Wednesday, 23 March 2016 : Wednesday of the Holy Week, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard again how Judas Iscariot went on to betray the Lord Jesus, bargaining with the chief priests and the Pharisees to hand Him over for the thirty pieces of silver coins they offered to him. Today is the traditional day in the tradition of our Church when it was told that Judas went to deal with the Pharisees about the price he would receive for betraying his Lord and Messiah.

And how is this relevant to all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ? As tomorrow is the beginning of the Easter Triduum, we should enter it with good understanding of what we are celebrating, so that when we go through it, we may find ourselves t benefit far more rather than if we do not understand or are aware of what all the important celebrations of our liturgical year are about, especially that of the upcoming few days.

Judas chose the world and its wealth instead of Jesus, His teachings and truth. He was a thief whom Jesus called to be one of His disciples. God called His disciples from various origins. Some were fishermen, some were zealots and tax collectors, and some were criminals like Judas. But what distinguished him from the others of the Twelve was that, even though the others abandoned their past lives, leaving behind everything to follow the Lord, but Judas did not.

We know how St. Peter, the chief of all the Apostles and the most devoted disciple of Jesus once also betrayed Jesus when out of fear as the Jews arrested his Lord and Master, and under suspicion because he was counted among His disciples, then he denied knowing Him, denying his own Lord, to Whom he had promised that he would even lay down his life for Him.

But what is the difference here? The difference is that, while St. Peter realised the gravity of his sins, and in the same manner, Judas also did, when he regretted having sold out his Master for thirty pieces of silver, but while Judas gave up on himself, and out of despair, hanged himself on a tree, seeking the easy way out of the trouble, but St. Peter began a long path to redemption and greatness.

Judas did not repent from his sins even though he did feel regret for his actions. He had given himself up to the temptations of the world, the temptation of money, which he was not able to resist throughout the time when he was following Jesus. He helped himself to the funds of the group, stealing from the money that should have been used to help the poor and for the common good for his own selfish benefits. And therefore, he was condemned because of his failure to turn himself away from sin, resisting those sins and seeking forgiveness from God.

St. Peter professed one more time his faith to the Lord when He asked of him three times, whether he loved Him. And as St. Peter professed his sincere and genuine love for his Lord, the Lord was happy and pleased with His faith, and entrusted to him the flock which He had established in this world, that he would become the anchor and the core through which the Church of God would grow and encompass all the people who have been saved in Him.

In all these, we have to realise one simple fact, that even all saints were themselves once sinners, and some of them were even great sinners. St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the most prominent and well-cited example, of how even a great sinner can become a great saint, only if he or she would come to realise the gravity of their sins, and know that they need to do something about it, and indeed, take the necessary action.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, one of the first saints hailing from the New World, or which is now known as the American continent. St. Turibius de Mogrovejo lived a few hundred years ago during the time when the people living in those places lived under slavery and harsh treatment by the Spanish who ruled over them and pressed hard on their lives, exploiting them at every possible opportunity.

St. Turibius de Mogrovejo led the people to live faithfully, and in his actions, he showed his examples to them, and worked among them even though heat, through difficult and challenging times. He helped to build facilities and infrastructures that benefited the indigenous peoples, and therefore helping them to live more comfortably and as a champion of their rights, St. Turibius de Mogrovejo helped the people to rediscover their rights.

In all these, we all should see how even the act of a single man could have such a great impact on many others. It does not need extraordinary works and events in order for us to do something that is good and something that can benefit our brethren around us. What we need to do is that we need to begin doing something and committing ourselves to do things that will bring happiness to others, and begin from small things and taking small steps to help us to become ever more righteous and committed to our Lord.

May God bless us all strengthen us, and may He keep us close to His side, and awaken in us the strong desire to love Him, so that in all the things we do, we will always strive to reach out to Him and to the salvation He offers us all with love and great kindness. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016 : Tuesday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very clear from the Scripture readings today that we are really getting ever closer to the pinnacle of our liturgical year celebrations, that is the Easter Triduum, celebrating the Last Supper of our Lord where He instituted the Eucharist, giving us His Body and Blood to share as a new covenant between us and God, and which was made complete and perfect through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and which culminates in the celebration of His glorious resurrection.

In today’s Gospel, we saw first how Judas Iscariot was about to betray Jesus, his Lord and Master. Judas betrayed his Master to the Pharisees and the elders at the Temple, for a sum of thirty silver coins. Such was the price of a slave at that time, and which means, Judas sold out his own Master, the Lord God and King of Kings, at a price no more than the price of a mere slave.

And thus our Lord lowered Himself to be like a slave, and even lesser than a slave, for He had brought Himself to the lowest of the lowest darkness, in order to bring us all who have fallen into the same darkness, and lift us back up into the light. It was because God loves us all that He had endeavoured to do so, and willingly He went forth carrying out the mission which His Father had entrusted Him with, the salvation of all mankind.

The world itself did not appreciate Him, and they ridiculed Him, treated Him badly and rejected Him, and they refused to listen to His message, His teachings and His truth. But God had mercy on us because of His love, and because of that love which would not allow Him to abandon us all in the darkness on our own, unless it is by our own desire and conscious choice that we had chosen to abandon Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, indeed, the time of Lent is ending, and the season of fasting and abstinence to prepare ourselves for the joyous celebration of Easter is coming to an end soon. However, it does not mean that we return back to our sinful ways again. God wanted to save us, because He does not want us to fall into eternal damnation, and through the Church, He had shown us the path to reach out to His salvation, freely offered to all.

