Thursday, 20 January 2022 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the love that God has shown us by His many ways of extending His help and providence to us. God reached out to us through the people we encounter in our lives and He also sent us none other than His own beloved Son to be our Saviour. Through Him and His coming into our midst, we have heard the Lord’s love manifested and giving us all a new hope.

In our first reading today we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Samuel in which the story of David and how he was almost harmed by King Saul out of jealousy and fear was brought to us. At that time, David was a servant of the king, a great warrior and leader entrusted with the forces of the Israelites, and David became very famous especially after he managed to defeat the great Philistine champion, Goliath, the story of which we heard just earlier yesterday.

David had also been anointed as the new chosen King over the Israelites by Samuel himself, as the one whom God had chosen to be the leader over His people in place of King Saul. Saul came to know that David was the one chosen to be his successor, and he was overcome with fear, resulting in him attempting to bring harm upon David. Fortunately for David, he came to befriend Jonathan, one of the sons of King Saul who favoured and liked him. As such, he was able to evade Saul’s attempts to harm him.

David had to endure difficulties and challenges because of his growing popularity and the fact that God had chosen him as the successor to Saul, and he even had to go into exile and hiding when Saul wanted to kill him. Jonathan, the son of Saul helped him to escape and from then on, David went on a journey from place to place, evading Saul while trying to do good for the people of God. God was with him all the way, and eventually he would become the King of Israel.

Then, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus and His disciples were going around from place to place, ministering to the people of God, and He healed many of those who were sick among them, casting out demons from those who were possessed and delivering the truth of God, revealing the true purpose and intention of the Law so that they may come to believe in God and be saved by following His path in their lives.

The Lord’s coming into this world, Him dwelling in our midst as the manifestation of God’s love in the flesh, to be our Saviour, is a proof of His ever enduring love and compassionate nature, in all that He has done for us, in calling us to follow Him and in showing us the way and path towards eternal life and true happiness with Him. And as long as we remain faithful to Him and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us through His Church, we shall have that assurance from God.

We have no need to be afraid of the challenges and trials facing us, because God Himself is with us, journeying with us and guiding us down our way. Just as He has provided for David, He will also provide for us all as well. Today, we have two saints whose feast we are celebrating, whose lives can be great inspiration for us to follow. These two servants of God, Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had endured great tribulations for their faith, and yet they remained faithful to the Lord, enduring those sufferings with great faith and commitment to the very end.

Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult years of persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors and the state. He was chosen when according to tradition, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, in the sight of the assembled faithful. He was credited with the evangelisation and the efforts to spread the Good News in Gaul, what is today part of France. This happened during a relative lull and relaxation in the harsh persecution of Christians.

However, the rise of Emperor Decius to power ended the temporary halt to persecutions and this was accompanied with renewed attack against the Christian communities, in which many of the faithful were arrested and persecuted, and many among them suffered martyrdom for their faith. He ordered all the subjects of the Empire to offer incense to the images and figures of the Roman deities, the pagan gods and the idol of the Emperor, which were refused by the Christian communities as idolatrous.

That was how Pope St. Fabian became one of the first to suffer persecution and then martyrdom under the reign of the new Emperor, either through imprisonment or execution according to different Apostolic traditions. Pope St. Fabian remained faithful to his mission to the very end, giving himself wholly to the works entrusted to him by the Lord. And through his courageous defence of the faith and zeal of evangelisation, he inspired all of us on how to become good and faithful disciples and followers of the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was a soldier who was a high ranking member of the Roman military and likely one of the elite members or even captain of the Praetorian Guards involved in protecting the Emperor. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the other leaders of the Roman state ordered a particularly harsh and brutal persecution of Christians, as they forced the faithful to either obey the order of the Emperor to give offerings to the pagan idols and to abandon their faith or face certain suffering and death.

