Sunday, 27 October 2013 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brethren, beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. What right do we have to be proud and judgmental before God and before others? What right do we have to condemn others because we think that we are better than them? And what right do we have to boast of ourselves and the good things that we do, before the Lord our God? None, we have none of these rights, because we truly are all sinners without exception, all equal before the Lord.

The Lord loves all those who are humble, and those who are in deep realisation of their own sins. They are truly beloved by God, because they are those who are more likely to have God in their hearts, and also those who are more likely to put the Lord at the centre of their hearts and at the centre of their very being. It does not mean that the proud and the mighty do not have the Lord in their hearts, but they are predisposed to put less importance to the Lord compared to those who are meek and humble.

This is because, due to our nature, our pride very often stands in the way of salvation in God, as well as blocking the love of God from reaching us. When pride masters our hearts, it grows to arrogance, and a feeling of superiority that tends to shut out anything that points out our inadequacies and mistakes, because we tend to put ever more and more trust in our own strengths and abilities.

We must not therefore, be like the Pharisee, who basked in his own glory, and praising his own goodness. He even went on to look down upon those whom he considered to be not as good as him, particularly the tax collector. He thought of himself as being pious and saved, but in fact he is truly empty within him, and without God as the centre of his life.

In doing what he had done, the Pharisee had highlighted the pride he has in him, and how he gave in to that pride, and finally, in his prayers, he gave glory to himself and did not give glory to God. The Lord who sees all and knows all will give what the Pharisee and other people like him, what they deserved. They deserved neither praise nor honour, because in their pride, they gave no glory to God, and in a prayer full of hubris, they revealed the darkness of their souls.

Brethren, although Jesus used the example of the Pharisees to depict the bad seed in the society, in many different occasions and conditions, that is mainly because at that time, the Pharisees were well known for their very strict adherence to the laws of Moses, as well as the other, numerous Jewish laws and customs.

This is in fact good, as indeed, we all need to obey and follow God’s rules and laws. However, in the way that this was done by the Pharisees, they had not done what the Lord truly wanted them to do, and in fact, the Pharisees obeyed mostly the laws of men, that is the numerous rules, regulations, and rituals created by the people over many generations.

They have lost the understanding of the true meaning of the law of God, as well as how it should be implemented. They had become obsessed at the observation of the laws derived from the true law, that they did those rules without true understanding of why they did so. Even worse, as the leaders of the people and role model of the people, they have misguided the people of God, and also exploited them, by imposing on them the crushing weight of such rules and regulations.

What the Lord truly wants from us, His children, is the love and dedication that we can give Him, genuinely and sincerely, from the depth of our hearts. This kind of love is not easy for us to achieve, as it means the total giving of ourselves, the opening of our hearts to the Lord and His love. In the same way, the Lord also wants us to love one another just as we have loved ourselves, and just as we have loved Him. These are the essence of the true desire of the Lord for us, through which He guided us via His laws and commandments.

This is why, the Lord loves the prayer of the tax collector mentioned in Jesus’ teaching, where He mentioned that the prayer of the tax collector was heard and he had his sins forgiven for him. The tax collector did not only distance himself from the Holy Presence of God, feeling so unworthy because he realised the depth of his faults and iniquities, but he even lowered himself humbly before God’s presence, kneeling in great shame before God.

And yet, it is this tax collector who are more capable of understanding his own sins, being in greater realisation of the faults he had committed. As I would like to highlight again what the late, saintly Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had said, that the greater the sin one has, the closer is one to the throne of mercy. The darker one’s sins are, the more shame they should experience before the Lord their God.

Yet, the problem lies in that, many of us today are desensitised to sin. We are no longer feeling that shame whenever we commit sinful deeds. We instead even find sin to be good things and things that we enjoy. Hence we begin our path to downfall, by not realising the gravity of our sinfulness, and putting our pride ahead of us. In essence, we are becoming more and more like the Pharisee instead of the remorseful tax collector.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, lastly, the Lord also taught us the importance of prayer through the same parable, that we ought to pray, but not just any prayer. A prayer that is truly genuine and from the heart, made in complete submission to the will of God, and also complete willingness to listen to the word of God being spoken in our hearts.

