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

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-9

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken our Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid Him.”

Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter.

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around His head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place.

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. Scripture clearly said that He must rise from the dead, but they had not yet understood that.

 

Alternative reading

Luke 24 : 1-12

On the Sabbath the women rested according to the commandment, but the first day of the week, at dawn, they went to the tomb with the perfumes and ointments they had prepared. Seeing the stone rolled away from the opening of the tomb, they entered, and were amazed to find that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there.

As they stood there wondering about this, two men in dazzling garments suddenly appeared beside them. In fright the women bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why look for the living among the dead? You won’t find Him here. He is risen. Remember what He told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man had to be given into the hands of sinners, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day.” And they remembered Jesus’ words.

Returning from the tomb, they told the Eleven and all the others about these things. Among the women, who brought the news, were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. But however much they insisted, those who heard did not believe the seemingly nonsensical story.

Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb. All he saw, when he bent down and looked into the tomb, were the linen cloths, laid by themselves. He went home wondering.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 24 : 1-12

On the Sabbath the women rested according to the commandment, but the first day of the week, at dawn, they went to the tomb with the perfumes and ointments they had prepared. Seeing the stone rolled away from the opening of the tomb, they entered, and were amazed to find that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there.

As they stood there wondering about this, two men in dazzling garments suddenly appeared beside them. In fright the women bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why look for the living among the dead? You won’t find Him here. He is risen. Remember what He told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man had to be given into the hands of sinners, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day.” And they remembered Jesus’ words.

Returning from the tomb, they told the Eleven and all the others about these things. Among the women, who brought the news, were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. But however much they insisted, those who heard did not believe the seemingly nonsensical story.

Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb. All he saw, when he bent down and looked into the tomb, were the linen cloths, laid by themselves. He went home wondering.

Monday, 5 May 2014 : 3rd Week of Easter (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Today brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to keep the truth, stand by that truth and stay faithful to that truth. And what is this truth? It is the truth proclaimed by Christ Himself when He taught the people and His disciples, about His mission, His nature, and the nature of God’s salvation. It is also the truth proclaimed by Stephen the first deacon of the Church in today’s first reading against those who refused to believe in the truth.

As we all should know, this world is not for Christ and His truth, and indeed the world which is filled with the evil one’s influences and darkness, opposed Christ at every turn and at every possible opportunities. This is why, there will be many hurdles and obstacles in the way of those who speak for the truth, and in the way of those who work and pledge themselves to the truth of Christ, which is what we are all, brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to do.

What is this truth? This truth is plain and simple, which lay open and available in the entirety of the teachings of the Church. That God is one and indivisible, and loving in of His aspects. But He exists in three separate and yet equal divine persons, that is Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father creates, the Son who is Word, blesses and carries out the work of the Father, and the Holy Spirit empowers and strengthens all. All three united in one, that is the essence of our faith in God who is the Trinity.

But that is not all, for God so loved the world and all of us His beloved creations who had fallen into sin and darkness, that He willingly laid aside His power and divinity in the person of the Son, who became incarnate into Man, to be one of us, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, and were born as Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, fully divine and fully man.

Why? So that through the Son and His perfect obedience, He as the new Adam and the beginning of new life and new era, may cast away the veil and the darkness of mankind’s sins and rebellions, which began with the disobedience of the first Adam. That He became the perfect offering and sacrifice through whom the sins of mankind may be erased in its entirety and completeness, ridding them of the obstacle that barred them from returning to their loving Father.

Jesus spoke of Himself when He referred to the living bread of eternal life. That those who eat that bread will never die, not in a sense of literal death that we know of, that is the death of the physical body, which we all have to face at one point, at the very ends of our lives. What He referred to was the eternal death of the spirit, the total separation of our souls from the love of God, which is called hell, the state of hopelessness and eternal damnation.

This is what those who believe in Christ and His truth, will avoid in the end. They will not face this fate of eternal suffering. Although death may claim their bodies and their physical flesh, but it will not claim their souls, for their souls are pure and worthy of the Lord, and the Lord who loves us and gave Jesus for our sake will not let us to be claimed by death and sin. And in the end, even together with our bodies we will rise with Christ when He comes again at the end of time. Death has no power over any of us, as long as we believe sincerely and fully in God and His plan which He had revealed through Jesus.

