Monday, 2 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are still progressing through the season and time of Christmas which will still last for another week at least. Liturgically, the season of Christmas lasts up to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which will happen about a week from now and traditionally, Christmas is celebrated right up to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on the second day of February, making a whole forty days of the Christmas season. That is why we are still continuously being reminded of the Lord and His coming into this world, the salvation and truth that He has brought into our midst among other things. The Lord and His coming into this world has brought upon us all a new hope and renewal, as Christ assured us all that if we have faith in Him, we shall receive the guarantee of eternal life and grace.

However, as we heard in our first reading today, there were a lot of those who threatened to derail our path towards the Lord, as we heard from the Epistle of St. John to the faithful people of God and the Church, detailing how there were antichrists and false prophets, false teachers and messengers, all those who taught different messages and Gospels from what has been delivered and taught by the Apostles. St. John warned the faithful against all of those, the heresies which had risen even as early as the beginning of the Church, as those who sought to subvert and change the Church teachings and doctrines to suit their own desires and wishes, caused divisions among the faithful and confusion, which led to some of the faithful falling into heretical ways.

Among those heresies were those that denied the Divinity of Christ, or even denying the existence of Christ Himself, and those who considered the Lord Jesus as a false Messiah, and claiming to be the Messiah themselves. Those false leaders and teachers harmed the unity of the Church and led many to the wrong paths, which then caused many to fall away from the path of righteousness and truth. St. John reminded all the faithful of everything that they had received from the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the anointing which has been given to them through baptism and chrism, and the Wisdom and strength which they had received so that they might all persevere amidst all the challenges, trials and all the false leads that they had to face.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the confrontation between the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with St. John the Baptist, who was the one sent by God to prepare the way for His Son, the true Messiah, Saviour of the whole world. Those Pharisees and teachers of the Law questioned St. John the Baptist, asking him why he was doing everything that he had done, in calling the people to repentance and to be baptised by him in the River Jordan, as they doubted his authenticity and they refused to believe in him simply because his path and ways did not agree with the way that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had set for themselves. For those people, anyone who did not share their perspective or belong to their group were not legitimate, and they even condemned others as sinners and blasphemers for that.

St. John the Baptist rebuked the Pharisees and their high-handed and proud attitude, and told them that he was truly the one that God had sent into this world to prepare the way for the Saviour, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!’ This must have been well-known by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who knew the prophets and their teachings and prophecies well, but their pride and hardened hearts still prevented them from believing in the truth, despite having seen the proof of the fulfilment of God’s words and prophecies before their own eyes. They continued to doubt him and asked if he was the Messiah that was to come into this world.

It was there then that St. John the Baptist again told those hardened hearted Pharisees that he was merely the one who came to prepare the way for the Lord, and that he was unworthy even to untie the straps of His sandals. As we can see here, contrasted with the antichrists, the false Messiahs and all those who claimed to have the truth as St. John highlighted in our first reading today, St. John the Baptist remained firmly entrenched in the truth and did not let worldly glory, fame and other sorts of temptations to get to him. He could very well have claimed to be the Messiah given his great popularity among the people just like some others had done at that time, but St. John the Baptist did not do so. He humbly did what he was sent to do, and committed himself wholeheartedly to God. This is what we have to follow as well, as Christians.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of two great saints whose dedication and commitment to God can and should become the source of inspiration for us to follow in how we can be better and more committed Christians in life. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen were two great contemporaries whose life and works inspired countless people to be faithful to God, and who were also instrumental in the evangelisation of the true faith, especially against the many heresies, falsehoods and lies rampant at their time. Both of them were considered among the original Doctors of the Church, and were widely venerated for their great contributions to the Church and their service to the people of God, which we ourselves can follow as well.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia in what is today part of Turkey, who was a great theologian and leader of the Church especially against all those who upheld heretical teachings particularly the Arians. Those Arians who listened to the heretic Arius claimed that Jesus Christ is not Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with God, but was a Being created and inferior to God Himself. This false teaching gained large amount of support among the people and not few bishops also joined the cause of the Arians, causing divisions and splits within the Church in various places. St. Basil the Great together with other faithful bishops, including that of St. Gregory Nazianzen, another great theologian and bishop, struggled and resisted the power and influence of the Arians, and defended the true, orthodox Christian faith and teachings.

