(Easter Sunday) Sunday, 27 March 2016 : Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week, Easter Octave (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occured throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power.

He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him; we are witnesses of all that He did throughout the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem itself. Yet they put Him to death by hanging Him on a wooden cross.

But God raised Him to life on the third day and let Him manifest Himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – to us who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from death. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead.

All the prophets say of Him, that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His Name.

(Usus Antiquior) Feast of Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel (I Classis) – Monday, 29 September 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of a great protector, our great defense against the assaults of the evil one, Satan, the prince and progenitor of all evils. We celebrate today the feast of the chief of all the angelic hosts of heaven, that is St. Michael the Archangel, prince of all the angels, and chief of the seven Archangels who served before the throne of God.

The angels were created by the Lord to be His servants, that is to be the ones who carry out His will throughout the world, to be His messengers and the bearers of His good works, to exercise His power throughout the universe He had created. He created angels of many forms and kinds, and they have various tasks and functions, depending on how they were created.

Just like men, when we were first created, the angels were initially pure and blameless, free from what is now called as sin, the impurities and imperfections that blemished the purity of creation, through disobedience against the will of God. The angels too, were granted free will just like us, so that, just as we are able to choose our path and destination in life, then they too were able to choose.

But everything was good and perfect, just as our ancestors once lived in perfect peace and harmony in the gardens of Eden, the angels were all pure and immaculate, free from all evil and taints of sin, that is until the corruption and fall of Lucifer, the greatest, brightest and the mightiest of all the angels, and unfortunately, his pride too was the greatest of all the angels, his vanity and sense of superiority over others, which proved to be his greatest undoing.

While now we speak of St. Michael the Archangel as the chief of all the heavenly hosts, he was not made such because of his greatness and his power or might, neither it was because he was the most beautiful or splendid among the angels of God. It was rather because of St. Michael’s great obedience and faith in the Lord, which made him to be the greatest defender of the Lord and His beloved people against the forces of evil.

For as mentioned, that Lucifer was once the greatest and the mightiest among the angels, but this made him proud beyond any pride, and he began to plot his rise among the angels, and eventually even boasted that he would make his throne rise above the stars of God, namely the angels, to be the ruler of them, and displacing God as the ruler over all creations.

Lucifer was proud and haughty, and he was brought down, because he was thinking too highly of himself, aspiring to be the ruler of all surpassing the Creator, while he is merely a creation, albeit a glorious and great one at that. On the contrary, St. Michael was known for his great faith and piety, and the complete trust he has for the Lord. And in addition to this, he was also told to be trembling at always before the presence of God.

This does not mean that St. Michael was fearful or weak, but rather, in doing so, he actually by himself acknowledging the superiority of God, and how great God is as compared to himself. It is his humility, courage and piety which made the Lord to choose him and honour him to be the great commander of His heavenly forces. And he courageously led the forces of the faithful against the deceiver and the evil one, the fallen Lucifer, who was struck down and cast out of heaven, to suffer for eternity the fate prepared for him.

The examples of St. Michael’s faith, piety, dedication and courage therefore should become guiding lights for us to follow, that in our actions and deeds, we may model them after what St. Michael had once done, and what he is doing now, that is leading the hosts of the Lord in a constant and regular battle for the salvation of our souls, against Satan, the fallen Lucifer, and his allies, those angels who were also ensnared in his pride and vanity, and ended up rebelling against God.

We mankind are special indeed, for we are the greatest of God’s creations, including even the angels, and we are the most beloved ones of all the things which God had created. As such, while the angels who rebelled were given no second chance to turn back to the Lord, and receive forgiveness, we mankind alone had been given this gift of forgiveness, that as long as we repent our sins and rebelliousness, and if we are willing to follow the way of the Lord, we will be saved.

That is why, even though our ancestors had disobeyed the Lord, through the instigation of the snake, the form assumed by the fallen Lucifer, who wanted mankind to also follow into his rebellion, God gave us a second chance, and by no other means than to send His very own Son, part of Himself, Jesus Christ our Lord, to assume our own form, and through what He had done, He gave up His life and through His sacrifice, gained for us a new hope and a new justification in Himself.

And we also have to note that the Lord is thoroughly concerned with us, brothers and sisters in Christ. He is truly concerned about our fate, and whether we will share the fate of the devil, that is to suffer in the hell fire, or to be reunited with Himself in perfect love and harmony, just as what He intended for us at the very beginning when He first created us.

