Sunday, 21 September 2014 : 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, Catechetical Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Evangelist, one of the Four Evangelists who wrote the Four Holy Gospels, together with St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. Consequently, today we also celebrate the occasion of Catechetical Sunday, which if we notice from the name, it refers to catechesis, which is the teaching of the Christian faith, of which no better source is present other than the Four Holy Gospels, one of which was written by St. Matthew.

In these occasions of celebration, we hear the words of the Holy Scriptures, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, where the Lord God exhorted His people through Isaiah to seek for Him and not to wait until it is too late, and in it was also an admonition for the pride and desire of mankind, who often thought of themselves as great and mighty, but they are really no more than the servants and creations of God, who should therefore obey His will and not their own selfish desires.

Then we hear the Psalms which exalted the Lord and all His goodness, and how His love and mercy will embrace all things, as well as all of us, if only that we resolve to seek Him and find Him in our lives, and as the Psalm mentioned, that the Lord’s mercy and love are upon those who call on Him. This is why mankind should stop delaying and being slothful, and begin to walk on the path of repentance to seek for God’s infinite mercy.

In the second reading, taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, he reminded the people of God, of the importance of labour and work, and the benefits one may gain if they do their labour for the sake of Christ, and for the sake of His beloved people, our own brothers and sisters in the Lord. It was also highlighted of the importance of the teaching of the Gospels and the faith to the people of God.

Then finally in the Gospel, as written by St. Matthew, we heard how Jesus taught His followers and the disciples using parables, and in today’s Gospel, the parable of the vineyard owner and the workers. In this parable, the vineyard owner employed many people who were unemployed and idle, and he brought them to work in his vineyard. And when the time comes for them to receive their pay, all of them, regardless of their working hours, they all received the same amount of pay, that is one silver coin each.

But the ones who worked for long hours complained before the owner, and they complained to the owner for unjust treatment compared to those who worked very little hours. They argued for the fact that they have been given the same pay although they worked for much longer. The owner then admonished them for their grumbling, and mentioned that they should have been thankful that they have been given the opportunity to work and receive the reward as everyone else had, regardless of the amount.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we look at it more closely and reflect more intently on the meaning of the words of the Scripture which we have heard today, it should be obvious that God wants us to know about the nature of salvation, and how we can play a part in that work of salvation, and therefore having a part in the salvation of one another, ensuring the security of all of us together in Christ.

The Gospel refers to how the Lord is truly willing to seek out those who are lost from Him, and the owner of the vineyard is Himself the Lord. The unemployed men and the idle ones represent mankind who still live in the darkness of the world and sundered from the Lord their God. The reward that the men received symbolised the promise of salvation and eternal life which God had revealed and vowed to us through Jesus.

And the time of which the men were called refers to none other than the opportunities in life for us, which are plenty, from the beginning and early days of our lives, until even the eleventh hour, and the time near the end. God is actively seeking for us, just as the vineyard owner was actively seeking for employees as he went around the city to look for the unemployed, that is those who are still lost among mankind.

And just as all mankind are equal in the sight of God, regardless of their status, wealth, influence, fame, power and all other things often attached to us, we are all the same before God without any embellishments. And this is perfectly shown in the Gospel, as the owner paid the workers equally without any consideration for the amount of work or for any virtues, and all were paid a silver coin each, just as all of us have equal part in our divine inheritance that is life eternal.

Brethren, it is in our nature to always want more and seek more, and we always think that all of our efforts are definitely ought to be paid, and the world itself had supported this, by enhancing in our minds the thought such that when we do more and put more effort, we are conditioned to demand for more and feel that it is justified for us to demand for more, in accordance to what we did.

Does this seem familiar somehow? Yes, precisely because it exists in our world, and it is indeed the force behind the economical progress and how the economy works in our world. Yes, it is the same as capitalism, in the system where supply and demand controls everything. And that is why we always desire and seek more, because in this system, when it is unbridled and uncontrolled, can lead to excessive materialism and desire for things of the world.

And these are what precisely made it so difficult for many of us to be saved, that is many among mankind, because we are so easily tempted by the goods and the wonders that are in the world, that Satan made that very good opportunity to steer us away from salvation in God. We end up doing things to satisfy our desire and greed for more goodness and pleasures of the world, as shown by the grumbling of those workers who came early to work in the owner’s vineyard. We have much to learn in terms of sharing with one another God’s love and blessing, and not to just be concerned about our own benefits.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this we should learn that our Lord loves us all without exception, even the greatest of sinners. There is always hope in the conversion of sinners, and even the greatest sinner can eventually be turned to the way of the Lord to become the greatest of the saints. Indeed, many great saints were themselves once great sinners. What matters is that they repent from their sinful ways and embrace the ways of the Lord.