St. Sebastian according to tradition was involved in the conversion of several prisoners, who became Christians and helped some others to be freed from persecution. Eventually he himself was discovered and when he was confronted to reveal the truth about his conversion, put under arrest and was tied to a tree, and archers were told to shoot their arrows at St. Sebastian. Miraculously, even as endured the torture and pain,St. Sebastian never flinched from his sufferings. He remained strong in faith and was eventually martyred later after he rebuked the Emperor and his actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from our two holy predecessors, we have no need to be afraid or fearful, just as Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had been courageous in the living of their faith to the very end. Like King David, who entrusted himself to the Lord, and God protected him, then we too shall be in God’s good hands. Let us not be afraid against those who can only harm us in body but not our souls. By following God wholeheartedly, we shall find the path to eternal glory and true joy with Him. May God be with us all, and may He empower each one of us to live in His presence, at all times. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded to trust in the Lord and to believe in His love. We should not depend solely only on our own power and abilities. For with God everything is possible, and He will always be with us, guiding us and strengthening us, as He has repeatedly shown again and again throughout our history. As we listened and remembered again the words of the Scripture, we should reflect on how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God in this way.

In our first reading today, we heard the famous account of the battle and struggle between David and Goliath, the former being the champion of the Israelites and the one who have been chosen and anointed by God to be the one to succeed King Saul as the King of Israel, while the latter was the great champion of the Philistines, the people who oppressed the Israelites at that time and attacked the people of God. When the Israelites made a stand against the Philistines, they put the battle to be decided by the single combat between the champions.

Given the stature and physique of David and Goliath, it was apparent to any observers that David should have lost the struggle, as he was a lot smaller and looked less experienced than the mighty Goliath, who was not just an experienced soldier but was also a giant in body. Yet, behind that relatively smaller body of his, David hid a heart burning full of love for God, as when Goliath uttered profanities and curses against God, and when the king himself and all others were afraid, David stood up and answered the giant’s challenge.

When David was chosen as the new King of Israel as we heard in the earlier part of the Book of the prophet Samuel preceding today’s readings, he was neither the mightiest and greatest in stature amongst his brothers. Yet, with his youth and his heart full of faith and zeal, he has wrested lions and bears before to protect his flock of sheep. He killed them with his bare hands and risked his life to protect those that were precious to him. These were the qualities that made God to choose him as his chosen one, through whom the Kingship of Israel would dwell on, and eventually from which the Saviour, God’s own Son would be born.

In our Gospel reading today, the Lord confronted the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who tried to use a sick and paralytic man to trap the Lord and find an excuse or reason to accuse Him of wrongdoing. The Lord stood up for the sick man and rebuked those who tried to use that man to harm Him. He told them the truth and the folly of their constant stubborn arguments, as those people still refused to believe in the Lord even after He had repeatedly explained to them and showed them the truth. They still insisted on their rigid interpretation and understanding of the Law, which was elitist and lacking in compassion towards the marginalised.

Similar to David and Goliath case, the Lord also went up against a powerful opponent as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law represented a powerful force in the Jewish community at that time. Yet, the Lord spoke up the truth and was not deterred at all, just like how David was not afraid to stand up against Goliath, all because of his faith in God and because in the end, God and His way will be triumphant against all others. We do not have to be afraid despite challenges that we may have to face in our respective journeys in life.

That is why we should inspire one another to remain faithful to God, by reminding each other of the presence of God in our lives. Sometimes many of us are often too busy and distracted to realise the presence of God in our midst and therefore, we fall into the temptation of sin, and we give in to despair because we thought that we have no more hope in life, and we are alone in whatever journey and struggles we are going through. We have to believe that the Lord is always by our side, so that no matter what tough challenges and trials we may have to endure in our journey, everything is possible because God is with us.

Let us therefore be inspired today by the words of the Scriptures that we have heard, reminding ourselves constantly how the Lord has guided us and journeyed with us, just as when He helped and guided David in his courageous stand against Goliath, and when He Himself stood up for those who were sick and ostracised, as He reached out to all of them without worry or fear of repercussions from those with the authorities and power to make His works difficult. Let us not easily give in to despair but do whatever we can to do God’s will and do our best in life to be exemplary in life as good and devoted Christians.

