Friday, 20 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us to be pure in our faith and in our intentions in serving the Lord and in evangelising the Gospel of Christ. St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy reminds us all to walk righteously before God and to follow Him wholeheartedly without being distracted by worldly temptations of glory, fame, wealth and possessions.

All of us must do our best to walk faithfully in God’s path, and persevere in this path even if we have to suffer persecution and challenges from all those who disagree with us and from those who rather believe in the falsehood of the evil one. As St. Paul mentioned in the same Epistle passage, there are many of those who are motivated and inspired by the love of money and the world, and they are powerful and numerous, but this should not discourage us from remaining true and faithful.

And on this day in particular we are reminded of the great inspiration shown by our holy predecessors who have suffered the same persecution and challenges for their faith in God. Today we recall the memory of the Holy Korean Martyrs, a multitude of saints and martyrs who have suffered and shed their blood for remaining true to God and refusing to renounce Him and their faith in Him.

During many years and decades, Christians and missionaries in Korea had endured terrible persecutions for their faith. Many were oppressed and chased to hiding for their dedication to the Christian faith. Many had to endure all the pain and suffering, and even being betrayed by their own families and close ones. And in particular the missionaries had to be very careful as they spread the Christian faith and preached the Word of God.

Many of those missionaries, both the local and foreign missionaries had to hide from the authorities who were hunting down on Christians and particularly on the leaders of the Church. St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang among many others were the local converts, some like St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon became priests and were martyred for remaining resolute in opposing the effort to make the Christians to renounce their faith.

And the foreign missionaries like St. Laurent Imbert among many others also suffered and gave their lives for the sake of the people of God and in remaining true to their dedication to God. They remained strong and true to their faith despite the challenges and troubles they had to face. St. Laurent Imbert in particular was remembered for his courage in stepping up to protect the flock entrusted under his care.

For St. Laurent Imbert was the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, the local ordinary and bishop then entrusted with the responsibility over the entire mission territory of Korea. He was therefore the prime target of the anti-Christian authority who wanted him to surrender or else the whole community of Christians would suffer even more. St. Laurent Imbert decided to surrender himself to the authorities and even encouraged two other priests to also give themselves up with the hope that the authorities would spare the rest of the faithful.

The martyrdom of St. Laurent Imbert, and also St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon and many others recognised throughout the long era of persecution in Korea reminds each one of us that being Christians have to be prepared for rejection and opposition from this world. It is not necessary that all of us must go through persecution, and the extent of persecution from one community to another, and from one person to another may be different, but in essence, the path to follow Christ will likely be riddled with obstacles and troubles.

That is why the Lord also said that in order to become His disciples we must be ready to take up our cross and follow Him. There will be challenges and difficulties along the way, the temptations and many things that will lure us away from His path. But we must always hold firm to our faith in God and dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, for in the end, while we may be disobedient and unfaithful, God will always be ever faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, especially the Holy Korean Martyrs whose memory we celebrate today? Are we able to turn towards God with renewed faith and commitment from now on, giving ourselves wholly from now on? Let us all be ever more faithful and be more dedicated Christians, and be ever closer and attuned to God, our loving Father and Creator. Amen.

Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us all to imitate Him in just how forgiving and merciful He is towards each and every one of us. For despite all of our sins and disobedience, our wickedness and rebelliousness, God still loves all of us very dearly ever since He created us. And as a loving Father, He will always stand by us and provide for us.

God will always be merciful and be ready to welcome us back to His presence, but all of these time, it is us who often make things difficult by being stubborn and refusing to accept God’s love and mercy because we are so proud and filled with ego, thinking that we know it better and that we could not have been wrong or mistaken. We often accuse others instead of being wrong or less perfect than we are and we blame them before we blame ourselves.

That is what we have heard especially in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus during a dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon, was anointed by a woman who was known in the town for her sinful reputation. When that woman knelt before the Lord and humbled herself before everyone, pouring expensive perfume over His feet and anointed it, and wiped it dry with her tears and hair, the Pharisees who were there looked down on her and criticised both the Lord and the woman.

