Saturday, 29 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

The love and mercy of God know no bounds, and there is no limit to His grace for us. He determined that He wants to see us saved and blessed, freed from the chains of sin that had bound us since the time of Adam and Eve, our ancestors. That was why He sent so much help towards our way, that we may find a way to return to His blessing, love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important to remember that God loves us, and despite our transgressions, He is willing to overlook them and welcome us back to His embrace, so that we will not perish in the destruction destined for us because of our sins. But, there is a limit to God’s patience and mercy, and we should not test Him by continuously defying Him.

Yet, sadly many of us are blinded by our own sense of pride and human arrogance that we refuse to listen to God and to His call for us to repent from our sins. We assume that we are able to take charge of our own lives and our destiny, that we disregard His love and reject His care. We immerse ourselves in our stubbornness and carry on with our life, no matter how debauched it is.

Even among us the faithful, we often forget that we ought to be humble before God, for we have sinned. Instead we boasted about our achievements and what we did in the favour of the Lord. We even become judgmental and condemning those whom we deem as less worthy than us for grace and salvation. That was exactly what the Pharisees had done.

Jesus reminded us that the prayer of the proud and haughty worth less than the prayer made by the humble in genuine humility. The humble seeks the Lord with all of their heart and strength, because they know of their fragility and weaknesses, seeking God to help them rectify that issue and reunite them with Him. Brethren, again it is important for us not to judge others and be haughty over others just because of our achievements.

Instead we should assist one another, giving a helping hand to those in need. Particularly those who are lost in sin and darkness are of the greatest priority for us to help with. We cannot ignore or pretend to not see or hear their plight, for this kind of ignorance show the lack of true love and faith within us.

Do not be judgmental and do not think of anyone less than ourselves, just because we think that we are better or more righteous than they are. Let us not praise our own achievements, less still use them to put down others like what the Pharisee had done. We have to be more like the tax collector, understanding the sins we have and committing ourselves to change our own ways.

Never think that we are always worthy of salvation, but we have to continue to work hard and not be complacent. We have to continue to be vigilant and avoid being consumed by our own human insecurities and emotions. Seek the Lord who will definitely help us, and ask Him for His help and protection, that we will always be strong as we walk in His ways.

Let us never be separated from Him, and let us be able to see our own sinfulness, understanding the limitations and fragilities of our own selves, and humbly asking God for forgiveness for all our trespasses, and that we may always remain in God’s grace. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Saturday, 8 June 2013 : Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, just yesterday we celebrated the great feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, but at the same time, we cannot forget Mary, His mother, who is often also depicted with a flaming heart just like that of Jesus. But while Jesus’ heart in the Most Sacred Heart iconography shows a wreath of the crown of thorns, the heart of Mary was pierced with a sword, which depicted the prophecy of Simeon the prophet, who predicted that Mary’ heart would be ‘pierced’ by a sword, that is her Immaculate Heart.

Yes, just as Christ is loving and filled with love, in His Most Sacred Heart, so does His mother too, with her Immaculate heart, for she was born without sin, in immaculate condition, and her heart was filled with pure joy and love of the Lord. That is what we are celebrating today, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Yet, just as I had mentioned it, that same heart, which is immaculate, pure beyond reasoning and filled with love, would have to be ‘pierced’ with a sword. Not in the literal meaning of course, as this sword represents the heart of Mary that was rendered to pieces in great pain as she watched her Son, our Lord Jesus in His Passion on the way to Calvary, suffering the sins of all mankind unto His death on the cross.

Imagine for all of you mothers out there, that when your children encounter something dangerous, or their lives are in great danger, I am sure that those who are mothers will immediately be faced with the greatest fear of their life. You all will be seized with fear, but even more so, with the feeling of love for your children, that great love bonded by ties of blood that is stronger than anything else, which links between mothers and their children. No mother will want to see her children suffer or face pain. True and loving mothers would even give themselves in place of their children, so that they may live instead of her.

Then, therefore, imagine Mary herself, our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, who had been given the good news by the Archangel Gabriel, that she would bear the great Son of God Most High, whom was to be the Messiah and Saviour of all mankind, the promised salvation that was pronounced through the countless prophets of the ages past. She bore Jesus for nine months in her womb, and with Joseph, her husband, she braved the pain of childbirth at that night in Bethlehem, until she gave birth to Jesus, our Lord and God.