May the Lord be with us all and may He empower each and every one of us to follow Him in each and every actions we take. May He also strengthen us and the Church with true unity this week as we celebrate this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are called to remember the Lord’s love for each and every one of us, and how He had endeavoured to do everything for our sake. He sent us His faithful servants to help lead and guide us in our journey through life. He won’t let us to walk down the wrong path without guidance, and for that, He gave us all leaders and kings, and ultimately, His own Son, Who came into our world to be our Shepherd and King.

In our first reading today, we heard the story from the Book of the prophet Samuel, as a continuation of what we have heard earlier this and last week regarding the actions of Samuel and how Saul, the first king that God had appointed to lead the people of Israel had disobeyed Him and led the people into the wrong path through sin. Therefore, God told Samuel to find the one whom He had chosen to be the successor of Saul as the King of Israel.

David was one of the many sons of Jesse, and in fact he was the youngest among all the sons of Jesse. The prophet Samuel came to pay Jesse a visit and he came to call out all of Jesse’s sons in order to see whom among them had been chosen by God to be the new King of Israel. Initially, he thought that the oldest one among them would be the one chosen by God due to his appearance and stature, but God said to Samuel that He did not choose by appearances, but by heart.

Eventually, Samuel anointed David as the King of Israel, as God’s chosen leader for His people, and David would later on prove to be a most faithful servant of God, and while he did make mistakes and erred in several occasions, yet, he still loved God first and foremost, and he ruled over the people of God with justice and virtue. He regretted his sins, mistakes and faults, and repented from them, making the efforts to make amends for those mistakes, often humbling himself before God.

David truly loved God, and he also loved the companions who was travelling with him. As mentioned in our Gospel passage today, during the confrontation between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the Law of the Sabbath, the Lord Jesus mentioned how during his time on the run from King Saul with some of his companions, David took of the bread from the bread of offering that were reserved only for the High Priest, and even also gave some of them for his men to eat, as they were all very hungry.

At that time, during the Sabbath day, the Lord’s disciples who had been travelling with Him during His ministry and works must have been hungry, and therefore, they picked some grains of wheat along the way. To the Pharisees, who often interpreted the Law very strictly, this would be a violation of the Law, and in particular, given the tensions existing between the Lord and the Pharisees in quite a few occasions, it was not surprising that they would have made such an issue over the disciples’ actions.

What the Lord then highlighted to the Pharisees is then a reminder that what is important for us is not to worry about the way we should follow the Law and all the details, just as how the Pharisees were too fixated on those things that they failed to understand the true intention and purpose of the Law. They made use of the Law to elevate themselves above others as well as imposing their will and ideas on everyone they have been entrusted to lead and guide.

As Christians all of us are called to have genuine faith and love for God, in the manner how King David had lived his life, in love and obedience to God, as well as in his love for his fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like many of the Pharisees who failed to love their fellow brethren, ignored the plight of the hungry and the needy, and ostracised those whom they deemed to be sinners and wicked, while praising themselves and placing themselves on a pedestal to gain fame and glory for their own benefits. This is not what it means for us to be Christians.

Let us all therefore renew our faith in the Lord, and do our very best to serve the Lord in our own capacities and in making use of the opportunities that God has given us. Remember, brothers and sisters, that our faith requires us to go out there and be inspiration to others in faith, to show genuine charity and love, concern and compassion for those who need our help and companionship. Let us be truly faithful in all things, and follow the Lord not just for appearances and formality, but dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him. May God bless us all, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Monday, 17 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us to have a new attitude in life when we follow Christ, and not to continue living our lives the way that the world always expects us to live our lives. As Christians we are called to be different in that we follow the path that the Lord has shown us and to embark on this journey of faith in life, with God as our Guide and as our focus. This is our calling as Christians that we should embrace wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel regarding the time when King Saul of Israel disobeyed the Lord and His will, following the whims of his own judgment and desires instead of obeying the Lord completely and trusting in Him. King Saul did not listen to the Lord’s words telling him to completely destroy the Amalekites, a group of people that had always harassed and attacked the Israelites all the way from the time of their Exodus. Instead, King Saul spared their property and wealth, their herd and even their king and women, contrary to the Lord’s words.

