job remained faithful, and God, after revealing the truth about it all, blessed Job twice and more as much as he had been blessed before all the misfortune.

There were those who argued that the character Job was not really real, but rather an allegory and representation of the suffering servant of God, and how that servant persevered even through the trials and difficulties that came their way. But regardless whether Job was real or not, the fact remains that it was a reminder for each and every one of us to keep our faith in God and that despite all sufferings endured in faith, God does not forget us and will provide for us in the end, just as He did with Job.

In our Gospel today then we heard about the Lord and His disciples as they encountered some children and the Lord welcomed them warmly, and saying that unless they welcomed those children the way that He had called them and welcomed them, they would have no part in Him. And as His followers they also ought to be humble and make themselves small and insignificant, not to boast of their own might and power.

And the Lord also told His disciples not to stop another person who used His Name to do the same work as they had done, casting out demons and performing good works of healing. Through this, God wants us to know that all of us do not work for our own personal glory, or the glory of our own group or particular communities to the exclusion of others. All that is done is for the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore we have been reminded to be faithful disciples and followers of Our Lord, dedicating our time and efforts to walk in His path and to proclaim His truth and Good News in our respective communities, to do this humbly and dedicate ourselves for the glory of God, at all times. This is what we have been called to do as Christians with our lives.

And today, we should look upon the examples of St. Wenceslaus, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions, the Holy Martyrs of Japan. St. Wenceslaus was the Duke of Bohemia who reigned wisely and was beloved by many of his subjects, and who was instrumental in strengthening the Christian faith which at that time was still contending against the pagan beliefs of the people in Bohemia. St. Wenceslaus faced opposition from some among the nobles who supported the pagan cause.

St. Wenceslaus helped to build the strong foundation in a country that had been converted to the Christian faith just not long before, and he established not just good governance but also a strong and enduring Christian hierarchy and establishment. For all these, some among the nobles resented him, his reforms and efforts, and in complicit with St. Wenceslaus’ brother, they killed St. Wenceslaus who therefore died a martyr to his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was a Filipino young man who had a good early life, was married and worked for the Spanish administration, before one day he was falsely accused of the murder of a Spaniard, something that is considered a capital offence back then, and which caused St. Lorenzo Ruiz to seek asylum with several priests who were on their way to Japan.

Unfortunately, at that time, Japan has already closed its borders to Christian missionaries, and the Tokugawa Shogunate then had arrested many Christian missionaries and converts, forcing many of them to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain faithful and suffer a most painful death. That same fate was encountered by St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the others who were to suffer martyrdom with him. Together they were brought to Nishizaka Hill and as with St. Paul Miki and his companions forty years earlier, they were tortured, and died of martyrdom.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz and many of his companions died faithfully defending their faith, and although they might have suffered so much, but through their faith, they certainly receive eternal glory from God, the crown of everlasting life they had earned through martyrdom. The same is the also the case for St. Wenceslaus, and is reminiscent of what Job had experienced, after all of his sufferings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore we are all reminded that we need to realise how being Christians may bring us difficulties, trials and challenges, and along this journey, we may even be tempted again and again to give up and to abandon this faith. But we must not lose faith, brothers and sisters! We must remain firm in faith and look forward beyond all the obstacles, and realise that in the end of it all, there will be great things awaiting us, true happiness and glory that is in God alone.

May the Lord help us and guide us in this journey of faith, just as He has strengthened Job, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions, and many other saints and martyrs, all those who dedicated their lives to God, so that we may also be strong in our faith and dedication. May He bless our good endeavours and works, all for His greater glory, in each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we have heard from the readings of the Sacred Scriptures of the calling for us all to follow the path of the Lord, to listen to Him and obey His commandments, to follow His examples and to be faithful in our Christian way of life, and be genuine in how we live up to our faith by real actions and interactions with one another, and not just by mere words alone.

