Wednesday, 21 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings, all of us are reminded that God has revealed His love and truth, His salvation to each and every one of us through His Church that has been passed down to us from the Apostles who heard all these from the Lord Himself. The Lord has shown us His love and grace, and He has revealed to us how much He cared for each and every one of us and He will entrust all things to us. But we must not take all these for granted.

First of all, in our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, of the Lord Who has called all of us mankind to Himself, extending His grace and salvation to all, to both Jewish and non-Jewish people alike. Contextually, we need to understand that at that time, the Jews believed that they, as God’s chosen people, the descendants of the Israelites, were those whom God had favoured and no one else had the right and privilege like theirs.

That was why many of the Jews, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them, held the view that the Gentiles, a term used to describe the non-Jewish people, being pagans, were wicked and unworthy of God, sinners and they would perish and be destroyed. Those who wished to be saved must abandon their identity and embrace the Law of Moses, and became one of the Jewish community, severing their ties to their previous culture and identity.

But what St. Paul said was that, God did not intend for this to happen. And as a matter of fact, God called all of His people, loved them equally, whether they were culturally Jews or descended from the Israelites or not. God has revealed His love and His Good News to all, and sent His disciples, St. Paul and all the others, to be witnesses of this truth and love, to all the nations and to all peoples. We have therefore also heard these from the Lord and been called to be part of His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should also take heed of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as we listened to the parable that the Lord Jesus used to explain to His disciples the need for all of them to live a virtuous and responsible Christian life. He used the example of stewards appointed and entrusted by their master to bring forward His point to them.

Each and every one of us are those stewards, entrusted by God with the care of this world and its people. God has blessed us and He has given us the means and the abilities to carry out these responsibilities in these lives we have, in our respective areas of responsibility. However, are we willing to embrace these with faith and commitment?

We have been called, and unfortunately, many of us were too busy to respond to the Lord’s call, and we slackened and waited, refusing to do what we were supposed to do in our lives to be committed and good Christians. In this manner, we were just like that lazy and wicked steward mentioned in the Lord’s parable in our Gospel today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life. May the Lord continue to guide us as we proceed on in life, in following His will and in obeying His commandments and living our faith life with sincere and firm devotion. Let us seek the Lord’s guidance in all things, and walk with Him in the path that He has set before us. Let us embrace wholeheartedly the mission which the Lord has entrusted to us. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture passages, a reminder that as Christians and members of God’s Church, we must always be first and foremost, dedicated to God and centre our lives on Him. For it was through God that all of us have been vindicated and liberated from the chains of our sins. And as long as we live, we should glorify the Lord by our lives, at all times.

The first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians highlighted very, very clearly the role that Christ our Lord has played in the salvation of all mankind. The Lord Jesus has made peace between us and God, and He has reconciled us through His Cross, which reconnected us to God’s love and grace. By His perfect and humble obedience on the Cross, Christ has bridged what was once a great chasm separating us from God that was impossible to cross.

He came when we had no hope and were in wretched state. He extended God’s love and compassionate mercy to us, and redeemed us with love when we were in the greatest need for His love, care and mercy. He made a new Covenant with us when we were in darkness, lost and were distracted by sin, calling on all of us to return to Him with love and sincere faith and commitment. We can therefore see just how generous the Lord had been towards us all these while.

And all these are very timely kind reminders from the Lord to us, that each and every one of us ought to be ready and prepared for the Lord by living our lives each day with the full conviction and desire to proclaim our Christian faith through our lives, to serve the Lord and glorify His Name by our every living moments. We must always be ever ready and prepared, as the Lord reminds us again today, how the time of reckoning may come at any time, and we do not want to be caught unprepared.

How do we then live our lives that we truly become worthy of our Christian faith and God? We can therefore look upon the examples of the Lord Himself, as He dedicated Himself completely and humbly to obey the will of His heavenly Father, in reaching out to us all, the wretched children of mankind, in loving us all even when we have not been faithful and obedient to Him, and when we have abandoned and betrayed Him for false gods and idols.

We are all called to love as generously as the Lord has loved, to show the love of God in everything that we say and do, in all of our interactions with one another. We should be faithful bearers of our Christian faith in our community, and to be beacons of God’s light, to love and care where others had caused hurt and injury, to bring forgiveness and compassion where hatred and jealousy, anger and divisions had once reigned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to be true disciples of Christ, not just in appearances or formality, but in real deeds, in all the little things we do that bring honour and glory to God. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in this way, brothers and sisters? God has called and chosen us to be His followers, but are we ready and willing to dedicate ourselves and answer His call definitively?