As such, because of this disobedience, King Saul led the people of Israel into sin as to him had been granted the leadership and the guidance of the people as the King of Israel. If the leader falls into sin, then so will the people and all those entrusted under him may fall into sin as well. That is why those entrusted with leadership has to be upright, just and committed to the path that they have been called to follow, to be obedient and faithful servant of God in the way that Samuel himself had done, but which King Saul had failed to do.

Saul failed because he allowed worldly ways, customs and habits, all the worldly desires and temptations, the temptations of power, wealth and glory to distract and mislead him down the wrong path. Saul allowed himself to be swayed by those things, and tried to make an excuse of wanting to offer some of those that he spared as offerings to God, but in truth, he did all that he had done because he wanted to increase his own wealth, his own prestige and his own standing, perhaps by negotiating with the Amalekites, and for various other reasons. But this is plain disobedience and refusal to follow God’s path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His words speaking to His disciples and the people, using a parable to make His intent clear to them. The Lord spoke about the parable of the new cloth and old cloth, new wine and wineskin and old wine and wineskin. Through this parable, the Lord wanted to make it clear to all of us that following the Lord often requires us to change our way of life, not to adhere to the past norms of the world and all the things that we usually are accustomed to. This is why, linking to the previous part, the disobedience of King Saul, all of us are called to reflect on this as well.

The Lord used this parable because at that time, the people would have been aware of the way wineskins were used to store wine and how clothes were made and repaired. He used such simple examples as means to deliver His message to the people, to make them aware of what they were supposed to do in order to be His genuine followers. They have to change their ways to suit the path that the Lord has shown them, that is the path of righteousness and justice, of faith and commitment to His truth. They should not remain in their old ways or continue to walk down the path of sin.

As the Lord mentioned in our Scripture passages today, what He wanted from us is not merely just lip service or mere appearances only, as King Saul had intended to do. He wanted to offer sacrifices to the Lord from the ones he spared in the battle against the Amalekites as an excuse for the greed in his heart for power, wealth and majesty. What the Lord needed from us is our love and commitment for Him, for us to live according to what we have been taught to do, through the Church and the Scriptures. And we also have many good role models to follow in that endeavour.

One of them, whose feast day we celebrate today, is none other than St. Anthony the Abbot, also known as St. Anthony the Great. He was one of the earliest Christian monks and one of the pioneers of monasticism in Christendom, dedicating his life to the service of God by withdrawing to the wilderness of Egypt. He left everything he had and dedicated himself to God wholeheartedly. St. Anthony spent many years in this state of spiritual journey and purification, while it was told that the devil often sent other demons and fallen angels to strike at him. He endured it all with faith and grace.

His works then came to fruition with the advent of monasticism in Christianity, as more and more people who considered themselves as his disciples came to follow his examples and began to lead a life of purity and fidelity to God. They strove to seek the Lord and commit themselves to Him, not swayed by the temptations of the world, and changed themselves for the better, much in the same way as the Lord’s exhortations in our Gospel today had been made clear to us, that we ought to change our ways to adapt to that of the Lord’s ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having been inspired by St. Anthony, let us all therefore commit ourselves to the Lord anew with a renewed spirit and zeal. Let us all be ever more genuine Christians not just in appearances only, but even more importantly, in spirit and in all things. May God be with us always and may He empower us that we may walk with Him faithfully, and that we may find it in us to glorify His Name by our every words, actions and deeds. Amen.

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the most wonderful and generous gifts from God to us. God has given us His love and kindness and it is up to us to treasure these gifts from God. He has revealed Himself to us out of love, and revealed the salvation for the whole world through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of hope that the Lord presented to His people, the revelation of what God would do to save all those whom He loved and had called and chosen. At that time, during the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God has faced a lot of trials and tribulations as they suffered the consequences of their disobedience and sins. Their waywardness and refusal to budge from their sinfulness became their undoing, as they faced humiliation one after another.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed and conquered by the Assyrians, who destroyed their cities, razed their capital and brought many of their people into exile in faraway lands of Assyria, Mesopotamia and beyond. And there were many peoples from other countries and places that were brought in to dwell in their place in the land of the ancestors of God’s people, the promised land of Israel. The same fate would eventually fall upon the people of the southern kingdom of Judah as well, after the time of the prophet Isaiah.