This means that we cannot have a faith that is empty and without real application in our lives, as a faith that is without application in good works and deeds, as St. James the Apostle put it, is a dead faith. It does not mean that by our deeds alone that we are earning our salvation, but rather, one who has faith cannot possibly be truly faithful without being committed in action in accordance to that faith.

Neither can one be good and do good, without that seed of faith planted in that person by God growing in him or her. Do all of us remember the parable of the sower? The different places where the seeds spread by the sower fell on determine whether those seeds grow and produce fruits or not. Only in those who has received the faith and acted on it, that the faith bear rich fruits, the fruits of our salvation.

As Christians, we are God’s chosen people, whom He has called and brought into His Church through Baptism. We have been made His own adopted and beloved children, and because of that, we are all expected to follow His will, to obey His Law and commandments. How can we do this if we do not live up our faith and if we do not act in ways that are in accordance to His teachings?

That is exactly the point that the Lord Jesus is trying to point out to His disciples and thus to all of us as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord spoke to His disciples asking them who between two children were truly faithful, between one of them who said to their father that he would obey but did not obey by action in the end, and another who said that he would not obey but in the end, still did what the father asked for.

This is related to our first reading today, in which the prophet Ezekiel spoke of how the righteous would perish by their sins and disobedience, or how the wicked would be saved by their obedience and faith. This was a reminder from God to His people through Ezekiel, a prophet sent to the people of God at the time of their lowest and most sorrowful, having lost their Promised Land, conquered and humiliated among the nations, that should they change their attitudes and obey the Lord once again, they would be forgiven and be worthy of God’s love and grace again.

Similarly, it is a reminder that no one should be pretentious thinking that they had been chosen and saved, without the need for action, taking it for granted that they have received such a grace from God and therefore can just enjoy its benefits and without the need to do anything. Faith like that is merely superficial and for show, and not a genuine, living faith that God wants from us. And it is even worse still if we use this as an excuse for us to be judgmental on others as well, to look down on others just because we think that we are better or more faithful and pious than them.

That is why, we are reminded again and again, to be loving and to show care and compassion on one another, and to be Christians means that we should follow what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in Philippi, to be filled with the love of Christ, not to despise or look down on others, not to be judgmental and vicious or harsh on those who are in need of our love and attention. We are called to love as Christ Our Lord Himself has loved.

In that same passage, we heard the famous lines from the Epistle to the Philippians, highlighting the humble obedience and the great love that the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour had shown, that He willingly humbled Himself and took upon Himself to bear the most painful burden of the Cross, on which lies our sins, the whole multitude of it, the punishment due for those sins. That is the kind of selfless love that each and every one of us have been called to show in our daily lives, as the sign of our living and true Christian faith.

Do we remember the Lord’s words, “All that you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me?” And He said before this, how these people were the least among the people, those who were naked, suffering, imprisoned, lonely, all those who were encountering misfortune in life. That is why this Sunday, as it coincides with the World Day of Migrant and Refugees, we remember all the plight of those suffering, especially the migrants and refugees in the world today.

Migrants are all those who have left their place of birth or the place where they used to live in, and moved to another place or country from various reasons. Some had to leave because they looked for better opportunities elsewhere, to have a better life for themselves and for their families, while others had to move because of unfortunate circumstances, separated from their family members, and in which it may overlap with refugees, who are those displaced and forced to leave their countries because of conflict, wars and even persecution and genocides.

Many of these migrants and refugees are suffering as they had suffered previously, throughout their time spent away from their homeland. Majority did not have much to survive on, and many had to sustain their families and children, while having to fend various challenges. Those who chose to settle permanently in their new homeland and countries faced rejection and prejudice, injustice and even attacks, having to endure racist attitudes and inequality at work among other things.

Refugees in particular often had to live in cramped and unsanitary refugee camps, with thousands packed in place that they had no choice but live in, for if they had remained in their original places, they might have suffered even worse or killed. And similarly, many of them are suffering from prejudice and injustice, and they are often rejected and shunned by the rest of the society in general.

