Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Social Communications Sunday and Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate the seventh Sunday in the season of Easter. Therefore, in just one week’s time we will come to the celebration of the Solemnity of the Pentecost, and mark the end of this holy season of Easter. I hope that for all of us Christians, each and every one of us have made good use of this particularly blessed season to deepen our faith in God.

On this Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Church also commemorate the occasion of the World Communications Sunday. On this occasion, we remember the important command that the Lord gave to all of us, His disciples and followers, that we are to go forth to the peoples of all the nations, testifying our faith and belief in the Lord, Who has come upon this world to save us, by His death on the cross and by His resurrection.

And in order to be able to do that, of course, each one of us as Christians must know how to communicate. Then, many of us surely wonder, ‘Ah, but I know how to talk well!’ or ‘Ah, it is not a problem for me at all, for I am a good speaker and I can persuade people very well!’. Yet, do we actually know what communication is truly about, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it all about talking and how well we can speak and talk to others?

No, that is not all, brothers and sisters. Good communicators are also good listeners, just as they are good speakers. And they are also usually good thinkers and contemplators. One cannot communicate properly, if one just speak right off from his or her mouth, without first thinking about it or contemplating what he or she is about to say. Otherwise, very easily the person could have gotten into trouble for what he or she had said, as those words had not been carefully thought of.

And if someone is quick to talk, and yet also refuse to listen, then he or she is also not a good communicator. That is because we will then find ourselves in a situation where we will end up misunderstand the intentions of each other. We will also not be able to communicate well, as if each side of the people in communication insist that they be heard first, and refuse to listen to the other person’s opinion, very quickly it will end up in a struggle and even conflict.

Unfortunately, that is who we often are, and that is how we also often act, and that was how wars have been started, conflicts and destruction of human lives, just because we failed to communicate well. People misunderstood each other’s intentions from time to time, and unless we make the effort to learn from our past mistakes, the same problems and mistakes are likely to arise again and again.

Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we realise that there are many ways we can communicate, more than just by words? Verbal speeches and words are just one way through which we are able to communicate with another person. There are many other ways through which we can convey what we want another person to know, that is through gestures and actions. Unfortunately, the same can also be said of our actions that are in fact contrary to what we are saying.

What do I mean by saying that, brethren? It means that as Christians, just as I have mentioned earlier that we are all called by God to be His witnesses to all the nations, to all the peoples, we cannot just depend on our words alone. It is often that actions carry much greater weight than words, and it is such that words that are not backed by concrete actions are often considered empty and meaningless.

And unfortunately, in our actions and in how we carry out our lives, we often did not do as what our faith said that we should do in our lives. Just as St. John in his Epistle, our second reading today said to the faithful, we are all called to love God and love one another, with all of our hearts, and with all of our efforts. And yet, how many of us actually truly love God with all of our hearts? How many of us actually prioritises God over all the other things we have in life?

The reality is that for many of us Christians, we tend to put God aside in our lives, as we are often too busy and too caught up in our worldly dealings and matters, to the point that we forget about God, and we only remember Him, if we even remember Him, in times when we are in need of His help. And when things start to go better once again for us, we forget to thank Him and we continue in our usual busy lifestyle and push Him aside once again.

And how about our love for our fellow men? Many of us Christians profess to be members of God’s Church, and yet, in our actions and interactions with one another, many of us do things that are anything but showing love for each other. How many of us, in our respective parishes and communities, often fall into the tendency and the bad habit of gossiping against each other, against fellow laity, and even against the priests? And even amongst the priests, sometimes we also see division and unpleasantness between each other.

Now, let me ask you all a question, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we want to communicate to those whom we intend to preach the message of the Good News of God, how can we then, in our own respective lives and actions, do things that are contrary to what we preach and what we believe? How can people believe in us, if we ourselves do not do as we say, and if we do not show that we truly believe in our faith, through action?

If we have done all these, then we are no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They were hypocrites, just as we are. The Lord Jesus Himself said to the people, ‘Listen to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, but do not imitate them in what they were doing’. Through this, the Lord rebuked those who claim to believe, and yet, their actions show completely different fact altogether.

And why did all these things happen to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because we are not a good communicator, and we need to learn to be good communicators. We are often people who are easy to talk and give words out of our mouths, but we find it hard to act in the same manner, because we do not truly mean what we say, and we often do not think and discern before we say something.

This is where, we need to reflect on what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, which is the prayer which Our Lord Jesus made, and addressed to His Father in heaven, for the sake of all of His disciples. He prayed for them to His Father, that He would keep them safe and protect them, and guide them, and make them to remain united as one people, as one body together, which St. John in his Epistle also elaborated further, that the love of God has dwelled in us, through His Holy Spirit.

But many of us often do not realise this, as we are often too distracted by the many things and concerns we have in this world. We do not spend enough time in prayer, and prayer is a very important part of our Christian life. The Lord Jesus often spent time in quiet places to pray to His Father, and we saw it in many occasions throughout the Gospels. He maintained a close and loving relationship with His Father, listening to Him and obeying His will.

And by that action, He has also shown us all as Christians, how we ought to devote ourselves to God through prayer. It is also important that we know how to pray in the right manner. Many of us think that our prayers have to follow a certain formula or that by saying longer and more concise prayers, our prayers will then be answered, or we can gain more from what we have prayed for.

