Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the Scripture readings, all of us heard about the descriptions of who are considered as true Christians, as those who are not Christians just in name or in the official records only, but also Christians in their hearts and souls, and all who see these people, will truly know and recognise their Christian faith, not because they show off any records or cards stating that they belong to the Christian faith, but because of their own actions and deeds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on the words of our Lord Jesus in the Beatitudes which He taught to the disciples and to the people who heard His teachings on the mountain, as we also heard it in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes are the eight good virtues which all of us should have in our own lives, as Jesus had gone through each of them, which are then expected from us Christians. Let me now go through each of them from the beginning to the end.

We have to be poor in spirit, which does not refer to material poverty, or being poor because we have no money or worldly possessions in order to sustain ourselves. This is a misconception that many people often have with regards to the term ‘poor in spirit’. Jesus was not supporting those who were materially poor against the rich, and neither did He condemn the rich just because they were rich or had more material possessions than others.

Rather, it means that we must recognise our spiritual poverty, understanding that we are all sinners before God, delinquent and rebel, having been cast away from His presence because of our disobedience and sinfulness. It is the recognition and awareness of one’s own sins and weaknesses which is something that we do not commonly see among ourselves. We are often too proud and feeling too self-righteous to be able to see our own faults and therefore we are incapable of taking the steps to rectify this situation.

The kingdom of God truly therefore belong to those who are humble and willing to be forgiven, those who are able to open themselves to receive the loving grace of God. Which then comes to the next Beatitude, about those who mourn. This mourning is often associated with those who are sad and sorrowful because they lose something or someone precious, such as when someone they love passed away. But even more importantly, someone who is poor in spirit will also be sorrowful.

Why is this so? That is because if we are aware of our sins, and just how terrible those sins are, we will be sorrowful indeed, knowing that God surely would punish us for all the heinous and wicked deeds we have done. It is the regret that accompanies one’s actions, knowing regret for one’s sins which many people of our time are unable to do. Many of us are ignorant of our own sins, and how bad they are for our own souls.

This world is filled with sin and darkness, and many of us are trapped in the darkness. We fill ourselves with acts of hatred, jealousy, greed and all other things unbecoming of ourselves as those who call themselves as Christians. We cause harm, pain and sufferings upon others just so that we can gain things for ourselves, that we will benefit on top of others’ inconvenience and sufferings. This will happen when each person only cares about themselves and not about others.

This is where we need to be gentle, to be loving and caring, not to be quick to anger but be calm and be compassionate. We must have that desire to love one another, and to shown concern and care for our brethren, especially when we see someone being treated unjustly, being bullied and having their rights taken away from them. It is un-Christian for us to ignore the plight of our brethren, of those who have need for help, but having no one listen to them.

We are all called to be those who are ready to help these brethren of ours, helping them and comforting them, showing them mercy and love. That is why God blesses all those who have pity and mercy in their hearts, all those who are incapable of sitting still while they see someone being mistreated, bullied and persecuted against. It does not just mean that we should do our best to overcome our sins, but we must also help one another through our actions.

It is only when we have the right intention, the right attitude and the right understanding of things that we will be able to proceed on in a Christian manner. And indeed, a Christian person is a man of peace, who seeks the betterment of his or her brethren. A peaceful person inspires one another to rule out conflict in dealing with matters. They would try their best to bring harmony and peace in all situations. It is when love should trump over hate, where justice should trump over injustice.

Ultimately, let us all ask ourselves, are we able to do what the Lord had instructed us all to do? We do not have to worry or fear, because in the second reading today, in the Epistle which St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth in Greece, he said that God chose the ordinary and the common people, not those who are considered strong and mighty in the sight of the world, but all of us with our weaknesses and with our faults, have been chosen by God.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that by calling us all, God wants each and every one of us to be changed, transformed by our actions, which should be filled with love, with mercy, with kindness, compassion and grace. We should be following in the examples of our good predecessors, the holy saints who have led a life of virtue, a true Christian life which we all ought to follow as well.

That also means that as Christians we must not participate in acts that are un-Christian in nature. We should not sow division when we are able to unite instead. We should not bring about harm and injury to our brethren when we are able to bring peace and harmony, and also love and mercy. We must not act unjustly on our brethren, but instead we should uphold justice and honesty in all of our dealings.

