Tuesday, 28 May 2019 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures speaking to us about the power of God that is always with His faithful ones, how He will not abandon them to the darkness and to all those who seek their destruction. The Lord will provide for them and bless them, as shown in what we heard from our first reading today in the Acts of the Apostles.

In that occasion, the Apostles were arrested by the slave owners of the city of Philippi who likely feared their influence, wisdom and eloquence that they were afraid that their slaves would rise up against them. And when they have been tortured and put into prison, God did not leave them behind, but was with them as He miraculously freed them from prison through an earthquake that broke their chains and the imprisonment of their prison cells.

And not only that, but God even performed an even more wonderful work that night, by breaking yet another bond that has chained another person, not physically but spiritually. The jailer who that night watched the miracle that happened, heard the preaching of the Apostles and witnessed their faith, became a believer himself, and followed by his entire family who gave themselves to be baptised as Christians.

Through that act of faith, the jailer and his family were freed from the bondage and slavery to sin, and God brought them into a new life and existence, no longer following the path of the world but that of the path of Christ and His truth. In today’s Gospel, Christ clearly explained this to His disciples, that He was going away to His Father, so that He can bring about vindication and salvation to all the faithful.

He was in fact referring to the then imminent moment of His own suffering, crucifixion and death on the Cross, by which He would save all those who believe in Him, and free them all from the enslavement to sin and to their darkened past. And He has shown all of them the path of righteousness and truth, as opposed to the path of injustice, of wickedness and of sin, and all those who followed Him will not be disappointed, for they will all be triumphant with Him.

Yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must also be aware and be prepared that to be followers of Christ, often we may have to be exposed and be brought to suffering and persecution, just as what the Apostles experienced because of the opposition of the world and all those who refused to believe in the Lord and in the message of truth that He has sent to them via those Apostles and servants He sent into their midst.

In suffering we may often be tempted to give up on our faith, to accept what is convenient for us and to abandon the righteousness of God, and instead seeking what is good for ourselves. This is how sin continues to reign and rule over us for so many years, as the allures of sin and the temptation to remain in the darkness is truly strong, while the commitment and resolve we have in being faithful to God often falters in the face of temptations and the pressures of life.

That is why all of us as Christians must truly live our lives from now on with faith, committing ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, resisting the temptations to sin and seek to be righteous and be obedient in all things, following the commandments and laws of God at all times. Let us ask the Lord to give us the strength and the willpower to commit ourselves and to do what He has commanded us to do, each and every days of our lives.

May the example and the courage of the Apostles be our inspiration and source of strength, to be ever more devoted and to be ever more like Christ in our own lives and in our actions. Amen.

Monday, 27 May 2019 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are reminded that each and every one of us must be connected and attuned to God all of our lives, as the one and only True Vine from Whom all life and all peace and glory comes. This was the parable of the True Vine which the Lord used to reveal all of these to the people, so that they might understand the truth of God.

A vine of grapes is a plant which is connected to each other and to the roots via the vines, which deliver the important nutrients, water and all the things that the plant need in order to live and survive. If the fruit or any of the parts of the plant were to be separated from the main vine and the roots, those parts of the plant cannot possibly survive and grow, and eventually they will die. It is only by remaining attached to the vine that the whole body of the plant will remain alive and well.

The True Vine is Christ, the centre and source of all life. The parts of the plant are all of us, each and every one of us as members of the Church. The Church is the vine, united in its roots to Christ, as the Head of the entire Church. And unless we remain in good standing in faith within our Church, and remain firmly united with Christ through the Church, by our good and faithful lives, we are in fact separated from the True Vine of Christ.

In the same way therefore, if we remain separated from the Vine, there can be no life in us. And as the Gospel passage mentioned today, that the Lord pruned the vine from time to time to keep it growing and producing fruits well, unless we bear good fruits in our lives, eventually we shall be sundered and separated from that vine. These fruits are the fruits of our good labour in faith, of our loving commitment and dedication in serving God and in loving our fellow men.

In truth, God has given us all the skills, the abilities, the resources and all that is necessary for us to bear good fruits of faith. He has planted in us the good seeds of faith, of hope and of love, since the moment when He created us and reaffirmed through our baptism, by the Sacraments of the Church that we received. But whether these seeds will grow well and healthily and produce good fruits depend on whether we allow the Lord to enter into our lives, and by being connected to Christ, the True Vine.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of our holy predecessors whose life and examples may become a source of inspiration for us in how we ought to live our own lives. St. Augustine of Canterbury was a great missionary who was sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great to begin the effort of the re-Christianisation of the land later on known as England, after decades of pagan invasions that destroyed much of the earlier Christian communities there.