They looked down on the woman and condemned her as a sinner while failing to realise just how they themselves were sinners much like her. And while they thought that the woman was immoral, sinful and less worthy than them in the eyes of God, they did not realise that their own actions and attitudes towards their own faith and their responsibility as those who have been entrusted with the guardianship of the people of God were equally if not more lacking than that of the woman.

It is this attitude that is always preventing us all from finding God’s forgiveness and mercy. The stubbornness in our hearts and minds, our ego and pride close the doors of our heart to the truth, and this causes us all to continue to live in sin and refusing God’s forgiveness. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often insisted on their superior position and piety as compared to others, when in reality they were themselves still struggling with sin.

It often takes a lot of effort to be like the woman, being looked down upon, humiliated, losing one’s pride and ego, face and status totally, and yet, receiving the fullness of God’s forgiveness, mercy and ultimately love and grace. That was what the Lord made clear before all those who heard and saw Him and the sinful woman, that the woman’s faith and dedication have saved her and her sins have been forgiven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore each and every one of us are reminded to look deep within ourselves and reflect, whether we have been like that of the sinful woman or like that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Have we opened our hearts and minds to God or have we instead closed them tight up against Him because of our ego and pride? We need to examine our hearts and minds and think how we should go forward in life from this.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Januarius, a renowned bishop and martyr venerated especially in the region of Benevento in southern Italy, where he was bishop during the years of terrible persecution of Christians. He was also venerated in Naples and the relic of his blood miraculously liquefies every time his feast day is celebrated annually, that is this day. St. Januarius was remembered especially for his dedication to God and to the flock entrusted to his care.

St. Januarius remained strong in his faith and in his dedication even amidst the great persecution which eventually led to his arrest, suffering and finally martyrdom. And this is just possible if St. Januarius truly had great and genuine faith in God, a heart that is centred and focused on God, and by not letting the ego and pride in his heart and mind to be distractions that kept him from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Januarius, and be ever better disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ from now on? Are we able to humble ourselves enough like that of the sinful woman, knowing just how sinful we are, no matter who have more or less sins, but that all of us need God to forgive us and to heal us from this terrible affliction of sin?

Let us all reflect on this and think of how we can better live our lives from now on, with renewed faith and commitment towards God, and with hearts that are contrite before God, always constantly seeking forgiveness for the multitudes of our sins and with the desire to sin no more and live righteously before God. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the need for us to turn wholeheartedly towards God in all things and attune ourselves to Him, knowing Him well and being in closer relationship with Him, walking in the path which He has shown us and obeying His will. It is by doing all these that we grow more attuned to Him and be more able to follow Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Who showed His frustrations against the people who kept on being stubborn and put all of kinds of attitudes in refusing to believe in the truth that God has brought into the world. It was mentioned how when St. John the Baptist came into the world and worked among the people, many of them also doubted him and questioned him, finding him eccentric in his ascetic lifestyle.

On the other hand, when the Lord Himself came and seemingly acted in a different way, they also judged Him by His actions, focusing on His so-called unconventional approach of seeking people like the tax collectors, prostitutes, and calling His disciples from among those and from people who were simple, uncouth and uneducated, poor fishermen and illiterate people as His followers.

All of these ultimately point out the wrong focus and emphasis of the people who were looking at merely all the externals and appearances, and failed to understand the true intention of the Lord, the meaning and purpose of His actions and thoughts. They also judged Him and that of St. John the Baptist by the standards of the world, and not by the standard of the Lord. They thought in the manner as how the world would have done it and that was why they criticised the Lord and His servants as such.

But deep within, they did not know what they were doing, and unfortunately, in their misunderstanding and lack of real and genuine faith, they continued to do what they thought were right even though they were in fact mistaken in their ways. Yet, when the Lord and His servants pointed out their shortcomings and misunderstandings, they became angry and defensive as they refused to admit that they were wrong.

