Saturday, 1 March 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 10 : 13-16

People were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Sunday, 23 February 2014 : 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus taught us the truth about God’s laws, as revealed first through Moses, which the people had often misinterpreted and took it at the face value and keep it just at that. Many failed to see the true intention of God’s laws and ordinances, and their true purpose. God did not intend for His laws to punish or pressure His people with burden, because He intended His laws for love.

That was why Jesus showed God’s people, that His laws should not be interpreted in a way that exclude love out of the equation. The ancient laws and customs of the Jewish people included the concept of vengeance and revenge, named accurately, ‘do ut des’, which means that one receives what one has given, or the concept of reciprocity.

That when translated into how the people carried out the laws of God means that a particularly harsh way of dealing with crimes and how to punish these lawbreakers. They had those who had committed a crime to pay back exactly what they had committed, and that is why the term, an eye for an eye and so on and so forth.

The result was clear, the community of the people of God, that is Israel, became a society governed with fear, prejudice and hatred, that is very far from what God intended for them, that is to build upon a community of love and inclusiveness. The people became boxed in into their obedience to the law, and the fear of God and His wrath should they disobey the law.

Yet, in doing so, under the guidance of the Pharisees in particular, the laws had been lost in its true meaning, often covered by false obedience and empty observations of the law. Jesus showed them that there is a need for the understanding of the purpose of the Law. The Law is about love, and in obeying the law, the people of God have to observe love in all their actions and deeds.

And this love is in fact not the same kind of love that we are often accustomed to in this world. The love that we know about in this world is often a very selfish love. Just as Jesus had said, we often love only those who love us back, and we do not love our enemies and those who hate us. We hate them back and even curse at them as best as we can.

And in our understanding of love, we even have it at an even more flawed level, one that is mingled with lust, greed and human desire. Our form of love is corrupted by desire and wickedness. We lust and desire for worldly pleasures, and that results in us failing further to understand what God truly intends for us.

We are often prejudiced and choosy in our love, and we give no love to those whom we do not love, and those who hate us. But the Lord shows us that when we love we cannot be prejudiced, and we have to be selfless in giving our love. Love should be given to all around us, and even to those who hate and persecute us. If we love only those who already love us, then what we do to them are not quite as meaningful as if we love those who hate us.

The Lord shows us that He knows about what it means to value-add our faith, and the love that is in this world. Loving our enemies and those who hate us will in itself help them to understand love, and hopefully that they will be awakened from their slumber in darkness and in the seas of hate. It falls upon us then, for us to show love to them. If we show them hate instead of love, then we are likely to end up dooming them to hate, and we will be held responsible for that too.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, in line with what Jesus had taught and shown us, we have to change our perspectives of those around us, our brothers and sisters. We must not be judgmental or be filled with prejudice. We have to show love to all, even when the other side does not want our love. Show them that to be children of God means to love. And when we love, we have to do so unconditionally.

Let us all deepen our faith in God and deepen our understanding of His will. Let us understand further the love He has for us, and let us hope that we mankind may learn to love more, and to devote ourselves truly to God, seeking God in all the things we do, and follow in His ways in all of our actions. May God walk with us and guide us, teach us how to understand His will and show us how to love each other and to love Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today to all of us, the Lord revealed the nature of the kingdom of God, as well as the hidden nature of our eternal reward in God. The Lord warned us that His way will not be easy to follow, and there will be plenty of obstacles ahead of us, but the reward He promised us is great.

He likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, because a mustard plant when it was still a seed, is a very small and insignificant seed, that people tend to overlook and ignore. Yet when it grows to its full height, it is glorious, tall, and majestic, with long and extensive branches. No one would have expected that such a small seed would grow to be such a large and majestic tree. It is the nature of God’s kingdom and His salvation.

The Lord also likened it to yeast that leaven three measures of flour, until the flour becomes leavened bread. How is it like the kingdom of God and His salvation? It is because indeed, once again, the glory of God and the heavenly rewards that He offers us in salvation is hidden from us. It is only through perseverance and hard work, that we gain the rewards, that is the big, fluffy, and delicious leavened bread.