Let us all discern God’s call carefully, and think of what each and every one of us can do in order to respond to His call. Let us all wait no more, and give our very best to serve God and to love Him with all of our hearts, by living virtuously and most-Christianlike in all of our works and efforts, actions and interactions. Let us bring God’s light, truth, compassion and hope to this world, that through our efforts, more and more people can be saved. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 19 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the Lord’s generous love and providence, all that He had done for our sake, in caring for us and giving us our freedom and for bringing us out from our fated destruction. The Lord has called on all of us to have faith in Him, to put our trust and also be humble, as much as we can.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus on the Lord and how His love for us has rescued us from the depth of darkness and destruction, liberating us from the fate that we ought to have suffered because of our sins and disobedience against Him. God has given us this wonderful gift thanks to His enduring love for each and every one of us.

And therefore, we are reminded that we have been saved by God’s grace and love, and not by our own might and achievements. But for those who argue then that we are saved by faith alone then they must realise also that faith without any actions and deeds done in accordance to that faith is truly an empty, meaningless and dead faith.

And we shall also then be judged by our inaction, which is tantamount to committing sins of omission. Whatever it is, we have to follow the path that the Lord has set before us and have genuine faith in Him, living our lives virtuously and being centred on God. This is not something that can be easily done as there would definitely be plenty of temptations and challenges in our path and journey.

One of the most common temptations is that of pride and desire, as we heard the warning from St. Paul in our first reading today and also in our Gospel passage today through the parable the Lord used to teach His disciples and the people on the futility of worldly desires and pursuits, and the foolishness of human desires and greed, as well as pride and ego. In that reading, we heard about a rich and powerful man who owned a vast holding and earned plenty of harvests from his vast farmlands.

We heard how the man worried and wondered how he were to store all the things he had gained, and planned to build even larger barns and storehouses to gather more worldly wealth and possessions, thinking that he had secured his future completely and that he had nothing to fear from. This was the fault of his pride and ego, as well as his greed that he was oblivious and unable to recognise his own limitations and mortality.

And the Lord through that parable showed clearly all these, by showing how the life and death of man are completely in the hands of God. And no one could ever know the exact time and moment of the ending of one’s earthly life and existence. For all the wealth, glory and power that man had gathered as according to the parable, all of those would have amounted to nothing and are meaningless, as none of them would end up following the man to the afterlife.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded this day that as Christians we must lead a life that is filled with faith and devotion to God, free from the corruption of ego, pride, greed and earthly desires in our hearts and minds. And we can look upon the good examples set by our saints whose feast day we celebrate today, the Holy Canadian Martyrs or the North American Martyrs, the martyrs St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, holy Jesuit missionaries of North America, as well as their companions in martyrdom.

St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues were the members of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus that had been instrumental in Counter-Reformation and were also involved in missionary works. In that particular area, St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues ministered among the native populations and tribes of North America, spending much time and a lot of effort in reaching out to the pagan tribes and preaching the Good News of Christ to them.

As those tribes lived in some of the least hospitable and difficult conditions known to men, St. John de Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and other missionaries had difficult time trying to adjust and to minister to the people, which was further compounded and made difficult by the reluctance and opposition by some of the native tribes against the efforts to evangelise among them by the Christian missionaries. There were misunderstandings and even conflicts, and also disagreements between the tribes that converted to the Christian faith with the other tribes.

Yet, despite all of these, the missionaries dedicated themselves wholeheartedly, and devoted their time and effort to minister to the people, both caring for them and providing for them, especially spiritually. In the end, amidst all the hardships they encountered, they were attacked by those who misunderstood the intentions of the missionaries, and they were tortured, made to suffer and eventually killed. Nonetheless, the seeds of faith they had spread and nurtured by their efforts remained strong and became the source of the Christian faith among many of the people for generations onwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those missionaries laboured in terrible conditions, had nothing on themselves, and had nothing else but God’s providence and guidance. They entrusted themselves completely to the Lord and allowed Him to lead them through the path that He has led them through. Are we as Christians, able to follow in their footsteps, and be inspired by their faith and courage to live their lives with genuine faith?

Let us all carefully discern this, and see in which way each and every one of us are able to commit ourselves to the Lord, in our every moments and actions. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, strengthen ourselves with faith, and walk faithfully and virtuously in the Lord’s presence, that our every efforts and works will be for the greater glory of God. St. John de Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and all the martyrs of North America, holy servants of God and courageous defenders of the Faith, pray for us all. Amen.

