Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in Him and let Him act. Then will Your revenge come, beautiful as the dawn, and the justification of your cause, bright as the noonday sun.

The Lord is the One Who makes people stand, He gives firmness to those He likes. They may stumble, but they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

The Lord is the Salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. The Lord helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them for they sought shelter in Him.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Hebrews 10 : 32-39

Remember the first days when you were enlightened. You had to undergo a hard struggle in the face of suffering. Publicly you were exposed to humiliations and trials, and had to share the sufferings of others who were similarly treated.

You showed solidarity with those in prison; you were dispossessed of your goods and accepted it gladly for you knew you were acquiring a much better and more durable possession. Do not now throw away your confidence that will be handsomely rewarded.

Be patient in doing the will of God, and the promise will be yours : A little, a little longer – says Scripture – and He Who is coming will come; He will not delay. My righteous one will live if he believes: but if he distrusts, I will no longer look kindly on him. We are not among those who withdraw and perish, but among those who believe and win personal salvation.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, each one of us are reminded of the dangers of our human pride and ego, which can indeed become our undoing unless we make the conscious effort to resist that strong allure and temptations to succumb to our pride, ego, arrogance, ambition and desires. This Advent, all of us are reminded that our true focus and the right centre of our lives and existences should be that of the Lord, our most loving God and Creator. We should not allow our personal ambitions, desires and especially pride and ego to be stumbling blocks in our path towards the Lord as unfortunately has often been the case. Many people, our predecessors, throughout history, have fallen prey to the trap of their own greed and ego, and fell away from the path towards God’s grace and eternal life.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah regarding the rebelliousness of the people of Israel, and all the wickedness which they had committed in the past, and how God therefore had punished all those who were wicked and unjust, and gave the inheritance and gifts, graces and blessings intended for those people to the ones who were more deserving and worthy. That is why God gave a premonition to His people, revealing to them how He would gather all those who are willing to listen to Him and answer His call, and unite them together as one people, to be God’s own beloved flock, where God exists at the centre and focus of their lives and existences, instead of pride and worldly desires and greed.

The prophet Zephaniah lived and ministered to the people of God in the kingdom of Judah during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last rulers of Judah before it was to be crushed and destroyed by the Babylonians. The people of Judah have often lived wickedly under the leadership of many kings who did not obey the Lord and led the people into the path of sin and evil. Only some of the kings, such as Josiah himself, was faithful and devoted to God, and attempted to turn the people once again back to the worship of the one and only true God. Zephaniah therefore spoke of the words of the Lord to a people who have experienced both the path of righteousness and the path of wickedness and sin as they alternated between obedience to God and disobedience, depending on the then prevailing political climate, and the guidance of their kings, both those who were evil and those who were faithful to God.

Zephaniah reminded all of them that the time of consolation and liberation would be coming to their midst, and God would gather not just the people of Israel only, but also everyone from all throughout the world, everyone who were willing to embrace God and His righteous path, His truth, His love and grace. Those who pridefully kept their wicked ways and disobeyed God, seeking to advance and satisfy their own worldly desires will not have any part with God, while all those who are willing to acknowledge their shortcomings, and listen to the Lord and His call, will be given the assurance of God’s grace and salvation. That is the same sentiment that we have also heard from our Gospel passage today. We heard from there of the Lord speaking to the people and His disciples using the parable of the two sons, in which He used the example of those two sons to contrast those who listen to God and those who refused to listen to Him.

In that parable, we heard of how one of the sons told his father who asked him to do what he told him to do, that he did not want to do the work, and yet later on, he changed his mind and did the work in the end. Then, we heard of the other son who said that he would do the work, but did not do the work in the end. From these we can gather the comparison that the Lord made between those who were willing to humble themselves and change their ways, represented by the son who initially refused to listen to his father and then changed his mind to do what he had been tasked to do by his father, and with those who are hypocrites, those who said that they would obey, but gave in to their ego, pride and desires, and ended up forsaking their obligations and commitments.

