Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering that Holy Cross through which we have received our salvation, by none other than the suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord on that same Holy Cross, at Calvary, as the Altar of His offering and perfect love for us.

The cross is the first and most visible symbol of our Christian faith, the mark which has been given to us, not as a symbol of shame and punishment, as how it was intended to be, but rather as a symbol of triumph and victory against sin and death, the final victory which God has won for us all, against the tyranny of the sins that have bound us for time immemorial ever since the first time we disobeyed God and fell into the temptation of Satan.

And let us keep this key tenet of the importance of the Cross to our faith, as we continue along our today’s discourse. First of all, let us begin by looking at the passage from the Book of Numbers, in which we heard about the moment when the people of Israel rebelled against God, so much so that despite all that God had done for their sake, liberating them from the Egyptians, protecting them from their enemies and providing for their needs along the way even while in the middle of the desert.

But they continued to grumble and to complain, even rising up against Moses, wanting to kill him and replace him, and providing for themselves an alternative ‘god’ and idol, in the golden calf and in the pagan gods and idols of the neighbouring people. This disobedience and rebelliousness is the same kind of disobedience that Adam and Eve have once shown the Lord, and therefore, brought sin into the hearts of those people.

And the just consequence and punishment for sin, is the separation from God, by our own deliberate and willing rejection of God’s love and grace. And when we are separated from God, Who is the source of all creation and life, what is left for us is death. That is why, in the first reading, this is symbolised dramatically with the moment when God sent the serpents to strike at the disobedient and sinful people of Israel, and many died as a result.

That represents the death that comes about because of sin and disobedience. The serpents represent the sting of sin, the poison of sin, that will bring about death, should nothing be done to try and save those who were bitten by its poison. But the people regretted their sinful attitudes and begged God through Moses to show mercy on them and save them. And God showed clearly how He truly did not wish for their destruction, but rather, for them to be reconciled and be saved.

In the first place, if God did not love us or has wished for us to be destroyed, He would not even have created us in the first place. God is all good and perfect, and He could not have created us just that we can be destroyed and annihilated. Instead, as mentioned, it was our own conscious and willing rejection of God’s love and grace that has caused us to fall into eternal damnation in hell. Hell is in reality, a state of total separation from God because of our own rejection of Him.

But again, linking back to what we have discussed at the start of this discourse, the Cross is the symbol of God’s perfect love for us, which He made evident, clear and real through none other than His beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, that God so loved the world that He gave us all His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, that through Him, all who believe in Him may not perish but instead receive eternal life.

In the first reading, we heard how God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent placed on a staff, where the bronze serpent was displayed and lifted up high before all. All those who have been bitten by the serpents would not die should they look upon the bronze serpent. And this is linked to what the Lord Jesus Himself did at the time of the fulfilment of His ministry and work, that is His crucifixion.

As the Lord Himself explained to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, just as the bronze serpent was raised high in the desert at the time of Moses to be the sign of hope and deliverance for all those who have suffered from the fiery serpents, He too would be raised up for the salvation of all mankind, who have been ‘bitten’ by the sting of sin.

The Lord gathered willingly towards Himself, the sins of all mankind, from the beginning of time, to the present and to the end of time, that all of us have been, by the will of God and His grace, by His loving and most selfless sacrificial act on the Cross, the Man Who was without blame and sin, but made to suffer the consequences of everyone’s sins, on the Holy Cross on Calvary.

This is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us, that despite all that we have done, in our disobedience and refusal to listen to Him, God’s love for us is so great, that He was willing to do everything, even to suffer such great pain and suffering, of bearing the whole weight and burden of our sins, by dying on the Cross. The cross at that time was the symbol of ultimate shame and suffering, reserved by the Romans who ruled Judea, where the Lord Jesus was, to be the punishment for the worst of criminals.

But this symbol of ultimate shaming, disgrace and humiliation has been transformed completely by what the Lord has done, in taking the symbol of the Cross to be the sign of certain and sure victory in the battle between good and evil, and in the ultimate downfall of Satan and all those who have brought us all to sin. The Cross is the proof of God’s triumph over sin and death.

