Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a great feast day which marks the official end of the Christmas season, forty days after Christmas, when we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, when Jesus Christ our Lord was presented according to the custom of the laws of Moses, at the Temple, as the firstborn of His family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

This feast of the Presentation of the Lord has deep symbolic and real meaning in our faith, because Jesus Christ was indeed special in all things, as the Lord divine incarnate into the flesh as Man. As the One who became one of us and dwell among us, He was destined to become the High Priest of all creation, over all of us mankind.

Yes, as the High Priest He was to be the One in between us and our Lord, Our Father and Creator. The high priests of Israel offered the offering of mankind, the people of God to the Lord, as the mediator and intermediate, that the sins of mankind may be absolved and forgiven. The same too therefore happened with Jesus Christ, who was the High Priest, the One and only High Priest, who offered nothing else but Himself as a perfect offering for the absolution of mankind.

And if the high priests and priests of Israel continued to offer animal sacrifices, in the blood of lambs and goats for the temporal absolution of the people’s sins, Christ as the High Priest offered Himself as the only worthy Lamb of sacrifice, to once and for all liberate mankind from the sins of their ancestors, that through Him mankind may have hope once again in salvation and eternal life.

As the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind for all times and ages, therefore Jesus and His death on the cross marked our liberation from the power and tyranny of sin. Never again would death have unchecked power over us, as we have been given a new hope of life through Jesus. His death and sacrifice justified us and we who accept His sacrifice and recognise Him through baptism receive eternal life and redemption.

Then you may ask, if He was to be the Saviour of the world and the High Priest of all, why then He was presented to the Lord at the Temple? Why was Jesus presented to the Lord as the firstborn Son of Mary? That is because Jesus indeed came to this world not to destroy the Law revealed through Moses, but to make it perfect through God’s love.

As all the people of God offered their firstborn son and consecrated them to YHVH, their Lord and God, so was Jesus offered, both as the firstborn Son of Mary, the Son of Man, and as the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate into flesh. The Presentation event that we are celebrating today showed to the world, in a revelation, who Jesus was, and what He was going to bring into this world, that is salvation.

Simeon the seer had been waiting for long, expecting for the coming of the Messiah in Jesus, and he was indeed fortunate among many prophets and servants of God, that he was given the opportunity to see the salvation of the world even a small, little Baby. Many longed to see the Messiah and His coming, and did not see Him, and Simeon as well as Anna was fortunate among them, not only because they were able to witness the coming of the Messiah, but both of them also became the heralds of the Lord’s coming by revealing Him to the people of God.

They told the people that the Baby being offered to God at the Temple, as frail and fragile and weak He was, Jesus was destined to be the One who was to bring liberation to a world immersed in darkness. He was offered as the unblemished and perfect sacrifice, that would free mankind from their slavery to sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is imperative for all of us to take note of this occasion and rejoice for the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God our Father had given us all as the gift for our salvation. He offered Himself to redeem us from our sins, and despite our constant rebellion and disobedience, He wants equally constantly for us to be reunited with Him in faith and love.

Today we also commemorate, fittingly, the Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, that is we pray for the sake of all those who had dedicated and consecrated themselves to the Lord, be it as priests, religious, or consecrated people, who forsook the world and all its goodness, to be with God, and to serve Him and His people.

Just as Jesus had been dedicated to the Lord, to be the Saviour of the world, and the liberator of mankind, therefore, the priests and the religious also dedicated themselves to God their Lord and Master, professing solemnly their faith and dedication to Him, till the end of their lives. They become our intermediary with the Lord, much in the same way as how Jesus, as our High Priest, is the mediator between God and all of us.

The works of our consecrated priests and the other servants of the Lord are heavy and burdensome. They have many challenges and trials to go through daily, especially opposition to their works and rejections to their teachings. Many also do not appreciate their works, and even put themselves in the way of their ministries.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we recall the Presentation of our Lord Jesus, let us also pray for our priests and religious brothers and sisters, that they may stay faithful and dedicated to the flock and the works they have been entrusted with. May they persevere despite the increasing opposition against their works and persecutions against the faithful in general.

And we too, brothers and sisters in Christ, also have our own roles to play. We are also called by the Lord in baptism, to be the messengers of His Good News. Even though we do not dedicate ourselves as closely as that of our priests and religious, we can also take part in the Lord’s work aimed at the salvation of all mankind. In order to do that, we need to love and love tenderly.

Yes, through our actions and deeds, we can show God’s love to everyone, and make them to understand God’s love for them and so that they may believe in Jesus, in the love He had shown to all of us that He did not even mind to doe a humiliating and painful death on the cross for our lives and salvation. He turned that cross of shame into a triumphant cross of victory.