This is a rebuke and criticism against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often placed obstacles and challenges on the path of the Lord’s works and missions. Those people proudly claimed the heritage of the Israelites and the purity of their faith, and they proudly accused all others including the Lord and His disciples of blaspheming and being disobedient against God simply because they did not conform to their ways of observing the Law and the commandments of God. However, their understanding and appreciation of the Law was flawed, and they did not truly commit their actions and works for the greater glory of God as they should have done. Hence, the Lord reminds us all that we should not live our faith in the manner as those people had done, as they were entrusted with the heavy responsibility of guiding the people of God towards Him, and yet, they succumbed to the temptations of worldly greed and human pride, for the detriment and loss of many.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy, holy virgin and martyr of the faith. St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia, is a renowned saint and martyr, whose life and works can serve as great sources of inspiration for ourselves that we may know better of how we can serve and glorify God by our lives, much in the same way how the saints like St. Lucy had done in their own lives. St. Lucy was born in Syracuse in Sicily and was hence also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse. She was born into a rich and noble Roman family and lost her father at an early age. She consecrated herself to the Lord as a devoted virgin, wanting to provide her wealth and dowry to the poor and the needy. However, her ailing mother was not aware of this and arranged for her to be married to a rich pagan nobleman, and that eventually led to the great suffering and martyrdom that St. Lucy would have to endure.

It was told that St. Agatha of Sicily, another great martyr and saint who predeceased St. Lucy, appeared to her and her ailing mother at her shrine, ever popular among the local Christians and from beyond, assuring them and interceding for the mother of St. Lucy that led to her miraculous recovery from her illness. St. Lucy managed to persuade her mother to be generous and give her wealth to the needy and the poor around us, persuading her that ultimately, whatever they have been generous with, all is because they do not love the world more than loving the Lord, and that in loving others, they will receive greatly from the Lord, Who will know of the love and the generosity that each of them have given for the sake of the poor and the needy all around them, just as the Lord Himself had instructed His disciples and followers to do.

However, this aroused great anger by the pagan nobleman who was betrothed to St. Lucy. The pagan nobleman accused St. Lucy to the local Roman governor, who arrested her and tried to force her to offer and burn sacrifices to the pagan idols and gods. When this failed, they tried to get people to defile the sacred virginity of St. Lucy by sending her off to the brothel. Yet, they could not manage to make her budge or force her to the brothel for the Lord was with her, and protected her from harm. After repeated failed attempts to make her suffer, eventually St. Lucy was martyred when a sword was thrusted into her throat. Her courage and faith became a source of inspiration for many, and she is still commemorated to this day for her devotion to God and her commitment to a life of purity and sanctity, on the St. Lucy’s Day celebrated in many parts of Europe.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of ought to be reminded today of the courage and faith showed by St. Lucy, her commitment to God and her resistance of worldly temptations of glory, pleasures, wealth and more. Let us all therefore also commit ourselves to the same cause, and do our very best to resist the temptations of our pride, ego, greed and worldly desires, all those things that can lead us to our ruin and damnation. Let us all make good use of this time and opportunity given to us this Advent to turn back towards God and to be reconciled with Him, and to grow ever closer to Him in love. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us all in love, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 21 : 28-32

At that time, Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I do not want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went.”

“Then the father went to his other son and gave him the same command. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you : the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.”

Tuesday, 13 December 2022 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 and 23

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

But His face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Zephaniah 3 : 1-2, 9-13

Woe to the rebellious, the defiled, the city that oppresses. She did not pay attention to the call nor accept the correction; she did not trust YHVH nor did she approach her God.

At that time I will give truthful lips to the pagan nations that all of them may call on the Name of YHVH and serve Him with the same zeal. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they will bring offerings to Me. On that day you will no longer be ashamed of all your deeds when you were unfaithful to Me; I will have removed from your midst the conceited and arrogant and My holy mountain will no longer be for you a pretext for boasting.

I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest with none to threaten them.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must not be ignorant of what we are all called to do as Christians in our daily living, and to heed the signs of the times. For each and every one of us as Christians, we are all called and expected to make good use of our lives and all the talents, abilities, opportunities and all other things that the Lord had granted us, so that our lives may be truly fruitful and worthy of God. We must not be idle in our lives or worse still, act in ways contrary to our beliefs, as what unfortunately many amongst even us Christians have done, and are currently doing in our lives. To do so is truly unbecoming of our Christian identity, and is truly a scandal of our faith, which is something that many amongst us have to account for in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the moment of the final defeat of Satan, the great enemy at the end of time, and the ultimate triumph of God and the faithful over all those who have long persecuted the holy people of God. The Lord will triumph over all evils and all the forces of the wicked, and that vision of St. John saw of this great victory and the final defeat of evil serves to encourage all the faithful people of God who at that time had been facing a lot of struggles, trials, challenges and persecutions, having to endure prison, and even martyrdom for their belief and faith in God. Many, like St. John himself, had to suffer because they believed in God and refused to worship the pagan gods and idols, or the Emperors, who back then were often regarded as divine.

