Wednesday, 29 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 4 : 1-20

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake; but such a large crowd gathered about Him, that He got into a boat and sat in it on the lake, while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through parables. In His teaching He said, “Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path, and the birds came and ate it up.”

“Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burnt it, it withered because it had no roots. Other seed fell among thornbushes, and the thorns grew and choked it, so it did not produce any grain.”

“But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; some seed produced thirty times as much, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.” And Jesus added, “Listen then, if you have ears.”

When the crowd went away, some who were around Him with the Twelve asked about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But for those outside, everything comes in parables, so that the more they see, they do not perceive; the more they hear, they do not understand; otherwise they would be converted and pardoned.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand any of the parables? What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path, where the seed fell, are people who hear the word, but as soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”

“Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy, but they have no roots, so it lasts only a little while. No sooner does trouble or persecution come because of the word, than they fall.”

“Others receive the seed, as seed among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hopes of riches and other desires. All these come in and choke the word, so that finally it produces nothing.”

“And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce : some thirty, some sixty, and some one hundred times as much.”

Thursday, 23 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Trust in the Lord, and you shall not fail. Believe in the Lord with all of your heart’s strength, and blessing will follow you all the days of your life. Brethren in Christ, today we see in the readings, how Jesus is Lord, and Lord with power and authority as God made Man, to heal the sick and cast out the evil spirits. In God through Jesus, we have the perfect point of reference, the beacon of light which guides our way through the darkness.

Sadly though, we mankind tend to put God aside or make Him number two or worse, and in His place, we put our own human vulnerabilities and weaknesses, which include our feelings, emotions, and our human judgment, especially those pertaining to the negative ones. Mankind tend to put their own feelings and emotions ahead of the laws and precepts of the Lord.

The first reading today taken from the book of the prophet Samuel, on the relationship between King Saul, the first king of Israel, and David can symbolise what I had just mentioned quite clearly. Saul, despite being chosen by the Lord to be king over His people Israel, did not obey the Lord completely, and he gave in to his own sentiments and opinions, which earned him rebuke from the Lord, and his kingdom was to be taken away from him and given instead to David.

Saul however, also succumbed to the same affliction which affects mankind. He suffered from pride, jealousy, and wrath. Seeing and hearing the praises heaped upon David made him jealous and plotted evil in his heart, seeking to destroy David before the latter might have chance to take over his kingdom. He did what is evil in the eyes of God, because he feared losing power and all the privileges he had enjoyed as king, more so than he feared the wrath of God.

This is the same symptom affecting even many of us, even in this age. The popular saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely is truly right in this scenario. Of course, while not everyone may reflect this observation in their lives and actions, quite a few were indeed taken in by the allures of power that the devil had offered them, be it in the form of power itself, or wealth, or privileges and opportunities.

Saul was blinded by his fear and pride, that he plotted evil against David, the Lord’s servant, and committed even more sins against God than he had committed before. Such was his ‘blindness’ that he failed to see how faithful David had been, in the service of himself and the nation. Saul failed to see the good in David, which had been obscured by his jealousy, pride, and anger.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us compare this then, to Jesus our Lord, who is also King over all of us. He is divine and all-powerful, and yet He did not boast His divinity or show off His power to others. He neither made boasts on himself nor took pride in His works and achievements. All these despite the people praising Him and taking note of His miracles and works.

Jesus preferred to hide from the publicity and the glory of all of His works. He often enforced that nothing be told of what He had done, with all the miracles He had done. When Jesus was offered by the devil the entirety of power and the kingdoms of the world, in exchange for worshipping him, He adamantly refused to do so, and remained true to His mission in this world.

Brethren, are we able to be like Jesus? To follow Him and His ways? Are we able to cast aside our pride and our negative emotions such as jealousy and wrath, in exchange of the love and forgiveness that has been given to us by the Lord? Are we able to cast aside our hatred and ill feeling towards our fellow brothers and sisters, children of the same God?

Let us not fall into the same situation as Saul had, that he did not only disobey the Lord but added to that sin by plotting against the one who was to replace him, instead of sincerely asking for God’s forgiveness. Let us all put all our trust in God through Jesus, who had shown us that God had all the power and authority and yet He did not boast of that power. God used His power, to bring us all back up, out of the utter darkness back into the light.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory, bring us to His side, and enlighten us, opening our hearts towards His love. May He show us His love and forgiveness, just as we inch closer towards His throne of infinite mercy and love. God be with us all, and protect us from the weaknesses of our hearts, and shield us from the power of evil. Amen.