Why is that so? That is because their ego and pride took the better of them and made them to be stubborn and angry, emotional and to refuse to listen to reason. That is why they closed the doors of their hearts and minds to God, and no matter what the Lord told them, they refused to budge and change their mind and heart. The Lord has always been patient to them and kept on trying, but as long as they were unwilling to listen, His words will have no effect.

Now, let us all think about our own actions in life. Have we been like those same people whom the Lord had rebuked for their inability to believe in Him? Have we been too caught up in our numerous preoccupations and worldly concerns and things that we end up overlooking and forgetting about God and His truth and love for us? Have we been so ignorant of His presence in our midst just because we refuse to open our hearts and minds to Him?

Let us all reflect on this, brothers and sisters in Christ, and let us all seek to understand more deeply how God has done so much for us, out of His great love for each and every one of us. Let us all not be distracted any longer by the numerous temptations in life but instead seek to bring ourselves ever closer to God and align ourselves with His will from now on. Let us all follow God and entrust ourselves to Him wholeheartedly as we should have. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Word of God in the Scripture passages we heard, we are reminded of what it truly means for us to be Christians, and in particular, those among of us who have been called to a greater purpose through the service of God, the expectation of their actions and righteousness in life because ultimately all of us Christians must be role models in faith for one another, and those who have been called to the greater service of God are examples and role models for us to follow.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to St. Timothy went through a series of characteristics and attitudes which the elders and leaders of the Church ought to have. These elders, also called as overseers, of which St. Timothy also belonged to, eventually became the successors of the Apostles as the bishops of the Church. St. Paul who helped to establish the Church and firming its foundations throughout the Mediterranean therefore wanted the elders and leaders of the Church to be as devoted and righteous as they can be to inspire and strengthen the rest of the faithful.

This is important because while all of Christians at that time believe in God and profess their faith in the salvation in Jesus Christ, but it is through their leaders, the Apostles and all those whom God had called to be the deacons, the priests and the bishops of the Church that they remained strong and rooted in their faith despite the many persecutions and challenges that they had to go through especially in those earliest years.

If those leaders and servants of God’s people did not live their lives with good faith and with good actions, then it would not bode well among the faithful and in fact could cause scandal of the faith that would end up pushing the people away from God or causing bitter divisions and further challenges within the Church that was already under quite an intense persecution at that time.

From among the deacons themselves, very early on we have heard of St. Stephen who was the very first martyr of the Church, martyred and killed just because he stood up for his faith with courage and spoke with the strength of the Holy Spirit when he was persecuted and accused wrongly of blasphemy by his enemies. And yet, at the same time, he followed Christ’s example in loving even his enemies and forgiving them with his dying breath.

And amongst the priests and bishops there were also innumerable martyrs, all those who have given their lives and all for the greater glory of God and for the love they had for the people entrusted under their care. All of these faithful servants of God had exemplified well what true Christians should be like and how they have followed Christ with all of their hearts and minds, and with all of their strength.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also expected to do the same with our own lives, in how we should follow the footsteps of the Apostles, all those holy bishops, priests, deacons and martyrs of the faith who have given their all for the service of God and His Church. And today, we celebrate the feast of yet another one of these many faithful servants of God, namely St. Robert Bellarmine whose life and devotion to God can be yet another inspiration for us all to follow.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a renowned Italian Cardinal and member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. He was also one of the Church’s few Doctors of the Church for his many contributions to the faith and to the Church, in his courageous stand for his faith amidst the turbulent years in the Church’s history beset by many problems in particular that of the reformation heresy and divisions. He was one of the most important contributors to the Counter Reformation efforts.

