Monday, 20 October 2014 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 12 : 13-21

At that time, someone in the crowd spoke to Jesus, “Master, tell my brother to share with me the family inheritance.” He replied, “My friend, who has appointed Me as your Judge or your Attorney?”

Then Jesus said to the people, “Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life.” And Jesus continued with this story, “There was a rich man, and his land had produced a good harvest. He thought, ‘What shall I do, for I am short of room to store my harvest?'”

“‘Alright, I know what I shall do : I will pull down my barns and I will build bigger ones, to store all this grain, which is my wealth. Then I will say to myself : My friend, you have a lot of good things put by for many years. Rest, eat, drink and enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be taken from you. Tell me who shall get all you have put aside?'”

“This is the lot of the one who stores up riches for himself and is not wealthy in the eyes of God.”

Friday, 29 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in, and danced, and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Saturday, 16 August 2014 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Ezekiel 18 : 1-10, 13b, 30-32

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Why are you applying this proverb to the land of Israel : ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge?'”

“As I live, word of YHVH, this proverb will no longer be quoted in Israel. All life is in My hands, the life of the parent and the life of the child are mine. The lives of both are in My hands, so the one who sins will die.”

“Imagine a man who is righteous and practices what is just and right. He does not eat in the mountain shrines, or look towards the filthy idols of Israel, does not defile his neighbour’s wife, or have intercourse with a woman during her period; he molests no one, pays what he owes, does not steal, gives food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, demands no interest on a loan and does not lend for interest, refrains from injustice, practices true justice, man to man, follows My decrees and obeys My laws in acting loyally. Because such a man is truly righteous, he will live, word of YHVH.”

“But perhaps this man has a son who steals and sheds blood, committing crimes which his father never did. Will such a man live? No, he will not! That is why I will judge you, Israel, each one according to his ways, word of YHVH. Come back, turn away from your offenses, that you may not deserve punishment.”

“Free yourself from all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, Israel? I do not want the death of anyone, word of YHVH, but that you be converted and live!”

Monday, 9 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the readings, we heard the famous Beatitudes or meaning, Blesseds, which is also known as the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus to the people. In that discourse and teaching, Jesus showed the people how people who do the will of God are blessed by Him for obeying His will. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus encouraged us all to carry out what we should be doing, to be truly blessed in the presence of God.

The Beatitudes showed us the criteria and the expectations that God kind of requires from His children, as they all embody the nature of God, that is love and mercy. However, in this world today we have often forgotten these things and be preoccupied by much concerns for the world and many other factors, that we fail to carry out what the Lord wants from us, as He laid them out in the Beatitudes.

For example, the Beatitudes blesses those who seeks peace and are peacemakers, and yet our world today is filled with hatred and violence, where brothers can fight against brothers, sisters fight against sisters, and quarrels are frequent among ourselves, which truly does not represent the peacemakers that we are supposed to be.

We too often find it difficult to show mercy to others and to forgive others for the mistakes, the wrongs, injustices and any other negative actions that they had done unto us. Indeed the Beatitudes blesses those who are merciful, but how many of us give mercy voluntarily to those who have hurt us? How many of us can genuinely forgive those who had wronged us? It is not easy, and it is in our human nature to seek vengeance and retribution rather than being merciful.

We often become judgmental of others, and we thought of ourselves as being the best, often in the disadvantage of others, that we get further and further from fulfilling the words of Christ in the Beatitudes. All these are because of our bad habits, tendencies and vulnerabilities in dealing with others and in our natural vulnerability to sin and evil.

Today we celebrate the feast of a saint, whose life has been dedicated to do the will of God, and in committing all that God has mentioned through the Beatitudes in his life. Today we commemorate St. Ephrem, also known as Ephrem the Syrian, who was a great inspiration source of many faithful during his lifetime, and a very faithful and hardworking servant of the Church and the people of God through his various ministries and roles in the Church.

