Tuesday, 8 March 2016 : 4th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 47 : 1-9, 12

The man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple and I saw water coming out from the threshold of the Temple and flowing eastwards. The Temple faced the east and the water flowed from the south side of the Temple, from the south side of the altar.

He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing the east and there I saw the stream coming from the south side. The man had a measuring cord in his hand. As he went towards the east he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the water which was up to my ankles.

He measured off another thousand cubits and made me cross the water which came to my knees. He measured off another thousand cubits and we crossed the water which was up to my waist. When he had again measured a thousand cubits, I could not cross the torrent for it had swollen to a depth which was impossible to cross without swimming.

The man then said to me, “Son of man, did you see?” He led me on further and brought me back to the bank of the river. There I saw a number of trees on both sides of the river. He said to me, “This water goes to the east, down to the Arabah, and when it flows into the sea of foul smelling water, the water will become wholesome.”

“Wherever the river flows, swarms of creatures will live in it; fish will be plentiful and the sea water will become fresh. Wherever it flows, life will abound. Near the river on both banks there will be all kinds of fruit trees with foliage that will not wither and fruit that will never fail; each month they will bear a fresh crop because the water comes from the Temple. The fruit will be good to eat and the leaves will be used for healing.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Saturday, 16 May 2015 : 6th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 23-28

After spending some time in Antioch, Paul left and travelled from place to place through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. A certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived at Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and an authority on the Scriptures, and he had some knowledge of the way of the Lord.

With great enthusiasm he preached and taught correctly about Jesus, although he knew only of John’s baptism. As he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila heard him; so they took him home with them and explained to him the way more accurately.

As Apollos wished to go to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly strengthened those who, by God’s grace, had become believers, for he vigorously refuted the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Holy Scriptures about the arrogance and selfishness of men, and on the contrary, how God is ever loving and forgiving, showing His mercy and love ever upon us all. As we embark upon the celebrations of the Holy Week starting tomorrow, we have to come to realise that for many times in our life, it is our selfishness and stubbornness that have brought about our downfall.

The people of Israel were torn into two peoples, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, because of the selfishness that grew in the heart of Solomon, the great king of Israel, as he grew older and became enamoured and occupied by his great wealth and by his many wives. And therefore by his stubbornness and refusal to listen to the Lord, calamity befell the people of God.

And as had been proven many times throughout the Old Testament, and even into the New Testament, the people of God had displayed selfish attitudes so many times so as to suggest that it is in their nature to be selfish, and indeed we mankind are all by nature selfish. And it is this selfishness that led Israel to constantly rebel against the will of God and disobey His commandments.

The Israelites constantly complained against the Lord and refused to listen to Him, demanding for more and more during their journey towards the Promised Land from Egypt, because of their inability to look beyond themselves. Each of them were only concerned about themselves and not for others, and definitely for the Lord. And this is despite the fact that God had given them abundance of food, large birds and others, even manna, the bread from heaven itself, and abundance of clear and clean water to drink in the midst of the desert.

And for many times, the kings of Israel did not give glory to God, but seek for their own glory and honour. They did not care about the Lord and His precepts, and in their rule, they mistreated the people and abused their power, and at the same time they misled the people into sin, into treating the prophets and the messengers of God badly, rejecting them and murdering them for having spoken the truth about their wickedness.

This is exactly the same resistance which Jesus had encountered when He came into the world, being rejected by His own people, His own townspeople of Nazareth, and by the Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests. They refused to listen to Him and they viewed Him as a threat to their own authority, to their own sphere of influence, and most importantly, to their own way of life as they had it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those people rejected the Lord because they thought first of themselves, as made clear by the elders themselves in our Gospel today, when they spoke of how Jesus and His actions would bring calamity and disaster to them, and to all that they held dear in their livelihood, as the Romans would come and destroy the Holy Temple and the Jewish nation.

Thus, to them the Temple and earthly things such as power, influence and nationhood is more important than honouring the Lord? They were interested only in furthering their own interests and advancing their own cause. This is why in their heart the Lord did not have any place at all, which is filled with their hubris and their pride. This is what our Lord had warned against, so that we will not follow in their path towards doom and annihilation.

Let us all reevaluate our lives and seek to be better in terms of our attitudes and our approach in life. We have to realise our sinfulness and how we can change for the better. What is at stake is none other than our own souls, our own fate. Do we want to enjoy for a while the pleasures of this world and risk our souls into eternal suffering? Or do we want to endure difficulties a bit, and then receive our eternal reward in joy?