However, it is too often that many of us are again not good communicators in this case, as we end up spending all the time talking and making our demands and desires known to the Lord, without allowing ourselves to hear the will of God, and we shut ourselves off from the word of God, speaking softly in the depths of our hearts and within our minds. We end up speaking all the time and not allowing God to speak to us. In this manner, we have failed in our communication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise that each and every one of our prayers are actually meant to be communication between us and God. And as in any proper communication, it should be two-way in nature, allowing both parties involved to speak and to listen at the appropriate time. The problem is, as mentioned, we do not listen enough, and we demand that God listen to our demands, when we do not even open our hearts and minds to listen to His will.

May the Lord therefore, allow our hearts and minds, our senses to be open to God. If we have often been distracted and swayed from the path that God has shown us, then perhaps it is time now for us to turn wholeheartedly and completely towards God, with all of our hearts and with all of our minds. Let us all develop a good and working spiritual relationship with God, that we may come to know His will for us, and He may draw us ever closer to Him, with each and every passing day.

May we grow to be good communicators, that is, with the wisdom which the Holy Spirit has given us, we may be good listeners just as we are good speakers, and through the same wisdom, may we all discern and think carefully through all the things that we want to convey and say to others, that we may say them with grace, truth and charity. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 6 May 2018 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day, the sixth Sunday of the season of Easter, all of us are called to reflect on the one fundamental nature of our faith, and indeed, of Our God, in Whom we believe. And this fundamental nature is indeed so important that it is from which all of our faith came from, and by which, we have been saved. And what I have just spoken about, is love.

In the first reading today, we heard about St. Peter the Apostle, who went to visit the house of a Roman citizen named Cornelius, who together with his family greeted the Apostle and asked about the Christian faith. They wanted to believe in the Lord Jesus, and they listened to the teachings of the Apostle St. Peter, whom God also called to visit their house. They became believers, and received the Holy Spirit as St. Peter himself witnessed.

This is a very important event in the early Church, which was then divided between those who wanted to impose strict Jewish laws and discipline, and in fact, wanted the faith to be kept within the Jews only, as they believed that salvation was given only to the Jewish people, the direct descendants of Abraham, as God’s chosen people, and those who believe that the Lord did not restrict salvation from being given to the non-Jewish people, and in fact, as He had commanded, wanted everyone to be saved, and to follow Him.

And the Lord showed St. Peter, and the other Church fathers and elders, how He desired for the salvation of all mankind, for all of the race of men have been chosen by God, out of His love for all of them. When He showed a vision to St. Peter earlier prior to his visit to the house of Cornelius, in which a multitude of unclean animals according to the Jewish tradition was presented to St. Peter as food as commanded by God, and upon his refusal, God said to him that ‘what God has decreed to be clean, you cannot say to be unclean.’

This is related to what we heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “I shall not call you servants anymore, but I shall call you friends.” Through this, God revealed to us His true intention and nature. In the Old Testament, God was always portrayed as a mighty and angry God, Who is always ready to punish His people whenever they erred or turned against Him. But in reality, He did all of those because He loved His people.

Otherwise, why would God love those people who have rebelled against Him, disobeyed His commandments and laws? God did not intend for all of us to suffer difficulty and hardships in this world, as if we read the Book of Genesis, we should see how God intended for us all to live in perfect bliss and harmony, in eternal happiness with Him, as God had intended with Adam and Eve, our first ancestors in the Gardens of Eden.

Alas, our ancestors disobeyed God’s commandments and followed the lies of Satan instead, believing more in his sweet false promises rather than to obey the Lord, Who has given us His love so much, that He gave us everything in this world to be our own. Instead, we were banished out of Eden into the suffering of this world, and we came under the thralldom and tyranny of sin.

God could have destroyed us right there and then, and He could have crushed us, as He Who created us surely could also destroy us with the mere projection of His will. However, that was not what God has done. Instead, He called us to return to Him, beginning with the sons and daughters of Abraham, His faithful servant, and then by giving them His Law and commandments, the Ten Commandments.

But the people continued to sin and refused to obey Him, and instead, worshipping pagan gods and idols, performing what were wicked in God’s sight, by their unjust treatment of their peers and fellow men, they disgusted God and made Him to be angry at them. But that was not the true nature of God. God was angry at His people, because of their disobedience and their sins. It was these wickedness that God was angry with them for, but not because of themselves as human beings.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that God ultimately still loves us all, even though we are sinful and wicked in our deeds. However, it is these sins and wickedness which have separated us from Him, and which then prompted God to do what He had to do, in order to save us all from certain destruction because of those unrepented and unsettled sins.

And in this day’s Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus made it clear what He would do in order to fulfil the promise He has made to us mankind, that He would love us again and reconcile us to Himself, freeing us from our sins. He has considered us to be His friends, as those who are truly dear to Him. And what would Jesus do to His friends? In another Gospel passage, He said, “There is no greater love for someone than for him to lay down his life for a friend.”

That is exactly what the Lord has done, by voluntarily accepting the cross, as a punishment for all of our sins, the whole sum of the consequences that should have fallen unto us mankind, and yet, God willingly took all of them upon His own shoulders, and bore them on the way to Calvary, and He was crucified on it. He endured an unimaginably immense pain and sorrow, suffering and torture on the Cross, but He bore it all patiently.