That was why, understanding this context, we can see just how significant God’s words of encouragement to His people was. Those words were clear reminders for all of them that God never forgot about them, and although they had often betrayed and abandoned Him, but He still always thought about them and sought them out at every possible opportunities. And while they had to endure the consequences of their disobedience and sins, God wanted them to learn from their mistakes and embrace the forgiveness that He freely offered to them.

In that same passage we then also heard a peculiar reference at the end regarding how the Lord Himself will come to gather His people, and how they will one day again be blessed and be honoured, to be the crown of glory for all to see. And it was also mentioned how the Builder will marry the people, metaphorically represented as the bride. This Builder is a reference to God Himself as the Creator of all, and this symbolised the new union between God and mankind that became a reality in Jesus Christ, the Saviour Who has been prophesied by Isaiah and the other prophets.

For through our Lord Jesus, as He symbolically showed it at the Wedding at Cana in out Gospel passage today, God’s love and salvation for His people has become manifested in the flesh and dwelled among us. He came to us in our moment of need, and as He has shown in the miracle that He performed in the Wedding at Cana, He showed us that through Him everything is possible and that the days of our shame will be behind us if only we trust Him and listen to Him, obeying God’s will and the Law and commandments He has given to us.

At that well-known Wedding at Cana, as many of us would have known, the wedding couple was encountering a particularly difficult and potentially very humiliating problem as they somehow ran out of wine. Regardless of the reason for this shortage, running out of wine at such a happy and great occasion of a wedding is something that would have brought great shame on both the groom and bride, as well as their families, as they were the ones responsible in hosting and preparing for the celebrations.

It was at that moment, that Mary, the Lord’s Mother, who have come to know of the couple’s predicament, came to see Jesus and asked Him to do something to help them. The Lord initially showed His intention not to help as it was not yet His time to do so, and yet, as Mary did not yet give up on trying to help the couple, she told the servants to follow whatever her Son told them to do. That was thus how the Lord performed His first miracle, in a hidden and unknown way, as the servants themselves might not have fully realised what were actually happening.

The wedding couple was saved because they had the Lord by their side, and the celebrations could proceed without any further issues. And it is yet another reminder for us that the Lord always provides, and only if we trust in Him and His love and providence. Sometimes we are too impatient or blinded by our own desires and by the many temptations all around us to be able to see His loving presence in our midst. The Lord has always reached out to us through many people, through others whom we encounter in our daily lives.

Then, as mentioned by St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, that there are many gifts that God had given to us, the gift of intelligence, of speech and of other means to bring happiness to others and joy to many more people. He has given us various talents, gifts and abilities that are unique to each and every one of us. Because of that, all of us are called to reflect on these gifts that we have received and reflect how we can make better use of them in our lives.

All of us have been called by God to be involved in making good use of our various gifts and talents, all the blessings that we have received from the Lord. We should listen to the Lord speaking to us, asking us to do His will and telling us what we ought to do with our lives. We should do our best to live up to our Christian faith and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments to be faithful to God, to be loving to others and to be concerned with the needs of those who are less fortunate than us.

After all, that is what the Lord had done for us, loving us when we have done so many wicked things towards Him, in refusing to listen to Him and in shutting Him out of our hearts and minds. He still patiently reached out to us and offered us His hands, pulling us out of the darkness of our sins, just as He has promised. By His coming into this world, He revealed not just His love but He also took everything upon Himself, gathering all His scattered children from the world, and calling them to Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our baptism we have become a part and member of the Church, the Body of Christ, becoming united to God and to our fellow brothers and sisters, and share in the salvation that the Lord Himself has brought us through His Son. And by the virtue of our baptism too, we have been made sharers in the love and the inheritance that God has promised to us. What remains for us to do is, for us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, and do our best to walk in His path, at all times.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed heart and mind, brothers and sisters, knowing that God has loved us so much, and how beloved we are, that He gave us His Son to be our Saviour. And now, let us listen to Him and obey Him, sin no more and do whatever we can, making use of the talents and opportunities for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and guidance to walk in His path, now and always, and that we ourselves may become great role models for one another. May our lives be fruitful in God and may we always be blessed in all things. Amen.