May the Lord Jesus deepen the faith within our hearts, that we too may commit ourselves, our lives and all our actions, for the sake of our Lord, and out of love for our brothers and sisters who are still separated from God’s love. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 8 December 2013 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 11 : 1-10

From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and power, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

Not by appearances will He judge, nor by what is said must He decide, but with justice He will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, His word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of His lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of His waist, truth the girdle of His loins.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay.

By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over My holy mountain, for as water fills the sea, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.

On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of Him, thus making His dwelling place glorious.

Monday, 2 December 2013 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5, 6-7, 8-9

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the House of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel.

To give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls and security within your citadels!”

For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be with you!” For the sake of the house of the Lord, I will pray for your good.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 19 : 11-28

Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to assume regal authority, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made.”

“The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

“The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proven yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.'”

“The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow,'”

“The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!'”

“The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Timothy 1 : 12-17

I give thanks to Christ Jesus, our Lord, who is my strength, who has considered me trustworthy and appointed me to His service, although I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a rabid enemy. However He took mercy on me because I did not know what I was doing when I opposed the faith; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, together with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

This saying is true and worthy of belief : Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Because of that I was forgiven; Christ Jesus wanted to display His utmost patience so that I might be an example for all who are to believe and obtain eternal life.

To the King of ages, the only God who lives beyond every perishable and visible creation – to Him be honour and glory forever. Amen!

Friday, 6 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are truly reminded as ever always, that Christ our Lord lies at the very centre of our lives, and that He is what truly matters for us, while other things are often unnecessary and illusory in nature. Nonetheless, we often forget this fact and relegate Christ into a corner rather than embracing and appreciating the central role Christ plays in each of our own lives.

Everything that we have, our lives, our faith, and our very existence owed greatly to the Lord, through whom indeed we were created, given life, and then a new life through salvation of the cross. For Christ is the Word of God, through whom the Lord our Creator had created all of creation including all of us, whom He had given life through the breath of His Mouth.

And even when we had gone astray from Him and be estranged from Him like that of a child estranged from the father, He willed for us to be reconciled to Himself, by the outpouring of His love, through the numerous help He sent us along our journey in this world, through countless messengers and prophets who carried His desire and love for us, the desire to be reunited with us, His lost children.

That even when we had rejected Him by turning a deaf ear to the heedings of His prophets, and even tortured and slaughtered them in cold blood, He did not give up, but in His great and infinite love, He allowed Himself to give the ultimate manifestation of His love, that is to be incarnate through a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary His mother, to be our Saviour, through which He gathered all people to Himself.

Such great is His love for us, that He even readied Himself to suffer for us, to die for us, all that we who deserved death, will not die an agonising and eternal death, separated from God who loves us. That we may live through His death on the cross which saves, and through His glorious resurrection, through which He brought unto Himself those who had died in Him.

He dedicated Himself so much for us, that He became flesh like us, and through that mystical incarnation of the divine into man, God is united to us in an everlasting bond of love. Yes, brethren, just as Jesus in the Gospel today imagined Himself as the bridegroom in the midst of His beloved, so indeed He is our bridegroom, the divine bridegroom by God made man.

He rebuked the Pharisees not because it is wrong to fast or observe the laws, but precisely because they did not truly love God, and did not have God in their hearts, that God is not at the centre of their lives as He wanted from them. Instead, they allowed their pride, arrogance, selfishness, and human nature to take over them and corrupt them.

They fast for the sake of fasting, and to show the people their great piety, which is indeed evident, but truly empty. Many of them had missed entirely the point of doing things in accordance to the rules of the Lord, and did them not out of love for God, but out of love for themselves and their ‘greatness’ and ‘superior piety and faith’.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the lessons we had heard and taken into ourselves are truly beneficial for us. Let us make the best use out of them, in order to be able to dedicate ourselves and devote ourselves more to the Lord our God, that no matter whatever we are doing, we always do it for the Lord, and keep Him always at the very centre of our lives, each and every one of us. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 6 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Monday, 2 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 95 : 1 and 3, 4-5, 11-12, 13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is the Lord and worthy of praise! Above all gods He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One who made the heavens.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy.

Let them sing before the Lord who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Saturday, 31 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Psalm 97 : 1, 7-8, 9

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world and all its peoples. Let rivers clap their hands, hills and mountains sing with joy.

Before the Lord they will sing, for He comes to rule the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have the continuation of the litany of woes attributed by Christ to the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law, whom Jesus referred as the crooks leading the people of God, not into salvation, but into eternal damnation in hell. They practised not what they had preached, and neither did they keep themselves holy for the Lord, and their prayers were empty litanies of praise for themselves instead of humble supplications for the mercy and forgiveness by the Lord for their sins.

They liked to show off their piety in public prayers, praying openly to God with hands lifted up high even in public places like market places. People would then praise them, honour them, follow them, and even emulate them, for their ‘exemplary’ actions and their ‘piety’. In this sense, they gained worldly glory and worldly power, from the people, and as a result, they left the Lord without glory, and without due honour. They had made themselves even greater than the Lord.

