Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are reminded to be ever faithful and committed to God, in our daily living, even if we are beset by various troubles and trials, challenges and obstacles. We should not be afraid or be deterred by the opposition and the hardships which we may encounter in our journey of faith through life. We must remain resolute in our faith and dedication to God, believing wholeheartedly in His path and not be easily swayed and tempted by all the traps and the other things that the devil and his wicked allies and forces had placed before us all. We must hold on to that faith which we should have in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk in which the Lord spoke and interacted with Habakkuk, a prophet who was active in the land of Judah during its final years, and whose life and ministry revolved around the sufferings and oppressions endured by the followers of the Lord at the land where the people refused to believe in God, where the prophets were persecuted. And not only that, Habakkuk was also referring to the sufferings of the people themselves, who at that time were brought under the dominion of the Babylonians and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet Habakkuk pleaded before God for His intervention and help, saying that he and the people have suffered, and were in need of God and His help. But God reassured Habakkuk and also the people, by saying that, whatever He would reveal through Habakkuk himself, everything would come in due time, just as whatever He had spoken through His earlier prophets like Amos and Isaiah, among others. Everything will happen as God wills it, and eventually, all those who remain faithful in God will be redeemed and will enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. God will not forget or abandon those who seek Him, even if they themselves had abandoned or forgotten about Him before.

In our Psalm today, we heard the exhortation for us all, God’s beloved people to rejoice in Him, in His faithfulness and love. We are all reminded to focus our attention to Him, to serve and glorify Him, and to praise and worship Him at all times. We are also reminded not to be like those who rebelled against God as at Massah and Meribah. At Massah and Meribah, the very ungrateful Israelites rebelled against God and complained against Him, because they refused to obey Him and follow Him, and complaining that they were deprived of what they wanted to have, when God had taken care of them day after day, month after month, and year after year, feeding them all and guiding them to the Promised Land.

We are all reminded through these that often times, we are ourselves our own greatest opponent and obstacle, especially in our pride, ego and desires. It is our pride and ego which prevented us from seeing how faulty our lives can be, and led us to stubbornness and rebellious attitudes, as we often did not want to admit that we could have been wrong in our ways. We ended up refusing God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy, hardening our hearts against Him as what the Israelites had done in the past, at Massah and Meribah and during the time of the prophets like Habakkuk. Their refusal to abandon their pride and ego led to their downfall.

While their attachments to their desires, to the many pleasures and allures of this world misled them down the wrong path, as they preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of power, knowledge, glory, wealth, affluence and fame, status and many others. They gave themselves to the worship of false idols and false gods to satisfy their own desires and wants, and refused to follow the Law and precepts that God had set before all of them. This is what has happened to us as well, and will continue to happen to us if we are not vigilant in living our lives in our present day world. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the many concerns and attachments, ambitions and desires we have, we will likely end up being lost from God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples when they asked of Him to increase their faith. The Lord reminded them all that if they truly had genuine faith, even no matter how small it may seem to be, everything will be possible. Again, the Lord was actually reminding all of His disciples that they should not treat faith as a tool for their own self-benefit and ambition. For at that time, the disciples had followed the Lord for various reasons, and likely many of them were also spurred by the desires they had for power, influence and glory, as is common for any groups and movements, just as the history of the world and our Church have shown us.

As the Lord told His disciples that after everything that the servants had done, they were after all just servants of the Master. Any glory they have done and any great things they had performed, all these were due to the Master and not themselves. The Lord reminded His disciples and all of us through this parable, that all of us as the servants and followers of God ultimately live our lives at the command and charge of the Lord, and everything we say and do, all of our achievements and greatness are ultimately not due to ourselves, but due to God, attributed to Him and should have been offered to Him, rather than to make ourselves bloated with pride and ego.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, pride and ego are often obstacles and barriers that kept us away from God. Due to those, we often enclose ourselves in our own cocoon, in our own comfort zones, seeking to attain our own personal comfort and satisfaction rather than to do the will of God. The Lord reminded His disciples to be wary of these temptations that they do not seek for glory and acclaim in life, and whenever they do His will, they should do it because they want to do it for the glory of God and for the good of their fellow brothers and sisters, and not for their own selfish desires and ambitions instead. St. Paul his Epistle to St. Timothy, in our second reading today, also echoed the same thought, that we ought to follow the Lord and His ways, and not to give in to worldly ways and desires.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we are now then called to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how each and every one of us should proceed forward in our respective lives. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and we should answer His call with faith and commitment. We should do whatever we can in life, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant things so that our lives, our every actions, our words and interactions with one another bear within them the light and truth of God, His hope, His love and His way. Through us, the Lord can touch so many more other people in this world, and this is our calling as Christians, to do God’s will and to live our lives faithfully in the way that He has shown and taught us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church and in our respective involvements, in our Church ministries and organisations, there should be no quarrel, infighting and power-playing that unfortunately often happen because we as fellow Christians, instead of dedicating our works and efforts to serve the Lord and focusing our attention on Him, we focus our attention on ourselves instead, and seeking to satisfy our own personal ambitions and desires. That is why we end up having so many issues and conflicts, factionalism and infighting even among the members of the Church and its various communities and bodies.