Friday, 6 December 2013 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in God lies our salvation, and in Him we have a bright new hope for the future. For we have lived long in the darkness, just as the two blind men healed by Jesus in the reading today. Remember what the Scripture said, that a people who had lived and walked in darkness, had seen a great light, and that light is none other than Jesus, the Lord and the Light of world.

Jesus is the light, true light and source of all light that will dispel all the darkness that surrounded us. In Him lies the salvation of the world in light, after for eons it had been living in the great darkness. Indeed, the great darkness of our sinfulness. We have been made blind by our lust for evil, by the disobedience that we had done. In our search of knowledge and curiosity, we had been trapped in the designs of the evil one, who misled us towards destruction.

Mankind groans to be free of this state of darkness. Who among the blind does not want to see the beauty of light and the beauty of the world through light? They certainly aspire, desire, and want to see again, to be able to once again perceive light in their eyes. Such was the condition of mankind, and indeed, still is, even until today.

That is why the two blind men sought the mercy of Jesus, whom they recognised, as the One who would be able to bring them out of their dark blindness, and return into the world of the light. And Jesus, having loved them just as He loves all of us, and in His pity and mercy for them, healed them and made them to see once again.

We too, brothers and sisters, are blind. We who have ever sinned are blinded by sin, by the forces of evil that comprises sinfulness. This blindness is not the physical blindness of our eyes, but instead, is the spiritual blindness of our hearts and souls. Sin has wrapped itself around us, distorting truth and distorting our perceptions of the world around us. It has made us corrupted in a sense, and made us to conform to the ways of evil.

That is why, even though we groan to be released from this state of blindness, and even though we are called by the Lord, and through the disciples He had sent to us, He had made the effort to call us out of the darkness, we still often linger or prefer to linger in this state of darkness. Sin corrupts us, and it distorts our perceptions, and it makes often irresistible offers that keep many people to continue in their sinfulness.

It is indeed, in our world today, one increasingly tainted by evil and sin, easier for us to commit things that are evil in the eyes of God, than to do things that are in accordance with the will of God. It is harder for many of us to be good persons that are concerned with the good of others, instead of being selfish and caring only for our own good.

But we can do it, brothers and sisters! We can do it! We can seek and reach out to the Lord, as the two blind men had done. Step outside of our comfort zone, and seek the Lord in places unknown. We have been far too long been blind, and in our darkness, we have been manipulated and corrupted by sin. Reach out to the Lord who is Light, and seek His healing just as He healed the two blind men, who put their trust and faith in Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas, also known as St. Nicholas of Myra, which many people said to be the figure that inspired the story of father Christmas, or Santa Claus. Many people see Santa Claus as the figure who goes around the world every Christmas, distributing gifts and presents to children, and from there, eventually grew the secularised celebration of Christmas, a commercialised version, where Christ no longer lays at the centre of it.

St. Nicholas of Myra was in fact a bishop of the early Church, in the area of Myra, now located at the area known as Turkey. At that time, the Church was growing and flourished in the area, and with every day, new converts entered the Church of God, bearing the fruits of salvation. St. Nicholas was one of their bishops, and he was particularly dedicated to the flock entrusted to him.

St. Nicholas often give generous gifts to others, to the people he was bishop of, and to the children. He showed them the warmth of God’s love and care, through his own actions, as one of God’s representatives among mankind. He showed the perfection of God in love, and share the love he has received from the Lord, that everyone may enjoy the love together.

Such is the true joy of Christmas, for God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ, part of Himself, who is Love, that He might share that eternal and undying love with all of us. That is the true essence of Christmas, that is about Christ, about His coming into this world, and about His humble birth, and not in all the commercialised celebrations of Christmas.

It is alright to rejoice and be happy in Christmas, as indeed we should be happy and rejoice. But are we doing them for the right purpose? Let us not be blinded by sin and evil, who will scheme to distort our understanding of the nature of this wondrous event, from one where we rejoice in the coming of Christ, into one where we think only about ourselves, about our own good, about our own well-being.

May the Lord who is Light, the true light, will shine forth and pierce the darkness and evil that surround us, and with the guidance and intercession of St. Nicholas of Myra, allow us to seek the light and be able to truly see again the truth of God and the truth about ourselves and our salvation in God. May He bless us as we prepare to celebrate His coming this Christmas. Amen!

Saturday, 14 September 2013 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 77 : 1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Give heed, o My people, to My teaching; listen to the words of My mouth! I will speak in parables. I will talk of old mysteries.

