Saturday, 31 May 2014 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the roughly three months period after the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus our Lord was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Today’s feast of the visitation to Elizabeth by Mary and its relative date is based on the Gospels, through which we know that at the third month since the annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth who was then heavily pregnant with John the Baptist.

Mary is the culmination of the Lord’s long-planned plan for the salvation of all mankind, God’s beloved creations, and it is through her, that the Lord exercised His power and made available a new hope for all of us, through Jesus, the Son of God, and also Son of Man through Mary His mother, the fulfillment and perfection of the Law and the prophecies of the prophets about the Lord and Messiah who would come to save His people.

Remember in the Book of Genesis, early in the history of Creation when God created mankind and they disobeyed Him by listening to Satan instead of Him? God did not destroy mankind nor did He abandon them entirely even though they had been unfaithful. God foretold the coming of salvation which would come through the descendant of men, and also foretold is that while Satan the snake would latch to the feet of the sons and daughters of man, the woman would crush Satan the snake under her feet.

This woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus our Lord. Through her the salvation of all men came forth, and with her obedience and complete surrender to the will of God, mankind was saved. Satan had indeed had a great dominion and mastery over mankind for a very long time, and he reigned over fallen mankind with absolute tyranny and impunity. But in Mary, he knew that he would meet his end, and there he would be defeated in a total finality. Thus he feared Mary.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Elizabeth and the baby inside her, St. John the Baptist knew this truth about Mary and the Son inside her, Jesus, the Son of God Most High. Elizabeth and John the Baptist were the ones who had been appointed and chosen by God to be the harbinger and the proclaimer of the Lord’s coming into the world as its Saviour.

If John the Baptist paved the way for Christ and introduced Him to the world, then Elizabeth his mother, as we heard in today’s reading, was the first to proclaim Mary the mother of our Lord, as well as Jesus her Son, to the world. Nevertheless, sadly, just as the people, in particular the Pharisees and the elders disregarded the call of John the Baptist to repentance and to welcome the Lord, nobody regarded Mary the mother of our Lord at that time either.

Such was indeed the situation and the simplicity with which our Lord came into the world. The elders and the Pharisees by their human wisdom and limited understanding failed to understand that the Messiah when He came would not be some sort of an all-conquering Lord who would judge all and bring glory to Israel. These people were looking at nothing sort of a miraculous appearance of a King who would liberate them from the Romans, but they missed entirely the gist of the plan of salvation.

For in the Lord, salvation means as we know it, the complete giving and surrender of Himself and His divinity to come down to us as a humble Man, born of Mary the virgin, the woman whom the Lord had promised to be the one to bear salvation for mankind from the hands and dominion of Satan. And Satan realise that with her, his days in power was numbered, and his doom was waiting for him.

We all, therefore, should rejoice just as Mary had rejoiced, filled with the Holy Spirit, in her song, which we now know as the Magnificat, a song filled with pure joy and praise for God who had made all things happen. And for Mary, and for us, there is no greater reason to celebrate than because of all these, we have been granted a new hope, a new light that pierced away the darkness that used to fill our hearts and our world, giving us a fighting chance to gain everlasting happiness in God.

Let us all renew our commitment to God, rejoice in Him who had come upon this world and saved it through His death. God is kind and loving, and He has shown His favour upon us. We need to return His love and kindness, brethren, that we will all remain in God’s grace and be worthy of the salvation which He had made available for us.

Let us also pray and ask for His beloved mother Mary, to intercede for us and help us that we too may be like her in the obedience and dedication that she had shown. Let us be dedicated in our faith and no longer be complacent in our lives. May God show His mercy and grace to us, and keep us always in His love. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today you may think that Jesus was being uncharacteristically rude towards His own family, and His own mother in particular. After all, how could such a great Teacher of the faith disown and ridicule His own mother in front of the public He was teaching? Such are the thoughts that may circulate among many of us.

But in fact, Jesus was praising His own mother, Mary, with what He said, because  Mary as the obedient and faithful servant of the Lord, His handmaiden, was the perfect example of what Jesus referred to, as those who were considered part of His family. It is indeed her example of devotion to God that we all should follow.

