Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jealousy and greed for power, as well as the fear of losing it, are just a few of the evil afflictions that affect mankind, and which many of us had succumbed to, many, many times. These evil afflictions affect us, because we have been made vulnerable to them, ever since our ancestors opened the way to sin through their disobedience to the Lord.

Today, as we continue into the Christmas season, and continue with the festivities and revelries, and all the joy and happiness that we have among us, all the gift exchanges and partying, we must not remember a great tragedy which we all remember on this day, that is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a great tragedy that is filled with sorrow and wickedness of mankind.

On this day, we remember the great and merciless slaughter of the innocent infants of Bethlehem, the city of David, where our Lord Jesus was born. King Herod the Great, the then Roman appointed King of Israel and Judea, was so fearful and jealous of the authority and power of the promised King of Israel, the true King of kings, Jesus the Messiah, that he resolved to kill this Messiah, before the kingdom that was his is usurped from him.

You can clearly see this king’s hubris, jealousy and arrogance, that even though he knew about the coming of the Messiah, he was unwilling to part with his own authority and power and give it to the coming King. He was foolish and short-sighted, one which certainly brought him down to the deepest depth of hell. You see what desperation, fear, and wickedness can bring to men.

Yes, they brought downfall to man, and they bring nothing but death and destruction. And it is often that the innocent ones are the ones to suffer, such as what happened in Bethlehem. One may ask why God did not intervene in the case of what has happened, but indeed, if we look at it again, God gave everyone a free will to follow what he thinks is best to be done. One can choose to follow the Lord and be righteous, or give in to their human vulnerabilities and embrace what is evil and wicked.

And those infants were innocent, and Herod massacred them in order to ensure the continuation of his own power and authority. He took the quick way out of problems, and did not regard even the sanctity of human lives. Those innocent infants also deserved to live. They therefore, were holy martyrs of the faith by the virtue of their innocence. They were the victims of humanity’s disdain for the sanctity of life.

Today we all remember these Holy Innocents, whose massacre is a reality amidst the joy and the festivities surrounding Christmas. And that is why we have to always remember that Christmas is about life. Yes, the sanctity of life, which is also often under attack in today’s society, especially by those championing for the culture of death.

That is right, on this day, on this era, thousands of even unborn infants or more are being killed on daily basis. You all know about the controversy, and the voices crying out for and against the practice of abortion. It is sad indeed, that even among us who believe in the Lord, the source of life, even some of us agree, or participate in the killing of the innocents, either by our actions or by our silence.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate Christmas, never forget that we have to celebrate life, and we cannot forget about the massacre of the innocents that had happened, and what is happening even now. Life is sacred, brethren, as is it not Jesus who came into this world that we may have life eternal. We cannot profess to be Christians and yet treat life as something trivial. It is a gift from God to all of us.

May the Lord therefore continue to inflame in us, the love for Him, as well as the love for all of God’s creations, treating with honour everyone, even to the least of all, the poorest of all, and the weakest of all, to the smallest of infants. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the word of God in the readings, in which we are told first of the greatness of God and His kindness and love for His people, in giving to His people, the full promise of His covenant by bringing them into the land promised onto them for possession, just as God had once promised Abraham, their forefather.

Today, we also listened to the end of Moses the great prophet and leader of God’s people, who acted as the conduit of God’s amazing power and brought Israel out of Egypt, through the miracles the Lord performed through Moses and his brother, Aaron. Moses was appointed to be tool through which God exercised His saving power on His beloved people. But Moses too had his flaws, and he disobeyed God in Massah and Meribah, when the people tested the Lord and complained against Him and Moses, His servant.

Through that disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land, that Promised Land of Canaan, but he was indeed allowed to take a look of the land the people of Israel was about to enter, before the Lord took him into heaven into His presence at the end of his earthly life. Moses, as all men had, met the end of his life that is death. But as Christ had proven, that death is not the end, nor does it have any power over us, because, He had overcome death, and brought new life to all mankind, that is eternal life with God in heaven for those who remain faithful in God.