St. Robert Bellarmine was remembered for his great many works on theology and other aspects of the faith, and his many devout contributions that eventually made the Pope to decide to elevate him to the Cardinalate in which capacity he continued to serve the Church in various efforts he undertook to purify the Church from corruptions and worldly influences. He worked hard all the time despite the oppositions and challenges he faced from various sources.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Stephen and all of the other holy saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives to the service of God should become our sources of inspiration in how we should live our own lives with faith from now on, that in each and every days of our lives and in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the greater glory of God.

Let us all grow ever deeper in our commitment and faith towards God, and let us all grow ever closer in our relationship with Him, and be ever more courageous and strong to stand up for our faith especially when we are faced with challenges and difficulties in life. Let us all be good examples of our true Christian faith and our genuine devotion to God, that many others may also follow in our footsteps. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us and reminding us about faith that each and every one of us should have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between us and God, through what He has done lovingly for our sake, by His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross. We must have that trust in His love and providence as what we have heard the army centurion had done in our Gospel today.

For the context, the army centurion or commander who was mentioned in the Gospel today and met the Lord Jesus on the way, asking for His help in healing his very sick servant, was likely a non-Jewish person or a Gentile. That was because the whole region of Judea, Galilee, Samaria and indeed the entire Mediterranean region were under the power and rule of the Roman Empire. Even though at that time parts of the Israel was still somewhat autonomous under the rule of the descendants of King Herod, but many of the state apparatus and the military had been subsumed by the Romans.

It was likely that the army centurion was either a Roman or at least a Greek. And in that context, we can see an even greater surprise and astonishment that would have happened among all those who followed the Lord. The disciples of the Lord definitely would not have expected that an army centurion of such a high rank, feared by many and considered as a pagan would act in such a way that showed just how great his faith was in God and how firm he was in his belief.

The Jews at that time held firm in their pride of being the descendants of God’s chosen people, the Israelites and looked down upon the Gentiles as pagans and unworthy people, and in particular, the many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law exhibited this bias in the strongest manner. Imagine their astonishment if they can see just how strong the faith and how genuine the dedication that army centurion had in the Lord.

And the irony was such that those same people who took great pride in themselves being God’s chosen people, refused to believe in the One Whom God Himself had promised since the beginning of time, the Saviour Whom He had promised to send into the world to bring about its salvation. Instead of welcoming Him and listening to His truth, many of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and the Jewish people rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him.

Yet, it was that army centurion, supposedly pagan and unworthy in the eyes of the Jews who truly welcomed the Lord into his heart and mind, putting his whole trust to Him without condition and hesitation. And when the army centurion asked of the Lord for a favour saying that he is not worthy to have Him in his place and just by His words alone that his servant would be healed. That in fact showed just how much he trusted in the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is often that we need to see and to experience something directly in order for us to believe in something. For someone to be able to trust just by the weight of words alone means someone must have really trusted in the other person, and that is exactly what the case is for the army centurion in his belief in the Lord. Are we able to have this kind of faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we have to ponder on the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church during the particularly vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. St. Cyprian meanwhile was the influential Bishop of Carthage and Church leader whose works with Pope St. Cornelius were important for the strengthening of the Church through the turbulent times and for the salvation of many souls.

At that time, there was a bitter division in the Church led by the influential Novatian, who held the position that Christians who have left the Church or obeyed the state’s commands of offering sacrifices to the pagan gods and idols could not be welcomed back into the Church and that the Church remained shut off to those people. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian vehemently opposed this argument and strove to show the Church that welcomed sinners who returned to the faith.

Eventually, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian would be martyred for their faith, but this is not before they had worked hard to convince the Church and the Christian communities to remember how each and every one of them were sinners before God, and also for us, remembering what we have listened from the Scriptures, that we must never be proud or be exclusive in our attitudes in faith.

Just as the army centurion was able to show such a great and wonderful faith in God despite being supposedly a pagan and most unlikely to have faith, therefore, we cannot take the position of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or that of Novatian, who took pride in their status as God’s chosen people to the exclusion of others whom they thought to be less worthy or inferior.

