Monday, 13 July 2020 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Henry (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God’s call for us to repent from our sinful ways, to turn away from our wickedness, all the selfish attitudes we have shown all these while we embraced the ways of worldliness and sin. Through His prophets and messengers, His saints and the Church, God has called us and reminded us yet again and again to be faithful to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah’s words, speaking God’s intentions and will to His people, which can be summarised as such that He sought not the sacrifices and offerings, festivals and customary celebrations from His people, but rather, real love and genuine faith. He essentially wanted His people to be truthful in their faith and dedication to Him, and not be hypocrites who claimed to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways totally contrary to His teachings and ways.

The Lord has told them that what He wanted from them was real love, dedication and commitment, and not merely just empty show of faith, for it is indeed possible for one to obey the precepts of the Law but without the right intentions, or because it was merely done out of obligation and fulfilling what we considered as a mere formality. These are not what the Lord wanted, and He made it clear to His people through His prophet Isaiah, and this was because many among the people still committed sin against God and lived in state of sin despite outwardly obeying the Law.

This is similar to what the Lord Jesus also saw and encountered among the people when He came into the world, bearing the truth and Good News of salvation. Many among the people paid just lip service for God, and some among them like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became distracted with their role, misunderstanding the intention of God’s will and Law, and they made a show of their faith for praise and respect from the other people, and not because they genuinely and wholly loved God from their hearts.

And the disagreement that rose out of these led to friction and difficulties, challenges and trials facing the followers of God, that had begun even since the time of the ancient prophets, as they faced stubborn people who refused to change their ways, and ended up with them being persecuted and troubled by those who refused to accept them and listen to their truth. The same treatment would be faced and endured by the Lord and His Apostles, His disciples and followers, even as the Lord Jesus performed His ministry, and afterwards as the early Christians continued the Lord’s works.

And the Lord in today’s Gospel passage also told His disciples a kind of jarring message as He told them that whoever loved father, mother, brothers or sisters, or their loved ones and spouses more than they loved God, were not fit to become His followers. Actually what the Lord wanted to tell them and all of us was really that, not that He wanted us to abandon our family and loved ones or to hate them. On the contrary, He definitely wants us all to love our parents, our brethren, our loved ones and family members, our friends and other people. But, what is important that, beyond all these, we must love God even a lot more.

And through what He had explained and revealed, and what we have discussed today, through the readings of the Scripture we can see that being followers of Christ is not necessarily easy for us to do. There will be plenty of challenges and trials ahead, and often we may have to make choices that will put us in quandary of having to choose between God and those whom we know. But if our faith in God is genuine and strong, our commitment to Him and dedication are pure, then we will surely have the right focus and attention, that is on God and not on other things.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of St. Henry, a great leader and a humble man before God, whom as Emperor Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was the secular leader of Christendom ordained by God, and by influence, power and prestige, were probably second throughout Christendom just after the Pope, the Vicar of Christ himself. He was a great leader who was dedicated to his people and kingdom, and responsibly carried out the duties of Christian leadership placed in his hands.

He generously gave to the poor and strengthened the foundations of his realm, while at the same time, supporting the Church and its works, spreading the Christian faith far and wide, sending missionaries to pagan areas and converting many to the true faith, while consolidating the areas already under Christian rule. He established a strong relationship with the Pope and the Church, and in the meantime remaining humble and virtuous, with strong personal piety and dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Henry the pious and God-loving Holy Roman Emperor is our great inspiration on how we ourselves can also be righteous and just, dedicated and committed to God. Are we willing and able to follow in his footsteps and be dedicated to God through our daily actions and interactions with one another? Let us all reflect on these, and let us be truly faithful from now on, not just merely paying lip service and empty formality, striving to be good and genuine Christians moving on with our lives.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all with our faith, and may He grant us His providence and with much courage to carry on living as good and faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, the holy saints of God, especially St. Henry, our role model in faith. Amen.

Sunday, 12 July 2020 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday each and every one of us heard from the Sacred Scriptures very interesting set of readings which reminded us of what we can and what we should be doing as Christians in our daily lives, in our actions and in how we interact with each other. These readings remind us of our true Christian calling and mission, in our mission to be the bearers of God’s Good News in this world, and spread His truth and light amidst this darkened world.

In our first reading today we heard of the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord referred to His Word coming into the world, and how His Word would do His will and would not return to Him before doing and fulfilling everything for which the Word had been sent for. This was yet another prophecy revealing the truth about God’s Messiah or Saviour, many of which prophecies were spoken by Isaiah and recorded throughout the Book of his sayings.

The Word of God became incarnate in the Flesh, conceived in the womb of Mary of Nazareth and born as a Man, in Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate, Our Lord and Saviour. He is the Person in Whom the two natures, Divine and Man, though distinct, were united perfectly in love. Jesus was therefore, the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, the Word that was to come into the world, the Son Who would obey and fulfil His Father’s will.

And what is the Father’s will that He has entrusted to His Son? It is what St. Paul has spoken of in our second reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, regarding the hope of new life in God, the birth of the children of God and the freedom from the subjugation and enslavement by sin and darkness, all of which have kept us chained since the beginning of creation. Through Christ, as St. Paul said, we have been given a foretaste of the true glory and new life that was to come, with Christ and in Christ.