This was what the Lord criticised from them, and rebuked them with the woes given to them. They have also made the Lord as nothing more than a lawgiver or the fearsome God who must be obeyed or else the people would receive punishment for their failure to follow the Law. The Pharisee and the teachers of the Law thought themselves as holy, and looked down on those whom they considered as hopeless ones, the sinners, the prostitutes and the lowest ends of the society.

Yet, it was precisely these people whom the Pharisees had condemned for their sins that in fact had the great humility to reach out with contrite hearts, seeking the forgiveness of the Lord, as many of the sick, the bleeding widow, the prostitutes, had done, while the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had not done so. They kept their heads upheld high, and hardened their hearts against the Lord and against His people, the very sheep entrusted to them as shepherds to lead towards the Lord, as the chief shepherd.

The Lord who will judge everyone on the last day, will judge them and cast them out of His presence, as they had not ony failed in their given mission to lead the people of God with responsibility and upright ways, but they even brought the people closer to damnation instead of salvation. They had even mocked and opposed those whom the Lord had sent to them to wake them up and remind them of their true task and their true purpose, the purpose of their positions in the society.

Just as their ancestors had opposed, mocked, and slaughtered the prophets and messengers of God, so they had opposed, mocked, questioned, tested, and eventually condemned Christ, the very One sent to this world to redeem it. This was because both them and their ancestors had hardened their hearts and kept the love of God out of their hearts. They turned a deaf ear against the advice of the prophets and their pleading that they change their ways.

Just as their ancestors during their sojourn in the desert, they not only turned away from the Lord their God, but also openly opposed Him and put Him constantly to the test, in the same way as how the Pharisees had tested Jesus many times, desiring and longing for Him to make a mistake that they can capitalise on. Smart? Oh certainly, by human standards, yes indeed, the work of Satan made manifest!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that does not mean however, that wicked men and women has no hope absolutely in salvation in God. They indeed have much opportunity and chance to return to the Lord their God and return towards the path leading to salvation, providing that they really have a total change in their hearts, from one that was hardened against God, into those that are open for the wonders and warmth of His love. And today, as we commemorate the occasion, there is no better example than St. Augustine of Hippo, the great saint and Doctor of the Church.

St. Augustine of Hippo was truly a great man of the faith, whose works and dedications for the Church were invaluable. He was indeed once a great sinner, ever since he was young. Although he was raised as a Christian by his mother, whom we know as St. Monica, whom feast day we just celebrated yesterday, St. Augustine lapsed and left the Church to follow the heretical Manichaean syncretic religion that was widespread during that time at the late Roman Empire.

St. Augustine early in his life lived a life of pleasure and debauchery, and walked away, far away from the path of righteousness in God. He sought meaning in life, and yet he was not able to find it in all the pleasures of the world that he had experienced. His mother, St. Monica prayed hard for him, that he would return to God, and repent all of his wayward life. She never gave up on him, even though he did all things evil imaginable, seeking the pleasures of the world, and tried to find comfort in reason and rhetorics.

Eventually St. Augustine returned to God and made a full conversion back to the cause of Christ, not least because of the role his mother had played, and even more so, the very conviction by St. Augustine himself as he journeyed through his life, through tumult and times of confusion. In the end, he became a great defender of the faith, the bishop of Hippo, and through his writings, many people, even today, still benefit from his enlightenment on us on our faith, and on the tradition of the faith of the Apostles.

He is truly worthy of his title of the four greatest Doctors of the Church, and indeed a pillar of the Church and the faith. However, do note that he was once too a great sinner. Precisely, brethren, even sinners are not out of range for salvation. Indeed, great saints were often once great sinners too. In fact, as what Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the renowned Archbishop once had said, that the greater the sin one has in them, the closer one is to the throne of God, that is the throne of mercy. With greater sin and greater understanding of one’s sin does bring one to closer realisation of one’s mortality and weakeness, and can spur us into seeking God’s mercy, as St. Augustine had once done.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we who are sinners should follow the example of St. Augustine, who sought God after he had done great sins before God, and who was turned from the path of sin into the path of salvation in God. He felt empty when He lacked God in his heart, and went all the way to find the fulfillment, which eventually he found in God, who gave him true and complete satisfaction and providence. The same too should happen to us, and let us not be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, whose mouth is full of pious words and prayers, and yet their hearts are empty, lacking God in them.

May St. Augustine of Hippo be our source of inspiration, as does his mother, St. Monica, that we who are in this world, great sinners before God, may acknowledge our unworthiness and our sins, and seek to ask forgiveness from our merciful and loving God, He who is the Divine Mercy, and He who cares and loves for all of His children. St. Augustine, pray for us, intercede for us before God, that just as once He had forgiven you and turned you into a great pillar of the faith, may the same also happen to us. God bless us all with His love. Amen.