Tuesday, 23 April 2019 : Tuesday within Easter Octave (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 11-18

At that time, Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two Angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and answered Him, “Lord, if You have taken Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will go and remove Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to Him, “Rabboni!” – which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them : I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.”

So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what He said to me.”

Saturday, 3 May 2014 : Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. James and St. Philip, two of the Twelve Apostles of Christ, who brought the faith to faraway lands, dedicating themselves to the Lord and His mission that He had entrusted to them. Today we learn from the readings that we ought to be firm in our faith, and to proclaim the truth about the Christ, that is Jesus our Lord.

For Jesus is the Son of God, anointed with power, and through Him the salvation of all had come. Through Jesus, God worked His great miracles and brought His mercy to all peoples, bringing them closer to the embrace and eternal life He had offered freely to us. Yes, freely through Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is the bridge that connects us to God our Father, as the only way through which we can return to the Father who loves us and wishes nothing more for us other than that we all may be saved.

Brethren, we have to preach Christ our Lord and the Good News He bore to all the nations, beginning from those who are around us. How do we do so? Remember what Christ told us in the Gospel today, that those who believe in Him, will do even greater things than He had done, but doing similar works nonetheless, for we are the extensions of God’s good works which He began when He came into our world through Jesus.

This means that we have to carry out the teachings of our faith and practice it concretely in our communities and in our surroundings, that having our actions and deeds based closely on Christ and His teachings, we become the reflection and living manifestations of that teaching, and thus show the truth about Christ to all those who see us, and therefore they may believe in Him too, through us and our works.

Therefore, just as Jesus had reflected the will and nature of the Father, we too should reflect the nature of Jesus and be like the Father in all things, that we be worthy of Him. We have to open our hearts and minds to listen and understand the will of the Father, through Jesus and His teachings, that we may walk in His ways and hence remain in His grace.

The holy Apostles had laboured hard for the sake of the Gospel, and they encountered enormous difficulties and challenges as they went on their ministries to the people of God. They went on delivering the words of God’s salvation to all the peoples regardless of these, and they persevered despite the oppositions.

They passed on the truth that had been revealed to them by Christ Himself. From them they passed on this truth which is kept for generations as a deposit of the faith and is kept in the teachings of the Church. And this is why we must uphold with the greatest care and devotion what the Church had taught us and kept the faith we have with greatest effort. We cannot be complacent in this, just as the Apostles were not complacent in their works to evangelise the people of God.

St. James the Apostle, also known as St. James the Lesser, went on to spread the Good News in the western parts of the Roman Empire, evangelising the people where none had heard the Word of God before. He was eventually martyred in Hispania, the place known as Spain today. His most important shrine and place of remembrance is at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the well-known and famous pilgrimage site of our faith.

Meanwhile St. Philip the Apostle was known for his conversion of the attendant or official of the ruler of Ethiopia as he made his way through Judea in a carriage. This is a well-known story in the New Testament, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, telling us how the Ethiopian official discussed the faith with Philip, and in the process, convincing him of the truth about Jesus who came as the Messiah and Saviour of the world. Philip baptised the official and from him came the seed of faith that is preserved even until today in Ethiopia.

He went on to spread the Good News to areas of Greece, the province of Roman Asia and other areas, until he too was martyred for his faith and missionary works. St. Philip even in his suffering and death managed to do good works for the people of God, converting many to the cause of the Lord. Together with St. James, both these Apostles are truly role models for all of us the faithful ones in Christ.

Yes, brethren, we are also called in this modern era to be the Apostles and disciples of Christ of our times. We should not be afraid or reluctant to proclaim the truth about the Lord just as the Apostles had done before. This world lies in darkness, and many languished in that great darkness, bereft of the opportunity to see the Lord and His light, having been barred by the darkness itself. It is often up to us, to be the ones to bring them into the light and therefore show them the path towards eternal life.

May God bless us and guide us, as we walk in this path, that we may follow the footsteps of the Apostles St. James and St. Philip, that we too may be courageous in our lives that we may do our best to bring the people of God ever closer to salvation and perfection in God. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 3 May 2014 : Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 6-14

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do.”

“Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Saturday, 3 May 2014 : Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, 3 May 2014 : Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.

Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest. Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes of five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, and in a great miracle, these few food items managed to satisfy all of them till full and with twelve baskets of leftovers just for the bread alone.