Saturday, 15 January 2022 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all brought to reflect on the Lord’s intentions in leading us all to Himself, that all may find salvation through Him and be saved. He has revealed to us His amazing love, compassion and kindness, and He will not abandon us to the darkness and destruction. He provided us all that we need and gave us all ultimately, His true love manifested in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel, God had chosen Saul to be the king over His people, after they all had demanded Samuel to give them a king to rule over them. Saul was called from a humble beginning, hailing from one of the smallest and often least important among the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin and also from among its smallest families and houses. Saul was also physically distinctive and imposing, although initially he did not know of what God planned for him.

Samuel then poured the oil over Saul’s head, anointing him as king over all Israel, handing over the leadership and guidance over the Israelites to his hand, as their king and new leader. Samuel told Saul what would be expected of him and he was to keep all the commandments of God and help to guide the people down the right path, and not into the path of sin. But very soon, Saul would disobey the Lord and followed the whims of his own thoughts and desires, which then resulted in the people being misled into sin, just as Samuel himself had warned the people earlier how having a king to rule over them was not necessarily a good thing.

Nonetheless, the Lord still listened to His people and patiently engaged with them despite their repeated transgressions. He did not give up on them and even after many occasions when they betrayed Him and abandoned Him, He still sent prophets and messengers to help and guide them down the right path. The famous prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were among the many other prophets, mentioned or unmentioned, known or unknown, all showing the proof of God’s continued love for His people.

Today in our Gospel passage we heard of the Lord Who came to call a tax collector named Levi, the future St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist to follow Him. Levi quickly left everything behind and followed the Lord, and not only that, but he also introduced the Lord to the other tax collectors and they all invited Him to a dinner at Levi’s house. At that time, tax collectors were the ones who were among the most despised and hated among the people as they were seen as greedy, wicked and self-serving in their actions.

But as we can see from the Gospel passage, those same tax collectors eagerly welcomed the Lord into their midst, listening to Him and paying attention to Him. On the contrary, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, who often criticised the Lord and used the opportunity to further criticise Him for interacting and even visiting the house of a tax collector, often refused to listen to Him and continued to harass Him and His disciples, making it difficult for them to do their work.

The Lord still patiently dealt with them and He also reached out to those marginalised tax collectors, as He Himself mentioned that He came to heal the sinners who are in need of healing. In Him alone there is healing and forgiveness of sins, and therefore He made it all available for them and also for us. And we must remember that the Lord Himself also offered the same healing to those very same Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had often made His life and work difficult. That is just how loving God has been towards us.

Now that we know how beloved we have been by God, then we should embrace His love wholeheartedly and seek Him with a renewed heart and faith, full of zeal and commitment to walk in His path and serve Him at all times. Each and every one of us share in the mission that God has entrusted to us, to be the missionaries of our Christian faith and truth, spreading the Good News of Our Lord to all the ends of the whole world. Through our exemplary life, faith and actions more will come to believe in the Lord and be saved together with us.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live ever more worthily from now on in His presence. May God bless us all in our every actions and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 14 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on Our Lord’s love for us, that He, as our King, has always shown us care and love, His genuine affection and attention all these while, even when we often disobeyed Him and betrayed Him, abandoning Him for various worldly pursuits and desires. The Lord has always shown great patience towards us, and He has always made His intention clear, that He wants us to be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard about how the people of Israel demanded to have a king to reign over them just like that of all their other neighbours. At that time, in truth, although the Israelites had no king to rule over them, God sent Judges to be their guide and leader, to be the ones to help enforce the will of God and the Law and commandments that He had entrusted to His people. The Lord had given many Judges to the Israelites and Samuel was the last of all the Judges of Israel.

