Sunday, 12 April 2020 : Easter Vigil Mass, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! After the forty days of Lent and a long time of preparation and expectation, on this very night of the Easter Vigil, we finally enter into the glorious season of Easter. On this night of the Vigil of Easter, also known as the Mother of All the Holy Vigils, we commemorate that great moment of triumph and victory, of light over darkness, of God’s grace and love over evil and sin, and Christ of His victory over death, for He has conquered death itself by His glorious Resurrection from the dead.

Darkness that has reigned over this world because of sin and death have been defeated by our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross, and also through His triumphant victory by rising from the realm of the dead, showing us that God’s Light and power are supreme over all things. Not even death has the final say anymore, and death is not the end of all things, unlike what we may have thought. Death is no longer the absolute end, but rather, for the faithful, marking the end of our current despicable state and the beginning of a new, eternal and blessed life and existence in God.

This Easter Vigil tonight is indeed the holiest of all nights and moments in the entire liturgical year, for our very faith and our existence, the whole Church are all centred on this very moment. On that night almost two millennia ago at the tomb just outside of Jerusalem, just before the dawn was to break, the Lord showed us all this new hope and revealed His triumph, as He gloriously rose up from death and broke free from the hold of the tomb. At that moment, the salvation that had been long awaited for came to be, as all those who have patiently waited for the Lord’s coming received the assurance of salvation.

That is why the whole Church and the entire world, all the faithful people of God rejoice this day because we remember how God’s salvation has brought us this new hope that dispelled our fears and the darkness all around us. God has brought us this hope and light by showing us that there is life and existence beyond death, one that is filled with God’s grace and love. Through His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has shared with us in dying to our sins, and by His resurrection, He brought us all into this assurance of new life.

Without this Resurrection, our entire faith would have been rendered meaningless and false, as then the Lord Jesus would have just been a Man, condemned to die on false, trumped-up charges against Him, dying a humiliating death on the Cross and laid in the tomb. Had the resurrection of the Lord had not happened, then the works and ministry of the Lord would have ended right there and then, and His disciples would have eventually scattered, like the other false Messiahs that rose up during approximately that same time.

But because Christ has risen from the dead, His truth and works remain and has been passed on through His disciples and His Church to all of us. The Lord’s glorious Resurrection has opened for us all a new path. This new path is the way which the Lord has led us into, the way of His truth. All those who believe in Him and walk in His path will be blessed forever and will rise together with Christ, and will be freed from the tyranny of sin and death forever. Death has no more say or power over us because we share in the deathlessness of Christ.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, this year we know how it has been a particularly difficult year for many if not most of us all around the world. Various communities and peoples from different countries have suffered because of the many disasters and unfortunate events that happened just within the past few months this year alone. Certainly we know of the terrible coronavirus pandemic that has claimed many lives and made many others suffer so far, but there are also many other diseases that claimed lives this year.

On top of this, there had been the terrible bushfires in Australia this year, the eruption of Mount Taal in the Philippines and some other volcanoes around the world, instabilities and tensions in some areas like the Middle East earlier in the year that had also caused much concern, fears and sufferings for many people. Truly, many may call this year a year of misfortune, a terrible year, a year of terror among many others. But we must not lose hope, for it is exactly why tonight’s celebration is so important.

This Easter celebration is a celebration of the Christian Passover, modelled after the original Jewish Passover, when the Israelites in Egypt, enslaved by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, were saved by the Lord their God. At the original Jewish Passover as described in our third reading today we heard of how the Israelites were protected by God, Who sent a total of ten great plagues to the whole of Egypt, causing all the Egyptians to suffer for their refusal to let the Israelites go free. And last of all, the final plague was the worst of all.

The last plague was the death of all the firstborn children of the Egyptians, from the Pharaoh to the lowest slaves, to the lowest of all animals. But the Israelites were spared from all these, as when the Angel of God went about Egypt exercising the judgment of the plague, they were ‘passed-over’ as they had marked their houses with the blood of the Passover lamb as instructed by Moses. They all ate of the Passover lamb that night and were led free out of Egypt to the Land of Promise.

And on this new, Christian Passover, that we celebrate in full throughout this Easter or Paschal Triduum beginning from the evening of Holy Thursday with the Last Supper, we have another moment of God’s great salvation of His people, and this time this salvation is extended to all of us mankind who have been enslaved by the tyranny of sin and death, and put on hold by the evil one, Satan and all of his wicked fellow demons and fallen angels. Through this Easter, the Christian Passover, God leads us all into a new life and a wonderful blessed existence.

