Wednesday, 20 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, all of us are called as Christians to pay attention to our lives and how we live them. We are all reminded not to give in to the temptations of the world and the pressure to commit sin against God in whatever forms they may be, and we have to be always vigilant in ensuring that in all things we do in life, we will always strive to be exemplary in faith, in our every words, deeds and actions.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Rome, St. Paul exhorted the faithful to distance themselves from sin and all those things that could lead them to sin, reminding them how God had brought them out of the slavery of sin, liberated them and made them free. God had claimed them as His own people and made them to be His own children. Yet, many of them had not yet fully dedicated themselves to God and still allowed the corruptions of the world to affect and influence them.

That is why, St. Paul presented to them the reality, that if they were to choose sin over God and His grace, then they are heading towards death and destruction, while if they choose to walk with God in the path that He has shown them, then they shall inherit His rich inheritance and receive the fullness of His grace and promises. But they must therefore not allow the temptations of sin to distract and mislead them down the wrong path, which will end up bringing them towards the path of destruction and damnation.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard the Lord speaking to His disciples using the parable of stewards, as He related to them the story of a master who entrusted his household to a steward that was empowered and put in charge of the properties while the master was away. Then He told them how a good and responsible steward would be dutiful in discharging his duties and not be idle or complacent, while the lazy and unfaithful steward would squander away his time and even abuse his authority and power for his own benefits.

Then the Lord also spoke of how the master could suddenly just return unannounced, and He told His disciples how terrible it would be for the lazy steward to be caught unprepared and unaware, in the midst of misusing and wasting his talents and time for his own selfish purposes. And then on the other hand, how blessed it would be for the steward who is found to be hardworking and committed to his work by the master when he suddenly returns, as this one would be blessed and entrusted with even more, as is his just reward for his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these words from the Scriptures, all of us are therefore reminded to be vigilant and ready in living our lives with faith at all times. We must not allow ourselves to be lulled and caught unprepared by the coming of the day of reckoning, but must always be ready to live our lives to the fullest and as faithful and dedicated Christians at all times. We have to exercise prudent judgment in deciding our course of action in life from now on, and why is that so? That is because like the stewards in our Lord’s parable, we have been entrusted this world as its stewards.

Let us all discern carefully our path in life and see what we can do in order to live our lives ever more worthily as Christians, as those whom God had called to be His own and to follow Him in the path that He has shown us. God has given us the opportunities and the talents, the capacity to do what we ought to be doing in serving His cause, and now it is really up to us to pick up our crosses and answer to His call, and to follow Him wholeheartedly, that we may be inspiration to one another in how we live our lives. We should do our best to commit ourselves to this mission entrusted to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the Lord continue to guide us and be with us throughout our journey in life. May He constantly strengthen us and empower us all to live ever courageously in His presence, and to walk always in His path, not swayed and tempted by sin and by the pressures and allures of desire in our hearts. May God bless our many good works and efforts, in all things, and may He lead us into His loving presence. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on our actions and readiness in life to follow Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as His faithful disciples and servants, to be exemplary in all of our actions and deeds so that through all of us, imitating the faith that Christ Himself has shown us and living the truth that He has revealed to us, all of us may come to be beacons of His light to many others who have not yet known Him.

Today in our first reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, we heard the Apostle reminding all the faithful of the role that Christ has played in redeeming all of us from our sins, and how God had fulfilled His promise to release and liberate us from all bondage and enslavement to sin and evil through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, Who chose to take upon Himself all of our sins and wickedness, and bore the burden of those sins upon Himself.

He obeyed His Father perfectly, as St. Paul said, so that by His obedience as the Son of Man and the New Adam, the old disobedience and sins of mankind from the old Adam may be overcome. Through His incarnation in the flesh, He has united all of our humanity to Himself, and by His obedience, He opened to us the floodgates of God’s mercy and grace, and by offering Himself, His Most Precious Body and Blood, of the Lamb of God, as the perfect and worthy sacrifice for our sins, He reconciled us all with God, our loving Father and Creator.

And then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples with regards to the readiness that all of His disciples ought to have, as He Himself repeated it several times, how they must be ready to welcome their Lord and Master at the moment of His coming, so that they would not be caught unprepared and unaware, when the Lord comes as He promised, at the day of Judgment. Essentially, He reminds all of them to be vigilant and to do their best in how they live their lives so that they may always be faithful in all things and do not allow wickedness and evil to gain roots in their hearts.

We are all therefore called, as those whom God had chosen and revealed His truth to, to be the ones who live with this knowledge and understanding of the truth, and to be the bearers of God’s light to the nations. We must not allow sin to rule over us again and influence us, just as the Lord has freed us from its bondage and power. Yet, the allure and attraction of sin can be very powerful and corrupting, and we have to be careful lest we fall again into its clutches. Many have failed to resist its temptations, and like our forefathers, they have fallen back into the path of sin.

