Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. They are St. Joachim and St. Anne, according to the tradition of our faith. On this day we focus on the great faith which both of these faithful servants of God had, in the upbringing of the Blessed Mother of God from her infancy and through to her adulthood.

Although the life of St. Joachim and St. Anne was not recorded in the Scriptures, but through sacred tradition and history of the Church, and through our own observation of the nature and characteristics of Mary, as a faithful and obedient servant of God, who was an exemplary role model for all of us, therefore, it is just right that her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne must have been made of the same qualities in life.

And this is contrasted to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, beginning from the book of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, where the Lord spoke to His people through the prophet, of a lamentation of their disobedience and bad treatment of the Lord, even after all that He had done for their sake, loving them and protecting them from harm and from their enemies.

They have turned away from the path which He had shown to them through His prophets and messengers. The people had built up idols and false gods as the ones to whom they worshipped, and they forgot about God and all the good things which they have received and been blessed with. They disobeyed His laws and commandments, and instead, they turned to sinful ways and performed what were wicked in His sight.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is linked to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord spoke to His disciples and followers about why He always taught them in parables. Through the parables, the Lord was in fact trying to explain to the people about the truth and the Good News in ways that were more easily understandable and relatable to them. However, whether they benefitted from those efforts depended on whether they were open in their hearts and minds to the word of God.

When the people of God hardened their hearts and minds against God, essentially what they were doing was that they refused to listen to the Lord, and rejected Him, as it was often that they failed to recognise God’s presence in their midst. They were often preoccupied heavily by worldly concerns and matters, to the point that they ended up focusing on the wrong things in life, including worldly glory, fame, recognition, wealth and pleasures of the body and the flesh.

All of those things are obstacles and hindrances that prevented us from finding our way to God and from recognising the Lord Who is in our midst and Who is always trying to reach out to us, speaking to us and calling us in the depths of our hearts. We have not responded favourably to the Lord Who has always showed His greatest efforts to be with us and to work with us, in every possible way and at every possible opportunities.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to continue to walk down this path of rebelliousness and disobedience? Are we going to continue to harden our hearts and resist our Lord’s efforts to help us? If we continue to follow down this path, then I fear that there is nothing else for us in the end, except for damnation and suffering, for when we reject God’s love and mercy, then we do not deserve His mercy and forgiveness.

Instead, let us all look upon the great faith and dedication that holy saints, St. Joachim and St. Anne have shown in their lives, which became great role model for their daughter, Mary, who herself is the great role model for all of us Christians. Let us all seek to resist the temptations of worldly glory, the corruptions of sin and the allure of Satan, and turn towards God with all of our hearts, minds, strength and might.

May the Lord be with us in our journey of life, so that we may turn towards Him with genuine love and sincere dedication, that inspired by St. Joachim and St. Anne, we may find our true direction and purpose in life, to be righteous in all things and to serve God to the best of our abilities. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 10-17

At that time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 35 : 6-7ab, 8-9, 10-11

Your love, o God, reaches the heavens; Your faithfulness, to the clouds. Your justice is like the mighty mountains; Your judgement, like the unfathomable deep.

How precious, o God, is Your constant love! Mortals take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. In Your house they find rich food and they drink from Your spring of delight.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Bestow on Your faithful, Your love; and give salvation to the upright of heart.

Thursday, 26 July 2018 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 2 : 1-3, 7-8, 12-13

A word of YHVH came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is YHVH’s word : I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to YHVH, the first fruits of His harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them – it is YHVH Who speaks.”

“I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled My land and dishonoured My heritage! The priests did not ask, ‘Where is YHVH?’ The masters of My teaching did not know Me; the pastors of My people betrayed Me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal.”

“Be aghast at that, o heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled – it is YHVH Who speaks – for My people have done two evils : they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!”

Saturday, 9 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 41-51

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them. As for His mother, she kept all these things in her heart.

Sunday, 31 December 2017 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the important feast day of the Holy Family, which consists of firstly, the Lord Jesus Himself, together with His mother Mary, as well as His foster father, St. Joseph. All of them are role models for all of our families, and we ought to look up to them as our examples.

First of all, the Lord Jesus showed Himself as an example of an obedient son and child. Even though He is God, Lord and Master of all the universe, and by that fact, the Master of His own earthly parents, and yet, He obeyed them and listened to them. He followed them back to Nazareth when He went missing and was found in the Temple of Jerusalem at twelve years old.

He obeyed His mother and foster father, and grew up under their loving care. In turn, He also loved them deeply and cared for them, and while we did not have much information with regards to St. Joseph, who probably passed away before Jesus began His ministry, but it is likely that He learnt much about worldly matters and trades from St. Joseph, a hardworking and upright carpenter by trade.