St. Augustine of Canterbury worked tirelessly among the people, the nobles and their kings, preaching to them the word of God and showing them the truth of the Gospel, while caring for the need of his flock and reestablishing the foundations of the Church in England. Through his efforts and much time spent at working among the people and caring for the needs of his flock, many converted to the Christian faith and the mission flourished quickly.

The fruits of the works and labours of St. Augustine of Canterbury can be seen from the reestablishment of the Christian faith in England, although it would take many more decades after the time of St. Augustine of Canterbury before the whole England could be converted back to the Christian faith. His dedication and commitment to the Lord is an example to all of us, in how we ourselves should act in ways that follow the Lord’s path.

Let us all therefore be fruitful as Christians, devoting our time, effort and attention to be as loving, committed and be as Christ-like as we can in our every words and actions, in all the things we do, so that our lives will truly be filled with the fruits of God’s love and grace. May God bless us all and may He continue to guide us in our path. Amen.

Sunday, 26 May 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the sixth in the holy season of Easter, all of us are reminded through the Scripture passages of the need for us all to love God and to be His true disciples, obeying His commandments and all that He has taught us to do, to be filled with love and to be open to His presence in our hearts, minds and in our whole beings, so that we truly can be called, God’s people and God’s children.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the dispute and infighting that arose among the faithful, between those who wanted to impose the Jewish laws and ordinances regarding circumcision and other practices in accordance to the laws of the Old Testament, that is of Moses and the practices as described in the Torah to all of the Christian faithful including the non-Jewish peoples, and those who wanted to relax and prevent the strict imposition of the Law on the Gentiles.

Through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord received the guidance of wisdom and truth, and not to be misled by pride, greed and all the things that often cause us mankind to be divided and to be filled with jealousy, anger and hatred towards one another. Instead of siding with one faction or the other that could have led to an even greater division and conflict, the Apostles ruled firmly through the wisdom of God that the Gentiles should not be made to obey and to follow the entirety of the Jewish practices and customs, while not ruling out the Jewish followers of Christ from doing so.

Ultimately, we have to understand carefully the context and background behind such a conflict, on why some of the people were so passionately filled with the desire to impose such a law and regulation on all the faithful. First of all, the Law of God was first revealed to His people, the people of Israel through Moses, who received the Ten Commandments as the core of the Law, while also receiving the set of laws and rules, as laid out in the book of Leviticus and the other books of the Torah.

These laws and rules were numerous, governing everything in the society, all sorts of daily living and regulations. And over time, all of these were compounded and added with the unwritten traditions and customs preserved by the elders of the people, which were meant to govern the behaviours of the people, especially because they often went wayward and refused to follow the Lord’s path, even early on in their journey just after they left Egypt.

The Lord Himself said that He had given His people those laws and rules not because He wanted to impose Himself on them, but rather because they had been so unruly, rebellious and filled with disobedience that He had to impose those laws and rules to make sure that they conformed to His ways. For ultimately, God loves each and every single one of His beloved children, and all the more those whom He had chosen from among the nations to be His own first chosen ones.

If God had not loved His people, He could have just destroyed and crushed them by the power of His will alone, and yet He did not do that. Instead, He went through all the trouble to discipline His people, to guide them back to the right path, giving them the right guidance and provide them with the best opportunities for them to seek Him back, to be reconciled and to be forgiven from their sinfulness.

That is because unless they turned back from all those rebellious and wayward actions they have done, they would fall deeper into sin, and therefore became separated ever further from God, their loving Father and Creator. How can any father just let his children to go and fall into such a state? And this is not just any father like any one of us, but God, our ever loving and ever dedicated Father, Who created us out of the perfect love He has for us.

Unfortunately, the people often forgot what it is that they need to do in order to love their heavenly Father and Creator. Instead, as what we have seen in our first reading today, those who have ended up making use of the Law in the wrong way, being overly obsessed in its implementation and workings but failing to realise the intention and the purpose of those laws in the first place. They forgot that the Law of God is the Law of love.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us? Are we going to follow in the footsteps of those who prefer division and conflict, disagreements and infighting among ourselves, just so that we can advance our own selfish agenda, desires and push forward our pride and ego? Or are we instead going to follow the path that the Lord has shown us, the path of love, by first loving Him above everything else, and then loving our fellow brethren in the same way we love God and how we love ourselves?

