(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Fourth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 54 : 5-14

For your Maker is to marry you : YHVH Sabaoth is His Name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called God of all the earth. For YHVH has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon His first beloved? says your God.

For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather My people. For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says YHVH, your Redeemer.

This is for Me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will My love depart from you, nor My covenant of peace be removed, says YHVH whose compassion is for you.

O afflicted city, lashed by storm and unconsoled, I will set your stones with turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will crown your wall with agate, make your gates crystal, and your ramparts of precious stones.

All your children will be taught by YHVH, and they will prosper greatly. Justice will be your foundation; tyranny and the fear of oppression will never come near you.

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today’s scripture readings very clearly highlight the truth, how in our lives in this world, we often forsake the Lord and His ways for the temporary pleasures of the flesh and of the world. We let our emotions and sin to cloud our judgments and to affect our actions and deeds. In that way we preferred the ways of Satan and his rebelliousness rather than the truth and love that is in God.

In today’s first reading, we see how the two most respected people among the entirety of the people of God, the two appointed elders of the people of God, were actually the ones who brought sin and destruction upon the people, by judging as guilty an innocent woman, all because so that they could hide the sin that they had planned to commit with her. If the Spirit of God had not acted through Daniel, the young prophet, an innocent life would have been lost.

And in today’s Gospel reading, we heard the well-known story how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adulterous behaviour, how He did not condemn her for her sins, and in fact called upon the people who wanted her dead, to reflect upon their own sinfulness and not to be judgmental, for they themselves were subjects to the same judgment of God for they all have sinned.

Today we are all called to holiness and new life, that is a life filled with the love of God, and blessed by God’s presence, that we no longer indulge ourselves in our sinful ways and manners of life, and instead commit ourselves to do the will of God and immerse ourselves in the way of the Lord, as Jesus had told the sinful woman, ‘Do not sin anymore.’

The key to salvation is for us all to be able to recognise first that we are sinners, and we are all faulty at one point in our lives, and we are imperfect, and therefore, flawed as we are, we are bound to commit sin and other acts displeasing to God. But it is also equally important that we realise how loving our God is towards us all, the most beloved ones of His creations.

It is indeed true that God hates sin, and He hates all forms of darkness and evils, that were born out of disobedience to His will. Nevertheless, He loves us even more than the hatred He has for our sins. But this love will not manifest itself if we keep ourselves locked and separated from His love, if we refuse to acknowledge that we are sinners, and that we need to repent. Only through the understanding of one’s sinfulness and accepting that we need God’s mercy that we can get closer to God and towards salvation in Him.

Sin keeps us away from the goodness of God and it even deviates us in our path, that we veer off the path towards God and instead we walk on towards doom and destruction. That was what happened to the two elders who tried to commit sin with Susanna, the faithful woman, and ended up sinning even greater by committing themselves ever deeper into their sinfulness.

They sin because they keep themselves in their sinfulness, and instead of acknowledging that they were sinners and committing themselves to repentance and new life, they became fearful and selfish, and they committed even greater sins in the process, condemning the innocent to death, while seeking freedom for themselves who had sinned, at the price of the blood of the innocent.

The same the Pharisees and the chief priests had done to the Holy and Innocent One of God, none other than Jesus, who was condemned to the death because of their jealousy and insecurity. They themselves said that it would be better for one man, that is Jesus, to die rather than the whole nation. In reality, they are concerned not for the nation, but only for themselves, for the wealth and the position that they had enjoyed as the leaders of the people, corrupted by their own power.

This is what we should not do, and we should not be like them. We should not be swayed by the allures of power and we should not give in to our selfishness and pride, that we become like the Pharisees. We have to be humble and be open to the love of God as I have often mentioned. Jesus called us to be loving children of God, and He wanted us to be saved. That is why, He forgave the adulterous woman, not just because He loves us, but because He also sees the hope in us.

Yes, the Lord sees the hope in us, and He desires for us all to be reunited with Him. Even the greatest of sinners have hope of salvation, again providing that they open up themselves to accept the Lord’s infinite mercy. That is the key ingredient of salvation, that we too should be receptive to God’s mercy and love. We cannot harden our hearts and refuse to allow the Lord to enter our hearts.

God offered us His salvation, if we want to accept Him and listen to Him. And today we have a role model whose model we can follow and aspire to, as what he has done in this life is to show us, how to be like Christ and to follow Christ in His ways. Yes, that person is St. John Baptist de la Salle, the missionary priest and patron saint of Christian schools and education.

St. John Baptist de la Salle is particularly dear and known to me, because he is the patron saint of my Alma Mater, and when I was in that school, I learnt a lot about who St. John Baptist de la Salle was. He is the main patron of the Lasallian congregation, consisting of brothers and community of devoted religious called the Brothers of Christian Schools. What is the significance?

This is because St. John Baptist de la Salle dedicated himself to the poor children, the last, the lost and the least of the society. He emulated and followed what Jesus had taught us and His disciples. St. John Baptist de la Salle shows that we have to be merciful and loving to others, especially to those who lack love in them, and to those who have sinned. That was what Jesus had done to the prostitute, forgiving her from what she had done.