Not only that, but even outside the Church, and within our own respective circles of friends and families, we should be the ones to bear forth the goodness of God’s love and truth rather than being the source of division or suffering for others. Too often we have heard how people were being scandalised and turned off by the actions of Christians who did not live their lives as how Christians should, and instead they lived their lives in the manner of the world, and often even worse than how non-Christians behave themselves. This is why, each and every one of us, whenever and wherever we are, we have to do our best to live our lives righteously and worthily in the manner that God has shown us.

May the Lord our most loving God and Master continue to watch over each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us all with the courage and resolve to follow Him and to walk ever always in His path and presence, resisting the many temptations present all around us that we do not end up falling into the traps that the evil ones had intentionally set before us to bring about our downfall. Let us all seek the Lord ever more fervently and spend more of our time and effort to do His will, and to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. May God bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 17 : 5-10

At that time, the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord said, “If you have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted, and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it will obey you.”

“Who among you would say to your servant, coming in from the fields after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Go ahead and have your dinner?’ No, you tell him, ‘Prepare my dinner. Put on your apron, and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink afterward.’”

“Do you thank this servant for doing what you told him to do? I do not think so. And therefore, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you should say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Timothy 1 : 6-8, 13-14

For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment. Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in labouring for the Gospel, with the strength of God.

Follow the pattern of the sound doctrine which you have heard from me, concerning faith, and love in Christ Jesus. Keep this precious deposit, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Habakkuk 1 : 2-3 and Habakkuk 2 : 2-4

YHVH, how long will I cry for help while You pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and You do not save. Why do You make me see injustice? Are You pleased to look on tyranny? All I see is outrage, violence and quarrels.

Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deterred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard from the words of the Scriptures reminding us all to be always vigilant that we do not end up falling into worldly temptations and excesses, and that we will strive to do what is right and just in the sight of the Lord and mankind alike. We have to be exemplary in all of our actions in life so that we will not end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path and then end up with an eternity of regret, as we may find out too late that we are at the wrong side of the afterlife, not with God and His glory, but on the other side, separated from Him and having to endure an eternity of despair and suffering.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Amos, a prophet whom God had sent from the land of Judah to the land of the northern kingdom of Israel during its last days. The prophet Amos called on the people of the northern kingdom to repent from their sins as almost all of their kings and leaders refused to follow the Lord’s path and led the people deeper and deeper into sin, persecuting and killing the prophets who were sent to them to remind them. The prophet Amos himself suffered persecution and rejection from the king of Israel and from the people who continued to live in their debauchery and wickedness, rejecting the Lord’s path and continuing to marvel at their wicked ways.

That was exactly what the prophet Amos warned about in our first reading today, that all those who feasted and celebrated without heed for the Lord’s ways and without listening to God’s calls made to them repeatedly, would therefore face their just punishment and consequences in the end. This would presage the coming of the end of the northern kingdom of Israel, which despite the efforts of the people of that kingdom and their king, was eventually overcome and swallowed by the mighty forces of the Assyrians, who came and destroyed Samaria, their capital and also their other cities, and then uprooted many of the people into exile in distant lands.

All that the prophet Amos spoke of would come true, and despite the constant reminders from him and the many other earlier prophets, the people of the northern kingdom refused to heed them, and hence they were to suffer the consequences of their own actions. Those in the southern kingdom of Judah would also face the same fate as their kingdom and cities were destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people brought off into exile in Babylon and elsewhere. All these again happened, as the people continued to ignore the Lord’s repeated calls on them to return and be reconciled with Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of Lazarus and the rich man from the Lord Himself, as He told His disciples what happened to Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing, and lived his life as a beggar in front of the house of a rich man. Lazarus had nothing with him and barely had anything to eat, that he had to wait even for the mere scraps of what fell down from the rich man’s table. And that poor man Lazarus died in a most terrible way, with no one to remember him and no one to mourn him, passing away by the rich man’s house doors, forgotten and neglected, and not even treated as how human beings should have been treated.

