Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, marking the momentous event when the great enemy of the Church and the faithful, Saul the young Pharisee turned towards God and became a convert, and eventually becoming one of the greatest champions and defenders of the Christian faith against all the threats rising up that time against the followers of the Lord.

Saul was a young and zealous Pharisee who was deeply involved in the persecutions of early Christians, and he was present at the moment when St. Stephen was martyred and stoned to death. He was also instrumental in leading the efforts of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council in their attempts to destroy the Church and the followers of Christ in its earliest moments. Saul went from place to place and carried out often violent attacks and arrests against the followers of the Lord.

Therefore, it was most unlikely and unexpected for Saul to be called by God, and yet, God called him and spoke to him as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christian faithful and destroy the Church there. The Lord revealed Himself to Saul and spoke of how his actions had been misled and mistaken. Saul turned towards the Lord and was baptised as a Christian. And from then on henceforth, he became a courageous and faithful defender of the faith and worked hard to bring the Good News of God to all the peoples.

That was how St. Paul the Apostle came to be. Much like Simon being called by the Lord and was bestowed the new name of Peter (the ‘Rock’) by the Lord, and even earlier on, as Abram, the father of many nations, upon his making of a Covenant with God, became Abraham, thus the change in name from Saul to Paul also signified this change in attitude and life, from one that was filled with wickedness and misguided anger against the Lord and His faithful, to one that is guided and entrusted fully to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we are all called to reflect on our own conversion. For all of us, we have been baptised and therefore called to share in the same ministry and calling that St. Paul himself had received from the Lord. All of us are partakers of this same calling and ministry as those who have gone before us and responded to the Lord’s call, in being His faithful witnesses and in standing up for their faith in Him.

As we can see how this terrible and most unworthy sinner, who had caused so much grief and suffering for the early Christians, could be converted and turned to the path of righteousness, becoming one of the greatest champions of the faith, thus, all of us we are also able to respond to the Lord’s call and be transformed by His power and love, His grace and mercy to be true witnesses and as faithful servants of His cause. Through the Lord, everything is made possible, and we can indeed be strengthened in all things through Him.

Are we then willing to take up our crosses and follow our Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Indeed, we have been called by the Lord, but it is really up to us to accept this calling and respond to Him. If we are willing to respond to Him just as St. Paul had done then we will be just like him and the other Apostles, as the true and faithful bearers of our Christian faith in the midst of our communities in this darkened world.

Brothers and sisters, let us all open our hearts and minds, and allow the Lord to enter into our lives, and allow Him to transform us and work His wonders through us that all of us may carry out His will obediently and bring about many good things for everyone all around us, that more and more people may come to know the Lord to us, be called to the same faith we have, and be saved.

Let us all faithfully continue all the good works that the Apostles and their successors had begun, and let us all contribute to the best of our abilities, to the good works of the Church in proclaiming the truth of the Gospels, the Good News of salvation and the eternal life in Christ. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and may God strengthen us all in faith, as we continue journeying through life, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 23 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures all of us are again reminded of the redemptive work that Our Lord Himself had done for our sake on the Cross, and that by offering Himself as a worthy sacrifice for our sake and for our sins He has delivered us and led us into a new hope and a new life through Him. By His perfect obedience He has overcome the disobedience of man, and revealed to us the depths of God’s love.

And again we are also presented with the Lord as our High Priest Who has overcome the sins of mankind by His singular act of supreme love on the Cross, that for once and for all He has accomplished the offering for the atonement for our sins, by the outpouring of His own Most Precious Blood, the Blood of the Lamb of God. This Blood is far more precious than the blood of any lamb or sacrificial animals that had been prescribed by the old laws of Moses.

Then Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the High Priest Himself is truly superior to the other priests, as while those priests of the Lord needed to offer for the sake of themselves and their own sins first, before they were to offer for the sake of the people, here is the Sinless One, Who had willingly embraced our humanity so that He could unite all of us and our every intentions, our cries for mercy and forgiveness, and offer them all through Himself to God, His heavenly Father.