Prayer is not just about us talking all the time, and neither it is a litany of demands and wishes for us to send to the Lord. Instead, a prayer is ought to be how it is intended, that is as a two-way communication channel between us and the Lord. That is what prayer truly is, brothers and sisters! Talk less and listen more! The Lord who knows all certainly knows what we truly need. It is often that what we desire is not what we need. In our greed it is likely for us to desire even things that we do not truly need.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, today all of us are called to a life of greater holiness, deeper spirituality, and greater commitment to the Lord. We need a deeper faith, a healthier prayer life, and ultimately, greater dedication and love for our fellow mankind, and especially, for the Lord Himself. May we grow ever stronger in our faith, our hope and love in God. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 15 August 2013 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are celebrating a great feast of our faith, that is the Assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore Christ into this world, her Assumption into heaven. What is this Assumption and why is it so special and so important to us? What is the significance of this event in our faith and in our Church?

The feast of the Assumption of Mary celebrates an important part of our faith that is the assumption of Mary at the end of her earthly life into heaven. This is not the same as our death and resurrection, brothers and sisters, because Mary did not die, nor did death had any sort of power over her. Instead, our Blessed Virgin and Mother of God was taken up in both body and spirit into heaven by the power of God Himself. Nothing truly is impossible for God, even with this kind of feat.

Our brethren in the Eastern Rites of the Church celebrate a similar but slightly different celebration called the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, in which, they believe that Mary was brought to sleep and then taken into heaven, not unlike our doctrine on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. All are centred on the fate of Mary, the mother of God, after the death, resurrection, and Ascension of her Son, Jesus into His glorious throne in heaven.

The great and saintly Pope Pius XII, whom will soon be declared saint when his canonisation process is complete in the near future, declared the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven 63 years ago, on 1 November of the year 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution ‘Munificentissimus Deus’ declaring definitively and conclusively through an infallible ‘ex cathedra’ proclamation, and in conjuction with the well-established belief and tradition of the faith that Mary did not suffer any form of physical death at the end of her life in this world, but instead was taken bodily into heaven.

Why was Mary taken up into heaven? Like Enoch of old, one of the direct descendants of Adam and an ancestor of Noah, she was taken up from us in this world into heaven to be with God. Enoch, unlike the other sons and daughters of mankind at the time, was a righteous and just person, a man of integrity, and a man of God, devoted and dedicated to the Lord his Master and Creator. It is because of his righteousness and his goodness, God did not want to allow him to be claimed by death and suffering, but He lifted him up into heaven, to be with Him for eternity.

Similarly, this had happened to Mary, the mother of our God. And even greater than Enoch because Mary was indeed special, in another essential part of our faith, we believe that Mary was indeed born into this world and indeed was conceived without the taint of sin, original sin or whatsoever. This she had revealed herself to St. Bernadette Soubirous, at the site now famously known as Lourdes, in a series of vision and appearances more than 150 years ago.

Our Lord’s mother was conceived into this world without sin, or the Immaculate Conception of Mary was because ever before she was conceived, she had been chosen as the vessel through which, the Salvation of our world is to come from. Yes, she was the one to bear the very Son of the Most High God, who came down to be one of us, that through Him, the whole of mankind may be saved from death, that is not just the physical death, but the eternal death caused by the separation from God in hell.

And because Mary had been chosen to be the mother of our Lord and God who is perfect and without sin Himself, it is fitting that she herself has no sin or taint on her own, and that brought about her Immaculate Conception, that she was indeed, through her life, pure as snow and blameless, as a lamb without defect, the same as her Son, Jesus.

In the same way then, at the end of her life, Mary did not suffer death and was directly brought to heaven in the same way Enoch her ancestor was taken up by God. Mary did not suffer death because just as her Son Jesus had conquered death and be triumphant over all evils and hell through His most glorious resurrection from the dead after His crucifixion, thus, it is not fitting for His own mother to be claimed by the power of death. Yes, because death is in fact a punishment to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, because we have rebelled and sinned against the Lord our God Almighty.

Ever since our first forefathers sinned against God by their disobedience, they have been cast out from the perfection of the Lord. Death was not originally intended for them, and never would death had claimed them, because they would have remained with God in eternal happiness had it not been for their sin and disobedience. Suffering and death is then the punishment that mankind had to suffer for the sins they have committed.

Through Mary, the deliverance of our world was brought at hand, the deliverance brought through Jesus, the shepherd and not any shepherd, but the Good Shepherd, who will lead the people of God, as the King of all the nations, and King of all kings. The vision of St. John the Baptist in the Book of Revelation on the lady crowned by stars bearing the baby indeed reflect what had happend through Mary and her Son, Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Mary is exalted above all else save God Himself, because of her role in the plan of salvation, and her many good deeds and total obedience to the will of God.