Meanwhile, Mary is a loving mother and obedient wife, upright in all of her actions, and she cared a lot for her family members. She cared for her Son Jesus, and followed Him through life and through His ministry years, all the way to Calvary. She had to endure many things and sufferings, great sorrow and pain of seeing her own Son suffer and die before her very own eyes.

Nonetheless, Mary remained committed to her calling and vocation, and despite all the challenges she had to face, she entrusted herself completely to the Lord and obeyed His plans. She walked and persevered through the path which the Lord had pointed out to her. She faithfully followed that path, and she gave her all to her Son, Jesus.

And St. Joseph, as the nominal head of the family, was a good example and father figure, protecting and supporting the Holy Family members. Even though Jesus was not his biological son, but nonetheless he gave Him the loving care of a father, protecting Him and Mary since the moment of His birth, escorting them to Egypt when His enemies rose up against Him and wanted to kill Him, and then later on, guiding them back to Nazareth, where he gave Jesus the loving experience of having a good father.

Nazareth was a small and poor village, and St. Joseph was a carpenter. Even though the detailed explanations are not listed in the Gospels, but by understanding historical and societal considerations of that time, we can see just how challenging it was for St. Joseph and for the Holy Family. Carpenter was not a well paying job and a very hard work at that, and yet, St. Joseph did his best to provide for the Holy Family as the likely only breadwinner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, looking at the examples shown by the Holy Family, we must be wondering what is it that kept the Holy Family together, so wonderfully and so well. What is the secret behind the perfect harmony and love within that model Family? It is none other than because, they have God in their midst and placing Him at the centre of their family. For the Holy Family, this fact happened literally and figuratively.

What do I mean, brothers and sisters? First of all, God is literally at the centre of the Holy Family, because we believe that Jesus Christ, is the Son of God, just as He is also the Son of Mary. Jesus, having both the human nature from His mother Mary, as well as the divine nature of being the Divine Word of God incarnate into flesh, is the centre of the Holy Family, as God made Man.

Then, I mentioned God being the centre of the Holy Family in figurative terms, because, the Holy Family was built upon the foundation of God’s love. Yes, as mentioned, the members of the Holy Family loved one another tenderly, and they were all united in love. They obeyed God, and surely they must have worked together, sat together at the table and eat, did many things together, and prayed to God together.

Therefore, God was always at the heart and centre of their family, the Holy Family, and all of our Christian families should also do the same with our own family. Now, let us spend some time to reflect and think about how our families have functioned thus far, and whether we have followed in the footsteps of the Holy Family, or whether we have instead fallen into the temptations of this world, as what had happened to many families around the world.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, surely all of us can see how all around us, the institution of the family, and by that extension, the institution of the sacred marriage itself have been threatened from many sources. There are many more and more couples and families being torn apart due to divorces, infighting as well as insatiable personal desires and greed, many of which are caused by a singular, ultimate reason, and that is, the lack of real, genuine love.

There are many examples of marriages and families that were not built up upon the foundation of strong, genuine love. Marriage, family and everything have been bound up with the materialistic attitudes of this world, where more and more worldly pursuits, for money, for pleasures of the body and the flesh, for personal glorification and ambition are clouding our judgments and our ability to love. Worst of all, we treat each other as nothing more than commodities or opportunities.

And still, many of us have treated children as if they are burdens to us, unwanted and undesirable. It is this very attitude which have caused the destruction of many families and lives, including the frequent and rampant use of contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancies and birth, abortion that destroys human life and sin against God, and the reduction of human relationships into one focused on pleasure and bodily desires.

All of these are just some of the many reasons why our families and our sacred marriages are under great threat everywhere, and where many families have been broken, and many children have become the unintended victims of these wickedness that unfortunately have been performed by many of us, because of our inability to strive to make our families like that of the Holy Family, and instead, succumbing to sinful desires and temptations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples set by the Holy Family, of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and St. Joseph, His foster father. If we have not placed God in the centre of our family lives, then perhaps it is a good time for us to do so. For God is the sure and steady foundation of our family live, as God Himself is Love, and He has shown us true and genuine love, and if there is real and genuine love in our families, as well as in our marriages, then even though we may struggle in life and in our relationships, but eventually, we will be able to manage.

Let us all learn to love genuinely, especially within our families, and see children as gifts from God, the gift of life, through our own sacred act of procreation through marriage. God has given the child the same gift of life that He Himself has given to each one of us, to both the husband and the wife. And when we model ourselves upon the examples of the Holy Family, where the husband, the wife and the children support one another and are integral to each other, then surely our family too will become better.

May the Lord bless us all, and be with all of our families, so that we may strive to build true Christian families based on love, and not just any love, but real and genuine love inspired by the very selfless love that God Himself has given us, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. And let us also always keep in mind, the loving relationship and union which He has with His most blessed and loving mother Mary, and with His ever faithful and dedicated foster father, St. Joseph. May God be with our families and keep us all united in love, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 31 December 2017 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-40

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon Him.