On this night, we heard of how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and from the hands of the Pharaoh and his army by opening the Red Sea before them all, allowing His people to cross safely through the dry seabed. In the same way, all of us have been brought to cross through the water of baptism, as we also celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation tonight on the Easter Vigil beginning with the Sacrament of Baptism where those who are to be received into the Church receive the baptism of the Lord, symbolising this passage through the water into new life of freedom in God.

We all partake in the same Eucharist, the same Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, the Paschal Lamb that has been sacrificed. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord is the Paschal Lamb, offered to God His heavenly Father as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins, and He offered Himself as the High Priest, on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary. He has redeemed us and marked us all the faithful ones by the shedding of His Blood, the Blood of the Paschal Lamb.

We can clearly see that there is a lot of parallel between our Easter joy, the Christian Passover with the original Jewish Passover. And that is why, having went through this Easter Triduum, which is not just a series of separate celebrations but instead a great and united celebration of our salvation by God, on this very night, we join the whole Church in praising God for His great love and wonders, for saving us from certain destruction.

As mentioned earlier, this year has been particularly dark and difficult for many of us, but we must not lose hope just as the Israelites had also then suffered under the Pharaoh and the Egyptians for many years in slavery. And we have suffered for even much longer under the power and tyranny of sin. We must not forget that while the pandemic and all the other troubles we faced this year caused many to suffer and die, but even worse is the death caused by our sins, for the death caused by unrepented sin leads to everlasting death and suffering.

That is why today, as the glory of God’s light is shown to all of us, let us all direct all of our hope towards Him, and dedicate ourselves anew to Him, with a new faith and devotion. Let us all be a renewed people of faith, filled with the spirit and joy of Easter, and may the light of God shine forth through our lives from now on. Let us all bring forth the light and hope of God to all around us living in despair, fear and darkness, and bring that hope to warm their hearts and return hope to them.

May this upcoming season of Easter be a most wonderful one for us, that our joy will be true joy, not because of all of our worldly celebrations, but rather because we have found once again the source of our true joy and our hope, in Christ Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, the Paschal Lamb of God by Whose Blood and by Whose Sacrifice all of us have been saved and be assured of eternal life in God, forever and ever. May God bless us always, and may He give us all the strength to live with this wonderful Easter joy always. Amen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Friday, 10 April 2020 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the day when the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Saviour suffered and died for our sake on the Cross at the hill of Calvary just outside of Jerusalem. We remember this day when the Lord was condemned to die and picked up His Cross, enduring all the insults and torture, all the pains and struggles on the way of the Cross to Calvary.

And we call this day Good Friday despite all the terrible events and circumstances that happened that day in Jerusalem because we do not just focus our attention on what happened during those few terrible hours during which our Lord and Saviour laboured and endured all the sufferings. We have to see it as part of the greater purpose of the Lord’s efforts for our salvation, which is why we celebrate this Good Friday as part of the Easter Triduum and cannot be separated from yesterday’s Holy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper and also from the Easter Vigil and the Resurrection of the Lord.

For without the Resurrection, ultimately the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross is meaningless and empty. Without the Resurrection of Christ, then what happened almost two millennia ago in Jerusalem that day was just of a convicted man and criminal who was punished and condemned to die, and die a most humiliating and painful death on the Cross as how other dangerous criminals were punished by the Romans for their crimes. There would then be no reason for us to celebrate at all.

Instead, we know that today is truly a ‘Good’ Friday precisely because we know that the Cross and the death of our Lord was not the end of His earthly life, but rather the beginning of the Lord’s salvation for us all mankind. It marked the moment when the veil of sin and the tyranny of death were overcome, marking the reunion and reconciliation between God and mankind as symbolised by the tearing of the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, signifying that God’s grace and holiness is no longer hidden and denied from us.

The Lord’s Cross has become a great bridge that spans the once great and uncrossable chasm that separated us from God, due to our disobedience and therefore sins against Him. Through our disobedience, we have been separated from God and His love, but then through the obedience of one Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ, mankind have been reconciled with God, and a new hope in a new life and existence in God has been born. This is why on this Good Friday we celebrate it as a truly good and blessed day for us all.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to take note that the sombre nature of today’s celebration and our emphasis on the sufferings and pains that the Lord endured on the Cross, as well as our veneration of the Cross of the Lord or the Crucifix is to remind us that Christ went through all that suffering and endured all of the pains He received for us all. We must not forget that all of His wounds and sufferings are caused by our own sins and our own shortcomings.

