Wednesday, 24 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture and Gospel readings highlighted to us the nature of God’s love for us, and how He will provide us with everything we need, and even when we encounter difficulties in this life, we shall not be disappointed by our loving and dedicated God, who takes care of us in everything we need. Yet, mankind are difficult to satisfy, and even despite the numerous goodness that we had received, we always like to demand for more and want for more.

That is in our nature, because men are greedy by nature, and we have been exposed to this ever since our first ancestors were tempted by Satan and failed, who offered them the ‘ultimate’ prize, supposedly beyond what goodness they had received up to that time. The first men, Adam and Eve, lived in perfect bliss, harmony and joy in the Garden of Eden, filled with all of God’s blessings, intended to live happily for eternity.

However, Satan in the form of the snake tempted them with the possibility for them to know the mind of the Lord, that is to gain knowledge of things good and evil, by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden by the Lord. Indeed, they had their reservations, but their tempted hearts was too much for them and they eventually succumbed to their desire and greed, wishing to have more than what they need.

In the end, they gained what they wanted, but they lost essentially everything. They were cast out of Eden and have to endure the sufferings of the earth, and they have to toil and work to sustain themselves. They were subjected to suffering and death because of the sin of their disobedience. Yet, mankind were slow to learn from their mistakes, and for ages past, countless peoples were lost because of their uncontrolled desire and greed.

Even today, we are still gripped and enslaved by our desire, which often ends up as our undoing. Many wars and conflicts, violence and hatred, destruction and chaos came about in our world because of our inability to control our desire, and instead we become controlled and enslaved by those desires. Many tyrants and those who committed great evils in the world were due to their inability to limit their pride, their arrogance, vanity and greed. In the process, they caused great damage and sorrow for many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the readings of today remind us that as the followers of Christ, we should throw far, far away all of these human desires and negative traits and emotions, so that we can truly walk in the way of the Lord and follow His will. That is because, as long as we are under the thrall of our desire and emotions, we tend to serve our own will and purposes rather than listening to God, or to follow His will.

Jesus had called many from among the people to be His disciples, and twelve of these were chosen to be the Apostles, the chiefs of His disciples. But, as the followers of Christ, they did not have an easy life. The world that is opposed to Christ would also oppose the works of His disciples, and it is into this hostile world that Jesus had sent His disciples, to spread the Good News of salvation to many who still have yet to see the light of God.

They were also told to bring just what is sufficient for themselves, and not to bring extra items for them. That is because, God will provide, and indeed, God would walk among them and assist them on their efforts to bring the people of God back into the light. As long as the disciples and the Apostles remained faithful to the Lord, they have nothing to fear from the world, for God would take care of them, and no matter what suffering the world could inflict on them, none of them could destroy or damage the soul, which is something that only God can do.

The same therefore also applies to all the servants of God today, our priests, bishops and all those who have been called and who responded by their dedication to the works which God had entrusted them with. But this does not mean that they should do all the work, and we can rest easy. In fact, we too should help and play our role in our own ability, to bring the Good News of the Lord to those who are around us.

Let us all thus strengthen our faith, through prayer, charity and good works, so that gradually we can liberate ourselves from the slavery to our desires, so that we can truly follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who said to the angel, that she is the handmaid of the Lord, and thus all of the will of God would happen to her, and our Lord Jesus Himself, who had said in His agony in the garden, that not His will be done but the will of His Father, and through whose obedience, our salvation was made possible, and we have hope of a new life in God.

May Almighty God sharpen the edge of our humility and obedience, as well as our faith, and dull the edges of our pride, desire, greed and selfishness, so that in our lives we may become more and more like Christ, following God in all of our ways, and proclaim Him through our words, deeds and actions. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 29 May 2014 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast day, one of the greatest tenets of our faith, and an essential part of our belief. This is the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His own great power, ascended back into heaven, His heavenly throne and rightful place after He had completed perfectly all that He had come into this world for.

The disciples and the Apostles themselves saw this and were witnesses to this great and unprecedented event, and therefore from them, that is why today we can know of this event, because they testified for it and kept the truth through the generations in the Church. The Ascension of our Lord is one of the central tenet of our faith, and together with the Resurrection, further affirm the truth about Jesus, that He is not just mere Man, but also God, full of power and might.

Why did Jesus leave His disciples and Apostles then? Why did He not stay behind to help them in their ministry or lead them, so that He could bring more people to God? These must be the questions that are in our minds and hearts, and indeed, many people across different generations and time would have asked the same things about Jesus and His Ascension.