That is why, the Cross occupies such a central and important part in our faith. The sign of the Cross is the sign of our Christian faith, and is the profession of our faith and belief in the Lord’s saving grace and love. All of us who look upon the Cross, on our Crucified Messiah, have seen a new hope, and we who believe in Him and seek His merciful love, will be saved and will receive new life in God.

As St. Paul said, in his Epistle to the Romans, Jesus is the New Adam, Who is unlike the old Adam. While in old Adam, through the disobedience and sin committed, all of us have suffered the consequences of sin and therefore, all of us are bound to die, but through the New Adam, that is Christ, all of us are brought to share in His death, in dying to our old ways of sin, and embrace the new life He offers us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice together and exalting the glory of the Holy Cross, the triumph and victory which Our Lord has won over the dominion of sin and death, let us all therefore rediscover our love and genuine devotion to God, especially through the Cross by which He has shown us His perfect, selfless and ultimate love for each one of us, without exception.

Let us now therefore renew our commitment to live like true Christians, as we turn ourselves towards the Cross, and be people of the Cross, bearing proudly within ourselves, the symbol of our faith, this Holy Cross, by which we have been saved. Let us keep in mind always, God’s everlasting love for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast day of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, also known as the feast of the triumph and glory of the Cross, the Cross on which was hung the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. Today we revel in the glory of that sign upon which hung many of our hopes and wishes, as the new light that had penetrated the great darkness surrounding us all in this world.

The cross was once a symbol of shame and defeat, a symbol of humiliation and punishment, as the favourite method for the Romans to punish those whom they deemed to be enemies and threats to the state. And thus similarly, they have used the same method to punish Jesus, Whom the Pharisees, the elders and the leaders of the Jewish people have sent to them with the false charges of treason and rebellion against Rome.

But that symbol of the cross, the symbol of defeat and humiliation by which Satan tried his best to end the works of the salvation of mankind, had been transformed by Christ Himself, Who triumphed over all of His adversaries, conquering sin and death, which by His crucifixion, death and ultimately resurrection from the dead had freed all of the race of mankind from the bonds of their original sin, and showed them a new hope for them to escape their fate that is eternal death.

There is that clear parallel that is always drawn between what happened in the Old Testament during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, when God sent fiery serpents to punish His people for their sins and rebelliousness, with the moment of the Passion and the Crucifixion of Jesus. Rightly, Jesus Himself mentioned the link and comparison in His discussion and meeting with Nicodemus the Pharisee.

The sins of the people of Israel made God angry at them, and they have condemned themselves because of their actions. St. Paul once mentioned in his letters that the sting of death is sin, and sin has caused mankind to drift away and to reject the love of God, the only One through Whom they can be saved from certain destruction. Unfortunately, as the Israelites had shown, it is all too easy for men to fall into sin.

Those serpents represented the consequences of mankind’s sins, our own sins, that is separation from God and death. They bit the rebellious people and these suffered and died. But when they asked for God to show mercy to them and regretted all the wrongs that they had done, God instructed Moses to build up a bronze serpent on high pole and raise it up high that all who were bitten by the serpents may see it and live.

When Jesus was raised on the cross on Calvary for all the people to see, it was essentially the same as what happened that day in the desert between Moses and the people of Israel. All of us mankind have suffered grievously from our sins and from our rebellion against God and His will, and unless something is done, we shall all perish and meet our eternal damnation and fate in hell. But God had a different plan for all of us.

After all, He Who created us all out of love has no desire at all to see us perish and be destroyed in the darkness. He did not create us all to see us meet our end in that manner, and to that extent, that is why He sent us our hope, our salvation and our opportunity at liberation through His own Son, Jesus Christ, Who is the Saviour of all of us, and He had done the same to us all as well as what He had done for the people of Israel that time.

To that end, He was willing to shoulder the heavy and unimaginable burden of the cross, bearing upon Himself the burden of the punishments and consequences of our collective sins and wickedness. And that is why, while many of us know the cross as the sign of our faith, but how many of us do know that it is also a sign of hope for all? A hope in the midst of the great darkness and uncertainty, a sure hope in the midst of the troubles of this world.

And ultimately, the cross is not just a sign of faith and hope, but also a sign of love, that is God’s ultimate love for us all, for each and every one of us. Every time we look at the cross, and on the crucifix where was hung the body of Christ, when we look at the crucifixes we have with us, do we have that feeling and understanding deep inside us that God loves each and every one of us? If we do not, then perhaps we should begin to do so from now.

