Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us celebrate together the great Solemnity of All Saints, all the holy men and women who have gone before us, and whom the Church has officially recognised as those who have deserved and are worthy of the glory of heaven, by the virtue of their lives on earth, their exemplary and inspiring life examples, and their commitments to the Church, to God and His people.

And all of us have to realise that, the saints and all the martyrs of God who have left this earthly existence before us are still as much as part of the entire Universal Church with us, together with the holy souls that are now in Purgatory. Therefore, the Church does not consist just of the physical Church that we see now in this world, but also the spiritual Church that is in heaven and in Purgatory, constantly praying for one another.

We are all parts of the Church in this world, the Church Militant, all those who are still struggling daily to remain true and faithful to the Lord, sinners who are called to conversion and change of life, to be true disciples of the Lord. Meanwhile, the holy souls in Purgatory, those who were deemed to be worthy of the Lord, not counted among the wicked, but not yet worthy of the fullness of God’s glory because of the venial or minor sins they still had, belong to the Church Suffering.

Therefore, tomorrow, on All Souls’ Day, we will remember these holy souls who are suffering in Purgatory, to atone for the remainders of their sins. But today, we rejoice together celebrating with the Church Triumphant, the holy saints of God, those deemed worthy by the Church to merit immediately the glory of heaven. Thus, we believe that they are now in heaven, in the presence of God, praying and interceding for our sake.

There are still many who misunderstand the practice of the veneration of the saints in the Church, including those who have fallen into certain heresies and rejected this venerable practice. The veneration of saints begun as a practice beginning from the days of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, when those who were martyred for their faith were remembered for their staunch and steadfast faith in God.

In fact, the practice of celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar in which the relics of saints and martyrs had been deposited, began from those years, when Christians had to gather and meet in secret, celebrating the Holy Mass in catacombs or graveyards underground, where the tombs of the saints and martyrs were located. The Holy Mass would be celebrated above those tombs, linking to what we practice now.

And through this, we also can see the clear link between the life of those saints and martyrs, with the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, which is celebrated during every single celebration of the Holy Mass. The life, virtues and holiness of the saints cannot be separated from the One from Whom the saints drew the source of their strength, and from Whom came the holiness that was reflected on their lives.

Contrary to what some accused wrongly of the Church and our faith, we do not worship the saints in any way, or give them the adoration that is reserved to God alone. However, we venerate them and honour them because of their exemplary life, which the Church deems that each and every one of us can also follow in our own daily lives. Through the veneration of the saints, it is hoped that we too can be touched in our hearts by their holiness, and become holy ourselves.

The saints intercede for our sake, praying for us before God, that their prayers, being close to God, will be heard more by the Lord our God. We do not pray to the saints asking them to do what we want, or perform wondrous and miraculous deeds, as this is a common misconception of what we Christians believe about the saints and holy men and women we venerate. Rather, we ask them to pray for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, we also have to remember that no one was born a saint, except for Mary, the mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, because of her special role in our salvation, to be the new Ark of the Covenant, bearing God Himself in her. And therefore, God made her to be special, conceived without the taints of original sin, and remaining Immaculate through her life. I will discuss her in a moment, but now let us turn our focus back to the saints.

The saints themselves were sinners, and some were indeed great sinners. Some were murderers, like St. Vladimir of Russia, prince of Kiev, who was a pagan before his conversion, leading a very immoral lifestyle, and killing many people during his reign, including his own father and children. But, the Lord called him to the light, and by embracing the Christian faith, St. Vladimir had a total change of heart, dismissing his old pagan and immoral life, and became a great Christian ruler from then on.

Some others were unrepentant sinners for many years, like St. Augustine of Hippo, now known as a great Doctor of the Church and well-known for his many works and writings that still heavily influences the Church up to this day. Yet, at that time, early in his life, he practiced many immoral behaviour, having a child outside of marriage with his mistress, as well as many other sins he committed. But through the ceaseless efforts and prayers from his mother, St. Monica, St. Augustine eventually repented and changed his life from a life of sin into a life of holiness devoted to God.

