Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints as part of what is usually called the Allhallowtide, a period of time when we focus our attention on the matter of life and the life to come, when we look upon the glory of the saints as how we usually celebrate the All Saints Day and also remember our beloved ones who have departed from us, on All Souls Day tomorrow.

On this day, we focus our attention on our great and holy predecessors, holy men and women whom the Church has thoroughly examined and determined to be worthy of the glory of heaven. They are those who have been canonised and declared as saints, as those who are believed to be with God in heaven by the many virtues of their lives, by their faith and dedication to God, and quite a few of them laid down their lives for their faith.

Today as we look upon those virtuous and inspiring predecessors of ours, we must understand well who the saints are, how they can help us in our own journey of faith, and what we can do to emulate their own good examples in our own lives. There are unfortunately many among us Christians who do not truly understand or even misunderstood the role of saints in the Church, and who the saints truly are.

First of all, saints are not equal or similar to gods or deities unlike those of the polytheistic religions or beliefs. We do not worship or adore the saints on the same level as our worship or adoration of God. Many Christians within the Church misunderstood or are confused with this and ended up worshipping the saints and prayed to them as if they are able to help us by their own power and might.

And there are also many outside the Church, both Christians and non-Christians alike who also thought that the saints are worshipped in the manner of the worship of the divine, which is clearly not true at all, and is a gross misinterpretation of our true Christian faith and practices. Instead, the saints are venerated and respected, as those who can intercede and pray for us before God.

It is important for us to take note that while saints are those who have departed from this world into the heavenly glory with God, this does not mean that they have been separated from us. In truth, they are still as much part of the Church as we are part of God’s Church. It is just that unlike us who are still struggling through the challenges and temptations of this world, as those who are part of the Church Militant, the saints of God are those who have triumphed through life and are enjoying the fruits of their virtuous life, as the Church Triumphant.

And as the members of God’s one and same Church, and having once walked on this world as we are now, certainly the saints of God are always thinking of us and praying for us. They want us to join them in the glory of heaven praising God as fellow brothers and sisters in faith. However, they cannot help us on their own power or ability as mentioned, as they are neither gods nor deities.

Instead, when we ask the saints to pray for us, they can then exercise that privilege they have, being closer in the presence of God than us, and having lived virtuously in faith, to ask God for favours on our behalf. This is what true intercession of saints is like, and not as what many have misunderstood in the true intention and purpose of saints in the life of the Church. The saints of God are essentially reflections of God’s light and glory.

There are two ways I can think of in order for us to be able to understand the concept of saints better. Let us all first think of the beautiful stained glasses of our churches, where those stained glasses usually depict the many stories of the lives of the Lord, His blessed mother Mary and also the many saints and martyrs of the Church. Those stained glasses are beautiful, but let me ask this of you, can the stained glass be seen when the whole church building is in total darkness without any source of light at all?

Certainly in that scenario, we cannot see the stained glasses at all, no matter how beautiful they are. They do not give light on their own accord. In the same manner therefore, the saints do not become glorious or mighty by their own power, but rather they embody the power and the glory of God. Just as the stained glass can be visible because of the light that pass through them, thus the saints also reflect the wonderful light of God through their own lives and examples.

God created us all to be beautiful and wonderful, but we have chosen to cover all those beauty and wonders by our sins and rebelliousness, preferring to act in the manner that is contrary to God and His will rather than to obey and follow Him. Compared to the stained glass metaphor again, it is as if we are like the stained glasses that are so filled with dirt and grime that they cannot be seen even with light being all around them.

The saints themselves were not perfect, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were just like us, same with us, as stubborn and sinful as we were, as wicked and unfaithful, unjust and corrupted by sin as we are. But what is most important is the fact that they made a conscious choice in each of their lives to turn away from sin and to embrace God and His ways fully, taking up His cross and followed Him wholeheartedly.

And then now, another way that we can compare or liken the saints to, is like that of a candle that cannot be seen on its own accord in the darkness, for candles cannot produce light on their own. Candles can produce light only when heat comes together with oxygen and the matter of the candle to produce beautiful flame that creates light. This is precisely the light that makes candles very precious, especially in the past before the advent of electrical power.

In the same manner then, let us all see the candles as our own lives. As long as the necessary conditions are not available, or that we prevent those conditions from coming together, the flame will not be initiated and no light will ever be produced from the candles. And thus, as long as our lives are deprived of the necessary conditions for us to be holy and just as the saints have been, we cannot follow in their footsteps.