The Cross of Christ is a reminder of our own sins and our own rebellion against God, and by that same Cross, we have also been redeemed, through every drops of Blood that was shed from the Body of Our Lord and Saviour. The Lord gave us His life that we may live and not perish because of our sins. He has done all these for us because of His enduring and powerful love for each and every one of us, the love that exceeds even the darkness of our sins.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Cross we have received this assurance of Our Lord’s love and providence, that we will enjoy His love and grace forever. No longer that sin and death will have any hold over us if we put our trust in Him completely and reject those sins that we have committed all these while. However, the allure of sin and the temptations of this world are indeed powerful, and many of us can easily fall again into those same temptations by which we have fallen into sin in the past.

Today let us all spend some time to reflect on our Lord’s Passion and suffering, His great love for us and how all of us need to change our lives for the better, rejecting the sins by which we have been separated from God. We have to be thankful on this Good Friday that the Lord had been so kind towards us, giving us this great and wonderful grace although we have been rebellious, disobedient and ungrateful over His many gifts, wonders and love.

As Christians, we are also called to follow the Lord and take up our crosses, carrying it with Him. What this means is that we must be ready for the sufferings and challenges that will be in our path when we commit ourselves to the Lord and live our lives faithfully as good Christians in our daily living. We must be prepared for the challenges and be ready to endure and yet remain faithful in the Lord. Now in particular, we know how we are living through this difficult moment and suffering, and many are despairing without hope, being sick and dying, separated from their loved ones and even having lost these loved ones.

We know that most people’s attention are now focused on the current pandemic that has been raging on for many weeks so far. We know how many people are living in fear and uncertainty, worrying about themselves and their families. Many have even become irrational in their actions, causing hurt to others in order to protect themselves, in hoarding goods essential for other people, in being racist and opposed to people of certain races and groups, blaming them for the current predicaments.

We know how this pandemic among other troubles we face have led us to worry and to fear of our future. But this is because we think that we are alone in our fight and in our struggles. For all these crosses that we have to bear in life, we must not forget that the Lord is in fact carrying His Cross together with us. The Lord is suffering with us all just as we suffer now. In fact, all of our sufferings are also His sufferings, all of our pains and struggles are also His pains and struggles.

Let us today entrust ourselves, our families and our whole world to the Lord, knowing that the Lord is suffering for us and with us, picking up and enduring His Cross and being crucified that all of us may survive and live. He has offered His own Most Precious Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross as the offering to redeem us from our sins, and His perfect obedience had been heard, and by His wounds and hurts we are healed and made whole once again. Let us entrust our whole lives to God, and commit ourselves with a renewed spirit that we may truly be the people of the Cross, all those who have hope in the Crucified Christ, by Whose Blood and Sacrifice we have been saved.

Let us all fear no longer, be it the fear of diseases or pandemics, be it the fear of darkness and evil, be it the fear of uncertainty and sin, but instead, let us all be filled with God’s hope through the triumph of His Cross. We know that the Cross is not an end, but the beginning of a new glory and a new existence, freed from sin and evil, that as long as we fix our focus and attention on the Lord crucified, we know that in Him, there is sure hope for us all. May God bless us always, now and forevermore, and may He strengthen our faith that we may welcome the coming of Easter with true joy and faith. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this night we begin the solemn three days of great celebration and commemoration of the most important events in the history of the salvation of all mankind, collectively called the Easter Triduum. On this night we remember that Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples, as He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is why today’s celebration is truly very significant, as it established one of the core tenets of our faith, believing that the Lord has given us His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the bread and wine turned into this Body and Blood of the Lord.

Today’s important celebration cannot be overlooked as we have the Lord Jesus, as the Eternal High Priest of all, offering His own Body and Blood, in the form of bread and wine He had at the Last Supper, the very first Sacrifice of the Mass, lifted up as offering to God the Father, and which is turned into the essence and substance of His own Body and Blood offered on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, where this Sacrifice is finally completed. The Lord Jesus Himself indicated this just before He was about to die with the words, ‘It is accomplished’.

On this day, we also remember the ‘Mandate’ from the Lord to His disciples, which is the reason why today is also known as Maundy Thursday, the word ‘Maundy’ originating from the Latin word ‘Mandatum’ which means ‘Mandate’ and commission that the Lord had given to His disciples, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. That we practice the custom of the washing of the feet during the Mass today came about from the action that the Lord Himself took, as He humbled Himself like a servant, even a slave, before His disciples and washed their feet.