Thus, there was no longer need for any sacrifices as prescribed by the old laws and the Covenant of Moses, and the Lord has promised all of us that if we believe in Him, and put our faith and trust in Him, we shall no longer need to be afraid, for He Himself will stand by us and through Him we have been healed. And then, if we are curious why is it that in the Church we are still celebrating the Eucharist during every single celebration of the Holy Mass, that is because the Holy Mass is not a repeat or a mere reminder of the Sacrifice of Christ, Our High Priest at Calvary.

On the contrary, the Holy Mass is the eternal celebration of the Sacrifice at Calvary itself, the very same Sacrifice that the Lord made at that day, when He shed His Blood and cast His Body onto the Cross, to bear our sins and all the multitudes of the weight and burden of the whole entire consequences and punishments due for those sins. By His power and authority, He has entrusted to His Church and to all of His priests, the power to turn the bread and wine at the Holy Mass to be the very substance and real existence of His own Precious Body and Blood.

And just as He has said, that He is the Bread of Life, and that all who partake and eat of this Bread of Life shall live forever and not perish, thus all of us who partake and receive the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Our Lord, the Lord Crucified at Calvary, shall have eternal life and a new life and existence through Him. As long as we put our trust and faith in Him, we shall not perish and will not be shaken by the evil forces arrayed against us.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, let us all turn towards the Lord with a new heart and with a new spirit, that all of us may grow to love Him with ever greater zeal and commitment, going forward in life. Let us all be ever grateful for the love, kindness and compassion that God has shown us ever so generously all these while, by giving us the best and the most perfect manifestation of His love through Christ, His Son.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the courage to live our lives with passion and the desire to follow Him and to serve Him in each and every moments of our living existence. May God bless us always in our every good endeavours and may He remain with us always, all the times. Amen.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard of the Lord’s assurance of a New Covenant that He had made with us all, His beloved people in our first reading today, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presented the Lord Jesus as the Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant replacing the old Covenant between God and His people Israel.

The old Covenant, the old laws and ways, the practices of the past linked to that older pact no longer applied to anyone, after the Lord had revealed and sealed that New Covenant. The New Covenant was sealed by the loving sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Eternal High Priest on the Cross, as He laid His life bare on the Cross, as the Lamb to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been saved.

Through this New Covenant, God had made full His promises to us, His promise to love us all and show His compassion to the very end. Each and every one of us have a share in this love, and the Lord had offered Himself as our High Priest before His heavenly Father, for the atonement and the forgiveness of all of our sins. His suffering and death were meant for us, and all of us have been called to partake in this New Covenant He had made with us.

God had revealed the fullness of His laws, all of His truth to His people as part of this Covenant, as He also sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth, which He has revealed and passed down to us through His Church, by the sending of His Apostles to be the ones leading the charge in spreading His Good News and the truth He has revealed to us. In the calling of the Apostles, God has also called us all to follow in their footsteps, that we should also serve Him as those whom God had called had done earlier.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Apostles were sent before the Lord to places to preach and to reveal His truth, and they were also given the power to heal and to cast out demons, doing the many good works of God. Their work did not stop with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, but in fact, guided by the Holy Spirit and the commission that God entrusted to them, they went forth to the many peoples of many nations, spreading the Word of God and calling many people to be a disciple and follower too.

They helped to build the Church and were truly its important foundation, and now, all of us who are members of the Church and belonging among Christ’s faithful ones, we have been entrusted with the same responsibility, as part of the Covenant that God has established with us, and which we have received generously through baptism. And therefore we are all called to live up to the Lord’s call, follow Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Today, we should reflect on the life and works of St. Vincent, holy Deacon and Martyr, whose examples can be great inspiration on how we can follow the Lord wholeheartedly in each and every moments of our lives. St. Vincent was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, one of the Deacons of Saragossa in Spain, the modern day Zaragoza, serving the bishop and local Christian community, occupying a very important position in the Church.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian carried out intense persecution against Christians, which caused many martyrs to emerge, and St. Vincent was one of these martyrs. St. Vincent was arrested together with his bishop and was threatened with great torture and suffering, unless he would burn the Sacred Scriptures and publicly repudiate his Christian faith.