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we reflect on the Word of God in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to do our part as Christians, as those who believe in God and follow the Lord. As Christians, all of us are God’s beloved people, and we have received His truth through the Church. If we truly believe in the Lord, then we must act and do things in ways that are in accordance to His teachings. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we are hypocrites.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the Lord proclaiming His salvation of His people through Cyrus, the then future king of the Persians. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, it was still two centuries or so before the time of king Cyrus. Yet, the Lord had proclaimed the coming of His salvation even at that time, in advance, that when His people who by then had become wayward and fallen into sin, and humiliated and humbled when their city, country and the Temple were destroyed, they were ultimately still beloved by God in the end.

When the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, looted and destroyed its Temple, the House of God, and brought most of the people off into exile in Babylon and far-off lands, it must have been very despicable and terrible for the descendants of the Israelites then, who had to endure such shame and humiliation, suffering and persecutions, as aliens and foreigners without any homeland. But God showed all of them that He still cared for them and loved them, and sent them a deliverer through Cyrus.

Cyrus, the ruler of Persia rose to power and eventually came to destroy the reign of the Babylonians and their tyranny, overthrowing them and their king, and brought about a new reign and era. King Cyrus was remembered for his upright and just rule, and for his revolutionary advancement of the rights of peoples and nations. He respected the rights of the various peoples and nationalities that existed in the vast Persian Empire he created, and his successors respected this same custom and practice.

It was this same Cyrus, whom God had revealed beforehand through prophecy, that freed the descendants of Israel from their bondage and exile, after many, many decades. They were allowed to return to their homeland, to regain the lands and places they had lost, and they were allowed to freely practice their faith once again. This is unusual as at that time, usually the ruler of the kingdoms got to decide what the people believed in, and usually persecuted foreign beliefs and practices.

Thus, Cyrus was considered a righteous among the nations, even though he did not belong to the Israelite nation, and even though he did not worship God the way that the Israelites worshipped Him. Cyrus obeyed God’s will and did everything that God had entrusted him with, as a just ruler and as the liberator of God’s oppressed people. Cyrus became a paragon and example among the Israelites henceforth, and he therefore is a good example for us all as well.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus as He spoke with the Pharisees, who at that time wanted to trap the Lord with cunning trickery, as they asked Him with sweet but insincere words, seemingly praising Him for being honest and upright, and then attempting to trap Him by asking if it was lawful and fine for the people to pay the taxes to Caesar, that is to the Roman government.

This was truly a very cunning and tricky attempt in trying to discredit and even harm the Lord. The Lord was in fact would end up in deep trouble had He answered either that the people must not pay the taxes or that they should obey and pay their taxes. This was because, the matter of Roman taxes was a very divisive and dangerous one at the time, with most of the people resenting the taxation, the money that they had to pay to their Roman overlords.

That was why the people resented the tax collectors very much and reviled them as one of the lowest in the community, treated with contempt and branded even as traitors to the nation. They were seen as collaborators who got rich and had good life due to their connections with the Roman government and its apparatus, and the people came to resent this very deeply. Thus, had the Lord answered that the people ought to pay taxes to the Romans, then the Pharisees would have severely discredited Him and made Him hated by the people.

On the other hand, had the Lord said that the people must not pay taxes, then the Pharisees would have used the opportunity to strike at Him by reporting Him to the Romans, just as they would eventually do together with the Sanhedrin when they handed the Lord to the Romans for the crucifixion. Not paying taxes was one of the most severe faults that the Romans would definitely punish very harshly. After all, the Romans had treated traitors and treasonous activities with the great harshness throughout its history.

Instead, the Lord wisely manouevred His way out of the predicament by first rebuking the Pharisees for their wicked attempt in trying to trap and discredit HIm, and then saying that on that matter, then everyone ought to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and in the same way, give to God, what belongs to God. In this way, the Lord neither said that the people must submit to the Romans for their taxes, or that they should not pay taxes. On the contrary, they give whatever is due to each.

We can see here that the Lord wants to remind us that all of earthly possessions, all these things all belong to the world, and just as we have been blessed and given these possessions, some of us having more while others having less, we have to let them go and give them back whenever it is necessary. And then, all of us must remember that all of us ourselves, belong to God and to Him alone, and because of this, we ought to give to God what is due to Him, that is to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him wholeheartedly.

The example of king Cyrus of Persia in our first reading today is a reminder that God has empowered in this world, governments and states, nations and rulers with the authority from Him, to govern and rule, to lead and guide, in tandem with the Church which He has established in this world. To those rulers, God had entrusted us His people who are still living in this world. This is why, as good and committed Christians, we cannot be disobedient or rebellious against those governments and rulers God had placed over us.

