(Usus Antiquior) Feast of Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel (I Classis) – Monday, 29 September 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of a great protector, our great defense against the assaults of the evil one, Satan, the prince and progenitor of all evils. We celebrate today the feast of the chief of all the angelic hosts of heaven, that is St. Michael the Archangel, prince of all the angels, and chief of the seven Archangels who served before the throne of God.

The angels were created by the Lord to be His servants, that is to be the ones who carry out His will throughout the world, to be His messengers and the bearers of His good works, to exercise His power throughout the universe He had created. He created angels of many forms and kinds, and they have various tasks and functions, depending on how they were created.

Just like men, when we were first created, the angels were initially pure and blameless, free from what is now called as sin, the impurities and imperfections that blemished the purity of creation, through disobedience against the will of God. The angels too, were granted free will just like us, so that, just as we are able to choose our path and destination in life, then they too were able to choose.

But everything was good and perfect, just as our ancestors once lived in perfect peace and harmony in the gardens of Eden, the angels were all pure and immaculate, free from all evil and taints of sin, that is until the corruption and fall of Lucifer, the greatest, brightest and the mightiest of all the angels, and unfortunately, his pride too was the greatest of all the angels, his vanity and sense of superiority over others, which proved to be his greatest undoing.

While now we speak of St. Michael the Archangel as the chief of all the heavenly hosts, he was not made such because of his greatness and his power or might, neither it was because he was the most beautiful or splendid among the angels of God. It was rather because of St. Michael’s great obedience and faith in the Lord, which made him to be the greatest defender of the Lord and His beloved people against the forces of evil.

For as mentioned, that Lucifer was once the greatest and the mightiest among the angels, but this made him proud beyond any pride, and he began to plot his rise among the angels, and eventually even boasted that he would make his throne rise above the stars of God, namely the angels, to be the ruler of them, and displacing God as the ruler over all creations.

Lucifer was proud and haughty, and he was brought down, because he was thinking too highly of himself, aspiring to be the ruler of all surpassing the Creator, while he is merely a creation, albeit a glorious and great one at that. On the contrary, St. Michael was known for his great faith and piety, and the complete trust he has for the Lord. And in addition to this, he was also told to be trembling at always before the presence of God.

This does not mean that St. Michael was fearful or weak, but rather, in doing so, he actually by himself acknowledging the superiority of God, and how great God is as compared to himself. It is his humility, courage and piety which made the Lord to choose him and honour him to be the great commander of His heavenly forces. And he courageously led the forces of the faithful against the deceiver and the evil one, the fallen Lucifer, who was struck down and cast out of heaven, to suffer for eternity the fate prepared for him.

The examples of St. Michael’s faith, piety, dedication and courage therefore should become guiding lights for us to follow, that in our actions and deeds, we may model them after what St. Michael had once done, and what he is doing now, that is leading the hosts of the Lord in a constant and regular battle for the salvation of our souls, against Satan, the fallen Lucifer, and his allies, those angels who were also ensnared in his pride and vanity, and ended up rebelling against God.

We mankind are special indeed, for we are the greatest of God’s creations, including even the angels, and we are the most beloved ones of all the things which God had created. As such, while the angels who rebelled were given no second chance to turn back to the Lord, and receive forgiveness, we mankind alone had been given this gift of forgiveness, that as long as we repent our sins and rebelliousness, and if we are willing to follow the way of the Lord, we will be saved.

That is why, even though our ancestors had disobeyed the Lord, through the instigation of the snake, the form assumed by the fallen Lucifer, who wanted mankind to also follow into his rebellion, God gave us a second chance, and by no other means than to send His very own Son, part of Himself, Jesus Christ our Lord, to assume our own form, and through what He had done, He gave up His life and through His sacrifice, gained for us a new hope and a new justification in Himself.

And we also have to note that the Lord is thoroughly concerned with us, brothers and sisters in Christ. He is truly concerned about our fate, and whether we will share the fate of the devil, that is to suffer in the hell fire, or to be reunited with Himself in perfect love and harmony, just as what He intended for us at the very beginning when He first created us.

That is why, He sent us Jesus His Son, so that through what He taught His disciples, and from them passed down to us, we may all know what we need to do in order to avoid the dark fate which awaits us if we remain in our life of sin. But we need to be aware that, what Jesus said today in the Gospels, we should not interpret or take it literally, which means that if a part of our body made us to sin, then we should not chop it off just like that.

