(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Third Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 14 : 15 – Exodus 15 : 1

YHVH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!”

The Angel of God who had gone ahead of the Israelites now placed Himself behind them. The pillar of cloud changed its position from the front to the rear, between the camps of the Israelites and the Egyptians. For one army the cloud provided light, for the other darkness so that throughout the night the armies drew no closer to each other. Moses stretched his hand over the sea and YHVH made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea.

The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea.

It happened that in the morning watch, YHVH in the pillar of cloud and fire, looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly move. Then the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites for YHVH is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Stretch your hand over the sea and let the waters come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.

At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant.

Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : I will sing to YHVH, the glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 : Tuesday within Easter Octave (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to proceed through the celebration of the Easter Octave, let us all continue to remind ourselves that we who have been baptised in the Name of our Lord, have a great duty on our shoulders, as I have mentioned, that is to be the bearer of the Good News and proclaim the news of salvation in our God to all the peoples of all nations.

That Good News is that Jesus, who is Lord, has died for all of us, so that our sins may be cleansed from us and we all be redeemed in holiness, but that is not all, as Mary Magdalene herself witnessed, that the Lord who was dead and buried in a tomb, had risen in glory and majesty, to be the first of all to rise from the dead, and therefore broke the dominion of death over all of us.

Just as the people who believed in Peter’s testimony had allowed themselves to be baptised in the Name of the Lord and hence were welcomed into the family of God, being accepted as children of the same God, we too had done the same and we now share with them the gift of faith and salvation in the Lord through the sacred waters of baptism.

Baptism had given us all a new slate, that is a fresh beginning of a new life. This life is one that is no longer tainted with sin and darkness, and instead what we have is a new opportunity for us to glorify and honour God with our lives and actions. We have been made anew through the death and resurrection of Christ, and we are called to be like Peter and the Apostles, who courageously gave their testimony on the Risen Lord.

Many of us were like Mary Magdalene, who wept in sorrow thinking that the Lord had died and gone forever, and thus shorn of all hope. And even more of us these days act as if we do not even care what the Lord had done for us, being entirely apathetic to His great love. This is because in our hearts we do not have the firmness and courage of faith that we need, if we are to be truly faithful in God.

In today’s world, where everything is presented as facts and hard truths, and in consideration of the knowledge that is freely flowing around from people to people through various means, chiefly through the ubiquitous internet, it is increasingly harder for many and many people to believe in the presence of God, much less His resurrection from the dead. Many nowadays even have the courage to dismiss our faith in God as mere fairy tale and lies.

This, is nothing different from the lies and the scheming of the chief priests and the elders of Israel of Jesus’ time. Despite the truth that was presented to them, with all of the undeniable and concrete evidence, they still rejected the Lord and in their jealousy, they hindered the good works of the Lord for, ironically, their own salvation. They refused to see the truth, and worse, they persecuted those who worked hard to spread the truth of God.

The same thing is occurring today, as those who refused to believe in the Lord and in His marvellous works often ridiculed our faith and even in some instances, persecute those of us who resolved to keep our faith alive, strong and real. That is why, in this world full of confusion and darkness, it is ever more important for us to keep our faith strong in God, that we will be firm in our faith and be shining lights for others to see and follow.

We have been called this Easter, to spread the light of the Risen Christ to all the peoples of all nations. Let us all become modern day apostles and disciples of the Lord, and be faithful messengers of His words and will. Let us not be discouraged by all the oppositions and the ridicule that we will certainly face for standing up for Christ and His truth.

May this Easter be a blessed one for each one of us, as we continue to proclaim His Good News and preach the Risen Lord to all who may hear it and be saved. God be with us all, always, now and forever. Amen.

Monday, 14 April 2014 : Monday of Holy Week (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the Gospel is the sad reality of some portions of the Church and our faith, where people became and end up as hypocrites in their faith, in the name of false almsgiving, charity and humility and end up discrediting the faith itself.

What am I talking about here? It is about some of those who held the view that the Church has to become simple, but for the very wrong reasons. The poverty that these people talked about is literal poverty, stripping the beauty and splendour of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Lord at the Mass. In the name of false simplicity and poverty, they turned the Holy Mass and its celebration into a playground.

This is a true scandal of the faith, one that is sadly quite existent in our Church these days as it had been in the past decades. They substituted the Lord for their own human desires and lack of appreciation for the true faith that the Lord wants from us. In doing what they had done, they not only doom themselves, but also many others who were innocent, in the process.

