Monday, 23 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters, we are children of the light! Therefore, we too should be bright with the light that is within each one of us, and show it boldly to the world. We once lived in darkness and belong to the darkness, but the Lord who is loving and who is ever merciful had ransomed us from the dark through His own sacrifice on the cross, that we are made the possessions of the Light, that is Jesus our Lord and God.

Yes, brethren, in today’s first reading from the Book of Ezra the priest, the people of Israel, who had lived long in darkness, in the great depths of sin, and who had been sent into exile in Babylon for their sins, had been remembered and forgiven. God had brought them back out of darkness into the light, that they once again become His people, under the leadership of Ezra the servant of God and through Cyrus, the first Persian Emperor.

Although they had sinned greatly, that of their ancestors and their transgressions, the Lord who loved all was willing to regain them into His embrace, gathering them from all over back to the land He had promised them. The same He had done for them when they were oppressed in the land of Egypt. And so, He could not let Himself to abandon us who lived in darkness, and resolved to send the great deliverance, the Light of the world in Jesus.

Through Jesus, the world had received a new light, the light of God, that we may no longer live in darkness, but in the light. In each and every one of us who had been accepted into the Church through baptism, a light has been given, that is the light of Christ, which we witnessed through the presentation of baptismal candle at the time we were baptised. In baptism, we are made to be the belongings of Christ, and therefore become children of the light.

We are also given talents and skills within us, that each one of us possess these unique set of skills and abilities, that we are often ignorant about or fail to utilise effectively, and often even try to hide within ourselves for various reasons, some of which are fear, lack of confidence, ignorance, and many others that made us fail to shine.

Yes, in fact Christ is challenging us, whether we can truly get rid of these human fears and be courageous instead to be the witnesses of the Gospel of truth, the Good News He had proclaimed to the nations. In this way, this is how we truly shine brightly as the children of the light, on a lampstand, clearly visible and not hidden in darkness.

Fear and plain reluctance often comes in the way, with many of us lacking the confidence to make our light truly be seen, be it because of fear of our society, the fear of rejection by others, or pure laziness and sloth. In each of us, we had been given many gifts and graces, brethren, and therefore, much is also expected from us. We cannot be idle and hide the light in ourselves, excluding others from it.

This light within us, is manifested most easily in love. Yes, the love for God and for His children, our brothers and sisters. We show forth our light if we open ourselves and our hearts for others and for God, that from it, the purity of our love, care, and compassion may shine forth, dispelling the darkness the devil had created around us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a great and well-known saint, that is Padre Pio of Italy, also known as St. Pius of Pietrelcina, one of the greatest saint of the last century, being widely known for his piety, his dedication, in his tireless ministry and service for others, in his healings and miracles, and through his life examples. He was known as a truly holy, pious, and saintly man, and this would not have happened, had he not revealed his faith like that of a lamp on a lampstand.

Padre Pio lived humbly and piously as a religious, as a Franciscan monk, who was well known for his stigmata miracle, in which the crucifixion wounds of Christ appeared on his hands and feet. He was harassed by the devil at many times in his life and he suffered, both from the pain of the miraculous stigmata, as well as rejection by the people of God at times. Yet, Padre Pio, now St. Pio/Pius persevered and endured in his hard work, for the good of the people and resolved to bring them to salvation in Jesus.

St. Pius championed the good works of divine grace, ministering healing and miracles even when he was still alive, and the stigmata showed to many, the nature of God’s love for us, that is the crucifixion of His Son, Jesus, through which we are saved. St. Pio became a great role model for many, through his humility, through his passionate service and love for all God’s children, and through his holiness, evident from his daily actions and prayers. He also put a great emphasis on the Most Holy Eucharist, in which lies the Lord Himself in the form of His Body and His Blood.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, with the example of this great saint, known to many of us as Padre Pio, the great servant of God and the worker of miracles, let us be inspired to follow him in his examples, in his prayerful devotion to God and in his loving commitment to one another, that is to our brethren around us, especially those in most need of our love and help. May St. Pius intercede for us always, that the Lord will constantly keep us in His love and grace and protect us always from the power of Satan, and bring us back into His divine embrace. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 23 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 8 : 16-18

No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather he puts it on a lampstand, so that people coming in may see the light.

In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces will be given more, but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.

Monday, 23 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When the Lord brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o Lord, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Monday, 23 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezra 1 : 1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, YHVH willed to fulfill the word He had said through the prophet Jeremiah, so He moved the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom.