As we heard, the people demanded to have a King over themselves, to be ruled by kings as like that of their neighbours. At that time, they had no need for kings because simply God was truly their King, and they were God’s people, and God exercised His will and power through His Judges. Samuel was under great pressure by the people who wanted him to give them a king, and the Lord gave the people what they wanted. Of course Samuel also spoke of the Lord’s words to them, speaking of how the kings that the people had wanted would eventually come to oppress and make their lives difficult, especially when those kings became corrupt and no longer walked in the path of the Lord.

All those things did come to happen, beginning with King Saul himself, the first king of the Israelites who became wayward and no longer fully followed the Lord. His actions increasingly became led by fear and by his own personal ambitions and desires, and that resulted in the sufferings in some people, and also in the long run, some divisions and chaos that ensued before King David stabilised everything again under his rule. Future kings would lead to the division of the people of God and the eventual downfall of Israel by their disobedience and sins.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the Lord Jesus, Who was teaching the people in a building when a paralytic man was brought up to Him. And because there were so many people in that building, they were not able to come near to the Lord, and because of that, they carried the paralytic man atop the building and opened the roof just so that they could lower him before the Lord. Those people must have cared so much for the paralytic man, that they were willing to do all that for him, and they all must have had such faith in the Lord, that He could make him whole again and heal him.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were there took offence when the Lord told the paralysed man that He has forgiven his sins, as they considered that God alone could forgive sins and the Lord was therefore acting blasphemously in doing so. They refused to see reason and truth even after they themselves had likely seen many signs and wonderful things that the Messiah and Holy One of God alone could have done, and how they, as the most intellectual and knowledgeable about the words of the prophets and the Lord could have failed to recognise the coming of the Lord’s Promised One.

The Lord has come to us Himself, to help us and lead us, guiding us all to the right path, to find the path to Him. Yet, just like in the past, at the time of the prophet Samuel, the people hardened their hearts and were led by their desires and ambitions. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were likely influenced by their hold on power and their respected position in the society which became a truly major barrier in their acceptance of the Lord and His truth, although some among them like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea did become the Lord’s disciples.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to be vigilant lest we may end up being misled and misguided by our own personal desires and the many temptations present all around us. We have to guard ourselves against the pressures and temptations to give in to the desires for worldly power and glory, and we can do that by focusing on the Lord and doing whatever we can to follow His path. Let us all commit ourselves to His path and open our hearts and minds to allow God to lead us down the right path.

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen us in our courage and faith, so that we may always endeavour and do our very best to follow Him and serve Him faithfully in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of God’s call in our lives to be His followers and to serve Him in our lives, in our daily living and at every place we are in, as genuine Christians. In this world we are living in, in our communities, all of us are expected to follow in the examples of our holy predecessors, and that of the Lord Himself, in obeying the will of God and doing whatever we can to contribute to the greater glory of His Name.

In our first reading today we heard the continuation of the story of the prophet Samuel from the Book of Samuel, as the young Samuel had been offered to the Lord’s service by his grateful parents. Samuel was still very young back then and he was under the care and tutelage of Eli, the High Priest and Judge of the people of Israel. Eli was then the leader and the guide of the people of God, but as he was growing old, his two sons had been misusing their influence and authority, becoming corrupt and wicked.

Samuel was called by God to follow Him even from those early days, when he did not fully know about the Lord yet. Nonetheless, he listened and obeyed, and when Eli told him to respond to the Lord, he did just as he was told to do. God would guide him and protect him, and eventually he would grow on to become a great prophet and leader of the Israelites during the difficult years of the Philistine invasions and raids over all of Israel.

Samuel would come to be the one who anointed both King Saul and King David as king over the people of Israel, handing over the leadership of the people to them, while retaining his spiritual leadership and guidance over the people of God. He was a truly faithful servant of God, and a bastion of fidelity and truth, when King Saul began to veer off from the path of the Lord. Samuel remained truly faithful to God even amidst all the challenges he faced during his ministry.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard about the Lord Jesus and His works among the people of God. The Gospel passage detailed how the Lord healed the mother-in-law of Simon, later known as St. Peter the Apostle, and how that quickly became known among the people who began to bring their sick and those who were suffering from ailments for Him to heal. He performed many miracles and many people were healed by His hands. He worked with the help of the disciples throughout the night, but then slipped away and disappeared even though there were still many who were looking for Him.

