Sunday, 7 September 2014 : 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to be with the Lord on this holy day of His, we are called together as the members of the Church of God to be responsible, loving and caring for one another, so that each one of us may help one another in our effort to seek our Lord and God, and so that all of us may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings of this day called us to ponder and reflect on the attitude we adopt in this life, and in how we live our faith in this life. Mankind are by nature a social creature, and we often need others around us as we live and as we face the daily challenges and opportunities presented before us, and how we behave would certainly be greatly affected by who we interacted with and what we did together with others around us.

That is why today in the readings, the main theme that we heard is in fact on the nature of the Church, and on how the Church should work together to ensure the salvation of all of its members, that means all of us gathered here this day, and also many others who have fallen along the way. The Church here does not refer to just the buildings and the institution of the Church as we know it. The Church of God as a whole, is the assembly and the gathering of all the faithful ones in Christ, united to His Body, as a member of the same Body by which we are made one, and made righteous in the Blood of the Lamb of God.

That is why in the Church, the whole Church refers to the entire body of the faithful, all over the world, from the greatest to the least, from the Pope to the common layman, from the ordained ministers and the religious brothers and sisters to all common faithful ones like us, and from the youngest ones to the oldest, and both the newly baptised and those who had been long counted among the faithful.

Following the tradition and teachings established by Jesus as we read in the Gospel today, the Church indeed rightly should be concerned on the fate of the faithful and the salvation of their souls. Why is this so? This is because mankind are by nature disobedient, restless and easily manipulated, and we are also easily tempted by our own personal ego, pride and other emotions, which in many cases likely resulted in us drifting away further and further from God and into damnation.

That was why over the course of the past two millenia, since the establishment of the Church and the faith, countless peoples have tried to subvert the faith and to corrupt it to suit their own purposes. And worse still, they did so not just for themselves, but they also spread their false ideas and teachings to many others around them and thus condemning and risking not just themselves, but also many others who are around them and even those entrusted to their care.

Among these could be counted the ranks of princes, kings, lords, even priests, bishops and the top hierarchy of the Church at times, and also among the laity, the educated, the rich and the poor. What they have thought about, spoke about and taught about were incompatible to the faith and what Jesus had taught to His disciples. In time, the Church came up with varieties of words to describe their actions, that is anathema, heresy and many others.

Those who studied the history of the Church and the faith must have been surprised by the staggering number of times the punishment and measure known best as excommunication, had been used. And in fact, excommunication remains to be used this day to correct the behaviour and awaken the spirit of repentance of those whose ideas and teachings are in direct or indirect contradiction to the faith and to the teachings of the Church.

Many detractors of this measure had argued and even became violently opposed to the actions of the Church both in the past and in the present, so that they criticised the use of excommunications as a tool to remove opposition to the Church and to gain more influence for itself. And some even alleged that the Church used them to silence the voice of those who wanted for reform or change in the Church.

Yes, it is true indeed that sometimes, excommunication had been used inappropriately, but in most cases, they have been intended not to punish, but to awaken the spirit of repentance and genuine desire to seek forgiveness from the Lord, which is that desire to admit their errors and return to the full embrace of the loving God through His Church.

We have to first understand the history of how excommunication come about, using what we know from the Scriptures and from what we heard today in the readings, especially from what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. In the past, during the time of the people of Israel, after the Exodus, God gave them His laws, commandments and precepts through Moses.

In that Law, some dealt with how certain people should be treated. Those who were found to have the disease of leprosy were obliged to leave their houses and the community of the faithful, and they have to wander outside the community, in the barrens and the desert until they are healed or cured. And when this was so, they had to show themselves to the priests who would certify them to return once more to the society.

Indeed, it was inevitable that those who contracted leprosy at that time to be ostracised and intimidated against by the rest of the society. They were considered to be uncleaned and as leprosy can spread from one person to another, this helped the exclusion and the bad treatment of the leprosy patients, even after they had been cured from their afflictions. But God did not intend for this to happen.