St. John Baptist de la Salle shows us that we need to be genuine in loving and giving of ourselves to others if we are to be truly good disciples of the Lord. We cannot be hypocrites who look highly upon ourselves and look down on others when we ourselves too are lowly sinners. Let us not be like the Pharisees who condemned others whom they deem to be unworthy of salvation.

We have to preach love and forgiveness that Jesus had taught His disciples, keeping in mind that it is important for the neglected and the lost ones, including all of us, to be able to get in touch with God and His generous offer of forgiveness. No one is beyond God’s salvation and mercy, and especially to those who are the last, the lost and the least.

Let us therefore help one another and open the path for others to also reach out to God. Let us not be prideful, hate-filled and jealous, but instead love one another genuinely and tenderly. May the Lord bless us all, for all eternity. God bless us all with His love, and that we too may love sincerely and with all of our hearts. Amen.

 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 4 : 1, 5-9

And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which YHVH, the God of your fathers, gives you.

See, as YHVH, my God, ordered me. I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent. When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, “There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.”

For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as YHVH, our God, is to us whenever we call upon Him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this Law which I give you today?

But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen nor let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

 

Saturday, 1 March 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 10 : 13-16

People were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the readings that we heard, we see the nature of love that is in the family. In the first reading we heard how Absalom, the rebel son of king David met his end at the end of his rebellion, and his father David grieved greatly for his death, indeed the sorrow of a father losing his son to death.

And in the Gospel, we heard how the temple official, Jairus, asked Jesus to heal his daughter for she was about to die, due to her grievous illness. And Jesus was moved with compassion and love for the faith the father had in Him, and He resurrected the dead daughter of Jairus when she had died before Jesus reached her home. And the family was once again reunited in happiness and love.

And not to forget the woman with the hemorrhage issue, whom the Lord healed by the touch of the woman’s hand on fringe of the cloak of Jesus. Her faith in God made her whole again, and her trust in the love of God who is Father made her healed from her afflictions. The woman trusted in Jesus and her faith was made an example to everyone.

Family is a unit in our society, which is often under attack these days. The sanctity of the family had often been under attack these days, by the forces of evil in this world, who like to see the family unit disbanded and destroyed. And yet family remained as one of the greatest bastion of the faith and love, in which many people were taught for the first time of the faith in God and how to love just as God has loved us.

And I am very sure that all of us can remember our own families and each members in the family, how each members has his or her own roles in the family. One is the father or the husband, who protects the family and provides for the family by working hard. The other is the mother, or the wife, who sometimes may also work, but whose primary role is in the upbringing of the family, and the children born out of the holy union of marriage.

And of course, there are the children, the gift of God’s love to us. Indeed, children are gifts of love, and therefore should not be taken lightly. Caring and loving the children are the primary duties of the family members, the father and the mother in particular. They are supposed to love one another and show the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in all events.

Losing a family member is not an easy thing to endure. Many of us would have endured this one way or another in our respective lives. How our loved ones no longer physically remain with us, as death claimed them and they passed on to the afterlife. And it is often only when we have lost someone that we realise how precious that someone is for us, and only when it is already too late.

David had had many wives, and he had many children. It was common for kings of his time, and even many up to recent days, especially in the Eastern cultures to have many wives and even concubines, and scores of children. The more wives and children they have, be it the sons and daughters of their wives or concubines, the more prestigious and powerful the kings would be regarded.

In such families, including that of David, there were often no love. Much of the interactions in fact were based on rivalry and hatred for each other, as well as based on greed and human desire for power and glory. Each sons would fight with each other for power and influence, and often even would try to claim the kingdom for himself. And that was exactly what had happened to Absalom.

Family not based on love will likely not survive long, and sadly, that is what afflicts many families today. Families often have become mere formality and even at times, considered as obstacles and hindrances by many. That was also why there are so many divorces and abortions of innocent babies, and the numbers are increasing without slowing down.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why Jesus came to this world, in order to teach us of the importance of love, including that of family love. His works and miracles bring happiness and joy to the people, and new hope to those who were afflicted with illness or sorrow. And God is our Father, and He sees us as His children. And Jesus wanted to show us, how much God our Father has loved us.

Indeed, so great is His love that He sent us Jesus, His Son, that through Him, and His death no less, we may have new life in Him. To those who had been sealed with the waters of baptism, we have been made the children of God. God is our Father and we are His children. And if we, as His children, remain faithful and continue to follow His ways, as children ought to obey their parents, then we will have no need to worry at all.

If we make mistakes, do not be scared or afraid. We should be brave to step forward as the woman had done, after she was cured from her bleeding issue. Even though she certainly trembled from head to the feet when she made that confession, but the Lord saw her faith and reward her.

If we make mistakes, then God our Father will chastise us. But He will not destroy us or cast us aside, because just as all fathers, He still loves us very much no matter what, unless if we continue to defy and disobey Him. Listen to our God, our Father, and pay attention to His calling and His guide. Follow Him and walk always in His ways.

May our Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless us, that we may love God our Father ever more, imitating the love that Jesus Himself had shown us, His people and His children. Keep us in Your favour, o Lord, and remind us when we err and walk away from Your path, o God our Father. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread but the hungry need work no more. The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone.

