Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion today, all of us celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a feast that originated with the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena. The cross is a symbol that is both essential and inseparable from our Christian identity, for the Cross and more importantly, Jesus Who was crucified on the Cross, is the centre of our faith.

For we believe wholeheartedly that the Cross is the means by which our Lord Jesus had brought forth for us our salvation from sin and death. It was once the symbol of the ultimate humiliation, a practice done by the Romans, who crucified those who were considered the great enemies and threats to the Roman state. It was reserved to the worst of the criminals and it was meant as a symbol of ultimate infamy and defeat. And yet, because of our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, that Cross, the Holy Cross of Christ has become the symbol of ultimate glory and triumph.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to look upon the Holy Cross, just as in the days of the ages past, in our first reading, we witnessed how the people of Israel were afflicted with the plague of the fiery serpents because of their disobedience and insolence actions against God. Their refusal to obey God and their wickedness caused the anger of God to be stirred against them, and the fiery serpents struck them and many died.

The fiery serpents were reminders for the people that because of their sins, they have been made mortals and they have been struck and would be struck by death, which is the ultimate consequence for their sins. They would suffer because of their sins, and if anyone then contemplated on their situation, it might seem that their fate was sealed, and everything was hopeless and meaningless. Yet, that was not what the Lord intended for those whom He held dear in His heart.

He told Moses to fashion a great bronze serpent, that when the bronze serpent was lifted up high above, the people throughout the camp of the Israelites could see the bronze serpent, and those who have been bitten and yet saw the bronze serpent, was spared from death. This is the grace and the proof of God’s love for His people, even though they had been disobedient and having refused to listen to Him, or appreciate His love and kindness.

Jesus Himself compared this to His sacrifice on the cross, prophesying about it to Nicodemus, that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent high, the Son of Man, Jesus Himself, would be raised up as well, on the Cross, as what indeed happened on that day at Calvary, the hills where Jesus was crucified and condemned to die a criminal’s worst death. He died among thieves and sinners, and was accused falsely of wrongdoings that were not of His doing.

But Jesus accepted His death willingly, and willingly He suffered for our sake, as we believe that Jesus took upon Himself, the entirety of the burden of our sins, all of our wickedness, our shortcomings and disabilities, all of our disobediences and lack of faith. He has willingly took up all these upon Himself, because of His great and everlasting love for each and every one of us. We might have denied Him and not been faithful to Him, but He could not possibly deny His love for us, just because of how great is His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that we celebrate today precisely celebrate the loving sacrifice of our Lord, by which He has saved us from our fate of death. And through that He has also utterly changed what was once the symbol of ultimate humiliation, shame and defeat, into the instrument of salvation, and the symbol of ultimate triumph, glory and hope.

That is why the cross of Christ is the centre of our faith, because we believe in the Crucified Christ, and that is why the Crucifix is such an important element of our faith. There are those detractors who sneered at us and complained that we have not done it right with the Crucifix, because Christ had risen from the dead, and that it is inappropriate to show the Lord crucified on the Cross. And yet, that is the reality that all of us must know, that the Cross without Christ is nothing.

The cross without Christ is just a mere cross, without meaning and without significance. An empty wooden cross may be an evidence that Christ is no longer dead, but has risen in glory. Yet, the presence of the Body of the Lord on the Cross, is a stark and constant reminder to us that Christ has been crucified for us, and that He has willingly taken up the flesh of our kind, that He might suffer in our place, and to die in our place, so that we may live.

There can be no Resurrection without the Suffering, Passion and Death of our Lord at Calvary. Thus, the Holy Cross and Christ Who hung on it is inseparably and intimately linked to the whole mystery of the Resurrection, and thus to the central tenet of our faith. And we follow the way of this same Lord and God, Who had been born into our world, and sharing our pains and sorrows, dying for our sake on the Cross, and Who has risen in glory, to show us the way that each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow.

The Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people, that if they want to follow Him, then they must be ready to pick up their crosses and follow Him. And by this, He was not referring to the physical crosses made of wood, or the crosses and crucifixes that we often wear on ourselves. Rather, what He meant was that, all of us must be ready to suffer as He had suffered, if we want to remain faithful to Him. There will surely be challenges and obstacles that we are going to face in our journey.

