Tuesday, 31 December 2013 : Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and this Word was made flesh, that it came into the world and dwell among us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Gospel proclaimed to us the truth about Christ and His coming into the world, and what the truth is about the Messiah and His ways.

For, as St. John the Evangelist warned us, in his first letter, that there are antichrist and false prophets who came into this world to mislead us and distract us from the true teachings and the way of the Lord, revealed in Jesus His Son. There are those who taught that Jesus is not God, and that even He is not the Holy One of God, or even that He worked with the power of the evil spirit, and many other.

And there were also those who proclaimed themselves as the Messiah and misled the people of God, both before and after the coming of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. That is the truth as proclaimed by the Holy Apostles and martyrs who risked their lived to keep true the revelations as we heard today in the Gospel.

The truth about Jesus is that He is God, and therefore He is Love for God is Love. That was why He came down upon us, incarnate into flesh. He was the Word of God, and of the same essence as God. He was one third of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was there before time and before all ages, not created, perfect and one in unity, in perfect unity and love as One and only True God with three characteristics.

God the Creator, God the Word, and God the Spirit. These are the persona unified perfectly in God. If you all read the first chapter of the very first book in the Holy Bible, that is the Book of Genesis, you will understand it easily. It was written that once there was nothing and the Spirit of God floats in that nothingness. Then God who was there from the very beginning, and who exists outside of time, spoke and with His Word, made things to be created into existence.

All of those involved are one and the same God, the Creator who is the Father, the Word who is the Son, whom we later know as Jesus, and the Spirit of God, which is the Holy Spirit. That is the reality of our faith, that we believe in One and only One God, but God who in Him exists three distinct yet unified persona, in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

All three of them cannot be separated from each other and they are One in God. Through His own Word, He decreed the universe and all creations into existence. Thus, through that Word of God, we and all the things around us were created. And because He created us, and because His nature is love, He cannot deny us the love He has for us. We have sinned when our ancestors chose to listen to Satan instead of the Lord, and therefore we should have deserves damnation and destruction as our fate.

We have been made unworthy of God because of our rebelliousness, and we who have been tainted by sin should have had no place in the kingdom of God. But God being God, and loving us deeply, gave us a new chance, that is the only way out of the predicament that we were in. That way is in Jesus, who came into this world, the Word who was God and was with God, but emptied Himself of all His glory and descend into this world as one of us.

This is the truth about the Lord, our Christ, the Saviour, the Messiah of the world. Satan certainly did not stay quiet or idle during the works of Christ, but he worked hard to undermine the works of the Lord, and as a result, sent many deceivers to deceive and distract the people of God from the true salvation in Jesus Christ.

Today we celebrate a saint whose feast is the last we have on the year. Pope St. Silvester I or Sylvester I was the leader of the Universal Church as the Bishop of Rome at the time of the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine during the late Roman Empire period. He succeeded the Pope Miltiades, during whose reign as Pope the Edict of Milan was signed by the Emperor, which ended the state persecution against Christians.

Pope St. Silvester I worked hard to strengthen the Church and rebuilt the faith after centuries and past decades of persecution against Christians. He oversaw the period of great revival of the fortunes of the faith, from one that is constantly persecuted and chased by the state authorities and the pagans, into one that is eventually becoming the state faith of the Empire.

His piety and hard work to consolidate the position of the faith as the guiding beacon for many people, and for helping the pious Emperor Constantine to build up the foundations for the Universal Church in converting millions and more to the cause of the Lord made him a great saint of the Church. Yet, as we celebrate what he had achieved, we must remain wary of the devices and works of the devil aimed at disturbing the good works that Pope St. Silvester I and the other saints had initiated.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we end this year of our Lord 2013, let us look forward to the new year with a new and rejuvenated faith, that we will continue to remain faithful to the Lord and His ways, and not be swayed by the temptations of evil, no matter how attractive they are. Reject the devil as firmly as Jesus had rejected him and cast him away from His side. Reject any false prophet bearing the lies and falsehoods of Satan.

