Sunday, 4 October 2020 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 21 : 33-43

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then, went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, the owner sent more servants; but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to Him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Whoever falls on this stone, he will be broken to pieces; on whomsoever this stone falls, he will be ground to dust.”

Sunday, 4 October 2020 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Philippians 4 : 6-9

Do not be anxious about anything. In everything, resort to prayer and supplication, together, with thanksgiving, and bring your requests before God. Then, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely and noble. Be mindful of whatever deserves praise and admiration. Put into practice what you have learnt from me, what I passed on to you, what you heard from me or saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sunday, 4 October 2020 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 79 : 9 and 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

You had a vine You brought from Egypt. You drove nations out, to plant it in their land. Its branches reached out to the sea and its shoots to the River.

Why, then, have You broken down its walls, so that all who pass by pluck its fruits? The beasts of the forest ravage it and all creatures of the field feed on it.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name. Restore us, o YHVH, God of hosts; make Your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Sunday, 4 October 2020 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 5 : 1-7

Let me sing for my Beloved, my love song about His vineyard. My Beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up, cleared the stones, and planted the choicest vines. He built there a watchtower and hewed out a wine press as well. The He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do that I have not done for My vineyard? Good grapes was the yield I expected. Why did it yield only sour grapes?

Now I will let you know what I am going to do with My vineyard : I will remove its hedge and it will be burnt; I will break down its wall and it will be trampled on. I will make it a wasteland, I will neither prune nor hoe it, and briers and thorns will grow there. I command the clouds, as well, not to send rain on it.

The vineyard of YHVH Sabaoth is the people of Israel; and the people of Judah are His pleasant vine. He looked for justice, but found bloodshed; He looked for righteousness but heard cries of distress.

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we have heard from the readings of the Sacred Scriptures of the calling for us all to follow the path of the Lord, to listen to Him and obey His commandments, to follow His examples and to be faithful in our Christian way of life, and be genuine in how we live up to our faith by real actions and interactions with one another, and not just by mere words alone.

This means that we cannot have a faith that is empty and without real application in our lives, as a faith that is without application in good works and deeds, as St. James the Apostle put it, is a dead faith. It does not mean that by our deeds alone that we are earning our salvation, but rather, one who has faith cannot possibly be truly faithful without being committed in action in accordance to that faith.

Neither can one be good and do good, without that seed of faith planted in that person by God growing in him or her. Do all of us remember the parable of the sower? The different places where the seeds spread by the sower fell on determine whether those seeds grow and produce fruits or not. Only in those who has received the faith and acted on it, that the faith bear rich fruits, the fruits of our salvation.

As Christians, we are God’s chosen people, whom He has called and brought into His Church through Baptism. We have been made His own adopted and beloved children, and because of that, we are all expected to follow His will, to obey His Law and commandments. How can we do this if we do not live up our faith and if we do not act in ways that are in accordance to His teachings?

That is exactly the point that the Lord Jesus is trying to point out to His disciples and thus to all of us as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord spoke to His disciples asking them who between two children were truly faithful, between one of them who said to their father that he would obey but did not obey by action in the end, and another who said that he would not obey but in the end, still did what the father asked for.

This is related to our first reading today, in which the prophet Ezekiel spoke of how the righteous would perish by their sins and disobedience, or how the wicked would be saved by their obedience and faith. This was a reminder from God to His people through Ezekiel, a prophet sent to the people of God at the time of their lowest and most sorrowful, having lost their Promised Land, conquered and humiliated among the nations, that should they change their attitudes and obey the Lord once again, they would be forgiven and be worthy of God’s love and grace again.

Similarly, it is a reminder that no one should be pretentious thinking that they had been chosen and saved, without the need for action, taking it for granted that they have received such a grace from God and therefore can just enjoy its benefits and without the need to do anything. Faith like that is merely superficial and for show, and not a genuine, living faith that God wants from us. And it is even worse still if we use this as an excuse for us to be judgmental on others as well, to look down on others just because we think that we are better or more faithful and pious than them.

That is why, we are reminded again and again, to be loving and to show care and compassion on one another, and to be Christians means that we should follow what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in Philippi, to be filled with the love of Christ, not to despise or look down on others, not to be judgmental and vicious or harsh on those who are in need of our love and attention. We are called to love as Christ Our Lord Himself has loved.