Although Moses had indeed gone, and no one was ever like him in this world, save for Christ, our Lord who had incarnated Himself as one of us, but there were many prophets that God had sent to His people to guide them from generations to generations. And then, our Lord Himself had commissioned His apostles, the disciples whom He had chosen, to be the new messengers and bearers of the will of God in this world. Yes, they were to be the leaders of the people of God, the shepherds of God’s beloved sheep, in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church He Himself had established and entrusted to the Apostles through Peter.

From the apostles, the authority of leadership of God’s people, as the divine shepherds, came down to bishops and priests throughout the generations, and eventually to our bishops and priests today, who minister to us and lead us in our path towards God, as our leader and guide. They are our role models and to be like Moses of old, when he led the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, to the Promised Land of Canaan.

And like Moses, our priests and bishops too have to deal with all kinds of problems, with our complaints and rejections of the Lord, that they really have much things to deal with in their hands. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, their job is not easy, and they always need our constant prayers and assistance. And one of the task that priests need to do is to bring peace and love between one another, just as we listened in the Gospel Reading today, of the need to reconcile between ourselves, between brethren and children of the same God.

Today, we mark the feast of one of those excellent priests of the Lord, the leader of God’s people, the true shepherd, the good shepherd of God’s flock. Yes, that is Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the well-known saint of the Holocaust of Nazi Germany during the World War II era. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar, who in his great zeal in the service of the Lord, and after witnessing the erosion of the faith in many, established the Militia Immaculata or the Army of Mary, a group intended to foster the love and devotion to the Lord through His mother Mary, and through the work, many people rejoined the Church and had their faith strengthened.

St. Maximilian Kolbe did much good works and service during his life and as a priest of the Lord. He truly became like Moses was for the people of Israel. He ministered to the people of God and through the Militia Immaculata, spread catechism and teachings of the Church to many people, bringing them closer towards the Lord and salvation, by means of printed media and publications such as newspapers and magazines. St. Maximilian Kolbe also went to Japan and established at Nagasaki in particular a base of operations, from where the good works of St. Maximilian Kolbe and his fellow workers spread to the people still in darkness.

St. Maximilian Kolbe protected many thousands of people including the Jews, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II. He protected them from the cruelty of the Nazi holocaust policy, but in the end he himself was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. He was incarcerated in prison with many other people, suffering under very harsh treatment and hard labour in the Nazi concentration camp. Yet, he did not give in to despair, but he in fact encouraged his fellow inmates, singing hymns and saying the Mass for them.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was not obliged to do so, but he did so because of the faith and dedication he had for the Lord and for the people of God. He truly lived his faith and made it a concrete and living faith. One day, the Germans wanted to punish a few people in the prison, because it was found that someone had managed to escape the prison, and therefore these people had to suffer in the escaped prisoner’s place. One Polish military officer who was imprisoned was chosen to be among the ones to suffer death. His pleas for mercy because he had a wife and children brought the attention of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered himself in exchange for the man, that is to die in his place instead.

The example of St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly praiseworthy, brothers and sisters in Christ, because through his death, much had been achieved. Yes, his death was not a waste, but it has brought much fruits, that is the fruit of love, the fruit of one’s selfless act of sacrifice, for the love of his fellow men. St. Maximilian Kolbe exemplified the very words of Christ, on who is a true and good shepherd, that is someone who love fully those who had been entrusted to him, his friends and loved ones, and one who even would die for the sake of his friends. That was what St. Maximilian Kolbe had done with his sacrifice for the poor soldier and indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had done for all of us out of His love.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all ought to emulate the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe in our own lives, in our giving of ourselves to our brethren in need. We can do it in a variety of ways, but basically we have to be ready to give our all for our brethren’s sake. As importantly as this, let us support our priests and those who have been appointed as shepherds over us, that they will remain faithful to the mission they have been appointed to, and faithful to the people and the flock they have been entrusted with, just as St. Maximilian Kolbe and many other great saints and martyrs had done.

May the Lord bless us, our priests, and our Church, and may through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and all the saints, more souls will find their way to heaven, and may in this world that we live in today, justice and peace can be held up ever better, and may the innocent and the weak ones be protected from harm, injustice, and evil. God bless us all. Amen.