What should we do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? We should follow the example and obedience of Christ, in His love for us and in His steadfastness in devoting Himself to the plan of salvation that He has brought upon us. And we should also follow the good examples set by our holy predecessors, all those who have given themselves in commitment to God, those who have shown us that it is possible to be faithful to the Lord in this world and to lead a good Christian life that is just and worthy of God.

Today, we celebrate from the Feast of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, also known as the Jesuit North American Martyrs, as well as that of St. Paul of the Cross, a great Italian mystic and priest who founded the Passionists religious order. All of them are great role models for us in how we can lead a better Christian life and in following our respective calling in life as Christians so that we may learn on how we can contribute even in the smallest things for the sake of the glory of God and for the success of His works in this world.

The Holy Canadian Martyrs were St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and their companions in martyrdom, who were members of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits during the years of early exploration of the New World, particularly in the exploration of North America, in regions that are now part of Canada. These courageous missionaries responded to the Lord’s calling and embraced their missionary works, in revealing God’s truth to those who have not yet known Him, the native peoples of North America.

Many of these missionaries had to brave through harsh conditions and bitter winters, as well as opposition and rejection from those to whom they had gone to. While some of the natives were open to the Lord’s truth and were willing to listen to the missionaries, but there were also equally many and even more of those who refused to listen to them, and even persecuted those missionaries. As such, those missionaries endured a lot of bitter moments and struggles, in the service of God and His people.

Yet, St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and his courageous fellow martyrs faced all those challenges with faith, committing themselves to God without fear, continuing to minister to those who have willingly embraced the faith and given themselves to be baptised as the first native Christian societies in those remote areas. They persevered and even when many of them faced great suffering and martyred by the attacks of those who were hostile to the faith, their efforts became the foundation of the Church that lasts till this very day in those regions and communities.

Meanwhile, St. Paul of the Cross dedicated his life as a priest and servant of God in ministering to his fellow brothers and sisters, being called by God to establish a new religious community dedicated to a life of prayer and evangelical zeal, which would become the Passionists he founded. St. Paul of the Cross gathered like-minded men who wanted to serve the Lord more wholeheartedly and formed his community, and worked hard to gain the Church approval for his efforts.

St. Paul of the Cross and his community of priests went around from places to places and preached about the Lord to many people in those communities, spreading the Word of God and the truth of His Gospel to more and more people, and together with his many works and writings, of which numbering over two thousands at least, he and his fellow workers of the Lord managed to bring many people closer to God, and helped many who were on the brink of the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by these holy predecessors of ours, who had shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians. Let us all follow in their footsteps and do whatever we can in order to glorify the Lord by our lives and actions, by our exemplary actions and by doing our best to follow the path that the Lord has revealed before us. Let us also strive to resist the many temptations to sin, and commit ourselves from now on to walk in the path of the Lord. May all of us be inspiration as God’s children and as the beacons of His light and truth, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 18 October 2021 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, one of the four great Evangelists who wrote the Holy Gospels together with St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. John. According to Apostolic tradition, St. Luke was a physician and a follower and disciple of St. Paul the Apostle, who accompanied him for quite a few of his missionary journeys, and who wrote the accounts of those travels and also other actions of the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles that he also authored. It was even told in some traditions that he was also the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

St. Luke according to different traditions was either a Hellenised Jew or a Greek who embraced the Christian faith as one of the earliest converts and as among the earliest of Christ’s disciples and missionaries. He was a physician and therefore likely highly educated and intelligent, which was also probably why God gave him the gift of wisdom and talent for writing, through which St. Luke recorded the very important events that he heard about the Lord’s life and ministry, and also as inspired by the Holy Spirit, to evangelise to those who have not yet known Him.

St. Luke through his efforts converted many to the Christian faith, turning many people towards the Lord and called them to embrace His truth and love. In his travels with St. Paul, he had assisted the great Apostle in preaching the truth of God, and through his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, he had reached out even far beyond mere words and interactions, as by his courageous efforts in writing the words of God, he has, just like St. Paul and his many Epistles, kept the faith alive and the truth to remain firmly found in the Sacred Scriptures.

St. Luke continued his ministry among the people of God, ministering to the many people whom he encountered throughout his life and work, and he spread the word of God faithfully according to the tradition of the Church, until he died at an old age in the region of Boeotia in Roman Greece, after a very long life of service to God, and after having bestowed on us the wonders of his work in the Scriptures, which enriched our knowledge of God and His truth. Through his works, all of us ought to have known more about God and His works.

Today, as we celebrate this great feast in honour of St. Luke the Evangelist, all of us are called to be inspired by the faith and the commitment which he has shown in his life and work, and in all that he has done for the greater glory of God. We are called to follow in his examples and to do whatever we can in order to emulate his examples in our own daily lives. We may think that it is impossible for us to be like St. Luke or like any other great saints, but this is not true.

