Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of not just one but two of the Lord’s own Twelve Apostles, the principal and most important ones among His disciples, whom He had called and chosen from among the people and the other disciples, to be the pillars of His Church, established on earth, as mentioned in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in the city of Ephesus.

Jesus our Lord is the Head and the Foundation of the Church, as He founded it Himself, establishing the Church as the Body of the faithful, composed of all the faithful people of God united to Him as the Head of the Universal Church. And the Apostles are the support structures that are crucial in maintaining the integrity of the entire Church, as without them, their works and commitments, the Church would not have been what it is today.

We may think of the Apostles as those whom God had chosen among His people and were great ones among men. However, the reality is that, while God indeed gave them the authority over the Church and the faithful, the power to forgive sins and the authority over evil spirits and to continue the good works of the Lord, but the challenges and responsibilities that they faced were enormous. There were great tribulations and difficulties that they had to endure on their journey to establish and build God’s Church.

If we read throughout the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles written by St. Paul the Apostle, as well as through the traditions and stories of the tales of the saints of the early Church and the martyrs, especially the martyrdom of the Apostles themselves, we will realise just what a calling that God had called those Twelve Apostles into, to the point that all of them, except for St. John the Apostle, died of martyrdom defending their faith in God.

And neither were these Apostles chosen because they were mighty in their deeds or power, but instead, God chose them from among the people, from among the poor and the ordinary, from those who were once fishermen, illiterate and uneducated, or tax collectors and sinners, or like St. Simon the Apostle, who was a member of the Zealots, a group of Jewish fanatical fighters, and many more. God called them from various sources and made them to be worthy.

And God called them to a mission, that is to bring all the people of God to Him, to reconcile them with Him and to bring them to a loving reunion through forgiveness and grace. They have worked tirelessly, continuing the good works of the Lord after His Resurrection from the dead and Ascension into heaven. They went from place to place, from towns to towns, and from villages to villages as the witnesses of the Lord, proclaiming to many people the truth of God.

By their faith in God, they have become indispensable key players in the earliest days of the Church, especially amidst the challenges and difficulties that many of the earliest Christian communities had. And therefore, many of the Apostles led the way in martyrdom, because they courageously went on to preach the Gospels among the various communities and when they were arrested and persecuted, they did not give up their faith.

In particular, St. Simon, also known as the Zealot, is often depicted together with St. Jude, also known as St. Jude Thaddeus, because both of them according to the sacred tradition of the Church, went on together on a mission of evangelisation in many places, from Persia, which is in present day Iran, to Armenia and then to Lebanon and the Jordan. It was also documented that they might have travelled to other parts of the Roman Empire, preaching the faith, until they died in holy martyrdom.

Through glorious martyrdom God glorified His holy Apostles, His greatest servants, that the Church declared them to be saints, those who are worthy of praise, honour and veneration, as they are now in heaven, and they now stand in the presence of God, becoming our great intercessors, praying for our sake at all times. We know how St. Jude Thaddeus in particular is well-known as the saint to whom a great devotion is present, as the patron saint for hopeless causes.

The examples of these Apostles of our Lord, their courage and commitment to serve the Lord in doing the will of God, and obeying all of His commandments, should be inspiration for each and every one of us. We should devote ourselves, our time and effort to do what they have done, continuing their good works in the Church. If I would like to compare us all, as Christians all of us are the bricks of the Church, just as the Apostles are the foundations and the pillars supporting the Church.

Just as without the pillars a building will collapse, without good bricks and good arrangement and strong bonds between the bricks, the building will not be able to withstand the pressure and forces from the outside, and the whole edifice will also eventually collapse too. This is why, all of us as Christians, are called to do the same mission that the Lord had first entrusted to His Apostles.

We should not think that there is nothing much to do in our lives as Christians in this world. We should not think that there is no more works of evangelisation and conversion that need to be done. There are in fact still numerous opportunities and areas where we can contribute our efforts, to help the multitudes of people who are still living in the dark and in the ignorance of God’s love.

There are many out there who have also lapsed in their faith, and walking down the path towards damnation, because they have lost their way, either through temptations or coercions, and it is in our hands now, that we are able to devote ourselves, our time and effort to help these brethren of ours, by our contributions, actions and deeds, imitating the examples set by the Apostles themselves.