That is the aim of our life, the target that we all strive to reach, the eternal reward that God promised all of us. Yet, it is hidden behind the struggles that we all have to go through in this life. Therefore, if we look at it directly, it may seem that this path is particularly difficult and unappealing, and that is why many of us tend to choose the other way and look away from the path towards salvation in God.

Yet, what is the other option? The other option is apparently easier for us, and it seems that the path is less troublesome and more appealing, but that is the path to damnation, that is the path of the devil. It is an easy way, since the things that go against the Lord is truly much easier to do, than to follow the Lord and His precepts and laws. It is much easier to sin rather than to repent and do good. It is indeed a choice between an easier and more enjoyable life now on earth, and eternal suffering later on; or persecution and suffering on earth now, and eternal joy and happiness later on.

The Lord Jesus had come upon us and become one of us, to share with us and reveal to us the nature of God’s kingdom, which we will share in, if we remain faithful and committed to the cause of the Lord, and do not stray away from the path of righteousness. He revealed to us the love of God, and the promised salvation, the rewards that is ours if we remain faithful. Although the rewards are indeed good and wonderful, but the path to reach them is perilous.

What are we to do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? We ought to work hard to reach out to the Lord, and to follow Him and His laws. It will definitely not be easy, but if we do not make the effort, we will never be able to reach that desired end. Instead, if we remain idle and do not make the effort, the path to salvation will be further and further away from us, and we will be closer to the path of doom and eternal damnation, out of which, we will never escape.

Therefore, what can be do? Pray, and pray hard, and keep the Lord ever close to our hearts. If the Lord is in us and He is ever close to us, we will be less likely to stray away from His path. Open ourselves to His love, and humbly seek His mercy. The kingdom of God awaits those who are loving, merciful, humble, and faithful. There is nothing impossible for God, and certainly, the same too applies for us, if we keep the Lord as our anchor and the centre of our lives.

May the Lord our God who promised us the reward of eternal life and His eternal kingdom, continue to bless us, embrace us, and shower us with His love and graces. May we too remain faithful to Him and keep faithfully on His path, always, till the end of our days. Amen.

Thursday, 24 October 2013 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ warns us today, of the implications of following Him and dedicating ourselves to Him. He highlighted that it will not be an easy path for us, if we choose to follow Him, and oppositions will likely always stand in our way. The other path, that is the alternative path, is easier to take, but it is also a path that leads to ruin and eternal damnation.

The Lord our God had rescued us from the hands of the devil, and rescued us from the depth of our sinfulness, lifting us up to a new life in holiness and glory. He had done that, none other through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus, on the cross. This event of salvation, through the Passion of Christ, highlights the very purpose of the coming of Christ into this world. Christ did not come into this world just for nothing. He came into this world to save it, and save it by no other means other than through the shedding of His blood, and the laying down of His life.

This event also highlights the kind of reception the people have on Jesus, how throughout the ministry of Jesus, while there are many who were glad of His coming, and praised Him as their King, there are also many of those who opposed Him and placed many obstacles in His path, blocking His good works and slandered against Him.

Particularly, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were among the most vicious and stubborn of all of God’s enemies. They rejected God and His ways, preferring their own human and worldly strengths and power. The Lord came into the world, and ever since He began His ministry, He had been faced with all kinds of rejection and even sometimes violent, opposition. Many tested Him and asked Him all sorts of questions doubting His authority as the Messiah and the Son of God.

That is because Satan sowed the seed of distrust and lack of faith in the hearts of these men, because he did not wish to lose his grip on us, which he had once had in complete dominion. The Lord Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross had broken us free from that deadly grip, and set us well on the path towards salvation. Ever since that, Satan no longer has any power over us, for we have been freed from the slavery he had imposed on us.

Yet, do not be mistaken, brothers and sisters, because the Lord our God is a loving God and the Lord of peace. One may easily be misled by the reading today, especially that of the Gospel, that the Lord brings about division and discord. That is a lie that Satan has for us, especially those among us whose faith are weak. The devil himself is the one who sowed those discords and divisions among the people of God, by planting his agents and his seeds of evil, even within the people whom we know well, even within our families and circles of friends.