God’s love for us is evident from the cross, and without that love we would have perished in despair because of our sinfulness and wickedness. Yet, our devoted and loving Father decided that it should be otherwise for us. The cross of Christ has triumphed over sin and death, and what was once seen as a symbol of shame, humiliation and defeat has been transformed by Christ’s act into the symbol of victory and hope.

And thus, as we all rejoice in the triumph and victory of the cross, let us all make the effort to remember that we are all called to do the same as Christ had once done, not in terms of dying on the cross or maybe to suffer as He once suffered, but certainly all of us have been called to love as He has loved us all. And this means that we ought to know what love is, what it means and what it is about, and then practice it in our own lives through our own deeds and act filled with genuine love, both for God and for each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are people of the cross, those whom the Lord had saved through His ultimate love on the cross. Thus all of us who belong to the Lord should not just rejoice at the glory and the triumph of the cross, but also to make ourselves to embody the cross of Christ in our own lives. After all, did Christ not ask His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him? If we are the disciples and followers of Christ, then we too ought to learn to love as He has loved us, that is our cross in this life.

May all of us from now on seek to draw ever closer to God’s mercy and grace, that through Him we may receive the everlasting gift of life, that all of us may be saved from the danger of death, and by the sign of the cross, win and triumph against our own shortcomings, our sins and all the other things that held us back, preventing us from attaining true salvation in our God. May God help us all, and may He bless us each and every day of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, 1 October 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the greatest saints of the Church, a holy and devoted woman whose name still inspires many of the faithful even unto this very day. She is St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese Lisieux, a great religious and a great saint, Doctor of the Church for her many writings and contributions to the Faith, and she was made the Patroness of Christian missions throughout the world.

Who was St. Therese Lisieux? She was born from a family of devout Catholics, and Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azelie Guerin were her parents, who themselves are now on the path to sainthood due to their own personal piety and great examples of faith. It was in such a pious environment that St. Therese Lisieux was raised up in faith, and she became a good daughter of the Lord, and naturally, she felt the call to serve God early in her life.

St. Therese Lisieux inherited the great piety and faith of her parents, both of whom wanted to serve the people of God and the Church in a greater way, by joining congregations and reaching out to the less fortunate, but they were barred and prevented from doing so by the numerous challenges and circumstances of that time. Instead, it was through St. Therese Lisieux that their wishes were fulfilled.

She was often sickly in her youth, and she had lost her mother at a young age because of cancer. But this did not dim her desire to serve the Lord in greater capacities, and after one of her older sisters decided to join religious life, she too wanted to do the same, but was prevented from doing so due to her very young age. Nevertheless, she continued to devote herself strongly to the Lord.

And she overcame her problems and challenges at one time in her life, when she became resolved to serve the Lord and join the religious life as one of the Carmelites. Eventually she managed to get her request to join the Carmelites early, and from then on, she devoted everything to the Lord and to His people. And throughout her life from then on, she became a great source of inspiration to many people, through her works and writings, through her prayers and devotions.

She discovered the ‘little way’ which would be famously attributed to her, as the way to reach out to the Lord. In this way, she focused on the frailty and how small human beings are as compared to the greatness of God, and therefore, rather than trying to reach up high and to stumble because we are unable to perform great things that we are unable to do, then she advocated us all to follow the way of simplicity and humility, of complete surrender to the will of God.

St. Therese Lisieux in her many contributions to the Church and to the faithful people of God had brought about much goodness and brought salvation closer to many countless people and souls. This example that she has showed all of us, we should take heed of, and then we should try our best to emulate her as best as we can, so that we too can take part in the effort to bring all people and all souls closer to God’s salvation.

And this is aptly recalled in the Gospel today, where the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples, who argued about who should be considered as the greater or the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it very clear that the path of the Lord is not that of pride and of hubris and boasting, but instead, those who lowered himself and kept his humility before the Lord would receive greatness in the presence of God.