St. Matthew himself was once a hated tax collector, a profession which was reviled in the society, and they were seen by their Jewish society as traitors and evil, as those who seemingly collaborated with the Roman, the masters of the world at the time, in oppressing the people with the taxes imposed on them. Yet, St. Matthew, despite the good promises of the job, and the security in life it provided him, he left everything and followed Jesus, and eventually became one of the four great Evangelists who recorded the life and works of Jesus our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate the occasions I mentioned earlier for today, we have to always be reminded that we have our roles to play in this world today, that is to embrace, seek out and welcome those who hunger for the truth and the Good News of Christ in the Holy Gospels, and that is why we even celebrate today as the Catechetical Sunday, where we together as the Church, seek to spread the words of salvation of our Lord to all the ends of the earth.

Let us not be proud of our achievements or be greedy for more acclamations for what we had accomplished in life and in our faith. Instead, let us look with love upon those who have less or none, and especially those who have less or none of the faith. Let us not be jealous of them when the Lord offers them the same salvation He had also offered us. Let us rather help each other and together as brothers and sisters in the same Lord, equal in the eyes of God, enter the kingdom of heaven as one people, to praise and worship Him forever more.

Do not wait until the last minute to seek the Lord, too, for we do not know when the time is up for us. If we are late, then there is no more opportunity for us, and we will suffer for eternity together with Satan and his fellow fallen angels. Let us pray that this will not be our fate, and thus let none be lost in the darkness. Amen.

Monday, 1 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded yet again on the importance of understanding the will and the nature of God, and how He worked His wonders and good works in our lives, learning to trust more of His love and kindness and casting away from our hearts all forms of prejudice, bias, judgmental attitude and self-righteousness.

We mankind are all prone to all of these, as we have been created with much abilities and gifts given to us. Among all of creations, we are special in that we have such an intellect and ability to discern the right and the wrong, partly because our ancestors committed sin by eating the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In that, we all are aware of the things around us and we are able to discern, but because our intellect, the human intellect, and our human wisdom are not divine in nature, what we have in us, in our minds are limited and flawed by its nature. That is how we fall into the trap of prejudice, bias and judgmental attitude towards others, thinking that we are righteous over other peoples, and in our selfishness, which is part of our nature, we condemn and judge others based on our own standards.

It is common for us to look at someone and judge them based on their character, on what we observed from them, in terms of what clothes they are wearing, what accessories they are wearing, and what company of friends and background someone has. We judge others based on what we observe from them, and we tend to look at the exterior, on appearances to make our judgments, and once we have judged, it is hard for us to remove that bias and prejudice from our minds.

The same happened to Jesus, who went to His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee. He went there to continue doing the good works He had done during His ministry in this world to fulfill and accomplish the long promised salvation for the people of God, the Messiah and Saviour who had eventually come to bring all of His people into a new life in harmony with God and His will.

Yet, as we all know, Jesus among men were seen as a mere carpenter’s son, the son of a simple and humble yet hardworking carpenter named Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, and through this, became His foster-father. Yet, the people even when presented with the truth, that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and the Son of God, and Joseph was His foster-parent refused to change their bias and prejudice, choosing to reject Him rather than listening to His truth.

Why is this so? Because every men are by nature selfish and they are always concerned about themselves and their own self-preservation. This is our nature, and it is not easy to change unless through a determined effort and understanding of the teachings which Jesus had passed down to us. Those people in Nazareth must be thinking, that how is this Son of a humble and simple carpenter, a noteworthy job and yet one that did not bring about much respect due to its low position in the hierarchy of the society, can be the Messiah.

They thought not in divine terms but in the terms of men and the world. They judged Jesus for His supposed simple and low-rank birth to a carpenter and from there they developed the prejudice that prevented them from truly listening to the words which Jesus had to say. And this did not happen to just Jesus, as many of the prophets as mentioned also suffered the same fate, rejected especially by those who knew them and those who shared their homes with these prophets.