When He slew them, they repented and sought Him earnestly. They remembered that God was their Rock, the Most High, their Redeemer.

But they flattered Him with their mouths, they lied to Him with their tongues, while their hearts were unfaithful; they were untrue to His covenant.

Even then, in His compassion, He forgave their offenses and did not destroy them. Many a time He restrained His anger and did not fully stir up His wrath.

Friday, 30 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the well-known story, the parable of the five careless and five wise women, of whom the careless ones lose out against those who are wise, by not preparing ahead of their time, that they would be ready when the bridegroom comes. Those women truly represent mankind, brethren, that is all of us, in our daily lives and in our waiting for the great bridegroom, none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

The wise and sensible women made ample preparations and brought with them backup of fuel that might be necessary for the event, and their hard work earned them with the welcome and entry into the banquet of the bridegroom, while the careless and unwise women did not made ample preparations beforehand, and ran out of oil when the bridegroom came late to the event.

The wise women gained entry to the party when the bridegroom came at midnight, with their lamps lit with the extra oil they had prepared beforehand. The unwise women, the careless women did not have enough oil and as they could not greet the bridegroom without their lamps lit, they had no choice but to go and buy the oil first. When they went away, the bridegroom came, and the unwise women were therefore late to the party.

The unwise women knocked in despair and pleaded to be allowed entry into the party, but the bridegroom rebuked them and rejected them, and that he did not know them, because they were not there when he came to greet him. The end result is that while the wise women enjoyed in happiness inside the party with the bridegroom, the unwise women were left out, outside the party, in bitter cold and suffering.

We can easily draw parallel between this parable and our own experiences in this world, and the things expected from us, as Christ had told us through His parables and through His teachings to His disciples passed down to us through the Church and the Scripture. As mentioned, Jesus is truly that bridegroom, the wise and unwise women waiting for the coming of the bridegroom are all of us, all mankind, all seeking for the coming of Jesus Christ our Lord, in His glorious second coming into this world, indeed, pretty much like that of the coming of the bridegroom in the parable.

This is where it gets very important, and what differentiates who will end up becoming those unwise women and perish, and who will end up being in joy for being the wise women, ever ready and ever prepared. As Jesus had often reiterated to His disciples over and over again, including in this parable, that the coming of the bridegroom, that is His second coming, is totally and completely unpredicted by any power of men. No one is able and will ever be able to discern the precise moment when the Lord will come again in glory at the end of time. Even that end of time moment is undefined, except the warnings that it is indeed close at hand.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, to our God there is no such thing as being early, on time, or late. We can never box Him up in such categories, because we certainly will have no knowledge at all about the time of His coming. He had also specifically said that He will come again at the time when everyone is at their most unprepared, at the moment when no one on earth expects that He will come again at that precise timing.

We must indeed be like the wise women, who brought with all of them extra oil for use, that when the bridegroom came very late at night, their lamps would have sufficient oil for the entirety of the long vigil of waiting. Do not be like the unwise women, who came unprepared, and when the time comes, their lamps were without oil.

What is this oil and extra oil that the wise women bring therefore? It is not the physical oil that Christ truly referred to, when He taught us how to prepare for His coming. It is the love that is within us that burns brightly as the fire of love, that Christ will come and find that we are there when He comes, and He will recognise us and welcome us into His kingdom. But love is not meant for us just to be kept within ourselves and remain hidden from the world. Like fire, it requires fuel in the form of oil, and also oxygen to burn. If the fire is placed in enclosed space, it will eventually die out, and without fuel, the fire will also die out.

The fuel that inflames our fires is our own actions, words, and deeds, infused with the love we have within us, the love God had given to each and every one of us. If we open our hearts and let loose the love within us, that every word, every deeds, and every actions of our hands, legs, and others result in love for others, and for God, the love within us will multiply, like a fire brightly lit, well-supplied with fuel, yes, the fuel of love itself. If we keep our hearts closed, that love will grow dim and will die out eventually. Love is something that cannot be measured, but it can only grow when we share that love with one another, and with God.

If we keep ourselves from sharing our love, and if we remain idle and do no good for the sake of others, for the sake of God, we end up being like the unwise women, who will be too late for the coming of Christ, and at His coming, we will all be caught unprepared, and He will cast us out from His presence, because the fire in us has died out, running out of the fuel of love due to our own failure to act, our failure to love.