This is something which only a slave would do to his master, and that was why St. Peter was so reluctant to accept that the Lord would do such a denigrating and humiliating thing before his own eyes. Yet, the Lord told him to obey, and to follow, as in the end, whatever He has done to them, they were to do to each other as well. What this means is that, just as the Master has loved His disciples that is all of us so much, that He was willing to do everything for us, then we too should love one another in a genuinely Christian way and show authentic love, care and compassion.

Through this institution of the Holy Eucharist today, the Lord has established the institution of priesthood as well, as He instituted and made His own disciples to be priests just like Him as the High Priest. To them, He has given the power and authority to celebrate and offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as He has done, which is why He also commanded them to ‘Do this in the memory of Me’. Every time the Holy Mass is celebrated, it is not a new sacrifice being celebrated, but the same sacrifice which our Lord has offered on the Cross.

That is why we all truly believe that the bread and wine offered in the Mass has been completely transformed and changed in essence and substance to the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord, although their appearance may still be that of bread and wine. We believe that by the hands of our priests, who have received the same power and authority passed onto them from the Apostles and their successors, our bishops, we have received the Lord Himself, Body and Blood, in the Eucharist.

Today therefore we are called to reflect on this great gift of God for us, that He has willingly shed His own Body and Blood that we who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ, may be united to Him, and share in His death on the Cross, and by dying to our past existence, we may then have a share too in His glorious Resurrection. If we do not receive Him worthily and with faith, then we will not have part in Him just as the Lord had said. We will remain separated and sundered from Him.

We should not treat the celebrations of today and the upcoming Good Friday and Easter Vigil separately, but instead as one unity, which is why they are celebrated together as the Easter Triduum. It is this supreme moment of our human history and existence that we celebrate that time when the Lord saved us all by His perfect, loving and willing sacrifice, emptying Himself of all things and taking up upon Himself all the punishments, burdens and sufferings for the redemption of our sins.

And as we enter into these most sacred moments in the entire liturgical year, let us all have this renewed faith in God, that particularly amidst our current difficult situation all around us, the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic among other things, all the economic downturn and instabilities, all the despair and darkness all around, we still have hope in the Lord. In God is the light that is ever present and ever trustworthy even in the most challenging moments of our lives, and we need to hold on to this faith.

Let us all spend these three days of the Easter Triduum deepening our faith and dedication to the Lord, making good use of the time to reflect on how fortunate all of us to have been beloved by God so much that He was willing to go through all the troubles and sufferings for our sake. Let us all also spend the time to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how we can live our lives in a more Christian and Christ-like way, in serving others and in loving our fellow brethren, like how the Lord Jesus Himself taught us and His disciples, in being humble and obedient at all times.

And let us also not forget our brothers and sisters who are now suffering, either because they are sick and dying from the pandemic and from other diseases and ailments, or because they are separated from their loved ones and families, particularly our frontline healthcare staffs and peoples involved in various efforts to restore normalcy in our communities. Let us all keep them in our prayers and do whatever we can do to help and support them.

Of course, lastly we must also continue to support our priests, our bishops, our Pope and the Church, that they will continue to be faithful and strong in their dedication to serve the flock of the Lord according to the Mandate that the Lord had passed on to His disciples. Let us pray for them, our shepherds that they may remain strong and courageous in leading us and serving us even through these very difficult times. Let us be united with them and the whole Church in our renewed faith and obedience to God from now onwards.

May the Lord help us and guide us through this Easter Triduum beginning today that we may benefit as much as possible from this time of reorientation of our focus in life towards God. May God strengthen us all in faith and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 9 April 2020 : Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Chrism Mass which is the time when all the holy oils are blessed and made ready for the use in the diocese. On this day also all priests ordained to serve the Lord in sacred ordination renew their commitment to God and are called to remember the sacred vow and promise they have made before God and their bishops, to obey the laws of the Church and to be dedicated in their works and ministry of the Sacraments to the people of God.

The Lord has called those priests to serve Him, that those who responded to this call to the holy order of priesthood be endowed with the Holy Spirit of God, consecrated and made holy, set apart from others to be the ones to shepherd His people. The Lord has brought His light to the people He loved through these priests, as these are called to reflect His light and love, and bring them to the people who are still living in the darkness of this world.