Indeed, all of these will not be easily done, as often things are easily said but difficult to be made a reality. But that is precisely what Jesus Himself had told His disciples and all of His followers. That there will be opposition, persecution and challenges from many sources, but those who persevere through, will receive great rewards in the end.

Yes, temptations and persuasions to do otherwise will be great, but this is where we can help one another to pull through those difficult moments, and show one another with good examples of our own actions. Let the eight Beatitudes be our guide, in our conduct and in our actions, so that all those who see us will immediately recognise God being present in us and our works, and therefore many more people will come to understand God and His ways, and be saved together with us all.

May the Lord bless us all and our works, and may He awaken in each and every one of us the desire to live a true and blessed Christian life. May all of us be ever righteous, just and honest in our every dealings, and be caring and loving, merciful and kind towards one another, fellow brothers and sisters in our Lord. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
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 a pure heart, 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 justice, 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. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become our wisdom from God, and Who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Sunday, 29 January 2017 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Zephaniah 2 : 3 and Zephaniah 3 : 12-13

Seek YHVH, all you poor of the land who fulfil His commands, do justice and be meek, and perhaps you will find refuge on the day YHVH comes to judge.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.

Saturday, 6 February 2016 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the words of the Sacred Scripture regarding firstly, in our first reading from the Book of the prophet Samuel, about the young king Solomon who had just inherited the throne and the kingdom from the king David, his father. As a young and inexperienced king, who had inherited all the great inheritance, wealth, renown and glory from his father, he was at a juncture when he was unsure of what he was to do in his reign.

And when God asked him for something to be granted to him due to the faith of his father and family, Solomon humbly submitted before God in great humility, and instead of asking for power, glory, wealth, affluence or any other worldly things and desires, he instead asked for wisdom, the wisdom to discern and the intellect to make good judgments and the wisdom of knowledge of the ways of the Lord.

His choice was a good one, since the choice of wisdom allowed him to deal good judgments and lead as a good and responsible king, as a righteous king who deal kindly and justly to his people. Instead of wealth and power that drive greed and desire, and corrupt the heart and mind, Solomon chose the humble gift of wisdom, the gift of understanding, so that his young mind and inexperience shall no longer be a hindrance.

He entrusted himself fully to the Lord, God Who in the Gospel today revealed Himself as a God of love, Who loves all of us, His beloved people. This was evident in how even though He and His disciples were tired and exhausted after long sessions of ministering and teaching to them, but as He saw many more people who sought to listen to Him and who were like sheep without a shepherd, He showed pity and mercy on them.

He loved them greatly and did not want them to be lost, and that was why He offered Himself as a great gift, the greatest gift of all, which even the gift that God had given to Solomon cannot compare. For wisdom is nothing compared to love, and the love of God is perfect love. And while Solomon and his wisdom failed as he grew old and his judgments clouded by the distractions and temptations of his many wives and his wealth, God’s love will never fail.

And today, we celebrate together the feast day of great saints and martyrs of the Church, who had given themselves totally to God, entrusting themselves, their fates and their lives to the Lord, even amidst harsh and torturous pains caused by the great persecution levelled against them. They were the Japanese martyrs and saints, St. Paul Miki and his companions.

St. Paul Miki was a convert to the Christian faith, who eventually became a renowned priest and preacher, whose efforts caused the conversion of literally thousands and more people who decided to become members of the Church. But at that time, the increasingly anti-Christian government grew ever more intolerant of the Faith, and persecutions against the faithful began and then proliferated.

St. Paul Miki and many other faithful were arrested and brought to the Imperial capital of Japan in Kyoto to be sentenced, and as they refused to recant their faith, they were sentenced to death, and were made to march the great distance from that city to Nagasaki, a distance of about a thousand kilometres, a forced march to their deaths. But they did not fear, and indeed, they became ever more resolute and committed in their faith.

The examples of St. Paul Miki and his companions who bravely welcomed their death in the midst of harsh persecution and torture should be examples enough for all of us to also act in the same manner as they had acted. All of us should put our trust in God and not to worry in anything, even if the whole world itself is against us, as God will always be with us at our side.

Let us all therefore not be disheartened, but have courage in the Lord, that our faith in Him will always remain strong amidst the persecutions of the world and amidst all the challenges and difficulties we encounter in life. Let us all recommit ourselves to God and be ever more faithful to Him. Let us leave behind our old life of sin, and begin a new life blessed by God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 6 February 2016 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time, even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began a long teaching session with them.