Saturday, 25 October 2014 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture and Gospel readings are very clear in that they gave us great and precious advice on how to live our lives and how to be faithful to our Lord and God. The readings showed how God is not an unjust and cruel God who is only concerned about punishing us for our sins, nor would He unjustly punish us without good reason.

God is loving and merciful, and He is willing to welcome us back into His love. Indeed, it is not just that He is willing to do so, but He indeed wants to bring us back into His embrace, and thus He sent us Apostles, disciples, messengers, prophets and other helpers endlessly to be our guides and to help us to orientate ourselves, to avoid being recaptured by the hands of Satan and by the power of sin and to help us to live righteously and justly according to the will of God.

But, this is not the only thing we need to know about the Lord. Our Lord and God is indeed loving and merciful, but at the same time, He is also just and a hater of all forms of sins. I have often mentioned this before, and I would like to repeat it again, for the benefit of all the faithful who hear this message. This is because many of us seem to fall under the lie and delusion that God is loving and merciful only, overlooking the other aspects of Him that we need to understand if we are to achieve salvation in God.

We live in a time when our sensitivities towards sin had been diluted and weakened, and the culture of death and wickedness that is in the world, and which is continuing to change the world in accordance to what Satan wishes, is harming us all, brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of our fellow men were ensnared in the web of deception and temptation set up by the devil, who is and will always be active and about to bring about the downfall of as many souls as possible.

While in the past, sin is sin and being sinful brought about great regrets and repentance, now people often no longer regard their sinful acts as something wrong or something to be regretted. Their casual attitude towards sin is harmful, and that was also why they have committed even more and more sin in their lives. Many have the misconception that God understands them and will forgive them no matter what their sins are, but they were really completely wrong, and if they continue in this attitude, they are in great danger, both soul and body.

The lack of apprehension and disgust towards sin by men, especially in the world of our time is truly unbelievable and dangerous. Instead of seeking God’s mercy and repent for even the smallest sins that we have, we continue to commit sin and disregarding God’s laws and commandments, doing as we like in this life, thinking that God will forgive us in the end because of His love.

But we have to remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord hates sin in all of its forms and sin is the greatest barrier that separate us from the love of God. As long as the taints of sin remain on our selves, on our body and soul, and we do not repent from those sins, we cannot approach and be one with our Lord and God. That is because, despite of His love and mercy, grace for all of us can only be achieved if we take concrete steps and actions to truly commit ourselves to the Lord.

Thus, that is why the Church, as the guardian of the Faith as it was given to us by Christ through His Apostles, kept the stance on having mercy only when the sinner is truly repentant and desire true forgiveness of sins, not by an easy path, but through gracious devotion to the way of the Lord and by acts of reparation to repay the debts of sin which the sinner had incurred against the Lord.

There are indeed pressures from this world and all who are aligned with Satan and the forces of darkness, as we recently witnessed in the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which had just been concluded at the end of last week. The social media and media in general, in all of their various forms aired their opinions pushing for the agenda to destroy the Faith and the Church, which was advocated by even some within the Church.

Yes, it is the advocation of false and deceiving mercy to sinners, and the notion that the Church tolerates sin, that is most dangerous, not just for those who have committed those grievous sins, but even for the righteous within the Church of God. If we allow this corruption and debauchery of the world to make its way into the Faith and the Church, we are bringing ruin and disaster upon ourselves.

God reminds us through Jesus that He always wants to give us chances and opportunities, as what Jesus told in His parable of the fig tree that did not bear any fruit and was barren. The fig tree was given another chance by the Lord, who gave it another chance to redeem itself, before it is given up for cutting and burning. Thus, in the same way God had given us chance, and even many chances for us to repent and become better, and abandon our sinful ways.

Therefore, it is imperative for all of us to put our complete trust in Jesus Christ our Lord, the root of Faith, the One who is our anchor in our faith and life. Just as St. Paul had written in his letter to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, he pointed out that the Lord Jesus came to this world to rescue us and to give us new hope, through sincere repentance and humility to seek God’s mercy.