The lady labouring with child in pain, in fact also represent all of us, all mankind ever since the time of Adam until the last man, who labour in difficulty and suffering, longing to be freed from the seemingly inevitable and unescapeable fate of death and damnation in hell for our sins and disobedience. The great red dragon, who is Satan, the enemy of all that is good, threatens to destroy us, and drag us with him into eternal damnation in hell, just as he had converted even many of the heavenly angels to his cause, represented by the one third of the stars of the sky taken by the dragon.

Yet, as we know that the deliverance had come, through the Son of God made man, Jesus Christ. Yes, He is the Son destined to rule the nations, and the One taken up to heaven, to the throne of God. Yes, exactly as what had happened, that after His death and resurrection, Jesus was taken up into heaven by His own power in His glorious Ascension. He will then come again in glory, to judge all the nations and deliver the righteous ones to Him, and cast the wicked ones forever away from His presence. He is our hope, our only hope, born through the Virgin Mary, whose Assumption we celebrate today.

Why then we celebrate this Assumption? That is because, our Blessed Virgin Mary is truly an example to all of us, the role model we ought to follow, through her upright life, filled with love, devotion, and full obedience to the will of God. She is the greatest help and intercessor to us, indeed, the greatest of all saints and angels in heaven, the one nearest to the throne of God. That is why we revere her as the Queen of all saints and of angels. Her Assumption into heaven reminds all of us of this fact, as well as the fact that through Jesus, her Son, we have all been saved, saved from death and eternal damnation in hell.

Jesus gave Mary to John, His disciple, before He died on the cross, and He also gave him to her, to care for one another. At that moment, the Lord gave both Mary to all of us, represented by John, and then all of us, He also entrusted to Mary, His mother, just as He entrusted John to her care. Yes, in Mary we have our greatest defender, and our greatest help in achieving the salvation offered by our Lord Jesus Christ, indeed, the best way to Christ is through Mary, that is by following her examples, be obedient and loving as she had been, and asking her for her intercession for our sake before her Son, Jesus.

That is why, brothers and sisters, let us strengthen our love and devotion to the Lord, by strengthening our own devotion to Mary, His mother, who was lifted up to heaven in glory at the end of her life and now defend us before Satan our accuser. Let us together with our mother, Mary, rebuke Satan and reject his evil advances and temptations, and put his head under our feet and crush it, just as Mary, through her Son, had crushed the head of the evil snake, as foretold by God Himself to Eve.\

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, in her glorious Assumption into heaven, continue to pray for us, and intercede for us with all the saints and angels of heaven before the throne of her Son Jesus, that He, the King of all Kings and the victorious and conquering king, will come to smite the devil, the dragon, and bring us all to Him, and bless us with eternal grace and eternal life in heaven. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

My Prayer Intention for Tuesday, 6 August 2013

1. For all of us. May the Lord who revealed His glory and majesty to His disciples in the wondrous Transfiguration, also reveals to us the greatness of His glory, the depth of His love and compassion, as well as the infinite wonders of His mercy. May He continue to bless us with His blessings and grace as we, His children, journeyed through this world of fear and darkness, that we will be brave, and not satisfied just being within our zones of comfort, but dare to step out and make a difference in the life of others.

2. For the victims of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially those of Hiroshima, who suffered ever since the bomb was detonated on Hiroshima, on this very day, 68 years ago. May the Lord comfort them and remain with them, and may He heal them from their afflictions through His infinite love and mercy. May He grant them perseverance and strength, and also understanding to those around them, that they will not ostracise them because of what had happened to them, but instead embrace them with love, as brothers and sisters, children of the same God.

3. For our late Pope Paul VI, the Venerable Pope Paul VI, who died on this day 35 years ago, on 6 August 1978, on this Feast of the Transfiguration. May the Transfigured Christ welcome him and be with him in the eternal bliss of heaven that is his reward. We thank the Lord for Venerable Pope Paul VI and his hard work for the sake of God’s Church and God’s people. We pray that he will also soon be elevated to the Altar, as one of the holy saints of the Lord.

We ask these prayers and petitions, in the Most Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Transfigured Lord and God, who is fully divine, yet fully human, and He who had delivered us from death through His own death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection. God bless us all. Amen.