What does this tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not see the saints and the holy men and women of God, the Blesseds and the Venerables, the Servants of God, and many more people who have led virtuous and righteous lives as people who were impeccable and unblemished. Indeed, now they have been made clean by the Lord, as St. John saw in the Book of Revelations, in his vision of the multitudes of holy men and women in pure white garment, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord has purified us all from our sins, from His loving sacrifice at Calvary. Thus the same Blood has purified all the saints, by either the virtue of their lives, or by their courageous defence of their faith to the point of martyrdom, and many other ways by which these saints have glorified the Lord.

I like to compare the saints to the stained glasses in our churches. Indeed, this comparison is good because we use stained glasses in the churches in order to show to the people first of all, the life of our God, His mission on earth and the important events that occurred throughout the Old and New Testaments. Yet, there are also many others that depict the life of God’s saints.

In the past, many people were uneducated and illiterate, and they were not even able to read the Bible as we are today. It is often that we take our literacy and the easy availability of the Bible for granted. But at that time, the people could not read the Bible because they could not read at all, and in the even earlier days, before the Bible was codified by the Church, and at times of great persecution, it was through drawings and sketches on the walls of the catacombs and the churches.

And this practice continued with the stained glasses. What is beautiful about stained glasses is that, in the old times, the interior of the church building would be dark without any source of light. Candles are used to provide these lights at night, but natural light from the outside during daytime are allowed to enter the church building, through the stained glasses.

The stained glasses on their own shine no light, and stained glasses in the darkness cannot be seen. In truth, they seem so beautiful because of the light that passes through them. And we can see the light made more beautiful through the scenes depicted on the stained glasses. It is the same with God and His saints. The saints have no merit on their own except through the Lord. They are holy and honoured because God’s light can be found in them, shining through them.

Therefore, just as the stained glasses make the light passing through them more beautiful, God is glorified through the deeds of His saints, and all of us can also learn from their good examples, by following their footsteps and practicing what they have done and apply these in our own respective lives. We are called to be saints just as those who have gone before us received the crown of heavenly glory.

We may be apprehensive and think that through our sins, we have not been worthy of God, but as we have discussed just earlier, saints themselves were born not as saints, and all of them have been sinners before. What matters is the conversion of the heart, mind, body and indeed our entire being, that we turn our backs to our sinful past and all the wickedness we have committed in life. What matters is that we change our ways, following the examples of the saints, our role models.

And the greatest role model we can have is Mary, the mother of our God, the greatest among all saints. For she is indeed in heaven, closest to the throne of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. She is always praying for us, her adopted children, because by entrusting her to us, God has made her to be our mother as well. Let us model ourselves based on the model of Mary, in her faith and dedication to God, and remind ourselves each and every day that all of us have the potential for holiness.

Let us all therefore today be encouraged by the examples of the saints, shedding from ourselves all the darkness and the dirty sins and wickedness covering our beings, that through God’s light in us, realised through our faith and actions, we may shine brightly with the light of God in our lives. Let us be the beautiful stained glasses of the Lord, shining with God’s light and showing forth God’s glory through our actions.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of His saints, each and every one of us will be brought ever closer to our loving God, and we hope that one day we will share the eternal joy of heaven with them. O holy saints of God in heaven, pray for us always, and pray for our brethren who are now suffering in Purgatory as well. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the All Souls’ Day, we remember all of our brethren who have departed before us, all those whom we have known and have left us behind, and even all others, strangers whom we have not met, but indeed have also left this earthly life behind. Today we remember all the souls of the faithful departed, just as yesterday we rejoice together in the glory of the saints, those whom God and His Church had deemed worthy to receive directly the glory of heaven.

And today, we pray for those who have left this earthly life and yet we are not sure of their state after their earthly death, whether they would be worthy enough to merit to enter the kingdom of heaven, or whether they have to suffer in purgatory before they can enter into the kingdom of God, or whether their wickedness or sins had overcome them and made them judged to be worthy of hell instead. It is not us to decide, but God.