There is indeed wisdom and thought put into that kind of decision, to cut off the part that corrupts the entire body and soul, but that also means that we can no longer do good with the same part of the body, which God had given us. This is where we need to truly understand, that what the Lord means is that, we have to really do our best to excise from ourselves any actions or parts which have been great hindrances to our salvation, beginning from within ourselves.

Sin corrupts everything it touches, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is caused by the accumulation of the negativity in our hearts, of which things such as pride, jealousy, hatred, greed and many others consist of. And it was this same thing that had corrupted even the greatest and the brightest of the angels into rebellion against God and therefore sinned against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore let us renew our faith in the Lord, not by just mere empty words and promises, but also through real action and devotions, that is by following the examples of St. Michael the Archangel. Let us excise from our hearts, all evils and darkness, that we may truly become pure and worthy of the Lord once again. We can do this by sincere love and devotion to the Lord, and by listening to what He had said to us through Jesus.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all sharpen the edges of our humility and obedience to God, that we may always listen to Him and follow Him, obeying Him in His will for us rather than to listen to our own desires and pride, as Lucifer had done. Let us all not be enslaved by our emotions and pride, that we may truly rebuke Satan and let him to suffer alone the fate which he had earned for himself. Do not let him to drag us into hellfire, brethren!

Let us pray and ask for the help and intercession of St. Michael the Archangel and the holy angels, so that they may help us and protect us from all the harm which the evil one and his allies, the fallen angels had intended for us. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, so that by the power of God, you who are the prince and leader of all the heavenly hosts, may smite down Satan and all his lies, and all those who are working their evils in our world, seeking after the ruination of all the souls of the faithful. Amen.

Saturday, 13 September 2014 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of a great saint of the Church, one of the Four Great Doctors of the Church, and one of the most brilliant minds ever to come from the Church in the Eastern parts of the Roman Empire at the time. St. John Chrysostom is this saint, who was the Archbishop of the great See of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire during the early fifth century after the birth of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom was born from a relatively unknown parentage, and it was disputed whether his mother was a pagan or a Christian. In any case, St. John Chrysostom was baptised when he entered adulthood, and it was discovered that he had a great intellectual mind, and he easily went through his studies of literature and philosophy.

However, as time progressed, St. John Chrysostom turned more and more towards the Lord and dedicated his life to His service. His sermons and speeches were greatly influential and inspirational, based on the deep understanding and comprehension of the Gospels and the fundamentals of faith, through which he gained his title of Chrysostomus, which literally means ‘golden-mouthed’.

St. John Chrysostom preached in many parts of the Empire, and in one occasion his sincere and passionated plea to the pagans who were accused of the defilement of the statues of the Emperor in the city of Antioch brought thousands and more to see the error of their ways, and thus, they were received into the Church and was spared both the punishment and persecution by the Emperor, and even more importantly, they evaded the punishment and destruction of the soul by receiving the salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Even after St. John Chrysostom had been appointed as the Archbishop of Constantinople, one of the most prominent position in the Church, in fact just second after the Pope in Rome himself, St. John Chrysostom remained humble and dedicated in his service to the people of God, the sheep entrusted to him. St. John Chrysostom rejected the extravagant and lavish ways of the society at the time and pushed for a true Christian community founded on love.

He did not fear even to oppose the mighty and the powerful. When the Empress Aelia Eudoxia lived extravagantly, he greatly criticised her for her way of life and actions. Together with his enemies, the Empress plotted together and managed to cast St. John Chrysostom into exile, which would indeed have ended his works for the Church, but the people of God were incensed, and divine wrath itself soon manifested in a great earthquake and fire that devastated many parts of the capital.

But even after St. John Chrysostom was recalled back to his mission in the Church, the Empress continued to defy the way of the Lord, as she continued to live extravagantly and even installed a silver statue of herself near the cathedral of St. John Chrysostom, purposely to provoke him into action. And indeed, St. John Chrysostom denounced the Empress again, and as her punishment, she died during childbirth.

But St. John Chrysostom continued to suffer as his enemies continued to plot against him and persecuted him. He was sent again into exile and died before he was able to return to shepherd his sheep again at Constantinople. Nevertheless, his legacies lasted long after him, even until today. He was credited for his many works and sermons that inspired many of the faithful and even many saints who came after him.

And his works also resulted in one of the rites used in the Eastern Church even until today, as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, one of the most solemn liturgical rites of the Church, designed solely for the glorification of the Lord. Thus, this holy man and servant of God is the one whose life and actions we celebrate on this day as we gather together.