St. Paul had reminded the Church people in Thessalonica, that they ought to live according to the will and the commandments of God, that is love, in our First Reading today. Indeed, we are urged to love, to love God first and foremost before anything else, before even ourselves. We are ought to give ourselves, our heart, and our entire being to the Lord in complete and total dedication. And then, we also must give ourselves to our fellow mankind, to those who are in need for our love, for our help, for our care, especially the unloved ones, the ostracised, the prejudiced ones.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having listened to the parable of the talents, and now in full knowing how we can make sure that we become like the wise women instead of the unwise ones, let us thus, from this moment onward, strengthen our acts of love, and commit ourselves more strongly and deeper into the cause of love, by making sure that all our words, our deeds, and our actions are based on love, that the fire of love within each one of us will burn ever brighter, and the Lord who comes unpredicted in His own time, will come and find our faith worthy, and reward us eternal life with Him. Amen.

Sunday, 11 August 2013 : 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are urged through the readings we listened to, that we must be ever ready, ever ready for the coming of Christ our Lord, who will come at the end of time, to judge all things living and dead, in the final judgment, when those who are upright and do the will of God, will be rewarded, and those who are wicked, will meet their due punishment.

Our Lord Jesus who has ascended into heaven at the end of His ministry on earth, will come again at the end of time, as a victorious and conquering King of all Kings, and He will judge all creation, all mankind, for our virtues, our goodness, our faults, and our sins. He had promised us through His disciples, that He will come again and bring us back into His kingdom, to be with Him for eternity, in eternal happiness and true joy.

Yes, as He had promised Abraham and his descendants, He had also promised all of us, who shared Abraham as our father in faith, that He will give His grace and blessings upon all of us. To us had been granted much, and therefore much is also expected from us. That is because, the Lord had made His covenant with all of us, to renew the covenant He had made with Abraham, through the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus on the cross, with which He made a new covenant sealed with His Most Precious Blood.

Our Lord remains ever faithful, ever loving, and ever forgiving in His dealings with all of us, who are His most beloved children. He had sent His Son Jesus to be our Saviour, to break us free from the chains of sin and its slavery. He had redeemed us from Satan with the price of His own Blood. But a covenant requires all of us to also play our part, that is to contribute to the covenant we had made with God through Christ His Son.

How do we then take part in this holy covenant of God? It is not easy, brothers and sisters, because He requires our ultimate obedience and dedication to Him and His laws, His precepts, and all of His love. To put it in simple words, we need to obey the Lord and follow Christ, through whom God had made clear to us His intentions, the plan He had for us and this world. In following Christ, we have to carry our crosses and walk with Him, enduring much opposition, suffering, and persecution, especially from the forces of evil, who do not wish to see us redeemed and steered away from destruction.

To follow Christ means to love one another, to love everyone around us, our brothers and sisters, without exception, and to pour onto them our care and compassion, giving to them our unconditional love, as Christ had once done to us, through His death on the cross. And of course, we must also love the Lord our God, with all our hearts and with all of our strength, that we offer Him our full devotion, our full attention, and our wholesome love, without exception, to put Him first before every other things.

As I had mentioned, much had been given to us, and therefore much is also expected from us in return. God our Lord had entrusted this world and all in it to us when He created our ancestors. He gave us this world that we may be its steward, care for it, and be responsible for it. He had given us gifts and blessings in ourselves, and through the Holy Spirit, we have been strengthened with the fruits of His love. These gifts are within each one of us, our talents, our skills, and our uniqueness, which may be used for myriad purposes and different intentions.

We have to cultivate these gifts and nurture them, that the talents and the skills God had given us will grow, and be made manifest in this world, by our service and dedication to our fellow men, our fellow brothers and sisters, children of the same God, giving to them, to one another, the love, the hope, and the faith we have inside of us. If we share our love, faith, and hope, they will only grow and blossom. We have to practice our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, and our good works for the sake of our brethren, that our faith may be alive.

Yes, the faith we have in God must be a living and vibrant faith, one nurtured with love, one filled with action based on the teachings of our Lord. If we have this living faith within us, like the faith had by our father Abraham, who followed the Lord with zeal and full trust in His providence, we will be rewarded just as our father Abraham was rewarded for his strong and undimmed faith, for his real, living, and vibrant faith.

Do not be caught unawares, brothers and sisters, when Christ comes again in all His glory, in His Second Coming at the end of time. We do not know when this will happen, and indeed, He will come at the time when we are at our most unprepared state, when we did not expect Him to come at all. He will come silently like a thief and He will then judge us, all of us, whether we have been faithful to Him and His commandments or whether we have turned away from Him and His path.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the call that Christ had made to all of us, to follow Him and remain in His love, by showing Him a constant and vibrant faith, and our wholehearted dedication and devotion, our undivided love and attention for Him, and for all His children, our fellow brethren in God. Be prepared at all times for Him, that we will always be ready when He comes again, and not be found wanting for our faith.