In the recent years and decades ever since the end of the renewal of the Second Vatican Council, there had been many mistaken and wayward interpretations on what the Council was truly about, and it ended up on the destruction of the beauty of worship which had been preserved for millenia, and for many years, many parts of the world devolved into anarchy of the faith, because they have failed to understand what the Lord truly wants from them.

They brought low the true meaning of the sacrifice in the Mass, the offering of our hearts and love to the Lord. Yes, just as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus once offered her love and devotion to the Lord, only to be rebuked unfairly by the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. She offered the Lord her love and the best offering of her humble heart, anointing and preparing Him for His Passion, while Judas rebuked her for the reason of a hypocrite, pretending to love the poor while in his heart, it was truly a selfish concern for himself.

The same too can be said, even today, on those who wreak havoc on the offering of mankind, who had given their best of all as the gifts and offerings of their heart, in the name of false humility and concern for poverty, or the poverty gospel as one may say. We have to love and care for all, especially the poor for they have little or nothing, and there is much that we can give them. But, this must not be used as an excuse to attack the faith or those who love God and seek to glorify Him by giving Him their all.

We like to make these excuses because we fail to understand and have God in our hearts. Our hearts are not filled with the love and goodness of God, but with malice and ill intent, as Judas Iscariot once did, thinking only about himself and his own benefit with the pretext of giving lip service to God and His way.

This we must not do or we risk to walk the same path that Judas had taken. Mankind had lived for far too long under the influence and corruptions of the evil one. Shall we take the proactive stance and say a definitive no to the devil? Let us cast away all the temptations and false promises which the devil has offered us and instead be true followers of the Lord.

May God be with us, and guide us on our way, as we proceed on this journey of life, that we may always persevere and be strong, rejecting the evil and his falsehoods and be like Mary, giving her all to glorify and to serve the Lord. Let us all remain faithful, brethren! Amen.

Friday, 28 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

The essence of God is love, and everything about God is love. Love is the driving force of all His actions, and the meaning of His Law is love. This is what we have to remember when we obey the Lord and His commandments. God did not wish to burden us with His laws, or to punish us, but instead they were meant to bring us all closer to Him, and that we may learn to love Him more and more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God gave His people Israel, the gift of the Ten Commandments, His own laws in which He gave them guidelines in life of what to do in order to live in God’s favour. But even though there are indeed ten laws in the Ten Commandments, as Jesus had revealed to His people, that they can be grouped together into two main laws, to love God and to love one another.

Indeed, this is the essence of love, as taught by Jesus to His disciples, that first of all we have to give it all in complete dedication to God, our Lord, our Creator, and our loving Father. Then, we also need to give our hearts, filled with love, to each other, for we are all equal, servants of the same One God, and the children of that same God who created us. We are all brothers and sisters to one another.

Obeying the law must not mean that we blindly obey to the letter, the words of the Law, or make empty proclamations and professions, to fulfill the Law superficially. Our observation of the Law must be genuine and true, filled with total love and dedication to all, to God and our fellow mankind. Thus, we have to have love in ourselves, and fill our words, actions and deeds with genuine love.

These days, it is difficult to love genuinely, as love itself in our understanding had been twisted such that we no longer understand what love truly means. Our understanding of love had been corrupted with the pleasures of the flesh and the lust and greed of this world, with material goods and possessions in train. That is how our families and marriages today are under threat, because they were often no longer based on love.

In our faith and in our life, we have to give our attention and focus on the Lord, devoting ourselves wholly to Him, that we will not serve or worship any other gods, and keep holy His Name and His presence, that we will not sully It by any form of blasphemy or misconduct. We have to put our complete faith and trust in Him.

But we cannot just love God alone, for to love God completely also means that we must also give our love to our brethren, especially those in need of that love. God Himself said through Jesus that all that we do for the least, the lost, and the rejected ones of our society, we do it for the Lord Himself, and therefore, in the same argument, to love our brethren means to love God Himself.

And because God is love Himself, it is impossible for us to not love Him and just love one another. Our love cannot be not based on Christ. Yes, the love of God must and is always at the centre of our love, the love that we show to one another. Outside of that, the love we have is not true and genuine love, but one that is tainted by the evils of the world.

We have to be able to distinguish true love from lust and desires of the world. We have often confused between love and lust, and between love and desire for pleasure and for material goods of the world. That is why we end up not doing the will of God, because we mistook His true desire for us with the desire and things of this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we therefore should renew our commitment in faith to our Lord, by loving Him all the greater, through our obedience and following His will, doing our acts all in accordance with God’s love and care for us. Let us not forget our brothers and sisters out there who need our love and attention.