She nurtured Him with love and compassion, and as perfect as a care that a mother can give to her child. With Joseph as the head of the family, they protected the infant Jesus from external dangers such as Herod by escaping to Egypt, and eventually settling down to a happy life in Nazareth, as a simple carpenter family.

But even from the very beginning, the baby that she had is indeed not any ordinary being, but the Lord Himself incarnate into a human being, the vessel of salvation, for through Jesus, the Lamb of God, salvation would come forth to all mankind. Ever since His birth, kings and wise men had pledged their fealty and praise by bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna told her of the greatness that her Child would become and Simeon also foretold her about the sorrows that she would face later.

Mary watched Jesus grew up from being an infant, into an adolescent, during which time he was left behind in Jerusalem, when Mary in great fear, searched for her Child with Joseph, until they found Him in the Temple in Jerusalem. When Mary told Jesus about why He had made things difficult for His family, that was not a chastisement at all, neither was it a scolding. It was in fact the love that Mary has for her Son.

So much that she loves Him that she fears if anything were to happen to Jesus, a feeling that surely all the mothers out there would understand. None of us wants our children to be hurt or lost somewhere. We would do our best to galvanise all available forces until our child can be found, as if a great treasure had been lost.

Mary experienced a lot of strange occurences and happenings throughout her grooming of Jesus, but she did not question the Lord nor did she waver in her faith, but instead, she kept her faith strong, and kept everything in her heart. Indeed, such a great heart that our Blessed Virgin Mary has, to store all that feelings, anxiety, and emotions that she had for her Son in her Immaculate Heart!

She accompanied Jesus through His adulthood, through His ministry after the baptism at the Jordan, and she became the catalyst that allowed Christ to perform His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Through her help, and her great concern for the wedding couple, she managed to persuade Christ to give them aid by performing the transformation of the water into wine, saving the wedding of the couple.

She accompanied Jesus through His last days on earth, in His Passion, and followed Him through the scourging and the condemnation, and unto Calvary below the cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world, made to suffer all the weight of the sins of the entire world, of all mankind past, present, and future. It is at that point, that the prophecy of Simeon came true, that a sword would indeed pierce her Immaculate Heart.

That great loving heart, and the heart that had accompanied the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, ever since His birth, now had to witness the cruelty through which Christ died on the cross for the salvation of mankind. She understood it as a part of God’s plan for salvation, for without the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, there can be no salvation. But imagine the great amount of pain that must have been inflicted to our Lady, seeing her Son mocked and insulted, and condemned to a criminal’s death on the cross.

And yet, despite all of that, she remained faithful to the Lord, and was as firm as ever in her mission entrusted to her by God. She had been faithful since the very beginning, when she accepted God’s will in making her the vessel through which the Saviour of the world would be born, and all the way until the end, she remained faithful. Truly, how great is our Lady and her Most wonderful Immaculate Heart, pure and loving, filled with all the warmth of God’s love, and in this heart we can see the great journey and struggle that our Lady had to go through, along with her Son, Jesus Christ, all the way to the end at Calvary.

Yet, as we know, everything did not end at Calvary, as Jesus our Lord rose again in glory on the third day after His death, and through His glorious resurrection, the salvation of mankind was fulfilled completely, and indeed, our Lady had a great part in this. Just as what we saw in the coat-of-arms of our late Blessed Pope John Paul II, of a cross with a letter M at the bottom. That ‘M’ is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who supported Jesus in His life, since His infancy, all the way to that sorrowful day on Calvary.

Jesus entrusted His mother to His disciple, John on that day, and also entrusted John to His mother. Through that act, therefore, He also made all of us, all mankind, the children entrusted to Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, all the love and warmth of the heart of Mary will be poured out to us, and her love will help us and guide us in a straight path to her Son, Jesus. It is indeed true, the saying that, “To Jesus, through Mary”.

Mary is our mother too, and just as she had cared for her Son, Jesus, she will also love and care for us. Pray to our Lady often, and ask her for her intercession for all of us sinners who are still suffering in this world, that just as at the wedding in Cana, she will also help intercede for our sake before her Son, that Jesus would show us His wonderful mercy.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, the most wonderful heart of Mary, pierced by a sword of sorrow at the cruel death of Your Son, be with us and guide us in our own paths towards Your Son, that we will stay faithful, and that we will not inflict ever more wounds to increase the suffering of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for every sin that we commit is another wound that we add to the wounds of Christ.

Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you amongst women and blessed is the Fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday, 1 June 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we heard about how the Pharisees and the chief priests doubted the power and authority of Christ, questioning the origins of His authority and works, and in doing so, failing to see the work of God that is in Christ. For all the miracles and the wonders that Christ had done in this world, are the works of the Father, and in doing all that, He did not do it for His own glory, but for the Father who had sent Him.

Why did then, the Pharisees, and the chief priests, who are supposed to be people most knowledgeable in anything related to the Scriptures and the prophecies of the prophets regarding the Messiah failed to see that Christ is the Messiah, and failed even to see the works of God in Jesus? That is, brothers and sisters, because they are blind! They are blinded by their own weaknesses, by jealousy, by hatred, and by prejudice, and the pride they had in their own abilities, in their own intellect, and in their own worldly power.

The Pharisees claimed to serve the Lord and showed this through their external piety, through loud and well-recognised prayers in public places, and by their ultra-orthodox approach to the faith by very strict observation of the Law of Moses, and the norms of the society at the time, even to the little matters such as the washing of the hands prior to meals. But in their strict observation of that Law, they had in fact become corrupted by the power and authority that had been entrusted to them as priests of the people of God.

To them had been granted the authority, the same authority and priestly power as granted to Aaron, the brother of Moses, who became the first High Priest of the people of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. To them had been granted also the responsibility of guiding the people to remain faithful in the path and ways of the Lord, that the people would not falter and stray in their lives, and remain in God’s grace.

Yet, they had, over the centuries, grown to trust men much more than they trusted God. They placed human glory and acclamation ahead of true, heavenly glory that only God can give. They had grown so accustomed to the privileges they had in their position of authority and power, that they themselves began to stray from the path that God has appointed for them and entrusted them to keep the people faithful in. They, the leaders of the people, out of all others had themselves been bought over by the evil one. Indeed, the saying cannot be further than truth, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In their position of authority, and with the privileges and honour they had grown so accustomed to, the priests and the elders had become arrogant, and jealous against anyone they see as rivals to their own authority and power, even if that rival is in fact the very Messiah that God had sent to save the people of Israel, and all mankind. This defiance against the Messiah was very evident today, given how they questioned the authority of Christ, which as God, has authority over all creation.

However, it is important to note that although it seems that those priests and elders look evil from how they were portrayed in the Gospels, but they themselves were not inherently evil. All mankind are inherently capable of doing what is good, and also what is evil. Ever since our ancestors, Adam and Eve, ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we had been exposed to both good and evil, and therefore, are fully capable of doing both. Whether to do good or to do evil, is entirely within our own decision capacity.

That is why, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we keep our faith in the Lord strong at all times, and anchor ourselves firmly in His love, so that we will not go astray, tempted and bought off by the enticing offers of the evil one, who had in his possession, all the world and all its ‘good’ things, that can easily tempt and seduce those who are weak-hearted, and those without firm faith in the Lord.

Today, therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, and from here on, we should always be reminded on the evils of this world, and the dangers that we constantly face in our daily struggles against evil and all that he employed in this world against God’s children. Especially, brethren, if we had been entrusted with positions of authority and power, do not abuse that power that the Lord had entrusted you, and do not let the sheep entrusted to you, their shepherd, to go astray from the truth of God.

But we need not fear, brethren, for Christ is amongst us, and He is always with us, if only that we remain faithful and obedient to Him and do all the commandments that He had given us, we are safe. The devil will have no power over us, and we will truly become God’s children. And instead of jealousy, we will be in complete awe and wonder for the glory of God, and with the angels and saints, we shall glorify Him forevermore when we are reunited with Him once again, in the eternal bliss of heaven.

Today we also commemorate the feast of a great early martyr of the Christian Church, St. Justin the Martyr, who died for the faith in the second century after the coming of Christ, in the early Church times. St. Justin was born a pagan and a philosopher, with a great intellect and quality education, that made him a very well-educated person in the society at the time. St. Justin encountered many believers of Christ in his journeys and travels, and despite being involved in arguments and debates with them, in fact, gradually, it kindled in him the love for God, and the steadfast faith in Christ.

St. Justin, despite his great intellect and knowledge, did not give in to his pride and human weakness, and instead put himself in God’s love and place his full trust in Him. That is why He was glorified in death, out of his steadfast and unfailing faith, even unto death, because, unlike the Pharisees and the chief priests, he did not let human pride and arrogance to get in the way of salvation. May we be able to follow in the footsteps of St. Justin, and become truly the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Justin the Martyr, pray for us. Amen.