If we do these, then Christ, whose death has washed away our sins and whose resurrection from the dead offer us new hope in life, will bring us from the shadow of death and into the liberated life in God. Mercy cannot be separated from repentance, or otherwise the mercy will be false mercy and bring harm instead of goodness.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all detach ourselves from the impurities of this world and purify ourselves in faith. May Almighty God bless us with faith and His love, and may He help us to guard us from the depredations of sin. May all of us get closer to the Lord and put all of our trust to Him, and with Him as our anchor in life, let us all humbly seek His mercy and sincerely offer our repentance to Him, that He may justify us in our repentance and faith. God bless us all. Amen.

Final document of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family

(Update : The official final Synod document is still in processing and will be released soon. Below document is the summary by the Synod Fathers)

The 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family had been concluded, and we give thanks to God for helping His Church to defend the true Faith, and that He did not allow those who wished to see our Faith compromised and destroyed to have their way. May the Lord continue to watch over His Church as we await the second part of the Synod of the Family in 2015.

The Church is the guardian of the Tradition of the Faith and the Deposit of the Faith, and no one may alter the teachings of the Church which came down to us from the Apostles and thus from Jesus Christ our Lord. We can help sinners to return to the Faith but not to offer false mercy. The sanctity of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is inviolable, and marriage is between one man and one woman, made one by the Lord and no man should divide. Remember that Jesus had said that those who divorce and remarry commit adultery and thus live in a state of grave sin.

The same state of sin also apply to all others in unnatural order outside of Christian marriage, and until they repent from their sins and make their penance, they should indeed abstain from receiving the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, lest they sin against the Holy Spirit. Let us help them by welcoming them back and guiding them to repentance, that one day they may once again receive the Lord with full faith.

I also recommend all of you to read the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Theology of the Body by Pope St. John Paul II, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The text of the final summary document of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family can be found below.

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/18/0768/03043.html

 

III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY

OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

 

MESSAGE

            We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.

We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.

We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.

Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

***

There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

 

This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.

This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.

The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.

We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:

            Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.

            Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.

            Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

            Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

            Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

Sunday, 22 June 2014 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the day of Corpus Christi, or also known as the Solemnity of the Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we receive regularly into ourselves through the Holy Eucharist, by consuming the bread and wine which had been changed completely into that of the essence of our Lord Himself.

Today we celebrate this great reality of our faith, which is indeed the central tenet and focus of our faith in God. For we believe in God who out of His great and infinite love for us, dedicated for us none other than His own Son, Jesus Christ, that through Him and His giving of Himself, we mankind who suffer from the consequences of our sins, may be free.

It is essential and most imperative that we all believe in the gift of our Lord’s own flesh and blood, which He had repeatedly uttered to His disciples, and which He offered on the Last Supper and through the cross of suffering. And it is also imperative that we believe, as instituted on the Last Supper by Jesus Himself, He had passed down the same authority He had, unto the disciples, so that all of us the faithful may also receive the same Body and Blood that nourishes and saves.

There are many those who deny this fundamental truth of our faith, because they were misguided and misled by the lies and the powers of the evil one. He tricked them into thinking that among many others, how the Lord Jesus could not have possibly offered Himself again and again every time we celebrate the Eucharist in the Mass, and yet others said that the Mass and the Eucharist are merely memorials of what happened on the Last Supper. All these are lies, brethren, the lies of the devil designed to trap us and fool us.

First of all, the Lord did not repeat again and again His ultimate sacrifice on the cross every time the priests celebrate the Holy Mass and change the bread and wine into the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord. He did not die again and again for our sake every time we have the Mass and every time the memorial of His death is read in the Eucharistic Prayer.

Those who deny the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist have the exact same arguments, but they lack a fundamental and most important piece, that is, each and every Mass said by the priest, the offering of the bread and wine, are all mystically and perfectly united to the one, singular and ultimate act of love which Christ had done on the cross for us.