May Almighty God guide us on our path, so that we may find our way to Him and be saved from the darkness of this world and turned to the light. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 27 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are drawing ever closer to the end of Lent and the celebrations of the Holy Week, when we will be commemorating the most important events of our faith. It is therefore important that we have made the best use out of this time of Lent to prepare ourselves in our body, heart and mind to celebrate together the great celebration of next week and that of Easter.

All of this boils down to one thing, that we have to know what our faith is about, and in what we believe that is our faith. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, whom God begotten from Himself before all ages, and who is part of the Divine Lord, one of the Three Divine Persons of the singular God. That means, we believe in Jesus who is God, and who is also Man at the same time, having assumed the flesh of man, in order to bring about our salvation.

For indeed, there is only One God, and it is to Him that we dedicate all of our beings and all of our devotions. However, we know that by faith, that the Lord is working at all times in order to bring about good to this world and to all of His creations, especially for all of us mankind, His most beloved people. And thus, while the Father creates and governs all of creation, and the Holy Spirit is the driving force behind all things and the source of life, thus, the Son is the most intimate and direct manifestation of God, for He took the form of us all, and became visible to us, as God made Man.

God that was once beyond all things and beyond comprehension had made Himself visible to all, comprehensible and tangible, through Jesus Christ, who was sent into the world, so that all the world might be saved, including all of us today. By taking our own form, and by His showing of perfect obedience as the Son, who is obedient of the Father, He had shown us all mankind a new hope. Yes, a new hope that we have the chance and opportunity to free ourselves from the bonds of sin.

Jesus showed us all the way to reach out to the Lord and to find our way to our salvation, that is by following what Jesus had done, and by listening to what He had taught us and by acting according to what He had said. It is because of our rebelliousness that we have been estranged from receiving the fullness of God’s grace and promise, and so it is by the obedience of Christ that we have been brought to salvation.

St. Paul stated in one of his letters that just as the first Adam had fallen from grace by his disobedience, therefore, the New Adam, that is Christ had redeemed mankind by His own obedience to the Lord, to the will of His Father. On this day, as we reflect on the words of the Holy Scriptures, we all should also reflect on how Christ had lived His earthly life, so that we may also emulate what He had done.

He faced such a great challenge and suffering awaiting Him, and He knew all that would happen to Him. And yet, although He was tempted by His human nature, but He remained completely resolute in His desire to save all of us. Such great was His love for all of us indeed. He persevered through all of the evils and sufferings, all the humiliations and rejections so that we do not have to go through all of them if we indeed fall into hell. He gave us a new chance, a new opportunity in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not waste this perfect opportunity which had been given to us. We have to take this opportunity and make best use out of it, so that we may be changed and transformed, from a people controlled by our pride and our desires, to become faithful and obedient people of God, following the footsteps of our Lord Himself who had shown us the way.

Indeed, the path would not be easy, and just as Jesus Himself had suffered, we also would suffer as well. There will be plenty of challenges and difficulties awaiting us along the way, and we will be rejected by the world, but we can be assured that our reward will be great beyond compare. Let us therefore look up to the hope which our God had offered us, and let us be grateful for all that He had done for us. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 26 March 2015 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the covenant which God had established with Abraham, the father of many nations and our father in faith. God made the promise which He fulfilled to Abraham, and God never did for once abandon the faithfulness which He had shown since the very first moment He interacted with us. It is always us who have always reneged on our promises and broken our relationship with our Lord.

And God made real, complete and perfect the covenant which He had established by sending His own Son, Jesus, into the world, so that through Him God may make a people who had been lost in the darkness to find their way once again to the Lord. This is what God had wanted to happen with us, and this is also what we all have been awaiting for.

But many of us became lost in our search for the Lord, and our purpose became corrupted, that we lost our sight on the Lord and instead we begin to give in to our human desires and emotions. They were too indignant in their ways and hardened their hearts such that no matter what the Lord had wanted to tell them, they refused to listen to reason.

And with regards to Abraham, who is the father and progenitor of many nations, the people of Israel, the Jews of Jesus’ time had grown to be exclusivist and elitist, in a sense that they thought of themselves as the only ones worthy of God’s grace and salvation, by the fact that they were the direct descendants of Abraham, and thus they thought of themselves as sole heirs of God’s covenant with Abraham.

But Jesus Himself mentioned in another related event to the one in today’s Gospel, that God could easily raise sons and children for Abraham from even rocks and stones. This means that being the children of Abraham alone did not mean anything for us as long as we do not do something to show that we truly deserve to be called the children of Abraham, our father in faith.