And especially for this year, the significance of what we celebrate this morning at the Chrism Mass is even greater, in light of the current terrible pandemic that had engulfed most of the world and caused so many deaths and many more people who are sick because of this pandemic. It is not just because the holy oils are used for many good purposes, one of which, the Oil for the Sick or Oleum Infirmarum is used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, but also because many of our priests are also at the frontline tending to many of the people.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not just the doctors and nurses who are at the forefront of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic and other diseases. The priests and all the servants of God are also at the forefront of an even greater battle, the battle against despair and against falsehoods, against all sorts of wickedness that already exist in this world and more of others that have sprung up because of this current dire situation. We have seen how people suffer in despair, losing hope and acting irrationally because of all these, a lot of selfish and terrible attitudes shown all these past few weeks.

We have seen how people can be so nasty against each other, and we have seen how people are divided against each other. And all these are caused by the lack of faith in many, and our priests are still on the forefront of that spiritual battle, the battle of faith for those souls. It is not enough that we just save the person physically but also spiritually as well. Of course the current efforts done by the doctors, nurses and other healthcare warriors are extremely important, but we must not forget our spiritual healthcare warriors, that is our priests and all the ordained ministers of God.

We may have heard how priests in various places around the world tried their best to reach out to their flock through various means, some through online conferencing and meetings, some through online activities, or even arranging smaller scale activities. We heard of how priests travelled around the empty roads and streets, bringing the Blessed Sacrament on the monstrance, that people who are locked in their homes due to quarantine may still feel the presence of God in their midst and not lose hope.

And we may have heard also how many priests have even died because of the pandemic. Some of them died from the disease while they ministered to the people whom they cared for so much, those who were without hope and those who were sick and dying. That is the reality of the works and the lives of our priests, brothers and sisters in Christ. To follow the Lord as how our priests have been called to, is truly a great cross to be carried, in the footsteps of the Lord Himself. Many had indeed responded to this call, as we have just discussed.

It is important therefore that today we spend some time to pray for our brave and courageous priests, all those who have given their lives for the service of the Lord and His Church. Let us all pray that they may be given the strength, the courage and the energy to continue to serve the people of God despite all the challenges and difficulties that they may be facing. Let us always give them our support and encouragement, for they are indeed the pillars that support the Church and our Christian communities together in this difficult time.

We should give encouragement to our priests, as many of them are definitely stressed up with many concerns and works at the moment. Many of them had to make many sacrifices of time and energy to support us in turn during this difficult moment. They are using the same holy oils blessed today to bless many of our houses and hospitals, and more importantly to anoint the sick and the dying ones among us. They need our prayer and support, and we should be more united with them and the whole Church during this time of crisis.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore today at this celebration of the Chrism Mass implore the Lord to send His Holy Spirit to all of our priests to sanctify them and to strengthen them, that they may remain strong and resolute despite all the challenges that they may face. Let us all stay united with them in prayer, and work together to keep up hope despite all the darkness, fears and uncertainties. Let us also prepare ourselves wholeheartedly to prepare for the celebration of the Easter Triduum beginning tonight and be ready to celebrate the upcoming glory of Easter.

May the Lord also give us His strength and hope that we too may be strong and courageous like our brave and faithful priests, that we too may be bearers of hope and the light of God to encourage our fellow brethren in this time of great need. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020 : Wednesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, traditionally as indicated in the Gospel passage of the day, the Church remembers the moment when Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, went to the Temple to collude with the elders and the chief priests that he might betray and hand Him over to them. It was at this moment which Judas Iscariot received the thirty pieces of silver in exchange for his betrayal of the Lord, as we are preparing ourselves heart and mind for the coming of the Easter Triduum.

As prophesied in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, part of which is our first reading today, the Lord had to suffer, that He as the Saviour of the world had to go through much pain and great difficulties because of His commitment to bring to us His salvation and grace. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this suffering Servant of God, to Whom the Lord would give all the punishments and sufferings due for us, that He might suffer them all instead of us. And yet, He would neither protest or grumble against this, as it was by His own desire and will that He had taken up His Cross and suffer for our sake.

But through these events which we commemorate during this Holy Week and the upcoming Easter Triduum, we are called to reflect on the wonderful love by which God had redeemed us and liberated us from the certainty of death and sin. God has willingly endured the worst of indignities and humiliations, to be treated like a servant and slave, and even less than a human being, as He was arrested, treated with such terrible and harsh treatment from all those who persecuted Him, sent to the Romans to be sentenced to death on the Cross.

