Sunday, 1 June 2014 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the readings we all see the power of prayer, and how we need to pray, constantly and consistently throughout our lives. We must be filled with prayers every single moments of our lives, so that we will be in constant touch and communication with the Lord our God, who loves us.

Today we celebrate the Seventh Sunday of Easter, and at the same time we also celebrate World Communication Sunday, which indeed ties in smoothly with the readings of the Scripture we have today. Communication is one thing that I find to be increasingly lacking in these days and in the world today, and people increasingly becoming less and less communicable due to various reasons, but more importantly because of the rise of virtual communication.

The rise of the social media such as Facebook, Twitter and many other forms of internet or media-based communication had eroded the traditional sense and meaning of communication, to the point that many had forgotten what it meant by communicating with others. Especially teenagers today had often forgotten the important communication skills as they get more and more glued to their smartphones and gadgets that prevent them from interacting with others in a proper way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, not just that, but the sinister effect of excessive technological innovations and developments is that mankind increasingly becoming isolated and uncommunicable to not just their fellow men, but also to God their Lord and Creator. Imagine how hard it must be for many who are so engrossed with their online activities, games, and applications to be able to take some time to spend it with God, not to mention significant amount of time they should have spent with God.

See how Jesus prayed to His Father in today’s Gospel, see the sincerity and the focus that Jesus showed as He prayed to the Father for the sake of His disciples and all of mankind. He prayed to the Father to bless them and to guide them through life, and show His favour upon them. His prayers are the example of how we too, should pray. Our prayer must bring glory to God and not to ourselves, and our prayer must be a sincere and genuine relationship and communication with the Lord, a two-way talk that is from heart-to-heart.

The Apostles too, gathered together and prayed regularly, as we witnessed in the first reading today. There are two types of prayers indeed, one that is personal and the other which is communal. Both are equally important, and we should not proceed forward in our faith if we exclude any of the two, or even both from our lives. We have to pray in person, in one-by-one contact with our Lord, but we must also be praying together as a united Christian community to our God.

Remember, brethren, that our faith is both personal and communal. We cannot say that we just keep to ourselves and pray alone to God without regards for the community, for we have been united to one another, all the believers in Christ, as part of His one Body and Spirit, and therefore we cannot disregard our brethren in faith in our communication with God. However, at the same time, we also cannot disregard having a personal relationship with God and establish a good and working communication with Him either.

In today’s world, as I had mentioned earlier, the increasing prevalence of alternative forms of communication through various means is a great danger when these are used without careful deliberations and considerations by the users, as they do not just erode our ability to properly communicate with each other, but also erode the relationship we have with our Lord and God. How many of us can spend time with God and sacrifice the time we normally use to play our games and using our social media platforms? Not many of us, if I would say it.

So today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are challenged on our way of communication, and also through our way of praying, that whether we have spent the necessary time with God, communicating effectively and sincerely with Him, rather than spending the time meaninglessly to enjoy the decadence of the world which is quite evident these days.

Have we been an effective and responsible communicator? And with regards to the use of social media, have we been responsible in its use? We have to realise that as much as social media can be harmful and destructive in its use, as the many examples in our world today can testify, it also has its potential and great uses, which many of us have yet to employ.

The social media and other forms of communications we have today provide us with enormous potential for evangelisation and spreading the Good News of the Lord, if we use it purposefully and meaningfully. With the internet, we can easily spread the Good News from one person to many people around the world with the click of the mouse and the typing of a keyboard, where this would have been impossible if we rely just on the word of mouth, direct contact, or any other forms of traditional communication.

This said, it is why we need to be careful and be prepared, that everything that we do or say will bring glory to God, and not end up causing more harm than good, both to ourselves, and also to others. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this day, let us all come together and pray, communicating with the Lord our God, just as Jesus had done, asking Him to bless us and guide us in our lives.

Let us all pray that we will be responsible and purposeful in our communication with others, and use whatever are in our means, in order to bring greater glory to God and reveal Him to all the peoples of all nations. May God bless us in our endeavour, and be with us always. Amen.

Sunday, 1 June 2014 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 1-11a

After saying this, Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.

I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word.

And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You. I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me.

I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.

Sunday, 1 June 2014 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 4 : 13-16

Instead, you should be glad to share in the sufferings of Christ because, on the day His glory is revealed, you will also fully rejoice. You are fortunate if you are insulted because of the Name of Christ, for the Spirit of glory rests on you.

I suppose that none of you should suffer for being a murderer, a thief, a criminal or an informer; but if anyone suffers on account of being a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace; rather let this Name bring glory to God.