We have our part to play as obedient and dutiful citizens and peoples of the countries we are in. Of course this does not mean that we follow the rules blindly, as we have to obey the laws and teachings of the Church as well. But it means that as long as the rules of the land do not contradict the essence of Christian teachings and are in line with the virtues and values of our Christian faith, we should obey and follow them.

That is why, all of us as Christians, we must be good and virtuous in all of our actions and deeds. We have to be good Christians and followers of the Lord, just as we have to be good and law-abiding citizens as well. We must not be like the Pharisees and all those hypocrites, who outwardly showed piety and faith, and yet, they had no real and genuine love and dedication to God. In this way, they had not given to God, what belongs to God, that is their love and their obedience.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see in king Cyrus, who was not even counted among the Israelites, and yet, highly regarded and praised for his actions, his righteousness and justice as a just ruler and liberator for many people including the people of Israel, all of us are called to follow in his examples, to follow the path of God, all the more that since we know of His truth and teachings, then we are expected to obey Him and to show our faith through our actions, at each and every moments of our lives.

This is the challenge that we have been presented with, brethren. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to walk down this path of faith? God has called us all to follow Him, and to do what He has taught and shown us to do. We are all called to bear His truth and love, to be His faithful witnesses in our respective communities. And especially, during these difficult and challenging times, have we been good neighbours and friends to all those who are in need around us? Or have we been more interested in settling our own matters and desires?

We have seen how many people selfishly took care of themselves, or being disobedient for the sake of their personal freedom. And there had been occasions when we as Christians complained that we have been restricted in our freedom to worship especially in the last few months, and we disobeyed the government and regulations all amidst the terrible few months of this pandemic. This is the perfect example of why, as Christians, we must not forget that while we obey the Lord first and foremost above all else, but we also have a duty to be good and responsible citizens too.

Let us think of this, brothers and sisters in Christ, if by our actions then by refusing to wear mask, or by refusing to follow community gathering and restrictions currently in place, we cause harm to others, and make others to suffer more, and by prolonging this pandemic, we unnecessarily extend this pandemic’s impact, aren’t we being hypocrites and unfaithful, and worse still, being selfish and sinful? This is why, we must not lose ourselves to our own pride and desires, and be disobedient for the sake of being convenient for ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on, especially during these difficult times, be exemplary in our actions and deeds, in being responsible in our daily actions, and in showing care towards others in need. Let us all help one another and play our part, doing the best we can to be first and foremost, dutiful and loving Christians, and also as contributing and law-abiding citizens of our respective states and realms.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us with His wisdom that we may discern carefully our choice of actions, avoiding actions that bring about harm to others just that we feed our own ego and selfishness. Let us be guided by God and our Christian faith in our actions and way of life. May God bless us all and help us in our efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of our faith in Christ, and our calling and indeed obligation as Christians to proclaim Him as our Lord and Master, as the One and only God we have, our one True God. We are called and we call ourselves as Christians because of this fundamental belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh as the Son of Man.

And we believe that He has come down into this world to be our Saviour, and we have been saved through His sacrifice on the Cross, that by dying together with Him through our baptism, and rising together with Him in His Resurrection, we have been brought into a new life and existence. The Lord has revealed all of these to us, and blessed us, and called us to this new life and existence. As Christians, therefore, we are God’s people, united to Him by our faith.

But our faith cannot be just merely a stationary and stagnant faith, that is without any actions or examples through which we stand up for that faith and be genuine witnesses to our belief in God. On the contrary, our faith must be vibrant and active, filled with genuine actions through which all who see us, hear us and witness us, interacting with us may know that God is in us, working through us and that we are His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what all of us are called to do with our lives, that is to be righteous and good, striving for virtue in life and obeying the laws and commandments of God. We are called to be good models and inspirations for one another, that we may help each other, fellow Christians, to remain faithful to God and to follow His path with piety and commitment.

Many of us today are no longer active in how we live up to our faith, as well as our calling as Christians. Many of us prefer to keep to ourselves and do just the very minimum. Even to do that, many among us were already often grumbled, complained and refused to participate fully. When the Church states that we have to fulfil our Sunday obligations, we grumbled and could not wait until the Mass is over.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us are taking our faith and even good life for granted. Many of us may have been blessed abundantly by God, or to have the freedom to worship God and follow His path without any issues. But do we realise just how tough it was for one to be Christians, and even up to today, there are still parts of the world where to be Christians may mean certain death and great sufferings?

Christians had to endure many persecutions during much of its history, and today, our saint of the day, St. Ignatius of Antioch, was himself a victim of this brutal persecution, having also witnessed how many of the faithful were persecuted and killed. St. Ignatius was the successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch as its bishop, and was the overseer of that Christian community, which according to the Acts of the Apostles, was the very first place where the faithful were known as Christians.