The Lord has endured all of these for us because He genuinely loves us all. As St. Paul said, that no one would be willing to suffer and die for another person, unless that person is indeed very virtuous and good, and perhaps if that person is truly beloved and dear to us. And even in that case, many of us are likely to think twice, thrice if not more, before we commit ourselves in such a total manner, in giving of ourselves to the other person. Yet, this is what the Lord had done for each and every one of us, even when we are still sinners and still disobedient and wicked in His sight.

And that is just how wonderful God’s love for us is, how magnanimous He has been to us, and how generous and compassionate He is in His merciful ways, that He is willing to forgive us our sins and in fact He wants to be reconciled with us through that forgiveness. But forgiveness and reconciliation cannot truly happen without that commitment and desire from us to seek reconciliation and forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings.

We also have to realise that for every sins we have committed, we are no better than Judas Iscariot who had betrayed the Lord for the gain of money and for his own selfish purposes. The devil tempted him just as he had tempted us with various temptations, and we have fallen just as Judas had fallen into sin. When we sin, no matter whether that sin be great or small, we are still betraying the Lord for our own various selfish desires and wants in life. We should therefore spend some time thinking about all these as we are about to enter into the great mystery of the Easter Triduum beginning tomorrow.

Now, as we are also currently still struggling from the terrible worldwide pandemic that is still causing many deaths and many more people to suffer everywhere in the world, perhaps it is indeed the best time for us to focus our attention away from all the fears, uncertainties and darkness present all around us now, and focus our attention instead on God and His light. There is hope for us in God, and if we put our trust and hope in Him rather than in any human and worldly solace, we will surely gain consolation and strength amidst this difficult time.

And as Christians, we are all called to be more Christ-like in our lives, in how we live our lives from now on and especially during these difficult moments. Rather than being selfish as how Judas Iscariot had been selfish, causing hurt and sufferings to others by our own attitudes and behaviours, let us instead show love, care and compassion to our fellow brethren. If we see someone around us who is in need of love and hope, let us bring these to him or her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all enter into the glorious Easter Triduum with a new heart of love, and with a renewed faith in Our Lord and Saviour. Let us all devote more of our time and focus on Him our attention, placing our hope in Him in the midst of these dark and uncertain times. Let us be the bearers of His light in our world, that we may brighten the lives of others who are struggling, sorrowful and are in difficulties. Let us empathise with them and share with them God’s generous love, which He has so generously poured onto us, by His sacrifice on the Cross. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020 : Tuesday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we draw closer to the glorious Easter Triduum, we should all be preparing for the celebration of this venerable and great celebration, by spending more time with God, devoting our time to reflect on our lives, doing spiritual exercises and focusing our attention on the Lord and on what He has done in order to bring His salvation to all of us. He has willingly embraced the burden of the Cross and endure all the pain and suffering for our sake, that we may be saved.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people about the coming of His Servant by Whom salvation of the world would come. The light of the nations shall come forth from the Saviour sent by God, and all of these brought hope to the people of God then suffering and oppressed, with the northern kingdom of Israel then having been conquered by the Assyrians and its people brought into exile in far-off lands. The southern kingdom of Judah then were also troubled by the Assyrians who once sent a great army to besiege Jerusalem.

God essentially promised to save His people, and all of these were to be fulfilled through Christ, the Son of God, Whom He sent into this world to be its Saviour. And in our Gospel today, we heard the narrative heading towards its climax, as the Lord and His disciples talked about His impending suffering and death, and the Lord speaking openly before all of them how He would be betrayed by one of His own closest confidants, namely Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And He also foretold of St. Peter’s denial of Himself, which would happen when He was arrested.

All of the readings today help us to focus our attention to the upcoming celebrations of the Easter Triduum when we are going to enter into those most important moments in the history of our salvation. We are called to spend this time to reflect on God’s amazing and ever enduring love for us all that He was willing to go through all the challenges and troubles to save us from our distress and troubles. We are called to look towards our Lord and Saviour especially in these dark and difficult times.