The rich man on the other hand had always had a good life, full of parties and celebrations, and he had nothing lacking at all. We heard then he also died and ended up in hellfire while Lazarus, the poor man ended up in Heaven with Abraham, the father of the Israelites. We saw the contrast of what happened to the rich man versus what Lazarus experienced, both in life and in the afterlife. Lazarus had to suffer in life, rejected and cast aside, but he had his reprieve and enjoy the everlasting bliss with God and his forefathers, with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man who had enjoyed a lot during his life, was cast down into an eternity of suffering and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall this story again, let us all be clear first of all that God does not condemn the rich nor the riches and possessions that we have in this world, as some of us may think in that way after listening to this story of Lazarus and the rich man. Rather, what the Lord is warning us against, is the attachment that we can easily have for those worldly things like money, other forms of material possessions, and even things like fame and glory, human praise and adulation, influence and status among other things. Those things are not necessarily evil, as people can use money and their material goods to help others who are in need, but the tendency is that, if we allow our attachment and desires for those goods to mislead us in life, then we may end up going down the wrong path in life.

And it is also a kind reminder for us that we have been given a lot of opportunities and time throughout life for us to discern on this and consider the path to follow, and of whatever course of action that is necessary for us, that we may live our lives worthily for the Lord. Not only that, but we are also yet reminded that it is not just by what we have done that we can be judged, as yes, if we commit something against the Lord’s commandments and will, committing sin against Him, then it will be held against us, but we are also judged by what is known as the sin of omission. That was what the rich man was in particular, was to be blamed for, and why he also ended up in hellfire. He was in the right place and opportunity to help Lazarus and maybe others around him who are suffering, and yet, he chose to ignore them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, each one of us are called to live a holy and godly life as what St. Paul told St. Timothy in his Epistle to him, part of which is our second reading passage today. We are all called to live our lives worthily of the Lord, and to do what has been commanded by God, till the day of the Lord’s coming, the Final Judgment, when certainly we do not want to end up on the wrong side of the Judgment. We certainly do not want our wickedness and as well as our failures to act and to do the will of God to lead us to condemnation in the eternity of suffering and despair, as what the rich man in the story had experienced. We have been given the choice and the knowledge of the consequences of each of our actions and our failures to act all the same, and we should heed these carefully.

That is why this Sunday, as we reflect upon the words of the Lord contained in the Sacred Scriptures, let us all discern carefully our path in life so that we will not end up in the wrong path in life, and ending up in an eternity of regret and damnation out of which there is no more hope of escaping. Hell is real, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is this reminder of the existence of hell that should keep us on our toes, and being vigilant all the time that we do not end up in that situation. And we also should understand better what hell is all about. Hell is not so much a place than a state of mind and our souls. Hell has often been portrayed as a place that is very hot and full of fire, but in truth, the suffering of the souls in hell, which is eternal, is due to that knowledge and despair that come about because of one’s conscious decision to reject God, His grace, mercy and love.

Yes, that means, the souls of the condemned and the unworthy in hell are those who have consciously and consistently rejected God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that God’s mercy and love for us are so great that He has been willing to send us His own Begotten and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. He offered us His love in the most tangible form, in the flesh and Person of our Lord Jesus Himself. He has borne our sufferings and consequences for our sins through His Holy Cross, shedding His Precious Blood and breaking His Precious Body for our sake. Through His ultimate expression of love, He gave us all the sure path to eternal life.

Hence, it is not God Who has rejected us, as He has always looked upon us with His loving and merciful eyes. It is we who have been given opportunities, reminders one after another, for us to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and embrace His grace and love once again. But we often ignored Him and disregarded Him, and like the people of Israel and Judah of old, and like the people living at the time of the Lord Jesus, who have hardened their hearts and minds against God and His truth. The same can easily happen to us as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the devil and all of his tempting false promises and lies, to follow the path of worldliness and evil.

Therefore, let us all from now on strive to be faithful to God in all things, and make good use of every opportunities that God has granted us, so that we may always be ever more worthy disciples of the Lord in each and every opportunities in life. Let us all do our best to love God and to show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters, abandoning what is wicked and evil, and crushing our pride and ego. Let us all embrace God with renewed faith, hope and love so that in everything that we say and do, we will always do what is right and worthy for God, and that each one of us may become good inspirations and role models for one another. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 16 : 19-31

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

“It happened that the poor man died, and Angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire.'”

“Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.'”

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live, let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'”

“But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Timothy 6 : 11-16

But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life, to which you were called, when you made the good profession of faith, in the presence of so many witnesses.

Now, in the presence of God, Who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ, Who expressed before Pontius Pilate the authentic profession of faith : preserve the revealed message to all. Keep yourself pure and blameless, until the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who God will bring about at the proper time; He, the magnificent Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of lords. To Him, alone, immortal, Who lives in unapproachable light, and Whom no one has ever seen or can see, to Him, be honour and power, forever and ever. Amen!

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Amos 6 : 1a, 4-7

Woe to those proud people, who live overconfident, on the hill of Samaria! You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and sprawl on your couches; you eat lamb from the flock and veal from calves fattened in the stall.

You strum on your harps, and like David, try out new musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and anoint yourselves with the finest oils; but you do not grieve over the ruins of Joseph. Therefore, you will be the first to go into exile; and the feast of sprawlers will be over.