This is exactly just as what St. Therese Lisieux proposed in her ‘little way’, that is, if we want to be greater servant of our Lord and receive greater blessing and grace from the Lord, then we should lower and humble ourselves, and not to become attached to worldly things and desires. The greater is our humility, the more we are able to realise what God wants to do with our lives, and the more we can recognise what we can contribute and do for the sake of the salvation of souls.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, by heeding the examples of St. Therese Lisieux, the Little Flower of Carmel, let us all devote ourselves ever more to the Lord our God, and let us all dedicate ourselves ever more to help all those around us who need our help, especially those who have lost their way and do not know the way to go to reach out to God and His salvation.

May Almighty God be with us always, and help us to be more like St. Therese Lisieux, in piety, devotion and deeds, so that in all the things we say and do, we may bring greater glory to God, and help mankind and more souls to attain the salvation of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings urge us to put aside all sorts of uncertainties, doubts, and undue attachments to worldly goods and pleasurable things in life, all of which are holding us back against being saved and receiving the eternal life and glory as promised by the Lord our God.

The first reading today is an account of the servant of God and prophet Nehemiah, who was a steward and servant in the house of the Emperor of Persia, living in the great and unimaginable luxury of the Imperial Palace of the vast and mighty Persian Empire. At the heart of the Empire, therefore, Nehemiah must have enjoyed such a wonderful and enjoyable life, even as a steward and servant to the Emperor.

However, God called on him to help the reconstruction and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple, and for him to travel there to oversee the works involved in the restoration of the people of God and the land they dwelled in. If we look at it, certainly what God asked of him was something very difficult and demanding, and it required Nehemiah to leave behind all the good things that he had enjoyed in life, and venture to the uncertainty of the land of Judah.

Ever after the kingdom of Israel and Judah had been destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the land which was once very prosperous and renowned under the kings David and Solomon was no longer an important place to be, and it was rather a backwater by the time of Nehemiah, and going to such a land for an extended period of time must surely be a difficult thing to do for Nehemiah, and yet, he begged the Emperor to be allowed to go, for the Lord had made him the tool to help the rebuilding of the land and to bring the people of God back to the glorious days they had missed.

In the Gospel today, we heard how Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, and to leave behind all the things they had, all the joys of the world, all their possessions, and even their relatives and their own families. He told them not to worry about many things and attachments to this world if they are willing to follow Him. This is meant to let us mankind know, that we who are often too busy worrying abut ourselves, that we can really put our trust in the Lord our God.

Many of us are too concerned about ourselves so that we are not able to truly focus on the Lord. Remember that in another parable Jesus had said about how the wicked servant used trickery to gain advantage of the situation and to safeguard himself after he was fired by his master because of his corrupt ways? That is because we cannot be master to both God and money, and thus we cannot follow both the Lord and our own desires.

If we want to be true disciples of the Lord, then we have to learn to let go of our wants, our desires, and stop our ego and pride from growing in our hearts. Let our minds not be filled with the corrupt notions of desire and greed, and let us be filled instead with the selfless love which our Lord had shown us through Jesus Christ. And Jesus had told us all, that if we want to follow Him, then we ought to take up our cross and follow Him.

What Jesus said to His disciples also did not mean that we have to literally leave our families, our possessions and everything behind as we go forth to follow Him. What He meant for us is that we all have to learn to detach ourselves from our too-easily attached attachments to things such as business, possessions, relationships that may not bring about and may not lead us to the righteousness required for God’s salvation to be ours.

It is essential that all of us take heed of what Jesus had told His disciples, which we heard today, so that we may grow less and less worried and attached to our desires and then we will be better able to follow the Lord our God with all of our heart’s strength and with all of our might. If we follow the Lord, then we all ought to be true to His words, and walk faithfully along His path.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Jerome, a great saint and Doctor of the Church, whose examples that I hope all of us can follow. St. Jerome was once a wayward man in his youth, who gave himself to debauchery and wicked was of the world, much as his contemporary, another great saint, St. Augustine of Hippo who was once also a great sinner.

St. Jerome eventually repented and left behind his life of sin, and he was truly very repentant and sorry for all the wicked things he had done, and which he atoned by many good deeds, helping to build up the foundation of the Church and spreading the Good News of the Gospel, most notably by his most renowned achievement, that is of the writing of the Latin version of the Bible, a translation from the original Greek version called the Septuagint. The Latin Bible written by St. Jerome is also known today as the Vulgate Bible.