Some of us argued that they deserved such treatment because they are different from us, or that there might be some bad people among them, which became especially worrisome in the recent years due to the rise of religious fundamentalism. But this has happened throughout history, and while some of them might indeed be bad, but let us all not forget in our first reading today, that the Lord said, even the righteous will die, perish and be condemned into hell if they sin and refused to turn away from that sin, and how the wicked would be saved if they embraced God’s forgiveness.

How are we acting as Christians then if we do not embrace those who are in need of love and help, compassion and assistance? And how Christ-like are we if we look down upon and condemn those whom we despise as our enemies and dismiss as hardline fundamentalists when Our Lord Himself has forgiven His enemies and prayed for them? This is why it is so difficult for us to be true and genuine Christians, for to be a true and genuine Christians, we need to reach out to these suffering brothers and sisters of ours, and overcome whatever prejudices and fears we have.

And we must not forget that we ourselves are migrants in this world, and in fact even refugees. After all, wasn’t it Adam and Eve, our very first ancestors who had been banished from Eden because of their disobedience and sins? They had to endure hardships and sufferings in this world just as those migrants and refugees suffer now. And many of our forefathers were probably migrants themselves, or even refugees fleeing from war and destruction.

We have to consider ourselves lucky and blessed if we have a good life, but before we become prejudiced against others, or treat some worse than how we treat our loved ones, then let us remember that perhaps, our own forefathers, our grandparents, ancestors and all of them somewhere and sometime had once endured the other end of the prejudice and injustice, inequality and even persecution, even though they were all equally human beings, children of God all the same.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore keep these in mind and discern how we, as Christians can better live up to our Christian faith and calling, to be genuine and faithful as the followers of Christ, He Who loves us all equally and Who has lowered Himself to be in the position of a slave, bearing His Cross and suffering for us out of love, that we may be saved. Can’t we do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are really in need of our help, those migrants and refugees?

Let us all be more empathetic to their suffering and listen more to their story and understand them better, rather than easily being swayed by false rhetorics and ideas that are unfortunately rampant in our increasingly xenophobic and individualistic world. Remember, that we too, are migrants and refugees in this world as I mentioned earlier, and what we do not want to happen to us, then let us not do on those who need our love and empathy, and not hurtful words, prejudices and worse still, persecution.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father, guide us in our journey of faith so that each and every one of us as Christians may come to walk more faithfully in His path, to be righteous in all of our deeds, avoiding actions of prejudice, showing hatred or being hurtful against others, and instead, to show genuine Christian love, showing the same love of Christ, pure and selfless love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

They may look different, talk in different language, has different cultural practices than ours, but they are our brothers, our sisters, our family, the same God’s beloved children. May God help us to love selflessly and generously, to give without counting the cost, and to show mercy when we are able to. May God guide us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the shortness of our lives, the temporary nature of our earthly existence, and how we are reminded not to lose ourselves in the pursuit of worldly matters and pleasures, just as we have been reminded in the past few days from this Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes.

The author of this book clearly intended to remind the people of his time of the many excesses of worldly desires, their decadent lifestyle and refusal to obey the Law of God. And throughout history, we have seen how greed and attachment to desire had led to the conflicts that raged in wars and conquests, in the exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable, those who were poor and sick.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what happens when we place our own selfish desires above our faith, and when we allow all these to tempt us and sway us to indulge in all sorts of worldly and materials pursuits. And we are reminded by these readings, including from our Psalm today, ‘Make us know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart.’

Yes, often we may end up becoming foolish in our endless and persistent desire for all that I have mentioned earlier. We spent so much time to worry about all those things, and spent much of our energy to gain for ourselves all these so that we can gain satisfaction. And our greed makes us to desire for even more and more, never fully satisfying or fulfilling our needs and desires.

