Sunday, 8 December 2013 : Second Sunday of Advent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Today, we hear about the story of St. John the Baptist, the one who became the herald and the messenger of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the One who was to save the world. St. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus was the one who prepared the way for the Lord, not with loud trumpets and the song of angels, but with the call in the desert, the call for the repentance of peoples.

For mankind had been long under the thrall of sin, such that they were long enslaved by the evils of sin. They were not prepared to receive the Lord in that state. They have to be prepared first, that when the Lord came, they were in a state where they would be more receptive to the messages of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

John gained great successes, because throngs of people came to him to be baptised at the Jordan, and committed themselves to the repentance over their sins. Yet, this does not mean that he had an easy job, as you all would notice, how, just as Jesus had encountered opposition and challenges from them, John too faced the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who trusted only in themselves and in their religious knowledge and truth, and not in the revelation brought first by John and made whole by Christ.

They were the people whose sense of self-righteousness brought the people of God to ruin. They thought that they had been very pious and faithful to the Lord by obeying all of His commandments and laws without fail, but they had gotten it all wrong. When they did all those rituals and commandments, they did them not for God, but for themselves.

They liked to be praised on the streets, in the Temple, and by whoever they met along the way. They were the pious ones, the influential ones, the powerful ones, the ones with authority over the people, as leaders and teachers of the people especially in the matters pertaining to the faith, and yet they failed, miserably. They looked and thought highly upon themselves and condemned others who did not do what they had done.

They questioned John because they first saw in him, a rival to their teaching authority and their influence. They also questioned him because they did not look highly and kindly on him, just as later on they would not have high regards for Jesus either. For them, the faith is all about obedience, observation, and most importantly, to them, the obedience of the people to their way and method of teaching, including the way of thinking and the way they had interpreted the faith for the people.

In this, they had misled the people, and brought them to damnation instead of to salvation, and that was why John was so angry at them, for these people had abused their authority as leaders of the people, leading them to the wrong way. John showed the people a preview of the work of salvation in Jesus, that is mercy and love.

If the Pharisees condemned sinners and people they thought as unworthy as sinners, thinking that they did not deserve salvation, unlike them, and if the Sadducees jeered on those who put their faith in the resurrection and new life in God after this world, John and later Jesus Himself, showed that the nature of God is love, compassion, kindness, and mercy.

The Lord is slow to anger and rich in mercy, and if only that we repent and turn our back from our lives of sin, the Lord will welcome us with wide, open hands, to welcome us into His kingdom, the rewards He had repeatedly promised us through Jesus Himself. In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly said to His disciples and to the people, that all who believe in Him will not die but live, a new and eternal life. Jesus also repeatedly stressed that the Lord shows mercy to those who seek His forgiveness

Jesus did not make all those promises as if they are empty promises. That is because they are all real, brethren! Jesus made these promises to us, and seal them with none other than His own sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection three days after that are the culmination of the long-planned plan of salvation God had crafted for us all, ever since we fell into sin. And John, who cried in the desert asking the people to repent, made the first step in the fulfillment of that plan.

Yes, brethren, Jesus offered Himself freely to us, and His salvation He also offered freely to us, from up there on the cross. He did not die for nothing. He died so that we can live. We ought to heed the call of St. John the Baptist, and begin to reflect on our own selves if we had not done so, on whether we have repented from our sinfulness and change our ways for the better, or whether we have ignored the heeding of the Lord made clear through John.

We often play the part of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, that is to be jealous of others who steal our glory, to fear those who are going to humiliate us or take away the authority away from us. We often become judgmental of others, thinking of the faults in others while failing to see the failures that we ourselves possessed. This is why, we, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, despite our sinfulness and weaknesses, did not go and make an effort to change ourselves.

We are often too busy to spend some time with the Lord, and instead our faith becomes more like a chore and a routine rather than true faith and devotion. We go to church every Sunday, attend the Mass, receive the Holy Communion, and then we go back, go back to our daily routines, and we repeat this again and again, over and over again. If I ask you, what is the meaning behind all of these routines?

The Lord has given His all to us, He even died for us, for our sake, to spare us the fate of death, and He even sent a messenger to prepare the way for Him, and to act as an extra set of mouth to remind the people of the importance for them to repent, and to realise how much their God loves them. But we are often not serious in our love for Him, because we are too busy with our own businesses, with our own daily routines, and with the world!