We all know how the current global pandemic has been severely affecting many communities and peoples all around the world. Many people have suffered and are still suffering, hundreds of thousands are being hospitalised, tens of thousands had perished from this disease. Many others had lost their jobs and employments, many of them were struggling to make ends meet as they were breadwinners for their respective families. Many are worried how they are going to live through these difficult moments, with all the restrictions and limitations in place.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is exactly where more importantly for us all that we must direct our attention to the Lord, and commit ourselves with greater zeal and faith in God. This is the time for us to remember that no matter how dark and difficult the times may be, but God’s love and providence are even more powerful and are greater than all the sum of our fears and insecurities. We must have faith in God and trust in Him that He will provide for us and will not abandon us to the darkness.

Sadly this is where we know that the devil is very cunning, in trying to heighten our fears and make us distracted from God, by making us feel scared and lonely in this difficult moment, with all the fake news and fear-mongering being everywhere all around us. Because of this, we see all the selfish attitudes of people who are hoarding goods and essential items, which denied those people who really need them of the things necessary for them to sustain themselves.

And many of these attitudes and selfishness are sadly shown by some of us Christians, who placed our own needs and desires above that of the rest, even causing harm and hurt to others just so that we can safeguard our own interests and indulge in our own desires. And this is where we must be always vigilant, that we do not end up falling into temptation like how Judas Iscariot fell into the temptation of quick money and personal benefit, ending up committing a great sin before God and mankind alike. We must make use of this opportunity instead to allow our Christian faith and virtues to shine brightly in the midst of all the darkness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of this Holy Week and make it a meaningful time for each and every one of us. May we bear in our lives the spirit of openness and humility, allowing God to be glorified through our actions and our lives, that we may bring the light of Christ and the hope of Easter to our brothers and sisters, to all those who are now suffering and in despair. Let us all bring forth God’s light and dispel the darkness of fear, uncertainty and evil in our midst. Trust in God and put our complete faith in Him, for in Him alone is our sure assistance. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 6 April 2020 : Monday of Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of God and as we enter into the Holy Week proper, we are called to focus our attention on our Lord and Saviour, the Servant of God Whom has been prophesied about and promised to us all through the prophet Isaiah. In our first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the One Whom God sent into the world to bring forth justice and peace, and to reconcile the world with Himself.

This prophecy reminds us yet again that God has so kindly sent us His Redeemer in Christ His Son, Who has revealed the truth of His salvation and desire to save His people, by His coming into this world and by His readiness to take up the Cross and suffer for our sake, which is highlighted again through today’s Gospel passage, from which we heard about the story of how Mary anointed the feet of the Lord just before He was about to commence into His Passion, suffering and death.

It is this same Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, of whom her own sister Martha complained against the Lord because she chose to listen to the Lord attentively rather than to help her sister, not because she purposely wanted to make her work difficult, but because Martha was being too preoccupied with all the hassle of her preparations and plans, all the concerns she had, that she had forgotten what is truly the most important thing for her at that time, and that is to welcome the Lord wholeheartedly into our hearts and into our beings.

In the same way, in our Gospel passage today we heard then of the moment when the Lord was anointed on His feet by the same Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and how one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot immediately criticised Mary for doing such an action, saying that the perfume used for the anointing should have been used by selling the proceeds to be given to the poor. Yet, as mentioned in the same passage, Judas said this not because he was righteous or faithful in any way, but rather out of the greed and desire for the benefit he could have gained from his habit of stealing the money from the common treasury for himself.

The Lord rebuked Judas because of this hypocrisy he had, his lack of sincere faith and commitment, unlike that which Mary had, in humbling herself before everyone who were present. Judas gave in to the temptations to sin, by continuing to remain in his wicked practices, that he eventually fell deeper into sin, betraying the Lord for the price of a mere thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. His lack of faith and focus on the Lord should indeed be contrasted with Mary’s great faith and attention she gave to Him.

Through all these which we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, we can see how our greatest enemy is indeed our pride, ego and our greed and desire. It was Martha’s pride that prevented her from spending time with God and preoccupied her with all the things she was busy preparing for the Lord. It was Judas’ pride that made him to disdain the actions of Mary and his greed made him to crave for that ‘dirty money’ he had gained from his sinful actions, which eventually led to his downfall.

Meanwhile, Mary humbled herself such that she stooped down to do something that only a slave would do, to wash the feet of a person, and worse still, she used even the crown of her beauty, the hairs of her head to do that. This is the symbolism of a great and enduring love that one has for another person, that one is willing to do such a feat and humble oneself to love the other person, which is true sign of Christian love and virtue. And this is exactly what the Lord Himself had done, in humbling Himself and in emptying Himself, taking up the position of a slave, to show His love for each and every one of us.