Let us remember that God had chosen His Apostles to be His instruments to bring His salvation to more and more souls. The same calling and mission has been given to us all as well. Let us embrace this willingly, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to God, no longer hesitating, but we should encourage each other to walk righteously in the presence of God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. When day came, He called His disciples to Him, and chose Twelve of them, whom He called ‘Apostles’ : Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James son of Alpheus and Simon called the Zealot; Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who would be the traitor.

Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of His disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. They gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. And people troubled by unclean spirits were cured.

The entire crowd tried to touch Him, because of the power that went out from Him and healed them all.

Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy Temple, in the Lord.

In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the Church, where we celebrate the great event on the mountain on that day, when Jesus was glorified and revealed the fullness of truth about Himself to the three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John. This is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus revealed His divinity to His people for the first time.

On this feast, there are several things we all ought to take note of. First of all, the symbolism shown in this event of the Transfiguration truly revealed to us the great truth about Jesus our Lord, who He is, what His mission was, and what He would do in order to achieve that mission. Then we should indeed begin to understand them one by one.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured, and two figures from the Old Testament came, appeared and spoke to Him. They were Moses and Elijah, the greatest of God’s servants, and who symbolised the works which Jesus was to accomplish in this world as part of His messianic ministry. Moses represented the Law which God had revealed to the people through Him, while Elijah represented the Prophets through whom God had made His will known to the people.

This represented the role of Jesus who came to fulfil and complete the Law in its perfection, and He would reveal to all mankind the true meaning and purpose of the Law which God had revealed to them, but which they had often misunderstood in the practice and in its purpose. And then, Jesus also was a Prophet, the One who made clear God’s words and intentions to men. It was through His words, His teachings and parables that He called upon many people to return to the Lord.

In Jesus the role of Priest, Prophet and King was united as one, for He is indeed the High Priest of all, by His role in delivering all of us through the sacrifice which He had offered for the sake of our sins and unworthiness, that is His own Body and Blood which He offered up from the Altar of Calvary from the cross. And as Prophet, He revealed to us all the truth about God, and taught us the Law.

And we know that He is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, and the Good Shepherd of us all, who leads us from the darkness of this world, gathered from all over the world, once scattered now brought together as one people into the unity of His Church, that He may bring us to the salvation which He has promised those who are faithful to Him.

In this we see how the Transfiguration of our Lord had revealed to the disciples, and also to all of us, who Jesus is, that is none other than God Himself, who had been willing to descend upon us and assume our humble human form, to be born in the flesh, and to later suffer for our sake, bearing our sins and punishments for those sins as He made His way to Calvary and as He hung between the heavens and the earth on the cross. He died for us, so that we all may live.

But in this, we also should realise that the Transfiguration itself also revealed to us, what we are to become, when we remain faithful to the end, and at the end, receive the just reward for our faith and devotion from the Lord. Just as Jesus revealed His true self to His disciples, then all of us should also reveal who we truly are to one another, and discard all the falsehoods and the lies with which we have covered ourselves and hid our true selves with thus far.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because God had created all of us good and perfect, just as He is good and perfect. But it was because of sin and disobedience which since the days of the first mankind had entered into our hearts and beings, we have been made imperfect and tainted, and our true selves had been hidden under layers of guilt, disobedience, and all other sorts of wickedness that prevent our true selves from being revealed.

For we are the children of God, who is Love, who is Light and goodness. If we are therefore His children, then certainly all of us should have imitated Him in how we behave and act in this life. It was our sins and our disobedience, and our human weaknesses and tendencies to sin that have made us such beings that had strayed far away from where we were and what we were intended to be.

Therefore, on this day, we have to heed what the Lord had shown us, and we all have to also listen to the Lord’s word, that we indeed have to listen to Jesus, the Word of God, through whom God made clear all of His will and desire for us. What then He had said to His Apostles Peter, Janes and John should be a good lesson for all of us.

For the Apostles must have been so awed and mesmerised by the glory and the greatness, and the great joy that they ought to have felt to be in the presence of God on that mountain. And they wanted to make three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, so that they could stay there and not to leave that state of joy. But Jesus reminded them that, in order for them to move on, they must also at one point go down the mountain and face the challenges of the world.

Jesus Himself, even though He was glorified and honoured in today’s commemoration of the Transfiguration, but He knew that He had to forgo all of the glory and even empty Himself, descending down the mountain of glory, to come towards the ultimate test and challenge He would face, that is to be rejected and humiliated by the very people whom He had been sent to, to be saved.