The Lord told His disciples away from the crowd that He ought to go to many other places, and He still had a lot of other work to do. He would not stay in one place and revel in the glory and all the fame that He would have gained from staying there and letting all the people come to Him. It would have been much more convenient for Him to stay in one place, but in doing His Father’s work and will, the Lord Jesus did all as He has been sent to do, and not to do things for His convenience. After all, He came into this world not to be served but to serve.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words of the Scripture and heed its message, let us all reflect on our own lives. Are we all able to do the will of God and obey Him in our lives in the same way as the prophet Samuel, the other prophets, and the Lord Himself had done? As Christians, all of us are called to be the true and dedicated disciples of Our Lord, or else, we are no better than hypocrites who believe one thing and yet act in a different manner, or even act in ways contrary to our faith.

This time, as we progress through this Ordinary season of the year, in between Christmas and Lent, let us make good use of the time and opportunities that have been given to us, for us to embark on a journey of faith, to be faithful in all things, in our every words and actions. Let our exemplary actions be the source of inspiration for all of those whom we encounter in life, that through us, more may come to know the Lord and be inspired to follow in our footsteps, in believing in Him and His salvation. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every endeavours, always and evermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of the Lord’s compassion and love for us, which He has shown us from time to time, again and again. He has provided for us in our time of need, listened to our prayers and pleas for help, and He gave us all ultimately, the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Saviour, through Whom we have been liberated from the tyranny of sin and death.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard how the Lord helped Hannah, Samuel’s mother as she sought the Lord’s help after she had always been teased and bullied by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah in her barrenness and inability to bear a child for her beloved husband Elkanah. The Lord has heard Hannah’s prayers and answered her with the gift of a son. That son was to be the great prophet and the last Judge over the people of God before the days of the Kings.

That was how God showed His love and kindness to us, all of His beloved people. He is always listening to our prayers and He knows everything about us. But He will do things according to His will and all in His good time. He will do what is best for us, and He is always watching over us even when we ourselves have not always been faithful to Him, doubting Him and refusing to believe in Him wholeheartedly. And to us sinners, God has sent us His own beloved Son to save us from certain destruction.

That is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, of the time when the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, came to midst of the people of God, revealing the truth and love of God and teaching them all that God wanted to reveal to the people. And not only that, He also confronted a man possessed by evil spirits, and He cast out those evil spirits and demons from that man, showing the power and authority of God to free us from the bondage and tyranny of sin. In Him, we find the truth of God’s grace and salvation.

Through all that God had done for us, we have been truly so fortunate to have been beloved in such a way by our Lord and God. He has always loved us since the beginning and even as we have sinned against Him, we still have been given one chance after another, as He sent reminders, messengers, prophets and then lastly, even His own Son to help us to find our way back to Him, to be reconciled with Him so that we do not end up in everlasting death and destruction.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, have we appreciated all that the Lord had done for our sake all these while? God has shown us the path to follow Him and what we can do to be His good disciples and followers. But we have to make the conscious effort and the dedication to embark on that path which God had shown us. Are we willing to do that, brothers and sisters? Are we willing to do this, knowing all that God had done for our sake?

As we enter into this Ordinary Time, let us all not make our lives be truly ordinary or even mundane. This time of the Ordinary season is not meant for us to excuse ourselves from any actions befitting of being good and faithful followers of Christ. Instead, this is the time for us to do whatever we can to show our love for Him, to be exemplary in our actions and deeds, in the smallest of things so that all those who witness our actions and interact with us may come to know more of the Lord.

That is our calling as Christians, brothers and sisters, as those whom God had called and chosen from this world. And as Christians, let us all be courageous in sharing our faith to the others, and do whatever we can to glorify the Holy Name of God. May God be with us all, and may He empower us all to remain faithful to Him, always and at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.