Sunday, 23 February 2014 : 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus taught us the truth about God’s laws, as revealed first through Moses, which the people had often misinterpreted and took it at the face value and keep it just at that. Many failed to see the true intention of God’s laws and ordinances, and their true purpose. God did not intend for His laws to punish or pressure His people with burden, because He intended His laws for love.

That was why Jesus showed God’s people, that His laws should not be interpreted in a way that exclude love out of the equation. The ancient laws and customs of the Jewish people included the concept of vengeance and revenge, named accurately, ‘do ut des’, which means that one receives what one has given, or the concept of reciprocity.

That when translated into how the people carried out the laws of God means that a particularly harsh way of dealing with crimes and how to punish these lawbreakers. They had those who had committed a crime to pay back exactly what they had committed, and that is why the term, an eye for an eye and so on and so forth.

The result was clear, the community of the people of God, that is Israel, became a society governed with fear, prejudice and hatred, that is very far from what God intended for them, that is to build upon a community of love and inclusiveness. The people became boxed in into their obedience to the law, and the fear of God and His wrath should they disobey the law.

Yet, in doing so, under the guidance of the Pharisees in particular, the laws had been lost in its true meaning, often covered by false obedience and empty observations of the law. Jesus showed them that there is a need for the understanding of the purpose of the Law. The Law is about love, and in obeying the law, the people of God have to observe love in all their actions and deeds.

And this love is in fact not the same kind of love that we are often accustomed to in this world. The love that we know about in this world is often a very selfish love. Just as Jesus had said, we often love only those who love us back, and we do not love our enemies and those who hate us. We hate them back and even curse at them as best as we can.

And in our understanding of love, we even have it at an even more flawed level, one that is mingled with lust, greed and human desire. Our form of love is corrupted by desire and wickedness. We lust and desire for worldly pleasures, and that results in us failing further to understand what God truly intends for us.

We are often prejudiced and choosy in our love, and we give no love to those whom we do not love, and those who hate us. But the Lord shows us that when we love we cannot be prejudiced, and we have to be selfless in giving our love. Love should be given to all around us, and even to those who hate and persecute us. If we love only those who already love us, then what we do to them are not quite as meaningful as if we love those who hate us.

The Lord shows us that He knows about what it means to value-add our faith, and the love that is in this world. Loving our enemies and those who hate us will in itself help them to understand love, and hopefully that they will be awakened from their slumber in darkness and in the seas of hate. It falls upon us then, for us to show love to them. If we show them hate instead of love, then we are likely to end up dooming them to hate, and we will be held responsible for that too.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, in line with what Jesus had taught and shown us, we have to change our perspectives of those around us, our brothers and sisters. We must not be judgmental or be filled with prejudice. We have to show love to all, even when the other side does not want our love. Show them that to be children of God means to love. And when we love, we have to do so unconditionally.

Let us all deepen our faith in God and deepen our understanding of His will. Let us understand further the love He has for us, and let us hope that we mankind may learn to love more, and to devote ourselves truly to God, seeking God in all the things we do, and follow in His ways in all of our actions. May God walk with us and guide us, teach us how to understand His will and show us how to love each other and to love Him. Amen.

Saturday, 30 November 2013 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Apostles, that is St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, the leader of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew is also known as St. Andrew the first-called, because he was known to be the first Apostle to be called out of the Twelve Jesus had chosen. It was St. Andrew who brought his brother Simon, who is St. Peter, to the Lord and introduced the Lord to him.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of the city and Archdiocese of Constantinople, or New Rome. It is known as such because the Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, established a new capital in the eastern part of the Empire, in the city he built and named after his own name, which is today known as Istanbul, after its fall to the evil and pagan forces of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.

Not much is known of the actions of St. Andrew in the New Testament, but the Church tradition showed that he established many Christian communities in today’s Greece, particularly in the area now known as Thrace, especially the Christian community of Byzantium, later known as Constantinople when the Emperor established his new city and capital there.

St. Andrew laboured hard for the sake of the Gospel and preached to the unbelievers in the area, earning many converts for the sake of the Lord. Despite difficulties and oppositions and rejections, he continued his ministry with faith, and the faithful communities under his care flourished. And as many of the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he followed the Lord into death.

St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which from then on became known as the St. Andrew’s cross. His dedication and faith to the Lord did not make him hesitate to sacrifice even his own life for the sake of the Lord, shedding his blood and giving up his own life for the growth and spread of the Gospel, and for the salvation of more souls to God.

Today we rejoice with our brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church, headed by the venerable Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle, who had first founded the see of that city. That is why today, we celebrate this great feast of St. Andrew, the patron of the see of our brethren in Constantinople, our brethren in faith, and One as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

It is lamentable and sad indeed, that due to petty political and personal ambitions of the corrupt Patriarch of Constantinople at that time, Michael Cerularius, that this very sad and preventable tragic division of the faithful had to occur, in what is known as the Great Schism of 1054, almost a thousand years ago. It is in the best interest of all the faithful that we all put aside our differences and throw far away the lies, rumours, prejudices, and misconceptions which keeps up the enmity and divisions in our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We are called today, as St. Paul has shown in the first reading, that we ought to preach the Good News to many people of many nations, and we have to reach out to them, and show them the love of God so that they will be converted to the cause of the Lord, just as St. Andrew himself had done. But we certainly cannot do this, if we ourselves are divided against ourselves.

Yes, first we must show our unity, the unity of the Church as one, the One and only Church of God, which Christ had established Himself on Peter, His Apostle, whom the Lord Jesus had appointed as the first Vicar of His will on this world. Sadly, many people, driven by ambition and human greed would like to see and keep the Church divided as it is, not for the glory of God, but for their own glory, for their own ego.

Following the footsteps of St. Andrew and the other Apostles, that of St. Peter, his brother, let us today, as we celebrate the feast of this great saint, as one Church, remember the mission that the Lord has given to us through His disciples, that we have to go out, and proclaim the words of the Lord, the Good News of Salvation, the salvation in Jesus Christ. And that before all these can be completely done, we must resolve to seek unity among ourselves, to avoid divisions and infighting among ourselves.

We are called to become the fishers of men, as we will catch mankind by thousands, tens of thousands, millions and more, bringing them closer to the Lord. That is why the Lord said to His disciples that they will become fishers of men. We too therefore have been called to be the same as they were, to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world. But fishermen cannot catch the fish if they first fight among themselves, instead of catching the fish and waste much energy, effort, and time in the process, and many fish will be lost.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the feast of St. Andrew, we rejoice and celebrate together with our brethren in the Church of Constantinople, that is the Eastern Orthodox Christians. We resolve that we will aim and seek for unity between us, that we will be able to soon once again be perfectly reunited in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the one and only Church that our Lord had built in this world, which He entrusted to Peter and his successors to lead and to be His Vicar in this world.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our loving Church, and bring it closer ever to unity, and with the help of the intercession of St. Andrew, may we be one again, as our Lord is One. Amen.