Thus, we see how St. Jerome also left his past sinfulness and wickedness behind when he decided to dedicate himself and commit himself to the Lord. And we saw what a transformation that was, and how that transformation benefitted countless people through many generations. And we too can do the same with our own lives. If we can leave behind sin and wickedness in our lives, and resolve to never again commit sin and vile things in our words and actions, then the path forward for us is clear.

May Almighty God be with us all, guide us on our path, and help us in our transformation from a people living in darkness, into the children of the Light, whose lights are reflection of the Light of the Lord our Father, and through our light, may more and more people come closer to God’s salvation. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a very great feast in the honour of principally the Prince of all the heavenly hosts, St. Michael the Archangel, chief of all the angels of God, defender of the faith and defender of all God’s children from Satan and his angels.

And we also celebrate the other two great Archangels mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, St. Gabriel the Archangel, the bearer of the Good News of God to Mary in Nazareth, announcing the coming of the Saviour into the world, and St. Raphael the Archangel, the one who appeared to Tobit the Israelite in his exile in Assyria, who helped both him by healing his eyesight, and by healing Sara, his daughter-in-law from the depredation of Asmodeus the devil.

The three of the great Archangels all represent who the angels are. In case we do not know, God created His angels as the stewards of all creation, as the extension of His will, His obedient servants who went forth from place to place to bring God’s goodness to all creation, especially to all of us mankind, the most special of all of God’s created ones.

They worked constantly to help all of us in the defence against Satan and all of his forces, who continually assail us from all directions, aiming at bringing about our downfall and our damnation in hell together with them. Satan was himself once a great angel of God, the greatest and most brilliant among all of them, but in his brilliance, greatness and might, he was lost in self-praise, self-aggrandisement, desire and vanity.

It was his pride that brought about his downfall, and pride is indeed the greatest and the most dangerous form of sin. From pride comes jealousy, desire, greed, hatred, anger, wrath and all other forms of sins, for it is the ego, the pride for the self that brought about all the other negative emotions and feelings, which led to much evil, sorrow and wickedness.

And thus Lucifer, the name Satan was known with before his downfall, in his great pride aspired to ascend even higher and greater, to supplant even God Himself and sit upon the throne of heaven. And we can see this in one of the Book of the Psalms, where there remained a portion of his boast, that he would place himself above the stars of heaven, the angels, and take place the throne of God.

But instead of being elevated and glorified, he was brought low, and cast down, and he was condemned together with the numerous angels who followed him into his rebellion. This was told in the Book of the Revelation or Apocalypse according to St. John. That book is a window to the future events, but at the same time also contained explanation of what happened in the past.

The great red dragon who brought down a third of the stars in heaven was Lucifer, or now known as Satan, who brought down approximately a third of the angels of heaven together with him in rebellion against God, and these became what we know now as the fallen angels. And Michael stood against the dragon, and warred with it, and the dragon was defeated. This was what happened, when St. Michael the Archangel took up the banner of the faithful angels and led them to victory against Satan and his allies.

And thus was how St. Michael the Archangel became the Prince of all the heavenly hosts of angels. St. Michael was not the greatest or the mightiest of the angels as Lucifer was, but he was chosen because apparently, when God assembled the angels before Him, St. Michael would tremble in his knees before the Lord’s presence, and He noticed that, and thus, his name was Michael, the one who trembles.

And yet, this trembling is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of total surrender and trust in the Lord, for he knows that the Lord is Almighty and great beyond compare, and as mighty as he is, he is nothing as compared to the Lord. And in his heart lies complete loyalty and trust in God, his Lord and Master. And thus, in his great humility and sense of responsibility, and in his faith, God made him to be the commander of all the angels.

From here we can see the virtue of St. Michael the Archangel, that it was not pride and ego that brought us to true greatness, but humility, that we are humble enough to admit our shortcomings and weaknesses, and seek help from those who are more capable and greater than us. St. Michael the Archangel leads the angels of God in defending us from the constant assaults of the devil, who led his own forces of the fallen angels in a constant struggle for our souls.

That is why our guardian angels are always with us and protecting us, that we will be able to guard ourselves against the fallen angels that prey upon us, the tempters who attempt to turn us away from the path of righteousness and from obedience to God, just as Satan, the first and the chief tempter, tempted our ancestors Adam and Eve, and convinced them to sin against God.