We always like to presume that we know it all, and we know all about those around us by just looking at them and we judge them based on how they look and how they act in the society. And Jesus wanted to tell us that this attitude is wrong. We must never be judgmental to others as we too can be judged if we judge others. And that we should look deeper and not just be focused on the appearances, but also on what are inside a person’s hearts and minds.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives, on whether we have done what the people of Nazareth had done, in prejudicing and in being judgmental against others. Let us all change our ways if we had done so, and become better children and servants of our Lord. Let us stop our selfishness and judgmental attitudes, and from there let us all instead work together with one another, so that we may live in harmony and love together, and love sincerely and love tenderly.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us on our way, and strengthen the love and faith which He had planted in our hearts, awakening in us the desire to love one another and to love our God, our Lord and Creator, He who also loves us so much that He gave us Jesus, His Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings emphasizes on unity, that is the unity of our faith with the Lord, and in keeping a true, orthodox and living faith. Jesus our Lord symbolised this with the likeness and parallel of the vine and its branches. Jesus spoke in this way so that His message can get through to the people, who were mostly farmers and shepherds in that time.

Jesus liked to speak in parables because He used them to help bring across His teachings, and yet some people still did not get it. Jesus as the vine is the source of all life and all things, and we are the branches. All the creations of God are the branches. If we imagine the relationship as that of a plant, God is the Creator of all, and He is like the root.

Yes, God is the root of all things, and just as a plant cannot live and survive without their roots, we cannot survive without God either, for He is the source of our lives. Remember that we were made from dust, from the earth. God breathed life into us, and His Spirit came into us and we received life and therefore we are now counted among the living.

God did these things together as One, the Holy Trinity. The Father created and willed all things into creation, and the Holy Spirit is the source of all life. But without the Son, who is the Word of God, creation would not have taken place. If we remember in the Book of Genesis, God spoke His words and things came to be. As such, it is through the Son, who is Word, that is Christ, that we were all created by the Lord.

Therefore, Christ is the vine through which the Father channels His works, power and authority to us. In this also we can see an important tenet of our faith. We believe that the Father sent the Holy Spirit through His Son, Jesus Christ, just as He said that the Father will send, through Him, the Helper or the Advocate, who is the Holy Spirit to His disciples and therefore to all mankind.

Without this connection to the vine, that is Christ, we are not connected to the Father and therefore do not receive the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. If we are separated from the Lord, we will not be able to survive, and we will eventually perish. He is the One from whom all blessings and graces flow from. We have to keep this connection to the Lord at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to make sure that we keep the unity in the Church, both in love and purpose. All that we do should ultimately be aligned with that of the Lord and His precepts. We should see the example shown in the first reading to be our guide in all things. The disciples in Antioch argued on the need to follow and adhere to the complex set of laws instituted by Moses and which was greatly expanded on by the elders of Israel over many generations.

The Jews who believed in Christ, or the Jewish Christians kept all the observations of the Law as they had done before they believed in Christ. They added to their faith, the belief in Christ as the Lord and Saviour, and therefore, in a way it can be understood why they link salvation of mankind with the Law and precepts of Moses that they had kept and observed so well.

But among the Christians, in the growing faith, there are increasingly more and more those who were not of Jewish origins who followed the Lord and changed their ways to that of the Way of God. There are those who were of Greek and Roman origins, or the Gentiles, according to the Jews, who became the believers of Christ. They genuinely sought the Lord and sought to listen to God’s will, which He had revealed through Jesus, and from Him, to them through the Apostles.

The Jewish laws, if you are not familiar with it, consists of numerous rules and regulations, that apparently total about six hundred and thirteen commandments and rules, which covered very meticulously many aspects of Jewish culture and way of life. These were very distinct and different from the cultures and the habits possessed by the Romans and the Greeks.

As such, if they were to be asked to follow the way of the Jews, it would indeed bring them great troubles and difficulties, having to adjust to the incredibly different way of life, and not to point out that some of the Jewish customs were abhorred and looked down upon by the Greek-Roman civilisation at that time, especially regarding circumcision.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why the Apostles took the fateful decision that is both wise and prudent, that what is important, as Jesus had often mentioned, is not the purity of the exterior, which most of the Jewish laws are dealing on, but instead on the purity of our interior, that is our heart and soul, which is the essence and the heart of the Law, often forgotten by those who were so set on fulfilling the laws and the rigorous enforcement of its regulations, that they forgot the true meaning of the Law.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions, who were martyrs of the faith. He was a priest in Mexico, who was very involved in missionary and evangelising work among the people, and working hard to minister to the people of God and evangelise the Good News to many native and indigenous populations, in many areas of the country. He was also a holy and dedicated parish priest.