My Prayer Intention for Wednesday, 31 July 2013

1. For Jesuits around the world and all those affiliated to the Society of Jesus as a whole, including our Pope Francis. May the Lord bless them and protect them as they embark on their daily journeys of work amongst God’s people and ministering to those who are least, weakest, and abandoned in our society. May the Lord work His power through them and strengthen the faith and love we have for Him through their work. May the Jesuits continue to serve the Lord and His people for the Lord’s own greater glory, in line with the motto of their founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, that is ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ – ‘For the greater glory of God’

2. For all priests around the world, religious and diocesan. May they always recall their calling in life, and their total commitment to the Lord, as His bride, and the bride of the Church, the leaders and shepherds of the people of God. May they remain faithful to their calling and their vocation, and may they always exercise the power and authority that God had granted them with care, and full of love and compassion, especially to those who are without love, and to those who still live in the darkness of evil. May the Lord ever strengthen the faith, love, and hope in their hearts.

3. For all those aspiring to the priesthood and religious life. May the Lord who calls them to His service strengthen their devotion and resolution to His cause, and the cause of His beloved people, that they will be able to make a carefully thought decision, and that they will be able to commit to the choices they are to make, so that in all the things they do, they will always remain in the grace of God and bring the blessings of the Lord to all around them. Keep their faith and dedication in the Lord strong and ever living, despite the challenges and the temptations that await them along the way.

4. For victims of prejudice and persecution of all kinds. May the Lord be with all of them, and protect them, strengthen them with His love, that they will persevere. And most importantly that they will not keep grudge or hatred against their enemies, but be resolved to forgive them with all sincerity of heart. May the Lord end all forms of injustice, prejudice, hatred, and persecution in our world.

May the Lord accept all these humble prayers that we lift up to Him in heaven. May the angels bring these petitions and may the saints intercede always for us sinners still walking on this earth. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to Jesus explaining the meaning behind the parable of the weeds and the sower which He had told to His disciples and the people of Israel. He told them that the fate awaiting the wicked ones is death and eternal suffering in hell, while the fate awaiting the righteous ones is eternal joy and bliss in heaven, with our Lord, reunited in perfect goodness and glory of God.

The seeds of the weeds spread by the devil is the evil and corruption he had spread in this world to lead mankind astray from their path towards the Lord. The seeds of evil are greed, wrath, hatred, lust, jealousy, despair, arrogance, and pride. They are our weaknesses that made us prone to fall into the damnation reserved for the devil and his fallen angels, the fate of the weeds. This is because, as we all know, weeds are dangerous, because they compete with the healthy plants for nutrition, and when the weeds grow large, they also may likely strangle the healthy plants and kill them.

The same therefore is bound to happen to all of us, if we do not take precautions against the devil and his mischievous tools, all the tools in the world that he possesses to be employed against us, the beloved children of God. The devil is the sower of the evil weeds of sin, that if we are not careful, will grow within us and around us, and choke the good that is in us, turning us from the path of salvation into the path towards doom.

Our Lord and God, as Moses had said in the first reading we heard today, is a merciful and loving God, One who is slow to anger and rich in kindness and compassion. He is sure to welcome us back into His embrace if we are to be repentant and truly regret our sins and our wrongdoings before Him. We must not be shy to admit that we have sinned before God, because He is our loving Father, and He wants to rescue us from certain death.

But He is also a jealous God, a God who is just and against any form of sin. That is because He is perfect goodness and sin is corruption that had marred our perfection ever since the times of Adam and Eve, when Satan tricked Eve into eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and disobeyed the Lord in the process. It is because of our disobedience that we deserved death, and Adam and Eve deserved death and annihilation, and yet God showed them mercy and although they were punished to live in great difficulty on earth, they were not annihilated.

Death did claim them and our ancestors in the end, but death would not have the final say. That was because the Lord Himself gave His all so that we may have a new hope for eternal life in Him, to return us to our true inheritance, as what God had originally intended for us at creation. He did not desire us to suffer or die, but He wants us all to live, forever with Him in the bliss of heaven, to spend all our time in the beautiful Gardens of Eden.

He sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfillment of His long-awaited promise, that He would send a redeemer to all mankind. The ultimate proof of His love and care for us. So great is His love that He is willing to suffer in our place, to die in our place, and to be our light of hope. He is the light of hope and salvation, because He did not remain in the land of the dead, but by the power of the Lord, He broke free the chains of sin and death that had held us for generations, and risen from the dead He became the source of salvation for all who believe in Him.