How is this related to the readings of the day? Very much related indeed. This is because as Jesus said in the Gospel, that good fruits can only be produced by good and healthy trees, vice versa. Bad and rotten trees can only produce bad and rotten fruits. Thus, St. John Chrysostom, that good tree, produce only good fruits for the benefits of the faithful. Similarly this is also the case for the other saints, the holy servants of God.

And he listened to the word of God intently, placing them into the depths of his heart, and most importantly, he acted on them, and from there brought about much good for the Church and for the faithful ones in the Lord. Thus, his actions were the representation of the man who built his house on solid rock foundation, and therefore had no need to fear the storms or any forces arrayed against it.

On the other hand, those who refused to listen to the word of God were like those who built their houses on unstable ground, on weak foundations that are easily swept away by winds and waves, and therefore representing the actions of the wicked ones opposed to the works of St. John Chrysostom, namely the Empress and his rivals, who were engrossed so much in the ways of the Lord, that they failed to even see that what they were doing was their own undoing.

And St. Paul in his letter to the faithful in the city of Corinth clearly and zealously stated that we who are faithful ought not to have any share in the communion with demons, that is with Satan and his allies, the forces of darkness in the world. Instead, we who are the children of God should be like St. John Chrysostom, in how he worked hard with zeal to bring the word of God to many of God’s people so that they may achieve salvation.

How do we know if we have made a communion with the Lord or with the evil one? It is basic and simple indeed. We have to first be aware that all of us who are in the Church of God are part of one Body, that is the Body of Christ, which is the union of all who shared in the Body and Blood of Christ, who had worthily become part of the Body of Christ, Christ is in them and they are in the Lord. It is inconceivable that a part of the Body of Christ should be flawed with the darkness of evil.

Thus if we commit evil, just as what those people mentioned earlier had done, in preserving their own vanity, concerned only for their own prosperity and in slandering others, worse that is to even put an obstacle on the works of the servant of God. In doing these evils, they committed sin before the Lord, and therefore entered into communion with the devil. For the devil too, rebelled against the Lord because of his pride and vanity.

Therefore, as we are part of the Church of God, and we have become the children of God, let us all realise that all of us must act therefore as how a child of God should behave. Listen to the Lord, work on what we believe in and practice our faith in our lives. Love one another and love the Lord just as much as we love ourselves. If we do all these, we will be surely be granted favour by the Lord.

May Almighty God therefore grant us His grace, that He may empower us to live according to what St. John Chrysostom had once done. Let us all treasure this communion we share with one another, the communion and unity as the one Body of Christ, those who have received the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Keep us, Lord, on the path towards salvation, and let us not to fall into evil. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Feast of St. Lawrence, Martyr (Double II Classis) – Sunday, 10 August 2014 : Epistle

Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios – Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 10 : 6-13

Fratres : Non simus concupiscentes malorum, sicut et illi concupierunt. Neque idololatrae efficiamini, sicut quidam ex ipsis : quemadmodum scriptum est : Sedit populus manducare et bibere, et surrexerunt ludere.

Neque fornicemur, sicut quidam ex ipsis fornicati sunt, et ceciderunt una die viginti tria milia. Neque tentemus Christum, sicut quidam eorum tentaverunt, et a serpentibus perierunt.

Neque murmuraveritis, sicut quidam eorum murmuraverunt, et perierunt ab exterminatore. Haec autem omnia in figura contingebant illis : scripta sunt autem ad correptionem nostram, in quos fines saeculorum devenerunt.

Itaque qui se existimat stare, videat ne cadat. Tentatio vos non apprehendat, nisi humana : fidelis autem Deus est, qui non patietur vos tentari supra id, quod potestis, sed faciet etiam cum tentatione proventum, ut possitis sustinere.

English translation

Brethren, let us not covet evil things, as they also coveted. Neither should you become idolaters, as some of them as it is written. The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day twenty-three thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.

Neither do you murmur, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them in figure, and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are to come.

Wherefore he thought of himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human, and God is faithful, He who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able to endure, but will make also with temptations that you may be able to bear it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Kings 21 : 17-29

Then YHVH spoke to Elijah of Tashbe, “Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, in Samaria. He is taking possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Say to him, ‘Have you killed and have taken possession at the same time?’ Then give him this word of Mine : ‘Dogs shall lick your blood in the very place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth.'”

Ahab then said to Elijah, “Who, better than my enemy, could find me here and now!” Elijah answered, “I have come to you because you have done what YHVH abhors. This is YHVH’s word : I will bring disgrace on you. I will sweep you away and cut off every male of your family, from the lowliest to the greatest.”