That is why, He sent us Jesus His Son, so that through what He taught His disciples, and from them passed down to us, we may all know what we need to do in order to avoid the dark fate which awaits us if we remain in our life of sin. But we need to be aware that, what Jesus said today in the Gospels, we should not interpret or take it literally, which means that if a part of our body made us to sin, then we should not chop it off just like that.

There is indeed wisdom and thought put into that kind of decision, to cut off the part that corrupts the entire body and soul, but that also means that we can no longer do good with the same part of the body, which God had given us. This is where we need to truly understand, that what the Lord means is that, we have to really do our best to excise from ourselves any actions or parts which have been great hindrances to our salvation, beginning from within ourselves.

Sin corrupts everything it touches, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is caused by the accumulation of the negativity in our hearts, of which things such as pride, jealousy, hatred, greed and many others consist of. And it was this same thing that had corrupted even the greatest and the brightest of the angels into rebellion against God and therefore sinned against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore let us renew our faith in the Lord, not by just mere empty words and promises, but also through real action and devotions, that is by following the examples of St. Michael the Archangel. Let us excise from our hearts, all evils and darkness, that we may truly become pure and worthy of the Lord once again. We can do this by sincere love and devotion to the Lord, and by listening to what He had said to us through Jesus.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all sharpen the edges of our humility and obedience to God, that we may always listen to Him and follow Him, obeying Him in His will for us rather than to listen to our own desires and pride, as Lucifer had done. Let us all not be enslaved by our emotions and pride, that we may truly rebuke Satan and let him to suffer alone the fate which he had earned for himself. Do not let him to drag us into hellfire, brethren!

Let us pray and ask for the help and intercession of St. Michael the Archangel and the holy angels, so that they may help us and protect us from all the harm which the evil one and his allies, the fallen angels had intended for us. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, so that by the power of God, you who are the prince and leader of all the heavenly hosts, may smite down Satan and all his lies, and all those who are working their evils in our world, seeking after the ruination of all the souls of the faithful. Amen.

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, by Pope Leo XIII (1886)

Guido_Reni_031

Sancte Michael Archangele,

St. Michael the Archangel,

 

defende nos in praelio;

defend us in battle

 

contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.

Safeguard us against the wickedness and the snares of the devil.

 

Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:

May God therefore restrain him, we humbly pray:

 

tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,

and you, the Prince of the heavenly hosts

 

satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,

divina virtute in infernum detrude.

by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan, and with him the other wicked spirits

who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

 

Amen.

Amen.

 

(By Pope Leo XIII, in 1886, recited every time after the Holy Mass as an invocation for the intercession of the mighty Archangel in the rebuke of Satan)

Sunday, 10 August 2014 : 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, is our faith in God truly genuine and strong? And is our faith in the Lord solid and growing? Or is it that we doubt God and His love just because in our lives He may seem to not be around whenever we say that we need Him? Do we doubt God because we are not able to feel His presence around us when we are in dire trouble?

These questions are meant for us to ask ourselves and for us to do a self-introspection, on our faith, and what our faith truly meant for us. The story of Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a heavy storm that threatened to sink the ship where the disciples were on is a classic story of how mankind are often faced with persecution and difficulties in life, and yet God will definitely not abandon us. He has given us none other than Jesus to rescue us and to strengthen our faith.

Indeed, in the first reading today we also heard how God appeared to Elijah the prophet, when he was fleeing from the persecution of the king of Israel, Ahab in the middle of the desert. He found God, or YHVH, not in the midst of great and mighty phenomena of earthquakes, fires or windstorm, but in the gentleness and sweetness of a breeze of gentle wind.

God did not abandon mankind when we are in great troubles or difficulties, and instead, He showed His loving and caring persona, as He had shown to Elijah. As much as He is mighty and great, He is also thoroughly concerned with us, as what He had shown to Elijah and in that, showed the love He had for mankind who still lived in the darkness. That is the message that God wanted to make clear with the people, that He cared for them.

And in the Gospel, we heard how the ship where the disciples were in was rocked by heavy winds and strong winds, to the point that it almost sank and be destroyed. This is in fact a perfect representation of our own lives that are filled with challenges and difficulties from all corners and sources. Life is never easy, and especially if we choose to walk the path of the Lord, things will be stormy and difficult for us.