We must sow the seeds of faith, of hope, and of love in our hearts, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we will be ever ready to combat the seeds of evil that Satan and his cronies always try to sow within our hearts. Do not be afraid, for he no longer has any power or authority over us, ever since Christ broke that bond that enthralled us to the evil one. We must however remain ever vigilant and ever careful, lest the devil successfully subvert our thoughts and our hearts to be against the Lord and His will.

Let us strive to be the wheat and not the weeds, and may the seeds of faith, hope, and love that is within us grow strong, that they become the nutrients and fertiliser that help us, the wheat to grow strong and bear much fruits, that the Lord who sees us, will be pleased and He will then tell His angels to come and collect us from amongst the weeds and bring us to Him, to enjoy forever His grace, His blessings, and His loving embrace.

Today, brothers and sisters, we also commemorate the Feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, who was made a Bishop of Ravenna in the ending years of the Roman Empire during the early Church. He was well known for his inspiring speeches and preaching, that called all Christians to be faithful to God and defend themselves against any form of heresies that threatened to corrupt their soul and their true faith in God.

At the time of St. Peter Chrysologus, at the heyday of the Roman Empire, there existed numerous heresies of the faith, many of which were really serious threat on the unity of the Church and the faithful, and some of them had ideas diametrically opposite to the truth of the Apostolic Fathers, the truth that is of Christ. Many of them, corrupted by the seeds of evil, the weeds planted by the evil one, subverted the words of the Lord and the message of salvation to serve their own ends, and ultimately, serve the cause of evil.

Many people fell victim to the corrupting nature of these heresies, which attacked the truth about our faith in the Lord, in the Lord Himself, and even His Blessed Mother, Mary. St. Peter Chrysologus, as the then Bishop of Ravenna in today’s Italy, was faced with the same problems and challenges that faced the Church of his time. Yet, he did not waver nor did he become afraid to confront those challenges. Instead, he faced them courageously, and with great zeal and inspiration, through his sermons, he converted the faithful back to the truth of Christ, getting rid of the weeds that choked the life out of the faith of the people of God.

Today, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the need is ever greater for more people like St. Peter Chrysologus, in defending our faith and ourselves, from the corruption that comes from Satan. We must be courageous in standing up for the Lord in the face of the devil and bluntly reject all his approaches and his temptations to us. We must stand up for the Lord and His love, His compassion for us. Never let go of the Lord and embrace evil, no matter how difficult the challenges of life are. We must always be strong, as St. Peter Chrysologus had been.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today renew our commitment to God, to the Lord who loves us, to God who cares for us every day of our life, and commit ourselves to glorify His Name among men, and to never give in to the allures of the evil one, and be courageous to reject all of his approaches. May the Lord who is love and who is mercy, forgive us our sins, purify us and make us whole once again. St. Peter Chrysologus, pray for us sinners and intercede for us before the Lord our God. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the parable of the sower, the well-known parable in the Gospel Reading, and also the rebelliousness of Israel during their journey in the desert, in the First Reading today, complaining to the Lord that they had a much better and fulflling life in Egypt in slavery compared to their freedom in the desert.

The parable of the sower tells us that while the Word of God is truly available for all people to witness, to see, and to listen, but ultimately, it is how we as a person take in that Word of God and nurture it, that the Word of God, that is our faith, likened to the seed spread by the sower, can find good soil in our hearts and grow.

As all of you would have guessed, yes, the sower is none other than the Lord Himself, who gave His light to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, and from Him, the teachings came down upon us through His Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, who are also sowers and labourers in the fields of the Lord. We are the soil, the ground on which the seeds land on, and where the seeds will be able to grow, if the conditions are met and suitable, or perish if the conditions are unfavourable for the growth of the seeds.

The seeds that fall on the path, and then eaten by the birds are likened to those of us, whose faith and devotion to the Lord are weak, and therefore, the devil came and took away the seeds of faith from our hearts. He and his angels come like the birds, eating away the seeds of faith God has planted in us, because the seeds did not take root, and therefore, the faith easily became lost. This is what happened if we keep the Lord out of our hearts and the devil may therefore enter and occupy our hearts, corrupting us to do his purpose, that is sin and evil.