“Your family will disappear like the families of Jeroboam and Baasa, because you have offended Me and have dragged Israel into sin. There is another word of YHVH to Jezebel : ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel within the territory of Jezreel.’ If anyone of Ahab’s line dies in the city, he shall be devoured by dogs; if in the green country, the birds of the air shall feed on him.”

There was no one like Ahab, urged by his wife Jezebel, in doing what YHVH abhorred. He did horrible things and ran after unclean idols just as the Amorites had done, from whom YHVH had taken the land to give it to Israel.

On hearing these words, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He fasted as he lay in sackcloth and moved around despondently. Then YHVH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself? Because of this I will not bring about the disaster during his reign; during his son’s reign disgrace will fall on his family.”

Saturday, 7 June 2014 : 7th Week of Easter (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all the faithful followers and disciples of Christ, who have been called by Him to be His servants and His messengers through many nations, and to proclaim His truths to them. But we have to also be ready of the challenges and obstacles that will be on our path to the Lord. St. Paul and the other Apostles all endured sufferings and persecutions throughout their respective ministries, and all except St. John the Evangelist, the disciple whom the Lord loved, met their end in martyrdom.

Of course this did not diminish the role of St. John the Evangelist in any way. Rather, it highlighted the role he played to be the one through whom God revealed His plans for the future, and the end of times, as written in the Book of Revelations or the Book of Apocalypse, the last book in our Scriptures. This book was written by St. John the Evangelist based on what he witnessed in the visions he received while he was exiled on the island of Patmos in Greece.

Indeed, what Jesus said in the Gospel today was not wrong, for indeed, St. John the Evangelist would live to witness the coming of Christ, the Second Coming, which we also await today. But this Second Coming of Christ which John witnessed was not the actual coming of Christ, but the vision that he received, and thus he was the first to witness the perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ Messianic mission, and the complete fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets of old.

Yet, brethren, again if we look at the Book of Revelations and its contents, there is indeed a bleak and dark future that awaits us. It again brings us to the reality, on how Satan, our former master and dominator, and the enemy of all the faithful desires to carry out his final plan to bring about the downfall of mankind, to drag them together with him into the fate awaiting him and his fellow fallen angels, and to taste power and dominion again, even if for a while.

The world is darkening, and we all know it. Mankind grow ever more engrossed in sin and wickedness, which brought about even greater darkness. The forces of this world has already started moving against us, and we will face even greater challenges from now on. We know that the position of our Church in defending its truth and positions on the central tenets of the faith and life is getting more and more difficult, with opposition and attacks that are piled up against us. This is the work of the devil to destroy us, but we must persevere.

What is important, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that we must pray. We have to pray constantly and fervently, with heart, mind and soul focused on the Lord. In doing that, we keep ourselves strongly anchored in the Lord, and we will not be easily swayed by the forces and attacks of the devil designed to make us falter on the way towards salvation. We need to have a good and healthy prayer life, that we keep constant communication with the Lord our God.

Why so? That is because through prayer we allow ourselves to listen to God and find out what is His will and plan for us. Prayer is a two-way communication between us and God, and we should always keep it that way. For prayers that are made to be like litany of requests are meaningless and in fact harmful for us, as it feeds our pride and negative emotions, through which the devil may attack us. The Lord loves us and He knows what we need, and hence, there is absolutely no need for us to demand from Him anything. Rather, let us instead spend precious and meaningful time with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards change our way of life, that we become more profoundly and strongly anchored to God, so that in all of our dealings, in our words, deeds and actions, we may truly reflect on our true nature, that is as the children of God. Let us increase our charity and life-giving actions, helping one another to reach the Lord our God.

May God continue to watch our steps, strengthen us in our faith, and affirm us in His everlasting love. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 2 June 2014 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 16 : 29-33

The disciples said to Him, “Now You are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that You know all things, even before we question You. Because of this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me.”

“I have told you all this, so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but, courage! I have overcome the world.”

Sunday, 11 May 2014 : 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and World Day of Prayer for Vocations (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 2 : 14a, 36-41

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, and with a loud voice, addressed them, “Let Israel then know for sure that God has made Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified.”

When they heard this, they were deeply troubled. And they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?”

Peter answered, “Each of you must repent and and be baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise of God was made to you and your children, and to all those from afar whom our God may call.”

With many other words Peter gave the message and appealed to them saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who accepted his word were baptised; some three thousand persons were added to their number that day.