YHVH is Lord of life and death; He brings down to the grave and raises up. YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts.

He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Samuel 1 : 9-20

After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah stood up not far from Eli, the priest : his seat was beside the doorpost of YHVH’s house. Deeply distressed she went and prayed to YHVH and made this vow, “O YHVH of hosts, if only You will have compassion on Your maidservant and give me a son, I will put him in Your service for as long as he lives and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she prayed before YHVH, Eli observed the movement of her lips. Hannah was praying silently; she moved her lips but uttered no sound and Eli thought Hannah was drunk. He, therefore, said to her : “For how long will you be drunk? Let your drunkenness pass.”

But Hannah answered : “No, my lord, I am a woman in great distress, not drunk. I have not drunk wine or strong drink, but I am pouring out my soul before YHVH. Do not take me for a bad woman. I was so afflicted that my prayer flowed continuously.”

Then Eli said, “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.” Hannah answered, “Let Your maidservant deserve Your kindness.” Then she left the temple and when she was at table, she seemed a different woman.

Elkanah rose early in the morning and worshipped before YHVH with his wives. Then they went back home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with his wife, Hannah, YHVH took compassion on her, and she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said : “I have asked YHVH to give him to me.”

Monday, 13 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 1 : 1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim, in the hills of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was son of Tohu, son of Jeroham, of the clan of Zuph. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none.

Every year Elkanah went to worship and to sacrifice to YHVH of hosts at Shiloh. The priests there were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. Whenever Elkanah offered sacrifice, he gave portions to his wife, Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters.

To Hannah, however, he gave the more delightful portion because he loved her more, although she had no child. Yet Hannah’s rival used to tease her for being barren.

So it happened every year when they went to YHVH’s house. Peninnah irritated Hannah and she would weep and refuse to eat. Once Elkanah, her husband, asked her, “Hannah, why do you weep instead of eating? Why are you sad? Are you not better off with me than with many sons?”

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 3 : 12-21

Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of Him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom. With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise. And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that pleases the Lord. Parents, do not be too demanding of your children, lest they become discouraged.

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jealousy and greed for power, as well as the fear of losing it, are just a few of the evil afflictions that affect mankind, and which many of us had succumbed to, many, many times. These evil afflictions affect us, because we have been made vulnerable to them, ever since our ancestors opened the way to sin through their disobedience to the Lord.

Today, as we continue into the Christmas season, and continue with the festivities and revelries, and all the joy and happiness that we have among us, all the gift exchanges and partying, we must not remember a great tragedy which we all remember on this day, that is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a great tragedy that is filled with sorrow and wickedness of mankind.

On this day, we remember the great and merciless slaughter of the innocent infants of Bethlehem, the city of David, where our Lord Jesus was born. King Herod the Great, the then Roman appointed King of Israel and Judea, was so fearful and jealous of the authority and power of the promised King of Israel, the true King of kings, Jesus the Messiah, that he resolved to kill this Messiah, before the kingdom that was his is usurped from him.

You can clearly see this king’s hubris, jealousy and arrogance, that even though he knew about the coming of the Messiah, he was unwilling to part with his own authority and power and give it to the coming King. He was foolish and short-sighted, one which certainly brought him down to the deepest depth of hell. You see what desperation, fear, and wickedness can bring to men.

Yes, they brought downfall to man, and they bring nothing but death and destruction. And it is often that the innocent ones are the ones to suffer, such as what happened in Bethlehem. One may ask why God did not intervene in the case of what has happened, but indeed, if we look at it again, God gave everyone a free will to follow what he thinks is best to be done. One can choose to follow the Lord and be righteous, or give in to their human vulnerabilities and embrace what is evil and wicked.

And those infants were innocent, and Herod massacred them in order to ensure the continuation of his own power and authority. He took the quick way out of problems, and did not regard even the sanctity of human lives. Those innocent infants also deserved to live. They therefore, were holy martyrs of the faith by the virtue of their innocence. They were the victims of humanity’s disdain for the sanctity of life.

Today we all remember these Holy Innocents, whose massacre is a reality amidst the joy and the festivities surrounding Christmas. And that is why we have to always remember that Christmas is about life. Yes, the sanctity of life, which is also often under attack in today’s society, especially by those championing for the culture of death.

That is right, on this day, on this era, thousands of even unborn infants or more are being killed on daily basis. You all know about the controversy, and the voices crying out for and against the practice of abortion. It is sad indeed, that even among us who believe in the Lord, the source of life, even some of us agree, or participate in the killing of the innocents, either by our actions or by our silence.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate Christmas, never forget that we have to celebrate life, and we cannot forget about the massacre of the innocents that had happened, and what is happening even now. Life is sacred, brethren, as is it not Jesus who came into this world that we may have life eternal. We cannot profess to be Christians and yet treat life as something trivial. It is a gift from God to all of us.

May the Lord therefore continue to inflame in us, the love for Him, as well as the love for all of God’s creations, treating with honour everyone, even to the least of all, the poorest of all, and the weakest of all, to the smallest of infants. God bless us all. Amen.