Indeed, the disciples themselves asked the same thing to the Lord, of whether He would restore the kingdom of Israel and brought glory to God’s people, right there and then. This again bring us to another common misconception which the people of God, the Israelites and Jews, had pertaining to the coming of the Messiah and His role in this world.

The Jewish people and those who believe in the strict interpretation of the faith as found in the Torah were not able to open their hearts to accept and receive the Lord Jesus into themselves, because they have for long, kept their ways and obstinate attitudes, in believing what they want to believe with regards to God’s promise and the Messiah, deciding that He had not yet come, with their arguments linked to the prophecies of the prophets of old.

Here exactly comes the danger of knowing without fully understanding it, and this danger befell the chosen people of God, stubbornly thinking that the Messiah that was to come, will come to bring glory to them and restore the kingdom of Israel as in the historical kingdom of Israel, as how it was during the time of David and Solomon, and that the Messiah would regather the scattered people of God.

They argued, those who refused to believe, that Jesus was not the Messiah because He did not restore the kingdom to Israel, nor did He apparently bring the people of Israel together, and worse still, for them, He claimed to be the Son of God, which ended up in their condemnation and betrayal of our Lord in the first place. This is because they did not realise that God worked in ways that are truly beyond their understanding, their human intellect and wisdom.

Those who have eyes, ears and senses would have known that, Jesus is truly the Messiah, who truly revealed that the Messiah Himself is God, and God is the Messiah, by coming down Himself into this world, in order to straighten things out and make everything good and working again. He had been proclaimed by the prophets who predicted about His coming and all the things that He would do, and all these were clearly indicated and written in the Scriptures and yet many continued to refuse to believe in Him.

But that is the truth, that the Lord God who has loved us so dearly, and which evidence of love had been truly numerous throughout the Scriptures, yes, so much that He gave us Himself and His life, that we may be saved. That He died for us on the cross, enduring such grievous torture and wounds for our sake, that we will not need to suffer the consequences of our sins, and by rising from the dead, He led mankind into a new hope, that death does not have the final say on us.

The Lord Jesus may have ascended into heaven into His rightful throne, but this does not mean that God has left us all alone, to fend for ourselves. No, in fact, He still watches over us from time to time. And remember, He promised the disciples the Helper, the Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, which He sent to the disciples on Pentecost, and became their guide and strength in proclaiming the truth of the Lord, the same truth that we know of today.

We have to pray that the Holy Spirit will come and transform the entire world, that the eyes, minds and hearts of all those who still refuse to accept the truth of Christ be awakened by the Spirit, that their hearts be stirred such that they may eventually accept with full honesty and awareness of their conscience, the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their most loving God.

Let us pray therefore, on this great occasion, that mankind may no longer be ignorant of God’s love, and may the Lord who returned to His residence and throne in glory, and who will come back to judge us all at the end of time, find us all to be worthy of Him, that. He may bring us all back into His loving embrace, to enjoy the everlasting bliss and graces that He will grant us forever. May God bless us all, and strengthen our faith always. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 7b-15

Jesus said, “You must be born again from above. The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?” And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things! Truly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and what We witness to the things We have seen, but you do not accept Our testimony. If you do not believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things?”

“No one has ever gone up to heaven except the One who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Today we celebrate the feast day of one of the greatest saints in the Church, none other than St. Joseph himself, the protector and head of the Holy Family, husband and spouse of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and the foster-father of Jesus Christ our Lord. Today is a great feast day because we are celebrating the feast of an important persona, whose role in our salvation in Jesus is perhaps second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary herself.

St. Joseph wedded the Blessed Virgin and became her protector and guardian. He was a carpenter at the small village of Nazareth in Galilee, and as history told us, he was already quite old at that time of her marriage to Mary, who was still very young, and it may be likely that it was not his first marriage. And Joseph was initially hesitant to marry her when he found out that she was with Child Jesus in her womb.

Even here the quality of St. Joseph was clearly visible, as he was an upright and virtuous person, who did not wish evil upon others but only good. He wanted good on others, even on Mary after she somehow ‘cheated’ him by being pregnant even before their marriage. But after Joseph discovered the truth through the angel of God, he married her and protected both her and her Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

St. Joseph certainly taught our Lord Jesus many things, just as other fathers do. St. Joseph, even though as a sort of stepfather to Jesus, loved Him as if He is his own son. With the guidance of St. Joseph, Jesus grew to a strong and loving man, as a well-mannered and God-loving Son of God.