In our Gospel today, we then heard of the famous and well-known parable of the sower, which all of us must have been very familiar with. In that parable, the Lord used the example of a sower spreading seeds that ended up landing on different surfaces and on different types of soils and conditions. The Lord used this parable as many among the people were farmers or were involved in various agricultural works and practices, especially many of those who followed Him, and by doing so, in fact, He was spreading the ‘seeds of God’s word and truth’ among them by making the truth more easily understood by them, by speaking in terms that they could understand better.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, when the Lord spoke of the sower in the parable, He was actually referring to Himself, the true Sower, Who spread the words of God’s truth among us. The world and all of us are the whole places where the seeds were being spread upon, and just as the seeds landed on different soils and different conditions, thus, the word of God, His truth and its revelation were treated differently by those who received them.

There were those who hardened their hearts and refused to receive the truth at all. And these were those who were represented by the seeds that fell on the wayside, and the birds of the sky came up and eat up the seeds, and none of the seeds even got the chance to grow. These were like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who despite having seen the many miracles performed by the Lord, heard His wisdom and great authority in teaching, His words and revelations, still refused to listen to them and accept them.

There were also others who refused to listen to the Lord and accept His truth and words, and as a result, the devil and his forces, represented by those birds in the sky in the parable, easily took up all the seeds that landed on them, and brought these away, and no faith grew and sprouted in them. That was why, despite having listened to the Lord, even followed and pestering the Lord and His disciples on many occasions, many of them did not have faith.

And then, there were those who received the word of God but were lukewarm towards them, and did nothing to them, and these were like those seeds that fell on rocky grounds. These were at least able to land in a more appropriate place, and symbolises those who did not directly reject the word of God, the truth as revealed by the Lord. Nonetheless, they still refused to act on them, or to open their hearts fully to accept and embrace the truth.

This is why, the rocky grounds and soil represented those whose hearts were still hard like stone, and did not allow God’s truth and love to penetrate inside them. The seeds were unable to grow strong roots, and as the sun arises, the newly grown plants were scorched and destroyed. This is what happened to those who only had superficial faith, those who treated the faith as if a mere formality or worse still, as a chore and an obligation imposed to them. They did not have faith and neither did they make the effort to cultivate the faith. In the end, nothing good came out of it.

Then, there are also those who have accepted the word of God, acted on them, and yet, in the end, these also failed to bear fruits, as those seeds that fell among the thistle branches and brambles showed us. This is also actually related to what the Lord had also taught using a separate parable, of seeds of weeds spread by the ‘enemy’ among the seeds of wheat, resulting in the wheat being grown entangled by the weeds. In the case of the thistles and brambles, they choked the life out of the fledgling plants, and the latter perished.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that was a reference to all of us living in this world, who are always vulnerable to various temptations present in life all around us. We may be willing to listen to God and accept His words, but at the same time we are also easily swayed by our many desires, the desires of power, of worldly glory and fame, the desires for material wealth and possessions, for earthly pleasures and the satisfaction of the flesh. All these distract us and keep us away from God and His salvation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Lord then continued saying, that there were those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil, which bore fruits thirtyfold, sixtyfold and one hundredfold, many more times that what had been planted. This is a reference to how a single seed could grow into a healthy and fruitful plant when allowed to germinate and grow under the optimum condition, and from that single seed that came from a single fruit either from one seed or many seeds in that fruit, each one of them have the potential to bear tens, hundreds and even thousands of fruits given the right conditions.

What is the significance of this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Each and every one of us have received these seeds, the seeds of faith from God, the seeds of hope, the seeds of love, of wisdom and good judgment, of righteousness, justice and holiness, and of many other virtues. And having heard of how those seeds that fell by the wayside, on the rocky ground and among the thistles and branches have ended up, failing to grow, being snatched away or being destroyed without any results, all of us must realise that as Christians, each and every one of us have to contemplate the gift of the word of God, the seeds of faith that God has given us.

Have we been too stubborn in our ways, our pride, ego and our ambitions that we ended up rejecting God’s grace, His love and kindness towards us? Have we been hardening our hearts and closing our minds to the Lord’s constant and subtle reminders and outreach of love towards us? Have we been so preoccupied with the matters of worldly concerns, our desires and wishes, our greedy pursuits of power, material possessions, pleasures of the body among many others that we have forgotten about God and walked away from His path?

These are important and genuine questions that we must ask ourselves from time to time to remind us and to keep us focused on the right path. Temptations are always there, just as conditions in growing seeds into good and healthy plants are never constant. There are always threats to the survival of the plant, but good farmers will never give up on his crops, and no matter how difficult it is, they will always try to give the best condition available to them. And this is why, we too must give the best condition to nurture ourselves in faith and in this life.

How do we then do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? To have that ‘rich and fertile soil’ for the ‘seeds’ of our faith, we have to make the effort to create the right environment in which our faith, our dedication and love for God will be able to grow optimally. And the best way for this, is through prayer. A Christian who live without prayer is not a true Christian, and without prayer and indeed, not just prayer but genuine prayerful life, we will be easily swayed, tempted and turned away from God and His path.

Through prayer, we will be strengthened by our deeper connection with God, and we will be able to know His will better. The Lord Jesus Himself often prayed to His Father, and in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His suffering and death, He too prayed to His loving Father. And from prayer, our faith deepened, our understanding of His truth deepened, and we also should spend more time studying the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, and even more importantly, of course, to live our lives according to that faith which we have in God.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all challenged today, to be those seeds that grow into healthy and fruitful plants, those that bear fruits thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold if not more. What does this mean? It means that each and every one of us have that tremendous potential in us to effect a great change in our community, and many among the people can be touched by our lives, our actions and our efforts.