And in a similar spirit, the Lord Jesus told us through His disciples precisely how to deal with those among us in the Church who had contracted the same ‘leprosy’. This leprosy no longer refers to the physical disease that affects the body, but in fact refers to the leprosy of the soul, that is the degeneration of the state of our faith and soul to the point that we become defiant and unwilling to listen and to obey the teachings of the Church and the fundamentals of our faith.

We have many peoples such as these, and what I am going to mention to you are not the only ones there are out there. The Gnostics of the second century after the birth of Christ mixed the teachings of the faith with the contemporary pagan religions, idols and philosophical pursuits that ended up as a syncretic movement and faith totally incompatible with our true faith.

Then came the Arians, the Donatists, the Monophysites and others who taught doctrines incompatible against the faith, and who tried to subvert the faithful to their cause, telling them lies and inaccurate statements about the faith, on the nature of Jesus our Lord Himself, so that the people who were confused were easy to lure into their corrupting hold. As such, many were led away from salvation in God and into damnation, despite the best efforts by those in the Church to resist and fight back against their corrupting influences.

Then we have many others like the the Albigensians or the Cathars, the Hussians, the Bogomils, Paulicians, Iconoclasts who taught numerous lies and confused theology to the faithful, ending up in corrupting the people in the same way, pulling them away from salvation in the Church into damnation and eternal suffering in hellfire. Those people were misguided by many who thought that their human wisdom were better than the teachings of the Lord preserved in the traditions of the Church and the faith.

Then lastly came the great heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many of the faithful came to take it on themselves to rebel against the authority of the Church and by willingly splitting themselves from the Church, a rebellion which continues even to this day. Yes, we have so many Protestant denominations, to the point that it may not be wrong to say that there are as many denominations, or splinter groups as there are heads.

People like King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many other prominent persona of the Protestant ‘reformations’ like many others before them, Arian, Jan Hus, and others were truly the one mentioned by Jesus as the brethren who refused to listen to reason and chose to break away from the Church. They walked their own path, in open rebellion against God and the Church, leading and guiding many people into their rebellion and thus condemned countless souls to damnation.

The effects of their actions can still be felt today. Many remained separate from the Church and thus from the grace of God, and the lies perpetuated by those leaders mentioned earlier and their successors continued to poison their thoughts and that is why many remained with great contempt to the Church and all it represented.

The Church excommunicated them as well as many of the earlier members of the Church, who even included high ranking nobles and clergymen, and even kings, as they have erred in their path. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the purpose of this move was not to punish those afflicted, but rather to make them realise of the gravity of their errors, so that they may come to understand how their actions had caused grief wounds on the fabric of the Church and the faithful.

And thus, many of those who had been excommunicated had returned to the Church in penitence and seeking God’s forgiveness. A famous example would be that of the excommunication of Emperor Theodosius I of the Roman Empire, who was cut off from the communion of the Church by the famous St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, for the Emperor’s implicit and direct role in a massacre of the city of Thessalonica, where thousands of the faithful were ruthlessly murdered and the city ransacked.

The meaning of excommunication itself was to exclude the person afflicted from the Communion of the Church, and if this word sounds familiar, that is indeed what we receive in the Holy Communion, which is none other than the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. All of us in the Church belongs to the Church, that is the Body of Christ precisely because all of us received the same Eucharist and thus are united to each other through our unity with the Lord.

And when a person is excommunicated, like that of the Emperor Theodosius and many others, they were severed from this unity and communion, and thus they were not able to receive the Eucharist, as they were also in a state of sin, and they were not able to exercise anything pertinent to the faith. Thus, that was why Jesus mentioned that those ought to be treated like a pagan or a publican, that means outside the Church, just like the lepers of old.

