Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast of St. Joseph, the Spouse and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that makes him the foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the legal and adoptive father of our Lord, because of his marriage to Mary, and he is a very essential figure whose actions were crucial in keeping the young Baby Jesus and Child Jesus safe through the world.

And it was also likely that an honourable man and servant of God as he was, he would have contributed greatly to the responsible upbringing of our Lord, guarding Him as He grew up as a Child, and providing for Him as all fathers had done. And in St. Joseph we saw the very important values of responsibility, of commitment, of devotion to God and to the works he has been entrusted to, which are some of those that we ourselves can apply to our own lives.

St. Joseph was an upright man who held righteousness and justice in highest esteem, and he has always lived in accordance to this principle, even though materially, he was just a simple and humble carpenter, making his work as a way to earn a living for his family. And from what information we can gather from the Gospel, it is evident that the people at that time did not respect much such a profession, which they likely thought to be menial and humiliating in nature.

But St. Joseph did not care about all that, he lived responsibly and with faith in the Lord, and he cared deeply for his family, and even most importantly for Jesus, as even though He was not his biological son, but St. Joseph treated Jesus as his own, and he protected Him from all dangers of the world when He was still young and defenceless. He brought his whole family to Egypt when king Herod, jealous and worried about Jesus, tried to kill Him by killing all the newborns in Jerusalem.

St. Joseph cared for his family as a father should have done, and he loved them with all of his heart, and truly, he is a role model to all fathers, and to all families. And as I have mentioned, his life and his works are also inspirations for us all to follow, in how we ought to live our lives as faithful brothers and sisters in our Lord. He did not cheat, or do anything that is wicked for the pursuit of worldly comfort, wealth and influence, and instead he was content with living a quiet and honest life with his family in Nazareth, as he helped to bring up Jesus with Mary.

As we celebrate the solemnity of this special day, the feast of St. Joseph our Lord’s foster father and the spouse of His mother Mary, all of us ought to remember whatever he had done, and all the things he had done in righteousness and justice, and endeavour to model ourselves after him. He was among the greatest of the saints because of his closeness to our Lord and Saviour, and there is much for us to learn from him.

Let us all ask ourselves, how often is it that we all have forgotten our duties and responsibilities to our own families? To our own neighbours and those whom we have been entrusted with? How many of us actually have done what we have been expected to do, and not to take shortcuts or take measures that benefit ourselves and disadvantaged others? Let us reflect on this and think about our actions, all that we have done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us approach the Holy Week next week with a clear mind, and with a clear and renewed focus as we reflect on St. Joseph and his life, and in whatever things he had done in life, and in how he devotedly cared for his adopted Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us model our lives after him, rejecting all forms of worldliness, greed and all desires that lead to selfishness and destruction.

And one more thing, that as St. Joseph guarded Jesus, he therefore also guards the whole Holy Church of God, which God Himself also likely entrusted to his intercession and protection. In the same way as he had cared for the Lord when He was young, St. Joseph is also concerned about the Church his adopted Son had established on earth, and about us all who believe in Jesus and are members of that Church.

Therefore, let us all today ask for the intercession and protection of St. Joseph for the whole Church, and let us also ask him to intercede for our sake, that all of us sinners may find our way to his adopted Son through his guidance and protection, and that he will inspire many of us, especially our young ones, to live our lives with faith, with responsibility and with hard work to reach out to God and to be worthy of Him in all things.

May God bless us all and strengthen our faith, and may He through the intercession of His foster-father, St. Joseph, be with us always and protect us and the whole Church at all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 1 : 16, 18-21, 24a

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah.

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her. While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do.

Alternative reading

Luke 2 : 41-51a

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 4 : 13, 16-18, 22

If God promised Abraham, or rather his descendants, that the world would belong to him, this was not because of his obeying the Law, but because he was just and a friend of God through faith.

For that reason, faith is the way and all is given by grace; and the promises of Abraham are fulfilled for all his descendants, not only for his children according to the Law, but also for all the others who have believed. Abraham is the father of all of us, as it is written : I will make you father of many nations. He is our father in the eyes of Him Who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence what does not yet exist, for this is the God in Whom he believed.