And that is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Cross is the concrete and undeniable proof of God’s ultimate love for each and every one of us. God has loved us so much, that He did not only give us His only Son, through Whom He created us, the Word of God, made incarnate into the flesh of Man, but, in fact, through His singular act of perfect love and completely selfless sacrifice, He gave Himself up and His life, so that, by that loving act, He redeemed us all from our sins.

Now we have seen just how wonderful and amazing God’s love for us is. He has loved us all from the very beginning, and He wants to continue to love us. But unfortunately, many of us have not loved Him in the same manner. This is what God wants from each one of us, that we all love Him just as He has loved us first, and then we ought to show this love in our action and interactions with one another. That is the true essence of God’s commandments and Law.

Yet, how many of us truly love God in our hearts? How many of us put God as the priority in our lives? Instead of loving Him, we spent far more time worrying about our worldly concerns, about our career, our possessions and material wealth, about our relationships and concerns of the flesh? How many of us only remember God when we have need and we demand that God do something for us?

If we truly love God, then we cannot act in this manner. True love for God does not mean for us to just superficially be faithful to Him. Many of those Pharisees who obeyed the numerous rules and regulations of the Jewish customs seemed to be obedient to the Lord, but they did not love Him, for their love was for worldly power and influence, for their own satisfaction and pleasure, and not God.

How about us? Haven’t many of us been doing the same thus far? We are so busy and so preoccupied trying to accumulate for ourselves all these things, that we end up forgetting about God and about our obligation to Him. And then, we have also often forgotten about our obligation, to show the same love to our fellow brethren. Instead, we end up backstabbing others, being angry and jealous at others, desiring what others have and what we do not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, all of us are called to be true agents of love, that is the pure love which God has shown us, unconditional and selfless. Then, what is it that we need to do? We should begin to practice genuine love in our daily lives, by showing care and concern to those who are around us, forgiving those who have wronged us, and helping even strangers who need our help.

Let us not be prejudiced on others based on racial or national background, just as God Himself has not prejudiced against us, and love us all equally all the same. He has shown this to St. Peter, and by calling all the Gentiles, all the peoples from every nation, He wants to show us that He loves all mankind equally, and we too, should do the same with our own lives and in how we interact with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, all children of the one and same God.

By doing these things, then we will grow stronger in our love for God, as we truly now internalise and appreciate the same love which He Himself has given us from the cross, and which we imitate in our own actions to one another. In this way then, we will grow ever more faithful to Him, and draw ever closer to Him. Let us all pray then, brothers and sisters, that God will always be with us, loving is as He has always done, and may He guide us in our lives, that we may love Him all the more, with each and every passing day. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 April 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard about the Lord Who spoke to us with His parables, comparing Himself and the Father as the Vine and the Vinegrower. In the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the first works of Saul, who would later on be known as St. Paul the Apostle, just right after his conversion to the faith.

What is the significance of these passages to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is ultimately a reminder for all of us, that everything we say, everything we do, and all the things that we have, ultimately belong to God and must be for God. God is the source of everything we have, and He is the One Who has given us and blessed us with everything we need, most important one of which, is our life.

God is the True Vine, from which everything else originated. Nothing can exist when they are separated from God, and if one should sever himself or herself away from God, sooner or later, he or she will perish. Sadly, in reality, there had been many occasions throughout history, when individuals separated themselves from God and chose to go their own way through disobedience against the will of God.

Firstly, God created Angels to serve Him and to glorify Him. But one of the Angels, the greatest and the mightiest among them, the most brilliant one, Lucifer, chose to rebel against God and against His Creator and Master. He wanted to claim God’s position, and in doing so, severing himself from God. As a result, he was thrown down and banished from heaven, forever from then, known as Satan, the great enemy, whose defeat and final destruction has been assured and prophesied.

But Satan did not want to go down quietly and on his own, so he tried to strike at those whom God loved and cherished, in particular His most beloved ones, that is us mankind. That is why, he struck at our ancestors, Adam and Eve in the Gardens of Eden, tempting them to disobey God’s commands, alluring them with sweet lies and false promises, the temptation of knowledge and power, essentially providing them with an ‘alternative’ to God’s way.

And unfortunately, they chose to listen to Satan over their obedience to God, and thus mankind fell into sin by eating the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. All because of their greed and unbridled desires, and having Satan who manipulated these greed and desires, we fell, and we sinned. And that was how mankind severed from the True Vine that is God. God never intended for us to be separated from Him, but unfortunately, we chose such a separation.

Why did I choose this narrative for today? That is because the account in Genesis is truly symbolic and relevant for what we have heard in today’s Gospel passage about the Vine of the Lord. By a tree we have been cast down, as we ate of the forbidden fruit instigated by Satan and by our own greed. We have chosen to sever ourselves from God, and as the Lord mentioned in the Gospel today, that no one who is separated from God can have life and survive, indeed, all of us mankind have been destined to perish together with Satan in eternal damnation.

However, God created us all in His very own image, far greater than all the Angels, even that of Lucifer, the tempter of all. And He created us all because of His great and unsurmountable and perfect love for us. If He has created us all because of His love, then it is illogical for God to desire for our destruction and annihilation. It is us who severed our connection to Him, but He wants to restore that connection He had with us.

And how did He do so? He did so through another ‘tree’, that is the tree of the Cross. While once mankind, having disobeyed the Lord by eating the fruit from a forbidden tree, fell into sin and disgrace, now, with the New Man, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, He bore the tree of the Cross, that bore a new fruit, the fruit of obedience and faith. It was Christ’s love and obedience for His Father, which ultimately redeems us from our sins and from our past wrongdoings.