We may then think, how can that be possible? That can’t be right, is it not? We are after all just simple humans, unworthy and many of us surely are not great evangelisers and know a lot about our faith, right? Or so we think. The reality is that, we do not always need to know a lot about faith or be bible scholars or theologians to be fruitful in faith. Rather, it is by how we live our lives, with genuine faith, sincerity of our love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters that we will bear plenty of fruits.

Do not underestimate every single little actions we do, brothers and sisters in Christ. In those seemingly little actions, are power and potential for us to heal or to harm, to love or to bring hatred, to lead people towards God or to make them go further away from Him. If we touch the lives of others by our faith, our genuine dedication, righteousness, virtues in life, then these people we touch will likely to touch the lives of others too, in what is often known as the ‘ripple effect’.

Even little ripples, when harmonised with one another, will create a great wave that is powerful, hundred and thousand and more times more powerful than any singular ripple. In the same way, our efforts, little it may seem, but when done in faith and with genuine love and commitment, by the grace of God, will lead us into a very bountiful harvest, as our actions and attitudes, our faith and belief can lead many, in numbers beyond our imagination, to come to the Lord.

Let us not underestimate our actions, and instead, from now on, let us all be wholehearted in our commitment to God, and devote our every actions, our every deeds, and our every words to the glorification of God, loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and reaching out to those in need, and there are particularly many out there these days who need help, after everything we have gone through in the past few months. If not for material support, then at least for our company, love and guidance, and many desperately need these now.

May the Lord, the Sower of our faith, continue to guide us all and strengthen us, that we may indeed be blessed and bountiful in everything we do, that hopefully, by whatever we say and do, we may bring many others to righteousness and towards God’s salvation, and be good witnesses of His truth, be bearers of His hope and light into our darkened world, to bring His Good News to many who have not yet heard or believed in Him, that many more souls may be saved, together with us. Amen.

Saturday, 11 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard first of all from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the description of a great vision that Isaiah received, as he saw the marvellous glory of God, the magnificent Throne of God and His divine majesty, enthroned among the Seraphim and Cherubim, the greatest among the Angels of God. The Lord showed Isaiah that vision to strengthen him and to make him know how He has chosen him to bear His words to the people and to proclaim His truth and prophesy in His Name.

And therefore, from then on, Isaiah after he enthusiastically answered God’s call with, ‘Here I am! Send me!’, went on to serve the people, speaking God’s words among them, encouraging them as shown at the moment when king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to besiege Jerusalem with a mighty army and mocked both God and the king, Isaiah reassured both the king of Judah and the people, that God would be with them and that for all the boasts and hubris of the Assyrian king, he was nothing compared to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Sure enough, no sooner that the Assyrian king had made his boast, blaspheming against God, that the Lord sent His Angels against the king’s mighty army, and wiped them all out with a great disaster and plague, that when morning broke, hundreds of thousands were dead and the Assyrian king Sennacherib had to abandon his siege and retreat back to his lands in shame. Through this, God showed that He is truly the One in charge, and the Master over all things.

And through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord has also promised His people that He would bring them salvation and liberation, as He renewed His promise of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was extensively spoken about in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. Through all these assurances, the Lord again wanted His people to have faith in Him and to keep their trust in Him, that despite everything that they might have suffered and endured because of their sins, their wickedness and disobedience, but God was always ready to welcome them back and be reconciled with them.

This reconciliation came about and was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the One Whom the prophet Isaiah had been prophesying about. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the whole world has seen the salvation of God, and the world that was once filled with darkness and uncertainty, have seen the light and hope of God, finally revealed to all. And Christ reiterated again and again, including in what we have heard in our Gospel today, how we are truly fortunate to have God Who loves us all dearly and considers us precious.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord spoke of the trust that we ought to have in God because of just how precious we are in the sight of God, how beloved we are and how fortunate we are because every single one of us are blessed and important to God, no matter how small or insignificant we may think we are. The Lord has shown again from time to time, throughout history, how He has protected His faithful ones and provided for them in their time of need. And even at the darkest and the most vulnerable moments, when we mankind have no where else and nothing and no one else to turn to, the Lord is and will always be there for us.

But are we willing to accept Him? Are we even aware that He is always there for us, providing for us and granting us what we need? The Lord has shown us His ever present love and attention, but many of us have abandoned Him, left Him for other things, for worldly comforts and desires, for all sorts of temptations that made us more and more distant, and became more and more separated from God. That is why today we are reminded through these Scripture passages, to turn once again towards God if we have forgotten about Him or abandoned Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have to remember how we are truly beloved by God and precious to Him, and then, even more importantly, we are called by God to do His will, to follow in the footsteps of the prophet Isaiah and help others to find their way back to God, and to remind them all of how great and loving God has been towards us. All of us have been called and share in this calling through our baptism, that we all are charged with spreading the word of God, to lead others to Him.

St. Benedict, holy Abbot and great father of Christian monasticism in the Western Christendom can be our great source of inspiration, as we celebrate his feast day today. St. Benedict, also known as St. Benedict of Nursia, was a great and holy servant of God, renowned for his piety and commitment to live a life of purity and prayer dedicated to God. He was born in a Roman noble family and had a good upbringing and life, but as he continued his education in Rome, the immorality and wickedness he witnessed made him to want to seek God.