It was the very same truth that Stephen the deacon had proclaimed to the people of God and to his prosecutors, the chief priests, the elders and the Pharisees and the Sadducees who themselves had been opposed to Christ since the very beginning. The same truth that they also refused to believe in, even after hearing them from Christ Himself, and then His Apostles and disciples, which includes Stephen.

Those people hardened their hearts against the Lord and participated actively in the resistance and hindrance of the good works of God in this world, deceiving many and preventing the salvation of many souls who remained lost to the darkness. And these are exactly who we should not become. We cannot refuse to accept the truth in God, and therefore, we must, without exception, receive the faith we received through the Church in its fullness.

And we have to be like Stephen too, who did not fear to state the truth, and preach the Good News, even against tough opposition and persistent rejection, for the sake of salvation of souls. Remember that the Lord loves all, even those who hated and rejected Him. He would not want them to be lost, unless if they continue to refuse to believe until it is far too late.

May God therefore guide us in our works, and encourage us with His strength, that we may carry out our duties, just as Stephen had done, in the footsteps of Christ, to preach His salvation to all the peoples of all nations with courage, for the sake of our salvation, all of us. May God guide us always as we walk in this path. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 : Wednesday of Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 50 : 4-9a

The Lord YHVH has taught Me, so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple.

The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace.

I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced. He who avenges Me is near. Who then will accuse Me? Let us confront each other. Who is now My accuser? Let Him approach.

If the Lord YHVH is My help, who will condemn Me?

Sunday, 13 April 2014 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Holy Week (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 50 : 4-7

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple.

The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace.

I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast day of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel or Nathanael. He was a righteous and upright man called by the Lord to be one of His disciples, and therefore made him His apostle. The Lord did call His disciples from various backgrounds, including even tax collectors and murderers, as well as the righteous ones. All of them called from their former lives, abandoning them to follow the Lord their God in Christ.

Each of the Apostles were called to be the followers of Christ, to help Him in His mission in this world, and ultimately, to continue the works He had done, after He ascended in glory to heaven. They were entrusted with the care of the faithful, as shepherds of the sheep of the Lord, that is all of us, to be the guiding beacons along our long and arduous path towards salvation in God. From them came many generations of shepherds of the people of God, including that of our priests and bishops today, who are their successors, the successor of the Apostles of Christ.

St. Bartholomew travelled wide after the events depicted in the New Testament, as one of the Apostles of Christ, spreading the Good News of salvation to many around the world, and according to records, St. Bartholomew had visited and evangelised in Ethiopia, Armenia, India, and some other places throughout his ministry, converting many to the cause of God, bringing God’s salvation to many those who had not yet heard about Christ or saw His marvellous works.

He converted many to the Lord and brought many into the Church. However, in the same way with all the other Apostles and disciples of Christ, St. Bartholomew met much opposition, persecution, and oppression just as he was accepted by some in the societies that he had visited. Nevertheless, he continued to labour for the sake of the Lord in distant, foreign lands, until he eventually met the end of his life in martyrdom, apparently in Armenia, by being flayed alive and crucified upside down, much like St. Peter in Rome.

Despite his death, and the death of the other Apostles of Christ, in the hands of their enemies and executioners, in the hands of the enemies of God and the godless ones, they had brought forth a growth and flowering of the faithful in the Church, such that the saying is really true that ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians’. Their devotion, dedication, and martyrdom had inspired many to remain true to their faith and to remain faithful to their God, and many followed the Apostles like St. Bartholomew, into martyrdom themselves.

St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles of Christ, St. Peter, St. John the Evangelist and others, were not superhuman, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were same like us, mere man, with all their weaknesses, but also with their respective qualities and strengths. They experienced human emotions as we too experience our human emotions. They experienced doubt and fear when they followed Jesus, and especially when Jesus was captured, tried, and executed. They were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, and yet, when Christ came back in great triumph against evil and sin, He gathered them back upon Himself and sent them the Spirit as the Helper.