However, once again, the focus here is on mercy, and on the desire to see these people attaining forgiveness and justification, becoming once again a member of the Church and thus capable of attaining salvation once again. And to wrap up the story on the Emperor Theodosius, the Emperor went on to make a public display of humility and penance, wearing sackcloth to the Church and was once again welcomed into the Church by Bishop St. Ambrose.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the purpose and intention of excommunication. Not as a punishment, but as a means through which the wayward ones and the staunchly rebellious among us may find our way back to God through the Church, through sincere repentance and penitence. Sadly, of course, many of those names and groups mentioned earlier never repented their sins and continued in their rebellions, some of which continued even today.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings of today, let us recall the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, how the faithful are tasked with the guardianship of the faith of one another, which means that we should be ready to intervene whenever we see around us there are those who begin to veer away from the path of the Lord.

It is only then if the person persisted in their rebelliousness, then we should refer it to the Church as a whole, and if he or she continued to persist to disobey the Lord, only then they should be cast out of the assembly of the faithful, in what we know as the excommunication, hoping that the person may in that time that remains for him or her, found his or her way back to the Lord and repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore work together to maintain the unity and the faith in the Church. May Almighty God guide us in our endeavours and help us to keep this faith alive and well. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord and awaken in one another the love we truly should have for God, casting away all impurities and unworthiness. Let us all not reject and condemn those who have sinned and erred, and those who had been excommunicated, for indeed, many saints too were once sinners and excommunicants, who returned to the Lord and be reconciled with the Church. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are faced once again with the reality of our world, both past, today, and also what it will be in the future. We know that this world does not belong to the Lord but to the devil, for the evil one has his dominion over the world, and we are all under his power which he exercised through the world.

With Christ and His death on the cross, and His glorious resurrection from the dead, He had liberated us from the thrall and dominion of Satan, in that he no longer has any direct power or control over us, and eternal life has been promised and assured to us, providing that we follow the Lord and always walk in His ways.

But the devil still has his ways in this world, and he remains very capable of tempting us and leading us astray from the path that we walk on towards the Lord and His salvation. He has many ways and tools through the world, and his weapons are plenty. Just like when Satan tempted our Lord Jesus with all the things at his disposal, including the wealth and temptations of the world, he will do so to us too, to make us falter.

Why is this so crucial, brethren? And why do I bring this matter up today? That is because today we celebrate the feast of the missionary who brought the faith to the land of England, which that time was filled with mostly the Anglo-Saxon invaders and some native Britons, around the end of the sixth century, more than a thousand years ago. He is St. Augustine of Canterbury, the founder and the progenitor of the Church in England, which is now known as the United Kingdom.

And you all know that there was a great tragedy of the faith, when heresy, an immense heresy and unworthiness brought so great a destruction for the faithful, which remains even until today, and the great repercussions continue to affect even to the rest of the world. Truly, the devil was busy, and is busy causing havoc among the faithful and in God’s Church!

What am I talking about then? It is about the so-called ‘Church of England’, the ‘Anglican Communion’, the product of the devil and his cultivation of division among the faithful, the product of the King of England five hundred years ago, King Henry VIII, who in his futile and desperate attempts to seek a male heir, resulted in him choosing to follow the path to damnation and brought many down with him, rather than submitting to the will of God.

Let me fill you in with some background, beginning from St. Augustine himself, the founder of the Church in England. St. Augustine was a priest and missionary from Rome, who was the personal confidant of Pope St. Gregory the Great and a holy and pious person, dedicated to the works of the Lord. He was well renowned for his great piety and exemplary lifestyle, and as such he was chosen to evangelise the Good News to the heathens in England.

England was once a province of the Roman Empire, and the faith had made its way to that country, and ever since the Emperor Constantine made the faith legal,  the Church there had grown, but with the downfall of the Roman Empire in the West, the society in England broke down, and with the invasion of the Germanic Anglo-Saxons from what is now northern Germany, the faith in England floundered and for many years, the people there lived in darkness.

Pope St. Gregory the Great who was elected Pope in 590 AD was a great worker and dedicated reformer, who was very dedicated to the evangelisation of the word of God among the many people who still were ignorant of the faith, and he sent many missionaries, including to England, whom he sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to.

