Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that God will be our Redeemer and He will liberate us from all of our trials and troubles. He is our Hope and the Light that will lead us the way out from the darkness. The Lord is what we should be focusing on, and we should dedicate ourselves to Him just as He has dedicated Himself to us and loved us so much, all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, of the prophecy about the Lord’s salvation, the coming of the time of His glorious days when He will bring forth all that He has promised to us, His beloved people. In that prophecy, the Lord promised that He will lead His people from their predicament, from their fallen state and from their wretched existence.

Hence, with all these prophecies, from Isaiah and the other prophets, the people of Israel, who had faced lots of trials and tribulations, challenges and troubles, they truly looked forward to the coming of the salvation of God, in the Messiah or Saviour that the Lord had promised to them. They have all suffered and endured much humiliation because of their own sins and disobedience, and therefore, they yearned and longed for that liberation.

This then relates to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the account of the Lord’s healing of the two blind men whom He encountered during His ministry. Those two blind men sought for the Lord and begged Him to heal them from their blindness. To be blind is truly a very terrible experience, and imagine that now we are able to look at all the wonders of the world, and not to be able to see all of that, is truly horrible.

And the Lord asked them, whether they believed in Him and in what He could do for them. Through their faith, and their commitment to their belief in Him, the Lord healed them from their blindness, opened their eyes and restored their ability to see once again. Therefore, they have been freed from their physical darkness, allowing them to see the light and the world again. Imagine someone who have suffered for so long in the darkness, without hope and without light, now finally able to see again, there must be such a great joy in them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go through this season of Advent, we look forward to the great celebrations and joy that will come in Christmas, as an important reminder of why we ought to celebrate joyfully because in Christ, we have seen the Hope and the Salvation promised to all of us, all these that had been prophesied by the prophets and which the Lord Himself had revealed to us. He has shown His love in person, by reaching out tot us, touching us and healing us from all of our predicaments.

Just all those blind men suffering from their blindness, we all too are suffering from the affliction of our sins. Even though we may be perfectly healthy in our body and physique, but our souls are still afflicted and corrupted by sin, which is a disease that afflict us, strike at us, and unless we rid ourselves of these afflictions, they will drag us down the path to damnation. Fortunately for us, the Lord loves each and every one of us, and is willing to forgive us our sins and heal us from our afflictions.

The question is then, are we willing to embrace the Lord’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Or do we prefer instead to continue living in the darkness and sin? The Lord wants to forgive us our sins, but do we want to be forgiven? Let us see the examples of those two blind men. They were healed because they believed in the Lord and had faith in Him, and they wanted to be healed. Unless we are willing to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, there can be no forgiveness, as we must accept the forgiveness and act in repentance of our past sins to be fully forgiven.

This season of Advent through the Scripture readings we are all constantly being reminded to love God because of the love that He Himself had shown to us all these while. We are all called to redirect our focus and attention on Him, and prepare ourselves so that we may truly celebrate Christmas with full appreciation of its importance. Let us fill ourselves with the joy of expectation of the Lord’s coming, remembering first of all His coming in the past, the coming of His salvation, and also then His promise of return at the end of time, when He will lead us all His faithful into His eternal kingdom.

How do we make best use of this season of Advent? It is by deepening our spirituality and our relationship with God. We can look upon the examples of the saints, all those holy men and women who had gone before us, and by whose lives God had been glorified. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of one of those holy saints of God, namely St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. He was a truly devout and faithful servant of God, whose lives and actions were truly exemplary and should serve as inspirations for all of us to follow.

St. John of Damascus lived in Syria which was why he was often called after the city of Damascus where he lived for most of his life. At that time, as a Christian living in Syria under the rule of non-Christians, St. John of Damascus was born into a family of Christian courtiers of the rulers of the Umayyad Caliphate, which capital was in Damascus. He was a renowned polymath and philosopher with wide range of knowledge in various topics.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great intellect and service to the Caliph in Damascus, and he was also known for his great faith and wisdom, as a priest and monk in a monastery in that area. After leaving the public service, he dedicated himself to a life of prayer and devotion, and his many writings on the matters of the faith were very influential in his defence of the true faith especially at that time against the false heresy of iconoclasm, supported by the Roman Emperor himself and his nobles.

St. John of Damascus wrote fervently and courageously even against those who opposed the true faith, not fearing for himself. He did what he could to prevent more and more souls from falling into the wrong paths, and he dedicated the latter half of his life doing that and leading a prayerful and pious life as a priest and monk. His contributions to the Church were enormous, and he continued to inspire many people long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly as he and the multitudes of other saints had done? Let us all ponder on these questions and ask ourselves, what are we going to do especially during this blessed season of Advent in order to prepare ourselves well for the coming of Christmas.