Let us all then be open to God’s love and also be open-minded in our interactions with one another, with the intention for the good of one another’s condition in life and faith. Therefore let us all together as one people be more committed and be more faithful, looking upon in particular, the faith of the army centurion which is so genuine and real, and aim that our own faith and devotion to God may be like his. May God bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Sunday, 15 September 2019 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday a very powerful recurring theme throughout the readings of the Scripture is reminding us all that God is so great in His forgiveness and mercy, in His desire to be reconciled with us by forgiving us from our many sins and wicked actions and deeds throughout our lives. There is no sin that God cannot forgive, but when we mankind refuse God’s free and generous offer of love and mercy, then we are truly not going to be forgiven.

God has always been ready to welcome us back and He has always been patient, trying again and again hoping that we will have a change of heart and turn back to Him. He knows just how stubborn and how attached we are to our sinful and wicked ways, but He also know that each and every one of us are not yet lost as long as we have not completely rejected and refused His love. God still loves each and every one of us as dearly as always.

If He has not loved us so much, then He would not have created us in the first place, as God has never had any need in His perfection and perfect love, and He created us because He wanted to share that perfection of love that is in Him with us. And that love He has for us remains even after we have betrayed Him and abandoned Him for Satan and his many temptations. Had His love been diminished or been gone after we have sinned against Him, then God would have destroyed and crushed us very easily with a mere thought of His will.

But He did not do so, and instead He gave us chances one after another, again and again despite us being so stubborn and so rebellious that we continuously disobeyed Him even after He has forgiven us many, many times and sent us reminders again and again, wanting us all to be reconciled to Him by forgiving us our sins. And there is no sinner, no man in this world that has sins too numerous or too great for Him to forgive, as after all, God is all powerful, Almighty and omnipotent, and He can do everything including forgiving us of all of our sins.

That was what happened in the time of the Exodus as our first reading passage today taken from the Book of Exodus tells us. At that time, the people of Israel had been so wicked in their actions, just right after God had brought them out of the land of Egypt and just after He had punished the Egyptians and their Pharaoh so severely for refusing to let the Israelites go free. Instead of being thankful and being deeper in commitment towards God, the Israelites became wayward.

They built for themselves a golden calf, crafted likely in the image of the pagan Egyptian idol, which they took for themselves to be the ‘god’ who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. Rather than putting their trust in God and in His servant Moses through whom He has revealed His plans for them and His assurances of the promise that He has given them, in bringing them to the rich lands promised to them and to their ancestors.

They chose to follow the whims of their desires and the temptations of worldly pleasures, worshipping pagan idols and gods, following their ways and thoughts, and in succumbing to the demands and ways of the world. They abandoned their faith in God in exchange for temporary satisfaction and joy, for worldly comfort and satisfaction of their stomachs and bodies. And even after that occasion, the Israelites would go on to disobey and betray the Lord many more times.

That is why it is understandable why God’s anger was directed at His people, for their constant faithlessness and stubbornness. Yet, He still loved them all and wanted them to be forgiven despite His anger against them. Moses was the one who also stood by the people before the anger of God and the sinful Israelites, beseeching God to reconsider when He wanted to bring destruction upon them and to wipe out the whole nation save for Moses who remained faithful.

God forgave His people and made a Covenant with them, forgiving their disobedience and sins, except for all those who willingly and consciously rejected Him totally and refused to repent. And that was in fact a prelude to a far greater act of mercy and love that God has done for us, in the renewal of the Covenant He had made, and how He established forever a New Covenant that is everlasting, by the sending of His own Son to be our Saviour.

And much like that of Moses in the time of the Exodus, the Lord Jesus also stood by the breach between God and us mankind. And just like the Israelites of that time, all of us mankind have disobeyed God and sinned against Him. Because of this, we should have been doomed to destruction and eternal damnation that was our certain fate, for because of sin we have been cast out of God’s grace and love.