May we grow stronger in love, that day by day we may be ever more solid in our dedication and faith to the Lord. Let us not be hesitant to love God who is our Father, who loves us all with all of His might and care for each one of us. Let us never be separated from God’s love and remain ever in His grace. Amen.

 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Sts. Christopher Magallanes, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Sirach 2 : 1-13

My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Keep your heart upright and remain resolute; do not be upset in the time of adversity. Hold fast to the Lord, do not separate yourself from Him so that you may be successful to the end of your days.

Accept all that happens to you, be patient when you are humbled, for as gold is tested in the fire, so those acceptable to God are tested in the crucible of humiliation. Have confidence in Him and He will take care of you; follow the right path and hope in Him.

You, who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy and do not turn away lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust Him and you will not lose your reward. You who fear the Lord, hope for all good things; hope for eternal joy and mercy.

Remember what happened to your ancestors. Who has ever trusted in the Lord and been confounded? Who has persevered in fear of the Lord and been abandoned? Who has called upon Him and not been heard? For the Lord is compassion and loving-kindness; He forgives our sins and saves us in time of distress.

Sunday, 19 May 2013 : Solemnity of the Pentecost, Pentecost Sunday (Scripture Reflection)

Happy Pentecost, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today marks the end of the fifty days Easter season, and the end of the long celebrations of Christ’s glorious resurrection. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the liturgical Ordinary Time again in the Church, with the seventh Ordinary week. But Easter does not end here, but it in fact continues and we should always rejoice in the resurrection of the Lord and continue to carry on the Easter spirit that is within us, to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and glory.

Pentecost is a very important day in the history of the Church and indeed is a crucial event that all of us who believes in Christ must treasure and understand. For Pentecost, as many of us would have known from our early days that it marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Jerusalem, when the Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit promised by Christ our Lord finally arrives and inflames the hearts of all the disciples, and teach them all that they need to know about the Lord.

Pentecost, through the Holy Spirit’s entry into the hearts of the disciples, transformed them from the weak, ordinary human that they were, to be the powerful champions of God and His presence in this world. Through the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the believers in Christ, which once was cowered in great fear and confusion by the death of Christ, exploded outwards and began the work of salvation of all mankind, which continues even to this day.

Today marked the birth of our Church, the Roman Catholic Church. This Church had begun on that day, with the conversion of more than three thousand souls to the cause of the Lord. That because Peter, the leader of the Apostles, filled with the flames of the Holy Spirit, rose up to defend the Lord and preach the truth to the people, without fear that once gripped the hearts of all the disciples. Gone were the fear and confusion, and with the Holy Spirit giving them all the knowledge of the faith, all were clear to them, and they preached the Gospels of the Lord, the Gospel of truth, and many accepted the Lord that day.

As Christ had once told His disciples in His sermon, He told them that the Holy Spirit brought with It various gifts to those whom the Spirit was willing to come and dwell within. The Holy Spirit gives courage to the hearts of mankind, and they encourage those who had been paralyzed by fear, and that was why the apostles suddenly became so forthcoming in proclaiming the truth of God, when they were just moments before so fearful of capture by the Jewish authorities that they were gathered in a locked room.

The Holy Spirit also gives the gifts of tongues, that is the ability to speak in various languages, and this was told in the first reading today that the apostles spoke various languages, praising the Lord, and were heard by the visitors from all over the world that were at the time gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival. This gift allows the disciples to preach to the people in their own native tongues and therefore greatly enhanced their ability to spread the Good News of the Lord to the peoples of various countries, and this itself also played a crucial role in the birth and growth of the Church of God.

The Holy Spirit also gives guidance to those who have uncertainty in their path, and this Holy Spirit becomes truly the Advocate, guiding the apostles in their missions throughout the Mediterranean, for the next few decades, particularly in the missions and travels of St. Paul the Apostle, who brought the Word of God to many people, Jews and Gentiles alike, that many of them became the believers in Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, many became the children of God and be saved.

The Holy Spirit remains at work in our Church today, and is evident in the many works of evangelisation by our courageous and tireless missionaries that preach the word of God in many areas of the world today, bringing the light of God to many in various nations. We too can play our part, as we too have been given the Holy Spirit through our own baptism and strengthened in our own confirmation.

We can help the process of evangelisation, by reflecting Christ in our actions, our words, and all our deeds, that through us, the light of Christ can be seen by those around us, and then they may believe and become followers of Christ too, just like all of us. But do not seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit with greed, just like what some ‘Christians’ like to do. Some like to claim the gift of tongues and languages, blabbering in unintelligible words, as if they truly speak in tongues. Be warned, brothers and sisters, the gift of the Holy Spirit does not always mean external displays and shows such as these, as if we are not careful, instead of the Holy Spirit, we may be dealing with the devil.