In the end, with all these accumulated in our hands, what are we going to do with it, brothers and sisters in Christ? Even the greatest piles of money and wealth can be destroyed or vanished overnight, as how past financial crises had showed us. Many despaired after the Great Depression after losing all that they had, even when they were very wealthy earlier on. And no amount of food, luxury and other goods can be lasting to us.

In the end, we must realise as how Job did, that naked we had been born into this world, empty and without any possessions, and thus in the same manner we shall depart from this world, from our earthly existence. We shall not bring any of our worldly possessions, or fame or glory with us. What we shall receive in the end, is either eternal glory and true joy with God, or eternity of regret and suffering, especially if we have rejected God for the sake of our worldly pursuits.

It is indeed a great folly for us to reject true happiness and joy that can be found in the Lord alone. But if we are wondering why this is the case, that is because we are easily tempted, and we often look for quick happiness and pleasure that all these false happiness are offering us. That is why many of us fell and failed in our journey of faith, as we prioritise our own selfish desires rather than our faith in God.

Today, all of us should look upon the examples of our holy predecessors to help guide us in what we should do in order to be faithful to God. We celebrate the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, renowned saints, who were physicians by trade and according to some traditions, were twin brothers. They lived through the difficult years for the Christian faith, as the Roman Empire and its administration persecuted all the Christians, and forced them to abandon their faith on the pain of death.

They were renowned for their services as physicians, caring for the needs of the sick and all the diseased. And most notably, they refused to accept any payment or returns for their services, which they offered voluntarily and with much love and great care for those whom they treated. It was told that miracles even happened as there were those who were miraculously healed by their intercession.

When the Christian faith was persecuted even more harshly under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, both of them were arrested and were tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith. But St. Cosmas and St. Damian remained faithful and chose to suffer, which according to some accounts including being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally they were beheaded, dying a martyr’s death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the exemplary faith of the brothers St. Cosmas and St. Damian, generous in love and compassion, putting God and their fellow brothers and sisters above their own needs and desires. Are we able and willing to follow that example? Let us all spend some time to discern carefully on these and do what we can to be ever more faithful and be genuine in how we live up to our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith. May He bless us and strengthen us, and empower us all to live virtuously and not be swayed or shaken by the many temptations of worldly matters. Let us all dedicate ourselves ever more faithfully to the Lord from now on and always. Amen.

Friday, 25 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard the long exhortation from the Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes highlighting to us about the fact that there is time for everything, for every purpose, and everything will indeed happen as God wills it, and not up to us to decide what will happen to us, as there are indeed many things out there beyond our control and understanding, and we should not be impatient or impulsive, acting based on our desires and fears.

Continuing with the discourse from this week from this Book of Qoheleth, we are all reminded to be ever vigilant against the temptations of worldly desires and pleasures, the lure of pride and ego, the distractions that can keep us away from being faithful to God in all things. We must not allow ourselves be swayed by all these and forget our calling in life as Christians to be faithful to God.

We tend to worry about many things in life and we seek security and consolation, happiness and satisfaction by gathering for ourselves all sorts of worldly goods, fame, influence, glory and the desire to be accepted, acknowledged and respected by others. And in our world today, we have been raised and we have lived in a society that is often inundated with all these materialistic undertones, the pursuit of self-satisfaction and the glorification of the self.

But where does this lead us? All of these will never bring us true happiness. And the more we desire for all the satisfaction of the world, the even more we desire of whatever we have attained and received. That is because by our nature, it is difficult for us to be satisfied, and by all those riches of the world, they are just temporary and impermanent, illusory and unreal. They do not give us true and lasting happiness.

Then, let us all now see what the Lord told His disciples in our Gospel passage today. We heard the Lord speaking to His disciples as He asked them who they thought He was, and all of them spoke of what the others perceived of Him, as Elijah who came down from Heaven, as that prophet was taken up into Heaven at the end of his ministry, or that He was one of the prophets of God or holy man of God.