St. Vincent spoke fervently and courageously against this and refused any further attempts to turn him and the other Christians away from the Lord in order to save their own lives. And the way St. Vincent spoke, with great courage and wisdom, without fear and anxiety greatly angered his persecutors so much so that he was tortured terribly and martyred by being grilled on a gridiron, which he was to be renowned for. But even in suffering, he remained resolute, firm and calm in adhering to his faith, which touched even his jailer, who became a convert afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the martyrdom of St. Vincent, all of us are shown what it means to be a Christian. As Christians, we need to put God above all else, and foremost before anything else. And our lives must be centred and focused on Him. We should love Him more than anything else, and through our words and actions, we should commit ourselves to Him and not to allow our actions or words to scandalise our faith.

Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and let us all commit more and more time, effort and attention so that we may be ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of Him, that God will bless us and bring us all into the everlasting inheritance He has prepared for each one of us. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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 the salvation and healing that we have received from Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, our High Priest and the One Who offered Himself to free us from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death. The Lord Jesus as mentioned in our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews is the One Who has liberated us and brought us to the hope of eternal life and glory.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke at length for the past two weeks’ weekday readings regarding the nature and the role that Christ had as the Mediator of the New Covenant that God had made with us all mankind. As the High Priest, He was the One to intercede for our sake, gathering our prayers and petitions, and therefore, our cry for help and mercy. He offered not the imperfect and inadequate offerings of lambs and animals, burnt offerings and others that the priests up to then had offered from time to time again for the people’s sake.

Jesus offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the perfect and worthy offering for all of us, that by laying down His life on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He shed His Most Precious Body and Blood, and by which we have been saved. For the offering of our High Priest has been accepted by God and the Lord has willingly forgiven us all through the Mediator of this New Covenant that He had made with all of us. The Lamb that had been slain, our High Priest, has shown us the pure and true face of God’s enduring love.

In our Gospel today, that is what we have seen as well, through the Lord’s healing of all those who came to Him seeking for help. He healed all those who were sick and with diseases, cast out evil spirits and freed those who had been possessed by demons. He touched the lives of those who came seeking God, and hence, we too should come and seek Him and find Him, as we are all in need of healing and help.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although we may be perfectly healthy in body, but in truth all of us are sick from sin. Sin is the affliction of our souls, caused by our disobedience and refusal to believe in God and His words. And the only one who can heal us from this affliction is none other than God Himself. But we need to accept Him and seek Him with all of our hearts, full of remorse and regret for our sins too.

Today, we are all called to reflect on this, to appreciate and to be thankful for the gift of God’s love, in just how generous He had been towards us, in caring for us and showing us much compassion despite how we have treated Him, rejected and ignored Him all these while. The Lord wants us all to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and therefore, let us all make the conscious effort to turn ourselves and our hearts once again towards Him.

And today, let us all also be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, in living our lives with faith so that we may come closer to God and be part of His eternal and glorious inheritance that He has prepared for all those who have been faithful to Him. Today in particular we remember the memory of St. Agnes the Martyr, the great Roman saint and martyr whose love for God and dedication was truly well known, and which we should be inspired to follow.

St. Agnes also known as St. Agnes of Rome was a young Christian girl from a noble Roman family who was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. At that time the last great persecution of Christians was occurring throughout the entire Roman Empire, and many people, both the laity and the ordained alike suffered and were martyred. St. Agnes herself was still very young at the time, and she had many suitors whom she rejected out of her love and dedication for God.

One of those suitors reported St. Agnes for her Christian faith, which made her to go through great pain and suffering. But when she was to be violated on the order of the authorities, God protected her and struck down blind those who tried to have their way with her. And after other miraculous signs in which the prefect’s own son returned to life after St. Agnes prayed over him, eventually she was stabbed and beheaded by a sword, dying as a holy martyr of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we love God as much as St. Agnes had done? Let us all spend our time and effort to grow ever more in our love and dedication to the Lord, and strive to be ever more faithful with each and every passing moments in life. May God also be with us at all times, strengthening us and giving us the courage to remain firm in our love for Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Scripture all of us are again brought to focus our attention on the love of God that He has shown us all through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord has kindly showed us His mercy and forgiveness, extending to us the compassionate hands of His Son, Our Saviour, to reach out to us and to free us from our bondage to sin and death.