St. Augustine of Canterbury was known as such because he founded the see of Canterbury in the southernmost part of England where he landed after his trip from Rome. The see of Canterbury eventually grow to become the first or the primate seat of all England and the isles there, and that is why now the supposed successor to St. Augustine of Canterbury is the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the one who now holds that seat is illegitimate and unworthy of such a position, ever since the King, Henry VIII sundered the Church in England from the obedience to the Pope, the entire rebellious episcopate and priesthood in England had been rendered invalid.

King Henry VIII was a great and mighty king of England, great in all things especially in his willpower and desire, but he is seriously lacking in one thing. He lacked a male heir, which was all-important especially for monarchs and rulers who always sought for ways to secure their rule and reign, even to that of their descendants’. His first and lawful marriage to Catherine of Aragon provided a daughter but no son.

Hence, Henry VIII was desperate and tried to have his marriage to Catherine annulled, or in short, to divorce her so that he can marry another woman to provide him with a male heir. He petitioned the Pope in Rome to be allowed to do so, but as we all know that divorce is sinful and terrible, for it tramples upon the sanctity of marriage life, which we know is a Sacrament, and a union by God which no man should divide.

The Pope refused to give his permission and sanction, and king Henry VIII in his obstinence, decided to break relations with Rome instead, and established the so-called ‘Church of England’, a national church with the king at its head. It is an act of desperation, and an act of wickedness, done without greater regards for the good of the faithful people of God, casting many souls into eternal damnation and deny them salvation by leading them into heresy.

St. Augustine would truly be sad had he lived to see such degradations and wickedness that his successors at the throne of Canterbury had allowed to happen, as the bishops conspired and followed the king and his successors into sin and wickedness, and therefore hell is assured for them.

And even more lamentable is that, king Henry VIII in his desperation and insanity, even went on to marry a total of six times, a marriage that produced only one male heir, who was sickly and died not long after king Henry VIII himself, ultimately a punishment from God for his debauchery and great sin of causing a split in the Church of God and the faithful.

Today, as we remember St. Augustine of Canterbury and ask for his intercession, let us ask him to pray for the Anglican ‘churches’, that these may see the error of their ways, abandon their sinful rebelliousness and return to the Holy Mother Church, expunging from themselves the mortal sins of Henry VIII and embrace total and complete repentance.

May God guide them, and also all of us, to be able to walk the true path, the path towards salvation in God, and be reunited as one people, and believe in Him without the taint of the corruption of Satan. Let us not be like those who have rebelled against God, like king Henry VIII and his supporters, who put ahead human and worldly concerns, as well as their private desires ahead of God’s love and truth. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 22 June 2013 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorials of St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop, Saints John Fisher, Bishop and Thomas More, Martyrs (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the words of the Gospel, in which we are told not to worry about our needs and our desires in this world. Christ had taught His disciples that the Lord takes care of the needs of His people, and He will protect those whom He considers as His own. Therefore, as long as we belong to Christ, to the Lord, we will be safe and we will always be provided, with all the things that we need.

Worry is a natural part of a human being, and worry cannot be separated from our own selves, from our own insecurities and our own natural predisposition to the desire for things, material or otherwise, in order to secure our own survival. Such is also the law of nature according to those who study it, that we are always concerned with our own survival, and therefore would do all that we can in our own power, in order to maintain our survival.

That is why we grow increasingly concerned with our own human needs, of food, of material goods, and even of relationships and love. We worry about things that may happen to us in the future, especially if those things may affect us in a negative manner. Fuelled by these insecurities, we end up becoming selfish and overprotective of ourselves and those precious to us, that end up in numerous causes for sorrow and anguish.

Many problems of this world can be traced to our own worries, our own insecurities. The reason that many nations maintain powerful armies and forces is because they are always ever insecure about their own future, with often endless probabilities and possible scenarios of ‘enemy’ attacks on them, so that they, in their insecurity, end up building that tool of destruction, in order to protect themselves, but inadvertently, when the violence does come, that tool is often used to cause great destruction and mayhem in our world.