Let us from today, dedicate ourselves and renew our commitment to Him, and to our fellow brothers and sisters, helping one another in our journey towards the Lord our God. We hope that everyone will be able to reach the end of our journeys successfully and that the Lord our God will welcome us and congratulate us for our dedication and our faith in Him, granting us the reward He had promised us through Jesus Christ, His Son. Let us not be the ones rejected by the Lord, because they did not bother to lift a finger, to help those in need, and to give themselves in love to their brethren in need. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God who is our Father is kind, and He is loving, because He is love, and true love personified, in all its perfection. The Lord cannot deny Himself, and He loves everyone without exception. This love He had poured down upon the world through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Messiah, our Saviour. And to add to that, the numerous reminders He had sent us and His people, Israel, through the prophets and their prophecies and the visions and revelations He had given them.

He loves us all and He will surely listen to our needs, and He truly knows all that we need. That is why we should never worry, and instead we all should put our full trust in Him, for He is a loving God, who is just and righteous in all the things He does. But remember, brothers and sisters, that He is also an avenging God, just as He is loving, because He hates sin first of all things, and all things evil and abhorring in His eyes. If we sin and do not repent, we will face the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were wiped out from the face of the earth for their sins.

But our Father in heaven does not just want empty worship and prayers either, as many of us would certainly had done in the past, paying lip service to the Lord who loves us. He wants from us our hearts, our full attention and dedication, just as He Himself had paid full attention to all of us sinners, all these while. We are like lost sheep to Him, whom He cannot ignore, and He would use all in His power to bring us back, like a shepherd going all out to find even one lost sheep.

So that we would not be lost, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were lost in their debauchery and their sinful lives, where sin had blinded and deafened them to the Lord their God, He had sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be a new light, a new hope for all of us. And one of the things that He had done to make sure that we will not be lost forever was that to teach us how to pray, how to pray to the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our full attention, that our prayer is indeed truly a prayer, pure and beautiful in the eyes and ears of the Lord.

To pray is to communicate with our Lord, and that is the key essence of what a prayer truly is. To pray is not to bring in endless litanies of requests and wishes, or bugging our Lord for His help whenever we are in dire straits. To pray is not to turn to the Lord only when we are in difficulties and in need of great help, or in the state of danger. Indeed, as the Lord has told us, and Christ His Son has taught us through His disciples, that prayer must be done, at all times, with a sincere and pure heart.

That was why Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, the very prayer that came out of the mouth of the Word of God, Christ Himself. This prayer is a perfect prayer, the most sincere and purest of all prayers that are ever be in this world, be it on earth or in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer, which we recite and pray every Mass and most likely pray every day, is the model prayer for all of us. It is a simple yet a clear-cut prayer, straight to the point in its meaning, and pure in its intentions.

Yes, a prayer must always begin with glorifying the Lord our God and praising His Name, and all His love and kindness that He had shown us, all His beloved children. A prayer must never be a litany of requests and petitions, but indeed, it must be a humble prayer, showing our sincerity and humility before the throne of God, for we are nothing and full of sin, and yet He rescued us and made us whole and pure once again, with none other than the Blood of His own Son’s sacrifice on the cross.

In a prayer, we have to listen to God just as God listens to us. A prayer is a two-way communication between God and man, the link between our Creator and us His creations. He speaks to us in mysterious ways and in the depth and the silence of our hearts. If we keep our hearts closed to Him, we will not be able to listen to Him. It is often that we have to cast away our pride and sinfulness, and the deafening noise of the world, so that we will be able to listen to our Lord, and communicate sincerely with Him through prayer.

That is why brothers and sisters, whenever we pray, we should close ourselves from the world, and take away any form of distractions which may distract us and disturb our precious link with the Lord our God. Do it in silence and in the privacy of our rooms, and it is also important that we make use of every opportunity we have to be silent, even at a workplace, to listen to the Lord speaking to us. Even that is prayer, brothers and sisters in Christ!

That is also why in the Mass, it is important to have silent moments, after the readings, during the time after we receive the Lord in the Holy Communion, and even at times before the Mass starts or after the Mass has finished. These are precious moments we can use to communicate with our God, especially if we are busy with our work in any other times. It is important, brothers and sisters, that we respond to the Lord’s calls and know what He wants us to do with our lives. Be like the prophet Samuel, who in his youth was called by the Lord and he answered to it, and listened to the word of God.

