Monday, 2 February 2015 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ, when our Lord Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of Mary, His mother, was presented to the Lord, as written and prescribed by the Law revealed through Moses. And in that presentation and consecration, the Lord was recognised by His faithful servants, Simeon and Anna, who had waited very long for the fulfillment of God’s promise to them, that they would see the Messiah and Lord.

Today we celebrate the day of prayer and celebration for all of those who have committed themselves to the Lord in a holy and devoted life, namely all of the religious men and women, who had joined the various orders designed to be the societies where those men and women can live their lives meaningfully and devotedly according to the ways and rules laid out for them, that they maintain their purity and worthiness before the Lord.

These holy men and women face difficult challenges, even more than all of us do. This is because they have consecrated themselves to the service of God, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Himself, who was presented as the Firstborn One at the Temple. Jesus is the Firstborn of all creations, the One begotten not created by the Father. He became Man so that as High Priest, He would offer the perfect sacrifice of Himself as the Lamb of sacrifice for the reparation of all our sins.

And so, the faithful religious and all those who have dedicated and given themselves to be consecrated to God, namely every single one of our priests, who have been taken from the world and as in our first reading today by the prophet Malachi had mentioned, they have been taken and molded in the Lord’s hands, to be made pure and holy, blameless and worthy, purified and refined, as if gold and silver, to be the ones to offer the same sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Calvary that liberated all of us from the thrall of sin and death.

Yes, while the priests of Israel of old, from the tribe of Levi offered the sacrifice of animals, the blood and the fats of lambs, calves, goats and turtledoves, and while they offered the goods and products of the land, for the sake of their own sins first and then for the sake of the sins of the people, that they may be forgiven. But this sacrifice is temporary, for no amount of animal blood and offerings may remove from us the enormous weight of our sins combined.

Jesus has been offered and consecrated to God, not because He was a sinner or having any form of sins or disobedience in Him. He was consecrated because just as the priests of Israel of old were consecrated, be made pure and ready to serve the Lord at His altar and offer the sacrifices for the sake of the people, then Christ Himself also offered the sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice of them all, that is the sacrifice of Himself on the cross for our sake.

And all of us have been saved by that sacrifice, where our Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself all of our sins, and as our Great High Priest, He offered the sacrifice for the reparation of all our sins, with exception of one difference, that this sacrifice no longer needs to be repeated again and again. It was because that sacrifice is the only one worthy enough to absolve all of our sins, past, present and future all at once. After all, who else is worthy beside the Lamb of God, the Divine Word of God who gave up all to save us?

And it was in the service of this Great One that all of our priests and the religious, all those who have consecrated themselves to be His servants, that they live this life of holiness, prayer and dedicated service to God. Jesus was consecrated to be an example to all of us, as the High Priest dedicated to God, that all of us who are called to serve, also follow in His footsteps and dedicate ourselves as well.

And different people have different roles and calling. But they all serve the one purpose, that is to bring mankind closer to God, their Lord and loving Father. It is to bring about the reconciliation between God and mankind that they are called for. And indeed, their responsibility and duty is not an easy one, for just as they themselves are tempted as we are tempted, we also like to refuse to follow and obey God’s commandments.

Therefore, their life is one of a constant battle and challenge, struggle against Satan and all of his forces, and they have to bear with all these with prayer, with patience and with dedication that requires our support and help. Our religious and priests need our help, for they are the ones who have consecrated themselves for our sake. And why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they are the ones who stand as the vanguard in the battle for the sake of our souls, protecting and guiding us to the truth of Christ.

Let us also follow in their footsteps and model our words, actions and deeds on theirs and ultimately to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. May all of us be sanctified and be made holy through what we are doing in this life, and let us all shun all forms of sin and accept the fullness of Christ’s truth and love into our lives. Pray for each other, especially for all of our priests and all the religious brothers and sisters committing their lives to God. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 2 February 2015 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-40

When the day came for the purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord : ‘Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God.’ And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the Law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.

So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a sign, a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom : the grace of God was upon Him.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 2 : 22-32

When the day came for the purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord : ‘Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God.’ And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the Law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.

So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Monday, 2 February 2015 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 2 : 14-18

And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus likewise had to share this nature. This is why His death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime because of the fear of death.

Jesus came to take by the hand not the angels but the human race. So He had to be like His brothers and sisters in every respect, in order to be the High Priest faithful to God and merciful to them, a Priest able to ask pardon and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are tested.

Monday, 2 February 2015 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 7, 8, 9, 10

Lift up, o gateways, your lintels, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? The Lord, the Strong, the Mighty, the Lord, valiant in battle.

Lift up Your lintels, o gateways, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory!

Monday, 2 February 2015 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, World Day for Consecrated Life (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Malachi 3 : 1-4

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts.

Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be.

Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Violet (Septuagesima Sunday – Usus Antiquior)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Septuagesima Sunday, which literally means ‘seventy’. This is to remind us that as this is the ninth Sunday before Easter, we are about seventy days away from the great feast and celebration of our Lord’s Passion, death and ultimately, the most important of all, the Resurrection through which He made whole all mankind and bring hope into the world engulfed in the darkness.

As is appropriate, the Gospel today from the Gospel of St. Mark spoke about time and works that men take up, to fulfill the Lord’s call for all of us. The parable of the vineyard workers and the owner is speaking about how we mankind, the people of God are called by the Lord to be His servants and to do the good works which He had initiated in this world.

The Gospel from the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time spoke of how Jesus our Lord exercised His power and authority to cast out demons and heal all those afflicted by the physical and spiritual sickness and diseases. And that is just how our Lord does His work to liberate us all from the clutches of Satan, and ti show the way for us all to seek the Lord our God.

And in the first reading of the Ordinary Time readings, from the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord had promised His people that He would send them a Prophet, that is the One who would bear His will and His words of truth to the people. Jesus is that Prophet, who taught the people and His own disciples through stories and parables which bore the truth of God inside them. He is the Word of God made flesh.

In the parable told by Jesus in the Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday, the vineyard owner is truly the Lord our God, who is the Lord of all. The vineyard itself is the world that is saved, that is the Church of God, and the workers are all of us, the race of men. God seeks out all of us at different times, and He sought us in the darkened world outside the Church, that is everything else beyond the vineyard. Like the owner who went out to seek more workers for his field at various hours, the Lord too seeks us at all the time, desiring to find us and bring us to salvation.

There are therefore three main things I want and I hope all of us will take away from the readings of today, that we may reflect on them and understand the necessity for us to know what the Lord wants from us. First, it is that we should not wait until it is too late and then only then we desire to seek the Lord. The Lord always wants to seek us, but if we ourselves refuse to listen to His call, then we will be forever damned in the darkness.

And we do not know when death will come for us. All of us will die one day, at the time and place that only the Lord our God knows. There are many who continue to ignore the Lord’s heedings for us, and they wait, thinking that there is still time for them. But death may claim them on the next day, and even on the next minute or second! And when that happens, no matter how we beg or how we plead with the Lord, He will refuse us for we have ourselves refused the generous and repeated offer of mercy which He had given us.

And then secondly, the Lord invites us to enter His Church, to be saved with all those who have been saved earlier. The Church of God is represented in the Gospel with the vineyard and all the workers inside it. All those whom the Lord calls and accepted His call and worked in His Church are saved. Thus, we ought to rejoice indeed, for we have received baptism that initiated us to be the members of the Church, the children of God and thus the partakers of God’s saving works and grace.

And last of all, as we see, that all the workers received equal pay of one denarius or silver coin, regardless of how long they have worked in the vineyard. Thus, the same applies to all of us the children of God. Regardless of what we have in this life, our possessions, our abilities and talents, our works and contributions, as long as we are all faithful to God and keep His commandments, we are all equal before the Lord.

This does not mean literally that everyone should be equal. As we can see, that different workers work at different hours and for different lengths of time. This means that each of us in the Church of God have distinct roles, each according to his or her own abilities. We should not be jealous that others had done less, or be proud that we have attained salvation earlier because He called us earlier than others.

This means that we should not be proud of our justification and look down on others who have yet to be saved. After all, as long as we receive His salvation and agree to become part of His Church, we shall receive the same reward, represented by the equal pay of one denarius for each worker, that is our salvation and eternal life, to live together in perfect bliss and happiness without end, with the Lord our God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we all have much to do in order to bring others into the salvation in God. We should help one another, and as part of the Church, to be examples and role models for all those who have yet to find their way to the Lord, so that they too may be saved. And we have to realise as well, that the vineyard of the Lord, that is His Church, still require many people to help as the servants of the works of God.

May all of us be awakened to follow the Lord and to righteously walk in His way. Let us all seek the Lord and harken to His call. Do not wait until it is too late for us, but let us stir ourselves from our slumber and walk from now on, only in the path of the Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 1 February 2015 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Septuagesima Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 1 : 21b-28

Jesus taught in the synagogue on the sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way He taught, for He spoke as One having authority and not like the teachers of the Law.

It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are : You are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority He preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him!”

And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.

Alternative reading (Gospel of Septuagesima Sunday – Usus Antiquior)

Matthew 20 : 1-16

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle, and he said to them, “Go all of you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.” And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner. But at about the eleventh hour, he went out, and found others standing, and he said to them, “Why do you stand there all the day idle?”

They said to him, “Because no man has hired us.” He said to them, “You all also go to my vineyard.” And when evening came, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the labourers, and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.” When therefore they came, those who came at about the eleventh hour, they received for every person a penny.

But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more, and they also received for every person a penny. And receiving it, they murmured against the master of the house, saying, “These last have worked barely for one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the heat.”

But he answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I did you no wrong, did you not agree with me for a penny? Take what is yours, and go your way. I will also give to this last even as to you. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is your eye evil, because I am good? So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”