In that same passage, we heard the famous lines from the Epistle to the Philippians, highlighting the humble obedience and the great love that the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour had shown, that He willingly humbled Himself and took upon Himself to bear the most painful burden of the Cross, on which lies our sins, the whole multitude of it, the punishment due for those sins. That is the kind of selfless love that each and every one of us have been called to show in our daily lives, as the sign of our living and true Christian faith.

Do we remember the Lord’s words, “All that you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me?” And He said before this, how these people were the least among the people, those who were naked, suffering, imprisoned, lonely, all those who were encountering misfortune in life. That is why this Sunday, as it coincides with the World Day of Migrant and Refugees, we remember all the plight of those suffering, especially the migrants and refugees in the world today.

Migrants are all those who have left their place of birth or the place where they used to live in, and moved to another place or country from various reasons. Some had to leave because they looked for better opportunities elsewhere, to have a better life for themselves and for their families, while others had to move because of unfortunate circumstances, separated from their family members, and in which it may overlap with refugees, who are those displaced and forced to leave their countries because of conflict, wars and even persecution and genocides.

Many of these migrants and refugees are suffering as they had suffered previously, throughout their time spent away from their homeland. Majority did not have much to survive on, and many had to sustain their families and children, while having to fend various challenges. Those who chose to settle permanently in their new homeland and countries faced rejection and prejudice, injustice and even attacks, having to endure racist attitudes and inequality at work among other things.

Refugees in particular often had to live in cramped and unsanitary refugee camps, with thousands packed in place that they had no choice but live in, for if they had remained in their original places, they might have suffered even worse or killed. And similarly, many of them are suffering from prejudice and injustice, and they are often rejected and shunned by the rest of the society in general.

Some of us argued that they deserved such treatment because they are different from us, or that there might be some bad people among them, which became especially worrisome in the recent years due to the rise of religious fundamentalism. But this has happened throughout history, and while some of them might indeed be bad, but let us all not forget in our first reading today, that the Lord said, even the righteous will die, perish and be condemned into hell if they sin and refused to turn away from that sin, and how the wicked would be saved if they embraced God’s forgiveness.

How are we acting as Christians then if we do not embrace those who are in need of love and help, compassion and assistance? And how Christ-like are we if we look down upon and condemn those whom we despise as our enemies and dismiss as hardline fundamentalists when Our Lord Himself has forgiven His enemies and prayed for them? This is why it is so difficult for us to be true and genuine Christians, for to be a true and genuine Christians, we need to reach out to these suffering brothers and sisters of ours, and overcome whatever prejudices and fears we have.

And we must not forget that we ourselves are migrants in this world, and in fact even refugees. After all, wasn’t it Adam and Eve, our very first ancestors who had been banished from Eden because of their disobedience and sins? They had to endure hardships and sufferings in this world just as those migrants and refugees suffer now. And many of our forefathers were probably migrants themselves, or even refugees fleeing from war and destruction.

We have to consider ourselves lucky and blessed if we have a good life, but before we become prejudiced against others, or treat some worse than how we treat our loved ones, then let us remember that perhaps, our own forefathers, our grandparents, ancestors and all of them somewhere and sometime had once endured the other end of the prejudice and injustice, inequality and even persecution, even though they were all equally human beings, children of God all the same.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore keep these in mind and discern how we, as Christians can better live up to our Christian faith and calling, to be genuine and faithful as the followers of Christ, He Who loves us all equally and Who has lowered Himself to be in the position of a slave, bearing His Cross and suffering for us out of love, that we may be saved. Can’t we do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are really in need of our help, those migrants and refugees?

Let us all be more empathetic to their suffering and listen more to their story and understand them better, rather than easily being swayed by false rhetorics and ideas that are unfortunately rampant in our increasingly xenophobic and individualistic world. Remember, that we too, are migrants and refugees in this world as I mentioned earlier, and what we do not want to happen to us, then let us not do on those who need our love and empathy, and not hurtful words, prejudices and worse still, persecution.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father, guide us in our journey of faith so that each and every one of us as Christians may come to walk more faithfully in His path, to be righteous in all of our deeds, avoiding actions of prejudice, showing hatred or being hurtful against others, and instead, to show genuine Christian love, showing the same love of Christ, pure and selfless love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

They may look different, talk in different language, has different cultural practices than ours, but they are our brothers, our sisters, our family, the same God’s beloved children. May God help us to love selflessly and generously, to give without counting the cost, and to show mercy when we are able to. May God guide us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 21 : 28-32

At that time, Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sins. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I do not want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went. Then the father went to his other son and said the same thing to him. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go.”

“Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you : the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came, to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.”

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Philippians 2 : 1-11

If I may advise you, in the Name of Christ, and if you can hear it, as the voice of love; if we share the same Spirit, and are capable of mercy and compassion, then I beg of you, make me very happy : have one love, one spirit, one feeling, do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit.

On the contrary, let each of you gently consider the others, as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but, rather, that of others. Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ had : Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Philippians 2 : 1-5

If I may advise you, in the Name of Christ, and if you can hear it, as the voice of love; if we share the same Spirit, and are capable of mercy and compassion, then I beg of you, make me very happy : have one love, one spirit, one feeling, do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit.

On the contrary, let each of you gently consider the others, as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but, rather, that of others. Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ had.

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 4bc-5, 6-7, 8-9

O YHVH, make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour; I hope in You all day long.

Remember Your compassion, o YHVH, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, YHVH teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Sunday, 27 September 2020 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 18 : 25-28

But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong? If the righteous man turns from his righteous deeds, and sins, then he dies, because of his sins.

And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes; and turned from the sins he had committed.

Sunday, 20 September 2020 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to seek God with all of our strength, and to purify ourselves from sins and wickedness, as mentioned in our Scripture today. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading passage today spoke of this call for all of us mankind to turn to God and to trust in the Lord in all that He had planned for us, responding to His call and follow Him into the path of righteousness.

Contextually, the prophet Isaiah was addressing a people who had had plenty of history of disobedience and unfaithfulness against God, as they frequently abandoned God for false idols and pagan gods and goddesses, living wickedly and indulging in the excesses of the worldly pleasures. Prophets and messengers had been sent to their midst from time to time to call them back and to repent from their sinful ways.

And it is truly reminiscent of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord spoke of a parable that related the story of a vineyard owner that was seeking for workers to work in his field. He went out to seek those workers, and as he found some of them, he called them to work in his fields. Those workers and people gathered from many places represent those whom God had called to Him, including all of us.

In that parable, the vineyard owner went out and gathered some people to be his servants and workers in the field. And as time moves on, the owner continued to look for more workers, and went out all the way to seek for the workers, and called those whom he gathered to work in the field. And he continued doing so until the eleventh or the final hour, in which he again went out to gather workers from those who were by the roadside and from other places.

In this, we heard how the vineyard owner went out of his way, gathering as many workers as possible for his vineyard. The vineyard owner represents the God Himself, our Lord and Master, while as mentioned, all those whom the owner called represent all of us. And thus, in all these, we heard how God is reaching out to us, His beloved people, sending messengers, prophets, and all those servants to call us, to remind us that we may be reconciled and reunited with Him.

And the meaning of this parable, its subtle details are truly significant, if we come to realise how God loves us all so much that He constantly tried to call us and to bring us back to His embrace, then we must truly be grateful and appreciate the many opportunities that He has given to us all these while. But unfortunately, many of us are not aware, ignorant and not being thankful for the love that God has shown us.

Instead, we still continue to live in sin, and we ignore God’s reminders and patient efforts to reach out to us. Nonetheless, God did not easily give up on us. Until the very last moment, to the very last hour, as long as we are still breathing and living, it is never too late for us to repent with all of our heart, and we can still be forgiven by God, and be reconciled completely to Him. And in this case, I can bring one example of a real encounter between a woman and St. John Vianney, the famous saint and priest.

At that time, a woman came to St. John Vianney, just as many thousands others did, and this particular woman wanted to tell him and confide in him that she was devastated and worried because her husband had committed suicide by jumping down from a bridge into the water and perished. Suicide is a mortal sin for taking one’s own life in direct disobedience against God Who is the Lord and Master of all life, and taking one’s own life is truly a serious sin because our lives are not ours to take.

St. John Vianney was very popular and the queue for the people to see him was always very long. The wife of the man who committed suicide wanted to give up after queueing for many hours, when suddenly St. John Vianney exclaimed joyfully, addressing that particular woman, that her husband had been saved from the fires of hell normally reserved for those who committed mortal sins like suicide.