This again does not mean that we should respond to the discord and divisions with equally great passion for such discords and divisions. It is in our human nature for us to be angry and to hate others, and it is easy for us to take part in that discord, and therefore creating even greater divisions and suffering for one another. Do not give Satan the satisfaction of seeing us being divided against one another and hating one another, even as we have faith in God.

That is why, it is important that we put the Lord’s commandments into practice, and by following His examples. This is done through love and forgiveness. We have to be able to love and commit ourselves to love, especially those who had caused us pain, suffering, and hurt, and be ready to forgive them for what they had done. In this way, our love will flow out from us, and then shared with our fellow brethren, and therefore, with love we can change the state of ourselves, our family, and our brethren around us, ending the division Satan had caused, and bring everyone together with God, in love and perfect harmony.

Remember that our Lord Himself forgave those who had handed Him over to His executors and jailors. He had prayed that the Father would forgive all those who had done such terrible deeds towards Him, that He will not take into account their sins. If our Lord Himself had shown us the example, then we too ought to follow in His footsteps.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, a bishop and religious who founded the religious order of the Claretians. St. Anthony Mary Claret was a man who joined the priesthood and then went on to do many good works for the sake of the faith. He did many charitable works, and was particularly caring for the poor and the abandoned in the society, and during his ministry, he visited and founded hospitals and other charitable organisations dedicated to the care of these least among us.

Even after being chosen and made as an Archbishop in an important see in the New World, that is of Cuba, St. Anthony Mary Claret remained dedicated to his works and to the cause of the poor, the weak, and the less fortunate. He founded a religious congregation, known well as the Claretians, whose aims and works conform to that of St. Anthony Mary Claret, and his focus on service to the people of God.

After he chose to retire from his position, he preached widely and worked hard to maintain the adherence of many to the true faith, and was very successful in this manner, especially through his extensive writing and publications. He even helped the Pope himself to convene and plan for the First Vatican Council, which was designed to deal with errors and heresies within the Church and affirm the obedience to the true and orthodox Christian faith.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us show the world, the love of God given to mankind, that through our words, our deeds, and our actions, just as those of St. Anthony Mary Claret and those who followed in his footsteps can be the beacons of light, hope, and love, piercing through the dark veil spread by Satan over all of us, in attempt to divide us through lies and fabrications, that we will hurt one another and therefore sin before God.

Let us ask St. Anthony Mary Claret for his intercession, and may the Lord too strengthen us in our devotion and love for Him, that we may love Him greatly and tenderly at all times, until the end of our days and until we are reunited again with Him in the glory of heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 21 September 2013 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, that is of St. Matthew the Evangelist, one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels. St. Matthew was once the tax collector, known also as Levi, whom the Lord called out of his previous life as money collector for the Roman overlords, to be the collector of souls, to take part in the salvation of mankind.

Brethren, today the Lord wants us to know that firstly, He loves us all without condition, with all of His heart. Then, He also cares for all of us His children, whom He loves best over all of His other creations, particularly the lost sheep, the ones who had been lost to darkness. That was why He mentioned the need for these lost ones for His love, and He made Himself available for them, calling them up from the depth of darkness into the light.

The Lord Himself called His Apostles and disciples from the rank of sinners, those who were sinful in various ways, from various backgrounds, and all of them, in one way or another, repented from their sinful past, and open themselves to God’s love, and eventually become great tools of salvation through which Christ our Lord made manifest His saving power. And St. Matthew, once sinner and tax collector, became the writer of the Holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation.

However, being the followers of Christ were not an easy thing, just as it is not easy in our world today. There will always be opposition and even persecution against us, just as the world had hated Christ, they too will hate us, His followers and disciples. Many sneered at us, as they had done so for the Apostles and disciples of Christ through the generations. They mocked us for the sins we have, although they themselves were sinners and did not repent.

Jesus was mocked by the Pharisees and the scribes very often, for eating and gathering together with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, whom they considered to be the lowest tier in the society, and whom they considered damned and cursed to hell. That was why, they distanced themselves from these sinners, trying to keep their own purity, disassociating themselves from all these ‘impurities’.