This is our calling as Christians, to bear witness to the love of God, by practicing this love in our own lives, and we love God first and foremost because He has loved us so much first, that as our second reading passage from the Book of Revelations show us, God Himself has prepared a place for us in the heavens, the heavenly Jerusalem and the place of our true existence, by the side of God, no longer separated from Him and free from the bondage to sin and death.

Let us all therefore from now on seek to love more in our own lives, loving God and loving our fellow men to the best of our abilities. Let us all seek God and His generous love, and strive to love Him to the best of our abilities, from now on, that we may be reconciled with Him and be reunited with Him in His presence, and enjoy forever the glory of His kingdom as He promised to all of us, His beloved and faithful ones. Amen.

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding all of us that as God’s people and as His followers, we are called to serve Him and to do His will, and sometimes, throughout our journey and ministry we will encounter challenges and difficulties that may cause us to lose hope or even lose faith, as persecution, oppression and all sorts of difficulties may come in our path.

But regardless of the hardships and the persecutions that the faithful had to encounter throughout their lives, all of those did not prevent them from continuing to love God and to dedicate themselves to Him. Throughout the history of the Church there had been many occasions when the persecution of the Church and the faithful only led to the faith of the people of God to become even stronger.

And that is because the faithful people of God supported each other and comforted each other in times of sorrow and distress, in times of challenges and persecutions, amidst trials and all the obstacles that the world has arrayed against them. The examples and courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord in standing up for their faith and for their tireless dedication in service became a great motivation and inspiration for all the faithful.

The courage and steadfastness of the holy martyrs and saints became great inspiration and strength to all those who were suffering because of persecutions and trials of the world, and the fire and zeal the disciples and martyrs had shown inflamed the hearts and minds of all the faithful and became a beacon of hope and guiding light in times of distress and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are also celebrating the feast of several holy saints of God whose lives have been truly exemplary and influential in inspiring the faithful throughout the centuries past, namely that of St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi. These saints have shown us all how we ought to act and believe as God’s people through their wonderful and loving actions.

St. Bede the Venerable was remembered for his dedication to the field of Christian teaching and contemplative life, having taught many of the renowned Christian authors and preachers of his time, and having dedicated much of his time to the study of the faith, as well as of philosophy and theology. Through his many works and contributions, his tireless dedication and commitment, many people received the goodness of God’s salvation.

Meanwhile Pope St. Gregory VII was meanwhile remembered for the struggle that he encountered in what was known as the ‘Investiture Controversy’ regarding the nature of secular and religious power. At that time, the secular powers of the world tried to gain advantage and influence over the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor then tried to impose his will on the broader Church, by implying that he had greater authority even that of the Pope, who is the leader of the Church.

Despite the challenges and difficulties, Pope St. Gregory VII persevered through the challenging times, resisting the many efforts of the secular rulers who tried to undermine the power and the influence of the Church, putting the interests of the Lord and His Church above that of the interests of the corrupt leaders of the world, both that of the secular powers and also those within the Church who succumbed to the temptations of power and money.

Then, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a renowned religious and mystic who lived her life in total commitment to God, devoting her time, effort and attention to serve the Lord, and so attuned she had been to the Lord, that she experienced series of visions which she related and shared that others might also come to believe in God and in His truth and salvation. Ultimately, all these saints have shown us what it means for us to be true Christians, not just in words but also in actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples shown by these three saints, as well as the innumerable examples of the many other saints, holy men and women of God who had shown us how to be true disciples of the Lord in all the things we say and do in our lives. May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to strengthen us all as we continue walking down our lives with a renewed faith and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly. Amen.

Friday, 24 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the commandments of God yet again, to love one another as we have loved God and ourselves, to give our love from our hearts and be sincere in the offering and giving of ourselves to our fellow men. And this has been the distinguishing feature of our Christian faith from the very beginning.

In the early Church, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, there was once bitter division and feud between the opposing factions in the Church, between those who wanted to impose the rigours and strict observations and standards of the Jewish customs and laws on the whole community of the faithful and those who wished to relax the draconian and rigorous imposition of such laws on the whole Christian community.