They were empowered with God’s love through that Spirit of love, and they were emboldened to take up the cause of the Lord and went forth courageously to spread the Gospels to all men. The Apostles went through hardships and suffering for the sake of God and also for the sake of His people, in the Church of God, and they faced death bravely when they were martyred for their faith and unshakeable devotion to the Lord. They shed their blood, and as I had mentioned, these formed the foundations of the Church of God, along with many other martyrs, that even though they are persecuted against, they remain vibrant and growing in both number and in their faith.

In the first reading, we see the Holy City of Jerusalem descending from heaven, to meet her Bride, that is the Lamb of God. That Holy City was great and precious, the heavenly Jerusalem, pure and clear like crystal. The City has twelve gates and twelve foundation stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Those foundation stones also in fact represent the twelve apostles, brothers and sisters! Just as Christ Himself had said that the Apostles will sit on twelve thrones and judge the people of God. They are akin to the guardians of those gates, barring the entry into the city to anyone found not worthy.

That Holy City of God in fact represent both the presence of God, that all of us aspire to enter, and also the Church of God, built upon the support, the foundation stone of the Apostles. Their faith and dedication had been the strong foundation that held up the Church of God, and ensured its continuity throughout time, despite all the opposition, persecution, and evils it had faced all these while. That includes St. Bartholomew who gave up his life and laboured hard for the sake of the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today, as we recall the labours and the righteousness of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, resolve to follow his life examples, and resolve to devote ourselves more to the laws and commandments of our God that is love, by loving one another, giving our love especially to those who have little or none of it, and to love God with all our might. Pray for us St. Bartholomew, the Apostle of Christ and defender of the faith. Amen.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 1 : 45-51

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the One that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well : He is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.”

Nathanael asked Him, “How do You know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”

Nathanael answered, “Master, You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Saturday, 24 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Righteous is the Lord in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Saturday, 24 August 2013 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelation 21 : 9b-14

One of the seven angels came to me and said, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me up in a spiritual vision to a very high mountain and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel with the colour of crystal-clear jasper.

Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve angels. Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones on which are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Saturday, 10 August 2013 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are urged by none other than our Lord, that we should invest and go to work, in order to make use the gifts that God had given us through the Holy Spirit that He had planted in each one of us the faithful ones in God. He had given us much gifts, abilities, and power, through the Spirit, which if we utilise them, we will truly be able to make a great difference in ourselves, in our neighbours, our fellow men, and in our society, through those gifts given to us.

Yes, brothers and sisters, within us all is the Spirit that God had given us when we were baptised, and when we were confirmed in our faith, given with the Holy Spirit that strengthens and nurtures. We have been given with the seeds of faith, hope, and love, as well as compassion, kindness, care, patience, and devotion, that all of us ought to utilise and nurture in our hearts, as well as in our own communities, that they will not remain just a seed, but will germinate and grow to become healthy and fruitful.

The love that is in us will never grow if we just keep it within ourselves, and the other gifts of the Spirit will also just languish in us and be wasted, if we keep them unused and sealed within our hearts. In order to let them grow and prosper, effort is required, and not just any effort, but strong, dedicated and purposeful effort, with strong contribution from our side, and a significant investment of our attention and our sweat. We do not gain anything from slacking up or resting.

Just like farmers, brothers and sisters, the farmers who worked hard day and night, ploughing the land, planting the seeds, and putting manure or fertilisers on the land, that the seeds will be provided with enough nutrients and therefore can grow to healthy and strong plants, that will in the future bear much fruits. The farmers cared for their plants with love, and give them their full attention, that they grow big and laden with much flowers and therefore, much fruits.

The fruits that are juicy and sweet cannot be born, if the plants are not taken care of carefully and with great dedication, and neither can they be produced, if the farmers have slackened off in their works, and let the plants to their own in growing up. They carefully removed the weeds and the pests, preventing them from eating up the fruits and threatening the health and survival of the plants. In the end, they reaped much fruits, an abundant and bountiful harvest, the sweet products of harvest, which bring them happiness and joy.