As I had mentioned, God is merciful and loving just as He is just and a punishing God. If we ask and knock at His door, He will surely listen to us and consider our repentance. You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord does not take pleasure in seeing the punishment and suffering of His children, and He certainly does not enjoy punishing us for our sins. Indeed, it caused Him great pain to punish mankind for their sins and their rebellions, and it is especially hard for the Lord to punish His own chosen people of Israel, when they erred and preferred the pagan gods and idols, and their constant rebellions during the journey from Egypt and after they had had the Promised Land as their own.

That is why, in our prayer, what is important is for us to recognise our own weaknesses, our own sinfulness, and our own unworthiness, that we lay them all bare before the Lord our God, that the Lord who sees all, will see our sincerity and the sincerity of our repentance, our contrite hearts, the true offering from us that He desires. Open the doors of our heart to Him, just as He opened His doors for us to enter. That we may be in Him just as He is in us.

Do not fear God and His punishment, but be courageous and approach the throne of God, the throne of mercy. For the Lord is the Divine Mercy who will embrace sinners and those who sincerely acknowledge their faults and seek to be healed. For Christ had come to save sinners and those who are sick from sin, and bring them back to health once again, that is a life of grace in God. However, He cannot do much help to us, if we ourselves did not open the doors of our heart for Him to come in.

He knocks at our doors too, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we knock at His doors in heaven, to give Him our prayers and petitions. In the same way, the Lord too longs to speak to us all in our hearts. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, harden not our hearts the way the Pharaoh and the people of Israel had once hardened their hearts, but open it, for the Lord who wants to come in and dwell within us. Listen to Him and do what He wants us to do, and our lives will be blessed.

May the Lord who saved us from death deliver us from evil and his corruptions, that we may not suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous ones could be found. May He protect us from harm and bring us to the life eternal that He had promised us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord who speaks to us in silence helps us to gain greater understanding in the importance of prayer in our lives, so that we will always be attuned to Him, in line with His will, and always ever be in His grace. God bless us all. Amen!

Thursday, 25 July 2013 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles, that is St. James the Lesser, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple of Christ, and one of the sons of Zebedee, whose mother’s pleading to Christ we heard in the Gospel Reading today. St. James the Lesser was also the first of Christ’s Apostles to be martyred and went to heavenly glory, leading the way for his fellow Apostles, in glorifying Christ and God through his death.

St. James and his brother, St. John were courageous and fearless defenders of the Gospel, and brave messengers of the message of salvation, that is brought by Christ unto this world. They became witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. He witnessed the Risen Lord who gave them the mission to spread the Good News to all mankind, to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples of all the nations, a mission which is still true even until today.
Just as St. James was captured, imprisoned, and eventually martyred by the actions of King Herod, the King of Judea at the time, he did not give up his faith, and neither did he slacken from the mission the Lord had entrusted him with, despite the relatively short time that he had in his mission, him being the first to be martyred and die among the Apostles of Christ.

But that reminds us all of the reality of following our Lord Jesus Christ, that as St. Paul mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Second Letter to the faithful in Colossus, that following the Lord is not an easy way, and there will be many persecutions awaiting the faithful, many trials and tribulations inflicted by those who hated the Lord and His people. The devil is at work, brothers and sisters in Christ, because he is ever busy undermining the work of Christ in this world, trying to snatch us away from His embrace, and bring us into the eternal darkness of hell.

However, let us not fear the devil and his devices, Satan with all his wicked tools of corruption, temptation, and blasphemy against the Lord. That is because Christ our Saviour had conquered, and He had shown His might to all creation, freeing mankind forever from their bondage to sin, and therefore to death and Satan himself. For Satan, the evil one, had been our jailor and our master, the slave master ever since our ancestors chose to follow and obey his words rather than the commandments of the Lord.

Christ had given up Himself as the sacrificial victim, offered to everyone without exception, so that out of the outpouring of His love and His blood from the cross, everyone will be washed clean from the taints of their sins, like the way how the saints and martyrs in the vision of St. John, the brother of St. James, washed their cloaks and robes clean and pure white in the Blood of the Lamb, in his vision written in the Book of Revelation, as a vision of the end times.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, while following Christ will be difficult, with opposition from many, and even persecutions and oppressions may accompany it, but the Lord will be with us, walking alongside us. He carries us whenever we are weak and downtrodden. He gives hope to us whenever our hearts are heavy and filled with despair. For He is our God, a loving God, and a Good Shepherd, who cares for His sheep so much, that He would give His life for their sake, that they may live.