One of the most important reasons why countries become embroiled in long-drawn conflicts is because of conflict over resources and material wealth of the earth, with well-known examples of crude oil, gas, and other precious metals, which become a source of contention between states, and led to the build-up of enmity and mutual hostility between nations.

That was why Christ told us that we should not worry, and indeed that we should put a complete trust in God, for God who loves and cares for us will take care of us and provide us all that we need. Let us take note that it is very often that what we want is not what we truly need. Many items that we want are merely the product of our own desires and greed, driven by this world, which had brought upon us countless lucrative deals that entice us to want to have more and more of such goods.

Commercialism and materialism are rampant in our world today, brothers and sisters in Christ. One can just imagine its extent from the insatiable human desire for things that bring wealth and prestige to their owners. Our media is filled with advertisements and channels that promote decadent lifestyles. A lifestyle of great excesses and waste. A lifestyle that is apathetic to the needs of others, and a lifestyle that is often lived in ignorance of the reality of life in this world.

Today we commemorate the feast day of St. Paulinus of Nola, a bishop who lived in the later years of the Roman Empire, and also the feast day of St. John Fisher, a bishop in the late Renaissance England, in the times of the English Reformation, and his fellow saint, with whom he was also martyred, St. Thomas More, who is also known as the patron saint of lawyers.

St. Paulinus of Nola was a bishop who renounced his privileged early life as an influential senator of the Roman Empire, and chose to follow the ways of the ascetics, to give himself fully to the Lord, and eventually became a priest and bishop of Nola. He was also a well-known writer and poet, with many of his writings influencing later people and saints of the Church.

The example of St. Paulinus of Nola, who disavowed wealth and did not pursue human glory and possessions. He looked for what is more valuable to him, and indeed should be truly valuable to all of us, that is the Lord Himself, our real and true treasure. He did not find it shameful to abandon all the worldly pursuit of wealth, and all the fame and affluence he had while he was an influential senator of Rome.

It does not mean that all of us should then become monks though, and follow ascetic lifestyle. But certainly the examplary life of St. Paulinus of Nola, whose writings inspired many in the faith, and whose pursuit of the true richness in Christ, can become a powerful driving engine behind our own personal journey in the faith. And equally, just as St. Paulinus of Nola had shown all of us, the examples of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More too, cannot be ignored.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More lived in a difficult time, a difficult and troubled time to be a follower of the Lord, and to be the faithful ones in the Church of God. For they lived at the time when the English Reformation begun, under the persona of King Henry VIII, whose greatest sin was to break away from the Apostolic authority of Rome just because he did not get his second marriage approved, in his crazed and ultimately fruitless pursuit for an heir, a son to inherit the throne of England.

St. John Fisher was the bishop of Rochester, and a closer advisor to the king, while St. Thomas More was a laity, the powerful chancellor for the king of England. When the king began his upstart new ‘church’, naturally, he wanted all of his subjects to follow him into his rebellion against the authority of the Church, especially those nearest to him in confidence and power.

Those who followed the king into his disobedience and rebellion gained prestige with the king and much material wealth and affluence, which was also the reason why many followed the king into his disobedience against Rome. Yet, St. Thomas More, and also St. John Fisher, despite the offers made by the king, particularly St. Thomas More’s lucrative chancellorship, they remained steadfast to their faith in the Lord, and remained firmly within the Church, against all attempts and temptations for them to leave the Church of God.

In refusing the order of the king, they faced suffering, persecution, prison, and eventually death in martyrdom, in their defense of the faith. They remained faithful and true to the Lord to the end, and they received their eternal reward and glory in heaven, having shedding their blood for the sake of their faith.

The lesson to be learnt here is of course not that we must shed our blood and our life like what the two martyrs of the faith had done, but just like St. Paulinus of Nola, we must value our faith and the Lord our God as the much more valuable and priceless treasure, the true treasure of our life, over any kind of worldly and material wealth, that is offered by our world, and especially in our present day world, becoming ever more tempting in their approach to all of us.