Yet, in doing so, they had instead incurred the wrath of the Lord. Not only that they praised themselves for their own achievements and deeds, but also that they had put down in contempt, the people of God whom they were supposed to lead. They had not reached out to them, and instead distanced themselves from the most needy of God’s people and condemned them for their sinfulness while they themselves were equally sinful as well, if not even more sinful.

The Lord brought His disciples from the depth of their sinfulness, lifting them up, and bringing them, including St. Matthew, from their fate in hell, to the new heavenly glory, with Him in heaven. Yet, the process is not a simple one, brethren, as the path was truly difficult, filled with the traps and devices of the evil one, attempting to bring them from God. All but Judas Iscariot survived those tests victorious, rebuking the devil and his temptations.

They were sorely tempted, and fear crept into their hearts when the Lord was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, after His Last Supper with them. They were scattered and broken, as if sheep without a shepherd. Even St. Peter, the leader of all the apostles and disciples of Christ, fell, and denied Christ three times, out of fear for his own life and safety.

But, brethren, this is where they were different from Judas the traitor, as they persevered while Judas gave in fully to Satan’s advances, and in the end, chose to take the quick way out by suicide, instead of seeking for the Lord’s mercy and reaffirmed his faith and love for Him, as the other Apostles had done.

The Lord had prepared His apostles through trials and difficulties, as St. Paul had mentioned, and they passed, not because they were righteous, but because they had risen up from their sinful ways towards righteousness, towards their love and dedication, for the Lord their Master and our God, and towards all of God’s children, whom they spilled their blood and shed their life for, following the very example Christ had set Himself.

They feared no human authority nor persecutions, for the Lord was always with them throughout their mission journey, to bring all God’s people and gather them to Himself, that they may be saved. St. Matthew was a part of this, and through the Gospel he wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he saved many souls from damnation.

He was himself once a sinner, a tax collector shunned by many of his own people, branded as traitors, since they were seen as the collaborators of the Romans, and yet, he became a great fisher of men, bringing many towards the Lord their God. What then, about the Pharisees? What is their fate? It is possible to deduce that indeed, their lack of true faith and love for God, had doomed them to hell for eternity, for they care nothing about their brethren or God, and all they ever cared about was themselves.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate this great feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Evangelist, let us follow in his footsteps, in his readiness to leave all that he had once had, and abandon his old, sinful life, to start anew in Christ, that the Lord who loves all, will put His Spirit within us, empowering us to be like the Apostles of old. May the Lord continue to bless us and embrace us with His love, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 7 : 31-35

What comparison can I use for this people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, “We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.”

Remember John : he did not eat bread or drink wine, and you said, “He has an evil spirit.’ Next came the Son of Man, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

Glorious and majestic are His deeds, His righteousness endures forever. He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; the Lord is merciful and kind.

Always mindful of His covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him. He shows His people the power of His arm by giving them the lands of other nations.

Monday, 16 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listen to the revelation of the great faith in the captain, who was likely a Roman soldier, and therefore not of the people of Israel. And we tie this revelation to the saying of St. Paul in his letter in our first reading today, that there exists only one way to salvation, that is through the great Mediator, Jesus Christ, Messiah of the world.

True faith in God lies not in the prayers after prayers that one utters. Yes, prayer is indeed important, brethren, but what is even more important is one’s own humility and awareness of themselves, and the complete surrender of oneself to the love of God, and in all these, the individual will then have a true, unshakeable faith in God.

It is that many people in Israel put themselves before God, and put their worldly desires before the Lord. That was also why the faith of the people in God, as was evident in how they looked at Jesus and His ministry, was truly shallow and weak faith, unlike that faith the captain of the army possessed for Christ and therefore for the Lord. That was also why, even though the people first proclaimed Jesus as a great Saviour, they were equally quick in condemning Him to death when He was convicted by false testimonies.

They loved not God and have faith not in Him, but on the wondrous things that He had done, and once those things were gone, or when challenges rose up to meet them, they quickly forgot about Him and rose up in rebellion. This was truly evident, when Israel walked through the desert into the Promised Land, that they rebelled and made complaints after complaints to the Lord for not caring for them enough in their journey, and even regretted having been brought out of Egypt.

The same also happened to Jesus, that people applauded Him for the miracles and powers He had shown, in healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, and loosening the tongues of the mute, and in raising the dead back into life. They followed Him and listened to His teachings, and yet, these did not take good roots in them, that they were easily shaken by fear and doubt.