Abraham believed and hoped against all expectation, thus becoming father of many nations, as he had been told : See how many will be your descendants. This was taken into account for him to attain righteousness.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

You said, “I have made a covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.”

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will keep My covenant firm forever, and My love for him will endure.

Saturday, 19 March 2016 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 7 : 4-5a, 12-14a, 16

But that very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : ‘When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a house for My Name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son.”

“Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the key and heart of the messages of today’s readings is simple, that we are nothing without God, and we cannot survive on our own without God, and detached from God, or if we are cast out of His grace, then we truly have nothing and will perish, no matter how many possessions we have in life. For our Lord is the source of all life, and the source of all the things that made us who we are.

He is the true Vine, from which all the branches came from. In a plant, the true Vine means the roots and the stem, that is the core body of the plant. The branches in the plant, the leaves, the fruits and the flowers are all coming out from that stem, and gain their water and supplies from the bountiful earth from the roots through the stem. And it is with this analogy and perfect comparison that Jesus taught His disciples and the people, what it means to be the disciples of the Lord.

Jesus compared Himself with the Vine, while God the Father as the Vinegrower. The Vinegrower tends for the Vine and gives It life through the care He has given. And therefore, by the loving care of the hands of the Father, He brought forth the Son in Jesus Christ, and through Jesus, He gives life also to the world. This is precisely just as the Vinegrower gives life to the branches through the care of the Vine.

Without the vine, the branches will die and not live. All the branches must be connected to the vine or the stem, just in the same way that our limbs and organs are all attached together to the same body. All are members of the same body, that is the Mystical Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, universal and united to our Lord.

Why is this important, brethren? That is because our world grows ever more individualistic, selfish and filled with ego and wickedness. The way of this world speaks volumes on the glorification of the self and self-praising attitudes. We often think in ways that bring glory to ourselves. In the many things that we do, we often were raised up to think that we are the only ones who have done them and the success, if there is any, is solely attributed to our own efforts.

And this is how we often forget God and His role in each of our lives. This is how we forget to give thanks to Him who have given us this life and opportunity to live out that life on every single day. Without God, we would not have any life, and our life would have been devoid of meaning. It is to give praise to God, for all the wonders of His grace and works, that we live our daily lives.

I recently visited a farm and observed how the farmers treat their plants and crops. The plants were treated very well, given all the nutrients and water they need to grow healthy and strong. Those plants that bear good fruits and healthy in appearance are taken care of even more, and the workers pruned the plant in order to maximise the yield of the fruits. The parts that are not so productive are pruned off and cut, so that the plant can focus its attention to the parts bearing good fruits.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? This means that while we have our lives from God, we also have been given grace and blessings, gifts and talents by the Lord for us, each unique to ourselves. These gifts and blessings are not meant to be kept within ourselves and left idle. These gifts and blessings are like the nutrients which the farmers had provided the plants, and thus, it is like all the graces that God had given us.

All the plants have a purpose, that is to bear good fruits, so that the good fruits may be harvested and gathered, and when sold, the fruits may bring decent and good profits to the farmers. The plants that bear bad and rotten fruits or no fruit at all, or if the plants are sickly and dying, or infested with many pests and diseases, they all will not be favourable to the farmers. They would uproot them and then throw them away to die and rot, and the place given to other plants that show more promise.

Thus, if we also produce bad fruits, or do nothing to bear fruits that befit what God had given us in His love and blessings, then we too shall not be able to enjoy God’s favour, as then there is no need for us and our existence indeed. Worse still if the rotten fruits cause the downfall to the fruits that are healthy and good. These diseases and sicknesses are causes by our sins and disobedience against God. And thus as a result, we did not bear good fruits, but rather, the fruits which had been tainted by evil.

If we profess to be the children and servants of our God, then all of our words and actions must show this very fact. And we also cannot be idle, thinking that believing in God is enough, or just being passive is enough. If we ignore the plight of others around us, and ignore those who live in the darkness while we are in the position to bring them succour and relief, then it will be the same as the plants that bear no fruit or bad fruits.