God has called His Apostles and many other disciples from various backgrounds and origins, some rich, some poor, some educated, some illiterate, some privileged and powerful, while others were weak and not noteworthy, and there had been countless of these whom God had called, all sinners, who came to the Lord’s side and listened to His call. They answered Him and His call, and He led them down the path of mission and commitment, as St. Luke and so many other innumerable saints had shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to heed the Lord’s call, to be His faithful and committed disciples, in doing His will and in walking down His glorious path. We do not have to do great and wonderful things. Rather, in our own daily living and in every single thing we do, even in the smallest, we should strive to do our best, to show our faith in God and to be inspiration to one another. We are all called to walk down this path of discipleship, with our respective gifts and talents, with all that God has given to us.

Let us all discern carefully our path in life, and let us consider what each and every one of us can do to contribute to the works of the Lord, to the mission which He has entrusted to His Church and to all of us as Christians. We can no longer be idle in our lives as Christians and we should dedicate ourselves from now on to be ever truly faithful to God. Let us be inspired and walk in the path which St. Luke has shown us, that we too may bear rich fruits in faith from now on.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us to live our Christian lives genuinely and be the beacons of God’s light and truth to all who have seen us, witnessed our actions and interacted with us. May our lives bring hope and light of God’s truth, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are all called to remember the salvation that God has revealed to us and which He has also fulfilled through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus has brought the salvation to our midst by coming into this world and as we all know, He took upon Himself all of our sins and iniquities, bearing our heavy burdens on His Cross, and therefore, suffered and died for our sake on the across for the salvation of the whole world.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of the Lord spoken through Isaiah, detailing on a prophecy of the coming Messiah or Saviour from God. This prophecy of the Messiah, detailing about a Servant of God Who would be made to suffer for the sake of all the people must have sounded strange to the people, considering that at that time and afterwards, the people hoped and thought that the Messiah would be a great and mighty conquering King from the line and house of David who would unite the descendants of the Israelites.

Common understanding at that time was that the Messiah that God would send to His people would restore the greatness of the old united Kingdom of David and Solomon, when Israel was preeminent, mighty and powerful among the nations. At the time of the ministry and work of Isaiah, it was during the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel while the southern kingdom of Judah also faced great troubles with the Assyrians almost conquering and besieging the city of Jerusalem itself, under King Sennacherib, and only God’s intervention stopped it from happening.

Thus, it was not surprising that as the people of God encountered calamities and humiliations one after another, and forced into exile in many parts of the world, so they hoped that the Lord would deliver them and return their inheritance and glory to them, through the Messiah that He has promised to them through His prophets. Isaiah in particular spoke a lot regarding the prophesied Messiah, and some of what he had revealed in his prophecy spoke of a suffering Messiah, Who would be crushed, broken and suffering for the sake of all of God’s people.

And Jesus was the One Who fulfilled all these prophecies, as He came into this world bringing God’s healing and salvation, healing the sick and casting out demons, making the blind to see once again, the deaf and mute to be able to hear and speak once again, and even raised the dead back to life. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed that His coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, and He would then predict His own end, how He would be rejected and condemned to die, made to bear the Cross and die on it in Calvary.

In our second reading today, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in explaining the role of Jesus, the Messiah or Saviour of the world to the Jewish converts to the Christian faith and also to other Jews, focused on the role that the Lord took on as the High Priest offering the sacrifice to God, on behalf of all the people of God. This is something that the Jewish people could well relate to, as they regularly took part in the sacrifices offered at the Temple for their sins to be forgiven by God, offered by the priests on behalf of the people.

However, what was unique in this one particular sacrifice, was that the High Priest Who offered it, was Himself the Offering and Sacrifice, as He offered His own Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, sacrificed and slain on the Altar of the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, that day two millennia ago, which we celebrate yearly on Good Friday. It was the moment of the revelation of God’s supreme act of love and ultimate selfless act in reaching out to us sinners, in order to offer us His most generous mercy and compassionate love.

But in doing so, Christ had to suffer a lot, enduring the burden of rejection, humiliation and the most painful sufferings that were caused by our many, innumerable sins. Yet, He bore them all patiently and faithfully, fully obedient to the will of His heavenly Father, enduring and drinking from the cup of suffering that He mentioned both in today’s Gospel passage and during the time of His great agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before He was about to begin the moments of His Passion and suffering.

He did all of these out of His enduring and infinite love for each and every one of us, out of the desire to be reconciled with us and not to allow us to be lost from Him, He Who is also our Good Shepherd, Who knew each and every one of us, and had done whatever He could, just as He shared the story of the Good Shepherd to His disciples, to reach out to us, His lost sheep, and to find us and gather us back into His presence, to be part of His flock in the Church of God. He showed us His love through real action and not just through words.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard how two of the Lord’s disciples came to Him and asked Him for special favours to be given to them. These two were the sons of Zebedee, the brothers St. James the Apostle also known as St. James the Greater, as well as St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. Both of them were among the closest disciples of the Lord, and together with St. Peter the Apostle, who was the leader of the disciples, were often brought by the Lord to various events only exclusive to them, such as the Transfiguration, the moment when He raised the daughter of Jairus back to life, as well as the aforementioned Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane itself.