Most likely, by the time Jesus began His ministry upon His baptism, St. Joseph had passed away due to his old age. Yet, what he had taught Jesus certainly helped Him during His ministry, and He knew about the world and its situation at the time, also likely through the tutelage of St. Joseph, who taught Him about it.

The example set by St. Joseph still inspires us today, first is to be obedient and have a strong faith to the Lord, as what he showed, obeying the Lord and playing his part in the scheme of God’s salvation. He obeyed the angel’s warning to bring Jesus out of harm when King Herod tried to kill Him. He was a loving father and an upright man, who followed God’s will and did his best to show it in his actions.

He certainly worked hard to provide for his family, for Mary his wife and for Jesus his adopted Son. That is why St. Joseph is also the patron saint of workers, showing them how to work hard and yet remain devoted to the Lord in his actions and deeds. He is truly a role model to all of us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, the challenge to us now is that are we able to follow and walk in the footsteps of St. Joseph? Are we able to follow what he had done, in his virtue and righteousness? That is the challenge for all of us now. We do not have to emulate entirely what he had done, as it will not be easy to us. But we have to at least make the effort, is it not?

So, brethren, let us use this opportunity to reflect on our own life and our own actions, whether we have done what is righteous in the eyes of God, or whether we have failed to do so, either by ignoring His commandments and staying idle, or by committing sins and what is evil to God.

Let us change our ways for the better, that from now on we may live in God’s grace and be blessed by His presence among us. Let us resolve to remain always in the light of God and reject the darkness of Satan and the world. May God help us all and guide us to Himself. Amen.

Sunday, 23 February 2014 : 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 3 : 16-23

Do you not know that you are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the Temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s Temple is holy, and you are this Temple.

Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes. To this, Scripture says : God catches the wise in their own wisdom. It also says : The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless.

Because of this, let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul, Apollos, Cephas – life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours, and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom comes from God, and God alone. We mankind may try our best many times to try to understand the Lord, but most likely we will not even get half of it right. Our feeble human understanding and knowledge cannot hope to comprehend the mind of the Lord, who knows everything and has His plans for everything.

It is human pride that often stands in the way of receiving true wisdom and knowledge from the Lord, and it is human arrogance that often prevent us from understanding God’s true meaning and purpose for all of us. The result being that we misinterpreted the true desire of the Lord, and in our state of misinterpretation and confusion, we fail to do the things that the Lord truly wants from each one of us.

In our pride and arrogance in our human knowledge and intellect too, we have missed the point in serving the Lord, instead of serving Him with love and making Him more available to all, we tend to limit Him and prevent Him from being known by all, through our own lacking interpretation of His will and His laws. We assumed wisdom when we actually have none, because we trust in ourselves rather than in God.

Jesus criticised one of those assumed wisdom, as He brought the people to a clearer understanding of God’s will and desire for us. That was precisely just like king Solomon sharing his wisdom with the Queen of Sheba who praised him for his great wisdom, and in Jesus, there is something greater than Solomon, for while the wisdom of Solomon came from God, Jesus is Himself God.

Jesus revealed that while the Jews followed a rather strict dietary law, today called the kosher law, and something similar was mimicked by the Muslims who followed a different yet similar set of dietary law, with its set of allowed and prohibited food items, that these laws are truly obsolete and unnecessary. And following these laws do not make anybody righteous or condemned in any way.

By common sense it is indeed true, even in terms of our own simple intelligence. Sometimes, there is more truth in simple thoughts rather than complex ones. Food that goes into our mouth indeed goes through our body and then is passed out as waster through the other end, and the same happens to whatever we drink and consume into our bodies.

In no way indeed, for us all who knows about the science of how our body works, that these food affect anything other than our body functions and our digestive system in particular. Whether the food is allowed or forbidden has no bearing on our faith or our worthiness before God, and it is indeed foolish to think that eating good and allowed food makes us righteous and eating prohibited food makes us sinful and damned.

Jesus rightly pointed out that it is what comes out of us that bear our sins rather than what we take into ourselves. Food are non-living objects, and they do not have intelligence or wisdom to think or do something. Yet, compared to things that come out of us, namely actions, words, deeds, and others, what came out of us all these while are the products of our intelligent, sentient, and living wisdom.

Yes, we have wisdom in us, but an incomplete one. How did we get it? Remember the Book of Genesis? Our ancestors, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and ever since, the knowledge of things good and evil is within us. We know what is good and what is evil, and we share that knowledge to our children, and pass it on throughout the generations.