We also heard how the respected leader of the elders of Israel, the Rabbi Gamaliel, counseled patience and caution to the rest of the elders in dealing with the Apostles who were proclaiming the greatness of Christ and taught the teachings of Jesus to the people, and hence rivalling the authority of the Pharisees and the chief priests.

All that we heard today, testify to the one singular fact, that is, we have One Man who came upon us from heaven, sent with power, by the Power Himself, that is none other than Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. Today we celebrate the very nature of Christ who is Son, and who is sent by the Father and bear the power of the Holy Spirit with Him, truly the concept of a Godhead with Three distinct persons yet perfectly in unity, the Holy Trinity.

Today we celebrate also the feast of a saint, a great and holy man, whose life had been given in its entirety to defend this basic and holy truth, the fact that quite a few people of this saint’s time refuse to acknowledge and believe in, and instead they believed in the lies of Satan spread through the heretical teachings of a man called Arius, from whom the Arian heresy got its name from.

Arius and his followers denied the divinity of Christ, by teaching and speculating that the divine and human nature of Christ is separate, and that Jesus Christ who was in this world is merely human created and not equal with the Father, who is God Almighty and all-powerful. For them, it may be unthinkable that God should go through all the humiliating and not-so-good experiences that Jesus had encountered, culminating with the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

They claimed that Jesus is mere man and mere creation of God, albeit One that is special among all other creations. In essence, the view of those who adopted the Arian heresy is not much different from the views espoused by the Muslims who also stressed especially that Jesus is not God in their so-called ‘Scripture’. As such, there had been some people who deemed that the two might be related, and the two heresies might indeed had the same origin.

Nevertheless, all of them were mistaken greatly because they failed to understand the mystery and the sublime nature of God in our faith, that is so great that it begs a better understanding from us. And even with our limited wisdom and knowledge, we are not likely to be able to understand the fullness of God and His mysteries. And that is why our deposit of faith in the Sacred Tradition is so important.

For denying the divinity of Christ is in fact the same as denying the greatness of God Himself, no matter what these people do to justify their ideas and viewpoints born out of mistaken view of the Word of God. They denied the works of salvation carried out by Jesus, for they denied not just Jesus as divine, but also because of that, they denied the salvation that can be offered only by the worthy Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whose blood made all of us pure and worthy.

If Jesus is not God as Arius and others have claimed, then we have no hope, because the blood of a man alone will not be able to atone for our sins. The blood of Christ saves us exactly because He is divine, both God and man at the same time, one divine person but having two natures, divine and man. This is what we are celebrating today’s saint for, that is in the defense of this truth about the faith, the hard work of St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria was the Patriarch and leader of the See of Alexandria, which with Rome was the five most preeminent dioceses and centres of the Christian world at the time. St. Athanasius was a great defender of the faith, and despite the popular and provocative teachings of Arius, which brought many people to fall into heresy, he managed to hold on to the firm foundation of faith established since the Apostles, and despite opposition and ridicule by his enemies, St. Athanasius remained firm and faithful.

The hard works of St. Athanasius earned him the faith of the people and the perseverance of many in the face of heresy, and many stood strong for the Lord and did not turn towards the erroneous teachings of Arius. St. Athanasius stood strong for the Lord’s true divine and human nature, and championed the indivisibility of the Most Holy Trinity. He was truly a faithful servant, like that of the Apostles of old.

Remember, brethren, that if Jesus is not God, it will be precisely as what Gamaliel said in the first reading, that the endeavours of man will eventually perish and be gone, but if it is the endeavour of the Lord, not even the greatest force or opposition can make it go away. The Lord will triumph in glory in the end, and this is a fact that we know.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, inspired by the life of St. Athanasius and his actions, shall we walk in the same way as he had walked? Shall we resolve to make a difference in the lives of our fellow men, in a way that we bring the truth of God to them? Shall we bring the light of God to our brethren who are still in darkness, and to those who have been trapped and lured in by the lies of the devil?

May God guide us in our endeavour and our actions, that in all the things that we do, we will always be faithful, strong and completely dedicated to the Lord in all of our days, and show it through our actions and deeds. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.”

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One who is to come into the world.”

Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the Council members, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered.”

“So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name.

Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 1 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, which also falls on the same day as the day set aside for the celebration of the right of workers and labourers around the world, commonly known as either the Labour Day or May Day. On this day, workers around the world celebrate their right to equal pay, treatment and rights, as well as even protesting to demand for more, if they did not receive enough.

Today we celebrate the memory of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, who was also a very diligent worker as a carpenter in the village of Nazareth. St. Joseph is the role model for all workers, not only that he is so diligent and hardworking, but he is also very upright in his actions and did not do things that were in opposition to the Law of God and the teachings of the prophets.

St. Joseph reminded all of us, not just the workers of who we are, namely the children and most beloved of all the creations of the Lord. We were created last by the Lord in creation, and we were made in His image, and as if that is not enough, He also endowed us with His own Spirit that bears life inside each one of us. And yet, we are at the same time, as the first reading from the Book of Genesis mentioned, also made of dust, which the Lord used to craft our mortal bodies of flesh and blood.

Thus the well-known saying that ‘We are dust, and to dust we shall return, which the priest utters every Ash Wednesday as he applies the ash onto our forehead. This is to remind us of our humanity, fragility and mortality, which should keep us to realise that we are in this world as its caretakers and everything that we do, we ought not to do it for our own sake and benefits, but for the sake of the Lord and all our brethren around us.

St. Joseph showed that above all, we should be the bearers of the good will of the Lord, and walk always in the way of God, be righteous in all of our actions and deeds, not turning left or right, or be persuaded or tempted by the world’s persuasions and temptations. As we work, we should always remember to have good work attitudes and openness to suggestions and advice, and not to close ourselves off from cooperating with others.

A truly major problem with our world and its working force is that we no longer work for the good of one another, but we ended up to be in the sole pursuit of one thing, that is money and even other forms of material possessions. As I have often mentioned, money is not necessarily evil, and indeed, it is perfectly neutral and is completely not a vice that we should avoid. The evil lies in us, that is in how we attempt to gain it, how we gain it, and eventually how we use it, and what we use it for.

This world has increasingly become a commercialised and materialistic world, where you can almost literally say that money is king, for those who have more will not just tend to have even more, but that they also are likely to have a better and more enjoyable life. For many of us, working and our actions in work had become nothing more than literally slaving away our lives and our precious time for money, and more money.

We forget that when we work we should be more like St. Joseph, who worked with great simplicity and humility, and while being serious and dedicated to his works, he dedicated it out of love towards God and to his fellow men. As a carpenter, he certainly did not earn much from his works, but certainly from every single furniture he crafted for those who ordered them from him, he gained much gladness and satisfaction, seeing the happiness on their faces seeing the completed product.

Surely we all can visualise and imagine how St. Joseph had worked hard to help provide for the Holy Family, for Jesus our Lord and Mary His mother. It is this kind of simple and yet genuine devotion to one’s work based in love that is the kind of work attitude that we need to have and follow. Sadly the truth is indeed that we have been so caught up in our busy life schedules and careers that we end up forgetting what is the most important thing in our lives.

As St. Joseph has shown us, we cannot discount God out of our lives, as without God our lives will be meaningless and empty, and this is also the reason why so many of us lost our true purpose as we work, that we no longer work for the benefits of others around us, and instead, for our own benefit, that is for our own selves, in our great ego, desire and greed.

It is easy these days to be tempted, brethren, for the temptations of goodness of this world is basically all around us, from all the promotions and commercials that we are exposed to every single day of our lives, that we really cannot escape but notice how much good that this world can grant us. Therefore we are prone to fall into this trap of materialism and commercialism, where we desire more and more the goods of this world, while forgetting that the true purpose we have in this world is to love and to dedicate ourselves completely to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate today’s occasion on the feast of St. Joseph the worker and the day of celebration of labour, let us always be reminded that we should not be working for the sake of working and to seek for more and more material goods. Instead, as we work, let us have a good purpose to it, especially praising and glorifying the Lord our God.

St. Joseph the worker, the foster-father of our Lord, pray for us all, that we will seek less of our own glory and pleasure when we so something or work, that we do not become creature of ego or the servant of material possessions. Help us through your prayers that we may instead work for the good of one another, and be dedicated to our work just as you had been dedicated to yours. May God be with us all and bless our work at all times. Amen.