In our first reading today, we continue to hear the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which today’s portion focused on the High Priest of God, Melchizedek, also known as the King of Salem. Melchizedek was a mysterious man who was highly regarded and a High Priest of the Lord no less, just as his title as the king of Salem bring about reminiscence of the name of the city of Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, the place of His holy Temple and House.

That is why, the Lord Jesus, Who is the High Priest of all mankind, the one True High Priest is often compared to Melchizedek. Some traditions and histories even had Melchizedek as a prefigurement of the Messiah and the Son of God, our Lord as the High Priest of all. Nonetheless, regardless of who Melchizedek truly was, Jesus was cast as the High Priest belonging to the order of Melchizedek, just as all of our priests are called the priests of the order of Melchizedek.

The significance of this is that, as High Priest, the Lord Jesus was the One Who offered on behalf of mankind their prayers and offerings. And as what we have discussed and discerned in the past few days, the Lord Jesus is our one and true High Priest, Who offered nothing less than Himself as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins. Through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has redeemed us by the price of His own Body and Blood shed on the Altar of the Cross.

Thus, unlike the other priests and High Priests, through this sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, all of us are assured the salvation in Him. He, our everlasting High Priest has given us this assurance Himself, and He has done everything in order to bring us to Himself, redeeming us from our sins and freeing is from the bondage of sin and from the tyranny of death. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the same love the Lord has shown us by His healing of a paralytic man, even when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised Him for that.

In that account, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law found great issue and were irritated that the Lord continued to perform healing and miracles even on the day of the Sabbath. To the former, the Sabbath was a sacred day dedicated to God that could not be disturbed or used for other purposes, or work. And the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were taking its interpretation to the extreme.

And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that the Law was not made to oppress or make the life difficult for any one of us. Instead, the Law was meant to remind us all to redirect our attention and focus to the Lord, to remind us that the Lord should be the centre of our lives and we should spend time with Him, to love Him and to remember all the kindness He has shown us.

The Sabbath was meant to help the people to overcome the temptation to get away from God and to forget Him just because they were so busy with their lives and their activities. It was not meant to prevent them from doing anything that is useful and good, and especially if good things can be done, even on the Sabbath, then they should be done, and in fact, not doing good and purposefully avoiding doing good is a gross misunderstanding of God’s Law.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through this all of us are therefore called to focus our attention on God, for the love that He has shown us and lavished on us all these while. God has always been kind to us even when we have disobeyed Him, rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him. When we have been stubborn, God has always been patient in reaching out to us with love, and we really should appreciate all of that.

Today, let us all be inspired by our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, both of whom served the Lord wholeheartedly and gave themselves and their lives in defending their faith. Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Church and the faithful during difficult and turbulent years when the Christian populations went through successions of persecutions by the Emperors of the Roman Empire and the state apparatus and authorities.

Pope St. Fabian himself dedicated his life to the service of the Lord and the Church, and took good care of the faithful, and even during those days, risked himself in his activities to provide for them all. In the end, he was martyred during the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius, who was indeed notorious for his particularly harsh persecution. However, Pope St. Fabian remained true to his calling and love for God to the very end.

Similarly, St. Sebastian was also a faithful servant of God, who was a member of the Roman military, secretly being a Christian in a largely pagan forces. It was told that St. Sebastian was a member of the Imperial guard, and at that time, the Emperor Diocletian took over power and governance over the whole Empire. And as the Emperor began a series of intense persecutions of the Christians, the members of the military were also obliged to obey the Emperor and offer sacrifices to the gods and the Emperor.

St. Sebastian steadfastly refused to abandon his faith in God or betray his conscience and love for God, and as a result, he was tortured and forced to recant his faith on the pain of death. To the end, when he was shot with many arrows and put through many other forms of sufferings and pain, St. Sebastian remained firm and committed himself as a true servant of the Lord, dying as a great martyr.