All the things that St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision became source of hope and encouragement for the Christians all over the world who were persecuted for their faith. St. John the Apostle witnessed how the mighty forces of the devil met their deserved end and defeat, crushed and conquered by the might of God, and God will come to save His people, just as He has once saved the people of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt and from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Also highlighted in today’s passage of St. John’s vision is the occasion of the Last Judgment, when all the people, living and dead, all will be assembled before God and face their final and eternal fate, be it that their names are listed in the Book of Life and hence worthy of God, and therefore worthy of enjoying the eternal bliss and joy with God, or whether their names are not found in the Book of Life, and will be cast out into eternal darkness and oblivion, to suffer for eternity.

In the relatively short Gospel passage we have heard from today, the Lord reiterated this again, as He reminded all of His followers that the coming of the time of reckoning can be anytime, and while no one will know or have known the exact time and occasion of when it will happen, but the signs from the Lord are clear. And anyway, regardless whether the coming of the Day of Last Judgment is imminent or not, we must always be ever ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again, and it means that we should always be ever prepared in everything we say and do. In all things we must always be filled with the zeal, passion and faith to live our lives faithfully as is expected of us as Christians, and not to allow temptations of the world to distract or even mislead us down the wrong path. We must be careful or else before we realise it, we are already deep in the path towards damnation and destruction.

Clearly, as we heard from all these passages from the Scriptures, we are all being reminded as we have been in these past two weeks towards the end of the current liturgical year, of how important it is for us to remember to always put the Lord as the centre and the focus of our lives and existences. We should not replace Him with other focuses or pursuits which we may have or desire. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is exactly what happened to us Christians, as we are often easily distracted and tempted to succumb to the allures of worldly comforts and pleasures, to all of our greed and ambition, our pride and ego. And all of these can lead us to our ultimate downfall if we are not actively resisting those temptations and pressures, as well as striving to live our lives in a most genuine, Christian manner as we have been called and expected to do in our lives.

Today, we mark the occasion of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the great saints of the Church and one of the most renowned martyrs of the faith. Hopefully by reflecting upon her lives, actions, examples and faith, we may find inspiration and strength to dedicate ourselves and our own lives to God in the way that this holy woman of God had done. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of nobleman or a Roman governor in the land of Egypt, during the years of the final persecutions against Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his fellow co-Emperors and successors. One of those, Emperor Maxentius conducted intense persecutions against Christians in his domains, and St. Catherine went directly to the Emperor to rebuke him for his actions and cruelty against Christians.

At that time, such an action definitely merited death penalty, not only because St. Catherine was a Christian but she dared to rebuke the person of the Emperor, who by the time had become very feared and powerful position. Yet, this holy woman of God fearlessly defended her faith before the Emperor and others, and not even many pagan philosophers, the best of the best assembled by the Emperor to debate her can best her in wisdom and understanding, and she utterly trounced them through God’s wisdom and power. St. Catherine also resisted the temptations of power and worldly comfort herself when the Emperor, who was mesmerised by her beauty and eloquence, tried to woo and persuade her to become his bride. She chose to suffer and die in martyrdom than to betray her faith and principles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hence strive to do our best to obey the Lord and His commandments, as well as putting Him as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all be genuine in being faithful to Him and do whatever we can to live our lives, in even the smallest things and actions we do, in accordance with His will, His Law and commandments. As Christians we have been called to love God first and foremost, and then to love our fellow brethren in the same manner without distinction or prejudice. Hence, let us try our best to do that, so that by our faith made manifest and alive through our actions and works, we may truly be deemed worthy by the Lord on the Day of Judgment, and receive from Him the promised everlasting life and joy. May God bless us all in our every works and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 29-33

At that time, Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

“Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”