That is why, first we must have a strong anchor of faith, and this anchor must be established on none other than the strong foundation of faith we have in our Lord and God. Otherwise, we and our lives, which are represented by the ship, will be blown here and there, and torn asunder by the waves, showing how our lives will be ruined and our purpose in life corrupted by the lack of a strong and living faith.

In all this, God is around, and He is there for us. But often that we do not believe that He is there for us. That is perfectly represented as well, when Jesus appeared on the waters and the disciples were gripped with fear, thinking that He was a ghost, utterly filled with disbelief and doubt that Jesus could be there, and right there for them and to help them.

It is much too often that we are filled to the brim with despair, fear and concerns for ourselves, that first we failed to notice the love that God has for us, thinking that we had been abandoned, and we also often fail to notice the difficulties and challenges that our brothers and sisters around us are facing, for we are too preoccupied with our own selves. Then that is also why we often cry out to God why our lives are unfair, while we actually failed to realise the truth.

We need to be able to discern and learn to get rid of the distractions and lies that prevented us from seeing the Lord at work in our lives, and that was what was shown in the first reading today. Elijah was able to see that God is not in things in mighty and great beyond our reach, just as He was not in the windstorm, fire or earthquakes, but instead in the gentle breeze showing His care and love for us.

If we are able to pierce through the layers of bias, prejudice, fear, desire, and other things that prevented us from truly understanding God’s love, we will then be able to feel the real and holy Presence of our Lord with us. We will then realise that our Lord and God is there for us, and He is always with us especially when we are in difficulties and challenging times. He never left our side. It is we who had voluntarily left Him behind for other things, and for Satan.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to admit that our faith is often weak and shaky, and the foundation of our faith is not strong, and when challenges and difficulties come our way, we often act like Peter, who doubted the Lord and His providence and ended up sinking when he walked on the water. Our faith can often be challenged and be negatively affected by the fears and concerns that we have in our hearts.

That is why we have to learn to trust in our Lord, and know that He is there for us when we need Him. He gives us many chances and opportunities, as well as help along the way in various means. What is important that, if we are in trouble, He is there for us, giving us help, and often we do not realise this fact. When Peter wavered in his faith and was sinking, what did Jesus do? Precisely, He stretched out His hands immediately to help Peter out and pull him out to safety.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us use the opportunities given to us in order to reflect and come to a greater realisation that we have been blessed with a loving and caring God who is utterly concerned about our fate and about every single thing that we do in this life of ours. Let us all be no longer ignorant of God’s love, and instead let us make the conscious effort to strengthen our faith.

This boat that is our life will always be rocked by strong waves and winds, that represent the temptations of sin and evil, and all the forces that the devil has assembled in order to bring us and drag us into hell and suffering with him. Shall we follow him into destruction? No, we should not. We should not let this good-for-nothing fallen angel and wrecker of lives and souls from messing with our destiny. We have to reject him, rebuke him and cast him out of our lives in perfect totality.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be courageous in our lives that our faith may be ever more solid and strong, and be able to resist the temptations of the evil one at any turns in our lives. May Almighty God continue to love us, bless us, and grant us with His grace and abundant blessings. Amen.

Sunday, 20 July 2014 : 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Bible Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday just as last Sunday, we celebrate Bible or Scripture Sunday, when we truly come together to appreciate and honour this writing and collections of books which together make up the entire revelation of God and His words, which He spoke through the prophets and through His many servants throughout the ages.

In order to be able to fully appreciate and understand the importance of the Bible or the Holy Scriptures, then first we must know it and take the word of God in it into our hearts and minds. And it is important to know that without a sufficient knowledge of the word of God in the Scriptures, we cannot be truly faithful and devoted to God, for we are bound to be affected and corrupted by the falsehoods of Satan, the evil one, who spread his lies all the time to trap those whose faith are not strong.

But that does not mean we can just memorise and remember the Holy Scriptures and the word of God without understanding it and the true meaning of the literary works of the prophets and the writers of the Holy Scriptures. Do you all remember what Satan did when he tempted Jesus our Lord in the desert just after His baptism? Yes, precisely, Satan quoted the passages of the Holy Scriptures, and then twisting their meaning to serve his own wicked purposes.