Rather, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us use the Holy Spirit within us, and the subtle gifts that It has given us, that is mainly love and hope. Love that inflames our hearts to zealously spread the Word of God to all those around us, through our words, and through our actions. The Holy Spirit also gives us hope and strength of mind, to be always ready and willing to evangelise in the Name of God. With these gifts in our hands, let us become modern missionaries of Christ, spreading the Good News to all nations.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, many people have yet listen to the Word of God, and many also have no chance of receiving the baptism of the Lord, because either they had no access to the Word, or no access to God’s message, or the Scripture, or because of external pressures and prejudice against the faith in the Lord that prevents many from becoming the children of God.

Let the Holy Spirit transform us and through us, let the Holy Spirit do His work in our world, to renew this world, bring the light of Christ into it, and make this world worthy of the Lord our God, when He comes again in His glorious Second Coming. May God strengthen us all with the Holy Spirit that He has sent through His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave the Holy Spirit as the breath of life, to His disciples, and from His disciples to our bishops and priests, and from them to us.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (Scripture Reflection)

Today, we hear the words of Christ, that we all should love, just as Christ and His Father, our Lord have loved us, so then we should also love them back with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls. For love lies at the very centre of our faith in God, and it is in love that we truly can have faith in Christ. If we have no love in us, we can never be truly faithful to Christ and to God, for without love, we cannot possibly understand what they are doing and what they have done, for our sake, and for our own good.

Love one another as God has loved us. Indeed, it may seem to be easy for many to say that they can love, but in fact, love should not be taken for granted, for the ability to love is not as easily obtained as one would think, but true love require great dedication and effort, in order for love to be present, to be maintained, and to be able to flourish. Our world lacks love, and it is in this lack of love, that the many problems of our world can trace their roots from.

Have we followed Christ’s commandments, the commandments of love, to love one another as unconditionally as Christ had loved us? He died for all of us, by suffering on the way to Calvary and finally hung between the heaven and the earth, so that all of us may be saved from death that is our fate, and by His resurrection we can share in His life, that all of us will have eternal life in Him. This He offered to everyone, even to those who hated Him, and even to those who persecuted Him, and His people.

To be able to love is a great blessing to all of us. If we are able to learn more about love, and how to love, we will be able to transform ourselves, but indeed not just ourselves, but also those around us, and many other things surrounding us. Love is indeed the key to life, life eternal in God, both for ourselves and to those to whom we show and reflect God’s love.

Today, we celebrate the memorial and feast of a great saint, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, who was one of the great early Church Fathers that helped to establish the Church of God, and strengthened the faith of the people of God, in the onslaught of heresies and heretical thoughts espoused by those who the devil had entrusted to destroy God’s Church. The devil hates love, and therefore, it is only natural that he will want to destroy the very place where love can still be found in this world, that is in the Church of God.

St. Athanasius defended the Church against the heretical teachings of Arius, the popular presbyter and preacher, who espoused the idea that Christ is not fully man and fully divine, and rather just as a man, a mere human, without divine qualities, as we believe in our Creed. St. Athanasius had to suffer exile and persecution due to his steadfast defense of the Lord and the true faith in God, against these heresies. Yet he prevailed, and due to his ceaseless efforts to bring many back to the true faith in God, he managed to prevail in the end, and bring back countless ones back into God’s Church and therefore into God’s love.

For we have to remember always that Christ is no mere human, for He is the Son of God, both fully human and fully divine at the same time. He is God, and with God since the beginning of time. And it was because of the great and infinite love that God has for all of us, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be man like us, and in this great love, we are saved and are given chance for eternal life, if we would receive His divine love and that He is our Lord and God.

For if we believe that Christ is just mere human, then there would be no hope for all of us, all of us beloved by God and who place our trust in Christ. For a human’s blood has no power to free us from the chains of slavery of sin, which Satan has imposed on us, since the rebellion of our forefathers, Adam and Eve, our ancestors. But because Christ is God, and with God, one with He who created us, we have hope since the Lamb of God Himself shed His Precious Blood, that we can be saved, out of His great and infinite love for all His people.

Now that we know how much God has loved us, and how much He wants us to remain within His love and care, should we now then vow to our Lord and God, that we will love Him ever greater and ever more? Let us put our full trust in Him and follow in His ways, in the footsteps of St. Athanasius, the great defender of the true faith in Christ. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, pray for us. Amen.