Wednesday, 9 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go closer and closer to the time of celebration of the Holy Week, and as we continue to immerse ourselves in the dynamics of Lent, we need to make a clear and conscious choice on our part, that we resolve to be with God and be faithful to Him, or to reject Him and to follow instead, the devil and his ways of the world.

The three companions of Daniel, that is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they are all presented with the choice to serve either God their Lord, or the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar and worship him and the statue he had built for himself. And they proved their faith for the Lord, choosing to be burned in the big furnace rather than giving up their faith and worship the king’s statue.

They dedicated themselves to God even though they know that they will suffer from disobeying the king’s order and even knowing the punishment that they would have to suffer for such disobedience. Yet, in doing that they remain true to God and to His will, and as we saw, God did not want His servants to suffer, and therefore, He protected them from the wrath of the flames in the furnace.

We cannot be servants to two masters, as another parable of Jesus has told us, that for example, we cannot be servants of both God and money. In today’s Gospel the people claimed that they were the children of Abraham by the right of descendant, and yet what they did in their words and deeds clearly did not reflect that they were worthy of being the children of Abraham.

For Abraham obeyed the Lord without condition and with the fullness of devotion and giving of his heart. He did not even shy from giving up his own son, the very one long promised by God, to be sacrificed on the Mount of Moria, and for that kind of devotion, he was praised and rewarded by God. Abraham was faithful, in the same way as the three companions of Daniel had been, and they showed that faith in God cannot be one that is arbitrary, but must be something that is concrete and done in complete and full dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot be like the people of Israel who rejected Jesus by claiming that they were the children of Abraham, in trying to justify their wickedness. They thought that being the children of Abraham, they were ensured and guaranteed of salvation, but they were wrong. In fact Abraham would have been ashamed that these people were born from his blood, and being his descendants.

Thus, like the three companions of Daniel, we too must make a firm and conscious choice, especially as we go on in this life, and during this perfect opportunity of Lent, to change our ways if we have erred and strayed away from God’s path. Let us make that concrete choice and action, to seek the Lord and ask Him for His mercy, surrendering ourselves totally to Him, and promise Him and dedicate our whole lives to Him, forsaking all the falsehoods of the devil and the temporal pleasures of this world.

Let us instead seek the Lord and the true happiness that only He can give. Let us be with Him and be in His grace forevermore. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 13 October 2013 : 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 5 : 14-17

So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed.

Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men. He entered and said to him, “Now I know that there is no other God anywhere in the world but in Israel. I ask you to accept these gifts from your servant.”

But Elisha answered, “I swear by YHVH whom I serve, I will accept nothing.” And however much Naaman insisted, Elisha would not accept his gifts. So Naaman told him, “Since you refuse, let me get some sacks of soil from your land – the amount that two mules can carry. I shall use it to build an altar to YHVH, for I shall not offer sacrifices to any other god but Him.”

Friday, 4 October 2013 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Baruch 1 : 15-22

You will say : May everyone recognise the justice of our God but, on this day, shame and confusion befit the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – our kings and princes, our prophets, and our fathers, because we have sinned before the Lord.

We have disobeyed Him and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, nor have we followed the commandments which the Lord had put before us. From the day that the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until this day, we have disobeyed the Lord our God and we have rebelled against Him instead of listening to His voice.

Because of this, from the day on which the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, so as to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the evils and the curse which the Lord pronounced by Moses, His servant, have dogged our footsteps right down to the present day.

We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God speaking through the words of the prophets whom He sent to us, but each one of us followed his perverted heart, serving false gods and doing what displeases the Lord our God.

Saturday, 7 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Psalm 53 : 3-4, 6 and 8

By Your Name, o God, save me; You, the Valiant, uphold my cause. Hear my prayer, o God; listen to the words of my mouth.

See, God is my helper; the Lord upholds my life. Freely will I offer sacrifice to You and praise Your Name, o Lord, for it is good.