Brothers and sisters, clearly we can see how these two saints truly loved God from their heart, and if they had been able to do so, then should we not do the same as well? All of us ought to be inspired by their examples, and we should also encourage one another to be faithful to the Lord, to understand His laws and ways, and to love Him from our heart, and not just give Him lip service or fake faith.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our every endeavours. May God bless us always, and may He guide us all to eternal life and glory in Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today that God is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us and our ancestors, and that He has loved us all beyond everything else, with a love so pure and great, that He has promised and made oath through the Covenant, that He will bless us forever and gather us all into His presence, unless we ourselves reject Him and refuse to believe in Him.

And this Covenant He has fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, sent into the world to be our Saviour. The Lord has dedicated Himself to us that He willingly embraced us personally, and descending from the heavens, He assumed our human nature and existence, that His love became concrete and tangible in Christ. Through the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the proven love of God in the flesh.

Then in our Gospel today, we heard of the confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His disciples because the disciples were picking on the grains in the field as they were hungry. Because this happened on the Sabbath day, by the strict literal interpretation of the law of God revealed by Moses and the Jewish traditions, that was considered as a violation of the Law of God. The law of the Sabbath stipulated that there should be no action or work done on that day.

However, if one were to understand the intent and purpose of the law of the Sabbath, then we will realise that the law of the Sabbath was not meant to oppress man and impose hardships on them, especially when they were in trouble or were in need. In fact, there had been occasions when the law was overruled such as when the Israelites agreed to act on the Sabbath when their enemies were about to overwhelm and destroy them on the Sabbath during the Maccabean rebellion.

And of course there was also the example presented by the Lord Jesus on the much revered King David of Israel himself with his men, when they were tired and hungry after being chased by their enemies during the difficult early years of his refuge from king Saul. King David and his men ate of the bread that was preserved only for the use of the priests in the House of God.

In all of these, we can see that the Law of God was not a law that is so strict and unreasonable, unlike how they were interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who grew proud of their interpretation of the law and their own enforcement of such standards on the rest of the faithful, forgetting that the Law of God was first and foremost intended for the people of God to find their way and return to the Lord, that they may learn to love the Lord, Who has loved them first before all else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we listened to these readings from the Scripture, we are all reminded of the wonderful love which the Lord has shown to each and every one of us, the generous love by which He has blessed us all these while, from the smallest among to the greatest, from the greatest of sinners to the greatest of the holy ones, all without exception.

The Lord wanted us all to find Him and to respond to His call when He calls, that we may find our way in this increasingly darkened world, that we will not lose our way in our journey of life. Are we willing to look for the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him, brothers and sisters? Let us all reflect on this as we discern the meaning and importance of the words of the Lord that we have just heard today.

Let us all spend some time to thank the Lord in our hearts, and be appreciative of all that He has done for us. Let us all draw ever closer to Him and be ever more faithful at all times, and dedicate ourselves to Him, in our every actions and every commitment in life. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today we heard first of all the continuation of the discourse on the High Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, highlighting the role of the Lord Jesus that He took in order to bring the people of God to salvation through Him and His ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross.

The author first began by highlighting the role that priests had in those days, as according to the law of God revealed through Moses, the priests were to offer sacrifices for the sake of the people, for many purposes. But those sacrifices were especially meant as means for mankind to be reconciled with God, for through those sacrifices, God would then forgive the people their sins. The priests interceded for the sake of the people as they offered the sacrifices on the Altar.

However, those sacrifices, which involved the offering of slaughtered animals like lambs and doves, were not permanent and lasting, and the priests had to offer the sacrifices again and again for themselves as well as for the people, for all were sinners and fell again and again into the traps and temptations to sin. And therefore the priests had continued offering the sacrifices for the people’s sins for all the centuries right up to the time of Jesus and His ministry.

The Epistle to the Hebrews directed at the believers from among the Jews and the Jewish people in general explained that with His coming, the Lord Jesus has brought about the perfection of the old Law, by revealing Himself as the one and Eternal true High Priest for all of us. He is the High Priest Who offered the one and final offering for the sake of our salvation, and by His offering, He has opened the path for all of us to reach God’s grace and everlasting love.