Both saints inspired the Church and their flock, as well as their brother bishops to take a stand against the heresies and the falsehoods, and working to heal the divisions among the faithful through their great knowledge in theology and also skills in preaching the faith. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen did not have it easy of course, as they faced great opposition from all those who supported the Arian position and teachings, but they persevered on and kept on going, doing their best to serve the Lord, by continuing to proclaim the true faith among the people of God, as well as calling on all of them to remain steadfast and strong in the faith. These kind of actions and zeal are what should also inspire each one of us in our own faith. Can we do the same and commit ourselves to God as they had done?

May the Lord continue to guide us all to Himself, and through the good examples of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, let us all live a more devoted and holy Christian living at all times, drawing ever closer to God in all things. Let us all continue to renew our faith in the Lord and keep our focus in God as we continue to progress through this season of Christmas, as we keep reminding ourselves Who it is that we are celebrating for, that is for Christ our Lord and Saviour, and not for ourselves. May God bless us always and may He empower all of us to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 2 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!”

Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Monday, 2 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Monday, 2 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 22-28

Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is an antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. The one who denies the Son is without the Father, and those who acknowledge the Son also have the Father.

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you, too, will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise He Himself gave us : eternal life.

I write this to you thinking of those who try to lead you astray. You received from Him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in Him, and keep what He has taught you.

And now, my children, live in Him, so that when He appears in His glory, we may be confident and not ashamed before Him when He comes.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained in the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the coming of the end of days, and the end of our own worldly existences just as this current liturgical year is coming to an end. We are also reminded that each one of us as Christians are expected to walk in the path that the Lord has shown to us, to be righteous, just and good as He has taught us to do. And that is our Christian mission and obligation that each one of us have been entrusted with, and we should not forget that, as we carry on living our lives from now on henceforth. We must be good role models for each other and show others how we should follow the Lord our God.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Epistle of St. John the Apostle, the reminder that God loves each and every one of us, and that same love ought to be shown by all of us as Christians, as God’s followers, as His people and children. It is the love which God has for us that made everything possible, and we have hope exactly because of this love. We should have deserved destruction and damnation because of our sins and disobedience against God, and yet, by God’s mercy, love and compassion, we have been given the hope out of our current conundrum and trouble, and we have received the assurance of liberation and salvation from evil, sin and death, all those things that sought to dominate and drag us down to the path towards damnation.

St. John the Apostle spoke to the people of God through his Epistle regarding the commandments and the laws that God has given to each and every one of them. Those laws and commandments teach us to love in the manner that God has loved us first, for us to love others generously, caring for the needs especially for those who are in need of more help and love. Unfortunately, in many occasions throughout our human history and also even within the history of the Church and our Christian faith, many among us have not truly practiced this way of life as the Lord wants us to. We preferred to think of ourselves and our selfish desires, greed, pride and ego instead of caring for others and loving those around us. This is what had become a serious obstacle for so many people in following God truly and faithfully, because they put themselves and their desires before serving God.

St. John also warned the faithful of all those who spread false messages and false ideas contrary to what the Lord Himself had taught and shown us, all those who sought to subvert the messages of truth to their own benefits and desires, to achieve their own ends and goals. At that time, there were all those who sought to change the teachings of the Lord as passed down through the Apostles, as it would also be throughout the history of the Church. Heresies and false teachings had sprung up all the time, causing many of the people of God to be led astray and turn their backs against God and His truth. They gave in to their temptations and refused to listen to God, His Good News and truth. The Lord has reminded us all to remember His love for us, that we may also embody the same love in our own actions.

The Lord Himself has shown us the perfect examples, of Him reaching out to the worst of sinners and all those who had been shunned by the other people, like the tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those who were ostracised because they were diseased, sick, and possessed by evil spirits among others. He did not hold against them their sins, but extended His loving mercy and compassion, reaching out to them, walking among them, and journeying with them, to love them all most tenderly despite the fact that it was them who had earlier on abandoned Him and betrayed Him first, preferring to walk in the path of sin rather than to walk in the path of His righteousness and truth. And that way, God has always been so patient in loving us, that He sincerely and truly desires to be reconciled with us all, despite our many sins.

That was how and why, He decided and willingly took upon Himself the weight and burden of His cross and sufferings, to be rejected and abandoned, betrayed and struck down by the world, and by all those who hated and persecuted Him, so that by His suffering and death, He obeyed His Father’s will most perfectly, and showed unto us the perfect example and manifestation of His love for each and every one of us. He Himself had once said that, there is no greater love than for one to lay down his or her life for a friend, and there, the Lord Himself willingly endured all the sufferings and laid down His life for our sake, that through Him, all of us may be saved and have the sure hope of eternal life and happiness with Him. He endured the most painful and humiliating death, that we may be spared our fated destruction and enter into eternal life.