St. Christopher Magallanes preached against rebellion and armed insurgency against the military government and dictatorship at the time, as Mexico in the early years of the twentieth century was in great turmoil and conflict between the government and its people, resulting in numerous rebellions and uprisings. However, the government mistakenly accused St. Christopher Magallanes and some other priests and people of God of inciting and supporting the rebellion.

As a result, St. Christopher Magallanes was martyred with his companions, and they together represented the beginning of difficult times for the Church in Mexico, as anti-clergy and anti-Church opinions and attitudes in the government expanded to reach a boiling point. They were raised to the altar and now venerated as saints for their preaching of the truth of God and dedication to that truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have to follow in their examples, as they put their trust in God and draw their strength from Him, just like branches that are attached firmly to the stem and to the roots. They also did not discriminate between peoples, and as St. Christopher Magallanes had done, he persevered to bring the Good News and the word of God to the indigenous peoples of Mexico yet untouched by the light of Christ.

Therefore, let us all pray, that we may ever be strong in faith and never be separated from Christ, and may our actions, words and deeds are all according to the Lord and His way, and let us never divide or judge, but instead helping each other to reach closer to God, supporting one another as equal children of God, same before the eyes of the Lord. Amen.

Monday, 12 May 2014 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are affirmed with the love of the Lord, who had given us that love through His gift of Jesus, His only beloved Son to us, as a fitting sacrificial victim and the intermediary between us sinners to He who is perfect in heaven. Through Christ all were made worthy of the Lord and were promised the glorious eternal life in heaven.

Yes, and this promise was extended to all mankind, to all the beloved creations of the Lord Most High, and not just to a certain group of people. If we read the Old Testament, it is very easy for us to have the misconception that the people of Israel, or the Jews, are the chosen people of God, whom the Lord chose over all the other nations.

God did choose the descendants of Jacob, and therefore, the descendants of Abraham, to be His first chosen, to be the ones to whom He first revealed Himself to, and the ones to whom He revealed His will and His love. But this does not mean that God excludes all the other nations from His love. He loved them equally just the same, just as we have our breath of life every single moments of our lives.

The shepherd, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of all the people of God, did not choose favourites among His people. Indeed, He came first to the Jews, just as His Father had first chosen them to be His people. But this does not mean that His salvation is intended only for them to the exclusion and damnation of all the other nations.

He loves us all, and wishes us all to be saved, and therefore, that is why He commended the disciples to go and spread the Good News to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. That is His intention, and He desires that we all be reunited with God in eternal bliss of splendour and happiness. And thus, He sanctifies all mankind through His death and resurrection.

We must never be haughty and judge ourselves, just like the Jews who thought themselves of being worthy of salvation, because they misunderstood the intentions and actions of the Lord as one of favouritism, particularly the chief priests and the Pharisees. They judged themselves worthy and condemned others who did not share their opinions, to the point of persecuting Jesus and His followers in their ministry.

God showed His mercy to mankind, and He forgave them all, on the account of His love and dedication for them. The Lord is loving to all, and He readily shows His love for us all. He comforts us when we suffer and when we are sad, and He lifts us up when we fall down into despair and hopelessness. He shows His care for us without any discrimination.

Today we celebrate the feast of many saints, namely St. Nereus and Achilles, as well as St. Pancras, all of whom were slaves and servants of the Empress or Augusta of the early era Roman Empire. They were the servants of the wife of the Emperor Domitian or Domitianus, who was infamous for his great persecutions against the faithful and the Church, who carried out the one of the great persecution against the Church.

They were martyred in the defense of their faith, and they refused to recant their devotion and commitment to the Lord. They stayed faithful to the end and received holy martyrdom, and now they are revered by us in the Church as saints of the holy Church, worthy of heaven and interceding for our sake daily before the Lord.

In their example, we see how even the people considered to be unworthy by many in Jesus’ time can become saints and holy martyrs, by their following of the teachings of the Lord and by walking faithfully in His ways. Thus, we too should not be afraid and instead, walk courageously in the footsteps of these holy men to be also faithful disciples of the Lord and be courageous in our works, that we may bring even more souls to salvation.