As such, as it was probably common and expected at that time, as it is still today, they were tempted to seek for special favours and position as the closest confidants of the Lord, to gain power, prestige and influence, among other things. This is showing us in fact, as I mentioned earlier, the prevalent attitude and understanding of the people at that time, who viewed the Messiah as the One Who would conquer the enemies of the people of God, reunite the Israelites and all the descendants of Jacob, and restore the Kingdom of Israel as it was during David and Solomon’s time.

Therefore, when St. James and St. John together came to the Lord, it was made with this context in mind, in seeking the special favours for them, that when Christ restored Israel and rule as the new King of Israel, they would become His most trusted advisors and important persona in the new realm. However, this was a misunderstanding and failure to appreciate the true nature of Christ’s mission in this world. That was why the Lord told them and the other disciples gathered that in truth, to be His followers, they had to share in His sufferings, and that they indeed would suffer, as they all later on would suffer a martyr’s death, with the sole exception of St. John the Apostle himself, who nonetheless suffered for many years in prison and exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, where do all these then lead us? In truth, all of these things which we have just discussed and reflected on, are reminders for all of us to remember the love which God has constantly showed to us, and every time we look upon the Cross, with His Body laid suffering and dying on it, the Crucifix, we are reminded of this act of supreme love and ultimate selflessness, in Him giving us His life, so that by all of us sharing in His death on the Cross, we may receive new life and the Resurrection through Him.

And as Christians, we must always be ready to face suffering and persecution, rejection and challenges in life just as Our Lord Himself has suffered. This is because the world, its norms and ways that had rejected the Lord and His salvation, will also reject all of us who believe in the Lord and His truth, and suffering may come our way if we remain faithful to Him. Yet, we must never be disheartened or discouraged by these. Instead, we have to be ever more steady in following the Lord, wholeheartedly and with real and genuine love for Him.

What we heard today from the Scriptures, especially from the Gospel in particular is a reminder for us that being Christians is not about ourselves or our own search for personal glory or ambition, or personal satisfaction and happiness. Rather, it is to seek the Lord and to follow Him, picking up our crosses with Him, just as He has called us, and dedicate our entire lives in loving service to Him. This is the attitude that all of us must cultivate as Christians, to be genuine in faith and action, and to give our best to the Lord.

Let us all therefore strive to follow the Lord ever more faithfully, and to be more worthy in how we live our lives from now on. Let us all embrace God’s love and most generous mercy and compassion, resisting the temptations to sin and allowing God to lead us down the right path, so that by our own exemplary lives, we may inspire many others to follow us, just as we ourselves have been inspired by the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors who have led most worthy lives before us. May God bless us always, in our every efforts and good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 16 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to entrust ourselves to the Lord just in the way that Abraham, our father in faith and the ancestor of many nations have been faithful to God, in following Him and giving himself and dedicating his whole race and his entire descendants to God. Abraham was that most faithful paragon of faith that we should look up to, and we should model our faith based on how he has been and remained faithful to God.

In our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Rome, we heard how the Apostle spoke about Abraham and the faith that he had in the Lord, the faith and commitment he had in the Lord, despite the challenges he had, and despite not knowing at the beginning how everything would turn out for him and his family. Through his faith, Abraham became the father of numerous nations, and not only that, he became the spiritual father of so many other peoples and nations that were not directly descended from him.

Abraham was one of the descendants of Adam and Noah, who dwelled in the land of Ur, in what is today Mesopotamia and Iraq. It was there then that the Lord called Abraham to follow Him to the land that He would give to him and his descendants. Abraham was a rich man with vast amounts of wealth, a family and his properties in his ancestral homeland. He had no reason to follow the Lord to an unknown land, leaving everything that was familiar to him. However, Abraham did so, and entrusted himself to the Lord.