Yet, it was His constant and infinite love for each and every one of us as illustrated in our Gospel passage today which allowed Him to continue to love us and to forgive us, and through what He has shown us by the sending of His own Beloved Son, He wants to forgive us and to be reconciled with us just as what Christ Himself has revealed to the people through the use of the parable of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today.

In that parable, which we are surely quite familiar with, the prodigal son left behind his father after demanding his portion of the inheritance and squandered off all of his wealth and possessions in sinful living, and only when he had nothing left then the prodigal son came to realise just how meaningless and useless all of his pursuits for worldly things had been, as all those who were his friends were only befriending him for his money and possessions.

In the end, in the midst of his suffering, the prodigal son remembered his father and the love which he used to enjoy from his father, and comparing it to the then miserable and despicable state he was in at that time, having to stoop down to the worst possible condition, being a helper in a pig farm, feeding food to the pigs, food that not even he could take, essentially being treated less in importance even to the pigs, an animal which was already treated badly in the Jewish traditions.

It was at that time when the prodigal son was at his lowest that he decided, definitely after going through a lot of thinking and struggles, to go back to his father and humbling himself like a servant, beseeching and begging him to take him in not as a son, but rather as a servant and slave. He would rather be taken in as a servant and slave rather than to suffer forever in the distant place away from his father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prodigal son is a representation of all of us, each and every one of us who have sinned against God. The father of the prodigal son is God Himself, Who constantly loves His beloved children, but truly is saddened to see the prodigal son going off with his inheritance, tempted by the temptations of worldly goods and things, fame and glory, wealth and pride. This is what we have experienced ourselves, as those temptations pulled us away from God and His righteous path.

But this is then that we have to realise through the story of the prodigal son, and also looking back at the story of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, when they built the golden calf idol for their own, on how we should proceed from now on, in our journey to be reconciled back with God. As I mentioned earlier, God, our loving Father and Creator is always full and rich of mercy and love, compassion and tenderness. He is just like the father who immediately embraced the prodigal son the moment when he saw the son returning from the faraway lands.

In that same passage we also heard of a similar comparison with that of the lost sheep, whom the shepherd naturally looked for, leaving behind the other sheep which were already safe in the flock. That He was willing to go all out looking for us is proof enough of His dedication and love for us all. Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often we who reject His generous offer of mercy and love, and that is because of the ego and pride within us.

Look at the prodigal son again, brethren, and let us all discern why he did what he had done. He could have remained proud and stubborn even in his moment of distress, thinking that he could not have done anything wrong, and he could have tried to resolve everything by his own power. Yet, he chose to humble himself and throw away all of his ego and pride, and returning to the father in shame, he won for himself instead true and lasting happiness.

And this is where Our Lord Jesus Christ comes in again. Remember that God has sent Him into the world to be our Saviour? He was in fact assuming the role of the prodigal son in the moment of His Passion, death and resurrection, and this whole parable is in fact a premonition of what He was going to do in order to save all of us. Through the humanity which He has assumed in the flesh, He took up upon Himself, all of the punishment and sufferings due for our sins, and put it on Himself through the Cross.

He emptied Himself of all glory and dignity, power and respect, and became the lowest of all beings, treated far less than that of a human, rejected and made to suffer the most humiliating and painful death. He was stripped almost naked and made an example before all who saw Him, a bloodied and battered Body, as the ultimate supplicant on our behalf before God His Father in heaven.

It is then by offering Himself in perfect love and humility that Christ won for us, like that of the prodigal son, a reconciliation between us and God our loving Father. Through His Cross, Christ has rediscovered for us the path that lies between us and God, which had once been destroyed by our sins and rebelliousness. Through Him, God has restored hope for us and showed us the path to full reconciliation and true happiness in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all ready to follow the path that Christ has shown us all? Are we ready and able to follow Him in all humility and throwing away all of the ego, pride and greed in our hearts and minds just like what the prodigal son had done? As I mentioned at the start of today’s discourse, God is always generous with His love and is always willing to forgive us, and yet, unless we truly repent from our sins and desire to turn away from those wickedness, we cannot be truly forgiven.