Yes, just as the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the teachers of the Law. They were too busy in their own world of righteousness and in their fallacy of salvation, that they failed to notice the Messiah when He came into the world, and they rejected Him, just as they had doubted and rejected John at the Jordan. This is the path to damnation, and we have a choice here, brothers and sisters. Will we choose to go the same way as they had done?

This Advent season has entered its second week, and in another three weeks, we will be celebrating the birth and the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ into this world at Christmas. He abandoned the glory of heaven and even His own divinity so that He can be with us, and eventually to sacrifice Himself for us. That is how serious and strong is His love for us. Are we able to do the same for Christ?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today onwards, heed the call of St. John the Baptist, to repent for the kingdom of God is near. It is coming soon, and we do not know when it will exactly come. We certainly do not want to be caught unprepared when Christ comes again in His glory to judge all creations. It is up to us, whether we want to be judged with the righteous and enter the eternal glory of heaven, or with the damned, to suffer eternally in hell, a total separation from the love of God.

May the Lord watch over us, and help us to make a wise decision, that our lives will be able to change for the better, and no longer sin, but to love more tenderly from now on, that we will truly be worthy of being called, the children of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Lord who told His disciples on their mission and how they should perform it. We also listened to how the Lord was merciful to His people, even after they have transgressed against Him and disobeyed His commandments, causing great disappointments to Him who has loved us so much.

He wanted His disciples to be the true messengers of the Gospel, to be the bearers of the Lord’s message to the world, by their ministry among them, to the people who have yet to receive the Good News of the Lord. Therefore, as Christ had asked of His disciples as their mission before He departed from this world, the same too is expected of us today, we, who are the present day disciples and followers of Christ.

Into His disciples, Christ had given the same authority He possessed, the power that He has over evils and diseases, the teaching authority and the revelation of the Word of God and the Law. That is the same power and authority that had been passed down to our Church leaders, the bishops and the priests, to heal those who are hurt, and to help all of us on our way towards the Lord in salvation.

Armed with these gifts and endowment, the Lord sent them forth into the world, to the people of God, especially those who still lived in the depths of their sins. They were sent in pairs and went from place to place, visiting each of them and telling them on the Good News of salvation. They were to live humbly and act humbly, as the servants of God, that they would remain pure in their intentions, and would not veer away from their mission.

Yes, indeed, that is because mankind is inherently weak, especially against the temptations of the world. In our vulnerability lies a great risk, that we will misuse what we have been given, and use them for wickedness instead of using them for things that we are supposed to do, as the servants and children of God. That was what many of us today had done, and even among our priests and bishops, the shepherds appointed over us.

We either neglect the mission God had entrusted us with, and instead following the ways of the world, we live in wickedness and darkness, and we often drag even others with us into darkness. And the leaders of the faithful had also sometimes went wayward and caused much harm and divisions within the Church in various ways. This neglect and abandonment of the works that we ought to do, cause disruption and come against the plan that God has for each of us.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to get rid of the worldly distractions in our lives and in our mission as the bringer of the Good News to mankind. We are urged to forgo things that may steer us away from our true purpose in life, that is to love one another and to love the Lord our God. It is very easy for us to lose our purpose, if we put out focus in the wrong things, such as money, possessions, and in worldly desires.

As I have often mentioned, that money, wealth, and material goods are not in themselves bad or evil. It is a fuel for evil or for good depending on how we utilise them, the way that we use them. We can use them for love and charity, as well as for selfishness and evil. It is in our hands that they can become tool for good or for bad. However, indeed, mankind often use them disproportionately for negative purposes, because the temptation of the devil is indeed very great.

Therefore, brethren, it is important for us to avoid falling into the same trap of the devil, that we do not become ensnared with the false promises of pleasure and money, that we end up cursed and damned because we failed to look away from the temporary pleasures the devil has offered. What we need is prayer, a good and vibrant prayer life that we have a strong faith, that whatever the devil offers us, we will be able to resist.

It is also important for us to love, and to serve our community, especially to our brethren in need, that we reinforce in ourselves the love God has given us. And not only that, in doing so, we also obey the commands of Jesus our Lord, who had sent His disciples to serve all the children of God, giving to them their love, care, and attention.