As a result, he and his sister, St. Scholastica, began to seek God through prayerful life and retreat away from the world. Through his efforts and example, the foundations for Christian monastic practices in the Western Christendom were established, as he inspired many others to follow him in a life of asceticism and prayer dedicated to God, living in a close-knit community, and wrote the rule which would be remembered for many centuries and generations since, the Rule of St. Benedict, which would also inspire the rules in the many other monastic orders.

Through his life, St. Benedict inspired many people to turn once again towards the Lord, some of whom decided to follow his way of life and become an ascetic and monk, while others endeavoured to lead a better life more connected to God, through greater charity, life more attuned to God and more righteous and just in all of their dealings. Are we able to inspire others just as St. Benedict had done? That is why we need to follow God wholeheartedly and make our lives a great reflection of our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He make us all great instruments of His presence in this world. May He grant us the strength and courage to be ever faithful, dedicated to Him as how the prophet Isaiah and the many other prophets, and as St. Benedict of Nursia and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. May all of us be ever faithful, and be great and committed disciples of the Lord, in words, deeds and actions, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 10 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the assurance of love and mercy from God, the assurance that no matter what, God will always be by our side regardless of whatever that had happened or will happen to us, and we can be sure of the Lord’s guidance and protection. That is because, if all else fail and all else fall apart, the Lord alone can be fully trusted and depended upon. His everlasting and enduring love for us is the reason for all these.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Hosea, after many days listening to God’s anger at His people’s constant disobedience and sins, their lack of faith and stubbornness in worshipping idols and performing what were wicked in the sight of God, today we heard that despite all of these, the Lord still truly loved His people, and called on all of them to return to Him, to repent from their sins, turning away from their wickedness and once again embrace God’s righteousness.

The Lord wanted all of them to throw away the shackles of their sins, to put their trust once again in Him instead of all the idols and other worldly powers that they had entrusted themselves to at that time, as many of the people turned instead to Baal, Ashtaroth, and other pagan gods for direction and guidance, instead of turning to God, and they trusted more in politics and worldly connections rather than to trust in God.

As mentioned in the passage today, what was spoken was truly prophetic, as Assyria mentioned in that passage as one of those to whom the Israelites had turned to for support, would in short time, ended up becoming the very one that would destroy the kingdom, its capital Samaria and brought its people into exile. All those who had sought to seek Assyria’s help and support, particularly in the context of the ever-bitter rivalry between the northern kingdom and the neighbouring country of Aram-Damascus would eventually be disappointed as both kingdoms were crushed by the rising Empire.

The Lord through His prophet Hosea was reminding His people that He alone has the power to guide them all to the true happiness and joy, and save them from their predicament and trouble. For He is truly the One with the power and authority to rule over all things, and there is no other things in this world that we can rely on or trust besides the Lord. Unfortunately, we are often too busy or preoccupied, distracted and ignorant to realise just how fortunate we have been, to have been so beloved by God, Who has always been ever so patient towards us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of this same reassurance to His disciples, as He encouraged them and strengthened them, in saying that they should not fear of worry about themselves, should they encounter trials and challenges during their ministry and faithful commitment to His cause. He said all these to strengthen them and prepare them for what they were to experience. Many among the Apostles and disciples would endure prison, torture and suffering, and even death. Many others would endure trials and persecution, rejection and opposition.

The Lord reassured them that He would be with them, standing by them even through their most difficult moments. They would never be alone, or face their oppressors and challengers on their own accord. If they trust in the Lord, the Lord would be their strength and consolation, their guide and protector, and His Spirit would be with them, giving them wisdom and courage, brilliance and perseverance, just as most prominently we can see in St. Stephen’s martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this past year alone, and especially this year, we have seen, witnessed and likely experienced for ourselves, how our usual trust and dependance on worldly matters and things have been shaken and our trust in them destroyed. We see how our society and respective communities were affected badly by all the negative implications of the current pandemic, troubles and conflicts affecting our whole world. When what we have thought all these while to be stable are gone and can no longer be trusted, who or what then can we turn our attention to?

Of course it is the Lord, He Who is ever constant and faithful, Whose love for us is ever present and enduring, even amidst all of our infidelities and lack of faith. God has shown us yet again and again, how He is ever patient, in calling us to return to Him and to be reconciled to Him. Yet, at the same time, we also have to realise that He is calling us to repent and turn away from our sins and wickedness, for if we constantly being stubborn and refuse His mercy, then it is by those sins that we will be condemned and judged.

Let us all turn towards God with a renewed love and dedication, that from now on we will draw ever closer to God, and be filled with deeper and more genuine faith in Him from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He be our inspiration, strength, guide and protector as we continue to journey through life with faith. May God bless us always, in all of our good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are first confronted with the great wickedness of the people of Israel who refused to believe in God and committed all sorts of sin, despite everything that God had done for their sake. He has protected them many times, brought them out of their troubles, as the Exodus from Egypt was mentioned, the time when God liberated the Israelites and freed them from their slavery and gave them their own land to live in.

In all those years God had patiently cared for His people, sending them help and protection, provision and guidance when they encountered troubles. When the Israelites faced troubles and persecution from their neighbours and when their enemies rose up against them and subjugated them, God raised up Judges one after another to lead the people and free them from their oppressors. And still yet, they did not remain faithful and instead, worshipped idols, disobeyed His Law and commandments.