Then, as mentioned, St. Gabriel the Archangel is the other great Archangel who came to Mary on that night in Nazareth, a small town and a poor village, and he came to a simple woman, unassuming and without status, to proclaim to her and thus to all creation, of the fulfilment of the long awaited promise of salvation by the Lord, which would be made complete and perfect through Mary.

Yes, God had promised mankind since the very first moment they fell into sin, that while Satan would continue to harass them and harm them and their descendants, that is all of us, but one day deliverance would come through the Woman, and this woman is Mary, whose Son is our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, the One who liberated us all from sin and from the tyranny of Satan.

Thus through St. Gabriel the Archangel, Satan received the announcement and proclamation of his impending ultimate and final defeat at the hands of God. That no matter whatever he is trying to do, ultimately, God shall triumph in the end, and he and his fellow fallen angels have no place in the world that is to come. That is another work of the angels of God, that besides fighting to protect us and help us from the attacks of the devil, they also deliver God’s will and messages of hope to us.

And lastly, St. Raphael the Archangel came to help Tobit and Sara when they both prayed to God for help and healing, and God heard them, sending St. Raphael the Archangel to bring about their healing. Tobit was blinded by bird droppings after he had gone out to help the unjustly punished among his people and chastised by his own relatives, friends and even his wife, while Sara had had seven husbands and every single one of them died by the works of Asmodeus the demon, servant of Satan, and she was wrongly and unjustly accused by those around her.

Through St. Raphael the Archangel and his works, he banished and crushed Asmodeus and freed Sara from the bonds of the demon by the will of God, and helped to unite her with Tobias, the son of Tobit. And then, he brought healing to the eyesight of Tobit, that he might be able to see again, and the situations which was once very dire and filled with despair, had been turned into one of joy and filled with hope once again.

Thus, the angels of God bring hope and healing to us, the hope of the Lord and the healing touch of our Lord Jesus upon us, that hope may dawn in our hearts and the love of God may fill up our heart, dispelling all forms of doubt and despair. This is important in the field of the constant daily spiritual battle for our souls, as hope gives strength to us and to the angels fighting for us, so that together we may drive away the forces of evil assailing us.

Therefore, today, let us all pray together, to the Holy Archangels of God, princes and lords of the angels and servants of God. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle and strengthen us against the attacks of Satan, the faithless servant, and cast him down from his throne, bring him low and crush him. St. Gabriel the Archangel, bring God’s Good News and messages of hope to us, that by listening to the hope which we have in the Lord, we may continue to struggle on to righteousness and justice.

St. Raphael the Archangel, help bring us God’s consolation and healing, that our troubled and wounded hearts and souls may rejoice and be renewed, that a new hope may blossom inside us, that no despair or darkness sent by Satan and his agents may deter us from our path towards salvation in God. May the Lord through His great and holy Archangels continue to protect us always. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 28 September 2015 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the Lord our God who proclaimed His salvation to the nations, to all of His people who had long been oppressed and under slavery, that by His own mighty power, He would deliver us all from our slavery, that is the slavery to sin and death. He had promised this to all of us, and fulfilled it perfectly through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As what He had said to the prophet Zechariah, which we witnessed in our first reading today, God was indeed angry against all of us His people, and He despised all of our sins and wickedness. That was why He cast all of us out of His grace and blessings through our ancestors, Adam and Eve, who was cast out of the bliss of the Gardens of Eden, and had no choice but to endure and to suffer the bitter sufferings in the world.

But it did not mean that the Lord did not care about us or that He was plotting our destruction. Certainly, it is within His power to completely obliterate us out of creation and the world had He followed only His justice. It was truly just indeed for us all to suffer destruction and death as a consequence for our sins, and we truly deserved to fall into hell for eternity, which had been prepared for Satan and his angels.

It was the love He has for us, the endless and boundless love that had prevented Him from casting us out completely, and He was willing to give us another chance. This is a privilege that He did not give even Satan, once Lucifer, who was condemned once and for all for his rebellion against God, and cast down out of heaven to the earth. It is a privilege that we have received to be able to atone for our sins and be forgiven.