By the cross, we receive the fruits of God’s love, and we saw His commitment to the Covenant which He has established with us. And through the cross, the Vine is remade and reestablished, with God and man reconciled and reunited by the actions of Christ, equally Man and equally God. The Cross is the bridge which has connected God and mankind, bridging over the previously impassable gap between the two.

Now that Christ has restored the vine, all of us who believe in Him as Christians have been made parts of the vine as members of His Church. He has established the Church in this world, as the physical and real existence of His all-embracing Vine. And how did we become part of this Vine? It is because we have received our faith from the Church, from the priests and our bishops, who themselves, received their faith from their predecessors.

And ultimately, those received their faith from the Apostles, who received their faith from the Lord Himself. Thus, while the Lord is the Vine, the Apostles are His principal branches, and our priests and bishops are the branches that emerge from those principal branches, and all of us Christians make up the entirety of the Vine, as members of God’s Body, the Church.

Now, it is important for us all to take note, that even though the Lord, Who by His love and ultimate sacrifice on the cross has reestablished the crucial connection between us and Him, but the threats presented by Satan and all of his wicked allies have not ended yet. Instead, these threats and attacks will only increase all the more, because Satan, realising that he has lost his grip on us, will try all the more to bring us down with him.

That is why, as all of us should well realise, that becoming a good and devout Christian in this time and era is increasingly becoming a challenge for us. Increasingly, keeping our faith as Christians and standing up for our faith become more and more difficult, as our Christian values of love, of faith, of hope, and of zeal, clash with the increasingly immoral ways of this world, seduced by Satan and his allies.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow the examples of the Apostles, including that of St. Paul, who willingly chose to turn to God after his conversion, dedicating his whole life to the service of God, to preach the truth and the Good News of the Lord to His people, that many more people would repent and be saved from the certainty of eternal damnation in hell.

God wants us to be courageous in our faith and to be devoted to Him in this way. He does not want those who are just Christians in name and by formality only. He said this in the Gospel passage today, as He said that those branches that is not healthy will be cast aside and thrown away, pruned to make sure the whole Vine is healthy. To each and every one of us have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and now, whether we are to use them or not, and how we use them, is entirely up to us.

Let us all therefore pledge ourselves to God, and to His cause, inspired by the examples of the Holy Apostles and saints. May all of us, faithful disciples of the Lord be able to commit ourselves, our time, effort and attention, to do God’s will through our every words and actions, so that we are truly Christians in spirit and in action. May the Lord be with us all through this journey, and may He help us all to persevere in faith. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 April 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and Vocation Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we celebrate together the occasion of the Good Shepherd Sunday, known as such because of the Gospel passage of the Fourth Sunday of Easter that is about the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as well as the occasion of the Vocation Sunday, where all of us pray together for the vocations to the priesthood and life dedicated to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is a very important one to us all in the Church, as all those who are priests and consecrated to God are the lifeblood of the Church, and an important part of God’s Church together with the laity. Without these courageous men who listened to God’s call and answered Him with concrete action, there would have been no Church to speak of today.

Why is that so? That is because they are called to follow in the example of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who loves us all His people. It was God’s love for us that had allowed His Church to exist and flourish, and it was God’s love, that He did not destroy us outright for our sins, but instead He gave us the opportunity to be forgiven and to be reconciled with Him.

All of the readings from the Scripture today speak of God’s love for us, which is great and its extent unimaginable. And He has often alluded to us, the love of a shepherd for the sheep, especially that of a good shepherd, the shepherd of the flock, and not of the hired men. The hired men would only care for the sheep for the money they received, and as soon as they had to do something beyond their obligations, or when they had to face danger to protect the sheep, they would flee.

On the other hand, the good shepherd would do all he could to protect the sheep, to go all the way to search for a lost sheep and to do all he could to make sure that the sheep is safe and sound. And as the Lord Himself mentioned, that a true and good shepherd knows all of his sheep, and the sheep know him. And that is exactly Who the Lord is, our Good Shepherd Who loves each and every one of us.

Obviously God loves each and every one of us, for it was He Who created us from nothingness and gave us life, for each one of us. God did not create us without a good reason, and that reason is that He wants to share with us His perfect love. God has no need for our love, as He Himself is already perfect in love and having perfect love in His Trinity, between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, united in perfect love to each other.

Yet, He wants to love us, and to show His care upon us, to all He has created, and foremost of all, mankind, whom He created in His very own image, and who are the pinnacle of His creation. God is ever loving upon us, whom He considers to be His own children. And why is that so? That is all the more because Christ, His begotten Son, has willingly taken up our existence as Man, that just as He is Son, we too are sons and daughters of God.

The relationship between sheep and shepherd is a very close one, like that of parent and child. Hence, God as our Good Shepherd is yet another reinforcement of the fact of just how great His love for us is. He is our loving Father, our Guardian, our Protector, our Shepherd and our King. And because of that, He is always concerned about us, and worried about us, just as shepherds are always wary of the threats facing their sheep.

And like all sheep, which sometimes like to wander off on its own, all of us, God’s sheep also like to wander off the path that God has shown us. We have disobeyed the commands and laws that God has given us, and preferring to follow our own path. This is where the devil tries to come in, to prey upon us, just like wolves preying on sheep. And he is always ready to snatch those who are lost and separated from the rest of the flock, leading us to our downfall.