Such will be the dangerous and powerful weapon that Satan will employ against those who knows the Scriptures, but refuse or disregard the need to understand the word of God and its meaning as written in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, we cannot study or understand the Scriptures on our own, or claim that our understanding of them to be sufficient for our salvation, a view and idea which is called sola scriptura and which has quite a following among those who thought that they know it better than the early Church fathers in the matters of the faith.

Remember brothers and sisters, that the authority to teach the meaning of the Holy Scriptures has been bestowed by God to none other than Jesus Christ, His own Son, who came into the world. In Jesus lay the full completeness and perfection of all the messages and the prophecies of the prophets of the past and all the words of God revealed through the servants of God. All these are in what we know today as the Old Testament, that is the testaments and the works of the servant of God before the coming of Christ.

Jesus taught His disciples and many other people through the means of parables, or stories that are related to many different life experiences and scenarios, often not talking directly about God in those parables. For the laypersons and all those who did not understand the meaning of those parables, what Jesus told them in the parables might not make sense to them, but they might have truly understood what the stories were about.

The parables of Jesus were constructed around many real examples that if one is to take a closer inspection, would reveal that Jesus often talked about the professions that were truly ubiquitous and renowned, as well as common during the time when He was in the world. These include shepherds, which we know in the case when Jesus talked about shepherds and Himself as the Good Shepherd; fishermen, which Jesus often referred to in His teachings to the disciples in their future role as the fishers of men.

Jesus talked about farmers and sowing of seeds most often, because farming truly was the most prevalent job in the society at the time. By using these analogies, or parables, He taught the meaning of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures with perfect clarity and true authority of teaching. With those examples and references, He could relate with the life experiences of the people, who then might understand the word better.

However, as we all know, that Jesus did not stay in the world for long. He accomplished the long-planned salvation for mankind by going through the punishments meant for our sins, bearing them on the cross towards Calvary, and gave us a new hope in life. Jesus rose up from the dead and showed us hope in His resurrection and then departed from this world to return to His throne in heaven to prepare a place for all of us.

Hence, Jesus passed down the authority to teach the Holy Scriptures in its complete and true meaning to the Apostles and the disciples whom He had chosen from among the people. He sent them the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and the Helper, who enlightened them with zeal and faith, and through the Spirit sent by God to them, they passed down the same truth and teachings of the Lord to their successors, to pass them down in the Church of God, on which God had invested the authority over all of the faithful.

There is no other wisdom and truth beyond that of the Lord’s wisdom and power, and hence there can be no truth in the Scriptures and the Word of God beyond the teachings of the Church. There were those who thought that they have the intellect and knowledge better than the Church and the early Church fathers who had received the teachings and the directly from the Lord Himself.

Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin, Zwingli, and many other countless heretics who rebelled against God and His Church were the very examples of how people have misinterpreted, twisted and misused the words of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures for their own selfish purposes. They were attached to the promises of Satan in the glories and pleasures of the world, and so deeply attached they were to their own human frailty and weakness, that they failed to see what the Lord truly meant in His words and instead caused great divisions in the body of the faithful, that is the Church.

Therefore, it is important that as we celebrate this occasion of the Bible or Scripture Sunday, that we read the Scriptures with understanding, and do our best to obey and listen to the teachings of the Church as espoused and held firm by its members and through the successors of the Apostles, namely our Pope, the Cardinals, bishops and priests of the Church of God.

Nevertheless, it is also important for us to take note that, we do not have to worry about our faith if we hold true to the teachings of the Church. What is important is that we have faith in God and keep it true at all times. God has told us through Jesus, that the faith in us is like the mustard seed. Mustard seed from the mustard plant is a very small seed, only barely a small speck to our eyes. However, when the mustard plant is fully grown, the plant is truly large, at least four to five metres tall.

What Jesus meant was that, if we allow our faith to develop and grow in us, then no matter how small that faith is, it will grow and flourish, and affecting not just ourselves, but also those around us and inspiring them to come closer to the Lord as well. But if we choose not to allow this faith to grow in us, then we will wither and perish, just as a mustard seed will remain just that, a seed if it does not sprout and grow.