St. Ignatius, as one of the most prominent and important of all the early Church fathers, was very influential in the early Church, and helped to establish solid foundation for the Church, not just in Antioch, but also to the larger Universal Church. He wrote extensively to the other Church communities and was also instrumental in guiding the faithful and the Church in Antioch during those years when he was the shepherd of the faithful in that city.

St. Ignatius himself as mentioned was martyred at the end of his ministry as the Bishop of Antioch, and he suffered greatly like his flock, defending his faith to the very end. But he and the many other martyrs remained faithful and committed to God, despite all the challenges that they had to face. They put their complete faith and trust in the Lord, and followed Him to wherever and whatever He led them into.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take all these into mind as we endeavour to live our lives with greater zeal and dedication to the Lord. Let us all be courageous and truthful in standing up for our faith whenever it is necessary, that we may continue to be inspiring examples for one another and that we may become shining beacons of God’s light and truth. May the Lord bless us all, in our every endeavours and good deeds, now and always. St. Ignatius, holy servant of God and holy martyr of the Church, pray for us all. Amen.

Friday, 16 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture, we heard how God has sealed us with His grace, which is through baptism that He has claimed us all and renewed us, liberating us all from the hold of original sin and death, and we have all been made and adopted to be children of God. God has called us all to be His disciples, His followers, and made us all to be His children.

God has loved us all so much, from the depth of His heart. His love is poured on us bountifully, and it was because of His infinite, patient and enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved. He has been patient in dealing with us, even when we have sinned and disobeyed Him again and again. He has always extended His mercy and the desire to forgive us at all times. Unfortunately, we often ignored and disregarded His love, because we were too busy with many things, and tempted by many distractions.

This is what the Lord also referred to in our Gospel passage today when He spoke of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’, after a series of the past few days when we heard all the criticism and curses the Lord spoke of the Pharisees. And He plainly mentioned how the great sin of the Pharisees as being their hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith in God. Although outwardly pious, but their hearts were not fully attuned to the Lord.

God knows full well what is in our hearts, as He said in our Gospel today, that nothing hidden that will not be uncovered, nothing that is beyond God’s ability to know. He knows all of our intentions and everything about us, and therefore, if we have been faithful even in little things, we will be assured of the Lord’s favour and providence. Similarly, if we have not been faithful and wayward, then all these will be held against us too.

We must take heed of these reminders from the Lord through these readings, not to be easily tempted by worldly temptations, or by concerns and fears that we may be having. In that same passage we heard of the Lord reassuring us that we are all precious to Him, that we are all beloved by Him and will be provided and taken care of. Most often we find reasons for those who strayed from the Lord is that because they were preoccupied with securing themselves and gaining their worldly satisfactions or achievements.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be genuinely faithful to God, and knowing that God has loved us so much, then we really should spend the same effort and time to love the Lord with equal intensity and commitment. If God has loved us so much, then why is it that we cannot even try to love Him, even in little matter and things. The Lord is always willing to reach out to us, to embrace us, and He is waiting for us to respond to Him and His love. Are we willing to embrace that love, brothers and sisters?

Today, all of us ought to look upon the examples and inspirations of the saints, our holy predecessors. St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are those whose lives and inspirations that we need to follow and be inspired from. St. Hedwig of Silesia was the Duchess consort of Silesia who joined religious life after she was widowed, while St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was the renowned visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Hedwig of Silesia was born into the noble family, and was married to the Duke of Silesia, and she was renowned for her piety and dedication even during those years. She was always remembered for her commitment to God, her charity and love for the poor. But most memorably, after her husband passed away early on, having settled and taken care of her children, St. Hedwig of Silesia joined the religious life and committed herself to God. Her piety was so great that even her own son, the Duke of Silesia also led a pious life.

And as mentioned, St. Hedwig of Silesia also cared for the poor, the sick and widows as well as orphans, showing them care and concern, extending the love of God to them all. And she also definitely loved the Lord very much, as she spent a lot of quality time with Him. This is exactly the same as what the other saint, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who was also very devout and committed in her service to God.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had a rough early life, as misfortune befell her family, but this did not stop her from being pious in her life, even from her youth. After joining the religious life, this continues on, which St. Margaret Mary Alacoque carried on faithfully as she served the Lord through prayer and service. She experienced miraculous visions of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, from which the now popular devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus stemmed forth.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque shared what she had received in her visions, the words that the Lord, in His Most Sacred Heart spoke to her, calling for the repentance of sinners and to entrust themselves in His Most Sacred Heart. And it is a kind reminder that us of the generous love of God we discussed earlier, in how He loved us with His heart and dedicated everything to us, even to the point of the sacrifice He made on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of the saints, our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to serve the Lord faithfully. May the Lord bless us all in all of our every good endeavours and efforts, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scriptures, we heard from our first reading the beginning of the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, in which the Apostle spoke of the great love of God and the salvation which He has lavished on all of those who believed and embraced Christ as their Saviour. Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard the continuation of yesterday’s discourse on the Lord’s criticism and the curses He levelled on the Pharisees.