That is why the devil is never at rest, constantly trying to get his hands on us, especially those who are most vulnerable to his tricks and lies, to the temptations and persuasions with which he had swayed countless souls from their way to heaven, into the path leading towards hell. The devil is ever active, sending out his agents, demons and evil spirits, to harass us and to drag us into the depths of hell with them.

Of course, the Lord in all these does not stay silent or inactive. If we think that He has done nothing to help us, then let us remind ourselves by looking upon He Who was crucified on the cross. He, our Good Shepherd, above all else, laid down His very life for us, enduring the worst sufferings and pains, far beyond what we mankind can ever imagine or comprehend, so that by those sufferings and by His death, He could save us from a certainty of death and damnation.

He has become the fulfilment of His own words, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” A good and committed shepherd would do everything in order to protect his sheep, and if necessary, they might even put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect the sheep from danger. That is what a true and good shepherd would have done, as he loved the sheep as much as himself.

God, Who is our Good Shepherd, has done exactly the same thing, and as all of us are His beloved sheep, who have been scattered and cast away from Him because of our sins, He came between us and damnation itself, by accepting the punishment for our sins, that though He died, all of us may live because of His ultimate sacrifice. And that is not the end, but instead, a new beginning, because He conquered death and sin, by His glorious resurrection.

Now Christ, our Good Shepherd and Risen Lord has shown us the way forward, and He appointed His disciples, from the Apostles to their successors, all the way to the priests and bishops of our present time, to be shepherds of His flock. And these shepherds model themselves after the Good Shepherd Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of them have worked tirelessly, all throughout the ages, to serve the people of God and the Church, caring for the needs of God’s people, the flock entrusted under their care, as shepherds.

And it is important that today, we remember to pray for our priests and bishops, all those who are our shepherds, that they will remain strong in their faith, conviction and commitment to the vocation into which God had called and confirmed them. And not just that, we should also help them and take part in the activities of the Church together, as our shepherds cannot do their works alone. And there are many threats facing them that we need to be aware of.

Just as the Lord, our Good Shepherd, gave His life to protect us and to bring salvation unto us, many of our priests and bishops had to devote themselves, even to the point of suffering and laying down their lives as martyrs, just so that more and more souls of man may be saved from eternal damnation. That is why we need to pray for them and assist them in whatever way we can.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, Satan knows that if he wants to gain access at us, God’s flock, he must first strike at the shepherds. That was exactly what he has been trying to do, and what he will continue to do. Assaults after assaults, temptations after temptations await our priests and bishops, all those whom God had called and chosen. Now, let us all help them, and help each other, united as one Church, that we strive and persevere through these challenges together.

May the Lord continue to watch over His servants, especially those whom He had made shepherds over His people, our priests and bishops. And may He call even more young men who are destined for a life of service and shepherdhood, that they may discern well and take up the cross, to continue the good works which the Apostles and their successors had done, in shepherding God’s flock and finding their way to Him. May God be with all of our priests, our bishops, and with all of us. Amen.

Sunday, 15 April 2018 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we recall God’s great deeds by which He has brought us from the brink of destruction, into a new life where we are in safe condition under good hands, as God Himself took care of us, His people, and would not let harm to come upon our way.

The Apostle St. Paul, as he visited the faithful in the city of Antioch in Pisidia during his apostolic ministry, encouraged the faithful and the Jewish community living in that city, by relating to them how God had done great deeds for them, beginning with the time of the Exodus, a time when the people of Israel was oppressed and made to suffer great humiliation in the land of Egypt, and God brought them out by His great power, guiding them through the desert, and finally made them to dwell in the Promised Land given to them and promised to their ancestors.

St. Paul preached about the salvation of God, which came into this world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. He is God’s only begotten Son, Who has willingly taken up our human existence, that He has dwelled among us and walked among us, entering the history of man. In the Gospel passage today, we heard again of the tale of the resurrected Christ, Who after His resurrection has appeared to His disciples.

In that same Gospel passage, the Lord mentioned that everything that the Laws and the Prophets have mentioned, the promises God had made and everything He had uttered from the beginning of time have to be fulfilled, and indeed, He has fulfilled them all to perfection in Jesus Christ, by His works, and most importantly, by His Passion on the cross, His suffering and death, and His glorious resurrection into life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what all of us as Christians need to do today, is that we need to remember how God has done so much in order to save us, and to bring good to all of us. He has bore all of our sins, and all the punishments due for our sins, and all the consequences and the sufferings intended for the shortcomings and mistakes we have committed. He has willingly taken up all these upon Himself, so that, all of us may live and not perish.

Yet, many of us do not realise or appreciate this great love which He has for us. And in reality, many Christians are not aware or appreciative of this great boon which they have all received. For many of us Christians, our faith can even be said as merely a formality, as merely on paper alone, and not one that is truly built upon the solid foundation of love and zeal for God.

For example, how many of us say or think that we believe in God, and yet, in our words, we cause harm to others, or even profane God and His Name? How many of us, by our words and by our actions, we scandalise our Christian faith, and ultimately, the good Name of God? How many of us, because of our words and actions, we make people to shun our Christian faith and refuse to be saved?