Friday, 16 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today Christ told us about the importance and sanctity of marriage, as something not merely a legal thing, nor it is merely a thing of this world, because marriage is a bond between man and woman, united and sealed by God Himself, and no man can divide or break this bond. That is because this bond is holy, and indeed, is one of the Seven Sacraments in the Church, that is the Sacrament of Marriage.

God made man from dust, and that was Adam, the first man. From his own flesh, bone, and blood, God created woman, Eve, the first woman. Because of that, man naturally needs woman, and God gave man to woman and vice versa. When man and woman come together, they become perfect, because in the beginning they share one another’s flesh and blood. God who created this world and all of us, had joined man and woman, in the sacred bond that made them perfect in one another, and allow them to multiply with the gift of children, to fill the earth and be prosperous, as God had commanded man to do after He created him. They are supposed to live in perfect happiness and joy for eternity, with God, in the presence of God forever.

But when mankind disobeyed the Lord and sinned against Him, they were torn away from the Lord. They were torn away because of their disobedience. And because of our sins, we should have deserved death and destruction. We have been corrupted and made unworthy of the Lord. The Lord our God loves us, and He did not want us to suffer destruction because of our faults. That was why He chose to intervene from time to time in order to bring us back to Him.

Through sin and evil, the purity of our relationship with one another had been made impure. We had been infected with the sin of lust, greed, and discord. These had corrupted the original intent the Lord had for us. We lust for pleasure and turn ourselves from the path of righteousness. In our lust and greed, we forgot the holiness and sanctity in which the bond we have between us, specifically the bonds between husband and their wives had been forged, that no man or woman should divide or ever come in between the two whom the Lord had sealed in holy matrimony.

The Lord therefore sent His help to us, to His people, through the leaders and prophets He had sent them throughout the ages past. And finally, He sent His own Son, our Lord Jesus, the Son of God, to be with us and become the source of our salvation, and also our purification and sanctification. Yes, brethren, for the Lord had become one of us, in flesh and blood, that through His incarnation, we are bound to Him in the holy bond much like the holy bond of matrimony between husband and wife as I had mentioned earlier on.

Yes, we belong to Christ and Christ belong to us, and through that same bond He had forged with us, He channeled all of our faults, our sins, and our defilements towards Him, that He may bear all of them, with great faith and courage, during His Passion, His suffering and path to the completion of His mission of salvation. He died on the cross, so that we who are bound to Christ, may also die to ourselves, to our old and sinful selves, and be reborn into a new life, a life of new beginnings, and a life in which holiness can emerge, from the old self of sin.

Through Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we too are all promised and offered the new life in Christ, not just any life, but eternal life in happiness in the presence of God. He has offered us this, and if we accept it, we will be saved. Yes, brethren, our Lord truly loves us and cares for us, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, not only as our Saviour, but also as our Teacher, the One who reminds all of us of the need to love God and follow His will and His words.

Yes, in the Gospel today, Christ reminds the people the importance and sanctity of marriage, of the holy union between man and woman, that He reiterates the divine and holy nature of such union, that no power in heaven or on earth may disturb or dissolve. However, it is sad indeed that throughout history, too many times the people of God had disobeyed this ordinance, and hence sinned against the Lord and faced condemnation for their adulterous behaviour.

If we ask then, why do so many people commit adultery, by dissolving that holy union and marrying again after divorce? That is because, we do not commit our hundred percent attention and effort into maintaining the health and viability of the holy union, and therefore, when temptation comes, our union, that lacks strong and true love maintaining it, easily dissolves, by the wickedness of our own minds and our hearts, poisoned by lust and our love for worldly pleasures, especially dangerous nowadays, because such temptations are essentially everywhere around us.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we commemorate the feast of a saint, one who played a great role in the salvation of many. Yes, that is because this saint is none other than St. Stephen of Hungary, which history knew as King Stephen I Arpad, the first King of Hungary, who converted into the faith, and brought his entire people, his entire nation, into God’s holy Church. He is also well known as the Christian King, because of his dedication to the faith and the Church of God, in ensuring that the faith reached all the peoples within the four corners of his kingdom.