Let us all spend some time to think about this and discern well what we are going to do from now on. Let us all remind ourselves if we are still living in the state of sin and doing whatever it is that God has forbidden us to do or taught us to avoid, all sorts of fornications and sinful conduct, all sorts of selfish and immoral behaviours, and all things that are against His truth and His love. God has given us all these many opportunities again and again and He is always ever patient in waiting for us to return to Him.

Thus, what are we waiting for, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is indeed easier said than done for us to humble ourselves and to throw away the great ego and pride in our hearts, but let us all begin from those small sins and all the hurtful and wicked things we have done in our daily lives. Let us all recognise that through these and many other sins we have committed, we have been made corrupted, dirty, unworthy and deserving to be destroyed, and yet, God through His infinite love for us continues to love us all the same.

Let us all renew our conviction and faith in God from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ. And let us all turn our hearts, minds and indeed our whole being towards God with love, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly from now on to Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us all in our daily lives, and may His loving mercy continue to come down upon us, His beloved children. Amen.

Saturday, 14 September 2019 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Universal Church celebrate together the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, remembering that moment when the Lord’s one and holy True Cross was discovered in the city of Jerusalem. At that time, just two decades or so after the Edict of Milan in the Year of Our Lord 313, the True Cross was discovered by St. Helena, the Empress Mother of the Roman Empire.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, famous as the Emperor who first adopted the Christian faith for himself and also for the Empire, had finally triumphed over all of his rivals and enemies, having finally reunited the whole Empire under one reign and liberating the whole people of God, communities of Christians who were still persecuted from time to time by the rival rulers of the Emperor Constantine who supported or courted the support of the pagans.

As the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem was under the control of the rival Emperors, it was then that finally, after the reunification of the whole Empire under the rule of the Emperor Constantine the Great that the whole land knew peace again after decades of continuous strife and conflict. The Christian population in particular finally had a reprieve after almost constant persecution from the very early days of the Church.

The Emperor’s mother, St. Helena, who was already a Christian long before that of her son, went to the Holy Land for pilgrimage, and it was told by tradition that in Jerusalem she discovered three crosses at the place near the site where the historic Crucifixion of the Lord took place when the pagan temples that once stood over the sites were demolished. The three crosses therefore correlated with that of the Lord’s Cross and the two crosses used to crucify the two thieves who were with Him that day.

In order to find out which of the three crosses is the one True Cross of the Lord, St. Helena brought a woman who was suffering from terminal illness, and when she touched one of the three crosses, she was completely healed from her issues, indicating that the one which the woman touched, was the one and holy True Cross. The discovery of the True Cross was not just a very significant event in the whole history of the Church, but it is also a very symbolic event marking the triumph of Christ over that of the enemies of the Church.

And even more so than just merely marking the victory of Christianity over the pagans and their false pagan gods, the gods of the Romans and Greeks and the many other peoples of the Empire, but the Cross of the Lord itself is a powerful and real symbol of victory of mankind against their greatest enemy, that is sin. Sin has always been our great enemy, as sin leads to death and separation from God, the Source of all our lives.

And by His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Himself has conquered sin and death. He has been victorious and triumphant in the battle against them, and through Him, all of us mankind have received the assurance of eternal life and salvation. Thus, through the Cross, God has shown His light and a new hope to all of us, as a victorious and conquering sign against all of our enemies and all those who sought our destruction.

When we then look at the Cross again, we must understand the context in how God made use of this humble and simple instrument to be the ultimate weapon and means by which the final victory and triumph against sin would be won. For the Romans who ruled all of Judea and the whole lands around the Mediterranean at that time, the cross was the symbol of ultimate humiliation and fear, as crucifixion was a punishment reserved only to the worst of all criminals, to those who betrayed the state and those who committed unforgivable crimes.