And the Lord Himself proclaimed His salvation that would come where the faithful and devoted ones would receive succour and rescue from the darkness and the suffering of this world, and this was perfectly fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah, none other than the Word of God Himself, made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. By His crucifixion, the death He suffered on the cross, He had made us all whole once again, and by His resurrection from death, He brought us all a new hope.

But, He also reminded all of us through His disciples that those who believe in Him and follow Him will also suffer as He had suffered, and the world would reject them just as it had first rejected Jesus. This is because the world is the dominion of the fallen angel, our great enemy, Satan, who had seduced the entire race of mankind into sin and disobedience against God. Certainly he would not want us to be lost to him and be saved.

That is why, today we celebrate the memory, life and death of great followers of our Lord, who had endeavoured and worked hard to spread the Good News of the Gospel, and gave their lives in the service of God in holy martyrdom. St. Wenceslaus, martyr of the faith in Bohemia, now known as the Czech Republic, and St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint and his companions, the holy martyrs of Japan.

All of them suffered the rejection of the world and the persecution and torture by those who opposed the Lord and His ways. St. Wenceslaus was the ruler of Bohemia, whose rule was particularly remembered as one that was filled with justice and righteousness, and St. Wenceslaus was very committed to his role as the leader of his people, serving them as best as he could.

St. Wenceslaus however encountered great opposition by the nobles and the rich landed members of the Bohemian society, some of whom were still pagans and unbelievers, and most importantly, they all were united in their opposition to the ways and rulership. They wanted to satisfy their own wants and wishes, and they wanted to maintain the privileges and good things they had.

Therefore, they plotted against St. Wenceslaus, and eventually managed to murder him with the help of the brother of St. Wenceslaus, who benefitted by becoming his successor as the ruler of Bohemia. However, the sin of murdering such a holy servant of God was truly great, and it was not until that brother repented and atoned for his sins that he was truly welcomed back once again into the Church of God.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz was a Filipino who escaped to Japan during the time about more than four hundred years ago, when he was wrongly accused of the murder of a local magistrate. He boarded a ship destined for Japan, and then over there, he joined the thriving local Christian community, which at that time was tolerated and in some places, the local lords even converted to the true faith in God.

But, good times did not last long, as the mood of the government of Japan at the time changed, and under the new Tokugawa shogunate, the Christians were no longer tolerated and instead, they were persecuted and forced to choose between denying the Lord and recanting their faith, or to die a most gruesome and painful death should they choose to remain faithful in the Lord.

St. Lawrence Ruiz and many other Christians refused to deny their Lord and Master, and they refused to abandon their faith, even under the torture and the certainty of painful death. They held their faith with great pride, and they went to their martyrdom with great faith, that the Lord who is ever loving and ever faithful to those who believe in Him, will grant them everlasting glory and life with Him.

Indeed, the example of these saints we have just heard should become an inspiration to all of us as well. The way that they have lived their lives and the way that they have stood up for their faith and for God should be examples for us all to follow as well. We have to live righteously and follow the way of the Lord as He had taught us and revealed to us through His Church, obey all of His commandments and be true disciples and true shining beacons of the Faith.

Let us all reflect on this, and try our best to implement all these in our own lives. God loves us, and He wants to save us and forgive us all of our sins and trespasses, but our sins continue to come in the way between us and Him, and the only way forward is for us to repent and change our ways, sin no more and trust in Him and follow Him with all of our might. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 27 September 2015 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day, we heard the readings from the Holy Scriptures about the importance of maintaining one’s purity and obedience to the Law of God, doing good and avoiding all sorts of wickedness and sin. And then it is also important that we help one another in the mission that God had given to us, that is to evangelise to the peoples of the nations, and bring to many the revelation of truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important that we heed what we heard in the first reading today from the Book of Numbers, where Moses chided Joshua fro protesting against two men who received the Holy Spirit of God even when they were not gathered among the other elders. And the way he spoke to Joshua made it clear to us that we should not see each other as rivals and enemies in our effort to spread the words of the Gospel to the nations.

Indeed, what the Lord is trying to warn us, as He once again repeated the same effort with His disciples, when they tried to stop someone else from healing and curing the sick, and casting out demons using the Name of Jesus, is that we should not give in to our own selfishness and the desire to preserve ourselves or to aggrandise ourselves over that of others, which is unfortunately our human nature.