May the Lord open our minds and hearts today, that we will learn to be inclusive and not to exclude others or be judgmental, and instead be humble in seeking the Lord’s forgiveness and love. May He guide us always that we may approach ever closer to His throne of mercy and to His loving embrace. Amen.

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the story of Jesus healing the blind man, and in the first reading story on the Lord’s choosing of David to be His faithful servant. In the series of readings from the Scriptures today, we are reminded today that we must never be selfish nor feel self-righteous and just to the impediment of others. We must never be judgmental nor be prejudiced against others because of who we perceive them to be.

God sees what is inside the heart, and what is truly man’s values and worth. He judges man not by his or her appearance, but by their true values and what are inside their hearts. God judges mankind by their heart not by their face values. Therefore we too should follow His examples and not be prejudiced against our fellow mankind in any way, especially in how they look and act.

It is in our human nature to feel hurt when we are challenged in our pride, or shown that the way that we believe in things is wrong. We easily fall to the temptations of jealousy and greed, and this shows in the way we act and do things. And that was also exactly what the Pharisees had shown, condemning and judging on the healed blind man, alleging that he was a sinner, when they felt that their teaching authority and influence was challenged.

They judged mankind by appearances, disdaining the poor and the disabled, those with diseases and afflictions, and they also set themselves by appearances, preferring to show off their rituals, prayers and observations of the faith so that others may see what they had done and praise them for that. This is the kind of faith the Lord does not want, for it is superficial and temporary, and it is not true and genuine faith to the Lord.

Yes, brethren, for in fact in their observations they gave in to the tempting forces of fulfilling their own ego and desires. They did those acts to gain human praise and worldly glory. They did not truly do them for God. They thought only of themselves and their own righteousness. And they rejected the Saviour sent to them, Jesus Christ, the very One and only Son of God, the Messiah.

That is because they saw Christ and they did not understand Him and what He had done. They were only able to think in terms of human power and glory, and in terms of human minds, which made them unable to comprehend the teachings of Jesus, and in their lack of faith and understanding, they hardened their hearts and sharpened the edges of their hearts’ pride, and made them resolved to resist and oppose Christ at every turns and opportunities.

They condemn the deaf because they were unable to hear, but they themselves were deaf, because they failed to listen and take in the message of Christ which He had spoken repeatedly as He taught, and yet they refused to believe. They condemned the blind ones because they were unable to see and mocked them for that, just as what they had done to the blind man Jesus healed in today’s Gospel.

They condemned tax collectors, prostitutes and many other people they considered as sinners and plagues of the society, thinking that they were beyond any redemption, but yet, they failed to look beyond their prejudices. They were blinded by their own pride and arrogance, thinking that they are the best over any other people. They failed to recognise that in them, an even greater sin was present.

What is this sin? This is the sin of condemnation, the sin of jealousy, the sin of arrogance, and the greatest of all, the sin of pride. Not only that they did not honour God in their pride, rejecting Jesus everywhere He went, but they also brought calamity to many of their fellow mankind, by condemning them, cursing them, and leading them to the false paths that did not lead to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this session however cannot become a bashing session for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They have had their share of faults, but shall we also look into ourselves? Have we ourselves done things in the same way that those Pharisees had done? It is easy for us to quickly judge others and be prejudiced, all because of our human pride and arrogance, thinking that we are better than others.

We sometimes look at the fault in others without realising our own faults and mistakes. We blame others and condemn them, quick to jump into conclusion, often without taking careful considerations of things before we judge.  That was the exact same thing that the Pharisees had done, disregarding their own sinfulness while calling others sinners.

They may look great, and like us, we may look amazing and wonderful, yes, indeed, in the eyes of men. But do we really look great in the eyes of God? Maybe, or maybe not. It all depends on whether we have done what the Lord asked of us to do, and not ignore those who are in need of our love and help. It does not mean that we must look utterly miserable in the eyes of men, but we cannot seek the glory of men and solely that, to the detriment of our brothers and sisters.

Hence, brethren, shall we reflect on our own lives and actions? We have to devote ourselves to complete and total devotion to God, changing our ways to conform to that of the Lord’s way. Loving one another and committing ourselves to that love is what is needed from us. And in order for us to be able to truly love genuinely without any hidden motives, we have to really cast away our prejudices and love our brethren as they are.

May the Lord guide us always in our path, that we will ever walk in His path and not to fall into the temptations of the devil. God be with us all. Amen.