The Lord Jesus offered not the blood and sacrifice of animals on the Altar like what the priests had done earlier. Instead, He as the High Priest, was also the sacrificial Lamb of offering, the Paschal Lamb that was slain for us on the Altar of the Cross, when the Lord bore His Cross to Calvary and died, shedding His Precious Body and Blood for the sake of all of us. From the Cross, He lifted up that perfect and most worthy offering to His heavenly Father, completing once and for all the redemption of all mankind.

This is what we have heard from the Gospel passage today as well. In that passage we heard the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who argued with the Lord and asked Him why He and His disciples did not fast as stipulated by the laws of God revealed through Moses, which the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John the Baptist did. And then, the Lord said that He was revealing the truth about all things, and using the parable of the wine and wineskin, the new and old piece of cloth, He told them all of the new way that He Himself was about to show them.

That parable of the wine and the wineskin, as well as the parable of the new and old pieces of cloth spoke of the incompatibility between old and new ways, the old and new practices. The Lord was highlighting the differences between the way that the Law used to be practiced and interpreted, and preserved by the Pharisees, and the truth that He had then brought to the midst of the people.

The Lord has made a New and everlasting Covenant with each and every one of us, as our one and true Eternal High Priest. No longer that the sin offerings and animal sacrifices need to be made, for the Lord Himself has offered the perfect offering to the Lord, His own Self, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, slaughtered and made to die on the Altar of the Cross. And by His own Precious Blood, He sealed this New Covenant between God and us mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard today’s readings, let us all first of all be grateful of the great love that the Lord has for each and every one of us, that for our sake, He willingly went through the worst of sufferings, and picked up upon Himself our punishment, that through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, He may free us all from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death, and by sharing in His Resurrection, we too may enter into the glorious new existence and life in Him.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us on our journey of faith, at all times. May all of us grow ever stronger in faith and our love of the Lord, so that no matter what happens, we will be ever faithful and be good witnesses of our Christian faith, our love for God, in our communities, as shining beacons and examples of the truth of God, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, all of us heard the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures reminding us that all of us have been called and chosen by Him and we are all called to respond to His call for us to follow Him and to be His disciples. And this is in essence, what it truly means for us to be Christians, that we devote ourselves to the Lord and do what He has commanded us to do, His will and commandments.

In our first reading today we heard of the calling of the prophet Samuel when he was merely just a young boy in the care of Eli, the Judge and leader of Israel. The Lord called Samuel, who was sleeping and was still so young that he had not yet comprehend who the Lord truly was. He thought that Eli had called him and came to ask him again and again, only for Eli eventually to realise that the Lord had called Samuel. And Samuel answered the Lord call innocently and honestly, and God was with him through his life from then on.

Samuel would become a great leader over all of Israel succeeding Eli, as Judge and Leader, as well as a great Prophet and also a Priest of the Lord, for Jewish tradition stated that he belonged to the tribe of Levi. Samuel dedicated his life to the Lord, guiding and shepherding all of the Israelites through difficult moments, especially when they fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord. He gave Israel their first king when he anointed Saul as the king of Israel after the people complained and insisted to have a king over them. And even still he did not stop doing works for the sake of the people.

All the more in fact Samuel’s work grew as we should know how king Saul eventually disobeyed the Lord and became unfaithful. Samuel often stood up against Saul and rebuked him for his unfaithfulness, something that must have indeed required a lot of courage and faith, which Samuel had in his service to the Lord and His people. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel to replace Saul, and although he was to disappear from the records of the Scripture not long afterwards, likely as he was already very old at that time, but his contributions to the people of God cannot indeed be underestimated.

In our Gospel reading then we heard of the calling of the first disciples by the Lord, when He came to the River Jordan and was baptised by St. John the Baptist, and then the latter revealed to two of his own disciples Who Jesus really was, the Lamb of God and promised Messiah or Saviour of the world. Those disciples, one of whom was St. Andrew the Apostle, then decided to follow the Lord and asked Him firstly where He stayed.