Today, brothers and sisters, we are still called by the Lord, to be like His disciples, and to be like His Apostles, particularly like St. James whom we remember today, in our zeal for Him, in our love and dedication for Him, and most importantly, in our actions and words, that we always reflect Christ at all times in them. Never speak a word without contemplating Christ, and never lift up your hand before listening to the Lord’s will.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we base ourselves on a good, strong, and vibrant prayer life, because prayer is the way for us to communicate with the Lord our God. Prayers are not supposed to be one-way request hotline for us to bombard the Lord with our needs and petitions, but it is rather a channel for us, to be able to listen to the Word of God speaking silently inside our hearts. Once our internal dispositions are good, based on a good faith and prayerful life, then we can embark on our mission of love, that is to make disciples of all the nations, by preaching the Good News of salvation, to the ends of the earth.

In his Epistle, that is the Epistle of James, St. James wrote especially about how faith without good works is the same as a dead faith. There can be no salvation without a living faith, that is faith made alive with good works based on the love of God. Therefore, it is important that we have a good prayer life and a heart dedicated to the Lord, and use this love in our heart, to do good for our neighbours, our brothers and sisters in need, that our faith is made alive, because we practice our faith, in following the Lord’s commands, that is to love one another just as we love ourselves.

The world today has ever greater need for missionaries and labourers of Christ, as more and more people are in need of God’s love and mercy. More and more people are turned away from the Lord because the world and its goodness have deceived them and led them away from the true path towards the Lord. Materialism and consumerism had made so many people paying less attention to the very God who had saved them from damnation, and they turned their backs on the Lamb who had shed His blood for their sake.

Be not afraid, and inspired by the zeal and example of St. James the Apostle, and the other Apostles and disciples of Christ, let us renew our effort to make a difference in our world, by bringing Christ into it, and fearlessly preaching the truths of the Gospel. We do not have to aim high nor go far, brothers and sisters, because we should indeed begin within our own families, within our own circle of friends, and within our own respective societies.

Have we as a family or within our friendships reflect Christ in all our words, deeds, and actions? Have we showed love in all the dealings we have with others. Do we bring life and love to others through what we have done to them? Have we brought peace to people who are in conflict and have we stood up for those who had been unjustly treated and persecuted?

All of us can do our own respective parts to play in our own respective communities, be it at home or outside, between our friends and our families. Let us all then resolve, and renew our commitment to the Lord, to be truly His disciples, not just in name, but also in our actions, and every words that leave our mouth. Let us bring light to all the nations, the Light of Christ, which reveals the way to the salvation of Christ.

Let us pray also for all the participants of the World Youth Day, which is now ongoing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that the youths of God will be new missionaries and new disciples of the Lord, committed to their mission, to bring the Good News to all, to comfort the sorrowful, to bless and heal the sick, and to love those who are unloved and rejected by the society.

St. James the Apostle, pray for us and intercede for our sake, all of us sinners and weak at heart, to the Lord our God, that He will strengthen us and give us His Spirit that we will all be courageous to glorify Him and to show Him to the world, a world that still lies in darkness, and badly in need of the Light of Christ. May God bless us all and give us all courage and faith. Amen.

Friday, 5 July 2013 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we reflect on the calling of Matthew, who was a tax collector, and according to the Pharisees, a sinner. He was called from his custom-house and followed Christ, eventually to become one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, who wrote the Gospel of Matthew, which passage we are reading today.

Why did the Pharisees consider the tax collectors as sinners? We should understand the history and condition of the region at the time, of the region called Palestine today, and Judea at that time. At the time of Jesus, Judea was still a semi-independent kingdom, led by a king, Herod Antipas at that time, the son of Herod the Great, who tried to kill Jesus as a baby. But despite the semblance of independence generated by the presence of a ‘king of the Jews’ in Herod, the Romans, which had become an Empire by that time, had the overall command and control as the master of the people of Judea.

The Romans established an efficient taxation system throughout their Empire, and that made up the main source of their annual income, and Judea is no exception to the rule. The people of Judea, including the Jews, had to pay their taxes to the Roman authorities, and this was greatly despised by the Jews, particularly the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Not just because it showed a subordination to the greater Roman authority, but it seemed that it also contradicted the fact that one should obey and give honour to the Lord alone.