He has sent prophets after prophets, messengers after messengers to lead His people down the right path, and even after all these, they still refused to believe, and many among them openly disregarded His messages and reminders, persecuting and even killing His prophets. It was with these background and history that we then heard the words of the Lord through His prophet Hosea, sent to the Israelites in the northern kingdom during its final days.

For the past more than one week during the weekdays we have been listening to the words of the prophet Hosea, as we heard the words of God’s anger and dissatisfaction with the constant disobedience showed by the people, and the upcoming judgment, reckoning and consequences they had to suffer for their sins. And all those things were about to happen, as not long after the prophet Hosea spoke of those words, the northern kingdom was destroyed in the conquest by the Assyrian Empire, and many of its people brought into exile in far-off lands.

But we have also then heard, strangely, in between the anger and the premonitions of destruction that were to come, the words of soothing love, compassion and mercy. And all these underlie the true intention of the Lord, and why He has always been so patient with His people despite their constant rebellion and disobedience. That is because He was always filled with love for all of us, His own beloved children. He has created us all for a good reason, and that is His ever-present love for us.

In God, we truly have a loving Father and Master, as One Who has always been concerned about us, and that was why, despite our constant waywardness and disobedience, we are still indeed beloved by God, and God patiently sent His messengers and servants to help guide us out of the wrong path, as He ultimately did through sending us the finest gift of all, His own begotten Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, all of us receive the assurance and guarantee of God’s most wonderful love and providence, and all these He has freely given and revealed to us, sending out His Apostles and disciples two by two to go and proclaim the words of God’s truth, His wonderful love to many more people among us. But for all these, many among us His people refused to follow and stubbornly opposed Him, as their ancestors had done in the past.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just how unfortunate the state of world truly is, with people refusing to believe in God even though He has always ever been so patient and loving, caring and forgiving. And for all these, many of the Lord’s servants, His Apostles and disciples, His prophets and messengers had suffered from the rejection and persecution that they had to endure for many occasions and through their many years of good service.

Today, all of us commend to our memory the great faith and dedication showed by the holy saints and martyrs who suffered in the great land of China, all the missionaries and the laypeople who have believed in God and received the faith, and were persecuted for that same faith and for their dedication to serve the people. St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions are truly great inspirations and examples for us, as to how we should live our lives as faithful Christians.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong was among one of the first Chinese to be ordained as priests, and he was sent out to serve the communities of the faithful, a truly difficult task not only for him but also for many other missionaries, as the Christian faith at that time was just barely tolerated at the very most, and in most circumstances, to be a Christian was frowned upon by the society as well as by the government. Many people had to practice their faith in secret, and many of the missionaries also had to spread the Word of God carefully.

At that time, the conflict between the Chinese court and the Christian faith had been a culmination of centuries of exchanges, in which misunderstandings and conflicting interests among various religious orders and missionaries sent to the mission in China led to the official persecution of the Church and Christians in China, as the instructions from the Church, misled by these misunderstandings led to great conflict with the authorities for many years.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and many other Church missionaries and priests were persecuted, arrested and tortured, and eventually put to death for their constant dedication to the Lord, refusal to betray the Lord and abandon their faith. All of these persecutions were made worse in particular because they were complicated by the arrival of the foreign powers that quickly led to diplomatic and political conflicts. And as the Western powers continued to gain prestige, territories and privileges at the expense of the Chinese, the Christian missionaries, priests and the faithful were often caught in the crossfire and conflicts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all those faithful people of God, both missionaries, priests and laypeople alike, all were faithful and committed to God despite the challenges that they had to endure. Many of them had to endure prison, unimaginable torture and painful sufferings, and yet, they remained firm in their conviction. This is something that each and every one of us should also be inspired with, even as we carry on living our own lives as Christians, as those whom God had called to be His followers.

As we can see, there is still much darkness in this world, and there is likely to be even more darkness, as mankind continue to walk down the path of sin and disobedience against God. Therefore, now as Christians all of us are challenged to be true and genuine witnesses of the Lord’s truth, His love for each and every one of us, and His willingness to forgive us our trespasses and sins as long as we are willing to repent from those many sins and mistakes we have committed.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the Holy Martyrs of China, St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions. Let us all be shining beacons of light and hope in the darkness, especially amidst all the trials, challenges and difficulties we are all enduring throughout this year. May the Lord be our help and guide, and may He strengthen our resolve to be ever good and righteous in all our actions and to be able to devote ourselves more with each and every passing moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the coming of God’s salvation and liberation because of His love for each and every one of us, and He has been calling on us to return towards Him, seeking His mercy and forgiveness, that we will not end up in destruction due to our sinfulness and rebelliousness. For the path of sin leads only to damnation, and all of us must be fully aware of that.

In our first reading today, all of us heard about the words of the prophet Hosea in which continuing from our previous weekdays’ discourse, we heard of the Lord reminding the people of Israel of just how they had sinned against Him, and how they had committed sin by their refusal to obey God’s laws, and by following the lead of their kings who disobeyed God and did not act in the way that God had wanted them to act.

For those kings ruled over Israel in truth only as regent for the one true King, that is the Lord Himself. Yet, their greed and ego, their pride and worldly desires led them to crave for power and glory, and it all ended up with them following the desires of their own hearts rather than obedience towards God and His will. Instead of following God and leading the people towards Him, the kings instituted pagan idols and worship, committed sins like that of king Ahab in murdering the innocent Naboth the vineyard owner, among many others, and in their constant refusal to accept the words of the prophets.