And why do we have to keep this in mind? That is because God has loved us so wonderfully, that He has generously reached out to us with love. Yet, if we continue to reject and resist Him, then in the end, it is our rejection and refusal for God’s love and mercy that will condemn us to eternal suffering and damnation. Our Gospel passage today is clear, that the Lord Himself reminded us all how the time of reckoning and judgment can come just at any time. Unless we are ever vigilant and ready, and careful in how we live our lives, then we may end up falling down this path towards sin and evil, towards destruction and damnation. We have to be careful as the temptations of worldly desires and greed can indeed be very strong, and even many among the righteous had been tempted and fell from grace because of that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the good examples set by our holy and devout predecessors, and especially today we honour St. Martin of Tours, a great saint and man of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Martin of Tours was once a Roman centurion or army captain, who was a renowned soldier and who was also a devout Christian during the times when Christianity was already widespread and no longer persecuted in the Roman Empire. St. Martin of Tours was also famously known in one particular occasion when he encountered the Lord disguised as a poor, old man in the middle of a cold season, without anything to cover or protect himself from the cold. In that occasion, St. Martin did not hesitate and took his sword to cut his centurion’s cloak in half and gave that half to the poor man to protect himself.

That very night, in a vision, St. Martin saw the Lord revealing Himself before him, as the old man holding the piece of cloak that he had cut from his own cloak earlier on. Ever reminded of this appearance of God among the poor and the weak, the less fortunate and the old ones, St. Martin was deeply affected and touched, and eventually, he left the army behind, and was also elected by the people’s acclamation and support as the Bishop of Tours in the southern region of what is now France. St. Martin of Tours dedicated himself wholeheartedly as the shepherd to his flock in Tours and cared for them most tenderly and generously, showing us all what it means for us to love as genuine Christians and showing the love of God through our very actions and deeds, in all of our interactions. He also resisted those who tried to bring about the falsehoods of their heresies to confuse the people, and he was very active in opposing the efforts of the heretics in spreading their falsehoods.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow the good examples set by St. Martin of Tours, in loving one another, especially the unloved ones, the poor and the weak, those who are sick and dying, and those who are ostracised and without anyone to care for them. Let us all walk therefore always ever more faithfully in the path that God has set before us, ever remembering His love for us, and doing the same henceforth to Him and to our fellow brethren, in obedience to His Law and to His will. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the law of the Lord.

Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my Lord.

Be kind to Your servant, that I may live to follow Your word.

Open my eyes that I may see the marvellous truths in Your law.

Friday, 11 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 John 4-9

I rejoiced greatly on meeting some of your children who live in accordance with the truth, according to the command we have received from the Father. And now, I ask you, Lady – I write to you not a new commandment but that which we had from the beginning – I ask you : let us love one another.

This is love : to walk according to His commandments. And this is the commandment : that you walk in love as you have learnt from the beginning. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ Who came in the flesh. They are impostors and antichrists.

Take care of yourselves that you do not lose the fruit of your labours, but receive a perfect reward. Everyone who goes beyond and does not remain within the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Thursday, 10 November 2022 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures, we are all presented with the matter of the coming of the kingdom of God into this world, and how it is actually already happening to us all even as we have experienced it all these time, all these while. We must not see God’s kingdom as something that is disconnected from the present life we have today, as it is definitely very tempting for us to think of that God’s kingdom has yet to come to us, while the truth is that the kingdom of God has actually been amongst us all these times. Yes, brothers and sisters, the fact is that we are already part of this blessed kingdom of God, in the Church and our Christian communities.

In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Epistle of St. Paul to the other disciple of the Lord named Philemon. In that account, we heard St. Paul telling Philemon that he was sending him one of his godsons, Onesimus, to accompany him and the other faithful, in the ministry and mission entrusted to them all in the Church of God. At that time, St. Paul himself was likely suffering in prison after he was arrested due to the many challenges and trials that he had to undergo throughout his ministry and missionary journeys. Yet, St. Paul faced it all with faith and devotion in God, entrusting himself completely in the hands of the Lord, and not fearing the sufferings, consequences and hardships that he had to endure, because he truly cared for the needs of his fellow brethren, to whom God had sent him to as a minister of His Good News and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the encounter between the Lord and some Pharisees who questioned Him regarding when the kingdom of God would come. And we must understand that at the time, the most popular idea and expectation among the people about the coming of the Messiah and God’s salvation was that they expected that the Messiah or the Saviour would be the Son and Heir of David, to restore the old glory of the kingdom of Israel, of the days of David and Solomon, the greatest kings of Israel and those moments when all the people of Israel were still united as one kingdom and one people, and before they were torn apart by internal strife and conflicts that eventually brought down the kingdom of Israel.

