Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages reminding us about the wonderful things that the Lord has done for our sake, in how He has brought us out from the predicament and our fated destruction because of our sins. He has come into this world to be the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind as mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He is the High Priest Who is also the Mediator of the New Covenant.

In order to understand this better, we must understand the context and historical importance of the role of the priest, and especially the High Priest in the community of Israel, the people of God. The priest is the one who has been chosen by God from among the tribe of Levi, to be the servant at His Temple, and earlier on also at the Tent of Meeting built by Moses, whose role is to offer sacrifices presented by the people to God.

Therefore, the priest had a very important role as the mediator of the Covenant between God and man, for the relationship between God and man had been damaged and man has been sundered away from God’s grace because of their sins. Sin is born out of disobedience, our refusal to follow and obey the way of the Lord, all of the wicked words we have uttered and the wicked deeds and actions we have taken in life. All these have separated us from God.

But God still loves each and every one of us despite of our rebelliousness and waywardness. He created us because of His love for us, and He will not abandon that love just because of our sins and our disobedience. That is why God established His Covenant with us, and renewed it again and again, as we mankind continuously failed to uphold our end of the Covenant, breaking them through our sinful disobedience. God still tried to save us, and through His priests, He brought a temporary solution, by their sacrificial offerings.

God promised that the time would come for His Saviour to come into the world and resolve this matter once and for all, a promise that is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, Who came into this world, performed His works obeying the will of His Father, and by becoming Man and assuming our human existence like us, became for us our Eternal and True High Priest, offering for us, just for one time, once and for all, the perfect offering through which all of us have been saved.

Christ has become the source of our salvation because He obediently and willingly followed the will of God His Father, in laying down His life on the cross, which became His Altar, the Altar on which He laid down the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, the Divine Lamb of sacrifice that far and infinitely surpassed the offering of lambs and other animals as prescribed by the Law.

Unfortunately as shown in the Gospel passage today, there were still those who refused to believe in the Lord and in fact, even made nasty and wicked accusations against Him. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law accused the Lord of using the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebul to cast out other demons when they saw Him exorcising evil spirits from people, and they thought that as He often did it on the Sabbath day in violation of the strict Sabbath law, then He could not have done it with God’s grace.

But this is where the pride and the stubbornness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law worked against them, as these prevented them to see reason, which the Lord wisely and justly presented before them, showing them the foolishness of their argument. Had the evil spirits and demons were divided against each other as they stipulated, there would have been endless conflicts between the fallen angels, and Satan would have been too busy to be able to strike at us mankind.

Instead, they did not realise that Satan himself was planting these seeds of discord and stubbornness in their hearts and minds to prevent them from being able to understand and appreciate the works of God unfolding and happening before their own eyes. Satan did not want the success of the works of God, and that was why, all the more his entire forces were united in the effort to divide the people of God, and to block them from attaining salvation through the Lord Jesus’ efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all reflect on our own lives. Have we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the temptations of Satan, that we hardened our hearts and minds against the love of God? We have to realise just how great God’s love for us is, to the point that He was willing to endure all the sufferings and pains in order for us to be saved. He willingly took up the cross and bore it up to Calvary for us.

If God has not loved us, we would have perished long ago, and our existence would have been meaningless. But God did not let all these happen, and He brought us out of the depth of our sins and from the darkness into the light, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Our Saviour. And for the love that He has shown us all, it is only then right that we also love Him in the same manner, as what is only right and just after all that He has done for us.

If we are not sure how we ought to do so, then perhaps it is good for us to take note of the examples shown by St. Thomas Aquinas, the saint whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Thomas Aquinas is a truly famous saint and also Doctor of the Church, renowned for his extensive theological and philosophical writings, his brilliant mind and wisdom, and his love and commitment for God. St. Thomas Aquinas inspired many generations of people who also dedicated their lives to God.

But St. Thomas Aquinas did not have it easy, as oppositions and challenges were aplenty, even from his youth. His family opposed his desire to join religious life and priesthood, using whatever means to try to dissuade him from his conviction, but St. Thomas Aquinas persevered through prayer and steadfast dedication, and he managed to overcome those challenges eventually. He became a devout and committed Dominican, and went about many places teaching and completing his now famous writings and works including the Summa Theologiae, Summa Contra Gentiles among many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas Aquinas has shown us that it is possible for us to love God and to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, directing ourselves to Him so completely that we become attuned to Him much as St. Thomas Aquinas had been, growing deeper in faith and in our dedication to Him each and every single days of our life. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew and renew the faith we have in our God from now on, turning ourselves to Him and loving Him with all of our hearts and strength. Amen.

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of histories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.”

“In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand, he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house.”

“Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven : he carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5, 6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Monday, 28 January 2019 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 9 : 15, 24-28

So Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant or testament. His death made atonement for the sins committed under the old testament, and the promise is handed over to all who are called to the everlasting inheritance.

Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God on our behalf. He had not to offer Himself many times, as the High Priest does : he who may return every year, because the blood is not his own.

Otherwise He would have suffered many times from the creation of the world. But no; He manifested Himself only now at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once and afterwards are judged, in the same way Christ sacrificed Himself once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin when He comes again to save those waiting for Him.

Friday, 7 December 2018 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together listening to the word of God in which we heard about the coming of God’s healing, mercy and forgiveness, which we heard from the prophet Isaiah, the Psalm and the Gospel passage of today. We ought to look up to the coming of God’s kingdom of peace, love and harmony and put our hope in Him, especially during the time of preparation in this season of Advent.

First of all, in the reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard about the promise of liberation and salvation which would come to the people of God, Israel. It was a promise and hope that the people were looking forward to, especially if we understand the history and the context behind what the prophet Isaiah has proclaimed before the people of Israel.

At that time, during the latter years of the kingdom of Judah, the southern half and division of the ancient kingdom of Israel, while the kingdom was prosperous and led by the good and faithful king Hezekiah, but the northern kingdom of Israel has been destroyed and its people brought into exile and scattered by the Assyrians. And the Assyrians themselves came up all the way to Judah and besieged Jerusalem.

If not for God’s intervention that caused the Assyrians to leave the city of God aside after the Angel of God slaughtered almost the entire Assyrian army, the kingdom of Judah itself would have suffered the same fate as its northern brethren. And the kingdom and people of Judah also had many other often hostile and powerful neighbours who always sought for the opportunity to destroy them.

With the understanding of this historical context, now we should be able to appreciate better just how important and good the hope which the prophet Isaiah has given the people with what he proclaimed to them as recorded in the Book. That hope is anchored in the mind of the people of God with the expectation of the coming Messiah or Saviour that God has promised His people, the One Who was said that He would be the Son of David.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard just exactly what had been fulfilled in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of David and Son of God, Who came into the world to fulfil the Lord’s promises to His people. He healed all those who came to Him with sicknesses and problems, those who have been possessed by evil spirits and in other forms of trouble. He healed them all and provided them the fullness of God’s love and compassionate mercy.

Thus in the readings we heard today, we heard all that we should reflect on throughout this blessed time of Advent, in the lead-up to Christmas. Advent is a time for us to reorientate ourselves and our lives, and to refocus our attention and focus on God, the One Whom all of us are expecting in this season. We remember both of His historical coming into this world as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, all that He has done, but also the upcoming eternal kingdom of God at the end of time.

All of us are people who are afflicted and in suffering, just as the people of Judah in Isaiah’s time suffered from the various conditions mentioned earlier in today’s discourse, and just as the blind men in the Gospel and the other people with various problems who came to Jesus for healing and mercy. We are afflicted like them, because of our sins. Sin is the worst affliction of all, as sin strikes at the deepest part of ourselves, and there is no healing for sin, except for the mercy and forgiveness from God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to go and seek God’s mercy, and reorientate our lives during the opportunity that God has given us during this season of Advent? Are we going to let this upcoming Christmas season be just like the other Christmas seasons that have passed, if we have not been celebrating it right, and with the wrong focus and intention? God is calling us to repent from our sins and to return to Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Ambrose, whose life and inspiration, whose dealings with sinners can be a good example for us to follow. St. Ambrose was the famous bishop of Milan, who was considered among the four original Doctors of the Church, for his great intellect and wisdom, his great leadership of the Church, both in Milan and beyond, and for his many other contributions to the Church.

St. Ambrose was born of a Roman noble family, and rose to the rank of governor of the province of what is now northern Italy, because of his many talents and good works. He was beloved by many of the people because of his great contributions and commitment to serve the people. And when the Arian heretic bishop of Milan died, St. Ambrose was chosen by acclamation to be the new bishop of Milan from all the people even when he was not even a priest yet.

St. Ambrose dedicated himself to the ministry of the episcopate and the shepherding of the people of God. He spoke out strongly against heresies and against all those who sought to oppose the good works of the Church. And in one notable event, St. Ambrose himself went up against the powerful Roman Emperor, Theodosius the Great, when the Emperor ordered a massacre in the city of Thessalonica in Greece.

St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor for the blatant act of sin in the massacre, in the killing of many innocents amidst the massacre. And the Emperor acceded to the demands of St. Ambrose for a public show of repentance and penance. The Emperor publicly admitted his errors in sackcloth, and was welcomed back into the Church by St. Ambrose, who thereafter continued to serve the people of God until his death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually to be closer again to God, as we prepare for the upcoming season of Christmas during this Advent. Let us all spend more time in prayer and devotion to God, looking up with hope towards God, in Whom alone lies the hope of eternal glory and salvation. May the Lord, through the intercession of His servant St. Ambrose, bring us ever closer to Him, that we may be worthy of the eternal life He has promised all those who are faithful to Him. Amen.

Friday, 7 December 2018 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.

Friday, 7 December 2018 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!