 

Monday, 24 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the key message of today’s readings is that we have to be humble, and cast aside all of our prejudices and judgmental attitudes, and not be stubborn but instead put our trust in God and in His wisdom. That is what we need to know.

Why so, brethren? Why this message for us today? That is rightly so because Jesus and His prophets, shown through the example of Elisha, had been rejected in their own land and were cast aside by their own people. And Jesus pointed out to them, that prophets are not welcome in their own land, in their own hometown, and they were not honoured there.

All is because of the sin of human presumption and assumption. We like to judge and have our opinion on anything and everything around us. And the closer we are related to each other, the more we are likely to form our judgments and opinions on others.

And that was what the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth thought about Him, when He came and proclaimed to them the truth about Himself, and about the Good News that He had come to proclaim. The people of Nazareth hardened their hearts and shut off their ears from listening to the words of salvation offered by Jesus, because to them, He can be no more than just a carpenter, and a carpenter’s son.

And in their minds, surely they will think that, who is this Jesus think He is? How dare He proclaims Himself as the One mentioned in the Scriptures? He thinks that He is a prophet is it? He is only a humble and good-for-nothing carpenter’s son! Is He and His father Joseph not the ones who repaired our wooden furnitures all these while? How can He then be the Prophet! Preposterous!

Yes, brethren, these are likely the thoughts that run inside of the people’s minds as they listened to Jesus, and that was why they were indignant and refused to listen to Him, and they were deep in their prejudice against Jesus and therefore they did not try to understand what Jesus was telling them, to the point of even open and blatant hostility against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we be like them? We have the benefit of knowing who Jesus Christ our Lord is, through the teachings of the Church which was passed down to us from the Apostles of Jesus themselves. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we may always be faithful to God and listen to Him and  His words.

We too can be wayward and walk down the wrong path if we are not careful, and if we do not cultivate and strengthen our faith in the Lord. And this also certainly taught us not to be judgmental or be prejudiced against others, our own brothers and sisters in the faith, or think in any way that we are more righteous or worthy of salvation than others because of who we are.

Let us instead help one another, and help indeed, so that all of us will be able to go as one people and reach out together towards the Lord, that at the end of our journey, we may glorify the Lord our God together as one! God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 27 February 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 48 : 14-15ab, 15cd-16, 17-18, 19-20

This is the fate of people trusting themselves, the future of those who rely on their strength. Like sheep led to the grave, they have death as their shepherd and ruler.

Quickly their form will be consumed in the world of the dead, which is their home. But God will rescue my soul from the grave by receiving me unto Himself.

Fear not when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great, for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Thursday, 20 February 2014 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 2 : 1-9

My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magnificently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags.

If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while to the poor one you say, “Stay standing or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two? Have you not judged, using a double standard?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith and to inherit the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? Yet you despise them! Is it not the rich who are against you and drag you to court? Do they not insult the Holy Name of Christ by which you are called?

If you keep the Law of the Kingdom, according to Scripture : ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you do well; but if you make distinctions between persons, you break the law and are condemned by the same law.

Sunday, 19 January 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brethren in Christ, today we heard how every reading proclaimed the glory of God in Jesus, His Son, who came down upon us, incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who walked in this earth, and who went on a blessed ministry of healing and purification of the people of God, after He was baptised in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

John the Baptist, who was also the relative of Jesus, was sent ahead of Him, to be the one who was prophesied in the first reading today, in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that the servant of God would come, and through him, prepared for such a ministry from the womb of his mother, the Lord would be known to everyone.

And that was precisely what John the Baptist did. He was prepared for a mission for the sake of the Lord ever since he was still in his mother’s womb. John the Baptist went on to live in the desert and became a great voice that shouted in the wilderness, calling the people of God to repent and forgo their old, sinful ways. He called for the repentance of peoples and for them to mark their repentance with the baptism of water at the Jordan.

John the Baptist baptised people and they came to him, seeking forgiveness for their sins. He therefore prepared the way straight for the Lord, who came immediately after him, Jesus, the Son of Mary, his relative. And John the Baptist, despite his popularity and his following, did not succumb to the usual weakness of human pride and arrogance. Instead, he did what he was supposed to do, that is to prepare and welcome the coming of the Lord the Saviour.

He proclaimed the Lord to his own followers and to the people after he baptised Jesus and witnessed the events which confirmed to him that Jesus was indeed the One he had been waiting for, and the One indeed whom John had done all those hard work for. John did not complain or hold any grudge against the Lord, for having received all the good fruits and benefits of his hard works. Instead, he joyfully proclaimed the Lord to all.