Sunday, 1 June 2014 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 7-8a

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

Hear my voice when I call, o Lord, have mercy on me and answer. My heart says to You.

Sunday, 1 June 2014 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Communications Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen-minute walk away.

On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these together gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

Sunday, 18 May 2014 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, trust in the Lord and do not turn against Him, even when we are in difficulties, doubt or uncertainties. Our Lord and God is faithful and loving to us, and He desired that all of us be reunited to Him in all perfection. At the centre of our faith lies our dedication and commitment to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, through whose sacrifice on the cross, we had been made whole and worthy of the Lord once again.

Today we continue to celebrate the joy of Easter, that joy of new life brought by Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, the joy that overcomes all despair and distress, and a new light that all of us who lived in darkness may see and believe. Ever since Christ died and was risen from the dead, He had brought forth a new era for the world, that is where His Church is present in this world and continuing to do the good works and missions that Christ had initiated.

In today’s first reading we read how the Apostles and the other disciples of Christ faced a problem with the distribution of goods among the faithful, for we have to be mindful that the earliest Christian communities lived in perfect harmony with one another, and as the Scriptures mentioned, they shared their goods and happiness with one another in the community.

The Apostles were the extensions of the Lord’s power and authority in this world, and there were twelve of them in number. If a parallel is to be made to the status of the Church in today’s time, they are the most senior ranking prelates and officials of the Holy Mother Church, with Peter as their leader and the head of the entire Christian communities, as Christ’s vicar in the world.

And just as today’s leaders of the Church, and the Pope, the Apostles had many responsibilities, and arguably even more responsibilities and works than what the Church leaders today have, in addition to the persecution and open opposition against the faith by the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities, which made things even more difficult for the Church at the time of the Apostles.

Therefore, what we witness today in the readings, is God loving us so much, that He inspired His Apostles to take a course of action that will expand greatly the works and acts of charity and love among His people, by appointing a new class of leaders that were meant for service to the people of God and a service that is based on the foundations of faith and love. They are the deacons, not much different from the deacons that we have today.

The deacons were meant to help with the distribution of goods to the faithful and to serve them with love, as mentioned earlier on, and originally there were seven of them. They were men filled with the Holy Spirit, and we know well of one of them, St. Stephen, the first martyr of the faith, who defended the Lord so eloquently and passionately, that all those who had not hardened their hearts would have listened and believed.

They together with the Apostles, showed to the world the love of God, which was made manifest through Jesus Christ, and it is He whom the Apostles and the disciples were proclaiming about, spreading His Good News to many peoples of many nations, saving many souls in the process, and passing down that Good News through the generations, that more souls might be saved, and indeed their good works are still continuing today, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

Nevertheless, it is indeed sad today, how vocations to the priesthood had declined precipituously, not least because of the moral and spiritual decline in the world, and in a world increasingly beset with materialism and ego-centric mentalities. It is increasingly difficult to find those with the heart and dedication to serve the Lord as the Apostles and the deacons had done. Less and less young men are joining the seminaries simply because this world offers us too much goodness for us to ignore.

Hence, brethren, let us today pray, for more vocations among the faithful, that we may see a resurgence in the number of those who accept the calling of the Lord, that more will join the holy works of grace the Apostles and the deacons had done. May the Lord bless His people and strengthen the faith in them. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God who is our Father is kind, and He is loving, because He is love, and true love personified, in all its perfection. The Lord cannot deny Himself, and He loves everyone without exception. This love He had poured down upon the world through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Messiah, our Saviour. And to add to that, the numerous reminders He had sent us and His people, Israel, through the prophets and their prophecies and the visions and revelations He had given them.

He loves us all and He will surely listen to our needs, and He truly knows all that we need. That is why we should never worry, and instead we all should put our full trust in Him, for He is a loving God, who is just and righteous in all the things He does. But remember, brothers and sisters, that He is also an avenging God, just as He is loving, because He hates sin first of all things, and all things evil and abhorring in His eyes. If we sin and do not repent, we will face the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were wiped out from the face of the earth for their sins.

But our Father in heaven does not just want empty worship and prayers either, as many of us would certainly had done in the past, paying lip service to the Lord who loves us. He wants from us our hearts, our full attention and dedication, just as He Himself had paid full attention to all of us sinners, all these while. We are like lost sheep to Him, whom He cannot ignore, and He would use all in His power to bring us back, like a shepherd going all out to find even one lost sheep.

So that we would not be lost, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were lost in their debauchery and their sinful lives, where sin had blinded and deafened them to the Lord their God, He had sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be a new light, a new hope for all of us. And one of the things that He had done to make sure that we will not be lost forever was that to teach us how to pray, how to pray to the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our full attention, that our prayer is indeed truly a prayer, pure and beautiful in the eyes and ears of the Lord.