But in all the bickering and conflict, they forgot that the most important thing for all Christians to do is not to be paying attention or putting the focus on these trivial matters that distract them all from doing what they have been called and commanded to do, that is to love. In their hastiness and focus on the external appearances, instead of doing the will of God, those early Christians ended up causing hurt and troubles to the Body of Christ, the Church.

And in all of these, we are all called to the examples shown by none other than Christ Himself, the Lord of all, Who has shown His love so generously and lovingly, that He sacrificed Himself for the good of all His people, bearing the burden of the Cross and endured the bitter humiliation and pain so that we may all live and not perish. If God had not loved us in such a way, all of us would have perished because of our sins.

And today we remember in particular all those who have also suffered with Christ because of the love and dedication that they had for Him, their faith and commitment in Him and their desire to be part of the larger Universal Church, which had been suppressed and prevented by the circumstances that they had to encounter. On this day we remember therefore our brethren of faith of the Church in China suffering persecution in a way how the early Christians had suffered.

Despite the challenges and difficulties they faced, the faithful there still held on fast to the hope in God and to the assurance that Christ had brought into this world that no matter how they had suffered, but God and His faithful ones will be triumphant in the end. God has always been with His people, and through His mother Mary, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary, God has always watched over them and protected them.

That is why today, on which day one of the Marian feasts recognised by the Church, that is of Our Lady of Sheshan, we also remember her as the Help of Christians, as when the troubles, challenges and persecutions of the world come upon the faithful, it is to Mary that many of them turn towards, just as children turn towards their mother seeking for protection, guidance and loving care, so do us the faithful turn to our blessed Mother for help and protection.

Today, let us all keep in our prayers, our brethren in faith in China, as well as many others around the world, who truly love God genuinely and desire to worship Him and to be His followers, and yet, facing intense persecution and challenges at the same time, just because they are Christ’s disciples. And this is where we can truly grow in our love for God, just as these brethren of ours truly love God so deeply and sincerely from their hearts.

If we have thus far taken our faith for granted and not being sincere and true in our love for God, then perhaps now is the time for us to change our mindset, our attitude and our way of living our faith lives. Let us all draw closer to God, thanking Him and loving Him for each and every moment He has loved us so dearly, and love our brethren and keep them in our mind, at every possible moment. Amen.

Thursday, 23 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the commandments of God that He has presented to us and commanded us to do, that is to be the bearers of love, in all the things we say and do, so that towards our fellow men, our brothers and sisters we will always act with charity, with care and compassion to each other, putting best interests of each other at the forefront of our minds.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the continuation of the passage from yesterday’s set of Scripture passages, in which we heard about the bitter division and conflict between the disciples of the Lord, among those who wanted to impose the whole strict observation of the laws of Moses to the rest of the believers and those who wanted to excuse the non-Jewish believers from the strict and tough observation of those laws.

And the Apostles, led by St. Peter mediated the situation, and made all of the faithful to come to a peaceful and harmonious conclusion, in which everyone agreed to a collaborated decision not to enforce the whole strict observation of the laws of Moses to the whole body of the Christian faithful, as long as everyone observed the central tenets of the Christian faith, essentially centred and focused on the commandments that God had given to His people, the commandments of love.

First of all, the laws of Moses itself were founded upon the same foundation, as God has revealed not a different but in fact the same Law through Moses, although imperfect in nature and revelation. The Ten Commandments that God gave to His people through Moses as the Lord Jesus Himself said, could be summarised into the fully revealed commandments that Christ Himself bestowed upon us, that is the love for God and the same love that we need to show our fellow men.

All the whole laws and rules, regulations and customs, practices and actions required by the laws of Moses ultimately stemmed from this core and essential commandment of love. But over time, the practice and the external appearances of these rules and regulations took more and greater importance than the essence and heart of the Law itself, that is love.

Those people who wanted to impose the harsh fullness of the laws of Moses on all the believers wanted to do so because they put the appearances and external applications of the Law over the true obedience and adherence to the Law of God, the Law of love. They have forgotten than God does not seek or desire all those external appellations and excessive showcasing of one’s faith, if love is not present in each and every actions they did.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now each and every one of us as Christians are also called to reflect on our own lives. Have we been truly bearers of God’s love in our lives, through our every actions, words and deeds? Have we committed ourselves in everything to follow the will of God and to be filled with love in all things, in all that we do and in our every actions? Have we been living our lives thus far with real and genuine faith or have we instead been living our lives lacking in faith?