For many of us, our instinctive reaction upon thinking of death is fear, that is we are afraid of death, because of this uncertainty of our fate, and ultimately, of course, many of us find it difficult to part with whatever we have attained and possessed in this world, resulting in many of us trying to preserve whatever we have, our life and our youth, with many emphasis placed on trying to prolong our lives and maintaining our youthful appearances.

Many of us grieve very badly upon losing our loved ones to death, mostly because we think that we are not going to see them again, and we cannot bear to be separated from them. It is part of our natural instinct as human beings to grieve and be sad, because after all, when we are no longer able to physically interact with someone we love and care for, we should indeed feel disturbed by that new reality.

But we should not lose hope or despair, for the Lord Himself had made it clear to us in many occasions, that He has come into the world that all of us may have hope, because of His death and resurrection, which showed us all that there is a path out of that darkness and despair, the path to our salvation in our God. And that is the hope which all of us ought to remember today, even as we are saddened by the loss of our beloved.

Remember, brethren, that Christ’s death is followed by His resurrection, and He has promised us all through His disciples, that He will raise all those who are faithful to Him on the last day, and we all will be reunited with one another, with our beloved ones, with our brothers and sisters with whom we may have been temporarily separated. If we believe in this, then truly, we should absolutely have no need to fear death, be it for our own or for others around us, as it is not an end, but rather the transition and the beginning to a new life filled with new joy with our God.

Therefore, today, as we celebrate the Feast of All Souls’ Day, first of all, let us all realise that as I have mentioned yesterday during the Solemnity of All Saints, there are three parts of the Church, the Church Triumphant, consisting of the saints of God, who have been deemed worthy to enjoy immediately the joy of the kingdom of God, the Church Militant, all of us living in this world at the moment, who are living the daily struggles of our lives, and finally the Church Suffering, for whom we are praying for today.

For the Church Suffering consists of all the faithful ones who have lived in the grace of God, died in a state of grace, but which venial or minor sins have not been completely cleared and absolved from them. They are not yet able to be with God, for they cannot bring sin before God, as sin has no place before Him. Nevertheless, they have also been found worthy enough so as to escape the eternal damnation in hell, which is reserved only for those whose evil and wicked deeds truly outweighed their good ones.

So today, firstly, we have to pray for those souls in purgatory, who are suffering the pain of the holy flames of purification, enduring the consequences of their sufferings. We pray that God will lessen their sufferings and ordeal, and be willing to completely absolve our brethren in purgatory of their sins, that they may finally enter into the heavenly kingdom and partake in the glorious inheritance reserved for them.

And secondly, we should also reflect on how we ourselves live our lives in this world. The souls in purgatory knew well what they have committed in life, all the things they have done that landed them in the purgatorial flames instead of immediately enjoying the glorious heaven. And they definitely would not want us to end up where they are as well. In fact, just as we have prayed for them, they too are constantly praying for us.

Knowing just how much we all are related to each other, even beyond the realm of this world, we should all the more be more inspired to live a good and devout Christian life. We should not take chances, brothers and sisters in Christ, for what is at stake is none other than our own souls, the state of our own salvation or whether it would instead be damnation.

Let us all not wait until it is too late for us, but instead, work together and helping each other to find our way to the Lord, by doing what is right in the sight of God, by our unfailing obedience and commitment, by loving our brethren in need, be generous and be charitable in all things. And let us also not forget about our loving brethren, our beloved relatives and even strangers who are also our brothers and sisters, children of the same God, that we should offer them our prayers and for the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass to be offered for their sake.

Let us pray for one another, that all of us will eventually be able to persevere through all the difficult challenges in this world, and give our best in order to do the will of our God, be no longer lukewarm and hesitant in our faith, but instead be true disciples of our Lord, doing His will in all that we say, act and do. May God bless us all, and may all the souls of our brethren, those who are faithful and have departed, find the rest they need in the Lord. Requiescat in Pace. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black
Luke 7 : 11-17

At that time, a little later after Jesus healed the servant of a captain in Capernaum, He went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great Prophet has appeared among us; God, has visited His people.” The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.