The people of Hungary were known once as the Magyars, the pagan and ferocious nomadic barbarians who raided much of central Europe in the ninth and tenth century, a century before the time of St. Stephen’s rule as King. St. Stephen united the people through his rule as king, and he brought his people before the Lord into their salvation. You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord is united to His people, and man in united with his wife, a king and a ruler is also bound to the land and to his people, in the same way as a shepherd is bound to his sheep. He brought Christ to his own nation and opened the door of salvation to his people.

St. Stephen did many works that become the foundation of both his nation of Hungary, and also the Church, whom he greatly strengthened during his reign by ceaseless attempts to bring God to those who still close their hearts against Him. His rule of Hungary as king was filled with justice and benevolence, and he ruled his people with the grace of God and with God’s wisdom. Truly, he is an example to all of us Christians, in his dedication to the faith, to God, and to the people he is bound to in a sacred bond of kingship.

And ultimately, we must not forget that indeed, Christ Himself mentioned about the role of a special group of people, that had been appointed and chosen by God as the shepherds of His people, a special role of complete and total dedication to God and His people. Yes, brethren, it is about the celibacy of our priests and those in the religious life. God had chosen them and taken them away from the world, and taken to be the brides of our Lord.

Yes, that is why our priests and our religious brothers and sisters do not marry, precisely because they are ‘married’ first to the Lord Himself, and secondly, to the people of God, all of us, whom they serve. And if anyone contest why our priests do not marry and seemingly contradict the Lord’s command that man and woman be united as one in sacred bond of matrimony, we can then say that, yes, they are married indeed, in a sacred bond with our God Himself, and with all of us, the sheep of the flock of God, and the priests as our shepherds, bonded to us in a sacred and inviolable bond of love, just as the Lord Himself belongs to us and we belong to the Lord.

They need our prayers, brothers and sisters in Christ, because their works and responsibilities are numerous and they have many room for errors. Remember that they are also humans like us. They need our prayer, our help, and our support. They have given up marriage with another in order to be in union with us and with God, serving a greater purpose. They have given up having families of their own, that they can now be with all of us in one big family of the Church.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, from today on, let us play our respective parts in the Church, to be good and responsible in all our dealings and actions, and to follow the Lord’s will and commandments at all times. Let those who are married, renew their commitments to one another, recalling the promise they made before the Lord, and maintain the holiness of their lives and their union at all times, building up love in their union, that their marriage will be truly blessed. And for our leaders who are ‘bonded’ with us their people, may they also realise the commitment they have to us, and the dedication that they need to put in into their service.

May the Lord bless all of us, all our priests as well today, that we all may remain committed in our own vocations in life, that we will always walk in the ways of the Lord and remain in His love. God be with all of us. Amen.

Saturday, 10 August 2013 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-10

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : ‘He distributed, He gave to the poor, His good works last forever.’ God who provides the sower with seed will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interests of your good works.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest (First Reading)

Exodus 16 : 1-5, 9-15

The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of YHVH in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!”

YHVH then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow My teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare when they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.”

Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to YHVH for He has heard your complaints.” It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of YHVH in the midst of the cloud.

Then YHVH spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say : ‘Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am YHVH, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted , there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that YHVH has given you to eat.”

Friday, 19 July 2013 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Romuald, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.

If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you.

When you fast, do not put a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances.

And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

2 Corinthians 8 : 1-9

Now I want you to know about a gift of divine grace among the churches of Macedonia. While they were so afflicted and persecuted, their joy overflowed and their extreme poverty turned into a wealth of generosity. According to their means – even beyond their means – they wanted to share in helping the saints.

They asked us for this favour spontaneously and with much insistence and, far beyond anything we expected, they put themselves at the disposal of the Lord and of us by the will of God. Accordingly, I urged Titus to complete among you this work of grace since he began it with you.

You excel in everything : in the gifts of faith, speech and knowledge : you feel concern for every cause, and besides, you are first in my heart. Excel also in this generous service. This is not a command; I make known to you the determination of others to check the sincerity of your fraternal concern.

You know well the generosity of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Although He was rich, He made Himself poor to make you rich through His poverty.