Yes, brethren, the Mass which our priests, bishops and all those ordained celebrate validly and with the fullness of faith are all part of that same sacrifice which Jesus made on the cross that day, on the hill of Golgotha, suffering all of our sins and wickedness so that we may live and be saved from ultimate and eternal death in sin.

That is why, as Jesus Himself had given the authority to His Apostles, and from them our priests today, the Eucharist that we celebrate in the Mass, in the form of bread and wine, are truly transformed completely in form and substance into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon the words of consecration by the priest, ‘This is My Body… and this is My Blood…’ The bread is no longer bread but the Body of our Lord, and the wine is no longer wine but the Blood of our Lord.

This is the truth that many conveniently had forgotten or had chosen to forget, thinking that in relying on their human wisdom and intellect they know it better than the Lord Himself and those whom He had appointed to be His ministers. Indeed, scientifically and in a passing glance, it is hard to believe that the plain bread of the communion host and the wine in the chalice had turned into the Real Presence of our Lord, but they do, and they were transformed completely and without doubt.

God gave the ancestors of Israel, food and drink to consume while they were journeying in the desert for forty years. He gave them even food from heaven, the honey-like manna, whom they ate regularly each day of their journey. However, they do not live and die, because these bread, heavenly as they were, they were not the living bread, of which there is only one, that is Jesus Christ, the Living Bread that brings life.

The Bread of life gave of Himself that we may live, and the Wine of salvation gave of Himself so that we may be cleansed of our sins and corruptions that separated us away from God our Father. This is the truth about our faith, and the reality that we all need to reflect on, and always keep in mind. Jesus did not joke or lie when He said that those who receive His Body and Blood will live eternally, for those who receive these, such as us, has been given the grace of having the Lord Himself present within us through our reception of the Holy Eucharist.

In our world today, and even in the Church, it is sad how so many people had lapsed in their reverence for the Real Presence in the Eucharist. While this may be contributed by different factors and reasons, the lack of reverence and understanding of the faith and the Lord’s intentions, but the drop in our respect and adoration for the Real Presence in the recent years and decades had been truly unacceptable.

Why, brothers and sisters? Because the Real Presence in the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Communion we receive is the concrete and real proof of the love of God for us. That He cared so much for us and devoted Himself so greatly for our sake, that He gave us no less than His own Son, to be our Saviour, and through the giving of His own Body and Blood, He made us His own and at the same time, we make Him ours as well.

And note the term Communion that we use, when we receive the Lord in the Eucharist into ourselves. This is because through the reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord, we are made one Body and one Spirit in Christ, that is all of us who believe and who worthily receive Him into ourselves, we have been united as one Body, by the common presence of the Lord in each and all of us.

The Holy Communion is not something to be taken lightly, brothers and sisters in Christ. Just recently we know that certain so and so tried to push for the restoration of Communion to the divorced and many other cases of improper behaviour of the faith. Yet, these people, who are still fighting for their cause, even those high in position within our Church, have truly misunderstood and lacked the knowledge of the importance of the Real Presence to us.

We cannot be a people lacking in love and grace indeed, but we must be caring and at the same time, we have to highlight the importance of this tenet of the transubstantiation, that is the real conversion of the bread and wine into the essence of our Lord, as something not just a memorial or an enactment, but as part of that same sacrifice on Golgotha, which the Lord had done out of His love for us, so that we may be saved.

From now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take the Eucharist seriously, and let us begin to return the proper exaltation and adoration that we have to give to our Lord, in the Real Presence. Let us believe in Him and put our trust in Him, so that we may not be lost, but be saved in His infinite mercy and love. Let us help to remind one another, that because it is the Lord and really the Lord who we receive into ourselves, that we make ourselves worthy of Him as we receive Him, lest we suffer the terrible consequences of our lack of repentance and adoration.

May God in the Most Holy Eucharist, who gave us His own Body and Blood so that we may live, strengthen our faith by dwelling within us, and also turn those who had committed sin and things wicked in His eyes, that they may always long for Him and strive to repent from their sinfulness, and once again be reunited to us as one Body and one Spirit in Christ. Amen.