And what are these conditions? It is the openness to the love and presence of God in our lives, allowing Him to enter into our lives and transform us from once beings of darkness and sin, into beings of light and filled with obedience to God. And as we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives and transform us by our words, actions and deeds, then we will reflect the light and glory of God just as the saints and holy people of God had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must truly be thankful that we have all those wonderful role models for us to follow, all those many saints and dedicated holy men and women. And the greatest among all these is none other than Mary herself, the ever blessed Mother of God. For Mary is the greatest among all saints and the most wonderful among all of God’s creatures, having not just been the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, but she was also exemplary in her faith and dedication to God all her life.

Mary’s total obedience to the will of God even at the moment of her greatest uncertainty and perhaps even fear, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her bearing the Good News that she was to bear a Child, showed us what true Christian living and discipleship truly means. And she was not just virtuous and righteous throughout her life, but she even followed her Son all the way to Calvary, seeing Him bearing the burden of Cross and having to die for the sake of all mankind.

Mary’s amazing faith and her role as the Mother of God give her the special privilege and status being the one closest to Jesus, her Son in His glory in heaven. This is why many of us Christians have particularly strong devotion to Mary because we believe that as the greatest among all saints and as the one whom her Son loves dearly, she is indeed our greatest intercessor before God, just as she is also the perfect role model for us Christians to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having discussed all these, let us all think and discern how we can make our own lives to be holy like those of the saints. Let us discern how we can allow God to enter into our lives and make us to shine brightly with His light so that we too can be examples and inspiration for one another in living our lives with good faith. Are we able to commit ourselves to God and to His path following the examples set by our holy predecessors?

Let us all be thankful for the wonderful gifts and opportunities we have, in having so many wonderful role models in our saints. Let us all therefore commit ourselves to a new life filled with holiness from now on, living our lives according to how the Lord has shown and taught us to live, following His laws and commandments, devoting ourselves in each and every days of our lives so that one day we too may share in the eternal glory of the saints of God in heaven. May God be with us all. Amen.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Friday, 1 November 2019 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the faith that we must have in God and we must not doubt Him any longer, no matter what. We must trust in Him and we must not allow temptations to distract us and to pull us away from Him as what happened to the Israelites of the time of the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord spoke before the people making references to both the Queen of the South as well as the prophet Jonah. And the context of this occasion was that the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked the Lord to perform miracles and signs before them that they might believe in Him and follow Him. Yet, the fact is that the Lord had done numerous miracles before their eyes before they asked Him, and they refused to believe.

In fact, plenty of times when they asked the Lord to show them something miraculous was meant to test Him and to find evidences against Him, as they continued to refuse to listen to Him and closed their hearts and minds against Him. They did not have faith in the Lord and they allowed pride and worldly greed and desires to overcome their rationale and wisdom, and as a result, they refused to believe even though they have seen and witnessed the wonders of God many times.

St. Paul in our first reading passage today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome spoke firmly and courageously of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Whom he was serving as an Apostle, and laid before the faithful in simple and straightforward terms, who the Lord Jesus truly is, the One Whom God had promised to His people as the Saviour of the whole world and by Whose hands, mankind were to be saved.

As a significant proportion of the earliest Christians were members of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean including in Rome, St. Paul alluded to the Lord Jesus being the One Who fulfilled the many prophecies of the prophets of God, the One promised to bring mankind into eternal life and salvation, and by the supreme act of love on the Cross of His sacrifice, Christ brought salvation into the world.

And that was the sign of Jonah as alluded by the Lord Himself in the Gospel passage today. The Lord would descend into the depths of hell until the third day of His resurrection, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great whale. And just as Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh to remind them of their wickedness that led them to repent from their sins, the Lord Jesus came into this world to call us to repent from our sins.

Through all of these, and what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, we really need to reflect deeply on our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God all these while or were our faith more of the superficial kind, or just of a formality and paying lip service to God and the Church? We need to discern what we have to do from now on in our lives as faithful Christians, that is as those who truly believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today perhaps we should also look at the inspiring examples shown by this day’s saint, namely Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the early leaders of the Church who endured much difficulties and challenges from even his youth, as it was told that he lived formerly as a slave during his early years. When he was eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter and leader of the Church, he lived through a difficult time of persecution of the Christian faithful.

There were challenges from both outside and from within the Church at the time, as disagreements in the Church leadership actually caused bitter division and election of a rival Pope, St. Hippolytus of Rome. And during those years, persecution of Christians would end up causing the arrest and eventual suffering and martyrdom of Pope St. Callixtus I and many other Christians of his time. Nonetheless, they lived their lives with great faith and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on renew our conviction and commitment to live as better Christians, to be more faithful in all things and to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters around us with ever greater love and faith. May God through the intercession of His faithful saints, especially Pope St. Callixtus I, continue to bless us in our daily lives. Amen.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”