Do not give up our faith in God and our righteousness for moments of pleasure and false happiness, through the means of material goods of this world. Not that we cannot enjoy what this world can offer and neither should we restrain from gaining any material possession or money, but all of these must be done in moderation, so that it would not end up in these shutting out the Lord from our hearts, because remember that the Lord Himself said that wherever the treasure is, the our hearts lie.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today renew our commitment to strengthen our faith in the Lord, that we will ever keep Him in our hearts, that He will know that we belong to Him, and will reward us greatly when He comes again as our King. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 February 2013 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Scripture Reflection)

We heard today of the tale of how St. John the Baptist was killed by Herod, out of Herod’s adulterous behaviour with his brother’s wife, and that wife’s hatred on John. St. John the Baptist, who had come before Christ to make straight the way for the Lord, met his death at the hands of the corrupt and immoral person who called himself the king of Judea at that time.

Who is John the Baptist? He is the cousin of Jesus, son of Elizabeth, miraculously conceived when Elizabeth was already old and barren, because the Lord desires that through her, a great prophet preceding Christ be born. St. John the Baptist indeed become the last prophet just before the coming of the Messiah, declaring to the world to repent and to be baptised at the River Jordan, in order to prepare themselves for the Messiah, who in fact at that time, had already walked on this world, in the form of Jesus, son of Mary, and Son of the Most High God.

John the Baptist’s call was heeded by many, who came to be baptised by John, and to truly repent from their sins. Nevertheless, the Pharisees and the scribes, just as they will later reject Jesus, they were also skeptical of John’s prophetic mission, and did not repent as many others do. But John managed to lay out the foundation for the later works of Christ and His disciples, just like a farmer plowing the soil preparing for it for the sower, who is Christ, who spreads the seeds on the plowed soil, fertile and ready, and thus are able to produce fruits hundredfold and thousandfold.

After Jesus was baptised by John, He arises in importance, which John in great humility said to his own disciples that just as the Lord for whom he has come to prepare the path for, is rising, he himself has to become lesser. His task in preparing the path for the Lord is complete, and in the last part of his life, which was told in the Gospel today, he was imprisoned for chastising Herod the king and his adultery with Herodias, his brother’s wife.

In ancient Jewish custom, this is actually not unacceptable for a brother to take care of a deceased brother’s wife, and take her as his own wife. Remember another story from the Bible, where the Saducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, asked the Lord about whose wife is the woman who was married to seven brothers, who died one after the other. Clearly, this custom is identified as the norm at that time, as the widow is perceived to be financially incapable of supporting herself, and therefore, it is justified for the brother to come in and take care of his sister-in-law by marrying her himself.

However, in this case, this is different because, just as Jesus later will stress, that marriage is a sacrosanct act, in which a man and woman is joined by God, and through God, this union, when made is eternal and cannot be dissolved by either man or even angels. For what God has made one, no man shall divide. This is the new commandment of the new covenant that Christ brought with His coming, and John, as the messenger of the Lord, did his last service to God by putting forward this teaching, against none other than Herod himself.

It is sad that today, many disregard the sanctity of marriage, and think that marriage is a trivial matter, and that divorce can be so easily contemplated and done. Divorce is something which should be avoided at all costs, as it directly violates what God has told us, that what He had brought together in marriage, which is a Sacrament on its own, no one, not even the husband and the wife themselves should divide back into two. It is sad that in our modern world, many take divorces lightly, and even marry again after the divorce. Many who did this, did so because they claim that they no longer love the wife, or worse that they have been tempted with lust and desire for another woman or man.

In order to maintain the sanctity of marriage, it is paramount that in the family, the faith in the Lord be kept strong, and that all actions should be carried out in love, and in accordance with God’s will. This is why it is important for couples and families, to come together and have meals together as best as they can everyday, so that they will stay close, despite challenges and temptations, and pray together, that the Lord will continue to bless them and strengthen their union, so that the evil one cannot come in between them and made them to decide to split.