John the Baptist, as is often said, is a role model for all of us Christians who believed in the Lord. He humbly acknowledged the superiority of the Lord, who grew in glory and majesty, while he declined in importance. Even after his own disciples complained about the fact, he told them the truth about Jesus, who He was and what great things He would do, for the salvation of all mankind.

We should follow the examples of John the Baptist, that we also be humble before the Lord, especially in full awareness of our sins and our unworthiness, despite which our Lord and God Jesus Christ still came to save us. John the Baptist showed us how to lead a Christian life. We cannot be Christians if we do not proclaim Christ in our life, be it through our words, deeds, or actions. We should be always ever ready to confess that Christ is the Lord and the Saviour, that all will also believe in Him, much as how John convinced his followers that Jesus is the Christ and the Lord.

But today, there are even many more things we should talk about, because today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, commemorating the many millions today who are refugees away from their homeland, because of war, because of hatred and injustice, and because of prejudice and lack of love among mankind. Also commemorated today are the migrants who had gone away from their homeland to a new land, often far far away, for many reasons, most important of which are for economic reasons and also to seek peaceful life away from warfare.

As mentioned in the prophesy of Isaiah in the first reading, the coming of the Messiah was also associated with the reunion of the people of God who had been scattered throughout the world in exile. The coming of Christ was supposed to bring forth the peace and harmony, which would see that mankind no longer hate or despise one another, but instead live in harmony and love.

Yes, that is what we expect will happen, when the Lord who had come in Jesus Christ and died for our sins, comes again for the second time, when He will come as a victorious and conquering king, to bring all those who are faithful to Him into His eternal kingdom, where there will be no more hatred, divisions, or violence. Nevertheless, for us who are in this world, who still live in this world before this time, unfortunately this world is still very much in a mess.

If you follow the world news, you will realise that in many parts of the world, if not most, there are still much hatred, violence, and prejudice which existed between mankind, between one person and another, and between peoples. The world is rife with rivalry between human interests, either for land, or for more natural resources, and for many other reasons, including greed.

People were driven from their homes and their land, because violence often still ruled the day. As we all know what had happened recently in places such as Libya and Syria, especially what is still happening now in Syria, where thousands upon thousands die because of the violence there, because of the disregard for human life, and hatred for the others, that is hatred against those considered to be different to one’s group and therefore abominable.

Men fought one another and slaughter the innocent, because love has yet to take root in them, and many parts of the world if not most are still subject to this evil. And the result was pain, sorrow, and death. Many had to be driven from their homes and the land which they had inherited from their forefathers, and which they had lived in so peacefully until recently.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is love, peace, and harmony, and He has given to us His peace and His love. While we await for His second coming in glory, it is actually our part to play, in order to bring peace and love to our brethren, especially to whom peace and love had been taken away, such as our migrant and refugee brethren. They need peace, as well as our love and care. For it is often that they lost everything when they were forced off their land, and they had nothing.

Therefore brethren, let us show our faith and dedication to the Lord who loves us all and wants us to be reunited to Him, by showing our love to the refugees and migrants of this world, especially if any of them are present in our societies. Let us not follow the trend of this world, that is to shun them and cast them out of our societies, making them into a ghetto of refugees and migrants. We should instead help them, and talk to them, and then we will understand better the difficulties they had faced.

Let us then not close our hearts to the plight of the migrants and refugees, and seek to welcome them as our fellow brothers and sisters, helping them in any way we can to help alleviate their sufferings. Let us proclaim the love of God to them and to all men, following in the footsteps of John the Baptist, who proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Messiah to all people he taught.

May we all then proclaim the Lord as our God, as one people, and seek to heal any divisions, pains, or sufferings that exist among us, that we may let go of any hatred or negative feelings, and instead embrace the way of peace, the way of the Lord. May God bring us together, as fellow brothers and sisters in the unity of God’s loving family, and may we all be blessed forever. Amen!

Thursday, 5 December 2013 : 1st Week of Advent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/ Violet

Brethren, those who trust in the Lord shall not fail, but those who trust only in themselves, and in their own feeble human power, shall fail. Those who places their trust in the Lord shall not be disappointed. After all, have God ever disappointed us thus far? If we think that God did disappoint us at some point of time in the past, let us take some time and reflect.