That was how he became a most faithful servant of God, and God made a Covenant with Abraham and his descendants, promising him that he would become the father of so many nations. At that time, Abraham did not even have a son yet, and his wife was barren after many years, and they were already old back then. Yet, Abraham still believed in God and trusted in Him and the Covenant which He had made with him. As such, God bestowed on Abraham the son he had been promised with, and blessed him and his descendants.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the faith of Abraham is what all of us ought to have as Christians, to be courageous in following God and to proclaim His truth, to entrust ourselves to Him wholeheartedly as we should, and dedicating our time and effort to His cause. Abraham had that faith and allowed the Lord to guide his path because he was not afraid of whatever the world could trouble him as he knew that the Lord was always by his side, and he could trust in His providence. Whatever he would lose, he would regain back in the Lord’s favour and grace.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on whether we have truly been faithful to God, and whether we have followed Him in the way that we should have done, in obeying the laws and commandments of God and in being exemplary in our every deeds and actions in the way that our father in faith Abraham had done. We are all called to think of how we can be better and more committed Christians in our way of life. And we can look upon the good examples set by our holy and dedicated predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Hedwig was also known as St. Hedwig of Silesia, a renowned Duchess Consort of Silesia during the High Middle Ages who was famous for her holiness and her charitable actions to her people when she was the consort of the ruler. She spent a lot of effort to help the poor and the sick, establishing hospitals and care houses for them, and together with her husband, they were remembered as very pious and caring rulers. And after she was widowed, St. Hedwig decided to enter religious life and spent the rest of her life in serving God through prayer and charity, devoting herself wholly to His cause.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was the famous mystic and visionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, remembered for her visions of the Lord’s Most Sacred Heart, whose writings and experiences came to be the inspiration behind the now very popular Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque gave herself to God, and she received many visions of the Lord’s great love for His people, in His sufferings out of love for them, and from there, as she shared her mystical visions, it became the impetus for the popular Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque were both pious and faithful in their own way, living their lives in commitment and total surrender to God. They loved the Lord as well as their neighbours, their fellow brothers and sisters, and this is what all of us are called to do as Christians. If we call ourselves as Christians and yet we have not done what our forefathers and holy predecessors had done, then are we not better than hypocrites of the past, who claimed to be faithful and yet had a mostly empty and meaningless faith?

Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, and let us do our very best from now on to follow the Lord ever more devoutly, and commit ourselves to His cause. May the Lord be our strength and guide, and may He empower each and every one of us to walk in His path each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 15 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God calling on all of us to be truly faithful to God in all things, in our actions and deeds, in our every words and interactions, so that we may be good examples for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. The Lord has taught us all and revealed to us how to be faithful to Him, and we should do our best to practice what we believe and learn to live our lives for the purpose of glorifying God and for the good of mankind, our fellow brothers and sisters.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of the faith that two prominent figures in history had in the Lord, namely that of Abraham and David. Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites and many other nations, and he was remembered as a great friend of the Lord and as His most faithful servant, who gained the Lord’s favour and blessings by his righteousness and virtuous life. As St. Paul mentioned, Abraham was blessed and gained God’s grace by his many numerous deeds.

Meanwhile, David was the great and highly respected King of all Israel, the father of Solomon, another great King of Israel, who was looked upon as an inspiration and role model by the Israelites and their descendants as a righteous King, a good man and faithful servant of God, whose good deeds were numerous and who led Israel to an era of great prosperity. This does not mean that David was without fault, for just as with Abraham and other children of man, all were sinners, and David too had his share of faults, such as when he plotted the death of Uriah, his own captain so that he could marry Bathsheba, Uriah’s widow.

However, like Abraham, David was ultimately faithful and full of commitment to God. David was most remorseful over his sins and faults, and sought God’s mercy and forgiveness, which was given to Him after a period of repentance and penance. As we can see, both Abraham and David were great examples how all of us as Christians are expected to be, as those who have listened to God’s call, knew His will and followed Him wholeheartedly and their lives shone with God’s light and truth such that everyone who see them and know them will know that they belong to God.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again continued to speak out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, as part of His discourse to the faithful on how to be true disciples of the Lord, not with just words and empty gestures as what many of the Pharisees had done, but with real love for God and through real actions, grounded in a living and genuine faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law observed a very strict interpretation of the Law and enforced them on others to follow and obey. However, they themselves did not stay truly faithful to what they believed in and they did it mostly for appearances.

This is why the Lord wants us all to know that becoming Christians requires us to be truly faithful in all things, that we have to spend our time and effort to follow the Lord and to be active in doing what the Lord had taught us to do in our lives. Just like Abraham and David, all of us will be judged based on our actions and how we have lived our lives, and not by an empty profession of faith, or by being hypocritical in how we carry ourselves and in our actions throughout life. We need to do what we are called to do as Christians and do not hesitate any longer in following Christ and His path.

Today, all of us should reflect and look upon the examples set by our holy predecessor, namely St. Teresa of Jesus, one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. John of the Cross. St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, was a renowned servant of God and a dedicated religious who was committed to the reform of the Carmelite Order and the Church, at a time of great upheavals, changes and difficulties facing the faithful. St. Teresa of Jesus helped to reform the Carmelites and founded the order of the Discalced Carmelites, together with the aforementioned St. John of the Cross.

St. Teresa of Jesus was remembered for her passionate efforts in changing the corrupt practices of the Church especially those that were espoused by the members of the Carmelites. She worked hard to expunge the buildup of corrupt practices and tried to restore the original intentions of the founders of the Carmelites, in purifying the order and also spread the same reform attitude to the broader Church, in tandem with the then height of the Counter Reformation efforts against the heresy of Protestantism. St. Teresa of Jesus had to go against many who opposed her, but she remained resolute and firm in her beliefs and actions.