It is the actions, words, and deeds that come out of us that either justify us or condemn us. When we do things in accordance with God’s will, that is doing things considered good, then we are justified, but if we do things not in accordance with the will of God, then we are condemned. It is as simple as that, and yet many refused to believe in the true wisdom of Christ, who as God is the source of all wisdom and revelations.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, how about us? Will we believe in Jesus, and trust in His wisdom? Or do we rather prefer to trust in our own strength and wisdom? In our own intelligence and knowledge of the things around us? Do we prefer to trust in a source that is always and completely right? Or do we prefer to trust in a source that is unreliable and changing as much as it suits us?

These are the questions that we should ask ourselves, and indeed we should no longer ask question or doubt the wisdom of our Lord. Let us entrust ourselves to the Lord and let Him decide what He wants to do with each one of us, trusting ourselves to His most divine and wonderful wisdom. Amen.

Saturday, 8 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins and Saints, or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord had always loved us and He always cares for us, no matter what. That was why Jesus was so moved with compassion, that despite His fatigue after preaching to the people for so long, being confronted with even more of the faithful people, He continued on serving them and preaching to them.

Lord Jesus and His love for His people is the example of how much God loves us and cares for us, and despite our constant rebellion and disobedience against His will, He wants us to be with Him again, and that was why He sent His Son Jesus into this world, that through Him, His intentions and love could be made clear, and through Him, we can find a way to reach the Lord who loves us.

We see how people sought Jesus even across mountains and lakes, and across rivers and deserts. They did not mind hunger, thirst, or fatigue, and wanted to hear more from the Lord, the words of the Good News and salvation, the medicine for their soul. And that is how sad the state of our world today, if we can compare it to how it was at the time of Jesus as said in the Gospel today.

Our world is obsessed with all things, everything except God’s love. Many sought wealth and power, and affluence and position in the society. Yet, look at what Solomon in the first reading had sought. He sought none of them. What he sought was wisdom from the Lord, to be able to discern good from evil, and therefore from there, know what ways would please the Lord, that is doing what is good.

The world today was rife with desire and greed. People sought not love but power. People sought not sincerity but wealth. People sought not peace but hatred and violence. We have often forgotten that all of these are obstacles to the true treasures of the world. The true treasures are love, hope, and faith, the fundamental virtues and elements of our belief in the Lord.

God loves us and He is like a Father to us, and indeed, as we pray the Pater Noster, God is indeed our Father, as He had sent His own Son Jesus into this world to be with us, to be one of us, that we too may call the Lord our God Father, just as Jesus called Him Father. And as all fathers do, He will love us and care for us with all the blessings He can give us.

The problem with this world today is that everyone simply had forgotten all of these facts, hidden under layers of the devil’s lies and deceit, and hidden under all the tempting pleasures and happiness offered by the world in wealth, affluence, and power. We have forgotten God’s love and we do not realise that He always has His eyes and His heart aimed at us.

Today we celebrate the feast of two saints of the Church, that is St. Jerome Emiliani, an Italian priest who lived just five centuries ago, and St. Josephine Bakhita, who also lived at about the start of the modern era and was notably a former slave. Both of them were great saints who dedicated their lives to God, and serving mankind with love, reminding them of God’s own love, which was reflected in all of their actions.

St. Jerome Emiliani was a dedicated worker of the faith, who showed his zeal to God through love. He served the sick and the poor, even with his own expense and support, ensuring that these people, considered least in the society might enjoy the love of God as reflected through his own actions. He helped the sick during epidemics and times of difficulties, and his works of love had helped mankind to open their eyes and be touched again by God’s divine love.

St. Josephine Bakhita was a former slave, who was converted into the faith and liberated from her slavery. She chose to join the religious congregation of the Canossian sisters, where she remained and served the people of God with love and zeal, much as St. Jerome Emiliani had done. St. Josephine Bakhita’s love for God and for her fellow mankind was pure and true.

These two saints had shown us how our actions too can bring love to others, and none other than God’s own love whom He had shared with us. We cannot keep the love of God within us but we ought to share them with the world, that many will be reawakened from their slumber and realise once again the love that God has for all of them.

Just as God has awakened the wisdom in Solomon, let us all pray, brethren, that He will also awaken in many, the seed of faith, that combined with our actions of love, they too may heed God’s call to abandon all that is wicked and unworthy, changing their ways and therefore be one of us, worthy of God’s eternal kingdom. God be with us all and all our brethren, all mankind. Amen.