To pray is to communicate with our Lord, and that is the key essence of what a prayer truly is. To pray is not to bring in endless litanies of requests and wishes, or bugging our Lord for His help whenever we are in dire straits. To pray is not to turn to the Lord only when we are in difficulties and in need of great help, or in the state of danger. Indeed, as the Lord has told us, and Christ His Son has taught us through His disciples, that prayer must be done, at all times, with a sincere and pure heart.

That was why Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, the very prayer that came out of the mouth of the Word of God, Christ Himself. This prayer is a perfect prayer, the most sincere and purest of all prayers that are ever be in this world, be it on earth or in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer, which we recite and pray every Mass and most likely pray every day, is the model prayer for all of us. It is a simple yet a clear-cut prayer, straight to the point in its meaning, and pure in its intentions.

Yes, a prayer must always begin with glorifying the Lord our God and praising His Name, and all His love and kindness that He had shown us, all His beloved children. A prayer must never be a litany of requests and petitions, but indeed, it must be a humble prayer, showing our sincerity and humility before the throne of God, for we are nothing and full of sin, and yet He rescued us and made us whole and pure once again, with none other than the Blood of His own Son’s sacrifice on the cross.

In a prayer, we have to listen to God just as God listens to us. A prayer is a two-way communication between God and man, the link between our Creator and us His creations. He speaks to us in mysterious ways and in the depth and the silence of our hearts. If we keep our hearts closed to Him, we will not be able to listen to Him. It is often that we have to cast away our pride and sinfulness, and the deafening noise of the world, so that we will be able to listen to our Lord, and communicate sincerely with Him through prayer.

That is why brothers and sisters, whenever we pray, we should close ourselves from the world, and take away any form of distractions which may distract us and disturb our precious link with the Lord our God. Do it in silence and in the privacy of our rooms, and it is also important that we make use of every opportunity we have to be silent, even at a workplace, to listen to the Lord speaking to us. Even that is prayer, brothers and sisters in Christ!

That is also why in the Mass, it is important to have silent moments, after the readings, during the time after we receive the Lord in the Holy Communion, and even at times before the Mass starts or after the Mass has finished. These are precious moments we can use to communicate with our God, especially if we are busy with our work in any other times. It is important, brothers and sisters, that we respond to the Lord’s calls and know what He wants us to do with our lives. Be like the prophet Samuel, who in his youth was called by the Lord and he answered to it, and listened to the word of God.

As I had mentioned, God is merciful and loving just as He is just and a punishing God. If we ask and knock at His door, He will surely listen to us and consider our repentance. You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord does not take pleasure in seeing the punishment and suffering of His children, and He certainly does not enjoy punishing us for our sins. Indeed, it caused Him great pain to punish mankind for their sins and their rebellions, and it is especially hard for the Lord to punish His own chosen people of Israel, when they erred and preferred the pagan gods and idols, and their constant rebellions during the journey from Egypt and after they had had the Promised Land as their own.

That is why, in our prayer, what is important is for us to recognise our own weaknesses, our own sinfulness, and our own unworthiness, that we lay them all bare before the Lord our God, that the Lord who sees all, will see our sincerity and the sincerity of our repentance, our contrite hearts, the true offering from us that He desires. Open the doors of our heart to Him, just as He opened His doors for us to enter. That we may be in Him just as He is in us.

Do not fear God and His punishment, but be courageous and approach the throne of God, the throne of mercy. For the Lord is the Divine Mercy who will embrace sinners and those who sincerely acknowledge their faults and seek to be healed. For Christ had come to save sinners and those who are sick from sin, and bring them back to health once again, that is a life of grace in God. However, He cannot do much help to us, if we ourselves did not open the doors of our heart for Him to come in.

He knocks at our doors too, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we knock at His doors in heaven, to give Him our prayers and petitions. In the same way, the Lord too longs to speak to us all in our hearts. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, harden not our hearts the way the Pharaoh and the people of Israel had once hardened their hearts, but open it, for the Lord who wants to come in and dwell within us. Listen to Him and do what He wants us to do, and our lives will be blessed.

May the Lord who saved us from death deliver us from evil and his corruptions, that we may not suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous ones could be found. May He protect us from harm and bring us to the life eternal that He had promised us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord who speaks to us in silence helps us to gain greater understanding in the importance of prayer in our lives, so that we will always be attuned to Him, in line with His will, and always ever be in His grace. God bless us all. Amen!