Are we going to continue living just as per usual? Celebrating Christmas just as usual, in the same manner as how others have celebrated it all around the world? Or are we going to have a profound change in how we live our lives, and re-centre our whole existence around God, the true Light and Hope of Christmas? Our true Joy and the source of our Salvation? Let us all seek the Lord this Advent with renewed vigour and strength, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

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, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

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!

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Isaiah 29 : 17-24

In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down – those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore YHVH, Abraham’s Redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob : No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of My hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded of our duties as Christians, to listen to the Lord and to obey His will at each and every moments of our lives, through our actions and our dealings, our interactions and efforts within our respective communities. All of us have been called to serve God to the best of our abilities.

In our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Titus, the Apostle wrote to his brother bishop and also protege, St. Titus with regards to the faithful people of God, and how each and every one of them ought to act and behave in their respective positions and parts of the community at large. Each and every one of them had important roles to play as members of the Church of God, to be righteous and just according to the teachings and ways He had shown us.

As the members of the clergy, the bishops, priests and the deacons, each of them had important roles to play, in serving the greater community of God’s people, to minister to them and lead everyone towards the Lord, guiding the faithful down the right path and caring for them spiritually. And the laity also had their own respective roles to play as Christians, as family members, as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, as children, as grandparents and grandchildren, to form faithful Christian families.

Not only that, but in whatever each and every one of them are doing, in their respective commitments and works, all of them are called to be exemplary in carrying out their Christian virtues and actions. This is what each and every one of us have been called to do, to be virtuous examples of our Christian faith in our every day workplaces, in our schools and in everywhere we are, reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters through our good examples.

But we must then also must heed the Lord’s words in our Gospel passage today to guide us down the right path. In that Gospel passage, we heard the Lord using a parable to teach His disciples and the people, the parable of the dutiful servant in which the Lord compared our relationship with God in a way with the relationship between a master and his servant. The servant had a duty to serve his master well and to do what he had been told to do. But the master is under no obligation to congratulate or please the servant as mentioned.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that each and every one of us must not treat our faith as merely an achievement or as a means to satisfy our own desires and wants. Surely there are those of us who want to be praised for our actions and dedications to God, but our faith truly is not about ourselves. It is not about how much we have done, or that if we have done more then we deserve more praise and rewards. Whatever we have done and are going to do, we have to do it for the greater glory of God.

Today therefore all of us are called to follow the Lord more faithfully as Christians, to be committed to loving Him and our fellow brethren with sincerity and generosity, in each and every actions we take and at every moments of our lives. And we should be inspired further by the examples of the saints such as Pope St. Leo the Great whose feast day we celebrate today. There is a lot that we can learn from his examples and inspirations.

Pope St. Leo the Great led the Church as the Pope and Successor of St. Peter the Apostle at a very important time and juncture for the Church and the world, as the Roman Empire began to fall apart in its western regions, falling apart to the invasions from the barbarians that came and conquered many of its territories, wrecking a lot of havoc and confusion. Despite all these, Pope St. Leo the Great led the Church and the faithful through this most difficult moment, and was instrumental in strengthening the Church in standing up against the various heresies that also came up at that time.

Pope St. Leo the Great was firmly against the Arian heresy and its followers, as well as to other heresies like monophysitism and others, sending delegates to Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon to affirm the teachings of the faith as preserved through the Church, also writing extensively in defence of the true faith. Pope St. Leo the Great also dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the well-being of his flock, and in one well-remembered occasion, stood before the much dreaded king of the Huns, Attila at the gates of Rome, and managed to persuade him to turn away and not destroy the city.

Pope St. Leo the Great had showed us what it means to be a true and dedicated disciple of the Lord, as did many other great saints, holy men and women of God. Are we willing and able to follow their good examples, brothers and sisters in Christ? Each and every one of us are called and have been challenged to follow the Lord in each and every one of our own ways, to serve Him and glorify Him with all of our efforts and strength. May God be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 7-10

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Who among you would say to your servant, coming in from the fields after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Go ahead and have your dinner?’ No, you tell him, ‘Prepare my dinner. Put on your apron, and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink afterwards.'”

“Do you thank this servant for doing what you told him to do? I do not think so. And therefore, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you should say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty.'”

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 18 and 23, 27 and 29

For they will fade as any green herb and soon be gone like withered grass.

The Lord watches over the lives of the upright; forever will their inheritance abide. The Lord is the One Who makes people stand, He gives firmness to those He likes.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. The righteous will possess the land; they will make it their home forever.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Titus 2 : 1-8, 11-14

Let your words strengthen sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be sober, serious, wise, sound in faith, love and perseverance. The older women in like manner must behave as befits holy women, not given to gossiping or drinking wine, but as good counsellors, able to teach younger women to love their husbands and children, to be judicious and chaste, to take care of their households, to be kind and submissive to their husbands, lest our faith be attacked.

Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Set them an example by your own way of doing. Let your teaching be earnest and sincere, and your preaching beyond reproach. Then your opponents will feel ashamed and will have nothing to criticise.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus. He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scriptures, we heard from our first reading the beginning of the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, in which the Apostle spoke of the great love of God and the salvation which He has lavished on all of those who believed and embraced Christ as their Saviour. Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard the continuation of yesterday’s discourse on the Lord’s criticism and the curses He levelled on the Pharisees.

In our first reading today, St. Paul spoke to the people of Ephesus regarding the designs and all that God had willed on His people, how He has created us all out of love, and how He has blessed us all and provided for us. Essentially, the key message of St. Paul is that we are beloved by God and He wants us to be forgiven from our sins and thus be reconciled with Him.

Through sin, all of us have been separated from God, and we have fallen away from the path of grace and eternal life. Had it not been for God’s enduring and pure love for us, we would have been destroyed and annihilated. Our sins would have condemned us into an eternity of suffering, and it was only thanks to the patience and compassionate love showed by the Lord to us that we have received the way out of this certain predicament.

It was by the loving sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that the Lord had redeemed us from our fated destruction, extending forgiveness for our sins, and calling us to repent wholeheartedly and abandon our past lives of sin, our previous wicked and disobedient way of life. The Lord has generously extended His offer of love and mercy, and we shall certainly be completely forgiven if only that we embrace repentance and change our ways.

This is then linked to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to the people on the vices and wickedness of the Pharisees in the various occasions when they did not obey the Lord as they preferred to live and act in accordance to their own way. The Lord reminded us all that this is not the right path for us to follow, and instead of doing what the Pharisees had done, we must be truly faithful.

First of all, the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord, in His words and teachings even though He has repeatedly showed them and all others how His message and words were genuine, and that the prophets had indeed prophesied about His coming into the world. And despite all the signs and wonders they had witnessed, they still refused to have faith.

This shows just how powerful the allure of human pride and desire can be, and if we allow these to influence us much as how they had influenced the Pharisees and many of the teachers of the Law and elders of the people, then it will likely lead us down the same path towards ruin. Those groups of people I mentioned earlier, they took great pride in their own supposed superior intellect, power, influence and other things that made them to resist the Lord and His revelation of truth.

They were blinded by their desires, by their jealousy within them, and by their fears, as they were afraid to lose all the good things, all the privileges and power they had enjoyed. And in the end, instead of depending and focusing on the Lord, they ended up being self-indulgent, depending on their own power and might, their own wisdom and intellect, refusing to admit that they could have been mistaken and wrong, and thus, hardened their hearts when the Lord came bearing His truth before their own eyes.

Truly, it is sad to see how those who were blessed with many good things had fallen. But this is indeed a kind reminder from the Lord how we cannot be complacent and need to be careful lest we may be tempted by those worldly desires, concerns and all the allures by which the devil has been constantly trying to lure us away from God’s path and grace. It will indeed not be easy, as we live in a world inundated by all these temptations, but unless we make the effort, then indeed we will be easy prey for those temptations.

That is why, today, all of us should be inspired by the good examples set by our saint today, the renowned St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, the renowned mystic and holy woman, declared one of the Doctors of the Church for her immense contribution to the faith and in all of her writings and efforts. Together with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila were very important figures in the renewal and reform of the Carmelite order, establishing what would be known as the Discalced Carmelites.

At that time, after centuries of developments, the Carmelite order began to stray further and further away from the true intentions of the founders of the religious order. Members of the religious began to be corrupted by worldly desires, and found many ways to circumvent or ignore the rules of the religious living and Carmelite tenets altogether. Similar trends were also observed in other religious orders, as both members of the clergy and laity alike became lax in their discipline in life and in their observance of God’s Law and commandments.

Therefore, St. Teresa of Jesus, together with St. John of the Cross and other reformers set out to reform the Carmelites, as well as the larger Church and the faithful community in general, which sought to return the Christian faith and its followers to purer intentions, ridding it off the excesses that had grown to accumulate over those past few centuries, when corrupt influences of the world began to affect the members of the Church and led them astray, much as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had experienced earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Teresa of Jesus and her fellow companions all worked hard and dedicated themselves deeply to the service of the Lord despite the challenges that she had to face throughout those difficult years in attempting to reform the Church and the faithful community, especially the Carmelites. We are all also called to follow the Lord, just as St. Teresa of Jesus and the other saints had done.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with all of our hearts, and let us commit ourselves ever more faithfully, each and every moments of our lives, to be faithful disciples and great inspirations for each other, the beacons of God’s light, His truth, hope and love. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. St. Teresa of Jesus, great reformer and faithful servant of God, pray for us all, always. Amen.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said to the teachers of the Law, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and these people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the Sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.”

As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.