In our first reading today, St. Paul spoke to the people of Ephesus regarding the designs and all that God had willed on His people, how He has created us all out of love, and how He has blessed us all and provided for us. Essentially, the key message of St. Paul is that we are beloved by God and He wants us to be forgiven from our sins and thus be reconciled with Him.

Through sin, all of us have been separated from God, and we have fallen away from the path of grace and eternal life. Had it not been for God’s enduring and pure love for us, we would have been destroyed and annihilated. Our sins would have condemned us into an eternity of suffering, and it was only thanks to the patience and compassionate love showed by the Lord to us that we have received the way out of this certain predicament.

It was by the loving sacrifice of Christ on the Cross that the Lord had redeemed us from our fated destruction, extending forgiveness for our sins, and calling us to repent wholeheartedly and abandon our past lives of sin, our previous wicked and disobedient way of life. The Lord has generously extended His offer of love and mercy, and we shall certainly be completely forgiven if only that we embrace repentance and change our ways.

This is then linked to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord speaking to the people on the vices and wickedness of the Pharisees in the various occasions when they did not obey the Lord as they preferred to live and act in accordance to their own way. The Lord reminded us all that this is not the right path for us to follow, and instead of doing what the Pharisees had done, we must be truly faithful.

First of all, the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord, in His words and teachings even though He has repeatedly showed them and all others how His message and words were genuine, and that the prophets had indeed prophesied about His coming into the world. And despite all the signs and wonders they had witnessed, they still refused to have faith.

This shows just how powerful the allure of human pride and desire can be, and if we allow these to influence us much as how they had influenced the Pharisees and many of the teachers of the Law and elders of the people, then it will likely lead us down the same path towards ruin. Those groups of people I mentioned earlier, they took great pride in their own supposed superior intellect, power, influence and other things that made them to resist the Lord and His revelation of truth.

They were blinded by their desires, by their jealousy within them, and by their fears, as they were afraid to lose all the good things, all the privileges and power they had enjoyed. And in the end, instead of depending and focusing on the Lord, they ended up being self-indulgent, depending on their own power and might, their own wisdom and intellect, refusing to admit that they could have been mistaken and wrong, and thus, hardened their hearts when the Lord came bearing His truth before their own eyes.

Truly, it is sad to see how those who were blessed with many good things had fallen. But this is indeed a kind reminder from the Lord how we cannot be complacent and need to be careful lest we may be tempted by those worldly desires, concerns and all the allures by which the devil has been constantly trying to lure us away from God’s path and grace. It will indeed not be easy, as we live in a world inundated by all these temptations, but unless we make the effort, then indeed we will be easy prey for those temptations.

That is why, today, all of us should be inspired by the good examples set by our saint today, the renowned St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, the renowned mystic and holy woman, declared one of the Doctors of the Church for her immense contribution to the faith and in all of her writings and efforts. Together with St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila were very important figures in the renewal and reform of the Carmelite order, establishing what would be known as the Discalced Carmelites.

At that time, after centuries of developments, the Carmelite order began to stray further and further away from the true intentions of the founders of the religious order. Members of the religious began to be corrupted by worldly desires, and found many ways to circumvent or ignore the rules of the religious living and Carmelite tenets altogether. Similar trends were also observed in other religious orders, as both members of the clergy and laity alike became lax in their discipline in life and in their observance of God’s Law and commandments.