We often say or think that the Lord does nothing for us, or that we became angry when we asked God for something, and yet we did not get it. We became disappointed in God and no longer put our trust in Him. Many in our world today certainly think so. That is why they prefer their own intellect and reason to the trust and faith in the Lord.

They prefer to believe in their own achievements and glories, shutting themselves from the Lord. This is just as how many people in our world becoming proud of their life achievements. I am sure you have met in your lives, people who boast of their wealth, the number of cars and credit cards that they possess, and the countless amenities they have in their homes, the comfortable lifestyle that they lead in life.

And they do not give thanks to the Lord who had blessed them with these kindness and graces. Thus, the Lord forsakes them and they have no part in the salvation that the Lord grants to all who believe in Him. If we want to be part of the Lord’s glory at the end of time, then we ought to follow Him, obey Him, and show Him our love and dedication, just as He had loved us and dedicated Himself to us.

But this is not all that is there to it. Even among us who believe and trust in the Lord, we cannot just be idle and be ignorant of the laws and precepts of the Lord. We cannot proclaim that we are the disciples and children of the Lord and yet our actions show otherwise. We cannot be hypocrites who only keep our faith in words and yet no concrete actions to support our faith.

Yes, brethren, for a faith made only with the profession of the mouth is like that of a house without firm foundations, built on the shaky sand. Once a storm and flood comes by, the weakly built home will fall down and stumble. Such are also the things that happened to many people in the world today. Their faith in God is not supported by firm and concrete actions. Their faith can even be said as to be only on paper.

That is why, many of our brethren in faith, while they confess the Lord as their God, they do not practice their faith in their daily actions. They believe in things contrary to the faith and to the laws of God. I can give you many examples of such hypocrisy. There are many who belong to the Church, and do things such as abortion, murder, lies, and many other things against the teachings of the Lord.

They are those who built their house on unstable and shaky grounds, those who are heading towards doom instead of salvation in the Lord. That is because their faith is essentially dead. We have to truly believe in what we believe, that we have a truly living and concrete faith. In that way, our house will be built on secure ground, strong and secure against any kind of obstructions or distractions.

Today, I also would like to recall something which had happened two years ago. A fellow schoolmate from my Alma Mater passed away today, exactly two years ago, at a young age of a teenager. He was a victim of violent acts, which rightly still ravage many parts of our world today. He was a good and loving person, a child of God no less. That he was taken from us because of unfortunate occurrence, served as a reminder, how, even though we have our faith in God, there are still so many things that we can do, and we need to do.

Taking the example of violence, which took away this young person’s life prematurely, we have to see that violence is a failure to achieve peace, and hatred is likewise a failure to love. We may think that, oh, that is another’s actions, why should I be bothered? And why should it have any impact on me? No, brethren, this is not the way we should think or act. That is because, any act of violence or hatred means that we have partially failed in acting and living out our faith.

I would also like to relate this to the story of Nelson Mandela, the great fighter for human rights in South Africa, who passed away just today at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela is an inspiration for all of us, brothers and sisters, because he did not condone violence and hatred, even in order to achieve his agenda, to bring equality to the African people in South Africa. He preferred ways of peace and love, that is the way of the Lord, and even though he languished for more than two decades in prison, he did not give up his ways.

Had Nelson Mandela resorted to violence and hatred, the South Africa as we know today may have been very different. Civil war, killing fields, and all others, which we saw too commonly happening in many countries, which history had been marred by violence and hatred. Instead, Nelson Mandela was respected, firstly because of his stand against the discriminatory and racist policy of Apartheid, but also because he championed the way of peace and love, exactly how we should do as well, if we are truly faithful in God. Our faith cannot remain as mere words, but have to be translated into our actions as well.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we pray for the souls of these departed ones, and remembering how many people in the past had faithfully been following the ways of the Lord, not only in words but also in concrete actions, let us today heed from the warnings of the Lord, on the need for us to re-orientate our lives, so that we will conform more to the teachings of the Lord. We cannot be half-hearted in our faith in God. We have to dedicate ourselves, through none other than exercising love, both for God and for our fellow mankind, in all of our actions, words, and deeds.

Profess our faith in the Lord, and show it with real action. Be wise like those who built their house on solid ground. Yes, build our house with the foundation of strong faith in God. With God as our base and foundation, we shall never falter. God is always with us. May God shine His graces upon us, bless us, and make us prosper beyond our imagination, and strengthen our faith in Him, now and forever. Amen.