St. Ephrem served the people of God dutifully and faithfully, and most importantly, he was very dedicated to the Lord, like the ones poor in spirit, as he sought the Lord for guidance. He received great graces and blessings, just as the Lord had pointed out in the Beatitudes. He also acted as mediator and communicator between many peoples, and between different ideas, providing important mediation between them and therefore promote unity and peace among the faithful.

As such, he was truly blessed by God, and he was made worthy of heaven, and recognised as such by the Church, in addition to the recognition of the vast amounts of work that he has done. He is our inspiration, and he should be our role model, someone who we aim to become, and perhaps even more, practising what the Lord Himself had recommended, as He stated in the Beatitudes.

Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Ephrem, that in our lives, we will always strive to become a good and responsible person, one who fear God, and yet love Him and who carry out His works dutifully. Let us all be like the persons whom the Lord described in the Beatitudes, beginning with small things, and gradually do all that the Lord asks of us.

May God remain with us, and through the intercession of His saints, let us all continue to profess and renew our faith, that we may truly be blessed by God, and be worthy of Him at the end of all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 11 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we often like to presume many things, even those that we have no right to. We like to think that we know it all and refuse to believe if we face any kind of criticism or feedback from others. We especially do not like if we are questioned on our way of doing things. We resist and make complaints when things do not go our way.

That is, brethren, what happened to the people of Israel, the Jewish people of Jesus’ time. They had forsaken the truth of the Lord for human conveniences, and had rejected the Lord in favour of the devil and his worldly pleasures and temptations. They refused to see the truth that came with Jesus, and obstinately kept to their wicked ways.

They failed to understand the Christ and the purpose of His coming, as they did not understand God’s ways or the Scriptures in the first place. They put their trust in their human ways and observances, rather than seeking to know more about God and what He had intended for them. They failed to see how Jesus is the Messiah, the very One who would liberate them from the grip of sin and death.

Why so? That is because they have grown complacent and accustomed to the ways of the world, that they end up rejecting any attempts to make them change their ways. But again, as we see from the readings today, not all of them were such as that. Not all of the people of God were set in their wicked and rebellious ways, as there were indeed those who would listen to God and repent their sinful ways.

Those who refused to listen to Jesus and His words likely came from those who stood to lose the most by following Jesus and abandoning their wicked ways. These were the people in positions of power and influence, and they committed evil deeds through their positions and occupancies, leading many others to follow them into sin.

That was why the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the teachers of the Law were the ones who were most adamant against Jesus and His teachings, because they  looked upon Him as a rival and a usurper to their power and influence. The irony is such that they were the ones who by right should have the greatest knowledge of the Scriptures among the people of God, and thus should have been the ones who would have first noticed the Messiah and the Lord when He comes.

Thus, they refused to open their hearts to listen to the wisdom of God and instead succumb themselves to the temptations of Satan in their hearts, opening themselves to evil, such as pride, anger, wrath, jealousy and hatred which led them to act in a way that opposed the Lord and His ways, even as He came into the world to be the light to those who are in darkness, including they themselves.

That is what happened if we too allow ourselves to be taken over by our desires and human weaknesses, by our pride and arrogance, and by our jealousy and insecurities which lead us to disobey God and block His attempts and offers which He gave to us freely for our sake and for our salvation. That makes us to sin even more and to fall deeper into damnation.

So, today, we have to change our ways if we have acted like the Pharisees, and today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Stanislas or St. Stanislaus, a martyr of thr faith and one of the first pioneers of the faith in the kingdom of Poland, a thousand years ago. The martyrdom of St. Stanislas is well known even today, both in Poland and abroad.

St. Stanislas was the Bishop of Krakow, the same diocese from where our late Blessed Pope John Paul II came from originally before he became our Pope. St. Stanislas brought about a vigorous evangelisation of the then still largely pagan peoples of Poland, bringing about a real transformation of the society and bringing them to know the ways of the Lord.

St. Stanislas fought against many vices in the society, one of the most serious ones involve the very king of Poland himself, Boleslaw II also known as the Bold. King Boleslaw the Bold was known for his many good deeds, but he was also corrupted by the many vices of the world, and he did many things that were immoral and evil in the sight of God.