May the Lord strengthen our faith and empower us, to be better able to resist Satan and his temptations on us. That we will remain ever faithful in Jesus, our Lord, the true, one and only Saviour of the world. Amen.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Apostles, that is St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, the leader of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew is also known as St. Andrew the first-called, because he was known to be the first Apostle to be called out of the Twelve Jesus had chosen. It was St. Andrew who brought his brother Simon, who is St. Peter, to the Lord and introduced the Lord to him.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of the city and Archdiocese of Constantinople, or New Rome. It is known as such because the Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, established a new capital in the eastern part of the Empire, in the city he built and named after his own name, which is today known as Istanbul, after its fall to the evil and pagan forces of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Not much is known of the actions of St. Andrew in the New Testament, but the Church tradition showed that he established many Christian communities in today’s Greece, particularly in the area now known as Thrace, especially the Christian community of Byzantium, later known as Constantinople when the Emperor established his new city and capital there.

St. Andrew laboured hard for the sake of the Gospel and preached to the unbelievers in the area, earning many converts for the sake of the Lord. Despite difficulties and oppositions and rejections, he continued his ministry with faith, and the faithful communities under his care flourished. And as many of the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he followed the Lord into death.

St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which from then on became known as the St. Andrew’s cross. His dedication and faith to the Lord did not make him hesitate to sacrifice even his own life for the sake of the Lord, shedding his blood and giving up his own life for the growth and spread of the Gospel, and for the salvation of more souls to God.

Today we rejoice with our brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church, headed by the venerable Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle, who had first founded the see of that city. That is why today, we celebrate this great feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the see of our brethren in Constantinople, our brethren in faith, and One as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

It is lamentable and sad indeed, that due to petty political and personal ambitions of the corrupt Patriarch of Constantinople at that time, Michael Cerularius, that this very sad and preventable tragic division of the faithful had to occur, in what is known as the Great Schism of 1054, almost a thousand years ago. It is in the best interest of all the faithful that we all put aside our differences and throw far away the lies, rumours, prejudices, and misconceptions which keeps up the enmity and divisions in our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We are called today, as St. Paul has shown in the first reading, that we ought to preach the Good News to many people of many nations, and we have to reach out to them, and show them the love of God so that they will be converted to the cause of the Lord, just as St. Andrew himself had done. But we certainly cannot do this, if we ourselves are divided against ourselves.

Yes, first we must show our unity, the unity of the Church as one, the One and only Church of God, which Christ had established Himself on Peter, His Apostle, whom the Lord Jesus had appointed as the first Vicar of His will on this world. Sadly, many people, driven by ambition and human greed would like to see and keep the Church divided as it is, not for the glory of God, but for their own glory, for their own ego.

Following the footsteps of St. Andrew and the other Apostles, that of St. Peter, his brother, let us today, as we celebrate the feast of this great saint, as one Church, remember the mission that the Lord has given to us through His disciples, that we have to go out, and proclaim the words of the Lord, the Good News of Salvation, the salvation in Jesus Christ. And that before all these can be completely done, we must resolve to seek unity among ourselves, to avoid divisions and infighting among ourselves.

We are called to become the fishers of men, as we will catch mankind by thousands, tens of thousands, millions and more, bringing them closer to the Lord. That is why the Lord said to His disciples that they will become fishers of men. We too therefore have been called to be the same as they were, to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world. But fishermen cannot catch the fish if they first fight among themselves, instead of catching the fish and waste much energy, effort, and time in the process, and many fish will be lost.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the feast of St. Andrew, we rejoice and celebrate together with our brethren in the Church of Constantinople, that is the Eastern Orthodox Christians. We resolve that we will aim and seek for unity between us, that we will be able to soon once again be perfectly reunited in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the one and only Church that our Lord had built in this world, which He entrusted to Peter and his successors to lead and to be His Vicar in this world.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our loving Church, and bring it closer ever to unity, and with the help of the intercession of St. Andrew, may we be one again, as our Lord is One. Amen.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved.

For Scripture says : ‘No one who believes in Him will be ashamed.’ Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him?  And how can they believe in Him without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : ‘How beautiful are the feet of the messengers of Good News.’ Although not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : ‘Lord, who has believed in our preaching?’

So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ. I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But of course they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth and their voice was heard to the ends of the world.