Monday, 14 September 2020 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross or also known as the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. This day marks the glorious and joyful moment when the True Cross of Jesus Christ, the very wooden cross on which our Lord and Saviour had been hung on, was discovered by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who was also the first Christian Roman Emperor.

St. Helena was a devout Christian woman whose love and devotion for both of her husband and son, the future Emperor Constantine probably helped the then young Emperor to eventually become a Christian, as a good influence always being present and well-respected by her son. St. Helena, although the Empress Mother of the Romans, she remained humble and devout, charitable and dedicated to the cause of the Lord.

To this end she embarked on a mission to the Holy Land, to discover the instruments of the Lord’s Passion, most especially the Cross of Our Saviour itself, and which she managed to discover in Jerusalem. There were three crosses in that place just as there were three crucified on that fateful day, the Lord and two convicted criminals sentenced to death. And in order to find out which one was the Cross of the Lord, St. Helena touched the Cross to a very sick person. And the one that instantly and miraculously healed the dying person is the True Cross of Christ.

That was the root and origins of this celebration of the Exaltation or Triumph of the Holy Cross, celebrating the rediscovery of the True Cross, and even more significantly, is the timing of its happening. The True Cross was rediscovered just not long after the Christian faith itself has finally gained a reprieve from centuries of persecutions and trials, in the Edict of Milan, the very first edict of toleration of their faith, jointly declared by the aforementioned Emperor Constantine the Great.

The Church and many among the faithful who had borne a lot of martyrs through the constant and at times, terrible persecutions, had finally triumphed, and this began with the memorable Battle of Milvian Bridge, which likely inspired Emperor Constantine the Great to adopt the Christian faith later on in his life. At that battle, the Emperor, outnumbered by his rival and enemy, saw a great vision from God, in which either he saw a cross, or the symbol of the Chi-Ro, the symbolic representation of Jesus Christ, the Greek letters Chi and Ro that are the short form of the Name of the Lord.

As the Emperor Constantine saw the vision, accompanying the image of the cross or the Chi-Ro is the words, ‘In hoc signo vinces’ which means, ‘By this sign, you shall conquer’. The Emperor went on to be triumphant against his enemies, and eventually also won against all those that persecuted the Christian faithful and communities. And this also marked a new beginning for the Church and the faithful alike, as persecution gave way for favour and acceptance, and eventually wide adoption of Christianity but most of the Roman Empire and beyond.

And more profoundly, the triumph of the Cross is not just limited to the triumph of the faith against persecutions and trials, but even more importantly so, as our Scripture passages today indicated to us, that the exaltation and triumph of the Holy Cross refers to the triumph it brings us against the forces of evil and darkness. For it was through the Cross that our Lord has triumphed against Satan and all of his malice and evil, and showed us all His salvation.

The cross has always been, up to the time of Christ, associated with defeat, shame and humiliation. For the cross is not just used to punish any criminals, but reserved by the Romans to punish the worst of criminals, those considered as traitors and worst of all criminals in the nation. The use of the cross is the most humiliating and painful method of punishment, and not only that the victim is exposed and bared before all, without a shred of dignity left, but for the Lord’s case, in which He was nailed to the cross, it was even more painful.

That is because vast majority of crucifixions in fact did not involve the use of nails, and the criminals were just left hanging on the cross for even days on end. The use of the nails were reserved to those who were considered the worst of the worst, and thus, our Lord truly suffered a most excruciating and terrible death on the cross. But through His suffering and death, the Lord transformed this once shameful and humiliating symbol, into a symbol of victory and hope, and into the genuine manifestation and proof of God’s ever enduring love for us.

In the first reading today, we heard the occasion when the sins of the people of Israel as they travelled from the land of Egypt into their Promised Land, caused many of them to perish from the fiery serpents that came into their midst. When they rebelled against God and refused to listen to Him, grumbled and complained, and even threatened God’s servant, Moses, they sinned against Him. And those fiery serpents represent the punishments that are due for those sins.

And it is a reminder that the ‘sting’ of sin is death, according to St. Paul, who called death as the ‘sting’ of sin. For sin is the product of disobedience against God, and because of that sin, we are made corrupt and unworthy of God’s grace and love. Sin separates us from God, and separated from God, we have no life in us. When we consciously chose to sin and disobey God, then we may end up being judged and damned for those sins.

But that is not the end, brothers and sisters in Christ, for in the same passage, we heard of the love of God, which remained for us unchanged, and when Moses pleaded for the sake of the people for mercy and when they had regretted the errors of their ways, God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent on a tall staff, and through that, all those who were bitten by the serpents and were dying, lived on if they saw the bronze serpent.