All of these Jesus had also summed up in His parables, one on the fig tree, where the fig tree that produces no fruit, He cursed and it withered and died, as well as the story which we heard today itself, on the vine and its branches. We are all born good and endowed with many good things, for we are anchored on the good vine, the true Vine, that is Jesus our Lord. But what matters is how we make use of all that goodness and develop it for the benefits of all, of everyone around us and not just ourselves.

In the first reading we heard how the great enemy of the faithful, Saul, who had been converted by the Lord Himself on the way to Damascus, and from someone who would arrest anyone who believed in Jesus at sight and persecute them to no end, into someone who now would not hesitate to preach a testimony of faith in front of the people, professing openly and teaching the people that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour of all.

Such was the complete transformation of Saul, from someone whose life once was driven by false zeal and by the desires of worldly praise, power and accomplishment, into a life that is transformed as a light for others, carried out in humility and true zeal, that one pursue no longer the desire of his own, but the desire of the Lord who had called him out of the darkness to be the servant to carry out His word to the masses.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, as we celebrate together this Holy Mass, this holy day of the Lord, all of us witness the reminders from the Holy Scriptures, that we all should indeed put our whole attention to the Lord our God, and stop being so inward looking and so concerned about ourselves and our desires. It is in our nature to be selfish to the exclusion of others, but as we have heard, we are part of one big family, one whole body of the community of all the faithful ones, all united through Christ our Lord.

We also must heed our Lord’s will and do things in accordance to what He had taught us. If we want to remain part of the Lord and continue to remain in His grace, then we truly should focus on our actions, words and deeds. Have we been faithful in all of them, and have we practiced our faith in our daily life? Or have we idled and did nothing to show the faith which we have for God? Remember, if we do nothing to act according to our faith, then we are the same as those plants that bear little or no or bad fruits.

God often gives us chance and opportunities to change our ways of life, and indeed, if we have not done according to His will up to now, then now is indeed the time to take concrete action and devote ourselves anew on the new path, a path blessed by God. There are many temptations for us to do things against this, as Satan certainly does not want us to be saved. He would do all things in his power to distract us and lure us away from salvation.

God is our true Vine, the source of all our life and all of our goodness and blessings. He is also our Shepherd and Guide, who leads us to the true path. Let us from now on, if we have not done so, or have not done enough, help one another, and keep each other in faith, as members of the same Body, the Church, united in Christ. It is that eventually all of us may gain eternal life and salvation, liberation from all the consequences of sin, by having life through our Lord.

Let us all pray, that God will strengthen our faith, and help us so that we may be courageous in living up to our faith, and bear plentiful fruits, good fruits of faith, by loving one another, walking righteously in life, rejecting all the lies of the devil and helping each other to keep the faith living and strong. May Almighty God bless us this day and from now on, forevermore. Let us all be one in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 1-8

Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinegrower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me.”

“I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing. Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burned.”

“If you remain in Me and My words in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 18-24

My dear children, let us love not only with words and with our lips, but in truth and in deed. Then we shall know that we are of the truth and we may calm our conscience in His presence. Every time it reproaches us, let us say : God is greater than our conscience, and He knows everything.

When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as He has commanded us.

Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know He lives in us.

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 21 : 26b-27, 28, 30ab, 30c-32

I will fulfill my vows before all who revere You. The lowly will eat and be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise Him. May your hearts live forever!

The whole earth will acknowledge and turn to the Lord; the families of nations will worship Him.

Before Him all those who rest in the earth will bow down, all who go down to the dust.

My soul will live for Him. My descendants will serve Him and proclaim the Lord to coming generations; they will announce His salvation to a people yet unborn, “These are the things that He has done.”

Sunday, 3 May 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 26-31

When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were afraid of him because they could not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles. He recounted to them how Saul had seen the Lord on his way and the words the Lord had spoken to him. He told them also how Saul had preached boldly in the Name of Jesus.

Then Saul began to live with them. He moved about freely in Jerusalem and preached openly in the Name of the Lord. He also spoke to the Hellenists and argued with them, but they wanted to kill him. When the believers learnt of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria with eyes turned to the Lord and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.