How do we let it grow healthily then? It is by listening to the word of God, and not just by our ears or by our eyes that we witness these words of the Lord, but also to carry them deep into our hearts. Follow faithfully the teachings of the Lord that we gained through the Church, and we will do fine. Let us all work together, that all of us may grow stronger together in faith, hope and love in God. May He bless us always, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 14 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, again I have to emphasize today, of the importance placed on the understanding of the laws of God and His true intention, rather than blindly following rules without understanding, and take things literally without proper discernment and thinking. This is the essence of serving the Lord and His people, just as Elisha, son of Shaphat had been called long ago to serve God’s people.

Some Christians like to take things in the Scriptures literally, as it had been written, even going as far as proclaiming the Holy Scriptures as the sole truth and the sole authority of the faith in the process of salvation. This is what is called the sola scriptura approach, popular among Protestants who in their heretical and misguided thinking, they thought that their understanding of the Scriptures is sufficient to guide them in faith and in life.

However, as we know, this is very wrong, and by depending on their interpretations, human interpretation that is flawed and imperfect, they have erroneously practiced their faith, thinking that we faithful cannot make oaths or anything similar, out of fear of sinning and going against the Lord’s will. But this is not in fact what Jesus meant when He said what He said in the Gospel today. This is the danger of literally interpreting whatever Jesus said and hold onto them as if they are inviolable laws.

Jesus liked to preach to the people of God in parables, through the use of stories and links to real-life contexts, which has two purposes. First, this facilitates understanding by the people, in consideration that most of them at the time were illiterate, and therefore unlikely to have strong background knowledge of what they have in the Scripture, and whatever they believe in, is mostly the oral traditions passed down through the generations and through the teachings of the priests.

But these, as we know it, were imperfect knowledge, since mankind had limited and feeble intelligence that is incapable of comprehending the fullness of the truth in the word of God, except if it is revealed to them through the Holy Spirit, or through the teaching of the Prophets. Those who trust only in the Holy Scriptures and in their flawed understanding on them, is being foolish.

This links to the second purpose of Jesus’ preaching using parables and stories to the people. If the first purpose is to make the teachings more understandable to the faithful, who were mostly farmers, fishermen and shepherds, and that was why so many of Jesus’ parables involve the terms that these people were familiar with, the second purpose is in fact to hide the true meaning of the word of God before it is time for them to be fully understood by the people.

Jesus Himself highlighted this, and He showed how the meaning of the words He had spoken had to remain hidden for a while until the appointed time when the Lord was to reveal Himself in His entirety to the world. But Jesus Himself did explain the meaning of His parables to the disciples, especially when they asked Him what He meant as He taught the people with those parables.

Yet, even after that, the disciples still did not understand perfectly, and as we know, there were many moments when they failed to understand what was to happen with Christ, especially when He suffered trial and death, when He was crucified on Calvary, and finally when He was risen from the dead, and the tomb of Jesus became empty.

It was through the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and Helper, that the Lord chose to reveal His truth to the people of God in its fullness. The Apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit, and it was from them that the teachings of Jesus, the word of God, and the true intentions of the Lord were made clear to the people. The Scriptures, that is the New Testament section including the Holy Gospels themselves were written by the disciples inspired and filled with the Holy Spirit, to provide the people with understanding of their faith.

So what did Jesus mean then, by what He had said today? He did not mean to completely ban vowing and oath-making from us, and not to condemn us if we do so. What Jesus had meant was in fact that, whenever we do something and commit ourselves to something, especially when we say it verbally, we must truly mean everything that we spoke of, and we also have to take them seriously in mind and heart.

If we do not desire to do something, then we should not lie and make a false oath or vow. That is evil. And if we desire to do something, then it is more important and meaningful for us to go and act on it rather than just making empty promises and be slothful about it. That is the true essence of the Lord’s message to us. Rather than blaspheming against God by lying in His Name or on anything that He had created, it is best for us as Christians, to go forth and do all things that is right, immediately and with full consciousness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to keep alive the teachings and the knowledge which had been passed down to us through the Church, that is the deposit of faith. The Church alone is the custodian of this deposit of faith, which keeps us all anchored firmly to the Lord and His truth, and we have to keep it and follow it through. Let us not fall to the attempts of the devil to discredit the faith or the Church through his lies.

May God continue to guard us, keep us in His grace and love, and empower us to remain always in His truth and receive much blessing. May God be with us all, always. Amen.

Saturday, 14 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Matthew 5 : 33-37

You have also heard that people were told in the past : Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this : do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne, nor by the earth, because it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King.

Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white and black. Say yes when you mean yes, and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.