The Lord then asked them to follow Him, and from then on, they were convinced by the Lord, and St. Andrew introduced Him to his brother Simon, as well as the other fishermen, the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. St. Andrew introduced the Lord as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. The Lord called them to follow Him as well, and they all followed the Lord as well, leaving behind their boats and professions, and walked with God from then on.

The Lord gave Simon a new name, that is Cephas, the Aramaic word for ‘stone’, which is Greek is Petros, and in Latin, Petrus, and thus, henceforth, he would be known as St. Peter the Apostle. They all followed the Lord, and with other followers and disciples, listened to the Lord, did what He asked them to do, and eventually, after His Passion, death and Resurrection, were commissioned and sent to the many peoples of the nations, establishing the Church of God.

In those two readings therefore we heard of the Lord calling His people to follow Him, with the example of Samuel, when he was but just a young boy, and then the poor fishermen of Galilee, the brothers Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee. They all acted on the Lord’s call, responded, not just with words, but with action and eventually, a lifetime of dedication and commitment. Samuel dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and all the brothers-turned-Apostles mentioned suffered martyrdom for their faith and dedication.

How about us all then, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all as well, through our common baptism. As we become part of the Church through baptism, we have had a share in the same calling and mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and followers, especially the Great Commission, to ‘go forth to the nations and be witnesses of the Lord and His Good News, and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

All of us share in this same mission by our common baptism, and all of us are urged to be active in contributing ourselves to the works of the Church, and to live our lives as good and faithful Christians at all times and in all things. We cannot call ourselves as Christians unless we are active in living our faith, and doing whatever we can to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites who believe one thing and then act in a different and even contradictory way.

Then, if we are all wondering if we are up to the task of doing what we have been called to do, we should look no further than those whom the Lord Himself had called. Samuel was just merely a boy when he was called, while the fishermen of Galilee were illiterate, poor, unknown and had no prior experience in the faith. They had little knowledge of the Scriptures and little wealth or means to support themselves. But that was where then they learnt to trust in the Lord, to allow the Lord to lead and guide them, to teach them and show them the way to go to.

That was also the contrast between them and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were highly educated and highly knowledgeable on the Scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and the elders. Many of them refused to believe in the Lord and follow Him because they presumed that they knew more and better than others. It was this ego and pride that became stumbling block in their way to the Lord. But some among them, like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and others, they were humble and willing to listen to the Lord, and thus, were counted among the Lord’s disciples themselves.

We can see that one does not have to be qualified and capable to follow the Lord. A poor man can be a disciple just as a rich man can, a man without education or much knowledge, intellect or abilities can be a follower of the Lord just as a smart or genius can, and a sinner, no matter how great, can also be a follower of the Lord, provided that the sinner is willing to abandon his or her sinful ways, turn their back against their past, wicked ways, and embrace the Lord fully and be His true disciple.

Aren’t all of us sinners too, brothers and sisters in Christ? Whether our sins be small or great, in some way or another, we have sinned against Him, and even after we have been baptised, we may end up falling again and again into sin through the many temptations present all around us. But this should not discourage us from embracing the Lord and responding to His call. Just as He has called His disciples from all sorts of origins, and some, like His own Apostles, were sinners, and committed sins and faults, like how St. Peter denied the Lord three times at His Passion, and how the others abandoned Him at the same time, no disciple of the Lord is perfect.

Instead, we must allow the Lord to take our imperfections, and allow Him to lead us down the path towards perfection in Him. For the Lord made worthy those whom He had chosen, and not we who make ourselves worthy for the Lord. If we think that we are more worthy than others, that is when we allow pride and ego, jealousy and ambition to cloud our thoughts and judgments, distracting us from our true intention and purpose of following God. Rather, we should focus on the Lord and our faith in Him, and discern in what way we can contribute for the work of the Church.