That was why, the Lord sent the prophet Hosea, right about at the end of the kingdom of the north in Israel, just approximately a mere twenty years or so before its destruction, to remind the people of all the sins they had committed, telling them of their impending suffering and destruction for all those sins they had done, and yet, at the same time, God also still showed His most amazing patience and love for His people, that despite all the wickedness and sorrow they had brought Him, He was still yet faithful to the Covenant that He had made with them and their ancestors.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus called His Twelve Apostles from among His many disciples, and together all of them were sent out to evangelise and to proclaim the words of the Lord, first of all to the descendants of the Israelites, again as a sign that God was indeed still faithful to the same Covenant which He had established with their ancestors so long ago. And He sent them their salvation through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the concrete example and evidence of His love for them.

But just like the prophets of old, the Lord and His disciples encountered many difficulties and obstacles, their paths faced with opposition and stubbornness from the people. There were many of those who were willing to listen to the truth and be converted, but there were equally many of those who insisted with their own paths and refused to convert. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular made the Lord’s work difficult and arduous.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore first of all each and every one of us are reminded to open ourselves, our hearts and minds to the Lord, listening to Him and His words of truth that we should not harden them against Him. Are we willing to do this, brethren? Are we willing to turn away from sin and make God once again the true Lord and King over our lives? This requires commitment and dedication from our side, and as we have been called and chosen, then we must also realise just how we have a lot of things to be done.

We have been called like the Twelve Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord. And to us have been given the grace and blessings of many talents and abilities, and the Lord has provided us with ample opportunities in which we are able to make good use of those talents and abilities for good use. Are we open and ready to become God’s own wonderful instruments and to show His love and truth in the midst of our own communities? Are capable of being genuine witnesses for the Lord?

Let us all show by our words, faith and action, in our every living moments so that through us, many more will come to believe in God and be saved through the same Christ, our Lord, King and Saviour. May all of us be wonderful instruments of God’s love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness in our world today. And particularly, amidst the difficult challenges we may be encountering during these dark and challenging times, as the whole world is still reeling from the terrible effects of a great pandemic, economic chaos and collapse, conflicts between nations among others.

May the Lord be our guide and may He inspire us to do ever more diligently, to be more committed to following Him in each and every moments of our lives, that we may indeed become shining beacons of God’s hope and light in this darkened world, calling more and more people to trust and have more faith in the Lord, through us. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are being reminded by the Scripture passages we heard, to be truly dedicated to God and not just paying lip service and empty, meaningless gesture to the Lord, as those whom He has called to be His followers. Each and every one of us share in this responsibility that we have received from God, to be genuine in our faith and to be fully committed to Him at all times, offering our heart, mind and our entire being to Him.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Hosea in which the Lord condemned the actions of those who have disobeyed Him and led the whole people into sin, in retrospective from the founding days of the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, during the time of the prophet Hosea’s ministry, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah had been divided from each other for almost two centuries, and the people of Israel had been led away to sin, by the decision of its first king, Jeroboam, who established a parallel and separate worship in Bethel.

The united kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon was torn apart after Solomon’s death by his disobedience and sins at the end of his life, and Jeroboam was chosen by God to be the king over the ten northern tribes of the Israelites, and Jeroboam was of course expected to reign responsibly and with faith. However, that was not the case, as soon after he was made king, feeling insecure of his own position and fearing that he could lose all that he had gained, he committed a great sin before God.

That was because despite the division of the kingdom, the people of Israel were still one people, and although they were administratively divided into the northern and southern courts in Ephraim and Judah, but they were still the people of God, and they ought to worship the one and only True God, and that was why they were still obliged to come to Jerusalem, to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon had built for the Lord.

Instead, king Jeroboam, without consulting God or His prophets, and fearing that the people’s loyalty would return to the House of David if they were to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship God, decided to establish his own separate worship in Bethel, in his own kingdom, making a golden calf idol and altar, stating that all of his people ought from then on worship only in the places approved by the king, no longer to Jerusalem. He also established his own priesthood in contravention to the Law.

By his own pride and ego, his own fears and insecurities, his lack of genuine faith, Jeroboam had led the people to sin, and in time, pagan worship and idols were to be common throughout Israel. Jeroboam and many if not most of his successors were unfaithful to God, and as described in the Scriptures, committed what were wicked in the eyes of God and men alike. All their illegal and unworthy priests offered sacrifices on the altars in Bethel and other places, but their offerings and sacrifices were meaningless as they were not made with faith.

Are we then willing to take note just how it is important for us to love God with all of our hearts, to give our all to serve Him and to follow Him, and not to be distracted by the many worldly concerns and matters we may encounter in life. In our Gospel today, we heard of the Pharisees criticising and opposing the Lord Jesus and His works, because they accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons in His miraculous casting out of demons, and they accused Him of blasphemy and fraud, refusing to accept His teachings and works, or believe in His words.

All of these were caused by the jealousy and fear in their hearts and minds, as they saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat to their own power, privileged existence and position in the community, and they did what they could to try to stop the Lord, plotting against Him and making false accusations against Him. In this regard, they committed great sins against God, and they did nothing differently from king Jeroboam who led the people to sin by his fear that his kingdom would be snatched away from him.