Let us all be faithful, loving, and committed to the Lord, that we can truly carry out His will and the mission He had entrusted us all with, to love sincerely, and to resist all the approaches of Satan, using whatever graces we have given with, especially in material possessions, wisely and carefully, for the good and benefits of one another. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 6 : 2c-12

Teach and stress these things. Whoever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus and true religious instruction, is conceited and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions that result in envy, insults, blows, and constant arguments between people of depraved minds and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain.

In reality, religion is a treasure if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us then be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps. A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wandered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life to which you were called when you made the good profession of faith in the presence of so many witnesses.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we truly know of the greatness of the divine love and mercy of our Lord. He is truly our Father and God, because He truly loves us all unconditionally, like that of a father to a son. The parable of the prodigal son, the well-known story of the wayward son and the forgiving, loving father illustrates this nature of our God’s love for us very vividly.

Yes, the Lord our God is a loving God, whose heart is full of tenderness of love and compassion, especially for all of us, the most beloved of all His creations. He is merciful and readily forgives His children, that is all of us, if we come to Him with contrite and sorry heart, seeking for His forgiveness and love. That love and mercy He had given freely to all of us without exception.

He cares for us the way the father of the two sons cared for them. He showered them with abundance and love, and they lacked nothing. Similarly, we have been provided by the Lord with many things, some of us less, some of us more, that shows the depth of His love and care for us. When we go astray, in the same way as the wayward younger son, He seeks for us with love and commitment.

Yet, brethren, we cannot constantly live with sin, be tempted by sin, and showing sin and wickedness, as the Lord God, as loving and merciful He is, He is also a jealous and avenging God. He would not have sin tolerated in His presence. The temptation of doing these things abhorring to God, and Satan always ramp-up their success in corrupting the hearts of men, that we fall and fail, just like the second son of the father, whom left his father to wander to a foreign nation.

God wants us to be His, and that we will return to His embrace, and He longs for that day when we all can be reunited in perfection with Him, and no longer be separated from Him by sin and our stubbornness. In the same way as the father awaited for the return of the prodigal son from his sojourn in the foreign country, day after day, month after month, until the prodigal son returned to his presence, and he rejoiced because of that.

Yet, we are reluctant to return to our loving God, because of various reasons that become serious obstacles in our path towards God, towards returning to His loving embrace. We can easily observe this in the story of the prodigal son, where the younger son feared going home to his father, although if he returned, he would have lived once again in plenty.

One such obstacle is the pull and temptation of worldly pleasures, which prevents us from going back to the Lord, and instead we immerse ourselves in such pleasures excessively, shutting the Lord out of our hearts and our minds. The other obstacle is fear, that is the fear of the wrath of God, the fear of His anger and retribution for our mistakes and our betrayal.

Such fear prevents us from drawing near to the throne of mercy, and also opening our hearts to the love of God. Yes, the Lord who hates sin and evil will certainly be angry on the sins we have committed, but He is not someone who will get angry without any good reason. The anger of the Lord does not always mean a bad thing to us, as He is indeed like a father to us, a loving Father who cares for His children.

And therefore, just like a father, He chastises us whenever we do something wrong, that we will not repeat doing that again in the future. He is angry with us and punishes us as the way that He showed His care, that we will not fall again as our ancestors had fallen into damnation. He punished us not because He wanted us to suffer, but indeed to avoid eternal suffering that awaits us if He did not ‘discipline’ us.

Hence, brethren, let us look into ourselves and reflect on the things that we had done, which had not been what the Lord taught us to do, that brought us into sin, following the example of the prodigal son, who realised the mistakes he had committed, and to the point of being embarrassed of having to go back to his father when he had no other option.

But it is important to note and follow his examples, that despite his initial fear and hesitation, he gathered his courage and returned to his father, who welcomed him and embraced him with love and joy. Then, brethren, we too should follow his example, to be meek and humble before the Lord who is merciful and loving.

Then, finally, let us reflect on the behaviour of the elder son, who became angry at his father for what he perceived to be unequal and unfair treatment by his father. This is a common  behaviour in mankind, which I am sure that we had witnessed quite often in our lives, how people feel that they deserve something more than what they had received and become jealous when they perceive tht others had been treated better when to them, these people deserved it less than them.