The question is, are we able to bear those crosses faithfully? Are we able to stay strong despite the pressure for us to give up the fight and the temptations calling us to turn away from God’s path, just because it is too difficult and challenging for us? How many of us face the temptations and choices in life, where we must choose between obeying God or satisfying our own needs and seeking our own comfort?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not be ashamed to carry the cross of Christ, but carry the cross with zeal and commitment, knowing that in the Holy Cross of Christ lies our salvation, and indeed our only hope to be freed and liberated from the tyranny of sin and death. Let us all remember that no matter how hard the challenges and difficulties in life we face, that Christ had suffered for each and every one of us, and bear upon Himself the consequences for all the multitudes of our sins, as painful and unimaginably horrible they may be, so that we may live.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord, He Who has been crucified for us, Who gave up His life and suffered for our sake, that we may have life in us. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, and as we walk in His way, bearing proudly the crosses of our faith, may we remain resolute and strong in our commitment to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables; I will talk of old mysteries.

When He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God was their Rock, the Most High, their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His Covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offences and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger, and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 21 : 4b-9

The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we continue the narrative of yesterday’s celebration of the Triumph of the Holy Cross with the memorial of our Lady of Sorrows, the sorrowful mother of our Lord, who waited on her Son at the foot of the cross, where Jesus hung upon between the heavens and the earth. She waited patiently there, looking up as her Son expired and breathed His last, and His earthly work was done at last.

Mary knew that the day would come when she as a mother would have to see and feel the pain of seeing her Son suffering and dying before her own eyes. This had been prophesied by the prophet Simeon at the time when Jesus was only eight days old, when He was offered to the Lord as the first Son in the Temple of Jerusalem. At that time, Simeon and Anna the prophetess foretold Mary what would happen to her Son, and what it would mean to her in the time to come.

As a mother who loves her Son very greatly, as all mothers should, Mary certainly felt the great and inconsolable pain of seeing the suffering that her Son endured for the sake of all mankind. He was made to suffer for the faults and mistakes that He did not do, and He was sentenced to death even though He was innocent and without blame. And as He was led like a Lamb brought to the slaughterhouse in silent obedience, His mother also looked upon all these in silence.

This is why we also know Mary as the Mother of sorrows, our Lady of Sorrows, as the sorrowful heart of hers had to endure the death of her own Son, and an unjust and unreasonable one at that, for He was blameless and judged wrongly by His enemies who cried out for His death. And no mother should indeed witness the death of her own child, for she was supposed to live in happiness and see her children happy and prosperous around her.

But Mary is a great example to all mothers, and to all of us as well. She took all these with patience and with a great heart, and more importantly, she kept a great and unfailing faith in the Lord. She knew her part in the plan of salvation which God had revealed to her, even though not in full, but she knew that all that Jesus, her Son, had to go through, is for the better future of all mankind.

Thus, she persevered and pushed on, and painful as it was, she walked along her Son, following Him step by step as He walked down that path. And she faithfully stood by at the foot of the cross, committed and dedicated to the end. And Jesus knew how committed and dedicated His mother was, just as she had dedicated her entire life for Him. That was why He entrusted her to all of us mankind through His disciple John.

And in that way, He entrusted His mother to us, that she shall be our mother, and we become her children, as God also entrusted us all through John His disciple to Mary His own mother. And through this, Mary became our greatest help and intercessor who is constantly praying for us, interceding for our sake, and this is because of her own loving instinct as a mother, and our mother in that.

Shall we therefore, today, on this celebration in honour and memory of the sorrowful mother of our Lord, our Lady of Sorrows, Mary most faithful and devoted, pledge ourselves to dedicate ourselves more and more to her, and thus, through her we will be able to reach out to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and attain the salvation which He had promised to all those who keep their faith in Him.

Mary, our mother is always concerned about us, for we have been entrusted to her, and just as she had witnessed the great pain and suffering which Jesus her Son had endured for our sake, she would certainly not want to witness us falling into sin and then suffering the same sufferings which her Son had worked so hard to liberate us from, and therefore, she constantly prays for us, and we too should work together with her, and do our best in our own lives to make ourselves worthy of the Lord.

May Almighty God, and His sorrowful mother, who is faithful and devoted to Him at all times, help us to find our way to Him, and guide us so that we may not lose our path but be able to reach Him and the salvation and eternal life which He had promised us. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 19 : 25-27

Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciples, “There is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 33-35

The father and mother of Jesus wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a sign, a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”