St. Stanislas did not fear of even rebuking his own superior, the king. St. Stanislas rebuked the king and eventually excommunicated him, casting him outside the communion of the Church into damnation. Yet instead of changing his ways and repenting for his sins, King Boleslaw chose the quick way out and murdered St. Stanislas with great cruelty and without fear of God for murdering one of His faithful servants.

As a result, King Boleslaw lost his throne, overthrown and eventually died in great infamy, because he disobeyed God and refused to listen to His will. He followed in the footsteps of the Pharisees who were adamant in their rebelliousness, that they refused to listen to God. This is what we have to avoid, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, we cannot be complacent, and we have to open our ears, and the ears of our heart wide, so that we may listen to God and obey Him. Let us not be like King Boleslaw, the Pharisees and all those who acted to preserve their own selves and as a result end up in condemnation, which threw them into eternal suffering in hell. Let us all be faithful servants of our God, and continue to serve Him and listen to His will.

May God be with us always and guide us till the end of time, God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 7 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John Baptist de la Salle, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.”

These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them. After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven.

One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden as usual with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there except the two elders watching her from where they had hidden themselves. She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to possess you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away for there was a young man here with you.”

Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I will not escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.” Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors.

Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna.

The next day a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death. They ordered before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives.

Her family and friends and all who saw her wept. The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven. The elders started making the accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them.”

“Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and we saw this crime from there. We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

 

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

 

Daniel 13 : 41c-62

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman?”

Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testified falsely against her.”

Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”

When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.”

Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you.”

“But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”

“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.”

The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them.  They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

 

Saturday, 29 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

The love and mercy of God know no bounds, and there is no limit to His grace for us. He determined that He wants to see us saved and blessed, freed from the chains of sin that had bound us since the time of Adam and Eve, our ancestors. That was why He sent so much help towards our way, that we may find a way to return to His blessing, love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important to remember that God loves us, and despite our transgressions, He is willing to overlook them and welcome us back to His embrace, so that we will not perish in the destruction destined for us because of our sins. But, there is a limit to God’s patience and mercy, and we should not test Him by continuously defying Him.

Yet, sadly many of us are blinded by our own sense of pride and human arrogance that we refuse to listen to God and to His call for us to repent from our sins. We assume that we are able to take charge of our own lives and our destiny, that we disregard His love and reject His care. We immerse ourselves in our stubbornness and carry on with our life, no matter how debauched it is.

Even among us the faithful, we often forget that we ought to be humble before God, for we have sinned. Instead we boasted about our achievements and what we did in the favour of the Lord. We even become judgmental and condemning those whom we deem as less worthy than us for grace and salvation. That was exactly what the Pharisees had done.

Jesus reminded us that the prayer of the proud and haughty worth less than the prayer made by the humble in genuine humility. The humble seeks the Lord with all of their heart and strength, because they know of their fragility and weaknesses, seeking God to help them rectify that issue and reunite them with Him. Brethren, again it is important for us not to judge others and be haughty over others just because of our achievements.

Instead we should assist one another, giving a helping hand to those in need. Particularly those who are lost in sin and darkness are of the greatest priority for us to help with. We cannot ignore or pretend to not see or hear their plight, for this kind of ignorance show the lack of true love and faith within us.

Do not be judgmental and do not think of anyone less than ourselves, just because we think that we are better or more righteous than they are. Let us not praise our own achievements, less still use them to put down others like what the Pharisee had done. We have to be more like the tax collector, understanding the sins we have and committing ourselves to change our own ways.

Never think that we are always worthy of salvation, but we have to continue to work hard and not be complacent. We have to continue to be vigilant and avoid being consumed by our own human insecurities and emotions. Seek the Lord who will definitely help us, and ask Him for His help and protection, that we will always be strong as we walk in His ways.

Let us never be separated from Him, and let us be able to see our own sinfulness, understanding the limitations and fragilities of our own selves, and humbly asking God for forgiveness for all our trespasses, and that we may always remain in God’s grace. God bless us all. Amen.