Many couples are able to last for decades and many last beyond 50 years, and indeed, until death brought them apart, but not forever, since we know that we eventually will be reunited with the loved ones when we ourselves ascend to heaven at the end of our own lives. Indeed, their secret is no other than ensuring that couples constantly speak to one another from heart to heart, and coming together at all times, with their children, to pray regularly, to share the meal at the table. Remember that when more than two and three gathered in God’s name, He will be there, and will remain there with them, always.

Another story which I will bring to your attention, besides the already told story of John the Baptist, Herod, and Herodias, is the story of the divorces of King Henry VIII, the founder of the Anglican ‘church’ in his vain search for a male heir. King Henry VIII divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she was not able to produce a male heir for him, although she did produce a daughter. His appeal to divorce her to the Pope was rejected, and King Henry VIII, displeased at the Papal disapproval went his own way and rebel from the Church, creating his own Anglican ‘church’.

St. Thomas More, King Henry VIII’s chancellor, refused to follow his king into rebellion from Rome, and chastised the king for his immoral behaviour in seeking to marry Anne Boleyn, who was to become the king’s second wife. He was asked to choose between loyalty to his king, and be given great wealth and influence as he always had before that, and thus even greater afterwards, or death if he remains faithful to the true Church. St. Thomas More abandoned all of his worldly wealth and fame, and chose to remain faithful to the Lord, and was therefore martyred.

Ultimately, King Henry VIII would kill Anne Boleyn after she herself failed to produce a male heir, and eventually married no less than four more times, with a total of having six wives and at least two mistresses, and all ultimately in vain, since even when there was a male heir, he died young, and the dynasty died out.

All that futile attempts was most damaging especially if we see how today, 80 million Christians who are in the Anglican Communion, are the direct product of this adulterous behaviour of King Henry VIII. This is an example on how if marriage is not kept as sacrosanct and indivisible in nature, not only it can affect just the two, but especially in King Henry’s case, it caused the destruction of the unity in the Body of Christ, that is the Church. Until today, we still pray and hope that all of them will eventually return soon to the true Faith and Church.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Jerome Emiliani, an Italian charitable man who cared deeply for the poor and orphans in early 16th century northern Italy, and died after in his pious work of service to the sick and the poor, he contracted a disease that killed him, and St. Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian nun, who was once a slave from Sudan, who after being freed from slavery, converted to Christianity and committed herself to the Lord by joining the Canossians as a nun. She was noted for her great faith in the Lord, and her dedication to Mary, His mother. She was also very much noted for her great heart and forgiving nature, seeking not revenge against her enemies, and even her former slavemasters, but rather seeking to forgive them and bless them instead.

Therefore, in the footsteps of these great saints, let us all strive, especially for those amongst us who are married, to keep our lives holy and meaningful, by doing what is good for the sake of others, just like St. Jerome Emiliani in service of the poor and the sick, by giving and sharing what we have more to those who need them more, and by our gentle and forgiving nature, following the example of St. Josephine Bakhita, who strive to keep herself pure and holy in the presence of God.

Let us pray also for the unity of all Christians, that especially for the Anglicans today, that their detachment from the Body of Christ that is the Church can soon be reversed, through our constant prayers to God, and through God’s actions, may the unity of the Church be restored. What damages King Henry VIII had done in his adulterous ways parallel to what Herod had done, in direct opposition to the Lord’s will on the sanctity of marriage, may we begin to heal through concrete attempts to reunite back the branches of the Body of Christ back onto its trunk, the Church.

Pray for us, St. Thomas More. And St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us all too. Pray for God’s holy Church that it will be one again, and indivisible, just like marriage, as the Lord has made His Church one, just like He and the Father is one and indivisible in the Holy Trinity. Amen.

+Ut Omnes Unum Sint+

(That they all may be One)