In the same way therefore, all of us should shake ourselves from our comfort zones, that we may be able to realise that we have been too long and too deep in our slumber, where our true selves of love and righteousness had been buried deep within the layers of our laziness, our indifference, our apathy and our inability to see the opportunity for us to rise up and to give glory to God through our actions.

May our Transfigured Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all from now on, that in all things that we do, we may also do things to aspire for that same goal, that our old selves and the veils of our own sinfulness and evils may be replaced by the true beauty of our inner selves, the beauty of the love and faith which our Lord had given us by His Spirit. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 9 : 2-10

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say : they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 9

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Cloud and darkness surround Him; justice and right are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 7 : 9-10, 13-14

I looked and saw the following : Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took His seat. His robe was white as snow, His hair white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before Him. Thousands upon thousands served Him and a countless multitude stood before Him. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book.

I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.

Alternative reading

2 Peter 1 : 16-19

Indeed, what we taught you about the power and the return of Christ Jesus our Lord was not drawn from myths or formulated theories. We ourselves were eyewitnesses of His majesty, when He received glory and honour from God the Father, when from the magnificent Glory this most extraordinary word came upon Him : “This is My Beloved Son, this is My Chosen One.” We ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

Therefore, we believe most firmly in the message of the prophets which you should consider rightly as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the break of day, when the Morning Star shines in your hearts.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the Church, particularly that of the Church of Rome, the Eternal and Holy City, the heart of Christendom. For not only that on this day we celebrate the commemoration of the dedication of one of the four Papal Basilicas, that is the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major or Santa Maria Maggiore, but we should also learn the reason behind why this great edifice of worship and House of God was built.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on a site where about over a thousand and five hundred years ago, a noble family in Rome prayed for help and blessing, because they had no children, and they vowed to dedicate their possessions to the Blessed Virgin, mother of our Lord and God. They prayed for her intercession, so that she might guide them on how to dispose their properties for the sake of the Lord.

As a sign, for their prayers had been heard, there happened that in the midst and during the peak of the summer season, at a site on where the great Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore now stands, there happened that snow was falling on that site, as the clear sign of the Lord’s favour and blessing on those who have given themselves and dedicated what they had for the Lord’s sake.

The Pope at the time, Pope Liberius also received a vision about what had happened, and when he and the aforementioned noble couple went to the site, they gave thanks to the Lord and His Blessed Mother, who had shown their grace and love for all those who were faithful. And the great Basilica dedicated in the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known thereafter also as our Lady of Snows, in reference of what had happened, was built on that site, and the memory its dedication and consecration we celebrate on this day.

On that site also, there is a very famous and very venerated image of our Blessed Mother, known as the Protector of the City of Rome and the Roman people, or Salus Populi Romani, an icon of the Mother of God, who had been invoked again and again from time to time as the defender of the faithful. And we can see indeed the great veneration and honour which we have accorded to the mother of our Lord.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is precisely because, she is a great role model to all of us. It was her faith and devotion to the Lord, who is also her Son, in how she brought up Him from His birth and how she walked with Him and accompanied Him on His journeys, and how she endured the bitter agony of seeing her Son suffer for the sake of all mankind.

And we know the fact, which I have often reiterated, that our Lord who loves us and cares for us all greatly without exception, have given us a great gift, in His own mother, whom He had given to us as someone whom all of us can treat and indeed should treat as our own mother. This is just as she had been entrusted with all of us, through St. John, the Lord’s Apostle, that He had entrusted to her.

What does this mean? This means that we have such a great helper and we have been blessed with such a great assistance, that the very mother of our Lord is with us and guiding us, as well as aiding us on our way. Indeed, the saying is true, that we ought to go to the Lord, seek Him out and reach out to Him, through Mary, His mother. Ad Jesum per Mariam, or to Jesus through Mary.

Thus, on this great feast in memory of the dedication of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore or St. Mary Major, let us all dedicate ourselves to a new life, one that is filled with the love of God, and strive to live our lives as faithfully as our mother Mary had lived her own life, in full and total dedication to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, brethren, she is the one closest to her Son in heaven, and whatever we ask her Son through her, surely it will be heard.

May Almighty God bless us all and guide us, and let us give Him thanks for the gift of His mother Mary, our greatest intercessor and protector against the wickedness and evils of this world. Let us be forevermore faithful to Him. God be with us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now a Canaanite woman came from those borders and began to cry out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the puppy dogs.” The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even the puppy dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”