But God converted that symbol of ultimate shame and indeed defeat, into a symbol of ultimate victory, hope and glory, by what He has willingly done in embracing the Cross to be crucified despite Himself being totally blameless and faultless. And in parallel to what we have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Numbers, through the Cross, Christ changed the ultimate symbol of our defeat into the ultimate symbol of victory.

At the time of the Exodus, as recorded in the Book of Numbers, the people of Israel frequently and constantly rebelled against God, in refusing to believe in Him and in rejecting the truth and the laws which He has laid before them. They chose to follow their own selfish paths, worshipping pagan gods and doubting all that they have been shown through Moses. Because of all these disobedience, the people sinned against God.

The fiery serpents sent against them were actually representative of mankind’s sins, our own sins. St. Paul mentioned in one of his Epistles, the Epistle to the Corinthians that ‘the sting of sin is death’, clearly alluding to this moment depicted and recorded in the Book of Numbers, when the fiery serpents bit many of the Israelites and killed them. And then, God asked Moses when the people begged Him for forgiveness, to build a bronze serpent and to place it on a tall pole that everyone might see the bronze serpent and live.

Prior to His Passion, suffering and crucifixion, the Lord Himself had revealed to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who was sympathetic to Him, that this was a prelude and prefigurement of the moment of Christ’s Crucifixion. Just as the bronze serpent, representing the fiery serpents that killed the Israelites was raised up high, the Lord told Nicodemus that He Himself would be raised up on the Cross for all to see.

And He, the Sinless and Perfect One, willingly took up all the sins of the world, gathering to Himself all the burdens, the sufferings, the pains and tortures of the sins we should have endured and faced, and took them upon Himself. He lowered Himself such that, while He had done nothing wrong at all, He willingly accept total humiliation and nakedness, total rejection and pain, of being treated less than a human being on the Cross.

It was so painful and terrible to see the suffering Christ on the Cross, that even before He was crucified, as He was carrying His Cross, the women of Jerusalem wailed and wept for Him. All those who saw the Lord at that time would have been terrified and struck with fear and sorrow seeing just how much He has suffered. Yet, that was not the end, as we all know that the death of Christ is not the end of it all.

Instead, by His glorious resurrection on the third day, the Cross, a symbol of the ultimate shame, punishment and sorrow has been transformed into the symbol of ultimate victory and triumph. For at long last, death and therefore sin no longer has the final say over man. The Son of Man and Son of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, has conquered death and rose in glory. And in parallel to what had happened in the time of the Exodus, all those who come to believe in the Lord, will not die but live.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have the Crucifix, the Holy Cross of Our Lord as the centre of our faith as is the Eucharist. For it is by shedding His Blood and Body on the Cross, the Bloody Altar of God’s sacrifice, that He brought unto us the salvation through His death and resurrection by which He defeated death and sin. It was His great and undying love for each and every one of us that has allowed Him to endure the sufferings for our sake.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we recall the triumphant Cross of Christ, how it was rediscovered by St. Helena and all that the Lord had done in bringing about our salvation through His Cross, all of us as Christians should reflect deep into our own respective lives, in our actions, words and deeds. Have we all loved God just as God has loved us all so much and so unconditionally? Have we devoted ourselves wholeheartedly to Him just as He has done so for us?

In a world today filled with darkness and many uncertainties, temptations and sins, we must hold true to that Cross, the Cross of our hope, the Cross by which the Ultimate Victory has been won by Our God. Let us all not be disheartened but be hopeful and be strong, always fixing our gaze on Him Who has suffered on the Cross. And let us all remember that He suffered because of our sins, every single one of our sins and disobedience.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on? Are we able to turn away from being sinful and disobedient against God, in each and every moments of our lives? Are we able to love God ever more unconditionally through our every words, deeds and actions from now on? May the Lord bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of life, and may He be with us all our days through reminding us of the glory of His triumphant Cross. Amen.