Then, how many of us said that we are God’s people, and yet, we barely even have the time to think about Him, and less still, spending quality time with Him? Surely, there are even many among us Christians, who think that coming for the Mass on Sundays, or even for many others, on Christmas and, or Easter alone is enough. And still, for many of us, when we come to the Mass, we cannot wait for the Mass to end, as we cannot wait to continue whatever business we have outside of the church, and go back to our daily habits.

And, even in our churches, in our parishes and in our Christian communities, many of us call ourselves as Christians, and yet, we do not behave as what Christians ought to be. We are jealous when others get something that we do not have, and we squabble over positions in the Church, or for things to go according to our way. When someone else does things in ways different from our own, or not meeting our expectation, we become angry or displeased at that person.

The worst of all, is how we often behave as Christians, in our gossiping and in our slanders, and this is not limited to the laity alone, but even towards our priests. We bicker among ourselves for the most trivial of things, but in all of these, are we not forgetting what we are truly supposed to be doing as Christians? Have we forgotten what it means for us to be followers and disciples of Christ?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at our baptism, we have made the solemn promise to reject Satan and all of his evil teachings and ways, and we renew this promise every year at Easter. But are we truly meaning what we are saying, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or are we only making empty promises and meaningless words? Our actions and words, our deeds and interaction with one another are often filled with the works of the devil, and sometimes not just that we do not shun them, but in fact we even embrace them.

Hence, from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord? Are we able to really mean what we say, when we promise Him that we are faithful to Him and that we reject Satan and all of his false promises and persuasions? Therefore, let us all seek to be more devoted to the Lord in all of our ways, in all of our words, actions and deeds.

Let us all lead a new life, no longer filled with arrogance, jealousy, slanderous attitudes and hatred, but instead, be filled with love, with compassion and tenderness that God has shown us. If we are Christians, then we are truly obliged to replicate and follow the examples that Christ has set for us. He Himself has loved us when we hated Him, He forgave us when we sinned against Him and wronged Him, He showed us compassion and mercy when we are suffering.

And because God has shown us so much love and been so kind to us, then we, as His people, should be doing the same as well with our lives. Remember, brethren, that the works of the Apostles, in preaching the Good News and testifying their faith in the Lord are still work in progress, and now it is our obligation to continue their works. And the best way that we can take part in these works, is by living a true and genuine Christian life for each and every one of us.

Why is that so? That is because if we ourselves do not act in the way that God has taught us to do, then would that not make us hypocrites? Then, who will believe in hypocrites? No one will. So, if we want others to follow us and be saved, as is our obligation, then we must first be good and faithful Christians in the first place. Let this be our Easter resolution, that from now on, we will try our best to do what God has commanded us to do.

May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may He bless all of our endeavours and works. May He continue to guide us in our path, that we will always be faithful to Him, throughout our whole lives. May all of us do our very best to serve Him, and to dedicate ourselves to Him, from now and unto forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 8 April 2018 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Second Sunday in the season of Easter, the last day in the Easter Octave, and by the decree of Pope St. John Paul II, also known as the Divine Mercy Sunday, following the vision of St. Faustina Kowalska of the Lord, the Divine Mercy. On this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we continue to live up our Easter joy, celebrating the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings remind us all to live faithfully in accordance to God’s will and obey His commandments following the examples set by the early Christian communities. In the first reading today, we heard about the details of the first Christian community living right after the Lord’s resurrection and the Pentecost. They lived a virtuous life, caring for one another and sharing their goods with each other.

The earliest Christian communities follow the examples set by the Lord, and followed the commands He had given to His disciples. He commanded them to be witnesses to His truth and His resurrection, and by their words and actions, He commanded them to go forth to the nations, and proclaim the Good News to all the peoples, that more and more people may come to know about God and His salvation.

They did not have things easy for them though, as if we have heard the Scripture readings during the Easter Octave, we would have noticed how the Jewish authorities, the High Priest and the council of elders were opposed to the teachings of Jesus and also the teachings of the Apostles, which spoke of the Christ crucified and of He Who has risen from the dead.

Yet, they did not fear the persecutions or were deterred by the threats and actions of those who opposed to them and their Lord. That is because they trusted the Lord and put themselves in His care and providence. The Lord has also sent the Holy Spirit to guide them and to give them the wisdom, courage and strength to carry out their mission and live their lives with zeal amidst the challenges from the world.

Before that, as we see in the Gospel today, how the disciples were themselves not firm in their faith. After the Lord had risen from the dead, the disciples were still filled with doubts and fear, which remained from the time when the Lord Jesus was arrested after the Last Supper. The disciples were scattered and they abandoned the Lord out of fear, fear for their lives and for their own safety.

We remember how St. Peter, in his attempt to protect himself, he denied knowing the Lord three times before those who accused him of belonging to the Lord’s inner circle of disciples. And then in today’s Gospel, we heard of the story of the famous doubter among Christ’s disciples, that is St. Thomas, who in another occasion in the Gospels also uttered his doubt and skepticism, when the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He would be going to Judea with them.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord at that time, as the Jewish authorities had warned to arrest Jesus and His disciples earlier on if they returned to Judea. He said to the other disciples rather sarcastically, “Let us follow Him, that we may die with Him.” This, combined with what we heard in today’s Gospel passage, of the time when the same St. Thomas showed great doubt and refused to believe that the Lord had risen from the dead showed a great lack of faith in him.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we actually realise that what St. Thomas had thought, said and done, were in fact not so much different from what we ourselves have often thought, said and done? St. Thomas was a man who was not easily persuaded, lest he could see, hear, touch and experience by his own senses, and that was why, he said that unless he could see the Lord’s wounds, and put his fingers into those wounds, he would not believe.