This is referred to by Christ Himself when He spoke with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, on the night when Nicodemus, secretly a believer of Jesus, asked Him about God’s truth and plans for mankind. The Lord told him how the Son of Man, referring to Himself, would be lifted up high for all to see, just as the bronze serpent of Moses was lifted up for the Israelites as the symbol of hope and salvation, and those who put their trust in Him would live just as their ancestors who saw the bronze serpent did not die or perish.

Thus, as Christ has been lifted up high on the cross, He gathered to Himself all the sins of the world, bearing those burden for us, being humiliated and punished for us, just as the bronze serpent is a reminder of how deadly those serpents had been in killing so many among the Israelites from their sins. When we look at the crucifix, the Cross of Christ, what do we see, brothers and sisters? We are looking at a very important reminder that we are sinners, wicked and unworthy for God because of our disobedience.

And yet, Our Lord and Saviour came to us, calling us to His salvation with love, taking up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins and faults, and humbling Himself unto suffering and death, He changed that Cross by His ultimate, selfless loving sacrifice into the ultimate symbol of triumph and victory, from what was once a symbol of humiliation, defeat and destruction. He broke the power of sin and death by His own death and resurrection, proving that neither sin nor death can overcome us.

The Cross is the sign of triumph, and more than just the triumph that the Emperor Constantine gained, or the triumph that Christians gained over those who persecuted them, because in the end, far more importantly, the Cross brings us triumphant against sin, and leads us into the final victory, that by the power of the Cross, we are no longer bound and enslaved by sin, and have been freed from the tyranny of death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we rejoice in the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us all remind ourselves of the great love of God by which He has loved us, done everything so much for us even up to the extent of sacrificing Himself for our sake, that we are no longer burdened by sin, and no longer bound by it, but free and triumphant, because of His Cross and the wounds that He had endured and bore for us.

Let us all glory in the Cross of Christ, praise the Lord for His ever amazing love and dedication to us. And let us therefore dedicate ourselves, our time and effort, our attention and our whole being to love God, to follow Him, and to be faithful at all times, bearing the Cross of Christ with pride and joy, and knowing that we have been saved through the Cross, proclaim God’s Good News and salvation that more and more can be saved. Amen.

Monday, 14 September 2020 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One Who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

Monday, 14 September 2020 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables; I will talk of old mysteries.

When He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God was their Rock, the Most High, their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His Covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offences and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger, and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Monday, 14 September 2020 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Numbers 21 : 4b-9

The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.”

YHVH then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against YHVH and against you. Plead with YHVH to take the serpents away.”

Moses pleaded for the people and YHVH said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Alternative reading

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Thursday, 6 August 2020 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we mark and celebrate the great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, marking the moment when the Lord was transfigured and changed before three of His disciples at the summit of Mount Tabor in northern part of the land of Israel, and being present there in heavenly glory together with the servant of God, Moses, and with the prophet Elijah.

The word Transfiguration comes from the words ‘trans’ meaning change, and ‘figure’ means appearance and outlook of our body. That is why in this Feast we remember when the Lord Jesus was suddenly transformed before the witnesses, revealing His true nature as the Divine Son of God, shining forth from His humanity, unveiling that He was not just a Man, but more than a Man, He was also the great Son of God incarnate in the flesh.

At that moment of the Transfiguration, the Lord met with two of the greatest and most renowned figures from the Old Testament, namely Moses and the prophet Elijah. Moses was the leader of the people of Israel who led them all from the land of Egypt in the Exodus, bringing by God’s power, Ten Great Plagues and freed the people from their oppressors, leading them through the Red Sea and then leading them for forty years through the desert to the Promised Land.

Meanwhile, the prophet Elijah was perhaps the most remembered and active among the prophets of God. His many works and dedications were recorded throughout the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, as the prophet laboured hard in his efforts to bring the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to return to God and abandon their sinful ways. He encountered many trials and difficulties during his ministry, facing persecution from the kings and the nobles, the pagan priests and many of the people who refused to believe in God.

Each of these magnificent servants of God symbolically represent the Law and the Prophets, Moses being the one who received the Law of God and the Ten Commandments, while the prophet Elijah was the epitome and representative of the many prophets and messengers of God. Their appearance on Mount Tabor before the Lord Jesus serve to highlight the fact that Jesus was indeed the perfect fulfilment of God’s Law and the promises that He had made through His prophets.

And it also highlighted how the Lord would also bring His truth to the people as He had done through the prophets, revealing to them the fullness of truth, by His teachings, complemented with the gift and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and the Church. And He would also make a new Covenant with His people just as Moses had led the people in making the Covenant between God and them. Through the Lord Jesus, God would be reunited and reconciled with His people.

All of these were made possible because Christ was both fully Man and fully God, two distinct natures, Man and Divine but completely and inseparably united in the one Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and Son of God. Through Him, Man would be reunited with God, by the establishment of the New Covenant and the fulfilment of the Law, on the moment of the Crucifixion, the ultimate and most loving sacrifice of the Lord on the Altar of His Cross.