St. Teresa of Jesus also wrote extensively and also documented her experiences and mystical visions in her numerous writings, which inspired many people who came after her, inspired by her zeal and sincere faith and love for God. For this, she was declared as one of the great Doctors of the Church after she had been acknowledged and canonised as a saint. Through her many actions, efforts and contributions, St. Teresa of Jesus showed us all what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be active in the living of our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, following in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Avila, as well as Abraham, our father in faith and David, the great King of Israel, as well as numerous other saints and holy men and women of God, let us all strive to do our best and put our wholehearted effort to seek the Lord with all of our strength. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, and may He bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 14 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all listen to the word of God in the Sacred Scriptures continuing to remind us that as Christians we have to put the foundation of our faith in Christ and believe in Him wholeheartedly, and not just pay Him lip service or empty faith like that of hypocrites. We have to love the Lord above everything else and put our focus in Him, so that He is the centre of our lives and existence, and He Who has offered us freely and generously His salvation and grace, may gather us all in His presence.

In our first reading today, in the continuation of the discourse of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, we heard the courageous and passionate appeal of the Apostle in calling on all the faithful in Rome to put their trust and salvation in God, in Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of the whole entire world. At that time, the community of the faithful in Rome was also composed of the members of the Jewish diaspora there, as well as some of the local Roman population who converted to the Christian faith and became believers.

And just like elsewhere in the Church, there were often tension between some of the Jewish people, who asserted that all Christians had to observe the full range of the Jewish customs and practices, as the Pharisees and the elders practiced them, including the recent converts from among the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. However, St. Paul was quick in his rebuttal and his explanations on how such an attitude was not truly Christian in nature and not in accordance to what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, how He rejected the excessive practices and observances of the leaders of the Jewish people in obeying the Law of God.

Contextually, the extent of the strict observance of the Law by the Pharisees and the elders of the descendants of Israel was such that it would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people to follow the Lord and to practice their faith. Over the centuries, many adaptations, interpretations and modifications to the Law had fundamentally altered its meaning, purpose and practice so much such that it no longer truly represent what the Law of God was all about. It would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to accept the Christian faith if they were forced to follow the very strict customs and rules.

Today’s Gospel also echoed the same sentiment as we heard the continuation of the Lord’s confrontation against the Pharisees as He rebuked them for their excessive focus and obsession on enforcing a very strict way of interpreting and following the Law, as well as in practicing their faith, which they themselves were often unable to follow and do, and ended up with many merely doing it to fulfil their obligations and as a formality, or even worse, as means for them to boast about their faith and to put others down, those whom they deemed to be less worthy than they were.

This is not what a Christian should be doing, as not only that they have diverged from the true meaning and intention of the Law, but many of them had obeyed the Law and its precepts in face value only, and misunderstood what God wanted to do with us through the Law. Instead of helping to bring the people closer to God, the Law ended up being tools used to satisfy the greed and desires of some, as well as becoming the way how some discriminated against their own brothers and sisters, against those whom one hated and despised.

The Lord and His Apostle St. Paul made it clear that we must be truly faithful and centred on God in our lives and actions. We must not allow the corruption of worldly power and desires to affect us and our way of life, that we do not end up behaving like those who are hypocritical and lacking in true faith in God. We must listen to the Lord and His words, His teachings and truth, and the words of His Apostles and servants, all those whom He had sent into this world to be our guide and helper, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of them, namely Pope St. Callistus I, also known as Pope St. Callixtus I.

Pope St. Callixtus I was the Vicar of Christ and leader of the Universal Church during the time of the height of persecutions against Christians in the third century after the birth of Our Lord. At that time, there were already divisions and heresies affecting the Church, and Pope St. Callixtus I was remembered for allowing converts from among these who had lapsed from the true faith and fallen into heretical ways and teachings. He called for all of them to return to the Holy Mother Church and be repentant over their sins. Through this, many would come to realise the errors of their ways and began the path towards redemption.

However, Pope St. Callixtus I did not have it easy as there were those within the Church then who disagreed with his methods and works, and refused to admit those who have lapsed and fallen into heresy, considering that salvation can only be given once, and once people left the Church or fell into heresy, they would not be allowed to return. Nonetheless, Pope St. Callixtus I, in the spirit of what St. Paul the Apostle had written in his Epistle to the Romans, and as the Lord spoke, warning against the excesses of self-righteousness exhibited by many of the Pharisees, continued to strive for welcoming lapsed Christians right to the moment of his martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these Scripture passages today and reflect on what we have just discussed, as well as the life and efforts of Pope St. Callixtus I, all of us are reminded to look upon our own lives and discern carefully how we can lead a more Christian existence and living, in faithfully following the Lord and His truth, and in remaining true to the love that He has shown us, while avoiding the excesses of self-righteousness, ambition, ego and personal desires among others.

Let us all seek the Lord with new spirit of humility and with genuine love from now on. May the Lord be with us all and may He help us to live our lives most worthily for the Lord. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on them and realise that there are so much that each and every one of us can do to remain faithful to God. All of us are called to focus on the Lord and turn towards Him with sincere love and devotion, and not just showing empty and meaningless faith. This is what our Scripture passages today have been telling us, that to be good Christians, we must not do what many of the people at that time had done.