We are all indeed one big family in Christ, for through baptism, on the day when we were sealed with the Sacrament of Baptism, that we were made to be children, the sons and daughters of God who is our Father. And therefore, Christ His Son, the Divine Word of God, also made us to be His brothers and sisters, to be part of the community of the faithful, which is called the Church, symbolised as the unity of the Body of Christ, as the body of all the faithful ones in God.

Today’s first reading also told us about King David of Israel, when he brought in the Ark of God into the city of Jerusalem. In king David’s example, much like that of Mary, he devoted himself to the Lord, so devoutly that he went straight to praise the Lord with dance and song ahead of the Ark of God, showcasing and representing the joy of the people in the coming of the Lord to them in the Ark.

God did not ask much from us, brothers and sisters in Christ. What is referred to by our Lord Jesus when He told the people about obedience to the will of God, is all about love. Yes, the love that we should have for our brothers and sisters, and the love we have to have for God our Lord and Father. It is pure, genuine, and undivided love and attention that God desires from us, and this is true faith.

What this highlights is that, as mentioned, that we were made sons and daughters of God our Father when we were welcomed into the Church upon our baptism. However, we cannot then just remain at that stage and do nothing. Our faith cannot be just a one-off thing, as our faith must keep growing and must be alive and vibrant.

That means our faith cannot be stagnant or mere lip-service, but like what David and Mary in their actions had shown, faith in God must be made through concrete action and real devotion. God wants from us our love and our devotion, in the same way that had been shown by David and Mary, as well as many other forms of love. Love for God must be genuine and pure, and not be mere incantation of prayers and rituals. Those are important, but they must be done with true understanding and genuine love for God.

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the greatest and well-known saints of Christendom, that is St. Thomas Aquinas, the renowned theologian and avid writer of the faith, in the many volumes of his works, he had inspired countless faithfuls, and inspire them to grow deeper in their faith and devotion to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas wanted to join the religious life from an early age, but was faced with strong opposition from his family. Nevertheless he managed his way to become a devotee in the end despite many attempts from his family to bar his way. St. Thomas Aquinas became a Dominican, the order of Preachers, and yet he was known to be a quiet man.

Nonetheless, as another saint was to announce prophetically about St. Thomas Aquinas, his quiet nature hides the true wisdom and greatness that is inside of him. St. Thomas Aquinas was a well educated person and helped to bring the faith to a clearer light through his various writings and works, as well as through his various evangelisation works as part of the Dominican order.

Of course, St. Thomas Aquinas did not have things going his way all the time. There were numerous oppositions from different sources as he went about doing his works. His teachings were even condemned at times and he was harassed at times too. But he did not budge, and St. Thomas Aquinas continued with his works for the sake of the Lord and His people.

His wisdom was eventually recognised and his piety became an encouragement and a model to everyone. And therefore, brethren, let us follow the examples of St. Thomas Aquinas and that of the other saints, that we may truly shine in our faith, through greater understanding of the faith itself, and that is why it is important for us to read great works of the faith, including that of St. Thomas Aquinas. And also to put that faith into practice, by loving one another, practising the same love that God had shown us through Jesus.

May our loving God continue to be with us and guide us, and bless us that we may continue to be faithful and loving till the end of our days. God be with us all, brethren, and may He bless you richly. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 31-35

Then Jesus’ mother and His brothers came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call Him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are outside asking for You.”

He replied, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking around at those who sat there, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to Me.”

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 this 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!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 6 : 12b-15, 17-19

So David went to bring up the Ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David, rejoicing. After those who carried the Ark of YHVH had walked six paces, they sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.

David whirled round dancing with all his heart before YHVH, wearing a linen ephod, for he and all the Israelites brought up the Ark of YHVH, shouting joyfully and sounding the horn.

They brought in the Ark of YHVH and laid it in its place in the tent which David had pitched for it. Then David offered burnt and peace offerings before YHVH. Once the offerings had been made, David blessed the people in the Name of YHVH of hosts, and distributed to each of them, to each man and woman of the entire assembly of Israel, a loaf of bread, a portion of meat and a raisin cake.

With this, all the people left for their homes.