Therefore, St. Teresa of Jesus, together with St. John of the Cross and other reformers set out to reform the Carmelites, as well as the larger Church and the faithful community in general, which sought to return the Christian faith and its followers to purer intentions, ridding it off the excesses that had grown to accumulate over those past few centuries, when corrupt influences of the world began to affect the members of the Church and led them astray, much as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had experienced earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Teresa of Jesus and her fellow companions all worked hard and dedicated themselves deeply to the service of the Lord despite the challenges that she had to face throughout those difficult years in attempting to reform the Church and the faithful community, especially the Carmelites. We are all also called to follow the Lord, just as St. Teresa of Jesus and the other saints had done.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with all of our hearts, and let us commit ourselves ever more faithfully, each and every moments of our lives, to be faithful disciples and great inspirations for each other, the beacons of God’s light, His truth, hope and love. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. St. Teresa of Jesus, great reformer and faithful servant of God, pray for us all, always. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Christian virtues in life, to be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit in all things and in all of our words, actions and deeds. God has called us all to be truly faithful and to devote ourselves to Him, to be spiritually active and genuine in our faith. We must not be superficial in faith or just focused on appearances like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

That is what the Lord spoke against the Pharisees for in our Gospel passage today, as a stern warning to all of us that we ought not to follow their lead or imitate their way of life, using even strong words like ‘curse’ to the Pharisees and woe to them. All these signified the seriousness of the matter which the Lord presented before His people, showing them how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their influential positions, had dangerously misled the people into the wrong paths by their actions.

Through what the Lord said in today’s Gospel, we heard how He criticised the Pharisees for their wicked behaviour and irresponsibility as those who had been chosen to be the guardians and leaders of the people. And this is significant because if we remember what St. Paul said about the corruptions of the flesh, many of those were exhibited and acted on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

For example, the opposition of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often driven by the anger and jealousy in them, seeing their influence and power within the community threatened by the Lord and His disciples. And their greed, desire and want for power and worldly satisfactions led to them to stray from their path and their obedience to God. They succumbed to the temptations of those desires and emotions that led them down the wrong path.

This is why the Lord reminded all of us to be vigilant and be wary of the temptations of these worldly desires and all that threatened to lead us down the path of sin. We have to instead embrace the Lord and bear the fruits of His Holy Spirit, of faith, love, humility, temperance among other things. And we are all called to be shining examples and inspirations of our faith to one another, that we may lead more and more people on the way to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should be inspired by the examples of our own holy predecessors, one of them whose feast day we celebrate today. Pope St. Callixtus I was the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the difficult years of frequent persecutions by the Roman governments and their Emperor, who eventually was martyred for his faith. Pope St. Callixtus I was also once a slave according to the Church traditions, who had been enduring many punishments, from prison to prison, before eventually being freed, and becoming deacon of the Church.

Eventually he was elected as Pope and Successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ, in which he began to admit to the Church the converts from schisms and sects, in contrast to the earlier practice of denying admission to these people. His policy and decision to allow these new converts did not have universal support, and it led to the division in the Church, with St. Hippolytus being elected as an opposing or Antipope by those clergy and members of the Church who were against accepting converts from such origins.

Yet, all those who opposed the policies of Pope St. Callixtus I forgot that the Lord Himself would have embraced the repentant sinners and welcomed them back into His embrace, should they all sincerely repent from their faults and sins. The Lord Himself had extended His mercy and love to the worst of sinners, and many had come to be reconciled with Him. To close the doors of the Church to those sinners would just indeed be acting like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who looked down on sinners from their high pedestals, not realising that they themselves were in need of forgiveness and healing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courageous decision of Pope St. Callixtus I to embrace those who have sinned and separated themselves from the Church and the love of God, provided that they embraced God with repentance, all of us are reminded that we are also ourselves in need of the same healing and forgiveness from God. We are all called to be the witnesses of God’s love, His mercy and forgiveness towards us. Let us all extend His love to our fellow brothers and sisters, all those whom we encounter in our daily living.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully in His presence, dedicating our time, effort and attention for His greater glory. May the Lord bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are presented with the matter of the adherence of the Law of God through Moses, all that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law enforced among the people, and how this blind obedience followed by lack of genuine understanding of the faith often hurt the faithful and in fact prevent them from finding their path towards the Lord.

That is why we are all reminded to keep faithful to the teachings of the Lord, to break free from the trap of the adherence of the Law as the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and all others had kept, which reduced the faith into a mere exercise of formality, regularity and piety, where people thought that their actions alone were sufficient to guarantee themselves salvation.

When St. Paul mentioned how those who were circumcised were enslaved and subjected to the Law, he was referring in fact contextually to those who forced and demanded that every members of the Christian faithful embraced all the tenets, rules and regulations of the Law of Moses.

And this is a reminder that our salvation is due to our faith in God and not due to the Law or the obedience to the Law. Obeying God’s will, following His laws and commandments are all part of our faith, and it is by our faith that we have been saved. We do not save ourselves through our actions, separated from our faith. For without faith, all of our good actions, obedience and all the observances of the Law are empty and meaningless, just as faith without actions and obedience is dead.