How many times is it that we have also doubted the existence of God and His presence in our lives? We often think that God does not exist, because we cannot see Him, or perceive Him, or touch Him, and whenever we encounter troubles and difficulties in life, how many of us doubted God and said to Him, “Why did You not help us in our time of need? How can You be so ignorant of our suffering?”

That is because, we mankind are creatures of the flesh, whose existence depends on the flesh, and unless we experience it in the flesh, we find it hard to believe. But that is exactly why it is so easy for Satan to tempt us, because he can provide us with all sorts of worldly temptations and persuasions, that entice us with all sorts of pleasures that distract us and prevent us from having true faith in God.

How many of us, in our respective lives, have not been truly faithful to God? What I mean is that, how many of us have spent so little time with the Lord, so as to put the priorities in our lives first on worldly concerns for money, for prestige, for career advancement, for pleasures of the flesh, and for many other things that distract us from God. In fact, we always think that we do not have enough time for the Lord, and that we are too busy to Him.

Yet, if we think about it, we actually have a lot of time that we can spare in our lives. God does not ask much from us, just our time, attention and love. Yet, we find it so hard to give these to Him, all these while He had given everything from us. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our Easter joy cannot be separated from the memory of what God had done for us, by His suffering and His death on the cross, He has redeemed us all from our sins.

It was God’s love for us that made all of that possible. And that is what had inspired generations of Christian faithfuls throughout the years and ages, especially during the early days of the Church when persecution was common. In fact, they remained faithful through difficult times and trials, even to the point of giving up their lives defending their faith in God. Thus, that is why there were so many encouraging stories of the brave and courageous martyrs of our faith, who are our role models.

Now, let us ask ourselves, why is it that those martyrs were so willing in letting go of their earthly lives and existence? Is life not very important to us? In fact so many of us are so concerned about our lives and appearance, that many of us will do everything in order to preserve ourselves and our lives, and satisfy the need of our body before anything else, even in some cases, we are willing to cause harm to others if that satisfy what we want.

But for those martyrs and those who have suffered for the sake of God, they know that in God there is something far greater than all the things that the world can ever provide us. They know that they would rather save their souls for an eternity of true happiness with God and losing their earthly existence and suffer, rather than to succumb to the temptation of the world and lose their souls to an eternity of suffering and torment in hell.

They believed in God, even when many of them had not seen the Lord in person, be it before or after the Resurrection. Only the Apostles and the earliest disciples, the first members of the Church have directly interacted and seen the Lord, while the vast majority of Christians, all those from those early days to the present day, believe in God because of what the Apostles and their successors have passed on to us, that is faith.

And we believe that God is always ever loving and ever merciful to us, and hence, we celebrate today His aspect of the Divine Mercy. He is always ready to welcome us back, to be reconciled with us and to love us tenderly and completely once again, even though we have always been disobedient and filled with sin. Every time He has forgiven us, we often lapsed back into sin, and again, God extends to us His merciful love.

But in the end, we must realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that while God extends His mercy and is truly generous in forgiving us should we ask Him, it is also up to us, whether we want to accept that offer of mercy, or reject it instead. And if we accept God’s mercy, we have to make a commitment to follow on through our choice. What does that mean? It means that we have to make the conscious effort to reject sin and to refuse a lifestyle that we once had and filled with sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, Who loves each and every one of us very much, that He is always ever ready to forgive us and to reconcile us with Himself, the Most Divine Mercy. May He always shower us all with His love and mercy, and let us all be good collaborators of God’s mercy, by allowing His mercy and love to transform us from creatures of sin, to be worthy children of the light, God’s own beloved people. Amen.

Sunday, 1 April 2018 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord is risen in glory, He has triumphed over sin and death. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we rejoice together as the whole entire Church celebrating the coming of Easter, after we have spent over a month, forty days to be exact, to prepare ourselves in our body, our mind, our spirit and our soul, to glorify together the Risen Christ, the Lord Our God Who has saved us by His death on the cross and by His defeat of death.

The Scripture readings of Easter Vigil detailed to us the important events in the history of mankind, in the history of our people throughout time, where from time to time, God continued to make His presence and works known to us, beginning with the creation of the world itself, as He created this whole world with all of its living things and all of us, the pinnacle of His creation.

At the same time, the Scripture passages showed us how God delivered His people from harm and renewed the Covenants He had made with them. Ultimately in all of these, God showed us just how much He has loved us, to the point that He was willing to go through all the pains, sorrows and all the persecutions which we remember and we commemorate during the entirety of this Holy Week, meaning His Passion, His suffering and death on the cross.

However, everything that we celebrated throughout the Holy Week, all of them have no meaning if the Lord Jesus has not risen from the dead. The Lord’s glorious entry into Jerusalem, and then the Last Supper where He gave His own Body and Blood to His disciples, and thus from them to us all, and then His crucifixion and death on the cross commemorated on Good Friday, all these had no meaning if the Lord Jesus remained dead. All the promises He had made with us and given us, would have no meaning if He had not risen from the dead.