Thus speaks Cyrus, king of Persia : “YHVH, the God of heavens, who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah. To everyone belonging to His people, may his God be with him! Let them go up to Jerusalem with the help of their God and there build the House of YHVH, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.”

“In every place where the rest of the people of YHVH live, let the people of those places help them for their journey with silver, gold, and all kinds of goods and livestock. Let them also give them voluntary offerings for the House of YHVH which is in Jerusalem.”

Then they rose up – the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and all those whose spirit God had stirred up – and they decided to go and build the House of YHVH. And all of their neighbours gave them all kinds of help : gold, silver, livestock, and precious objects in great quantity, besides every kind of voluntary offering.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the word of God in the readings, in which we are told first of the greatness of God and His kindness and love for His people, in giving to His people, the full promise of His covenant by bringing them into the land promised onto them for possession, just as God had once promised Abraham, their forefather.

Today, we also listened to the end of Moses the great prophet and leader of God’s people, who acted as the conduit of God’s amazing power and brought Israel out of Egypt, through the miracles the Lord performed through Moses and his brother, Aaron. Moses was appointed to be tool through which God exercised His saving power on His beloved people. But Moses too had his flaws, and he disobeyed God in Massah and Meribah, when the people tested the Lord and complained against Him and Moses, His servant.

Through that disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land, that Promised Land of Canaan, but he was indeed allowed to take a look of the land the people of Israel was about to enter, before the Lord took him into heaven into His presence at the end of his earthly life. Moses, as all men had, met the end of his life that is death. But as Christ had proven, that death is not the end, nor does it have any power over us, because, He had overcome death, and brought new life to all mankind, that is eternal life with God in heaven for those who remain faithful in God.

Although Moses had indeed gone, and no one was ever like him in this world, save for Christ, our Lord who had incarnated Himself as one of us, but there were many prophets that God had sent to His people to guide them from generations to generations. And then, our Lord Himself had commissioned His apostles, the disciples whom He had chosen, to be the new messengers and bearers of the will of God in this world. Yes, they were to be the leaders of the people of God, the shepherds of God’s beloved sheep, in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church He Himself had established and entrusted to the Apostles through Peter.

From the apostles, the authority of leadership of God’s people, as the divine shepherds, came down to bishops and priests throughout the generations, and eventually to our bishops and priests today, who minister to us and lead us in our path towards God, as our leader and guide. They are our role models and to be like Moses of old, when he led the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, to the Promised Land of Canaan.

And like Moses, our priests and bishops too have to deal with all kinds of problems, with our complaints and rejections of the Lord, that they really have much things to deal with in their hands. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, their job is not easy, and they always need our constant prayers and assistance. And one of the task that priests need to do is to bring peace and love between one another, just as we listened in the Gospel Reading today, of the need to reconcile between ourselves, between brethren and children of the same God.

Today, we mark the feast of one of those excellent priests of the Lord, the leader of God’s people, the true shepherd, the good shepherd of God’s flock. Yes, that is Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the well-known saint of the Holocaust of Nazi Germany during the World War II era. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar, who in his great zeal in the service of the Lord, and after witnessing the erosion of the faith in many, established the Militia Immaculata or the Army of Mary, a group intended to foster the love and devotion to the Lord through His mother Mary, and through the work, many people rejoined the Church and had their faith strengthened.

St. Maximilian Kolbe did much good works and service during his life and as a priest of the Lord. He truly became like Moses was for the people of Israel. He ministered to the people of God and through the Militia Immaculata, spread catechism and teachings of the Church to many people, bringing them closer towards the Lord and salvation, by means of printed media and publications such as newspapers and magazines. St. Maximilian Kolbe also went to Japan and established at Nagasaki in particular a base of operations, from where the good works of St. Maximilian Kolbe and his fellow workers spread to the people still in darkness.

St. Maximilian Kolbe protected many thousands of people including the Jews, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II. He protected them from the cruelty of the Nazi holocaust policy, but in the end he himself was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. He was incarcerated in prison with many other people, suffering under very harsh treatment and hard labour in the Nazi concentration camp. Yet, he did not give in to despair, but he in fact encouraged his fellow inmates, singing hymns and saying the Mass for them.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was not obliged to do so, but he did so because of the faith and dedication he had for the Lord and for the people of God. He truly lived his faith and made it a concrete and living faith. One day, the Germans wanted to punish a few people in the prison, because it was found that someone had managed to escape the prison, and therefore these people had to suffer in the escaped prisoner’s place. One Polish military officer who was imprisoned was chosen to be among the ones to suffer death. His pleas for mercy because he had a wife and children brought the attention of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered himself in exchange for the man, that is to die in his place instead.