Hence, back then, the common interpretation and understanding of the nature of the coming of the Messiah was that this Messiah would lead the people of God in liberating their homeland from the rule by the Romans and other foreigners who had then imposed their rule, power and sovereignty over the Jewish people. Hence, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who disagreed with the Lord and saw His actions as against what they believed in, their ideals of what the Messiah would do and who this Messiah would be. To them, the Lord Jesus could not have been the Messiah because He did not fit their ideal and stereotype of the Messiah of the people of God. Yet, in their pride and ego, they had failed to realise that it was their arrogance, presumptions and mistaken ideals that had become serious obstacles preventing them from finding their way towards God’s truth.

The Lord has shown them and all of us that the kingdom of God was not what the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the other people often thought it would be. Instead, the kingdom of God does not equate the monarchy of the Israelites of the old days, or anything like that. Instead, the kingdom of God is the establishment of God’s reign on this world, which has actually happened when the Lord Jesus came to this world and established His Church. Through the Church, the Lord made His kingdom tangible in this world, in our own communities and societies, wherever we are. By His New Covenant, sealed through His suffering and death on the Cross, He broke the barriers separating us from God, and hence brought us much closer to His heavenly glory and joy.

The kingdom of God therefore has existed in our midst, within the Church and our own various groups and communities. What we must then realise is how we manifest this kingdom of God in our own families, in our circle of friends and relatives, loved ones and others, even in our workplaces and elsewhere. It is here then that as Christians, each one of us are charged and entrusted with the task of making the kingdom of God being fully present and tangible in our world today, wherever we are and in whatever we are doing in life. And we have to be genuine in living our lives with faith, as members of God’s Church and as parts of His living and present Kingdom here in this world, already manifested and tangible in our midst, one where all the faithful people of God are filled with love for both God and for one another.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great, one of the great saints of the Church, whose life, works and inspirations can be sources of good inspiration for ourselves in how we ought to live up to our faith in our daily living, to be truly worthy parts of God’s everlasting and glorious kingdom. Pope St. Leo the Great led the Church during a tumultuous time both in the secular world and also within the Church, and yet, he committed himself to lead the Church through those difficult moments, showing his leadership for his flock through the most challenging times. Pope St. Leo the Great was well-known for his stand-off with the powerful Attila the Hun, king of the rampaging Huns who were then invading the Roman Empire and was about to come to Rome. Pope St. Leo the Great stood at the gates of Rome and managed to convince the Hunnic king to turn away and return to his homeland, sparing his flock much destructions and death.

Not only that, Pope St. Leo the Great was also actively involved in missionary works throughout Christendom, sending missionaries and guides to far-off places to spread the Word of God ever further, and establish the Church communities in more and more places. He was also involved in combatting heresies that had sprung up in various places over different ideas and topics, and maintained the true teachings and the orthodoxy of the Christian faith and its deposit of faith and truth. He was an active participant in the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon and sent his representatives to take part in the proceedings of the Ecumenical Council, which strengthened the truth and the orthodoxy of the Church against the heresies, affirming what the Church has always held since the days and times of the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from the life and works of Pope St. Leo the Great, and also the presence and lives of so many other saints, we can see that the kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of God is already here in this world, in our midst. What we experience now is the precursor of the true Kingdom that we will be in, for all those who are worthy, for all eternity with God, after we have passed on from this world and is judged worthy at the particular and the last judgments. Let us all therefore be inspired by the examples set by our holy predecessors, Pope St. Leo the Great and the innumerable other saints and holy men and women of God, that we truly may embody God’s kingdom on Earth, showing all the people of God what the kingdom of God is like through us all and the Church.

May the Lord continue to guide us through our journey of faith in life and may He empower and strengthen each one of us with the resolve and strength, perseverance and commitment to follow Him ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all in our every actions and works, now and always, forevermore. Amen.