On the other hand, the captain of the guards showed great faith in God, that He sent for Jesus to heal his sick servant and save him from death. Then, despite his relatively lofty and high position in the armed forces, and therefore in the society, he did not boast at all. He instead lowered himself before the Lord, as a sinner, who would not be worthy at all to receive the Lord who is good and perfect in his own residence.

One may interpret the way he said things to Jesus through his servant as being rude. After all, how can he say such things to Jesus who had spent so much of His time to come down to his place and heal his servant? Is he not being condescending and demanding of Christ the Lord?

No, brethren, in fact, in that sentence, and which was completely revealed in his last sentence, which we also utter during every Mass before the Lord’s Presence in the Holy Eucharist, showed perfectly the depth of his faith in the Lord and his humility, realising that he was truly nothing, despite his position of power, before the Lord Jesus our Saviour and God.

“Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” That is the precise words that we utter after the Agnus Dei, when the celebrant of the Mass show to us the Body of Christ crucified, through which He is willing to come upon us, in order to heal us from all our sins, iniquities, and unworthiness. We are unworthy of Him because of our sins, and yet He is willing to come to us, into us, so that He will be with us and stay with us, and we will also remain in Him, in His love.

It is precisely his understanding of his unworthiness before the Saviour of the world, before the Almighty God Himself, that he, the captain, though mighty in the eyes of men, but he is nothing compared to God and he is unworthy to stand before His presence, much less to invite Him to his humble and sinful abode. That is why, using his own experience as the captain of an army unit, he asked in his humility, for the Lord to give the orders, and he has complete faith that whatever the Lord commands, it will be fulfilled.

We too, brothers and sisters, should follow his example, and in saying the words that he had once uttered, every time in the Mass, let us say it with complete understanding and dedication to God, not because we are trained to say it without feelings, and not just because we memorised the phrase, and then utter them out of nothingness. Let us put ourselves into the shoes of the captain, understanding the love that God has for us, when He approaches us and offers Himself to us in His Body and Blood.

Today, brethren, we also celebrate the feast of two great saints of the early Church, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, the great leaders of the Church and the staunch defenders of the faith. They lived at a difficult time for the Church, at the time when the pagan Roman Emperors, particularly Decius and Valerian persecuted Christians and slaughtered them mercilessly.

Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, his greatest supporter, as the Bishop of Carthage in Africa, also faced a great tribulation of the faith, with a heretical teaching by the priest Novatian, who also contested the Papacy as antipope to Pope St. Cornelius, causing a severe division of the faithful at the time when the enemies of the Church were persecuting strongly against her.

Pope St. Cornelius protected the important tenet of the faith, that is the Lord who is merciful, readily forgives those who had lapsed from the faith, as was often during his time as Pope. St. Cyprian was his strong supporter, against the heretic Novatian, who staunchly opposed to the forgiveness and redemption of those who had lapsed from the faith.

There were many Christians who lapsed from the faith due to various reasons, but many of which were linked with the temptations of the world and sin, especially because of the severe persecutions against the faithful at the time. According to Novatian heresy, these people were doomed, but Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian begged to differ. As Christ had taught His disciples, that even the greatest of sinners can repent and many saints were also once great sinners.

They defended the true faith and maintained the integrity of the Church and the faithful. Through their hard work, many were prevented from falling into the heretical teachings. They died as defenders of the faith under persecution by the Roman authorities, and in their martyrdom, they provided the rich soil upon which the Church could grow further and carry out their work of salvation.

May the Lord opens our eyes and the doors of our hearts, and inspired by the examples and works of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian that we will be able to learn the unworthy state that we are in, because of our sins, that we, in deepest humility, following the footsteps of the captain, will humble ourselves before Christ, who is the great Mediator, the bridge between us and the Father, through whom, the only path to salvation and eternal life in glory is possible. Let us praise God and thank Him for having mercy and pity on us, coming to us to heal us, despite of our faults and unworthy behaviours. God be with us always and may He show His mercy and love upon us. Amen.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 12-13, 17 and 19

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt : cleanse me of evil.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.