The elder son represents those people whom the Lord had chosen and saved since early on in their lives, and therefore remain in God’s love always, unlike the younger son who went astray along the way, and then returns to the fold. It is natural for us humans, relying on our emotions and instinct to resent those whom we deemed to have been treated better than they should have been.

We ought not to be judgmental on others, and indeed, with God, we should rejoice whenever one of the lost ones returned to the Lord and to us. Remember, that even great saints were once great sinners too. In fact, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said, the greater the sins one had committed, the closer one should have been towards realising the depth of their faults and iniquities, and thus, be more ready to embrace the mercy and love offered by God.

Therefore, we should help one another, assisting and supporting one another in our lives, that we will ensure that all of us will be saved and freed from sin. Give help and our love to those who are trapped in the seduction of in and the devil, praying to the Lord to open their hearts to His love. We too, brethren, though we have been saved, must be ever vigilant, that we too do not falter and fall to the traps of Satan that he had cleverly and carefully laid down for us.

May the Lord who has shown His love and mercy for us, continue to shower us with His blessings and graces, and continue to care for us like a father loves his children. May we too realise the depth of our sins, and the depth of His tenderness and love, that we will not be hesitant or fearful to approach Him, full of remorse and sorrow, that the Lord who loves us will embrace us, forgive us, and give us a place beside Him in eternal glory. Love one another and love the Lord God our Father. Amen.

Saturday, 7 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard and be reaffirmed today, of the love our God has for all of us. That the Lord in His love, has given all of Himself through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave to us an outpouring of His love, and in His strong desire to bring us and reunite us back to Himself, He had sent us prophets and messengers to deliver His will to the people and to guide them to return to Him.

In the same way, through Moses His servant, He had revealed to His children about Himself, how He cares very much for their wellbeing, and showed them His love even when they constantly rebelled against His love, worshipping other gods instead of Him. He even gave them a set of law, the Law He gave to His people through Moses, as a guide for them in their lives that they will always remain ever faithful and ever loving, and stay in the grace of God at all times.

Yet, despite this, the people of God did not remain faithful, and they still rebelled constantly against the Lord, defying His laws and commandment, shutting out prophets and murdering them for showing the truth about their sinful ways, and for nagging them to return to God their Father who loves them. But the Lord did not give up on them, and continued to show His love without end, even when His children often did not love Him back.

The Lord in His anger and wrath could easily have wiped us out because of our rebelliousness, our sins, and our stubbornness, but He kept His faith in all of us, and willing for us to repent our sinful ways and return to the Lord. That was why, He gave His all and become one of us through Jesus, incarnate of the Blessed Virgin His mother, and through that, become a source of hope and salvation for all mankind.

Christ came into this world as the Messiah, the awaited Saviour, but He is also a prophet and a teacher, who explained the true meaning and intention of the Law and rules that God had given mankind through Moses and His other prophets and messengers. He showed that the Law does not exist to lord over the people of God, and neither should it become a yoke to burden the people.

The Pharisees did obey the Law, indeed, they appeared to be pious and obedient people of the Law. However most of them, and the teachers of the Law obeyed the Law in a perverted manner, in a twisted version of their own ‘Law’. Their love for the Law is superficial, and they enslaved themselves and the people they led without having the Lord at the centre of their lives.

That is why, brothers and sisters, today we are reminded of the need to truly love God and give of our whole self to Him, just as He had loved us and gave us His entire being to us, and He was not even shy to shed His own Body and Blood that we may live. Let us not love our Lord and God only superficially as the Pharisees had once done.

Yes, we need to obey rules and laws, but we must not be enslaved to them. Rather, let us make use of the Law of God as a way for us to better control and coordinate ourselves that we will be able to stay true to the Lord and remain firmly in God’s love and favour, that we will not fall into the temptations of the evil one. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 26 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 23 : 13-22

Therefore, woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor do you allow others to do so.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to win a single convert, yet once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves.

Woe to you, blind guides! You say : To swear by the Temple is not binding, but to swear by the treasure of the Temple is binding. Blind fools! Which is more worth : the gold in the Temple, or the Temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure?

You say : To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred? Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the Temple is swearing by the Temple and by God who dwells in the Temple.

Whoever swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him who is seated on it.

Friday, 21 June 2013 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 6 : 19-23

Do not store up treasures for yourself here on earth, where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it.

For where your treasures is, there also your heart will be. The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be in the light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be in darkness. Then, if your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkest part of you!