The seeds that fall on the rocky ground did not manage to grow long enough before they withered because of the scorching sun, their faith grew quickly like the seeds, because the soil is shallow, just as their faith is shallow, without deep roots to sustain their faith, and their growth. When difficulties and challenges of the world present themselves, with all the temptations of the world, those whose faith is likened to the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, will quickly lose their faith, just as the seeds’ plants withered.

This one particularly most closely represent the situation portrayed in the First Reading today, and the general attitude of the people of Israel during the duration of the Exodus from Egypt. The people of Israel were easily awed and made astonished by the display of the power of God, especially by the plagues and miracles made by Moses in the power of the Lord, against the Egyptians, and during the sojourn of Israel in the desert. Yet, just like the seeds on the rocky ground, which do not manage to have deep roots on the shallow soil, the faith of Israel was indeed shallow and weak.

They were terrified and amazed by miracles and shows of power of God, but their faith did not have strong roots, and when difficulties and trials came, with hunger and the suffering in the desert, they abandoned their faith in God and even tested God, whether He could help them and deliver them from the sufferings they faced. They became angry at the Lord and His servant, Moses, and they made complaints after complaints, even after the Lord had repeatedly made visible His power and authority to the people of Israel.

Their disobedience led to great sins, and the people worshipped pagan gods, beginning from the golden calf that the people had forced Aaron to make when Moses stayed with God on His mountain for forty days and forty nights. They did not give their trust and love for God, and instead believing more in their own power, the power of men. They did not love God but love His miracles. They did not love Him but love the food He provided them. This is a lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not become like them, to dwell in superficial things and the things of this world, satisfying our own desires, but lacking love for God. We have to love God as the first priority in our lives.

Then, let us also be wary of the worries of the world, because like the seeds that fell on thistles, the thistles grew around the plants and killed them. They are those of us who failed to keep up our faith, because they have been bombarded by countless worries and evils of the world, which brought much stress and worry to them, so that they have ended up forgetting the Lord their God. They have been blinded by their worry that they became blind to the Lord, and choked by those worries.

Those worries of the world, of what we are to eat today, of what we are to wear today, to our work or to party, or even what are we going to do today, and where are we going today, should not be our priorities in life. Indeed, that is because these worries will tend to divert our attention, which should be given to the Lord and doing good for the people of God, into thinking solely for our own sake, which breeds strong sense of selfishness. We must be selfless, brothers and sisters, and give ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters in need of love, in need of help.

We must strive to be like the seeds that fall on rich soil, on deep ground, well watered and filled with ample nutrition, that allows the plants to grow to great heights and remain healthy. The same too should happen to us and our faith and love to the Lord. We must nurture our faith at all times, as we journey through this life, and nurture it with good works, with a healthy prayer life, and devotion to the Lord and through the intercession of His saints. If we do so, we will grow stronger in our faith, and the love that is in us will blossom, and many will feel the love of God through us.

Today, we commemorate the feast day of St. Charbel Makhluf, a Maronite monk who passed away just over a century ago. He was a devout and very pious Maronite, who joined the religious order of monkhood, to dedicate himself fully to the Lord in prayer and love. Despite a relatively uneventful life, after his death, he became a source of many miracles, both through his intercessions and his uncorrupted body.

St. Charbel Makhluf is an example for all of us Christians, the children of God, to follow, so that we too can follow his example of holy life dedicated to God and the love that he expressed in his life through his actions, that we nurture the faith that is in us through strong devotion to God and constant prayers, so that we will always keep ourselves attuned to the will of God. That we may bear much fruits, hundredfold and manyfold of what has been planted, what has been given to all of us.

May God bless us, and may He strengthen us in our faith and our love, for Him and our fellow brethren, and inspired by the example and holiness of St. Charbel Makhluf, may we bear fruits, fruits of love and compassion, the blessed fruits of the Holy Spirit, for the good of everyone, and for our salvation. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Indeed, we are all brethren, brothers and sisters to one another, because all of us share the same Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, who is our Brother. He did not leave mankind behind when we sinned against Him and rebelled against His love and His will. Instead, as the reading pointed out today, He came to dwell among us, and be with us, that we become His brethren, and will have part in Him and His salvation.

The Lord dwells within us, because we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, which must be kept holy at all times, and free from the filth of sin and evil. To do so, we must reflect Christ in all the things that we do, in all the words that we say, and in all the works of our hands. And to reflect Christ simply means to love, loving God with all our hearts and our entire being, and also to love our neighbours, our brethren as much as we love ourselves.