Then, when the Lord asked them again, of who they thought He was, St. Peter proclaimed the truth courageously before all, of what he and likely the other disciples professed of Him, as the Messiah and Holy One of God, the Son of God Most High. And the Lord immediately told them not to share with anyone that truth yet, and added grimly how the Son of Man must suffer many things, rejected and having to endure many trials before He was to be glorified and raised to life.

And we all know how the Lord Jesus, although the Divine Word of God, Son of God Incarnate, chose to empty Himself, humble Himself and suffer for our sake, taking up upon Himself the burden of the Cross, so that we may be saved from destruction due to our sins. And He did so in humble and perfect obedience to His Father’s will, dedicating Himself to do what His heavenly Father has entrusted in Him, the salvation of all mankind.

Our Lord Himself showed the perfect example of obedience, of the emptying of oneself from personal glory and the desire for that glory, for fame and for the other comforts of the world. Instead, as Christians, we are all called to follow in His examples in how we ought to be humble in life, be selfless in love, and always be concerned and caring for one another, that we put the best interests of the community above that our own.

Let us all practice our faith with sincere devotion and action, and let us all follow in the loving examples of Our Lord Himself, in giving of ourselves to each other, especially to those who are most in need of our love, care and compassion. May the Lord help us to grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, and to be more loving in the way that He Himself had loved us, from the beginning, to now the present, and to eternity. Amen.

Thursday, 24 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded that in God alone we ought to trust and put our faith, and not in any form of worldly powers, wisdom and greatness, not in any mortal man but in God, Who has revealed Himself, His love and salvation by sending unto us His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. It is futile for us to put our trust in the world and not in God, Who has created the world Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes beginning with a dramatic proclamation, ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! All things are meaningless!’ And the author of this Book of Qoheleth went on to say how there are many things out there in our world, that are beyond our comprehension and understanding. And God’s ways are indeed beyond our human ability to understand fully, and that is why we need to have faith and put our trust in Him.

In our Psalm today, we heard this presented with the words ‘Return o mortals! A thousand years in Your sight are just like a passing day’, highlighting just how small we are in the greater scheme of things, how many things that are elusive to our human perception and ability to understand. And yet again in our Gospel today, we heard how king Herod, who had killed St. John the Baptist in prison, was incredulous when he heard of the exploits of the Lord Jesus, trying to perceive this seeming return of John the Baptist, as if he had returned to life again.

This is what happened to those who try to put themselves above God, or those who have sidelined Him in their indulgence in worldly matters. They could not comprehend just how small they actually were in the greater scheme of things. To Herod, born into the family of kings, used to living in riches and excesses, it must have been incomprehensible that St. John the Baptist, and later on the Lord Jesus Himself would do so much for others, even to the point of sacrificing themselves for the greater good of the people and in obedience to God’s will.

Yet, unfortunately, this is what many of us are suffering these days, many of us who put worldly matters above all else, our pride and ego, our selfish desires, the desire for self-fulfilment and satisfaction above all else. And because of these, we forget that we live for God and it is by the grace of God that we have had our blessings in life. Instead, we become self-centred and desire everything for our own benefits regardless whether others suffer by our actions.

And this is also the reason why there are so many conflicts in this world today, people set up against one another, brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters, families torn apart and conflict raged within our communities. All of these were caused by our conflicting desires, the desires for worldly power and glory, for wealth and material possessions, for lust and comforts of the flesh among others.

In the end, what is the purpose and meaning of our pursuit for all these things, brothers and sisters? No matter how rich and powerful we are, none of these riches, power and glory would be brought with us when we die and depart from our earthly existence. That is why, we are constantly being reminded that we must not indulge on all those, but instead, trust it all in God, and do what we can in our lives, to serve His greater purpose rather than our own purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives daily, let us all discern what we can do and what we should do to be faithful to our identity and calling as Christians. Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards God, with a renewed faith and zeal that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God, at all times. May the Lord bless us all and our efforts, and help us in our journey of faith. Amen.