Ever since sin entered into the hearts of men, we have been estranged and separated from the love of our God, and from His presence. And as long as this is the case for us, there is no hope for us all. And that was why God sent us Jesus, as the fulfillment of His long awaited promise, and the proof of how God was faithful to His covenant with us. Through Jesus, our eyes and senses were opened, and we receive the fullness of God’s truth.

And that truth is that God loves us, and He wants us to be converted and changed from our sinful ways. He wants us to break free from the trap of our pride and arrogance, from the lures of our desires and greed, so that we may come to the realisation of our sinful nature, so that we would also not be like the people of Israel, who closed their hearts against the Lord’s call through Jesus our Lord, as they were deep in their pride and in their desires.

This Lent is a time for us, the perfect time for us to look deep into ourselves and reflect on our own actions. It is a time for us to take action and make a difference in our own lives. Let us all heed our Lord’s call and be genuine in our love and devotion to Him, and let us answer His call to mercy and forgiveness. Let us all influence one another and help each other that we may all draw ever closer to His forgiveness. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a very great feast day of the Church, commemorating nine months before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the moment when our Lord Jesus was conceived, and when the Divine Word and Son of God was incarnate into flesh, and assumed the form of Man through the intermediary of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who played a key role in today’s celebrations.

On this day, we commemorate also that day when the Archangel Gabriel came to the small, poor and humble village of Nazareth in Galilee, to break the news regarding the end of the long wait for the coming of the Lord’s Promised Messiah, the Good News announced to the world through Mary. And thus, the Feast is called the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lord, because on that day, His arrival and entry into the world was first announced.

And today, the theme of our Scripture readings is obedience, and obedience that entails true and genuine desire to obey the will of God and to listen to what the Lord wants from us. In the past, people used to observe the Law and obey all of its commandments in great detail, even to the details of what kind of animals should be sacrificed for a certain purpose, and that by doing so, the people thought that they were devout and pious in the eyes of the Lord.

Unfortunately, such devotions, while necessary and good, but if they are not based upon good and strong foundations, as well as upon good understanding of the will of God, then it is very easy for us to be misled and to lose the meaning of what we are doing for our faith. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did exactly that, as were so many people even in the Church for many years.

They were focused on the wrong thing, and they thought that by doing all of the complicated and various rituals, they had fulfilled what God had wanted. They thought that by imposing strict discipline on the faith and by enforcing the punishment which the laws of Moses stated as should be done to certain kinds of sinners, they had brought joy the Lord. But the fact is, that they were sorely mistaken.

How does all these relate to the event of the Annunciation of our Lord? This is because we have been wayward and lost our way so many times that our Lord Himself had willingly decided to come down Himself in order to save us from destruction. He has promised this salvation ever since the beginning of time, at the time when our first ancestors fell into sin.

If we take note of what took place then, we would realise that God had promised mankind that He will make the Woman crush the head of the snake, even while the snake bites on the heels of the child. All these represent what has happened to us all mankind, and what God had done about that. The snake is the devil and all of his devices, sin and wickedness, all of which are threatening to destroy the children of God that is all of us.

But the Lord did not let Satan to have his way with us freely as he wanted it. He gave us all a hope, since that time, and which He constantly renewed through the prophets and His messengers, the hope for salvation which was to come. He never abandoned those whom He loved so dearly. It is often we are the ones who abandoned Him first. He is ever faithful and ever loving.

Thus after a long wait, today we heard about how made that promise to come to the perfect fulfillment through Jesus, who came into the world in order to save it. It is what the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is all about, that is the announcing of the great Good News of our Lord’s salvation in Jesus to the whole world through the Archangel Gabriel, who revealed it to the world through Mary, the Mother of our Lord. She is the Woman through whom the Salvation of this world would come and thus crush the dominion of Satan.

Therefore, on this day, as we reflect on the nature of this feast day and celebration, let us all come to realise how great is the love which our Lord had shown us all, the mercy He wants to give us so that we will not suffer from our rebelliousness. Let us all realise that all that He wants from us is our love and devotion, that we give all our hearts to Him in sincere devotion.

That is more important for Him than all other forms of devotions. That does not mean that we do not need prayer or neglect our devotions in the Mass and others. On the other hand, these are truly very necessary. But if we do not comprehend their significance and how these can help us to be closer to our Lord, and if we do not have the love for God in our hearts in the first place, then all of those are meaningless.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our devotion and commitment to the Lord today. Let us all show sincerity in our faith towards Him, and do not just pay lip service any longer to Him. Instead, let us all truly mean our faith, and practice it in our lives, in our every actions. Let us all make whatever remaining time we have in this season of Lent to be a meaningful one. May God bless us all. Amen.