When the woman kind of did not believe in him, St. John Vianney once again stressed it out and repeated it clearly to her, that her husband has been saved, and had entered into Purgatory, where he would remain for a while to be purified from his sins, but with the ultimate destination and assurance of Heaven in the end. St. John Vianney likely received a heavenly and mystical vision he was also known for, seeing and knowing what happened even before the woman even approached him.

And truly, that man who committed suicide was really fortunate that he has been spared from the utter and eternal suffering and destruction. And all of these were because the man, just right before he hit the water, had managed to make a genuine act of contrition, regretting sorrowfully and wholeheartedly his many sins before God, and he was forgiven. This is the true and real definition of the pardon at the very last hour, just like those workers whom the vineyard owner gathered at the very last moment.

From this we can see yet again the power of God’s love and mercy, His compassionate care for us, and His desire to be reconciled with us. That is why, we must not wait until it is too late for us. The man who committed suicide in St. John Vianney’s case was fortunate to have a change of heart at the very last moment, but no one, no one at all knows the moment when our lives will be taken from us, the end of our earthly lives.

If until the very last moment we still refuse to repent and remain in our disobedience and sins, then it is by that stubborn refusal and by our own sins that we will be judged against, and thrown into hell and suffer for eternity. This is not so much because God is wrathful or fearsome, but rather, it is the just result and outcome of our own conscious choice to ignore, reject and spurn the very generous love He has lavished on us, and all the opportunities He has given us to repent and be reconciled with Him.

And then, besides this, what we heard in our Gospel passage today is also a reminder, that each and every one of us, all of us are in this journey of faith together, having been called into this new life, our new Christian life and existence through baptism. This was represented by all the workers who have been gathered through many hours of search and calls, and all of them shared in the same reward from the owner, one piece of silver coin.

What does that represent? It represents to us the fact that, in the end of our journey, all of us will receive the same inheritance and reward, that is eternal joy and true happiness, all in the perfect bliss of heavenly glory with God. Regardless of how early the timing is, or the circumstances of our conversion and reconciliation with God, all of us are to receive the same inheritance, nothing more and nothing less. For indeed, there is nothing greater than what we are to receive from God through our dedication and faith.

But we must also be vigilant that we do not end up like those workers who had been employed earlier by the vineyard owner and grumbled seeing that those who had been called and employed much later than they were, received the exact same reward in the end. This is somewhat similar to another well-known parable, the parable of the prodigal son, in which the elder son complained and became angry when the father welcomed back the sinful and wicked younger son with a great party when he returned in remorse and complete repentance.

This attitude was also reflected in many among the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and many of the members of the Sanhedrin, who looked at themselves as being more worthy of the Lord than others, especially those who were deemed unclean and sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes. And unfortunately, this attitude persists even in our Church, down throughout time, and to this very day.

Many of us compete against each other and also argue among ourselves, on who among us are more pious than the other, or how our pious practices are better than others. Even worse, in our Church ministries and in our communities, we end up giving in to slander and gossiping, jockeying for position and power instead of putting God at the centre of our lives. This is the sad reality for the Church and for our Christian communities.

What is it that we are really fighting, arguing and disputing with each other for, brothers and sisters? Is it for the Lord? Certainly not! And is it for our own good? Definitely not as well! It is to satisfy our own pride and ego, our own greed and ambition that we have done all these, and these are truly scandals to our Christian identity and faith. As Christians we cannot condone this kind of attitude and way of life, and we are called to be different from this.

And this is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have heard today is very significant for us, not only just because we are reminded to turn away from our sinful ways and sincerely repent from those sins, but we are also reminded that instead of focusing on ourselves and being selfish, on the contrary, we need to reach out to our fellow brethren, and especially to all those who have lost their way rather than to despise them or to look down on them.

Remember, brothers and sisters, that each and every one of us are equally sinners before God, unworthy and weak, ought to be condemned, but instead, by God’s love and grace, He has called us to turn towards Him, repent from all of our sinful ways, and embrace once again the fullness of His love. Therefore, let us all as fellow children of God, show love on each other, care for each other and help those who are struggling and together we move forward in this journey towards God.

Let us all be thankful for the life that God has given us, and be grateful for all the love and mercy He has shown us. May He strengthen us all in our faith that we may draw ever closer to Him, and in the end, receive from Him the crown of eternal glory, and the eternal life of pure bliss and joy, in His presence, forever and evermore. Amen.