The example of St. Maximilian Kolbe is truly praiseworthy, brothers and sisters in Christ, because through his death, much had been achieved. Yes, his death was not a waste, but it has brought much fruits, that is the fruit of love, the fruit of one’s selfless act of sacrifice, for the love of his fellow men. St. Maximilian Kolbe exemplified the very words of Christ, on who is a true and good shepherd, that is someone who love fully those who had been entrusted to him, his friends and loved ones, and one who even would die for the sake of his friends. That was what St. Maximilian Kolbe had done with his sacrifice for the poor soldier and indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had done for all of us out of His love.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all ought to emulate the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe in our own lives, in our giving of ourselves to our brethren in need. We can do it in a variety of ways, but basically we have to be ready to give our all for our brethren’s sake. As importantly as this, let us support our priests and those who have been appointed as shepherds over us, that they will remain faithful to the mission they have been appointed to, and faithful to the people and the flock they have been entrusted with, just as St. Maximilian Kolbe and many other great saints and martyrs had done.

May the Lord bless us, our priests, and our Church, and may through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and all the saints, more souls will find their way to heaven, and may in this world that we live in today, justice and peace can be held up ever better, and may the innocent and the weak ones be protected from harm, injustice, and evil. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 13 June 2013 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters, today we are reminded, as we should, on the importance of love and harmony in our relationship with one another. We are brothers and sisters to one another, as all of us are the same children of God. Before God, we are all the same, regardless of where we came from, our wealth, our possessions, our race, and other things that seems to divide us, and differentiate us.

That is why brothers and sisters, we must build a harmonious relationship between one another, and base that relationship in love and peace. But too often, we place ourselves and our greed before that, and we do not look at our brothers and sisters with love, not even those who are family to us, and therefore, less still those who are unknown to us.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, a well-known saint, a Franciscan friar. He was a great teacher of the faith, and a humble man, but even more importantly, he was a man of peace, just as St. Francis, the founder of his order was. St. Anthony was committed to love and peace between individuals and reflected that in his life, which he gave into the service of mankind.

Like all the saints and other holy people of God, St. Anthony reflect the true life and offering that God wants from all of us. Yes, brothers and sisters, God wants our love, and He does not want the offerings that we place on the altar, like that of Israel of old. What He wants from us is the love from our hearts, a pure offering in His eyes, and that we live in perfect love and peace with one another, as we are brothers and sisters, all created by Him, our Creator.

That is what our faith is truly about, that we should reflect in ourselves the light of Christ, the light of love, hope, faith, and peace, that everyone who sees us, and all the things that we do will know that we are the children of God, because we practice what God has taught us through Christ, that is both to love Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls, and also to do the same to our neighbours, our brethren.

Sadly though, many of us in our world no longer preach the Gospel of love and peace through our deeds and our actions. We have been blinded by the evils of this world, that is hatred, jealousy, and greed, so that we no longer love our fellow brothers and sisters, but instead incite violence, anger, and hatred between one another. War, injustice, oppression, and vengeance are just some of the fruits of these evils, which today we know, brothers and sisters, are all around us.

I want to bring to your attention, the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Syria, who had been in turmoil for many years, and whose people had been subjected to a civil war between competing politicians and the powerful ones, for their own purposes and objectives, but which cause immense suffering for the people. Brothers no longer look upon each other as brothers, and neither do sisters. Families and friendships are divided and devastated. Truly, our Lord would certainly be sad to look at all these.

Injustice is also rampant in our society today, brothers and sisters, how we often treat people unequally, favouring some while treating others unfairly and badly, just because of certain objectives and desires that we possess within us. Some because of greed, some because of lust, and some because of other desires and evils. Even I am sure, brothers and sisters, that some of us had often encountered these, and even be part of these in our own lives!

If we continue to walk down this path of evil and destruction, our God will not look kindly upon us, for He is a friend of the poor, the lonely, the unloved, and the hated ones, the least ones whom we often exploit and hate, but to the Lord they are beloved. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us reflect on our lives, on our actions, whether we have lived true to the Gospel of our Lord, and His call for us to be filled with love and peace.

May we follow in the footsteps of St. Anthony of Padua and the holy saints, that we can be transformed, from beings of evil, hatred, prejudice, and violence, into beings of love, justice, and peace. How wonderful will our world become, if only everyone dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 13 June 2013 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 5 : 20-26

I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial.’ But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.

Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, “Fool!” deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.

Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.