The Pharisees were were too preoccupied with the appearances and the ‘letters’ of the Law, that they had overlooked and ignored the ‘spirit’ of the Law. And this is what the Lord was displeased at the Pharisees for, as He pointed out in our Gospel passage today, saying how although outwardly they appeared to be good and pious, but in reality, in their hearts were wickedness and sin.

What the Lord wants to remind all of us is that faith needs to be genuine and living, and we need to devote our time and effort, to follow the Lord, dedicating our whole lives to be inspirations for each other, to be virtuous and to be truthful in our everyday actions and living. We must always be Christ-centric in everything we say and do, and we must always be the beacons of hope and light for the community, for each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, by our faith in Christ, by our dedication and love for God, we are saved. And it is through our obedience of the Law, made through genuine and sincere love for God that we are brought into God’s grace and salvation. And to be Christians, genuine and living, we need to be fully committed and be transformed in our lives and walk faithfully in the Lord’s grace. We need to be thoroughly faithful, inside and outside, our whole heart, mind, body and whole being attuned to God.

Are we able and are we willing to commit our lives to the Lord, spending time and effort to glorify God at all times? Are we willing to follow Him with all of our hearts? This is our calling as Christians, and being reminded today of our obligations, let us all embrace our faith and commit ourselves from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us and empower us with the courage to carry on living our lives as good Christians from now on. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 12 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to be faithful to the Lord, to embrace Lord with all of our strength because we are truly God’s chosen ones, and we have been brought out from the darkness into the light. We are reminded that we are no longer bound by the power of sin, through the saving power of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, in our first reading today alluded to this as the comparison between the two sons of Abraham, the one born earlier to the slave Hagar, namely Ishmael, and the one born of his wife, Sarah, the promised son, Isaac, born as promised by God. While the first one was conceived by lack of faith and by worldly counsel, the true son of Abraham, Isaac had been conceived through God’s providence.

This highlights the contrast between the two states and existences of our lives, namely our past, sinful and worldly selves, and our renewed and reborn selves, reborn and rejuvenated through our Christian baptism and initiation, as we enter into the grace of God through Christ and by the loving sacrifice on the Cross, in which He has liberated us from the tyranny of sin.

Unfortunately, as highlighted in our Gospel passage today, despite this, there are still so many lacking in real and genuine faith. In that occasion mentioned in the Gospel, the Lord referred to the people’s lack of faith and their constant asking for signs and miracles, especially by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often criticised Him and shadowed Him all throughout His ministry, refusing to believe in Him despite everything they had witnessed and heard.

That was why the Lord compared them to the people of Nineveh in the case of their repentance and humility, their faith and belief in God when the prophet Jonah came to them and declared that the city of Nineveh would be destroyed and annihilated. They believed in the words of Jonah and humbled themselves even when they had not seen any miracles or deeds of the Lord.

And this is all the more remarkable because Nineveh was the capital of the great Assyrian Empire, which was pagan and worshipped pagan idols and false gods. Yet, the whole city, the king and its people, all humbled themselves before God and repented from their sinful ways, begging for God to forgive them. And all these happened even though they did not even see a single miraculous deeds of God. In this, their faith and ways were better than those at the time of the Lord Jesus, who saw, witnessed and heard every wonders of the Lord, and did not believe or repent.

This is where we are all reminded of the dangers of sin and its temptations in our hearts. Pride in particular is the most dangerous of all, and can bring many to their downfall. Pride was what brought down Satan through his pride and vanity, in rebelling against God and in desiring to claim the throne of God. And through pride, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who thought that their intellectual superiority, understanding of the Law and piousness in obeying the Law could not be challenged by anyone.

That was why they looked down on the Lord, doubted Him and His works, and continued to make His ministry difficult and opposed Him in many opportunities along the way. In this way, they were those whom the Lord said to be those who were further away from God even from the people of Nineveh and from the Queen of the South, who came all the way to Jerusalem just to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Those people had faith in the Lord and believed in Him, even when they were once pagans and unbelievers.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a reminder for us all not to be overcome or swallowed by pride, and we must not allow those to mislead us down the wrong path. We must remain firm in our faith, be humble and recognise just how we have sinned against God and just how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God. Let us commit ourselves therefore to a new way of life, one that is aligned with God, centred on God and be truly dedicated to our Christian faith, in deeds and actions, living up to what we believe with all of our strength.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us always in our journey of faith, that we will draw ever closer to the Lord and help to inspire even more people to walk faithfully in His way. Let us embrace our Christian calling at baptism fully, and be firm in our resolution not to give in to sin and also to pride and other temptations by which many had fallen again and again into sin. Amen.