That is why, for all of their pious actions and many shows of faith in public, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often subjects of the Lord’s rebuke, as they offered their prayers and made their sacrifices for meaningless purpose, as their attention was not on God, and they were distracted, serving their own selfish desires and wants, rather than to obey the Lord wholeheartedly as they should have done. And they led the people into sin by their own lack of faith and true, genuine love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be truly faithful to God and to be genuine in our faith and devotion to Him. We are called to be His genuine followers, giving our whole heart in following Him, working for His greater glory and to devote our time, effort and attention to serve Him. He Himself had said, that the ‘harvest are plentiful, but the labourers are few’ and how there are great need for more workers and labourers to work in the gathering of the harvest of the Lord.

This means that all of us are expected to give our best in serving the Lord, in following Him and in walking in His path, to be good inspiration of faith, and to be righteous and just, obedient and genuine in our actions to one another. Are we able to do these, brothers and sisters? Are we able and willing to give ourselves to Him as many of our holy and dedicated predecessors had done? Let us not be distracted any longer by the various temptations that we may have, and let us renew our focus and faith, our commitment to God from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are brought to pay attention and place our focus on God’s loving mercy, His generous forgiveness and the compassion with which He has taken great care over each and every one of us. And we are reminded that each and every one of us are truly blessed to have the opportunity to embrace God’s loving grace and rich mercy. But have we been appreciative of His love for us all these while?

In our first reading today all of us heard from the words of the prophet Hosea, the proclamation of God’s love and upcoming salvation for His people, a very significant promise made at that time when the people of God were already on the verge of destruction and defeat, as the prophet Hosea performed his ministry among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel just within twenty years or so from the downfall of Samaria and the kingdom under the conquest of the Assyrians.

For a people and kingdom who had deviated from the Lord’s path for so long, many decades and centuries, it might have sounded so amazing that even after everything that they had done, the Lord was still so patient with them that He was willing to welcome them back, to love them and to show them His care despite every kind of sorrow and sadness that they had given to Him by their persistent disobedience and sins, their betrayal of the Lord for the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Hosea brought forth the prophecy that God would once again restore His people, gather them once again and allow them to live in peace and harmony together with Him, and they would no longer worship the pagan idols and Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, but instead, they would only worship the Lord, the one and only true God. The Lord desired for the reconciliation with His people and He was willing to forgive them their sins, but provided that they were willing to turn away from their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard yet another amazing story, of the healing of a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding for twelve long years. The woman was hesitant and afraid to come to the Lord, as bleeding such as what she had suffered from was something considered unclean according to the Law, and she must have tried her best to hide her condition for all those years. There was certainly a mixture of shame and uncertainty in her mind that day.

But she gathered her courage and whatever strength she had to come towards the Lord, with faith that if she could even just touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak, then she would be healed from her bleeding troubles. And sure enough, the very moment she touched the Lord’s cloak, her troubles were ended, and her body was made whole again. In all of these, and linking to what we have heard earlier on in our first reading, we heard the amazing story of God’s mercy, love and compassion for each and every one of us.

For the woman was actually a representative of us sinners, also much like the people of Israel of old, those who have disobeyed God and committed sins against Him. Her bleeding was just like how the people had sinned and disobeyed God therefore became defiled and unworthy of God. And by God’s power and grace, He will heal all of us just as He has healed the woman from all of her troubles. But all these, as we have heard, required faith, and strong, genuine faith.

Are we able to seek God with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow the examples of the woman, who although fearful and uncertain, but her faith helped her to overcome those fears and she stepped forward, seeking the Lord with that faith? And that is what we need, brothers and sisters in Christ, that faith with the genuine desire to seek the Lord, to love Him and to turn away from all of our evil and sins, and embrace God’s ever great and bountiful forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we also celebrate the memory of the renowned saint, St. Maria Goretti, whose faith and devotion to God, her commitment and love for God, her love and patience, her forgiveness even for someone who had caused her so much hurt can be a great inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives with faith. St. Maria Goretti was still a young girl and in her early teenage years, from a poor but loving family, as her parent worked and lived with another family.

The son of that family with whom St. Maria Goretti stayed with, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to commit what was sinful in the eyes of God. St. Maria Goretti resisted his advances when he made it during one opportune moment as she did not want to do what was against God’s will and Law, and her, being a pious and God-fearing person, also did not want Alessandro to fall into evil. In his moment of anger of being rejected by St. Maria Goretti, Alessandro stabbed the girl many times.

On her deathbed, St. Maria Goretti forgave her assailant and murderer, and prayed for him, and asked for clemency for Alessandro. And with that, this young girl who chose death rather than to blemish herself with the taint of sin, entered into heavenly glory through martyrdom. And through the testimony of Alessandro himself, when he was in prison, he saw St. Maria Goretti coming to him and told him how she had forgiven him and that she prayed for his conversion of heart.

That was how Alessandro was converted and turned away from his earlier, sinful in his youthful years. When he was released from prison, he begged for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, who promptly forgave him, saying that how she ought to have forgiven him if her own daughter herself had forgiven him and prayed for him so much from heaven. Alessandro spent his remaining years doing his best in penance and also living righteously in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we can see just how wonderful and amazing God’s healing and reconciliation can be for us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and seek His forgiveness just as Alessandro had? And are we willing to commit ourselves to God and reject sin and the temptation to sin just as St. Maria Goretti had done? Let us all be righteous and good, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He show us all His mercy, lovingly embracing us and taking good care of us, and help us in our journey towards righteousness, guiding us in repentance and giving us the necessary strength and patience to overcome all the temptations and sins present in our lives, that we may be healed from all these sickness of sin, and be purified by God’s ever wonderful mercy and love. Amen.

Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are reminded of the love that God has for all of us, and how all of us are called to put our faith in Him and to entrust ourselves in His care. And the message from today’s Scripture readings is indeed apt and fitting especially during these days when we are facing so many challenges and trials, hardships and troubles all around us.

All of us have heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Zechariah in our first reading today, in which the Lord promised the coming of salvation when the King Himself would come to Jerusalem and bring forth salvation and new life to all of His beloved people. This is also the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, seated on a humble donkey, which would be fulfilled when Christ came to Jerusalem on the donkey just before His Passion, suffering and death.

In that same passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of how there would no longer be chariots in Ephraim and neither there would be horses in Jerusalem. These spoke of the means of war represented by the chariots and horses, between Ephraim, where the northern kingdom of Israel was centred and Jerusalem, the centre of the southern kingdom of Judah. Both kingdoms had been divided since the time of king Solomon’s death, and feuded for the next few centuries since.

Therefore, the Lord spoke of the coming of the good time when the people would no longer be divided, of the times when they would be restored and strengthened, when the veil of shame and humiliation would be lifted from them, after each kingdoms were subjugated, conquered and their populations exiled and enslaved by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively. The Lord would bring them all out of their misery just as He had once done with them as He delivered them from the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This was then fulfilled in Christ, when He came into this world and revealed the fulfilment of God’s long planned salvation of His people, as the Gospel passage today had told us, that He, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of all, has brought with Him the truth of God, how He was going to save all of us mankind, and how there is only one path to salvation, that is through Him, by believing in Him and trusting in Him.

He calls on all of us to come to Him, to seek Him and to put our trust in Him as His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and we ought to seek our rest in Him. But are we willing to come to Him and to seek Him? Or have we instead been distracted and swayed to follow the wrong and false paths promoted by the devil and all those seeking to turn us away from God? This is where as Christians we must indeed show good examples, and strive our best to put our strong, living and genuine faith in Him.

From what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, and from what many of our predecessors in faith had experienced, all of us have to realise that being Christians is not meant to be an easy and trivial one. When the Lord mentioned that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He exactly meant what He said, that there will still be yoke and burden for us to shoulder and endure. Some among us had held the misunderstandings and wrong impression that when we follow the Lord then we will have an easy and comfortable life, but this was not what the Lord meant.

What the Lord wants us to realise is that by putting our trust in Him, we gain the assurance of the true glory and joy, the guarantee of eternity of rest and new life, a new existence with Him, free from the shackles and chains of sin, and reconciled completely to Him. We must not instead think in worldly terms and matters, seeking glory and worldly satisfaction, fame and pleasure, and these are not what we are going to get from following God and being faithful to Him.

St. Paul spoke of this as he wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, part of which is our second reading today. He spoke of all of us Christians who have believed in God and received the baptism into the Church as those who no longer live in accordance with the flesh, and instead, we are living by the spirit of God. If we still continue to persist in living in the flesh, it means that we still allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the allures of worldly desires and sin.

St. Paul reminds us that we have all shared in the death of Christ through our baptism, and by His death, all of us have been redeemed by His loving sacrifice on the Cross. And that is not all, for as the Lord triumphed over death and conquered sin, as He rose in glory in Resurrection, all of us have therefore also shared in His Resurrection into a new life, a new Christian way of life that each and every one of us have been called to live up to by the Lord Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures and remember again what we have just heard, and as we look into our own lives thus far, our actions and our faith, let us all ask ourselves now. Have we all been good and faithful as Christians living our lives in this world? Have we spent our time well thus far, in trusting in the Lord? Or have we been living for ourselves, putting trust in all the things the world offer us and which we have spent our lives gathering and desiring for?

During these first few months of this year, we have seen and witnessed for ourselves how the usual order of this world have been completely disturbed and affected. The coronavirus pandemic and its multiple negative effects on the world’s economy, society and various other factors, coupled with societal instabilities and issues, racism and violence, interstate conflicts and more, reasonably heightened due to the fear and the uncertainties brought about by the combination of all these, natural disasters among others, all these had made this year among the worst for us to live in.

Many of us have suffered in one way or another, and many among us had been disturbed in more than one way, some among us losing our work and employment, losing that iron bowl of income that we once thought to be secure and good. People had been losing their savings and income in all the economic recessions and instabilities that occurred. People had been sickened, lost their loved ones to the illness, or be disabled by what had happened, among other things.

Let us all therefore realise that for whatever assurances and strengths we used to think we have in this world, all of those stood for nothing and would be meaningless in the end, as there is nothing in this world, no matter how great or plentiful, that will last forever. Instead, let us all make use of this opportunity to realise again just how fortunate we are to be beloved by God, to have One Who has always cared for us and lavished His love and attention towards us. It is in God alone that we have sure hope and trust. Are we going to take Him and His love for granted?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, renew our faith and commitment in Him and devote ourselves to Him. Let us seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Let us all take on the yoke and burden the Lord has given us with faith, entrusting ourselves to God, no matter what we may face in the future. Let us all carry on living our lives as good and genuine Christians, committing ourselves to Him daily, and be inspiration and good examples for one another.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, as we carry on our journey in life with faith. May He help us to persevere through the challenges and trials we encounter, and renew our hope and trust in Him, as we still endure the current effects of this pandemic, our societal problems among others. May the Lord show us the path forward and give us the courage and strength to endure it. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.