We should make use of this opportunity to make use of whatever God has given us to be the true witnesses of our Christian faith, by being exemplary in life and in all the things we do, in our every interactions and in even the smallest actions we carry out daily. In our second reading today, St. Paul reminded all of us that we are all the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. By our baptism, the Lord Himself has dwelled among us, and being present within us. Therefore, we should do our very best to uphold an exemplary Christian life, one that is filled with genuine action and righteousness.

Let us all not worry about how we are going to follow the Lord. Have faith in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His hands just as how the Apostles had done, and He will lead us down the right path. And the Lord will make us all worthy, strengthening and empowering us to do what He wants us to do, in glorifying His Name and proclaiming His truth in the world today. Let us all be the beacons of God’s light, living an honest and good Christian living that our lives will become genuine examples and inspiration for others to follow.

May the Lord Who calls us to be His disciples be with us always and bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, that we may serve Him from now on, in leading more and more souls to the salvation in God, continuing the good works began by the Apostles and faithful servants of God, following Him faithfully like them and the prophet Samuel of old. Amen.

Saturday, 16 January 2021 : 1st 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 all of us are presented through the readings of the Sacred Scripture, the truth of God’s love and compassionate nature, and His desire to seek us and to love us all once again, as He has shown us through Jesus Christ, His one and only beloved Son, Who came into this world to be our Saviour, and not just any one’s Saviour, but for everyone, without exception, even to the worst of sinners.

That is why today we are presented with the story of the calling and conversion of Levi, the tax collector in our Gospel passage today. Levi was the name of St. Matthew the Apostle before he was called by the Lord and embraced the calling to be an Apostle. Levi was a tax collector, which as a group of people were greatly hated and reviled within the community by the rest of the Jewish people.

The tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation for their work in collaborating with the Romans in collecting the much hated taxes, the symbol of the Roman dominance over the region. And they were also seen as greedy and haughty, seeking to enrich themselves over the others, many of whom were living in poverty and destitution. However, in truth many of them were really no different from all others, those who seek a living in difficult and turbulent times.

What the people thought of the tax collectors were biases and prejudices that were sustained by the elders as a means to seek scapegoats to place the people’s hatred and all the blame for the misfortunes and challenges that they faced. When the Lord came to Levi and called him to be His follower, it was with this mentality that many others had seen the tax collectors like Levi all that time.

Yet, Levi showed us and all the people that tax collectors were not necessarily evil as they had often been painted as, and they were in fact good and just people too, in their own way. And Levi willingly abandoned everything, his job and profession, all that he had in order to follow the Lord. Not only that, he also gathered the other tax collectors, many of whom were evidently also willing to listen to the Lord and seek Him.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to criticise, pointing out to the disciples of the Lord and questioning them why their Lord and Master would sit and have dinner together with sinners, and activity that was often disliked by the elders and the Pharisees as they deemed entering into the house of sinners and being with them to cause them to be defiled by the sins of those sinners.

Yet, ironically, as they pointed out the sins of others, in truth they themselves had failed to realise that they themselves were sinners. And because they were sinners, they should have been like the tax collectors in desiring to seek God for His mercy and forgiveness. Instead, they hardened their hearts and closed them to the Lord, preferring to remain aloof and looking down on others from their high position and maintaining an attitude of self-righteousness.

But this is exactly where they faltered and fell, brothers and sisters in Christ. For while the tax collectors might have committed sins and lived wickedly, yet by listening to God and answering to His call, and as exemplified by Levi, who abandoned everything to follow the Lord and became one of His disciples, even the greatest of sinners could become great saints themselves had they chosen to embrace God’s ways and abandon their sins.

This is a lesson and reminder for all of us never to allow pride and ambition, greed and ego to bring us to our downfall. We should not allow all these to lead us down the wrong path, but instead, following in the examples of Levi, we should seek the Lord and follow Him with all of our heart, He Who is our High Priest and Redeemer as according to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that we have been hearing for the past few days.

May the Lord bless us all and may He strengthen us all our faith, and may He guide us down the right path that each and every one of us may follow Him ever more faithfully. May God be the Light of our lives and be our strength, forgiving us from our sins and faults when we come seeking Him in humility and sincere desire for forgiveness, at all times. Amen.