But the Lord Jesus did rise from the dead, the only one among the sons and daughters of Adam to do so. That is because while He is the Son of Man, born of mankind through His mother Mary, He is also God, Son of the Father, the Divine Word Incarnate, as He took up the flesh of Man, He did not leave behind or be separated from His divinity. Instead, in the person of Jesus Christ, the two natures of Man and God is united while distinct, and in the person of Our Lord Jesus, our salvation has come.

Through His humanity, He has united all of us mankind, and brought us who believe in Him to accepting the death of our past physical existence, our sins and our wickedness. While He was sinless and pure Himself, He willingly took up upon Himself the punishment for all of our sins, which He bore upon the cross. As He died on that cross, all of us Christians have also died to our sins, and shared in the sufferings of Christ, bearing our own crosses in life.

Then, as He, by His own power and majesty, triumphed over death and sin, showing to all that He is God, Who rules over life and death. And as He is God, His divinity is eternal, and by that, He overcame death, and rose from the dead. This is the pinnacle and final event in the long planned salvation which God has promised to all of us, the children of Adam, by showing us that sin and Satan do not have the final say over us.

And just as all of us share in the death of Christ, then all of us who believe in Him, will also share in His resurrection. Through Christ, all of us have been brought to a new life, no longer enslaved to sin, liberated from the chains that bound us. How did He do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? As we all heard from the Scripture passages today, we should have heard about the moment when the Israelites were delivered from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh at the Red Sea.

At that time, God used His might to free the people of Israel from slavery under the Egyptians, and brought them out of Egypt towards the land He promised to all of them. Then, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and refused to accept the fact that the Israelites were free, and chased them to the Red Sea with his armies and the chariots. Then God told Moses to stretch his hands over the sea, and God opened the Red Sea before the Israelites.

The Israelites walked through the Red Sea to the other side, while the Lord held back the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. Then the Lord destroyed the armies of the Pharaoh of Egypt in the Red Sea after the Israelites have safely passed through the waters. This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what was celebrated at the Jewish Passover, the most important event in the Jewish calendar and celebrations.

The symbolism of water is very powerful indeed, and it is linked to why baptisms of those who accepted the faith and converted to the Christian faith are conducted optimally during this celebration of Easter Vigil, or at least on Easter Sunday. That is because, in the Sacrament of Baptism, by the holy water blessed on this day, those who are baptised receive cleansing from their original sins, and made pure to be a clean and pure slate, a new life in God.

And water is both a symbol of death as well as life. Water can both destroy as well as bring life and sustain it. Water can be a very destructive force as we see in tsunamis and huge waves, as well as floods and heavy rains. And thus, our old life is ‘destroyed’ by the water and we are made anew by the life-giving property of water. At that time, the Israelites passed through the water of the Red Sea from their old life of slavery into a new freedom, while we passed through the waters of Baptism from our old, sinful life into a new life filled with God’s grace.

Thus, Easter is also a Passover which supersedes and far exceeds the original Passover. This Christian Passover marks the moment when the Lord liberates us mankind, His beloved people, from our slavery to sin. This is just as how the Lord liberated His people from their enslavement by the Egyptians. All of us who have sinned, are enslaved by those sins, and unless we are freed from those sins, we will endure death and damnation, separation from God.

Why is that so? That is because sins corrupt us, and corruption and wickedness have no place before God, Who is all good and perfect. Thus, if we have sinned, and did not have those sins purified, we cannot be with God, and that was why our ancestors Adam and Eve were banished from God’s presence in Eden in the first place, for their disobedience and thus sin against God.

God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters, and that is why, even though He despises our sins and wickedness, He loves each and every one of us regardless. From the smallest to the greatest of sinners, He loves us all, and He wants each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. If He has shown His mercy and love to the Israelites, the people with whom He first made His Covenant, faithful to His Covenant with Abraham, His servant, then surely He also wants us all, every one of the children of Adam and Eve, to be saved from our slavery to sin?

All of us Christians have been given this great grace of forgiveness through our baptism. But, as we make the renewal of our baptismal promises this Easter, let us all reflect on our lives thus far. Have we lived our Christian lives earnestly and with faith in God? Or have we lapsed back into our old ways and to our sins that God has cleansed through our baptism? We need to reflect on this so that our Easter celebrations can be truly meaningful.

Let us ask ourselves this important question, “What is a Christian to us? What does being a Christian mean to us?” Does a Christian mean for us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Yes, it does. And then, does a Christian mean that we need to go for the Holy Mass every Sunday? Yes, it does. But is that all that we need to do, brothers and sisters in Christ? No, certainly it is not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us need to realise that as Christians, each and every one of us are called to the same mission which God has entrusted to us, that is to be His witnesses, the witnesses of His resurrection and as the bearers of His Good News to people of all the nations, by going forth to preach the Good News and the truth, not just by words, but also through our actions and exemplary deeds of faith.

Therefore, let us all be true disciples and followers of the Lord, that is as true and devout Christians, doing His will and walking righteously in His path always. Let us all be true witnesses of His resurrection, that even though we have not seen Him physically risen from the dead, but through our fervent and genuine faith, we will declare His glorious resurrection and triumph over sin and death to all the people.

May the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, Our triumphant Lord and King be with us always, that together, all of us Christians, who believe in Him, in His Passion, in His suffering and death, and in His resurrection in glory, may share fully in Him, the glory of eternal life with Him. May the Risen Lord bless us all, and may He keep us all in His everlasting love and grace. Amen.