For at that time, as the Christian faith began to spread across the Mediterranean and throughout the world, more and more Gentiles or the non-Jewish people such as the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Africans, Persians and many others who came to believe in the Lord and His truth, and gave themselves to be baptised by the Apostles, the many missionaries and messengers that had been sent by God to those people to spread the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth and love to them.

However, there were also many Jews who converted to the faith, in Jerusalem and Judea, as well as in the various diaspora communities around the world. And in various occasions, some of those Jewish Christians brought with them the same opinion and view of the Pharisees and the elders who were adopting a very hardline approach in the interpretation, application and enforcement of the Law of God which had been revealed through Moses. They advocated for the wholesome adoption of the entire Judaic traditions and customs, many of which were excessive and inappropriate additions accumulated over the centuries of its practices.

To apply such a rigid and harsh application of the Jewish customs and practices would be exceedingly difficult for the Gentiles who have converted to Christianity, as there were quite a few cultural practices of the Jewish people which were not acceptable or even frowned upon and disliked by the Romans and the Greeks. Therefore, St. Paul worked hard together with the other Apostles and leaders of the Church to standardise the approach of the Christian faith and practices, in which they all agreed at the First Council of Jerusalem not to enforce the excesses of Judaic laws on all Christians, and less still on the Gentile converts.

The Gospel passage today echoed this same sentiment as we heard how the Lord strongly rebuked the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had corrupted and misused the Law for their own purposes and benefits, and as hypocrites who claimed to believe in God and yet in their hearts and minds, God was not the primary focus and emphasis of their lives. Instead, it was their pride, ego and ambition that drove them forward in life, and as the main impetus behind their preoccupation and obsession with their very strict version of the Law.

The Lord did not mince His words and spoke plainly, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law consistently tried to oppose Him and made His works difficult, claiming to be on the side of orthodoxy and faithful teachings, and claiming to be better and more pious, and yet, behind all of that facade was that of incredible hypocrisy and stubbornness, as they continued to harden their hearts and minds against the Lord and His truth. They acted so also because they were jealous of the Lord, and this proved that much of their actions were based on self-serving and selfish desires for power and influence in the world.

That is why He spoke regarding this matter, and His servant, St. Paul the Apostle also echoed the same message to all of us Christians, that we must avoid this kind of selfish attitude and learn to be more genuine in our faith, and distance ourselves from the many temptations of worldly power and glory, resisting the temptations of our desires and the other things that often lead us to our downfall, by luring us away from the true path towards the Lord. We must not indulge in self-serving and selfish attitudes, but must learn to be humble to listen to God and allow Him to lead us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, let us all pray that the Lord will continue to watch over us and guide us, helping us to remain firm in our faith. Let us also pray that we will always grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and let us help one another in being faithful to God rather than to condemn or judge one another or thinking that we are in any way better than others or more deserving of God’s salvation. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on the words of the Lord that serves as reminder and warning to all of us to remain truly faithful to Him and not to be merely paying lip service and treating our faith as merely a formality and something that we do not truly believe in our hearts completely. We must truly devote ourselves to the Lord through commitment and effort, and follow Him at all times.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Rome in which he spoke of God’s truth, His Good News and salvation which He has brought into this world, and which He offered us freely and most generously, calling us all to embrace Him and His mercy, to be forgiven through repentance and the changing of our ways. We are called to seek the Lord wholeheartedly and turn towards Him without any doubts lingering in our hearts.

St. Paul spoke up strongly against all those who have heard about the Lord, known about Him and yet, they still refused to believe and even turned against Him, choosing worldly attractions and temptations, all the false idols of human desire and cravings, for power, glory, influence, fame and material wealth, for the pleasures of the body and other things that we are often surrounded and pampered with in this world, in their respective lives all these while.

As St. Paul made it clear, that even though those people had known the Lord and heard His laws and truth, but they still chose to stubbornly cling to their erroneous ways, and chose to seek consolation and satisfaction in the lesser idols and things that were nothing compared to God. They glorified those things over the Lord and gave themselves and their lives to be enslaved by their desires for worldliness. St. Paul therefore reminded all the faithful, and thus including all of us to live worthily of the Lord from now on.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard something similar regarding the conversation and interaction that the Lord had with a Pharisee who had invited Him to a meal. When that Pharisee wondered and asked why the Lord did not wash His hands before a meal, contextually what happened was that he was referring to the specific ritualistic washing that the Pharisees subscribed to in their very strict interpretation and enforcement of the Law of God.

Over the previous centuries, the accumulation of traditions and customs, strict interpretations and modifications had resulted in the Law being misunderstood, misused and abused for the personal gains and misled the people in the way they ought to follow the Lord. Instead, many among the Pharisees ended up becoming overly fixated on the minute details of the Law while failing to realise and appreciate its true importance, meaning and purpose. They even looked down and despised those who did not follow the Law in the way that they did.