It is in our tendency to fall into the trap of our own vanity and pride, thinking that we are better than others, and we have that tendency to defend our own actions and deeds, trying to explain the reason why what we have done were justifiable even though they were truly wrong and mistaken. And we all know that it is not easy for us to admit that we have been mistaken or made an error. No one would readily admit that he or she is wrong, before someone pointed it out to them plainly.

And how is it relevant to what we have heard in the Scripture readings today? That is because Joshua as well as the disciples of Jesus were affected by what we know as jealousy, by the desire to not be outshone by others, and therefore, they despised the fact that someone else got what they also desired, but did not get. This is the heart and the root of jealousy, when someone covets what another has, so that they may have it for themselves.

When Joshua saw the two men getting the glory and power of the Holy Spirit, deep down in his heart, he too desired such blessing and grace from God. Similarly, the disciples of Jesus also had in their hearts the desire for the power to heal the sick, and as they have it, they do not want anyone else to share in what they thought as their own prerogatives to give.

But Jesus reminded them, that all of these human frailties and human emotions were detrimental in their path to salvation, just as Moses chastised Joshua with words in similar meaning and purpose. That was why Jesus spoke about cutting one’s own hands if the hands had brought them to sin, and cutting off one’s eye out if these eyes had brought them to sin.

What Jesus meant is not that we literally have to do what He had mentioned. He did not mean that we should really literally cut off our hands and feet, or our eyes and our tongue, should any of these lead us into sin. He spoke figuratively, to show the people the true meaning which He tried to convey to them through parables. What He truly meant is that we have to really make the effort to carve out that part of ourselves which had hindered us on the path towards salvation.

And what are these parts that He was referring to? It is our ego, our pride, our desire, our selfishness, all those that had made us to be blind to our own faults, our own vulnerabilities, and to others’ needs and thoughts, and all these made us to look solely into ourselves, and trying to satisfy ourselves and our needs, becoming selfish and unloving in our actions and attitudes towards others.

It is all these that had brought about so much misery in the world through time and history. If we look back at history, then we certainly should realise how often it was that wars and conflicts were fought over the ambition and pride of men, when one or more people desire to have more of something, be it gold, wealth, land, praise, fame and many other worldly forms of pleasure and recognition.

We should realise how often it was too for oppression and injustice, for pain, suffering and sorrow to be born from the selfishness of men, where the rich and those who have more refused to share what they had and refused to help those who had little or none. And then, even greater misery were born out of the jealousy and the desire of those who have less to possess more, if need by force from those who have more.

This is the great obstacle that barred our path towards salvation in God. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, that unless we mankind die to ourselves and carry up our cross, then we would not have any part with Him, and we would not receive the everlasting grace of our Lord. It is important to take note that what Jesus meant was that we must first die to our pride, our ego, and our selfish desires, crush these and carve these out of our hearts and minds.

This was what Jesus meant when he said in the Gospel today when He said of cutting off the parts thar brought us to sin. What He meant is that we have to carve out those selfish things and thoughts from deep inside us, that the hindrance and obstacle to our salvation may be removed. Our limbs and our flesh did not bring us to sin, for all these are controlled by none other than our heart and our mind, the desires in them which lead us to either do good or to commit evil.

Yes, in fact, our limbs and body can be used for doing good things beneficial for others who are around us. If we cut them off hastily without understanding, then we would lose the potential that they have in bringing good things upon others. What we have to cut out is indeed instead all the dark things that lie inside our hearts, namely selfishness, pride and greed.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today shall we all reflect deep into ourselves and think of our own actions, words and deeds, all the things we have said and done in the past, remembering whether we have done what is right and just, helping others who are in need, helping and loving those who were unloved and lonely, or whether we have dwelled in our pride and arrogance, and in our reluctance to do anything for the benefit of others.

Let us all grow smaller and weaker in our pride and selfish attitudes, and grow more in our loving attitude and care upon one another. May the Lord help us and guide us on our way, so that we may know the way to seek Him is through humility and commitment to love, loving both the Lord and our brethren around us, and not to put ourselves above them.

Let us cast out our ego and pride, and with humility, let us approach the Lord, and love Him with all our might. Let us be charitable and loving in all our actions, helping especially those who are poor, sick and dying, those rejected by the society, that through us and our works, we may bring each other closer to God our Father. God bless us all. Amen.