If God had loved us all so much, have we ourselves love Him as well? Or have we instead rejected His love and spurned His mercy? Do we want to be like Judas His traitorous disciple who loved money and worldliness more than he loved the Lord? It is a choice that we need to make, that in our lives, all of us should be conscious and be aware that all of our actions have implications to our salvation or to our damnation.

Let us not end our preparation for Easter just with the coming of Easter. If we have sincerely tried to abandon our sinfulness, casting aside the darkness and the wickedness that had coloured our lives all these while, then let us continue to do so, for the devil is always round about us, manipulating the world and all its forces to oppose the Lord and all of His good works. This means that temptations are always around us, and if we are not careful, we may fall into temptation and sin once again.

May God help us in our journey of this life, and may He strengthen the faith in each one of us, and the love which we should have for God, for His laws and for our fellow brethren. May He make us all realise how much He has loved us, and how much He has blessed us, and therefore awaken in us the desire for repentance, to turn our backs to sin, and to return to Him with all our heart. May He be with us now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 21 March 2016 : Monday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about how Mary, the sister of Lazarus anointed the feet of Jesus her Lord as He was sitting down for a meal with her and her family, as well as with His disciples. And we heard how Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, accused her of wasting such precious and expensive perfume on Him, when the perfume could have been sold for the proceeds to be given to the poor.

And of course, the Gospel also explained that Judas had been helping himself to the funds of Jesus and His group, and therefore, he had been a dishonest steward to the money which Jesus and His disciples had gathered. It was explained that he was a thief, and thus, naturally, we would find it easy to dismiss him and his comments as the comment of a thief and a slanderer.

But, remember, Judas was a sinner, and so do we too. Mary was a sinner as well, and unworthy as she was, thus, she wiped the feet of her Lord with her own hair. This has a parallel in another Gospel, where the woman who did the same deed to Jesus, was a sinner, who tearfully anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume, and wiped it dry with her hair.

And Judas also made a similar comment in that case, a condescending remark, rebuking and chiding the woman for doing what she had done, and saying that the proceeds could have been given to the poor should she had sold it instead of using it all on Jesus’ feet. But then, let us all ask ourselves, and let us all observe ourselves in this world, in all the events that we observe, is it not all just about the same?

Yes, many people in the world today attacked the Church and criticised the Church, the priests and the faithful, and they criticised the way that we ran things in the Church, criticising our supposed hypocrisy and indifference, especially those who misunderstood and thought that what we are doing are not in the way of the Lord, and instead reflecting an elitist attitude.

What am I talking about, brothers and sisters in Christ? I am talking about those who criticised the Church and our faith for having not done enough for the poor and the suffering in the world, and for having churches and buildings made from wonderful and precious materials, gold, silver and all the other riches of the world. They accuse us of being hypocritical and indifferent, but the reality, is actually really, very different. For the ways of this world, is not like the ways of our Lord.

The fact is that, the Church had done massively to help the poor and the destitute around the world, providing care for countless millions, education for those who once had chance for none, housing and care for those who were homeless, love and care for those who were ostracised and cast out from the society, and ultimately, care for countless people who had once no hope, and now they had a better future.

It was not perfect indeed, and there are still ever more things that we can do, in order to help countless other millions who are still out of the reach of the loving hands of God through His Church. But this is where we all need to come in. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Church is not just the institution of priests, bishops, the Pope and all the hierarchy of the Church. The Church is truly the body of the unity of all those who are faithful in the Lord, which means including all of us as well.

It is the combined efforts of the whole Church that can make a great difference in our world today, and thus, we have to realise that many of us have yet to contribute to the efforts of the Universal Church in helping our fellow brethren. And in this time when we are preparing to welcome the joy of Easter, let us reflect on this, as there are still so many things we can do to share that joy with those who have none. And if we have not done so, what are we waiting for?

And lastly, remember, about the rich decorations and the gold and silver vessels in the Church? Just as Mary had anointed the feet of Jesus with the very expensive perfume, it is also the same for what the Church had done. Why are all the vessels used in the Mass made from precious metals? That is because it is how we honour the Lord, Who is truly present in the Eucharist, the bread and wine made into the very substance of His own Body and Blood, that we cannot spare anything less than our most precious earthly things to be the vessels to contain such precious and great a gift for our salvation.

We glorify God through such means, and help one another to approach God with such means. Through what decent methods the Church had done, we have tried our best to bring Heaven itself to earth. A true and pure worship is when all of us the faithful are gathered together, and are so immersed in the environment and all the earthly glories placed together, that we indeed are present not just on earth, but in the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Heaven itself.

Therefore, as we all prepare for the joys of Easter, the celebrations that we are going to revel in as we share the joy and hope of our Lord’s resurrection, we too should look forward to our own resurrection and rise into glory, which all begin from ourselves, from how we live our lives. Let us all do what we can to make ourselves worthy of the Lord, and let us begin by putting more effort to help one another particularly in helping out the efforts of the Church in its charitable activities around the world.

May God help us to make this Holy Week a very meaningful time for us, and if we have not begun, let us all initiate a very important change in our lives, by seeking to turn away from all things that kept us away from truly being able to reach out to the Lord, and finding our way to Him through repentance, through commitment and love for Him. Let us all be saved in His grace. Amen.