It is this attitude which the Lord criticised and rebuked the Pharisees for. He wants each and every one of us to take note of these things and beware of all the things that can prevent us from truly finding our way to Him, as we glorify ourselves and our desires more than we glorify God. And we should heed this as a lesson to remind ourselves that we have to develop a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, and not to fall into the temptations that is based on our vanity, pride and greed. We have to grow in faith and do our best to resist the pressure to conform to the ways of worldliness.

Let us all therefore be ever more faithful to God in all things, and let us dedicate ourselves each day with ever greater love for God and strive to be exemplary in our every actions throughout life so that we may be good examples as faithful Christians in showing one another how we ought to live our lives with faith from now on. May God bless each and every one of us in our every good efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all reminded of the calling of the Lord to all of us to trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead us down the right path as our Shepherd, and each and every one of us must then also follow the example of our Shepherd and become sources of inspiration and strength for one another so that each and every one of us may be inspired to always remain committed to God.

In our first reading today from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people, who at that time was in exile in Babylon, that He would gather them like a shepherd gathering his sheep, from those scattered among the nations, and He would look for them and reunite themselves to Him, as He still loved them and cared for them as His beloved people and His children. The Lord is still ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with them even though those same people had betrayed and abandoned Him for the false pagan idols and gods.

The Lord would prove this right by gathering all of His scattered people and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great to allow the descendants of the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their cities and dwellings, as well as the Holy Temple and House of God in Jerusalem. God gathered them all and reunited them, to live once again in obedience to His Law and commandments, and distancing themselves from the rebellious ways of their ancestors.

Then, in our Gospel today, we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, when He appeared to His disciples in Galilee, and as they gathered, the Lord had a conversation with St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all of His disciples, who had earlier on denied Him three times at the moment of His Passion and suffering. The Lord asked St. Peter three times whether he loved Him, and St. Peter responded each time with a sincere proclamation of his love and dedication to the Lord.

Through these series of questions, in fact, which mirrored the three times denial of St. Peter earlier on, it showed that the Lord had forgiven St. Peter, and just as He had called and chosen him earlier on, He entrusted His Church to St. Peter, as He earlier on also said that, as He gave him the name of Peter, or Cephas, ‘the Rock’, that He established His Church on the Rock of St. Peter, as His Vicar and the leader of all the faithful, as the shepherd of shepherds and the one to represent the one True Shepherd of all, the Lord Himself.

This was further affirmed as the Lord told St. Peter to ‘feed My Sheep’, symbolically presenting the Church as the flock of the Lord’s faithful, and entrusting the Church and all the faithful to the Apostles and the other disciples to be the ones to lead and guide them to the right path, as they gather together in prayer, committing themselves to a new existence together in God, and guided by the examples and the inspiration of the Holy Apostles, the saints and martyrs who had lived with devotion to God.

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of one of St. Peter’s holy successors, as Pope and leader of the Universal Church, namely Pope St. John XXIII, also known as the Good Pope, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, elected in the Year of Our Lord 1958 as the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, to lead the entire faithful people of God, as the shepherd of all the faithful representing Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Pope St. John XXIII and his many contributions still inspire many even to this very day.

Pope St. John XXIII was born in a poor family in the northern part of Italy in Bergamo, in a family of many children, who raised their children in the Christian faith devoutly. One of his uncles sponsored his education, and eventually he joined the priesthood and was ordained a priest in Rome. He was then involved in working in the Diocese of Bergamo and witnessed firsthand how his bishop showed his care and concern for his flock during an incident in which workers on strike to fight for their rights were arrested, and he and his bishop helped in mediating between the workers and the authorities.

This would continue to inspire Pope St. John XXIII in his later role as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria and Turkey, as he worked hard to reach out to his flock and also to all other Christians and fellow men, in showing God’s love to all, in leading them towards God as the successor of St. Peter, as the shepherd of shepherds and as guide for them towards the Lord. Then, as Apostolic Nuncio to France and finally as the Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope St. John XXIII would continue to show his dedication in his efforts to reach out to the faithful.

As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII devoted himself to reform the Church, and called for the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican, also known better as the Second Vatican Council, which began during the later part of his pontificate. Pope St. John XXIII also contributed greatly to the world, in healing the divisions between Christians, through his links to the separated brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church from his earlier tenure as Delegate in Bulgaria and Turkey, among others. And he was also well-known for his peacemaking effort, between the superpowers at the height of the Cold War, in order to avoid mutual destruction between them and the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the good examples and the life work from Pope St. John XXIII, can we be inspired to follow him and his good examples, and do whatever we can in our lives, so that we may truly be faithful disciples and followers of our Lord? Let us all be shepherds and guides to one another as well, to reach out to those who are in need, and to help one another to find our way to the Lord together. May the Lord, our loving Shepherd and Guide, continue to strengthen us and help us in our journey through life, now and always. Amen.