That is how, brothers and sisters in Christ, we should also do for the seeds of faith, love, and hope planted by the Lord, the Sower, in each of us, within our hearts. These seeds need our attention, our dedication, and our great effort, in order to grow, bloom, and prosper. As I have mentioned, the seeds need good soil and manure or fertiliser, to ensure that they have the right nutrients and sufficient ones in order to grow properly into healthy and vibrant plants. So, how do we then ensure this to what the Spirit had planted in us? That is faith, hope, and love?

It is by our actions, our deeds, and our words, that we contribute to the growth of the gifts of the Lord within us. How we act and what we say, the words that we utter, determine the growth, the health, and the survival of the ‘plants’ in us, that is what God had given all of us, the gifts, the talents, and skills we have been endowed with in our lives. Each of us do have our own unique skills and talents, but none of these will be useful nor beneficial if we do not practice them and use them.

We give the nutrients and fertilisers to these gifts, by our actions and our words that reflect the goodness that is the Lord, or in short, by following the Lord and His laws, all of His commandments, just as Christ had told His disciples in the Gospel reading today. We have to made evident the commandments of the Lord in our own lives, through our acts of love, words that promote love, and our loving embrace for one another, for our brothers and sisters especially those who are rejected and without love.

It will not be easy, and our path will be littered with dangers and threats, but our God will walk with us through all these obstacles, and if we remain strong in our faith and in our bond and dedication to Him, we will make it through, and at the end, lies the reward, the eternal reward of everlasting life in the glory of heaven, which God had reserved for His holy saints, the people who had persevered through fire and through the test of life, and had been found worthy of God’s Kingdom.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of a great saint, that is St. Lawrence, a deacon of the early Church and a martyr of the faith. He was also known as St. Lawrence of Rome because he was one of the seven deacons serving the Diocese of Rome under the other great saint Pope St. Xystus II (Sixtus II) whose feast day we had just celebrated a few days ago. He met his martyrdom almost at the same time with the saintly Pope during the height of the persecution of Christians under Emperor Valerian in the mid-third century after the birth of Christ.

St. Lawrence was the disciple of Pope St. Xystus II and helped him in the governance of the Church in the times of difficulty, with extreme persecution and hunts against the Christians by the pagan Roman Emperor and the entire Roman military at the time. He helped to manage the Church and the Diocese of Rome in the midst of that difficult times, and he bravely defended the faith and the Church after the death of its leader the Pope in martyrdom, by standing up to the Roman authorities and proclaiming the sanctity of the Church and the greatness of God.

St. Lawrence was asked by the prefects of Rome after the martyrdom of Pope St. Xystus II to gather the wealth of the church, because of a law that required all Christians and others to surrender their wealth to the church if convicted of any act of treason to the state, which was exactly the situation given to St. Lawrence, in that he was to gather the riches of the Church to be confiscated by the state. He gathered the poor people of God, and bravely proclaimed to the prefects, that those are the wealth of the Church, its true wealth, and in all its glory, the Church is even richer than the Emperor himself.

In such courage of defending his faith, his Church, and his God, St. Lawrence brought upon him the wrath of the Emperor and he was martyred. But as we all know, brothers and sisters in Christ, to all of us who believe in Christ and become a part of the Church, accepting our Lord and God and our Saviour, death has no power over us, and indeed, St. Lawrence was raised in glory to the heavenly kingdom of our God, as one of the holy men and women who along with the angels praise the Lord and intercede for our sake on earth.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow in the footsteps of St. Lawrence, the great deacon and martyr, and in all the holy saints and martyrs of the Lord, that we will make use of the gifts and talents God had given to all of us, that we will nurture it through love and love in our actions and our words, that the love in us will grow and grow to encompass everyone, every one of God’s children, our brothers and sisters. In doing that, we follow Christ, His laws and commandments, and at the end of time, He will raise us up, and be given our reward of eternal life with Him in heaven. May God bless us always and remain us at all times. Amen.