If we do all these, in the complete awareness of what we are doing, which glorify Christ more and more, we will be brought closer and ever be with God. He will accept us as His own, as His brethren, and He will protect us from the harm caused by the evil one. To us, He had shown compassion and love, just as the love shown by shepherd to his sheep. If we are lost, like the lost sheep, He will do all the things He can, in order to bring us back to Him again.

But we must also remain obedient to Christ, as even if we are already saved, we can be lost once again, if we do not remain faithful to our calling in life, that is to be with Christ and to love Him with all our strength. Especially, in our world today, it is easy for one to fall away from grace, because of the increasing materialism in this world, the temptations of pleasure and false happiness that this world provide to many people, that they began to turn away from the teachings of Christ.

Doing the will of God is what God truly desires from us all, and in following Christ and His teachings, we are doing the will of God, that is love, for one another, and for God Himself. If we show love in our actions, we are doing God’s will and therefore will always remain in God’s grace, and we will be save from damnation of death and hell that awaits those who disobeyed the Lord and continued their lives in sin.

Today, we are celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, an important feast day for the Carmelites, a well-known religious order, which began at Mount Carmel itself, which is located in Israel today, the same location where the prophet Elijah contested against the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, the pagan god, in front of the people of Israel, on who is the true God of Israel.

Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, appeared to St. Simon Stock, who was the founder of the Carmelite Order, and gave him what is well-known today as the brown scapular, closely associated with this feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Carmelites themselves placed the Blessed Virgin Mary as the perfect role model for all faithful to follow, in their faith to the Lord, in following the example of Mary herself, in her dedication to her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, from His birth, to His suffering on the way to Calvary and death on the cross.

So devoted is our Lady to her Son, our Lord Jesus, that she followed Him all the way through His suffering for our sake, to the cross, and stood by below Him, accompanying Him through the time of His greatest ordeal. Though sword pierced her heart, for seeing the cruel death of her Son, she persevered and our Lord gave her to His disciple, John, and gave him to His mother too.

Therefore, in the same way, our Blessed Virgin Mary had been given to us by the Lord Himself, and we had also been given to the care of our Lady, whom we celebrate today as the Lady of Mount Carmel, to be our mother and helper. Why helper? Because our Lady is the greatest of the saints, through her own position being the mother of God, but even more importantly because of her purity and dedication to the Lord and all God’s children.

Today we follow the example of the Carmelites, to give our love and dedication to the Lord, through His mother, our Blessed Virgin Mary. Because, just as the Carmelites stress in their formations and principles, there is no better way to the Lord other than through Mary, His mother. Mary is our greatest intercessor before the Lord for His mercy and help, because, just as at the wedding at Cana, Jesus did listen to His mother, when she pleaded with Him to help the wedding brides despite Him telling her explicitly that the time has not yet come for Him to reveal His power.

That is why we dedicate ourselves in prayer through the Blessed Virgin Mary, who became a guide in our journey towards the Lord. She helps us through her prayer, and because she is closest among the saints in heaven to the Lord, our prayers will be heard, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

That is why it is good for us to follow the example of the Carmelites and indeed, of our Lady herself, in their dedication to Jesus our Lord, on the love they have to our Lord and Saviour. Jesus did not mean any disrespect when He seemingly rebuked His own family when they were waiting for Him as told in the Gospel today. Indeed, Jesus actually affirmed the honoured position His mother had, because Jesus told the people that whoever does the will of God and do things for the sake of the Lord, they are His brethren, His family. Who else is more faithful and more obedient to the will of God other than Mary, our Lord’s own mother? The Virgin who readily accepted her role in the salvation of all mankind by accepting the Lord’s will for her, to be the vessel that brought the Saviour into this world.

Surely, today we must rejoice, that we have our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for our sake before her Son, our Lord and God. Through her we can be closer to Christ, and through her prayers for our sake, all of us who are sinners have greater hope of salvation, because Christ Himself will surely be moved by the petitions and pleas of His own mother, who cares for us just like her own children. Remember, when Christ gave His mother to John to be cared for, He also gave her to us, that we become her own, and receive the love and care that she had once shown Jesus.

May our Lady of Mount Carmel, our Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for us and protect us from the harm of evil that is in our world, and through her, may we be able to get closer and reach higher to Christ, her Son, that in the future, we will be able to praise Him together with her, and all the saints and holy people of God in heaven. Amen.