The Lord revealed His divinity that day before the few witnesses, His disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John, as the precursor and prior revelation that through Him alone, mankind’s salvation would finally come from. He would suffer and be offered as a worthy sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross, as if He was just like any other Man, then His sacrifice and offering would have amounted to nothing. But the spilling of His divine Blood and the breaking of His divine Body became for us the source of redemption and eternal life.

And if He was just Divine without any shards of humanity, then His suffering would not be tangible, for it was by our shared humanity with Christ, that Christ united all of us to His suffering and death, that by the death of His Body, all of us are united to His death, and by His glorious Resurrection, all of us are brought into new life and risen to this new life and existence through Him and this unity we have with Him.

How have we been united with Him, then, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by our baptism when we have received this unity with Christ, as we were immersed in the holy water of baptism, that we symbolically passed from death into life, from oppression and slavery into freedom, just as the Israelites have been freed from their slavery in Egypt by God through Moses, His servant as mentioned earlier. And all of us emerged into new life through our unity with Christ and His Church, receiving His Spirit and this gift of new life.

And the Lord’s Transfiguration is also symbolic of what we are going to experience, as we eventually will be reunited completely with God at the passing from this mortal existence and life, when we pass from this world into the world that is to come, the eternity of glory and happiness with God, no longer chained and troubled by sin and evil. The glorious Transfiguration of Christ is the revelation of what we will be, if we keep our lives holy and dedicated to God, as St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Corinthians, that ‘We will all not die, but we will all be transformed!’ and ‘those who have died, in the end of days, will be raised to live forever.’

That is why as we celebrate this great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, we also reflect on the matter of our lives and how we ought to look forward to the life that we are to have in God. The Lord has shown us what we are to experience when we are glorified in body and soul, as we enter into the eternal kingdom of God. We look forward to this joyous and momentous occasion, but at the same time, we must also realise that if we are to rise in glory with Christ, we also must share in His death.

And as we have done at our baptism, when we reject sin and all of evil and its advances, we are reminded today that sin has been the great obstacle that lies in between us and God. As we continue to live our lives in this world, we are all called to die to ourselves, to die to our pride and ego, our greed and worldly desires, our attachments to worldly pleasures and all things that kept us away from reaching true holiness in God.

That is why, even though we have not yet attained the fullness of heavenly glory as shown to us by the Lord through His Transfiguration, but we ought to look forward to it, and prepare ourselves thoroughly by keeping ourselves holy and filled with faith and love for God, that when the time comes, we will be worthy to share in the true happiness and eternal glory in God. And the path forward for us will not be easy, yet we have to trust in God, for everything we do in God, will turn out good in the end.

Let the hope of the Lord’s Transfiguration fill us with hope for the future, that despite the plenty of challenges and trials we have to face in life, the various trials and difficulties that we have to endure, if we have faith in God, put our trust in Him and love Him with all of our hearts, then we will surely be blessed and received what He has promised us, as after all, He has given everything for us as He offered Himself as a worthy loving sacrifice on the Cross for us.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Whose glorious Transfiguration we remember today, help us in our journey of life that hopefully one day, we may share fully in His glorious kingdom, and in the New Covenant that He has made with each and every one of us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 6 August 2020 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 1-9

At that time, six days after Jesus predicted His own death, He took with Him Peter and James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. Jesus’ appearance was changed before them : His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became bright as light. Just then Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.

Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. If You wish, I will make three tents : one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter was still speaking, when a bright cloud covered them with its shadow, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, the Beloved, My Chosen One. Listen to Him.”

On hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground, full of fear. But Jesus came, touched them and said, “Stand up, do not be afraid.” When they raised their eyes, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus. And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had just seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead.

Thursday, 6 August 2020 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, 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 2020 : 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.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving Warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 15-24

At that time, upon hearing the words of Jesus, one of those at the table said to Him, “Happy are those who eat at the banquet in the kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied, “A man once gave a feast and invited many guests. When it was time for the feast, he sent his servant to tell those he had invited to come, for everything was ready. But all alike began to make excuses.”

“The first said, ‘Please excuse me. I must go and see the piece of land I have just bought.’ Another said : ‘I am sorry, but I am on my way to try out the five yoke of oxen I have just bought.’ Still another said, ‘How can I come, when I have just got married?'”

“The servant returned alone, and reported this to his master. Upon hearing his account, the master of the house flew into a rage, and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'”

“The servant reported after a while, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out, but there is still room.’ The master said, ‘Go out to the highways and country lanes, and force people to come in, to make sure my house is full. I tell you, none of those invited will have a morsel of my feast.'”


Homily and Reflection :