The Roman coins used in the tax payment itself could be considered blasphemous by the Jews at the time, because every single coins were engraved with the facial image of the Emperor, and therefore could be considered as tantamount to idolatry, worship of the Emperor, as what was indeed happening in Rome at that time, as Emperors increasingly became more autocratic, they also attributed more divinity towards themselves, and would in time be established as the cult of the Emperors, where the Roman Emperors were worshipped as divine, living in the flesh.

All these sparked the notion that paying taxes to the Romans was a detestable idea at best, and the people did not like it for certain, for other than the religious reasons, taxes also burdened them financially, and that was why, out of all people, the tax collectors were always considered to be at the bottom of the society and were considered, particularly by the ‘pious’ Pharisees, to be morally corrupt and unworthy as well as incapable of redemption.

The tax collectors were treated and condemned as sinners, even though they might actually be good people. Remember that tax collectors often had no choice to be one, because they themselves had to earn a living, and it was indeed not an easy job to be done, as I had mentioned, being tax collectors meant that one had to endure the hatred and displeasure of the general population, the priesthood, and many other people, and endure the label of evil placed unfairly onto them.

The Jewish people themselves were very nationalistic in nature, and were very proud of their descent from Abraham, their forefather both in blood and faith. They kept mostly to themselves and married one another, in order to prevent themselves from being tainted by the pagans around them. This had happened since the time of Abraham himself, as you would have noted in our first reading today, who asked Eliezer his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac, from among his own people, his own family, and not among the women of Canaan.

This had further made the contempt given to the tax collectors and other Roman collaborators even greater. They were barely tolerated in the society, cursed and rejected by many. They may be able to survive financially, but in terms of their lives, it was truly miserable. This was the condition that formed the backdrop of the situation as it was when Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, and when He ate with him and his fellow tax-collectors in his house with the Pharisees.

Jesus then highlighted His mission in this world to His disciples, the Pharisees, and the tax collectors, that is to heal the world and those afflicted in this world, those who are condemned to damnation in hell, those who are suffering, those who are immersed deeply in the darkness of sin. That is because these are the ones who really need help and assistance in order to ensure that they will not fall into hell. God loves all, everyone, especially the greatest of sinners, who are in greatest need for God’s mercy and love.

That is because those of us who had been saved, and had been following the commandments of the Lord will remain safe, as long as we keep the Lord’s commandments and stay in His grace. As long as we remain faithful to the Lord, no harm can come our way. That is why it is those who are ‘sick’ from sin and evil would need much more assistance and help than we do. But we should not let Christ do that alone, but we ourselves, as the children of God, can also play our part in ensuring the salvation of all, especially those whose sins are the greatest.

The Pharisees themselves, who considered themselves most pious and blessed of all the children of God because of their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, were in fact in great need of salvation themselves. They had indeed observed ‘sacrifices’ so much that they had forgotten ‘mercy’, and forgotten love. God desires not sacrifices from man, but their love, both towards Him and towards His other children, our brothers and sisters.

The Pharisees did not love and do the true will of God, and instead became too focused on their own strict laws made by men, and even condemned those so-called sinners such as prostitutes and tax collectors as morally bankrupt and evil, while in fact, it is they themselves who were deep in the darkness, and worse still, blind to their own inadequacies and iniquities.

Today, brothers and sisters, we also commemorate the feast day of St. Anthony Zaccaria, a priest who lived in the late Renaissance era Italy. He was a priest who placed a great emphasis on the love of God and the teachings of the Church as espoused by St. Paul and the Apostles. He put the emphasis on acts of love and mercy, in addition to devotions and prayers, that made the faithful become even more devout and strong in their faith.

St. Anthony Zaccaria showed to the people of his time that to love God, is to both worship Him in prayer and supplication, in the offering of the ‘sacrifice’ of our hearts, the true sacrifice that our Lord wants from us, and also to make our love evident through our own deeds and actions, so that the love that is in us will not be an empty love, but a vibrant love in both word and action.

Therefore, following the zeal and example of St. Anthony Zaccaria, let us be loving person, loving children of God our Father, who is Love. May all of us truly show our love for Him through our complete dedication to Him, and also our loving service to our neighbours, particularly those in greatest need of help.

May the Lord be with us and remain with us, blessing us with His love and mercy at all times. St. Anthony Zaccaria, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 4 July 2013 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here they brought a paralysed man to Him, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Then some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking, and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up, and walk’? You must know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

He then said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home.” The man got up and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.