If we have thus far only obey the Lord externally and not inwardly, meaning that we have followed the rules and precepts of the Church, in attending the Holy Mass and doing what we have been commanded to do, and yet in our hearts God is not truly present, as shown by the lack of genuine love in our lives, then perhaps it is time for us to reevaluate our lives and actions from now on.

Let us all turn towards God with love, and let us all commit ourselves anew to Him with a new courage and commitment to love Him each and every days of our lives, and show the same love towards our fellow brethren. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the message of the words of the Scripture which speak to us about the importance for us all to be firmly attached to the Lord, as we cannot be separated from Him and hope or expect to be able to receive His graces, much as a branch separated from the vine or the tree cannot survive on its own, having depended on the tree and the vine for nourishment and support.

That was why the Lord Jesus used the parable of the vine in order to bring His point across, as He revealed to them just how each and every one of us who believe in Him must be united to Him and with Him, so that we do not act in ways that create division, separation, dissension and cracks in the Body of Christ, the Church. We must not allow our own pride, ego and stubbornness from causing us to be divided against each other.

It is when we begin to put our own desires, our own wants and desires ahead of the commitment we have as Christians that we become detached from God and from His love and grace. It was never God Who cast us out from His presence as His great love and compassion for each and every one of us would not have allowed that to happen. Rather, it was our own conscious and persistent choice to sunder ourselves from God that had caused this to happen.

In the first reading today, we heard an example of this action happening as the Acts of the Apostles recounted to us what happened when a bitter friction and factional dispute arose between the disciples and the communities of the faithful, with the hardline Jewish Christians who wanted to adhere strictly and closely to the laws of Moses on the other side, and other Jewish Christians and those sympathetic to the Gentiles or non-Jewish people who wanted to relax the rigorous application of the Mosaic law.

Those who wanted to impose the whole laws of Moses and its rigorous practices as encapsulated within the traditions of the Jewish people refused to back down and insisted that all those who believe in Christ must also obey the laws of Moses in their entirety, or else they could not be members of the Church. But this created a lot of problems for those who wanted to be believers, and yet did not practice the Jewish customs.

In order to better understand the context and circumstances we should understand first that at that time, the Jewish customs were seen as strange and even abnormality by many of the people in the Roman Empire, especially the Greeks and the Romans who abhorred the practice of circumcision as well as the religious dietary prohibitions among many others that would very well have prevented many from being able to openly live as Christians should the laws of Moses be imposed on all Christians.

It was sadly however, the insistence and stubbornness of those who refused to back down from their argument and wanted their way to be pushed through that caused such bitter division and disagreement within the Church. And if we look through the whole history of the Church, the divisions and disagreements we see in the Acts of the Apostles is just one of many other disagreements and divisions within the Church.

And these divisions and disagreements cause the faithful to be separated from the True Vine that is God, as they began to focus on their own selfish desires and thoughts, their own ideas and their own ways rather than listening to and following the will of God. And this is where the devil will indeed have rich harvest, as those who have been separated from God will be easy picking for him to attack and conquer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us should reflect instead on the life and examples of St. Rita of Cascia, a notable saint and holy woman whose life has precisely shown that all of us should put aside our differences and learn to find the path of peace and reconciliation with God and with one another. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered for her patience and dedication to her family.

She did not have an easy life, and from her youth, she had endured many forms of sufferings and troubles, and she had to witness her own husband killed by another family his husband’s family was feuding with, and left to care for her children on her own. She dissuaded her sons from taking revenge on her deceased husband, even though her husband’s family was trying to goad her sons to do so.

When her sons was seemingly set on seeking the path of revenge following what her husband’s family had demanded, St. Rita of Cascia prayed fervently to God asking for them to be taken away from this world rather than for them to sin because of violence and murder. And indeed, miraculously, both of her sons passed away within a year from a terrible disease that struck the place, saving them from mortal sins that could have made them to end in hell.

This is a reminder to all of us that we should seek to be united to God and to be reconciled with each other, following the passionate example of St. Rita of Cascia who tried to overcome the bitter divisions that affected her own family, and also of the Apostles who tried to unite the bitterly divided factions and groups in the early Church as mentioned in our first reading today.

Let us all draw closer to God and do our best in order to serve Him and put Him at the centre of our lives so that instead of being divided because of our own ego and pride, we can grow instead in the love of God and be more united with one another through Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.