We are called today to reflect on the great significance of this Holy Week for us. Holy Week is truly a time for us to redirect our attention to God and all that He had done for us, in caring for us and providing us with all that we need, and ultimately, in how He has saved us from certain death and destruction through His Passion, suffering and death. Are we able to appreciate this great love of God better, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to turn wholeheartedly towards God, and draw closer to Him in this blessed Holy Week, from now and beyond?

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives faithfully, that we may be more humble and be more open and willing to listen to God, and get rid from ourselves all the pride, ego, ambition and hubris in our hearts, all the desires and greed that can lead us to fall into temptation to sin. May He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 5 April 2020 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers ands sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we begin the observation of the Holy Week, the holiest and pinnacle of the liturgical celebrations of the entire year, as we enter into the most solemn and important moments in the history of the salvation of mankind and the world. On this day we enter and experience together this very moment when the Lord finally put into place everything that He has promised to us, His people, heading to Jerusalem where He knew that the moments His Passion, suffering and death would come.

On this Palm Sunday, we heard two very discordant accounts from the time of the Lord’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem, as well as from the time when He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested, put on trial, handed over to the Romans, condemned to death and was crucified as a criminal. This represents a very distinct extremes between the glory and triumphant nature of the entrance procession into Jerusalem and the humiliating and painful nature of the crucifixion of the Lord at Calvary. And all these happened within just the span of a few days.

In our Gospel today read just before the Procession with the blessed palms, we heard of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah, speaking of the coming of the King on a donkey into His city. The people welcomed the Lord and sang praises, putting their garments and clothes on the ground for the Lord and His donkey to pass through on, and waving palm branches and leaves, a welcome truly fit for a great King.

The crowds sang ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ loudly, referring to the descent of the Lord Jesus from the much revered King David of Israel, the glorious kingdom and time of his kingship of old. The Lord Jesus had His descent as the Heir of David, through St. Joseph, His foster-father and also legal father, and therefore, Jesus is the One Whom God had promised to David that through Him, the kingdom and house of David would be glorious and strong forever. The Lord came to Jerusalem, the city of the King to claim His place as the one true King of Israel.

Certainly at that time, some people must have thought that Jesus would restore the old kingdom of Israel, defeat and drive out the Romans who were the overlords of Judea, and reign in a new era of glorious kingdom like that of the old kingdom of David and Solomon. Some of the people had tried to make Jesus as their King on several occasions, riding on the popular sentiment and the Lord’s immense following and popularity, only for the Lord to rebuff them by withdrawing every time they attempted to do so.

But as we then proceed into our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, of Whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about as One Who would bear the suffering and the punishments for our sins and faults. This is the revelation of the true purpose and mission of the Messiah’s coming, that His Kingship is achieved through not the glory of the world but through the glory of the Cross. He would have to suffer as part of God’s plan to save us mankind.

And this is what St. Paul spoke about in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, in our second reading today, as he spoke of the Christ, the Son of God Who humbled Himself completely and entirely, emptying Himself of His divinity and wonders, and willingly took up the Cross of suffering, filled with the mighty burdens and punishments due for our many and innumerable sins. He bore all of these on His own shoulders, and endured all of the pain, bitterness, rejections and ridicules because of His great and enduring love for each and every one of us.

God has loved us all so much that He was willing to do all these for our sake, and He endured all the humiliations as described throughout our Passion reading today, detailing how He was treated, ridiculed, condemned by His enemies and all those who sought to denounce and sentence Him to death. He was handed to the Romans, and rejected by the whole people who chose a criminal instead of Him to be freed. He was tortured and made to suffer such indignity, and endured the excruciating pain of nails driven into His hands and feet.

All these were what the Lord had been willing to go through for our sake. He has always been so patient and been so loving towards us. That is why today, at the beginning of this Holy Week, we are brought to focus our attention to the Lord’s Passion, His ever so great and wonderful love for each and every one of us that He was willing to go through all the sufferings for us. His love is so great that although He is King, but He desires not His own glory but instead, our own glorification, through His sacrifice on the Cross.

For through the Cross, by His obedience in His Father’s will, the Lord our Saviour has restored us to the glory that was ours before we fell into sin. He wants us to be reconciled to Him and to receive His saving grace. Unfortunately, it is often us who have been stubborn and rejected His generous offer for mercy and love. We have been like those who enthusiastically welcomed the Lord on Palm Sunday, and yet, shouted ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ on Good Friday just a few days later. We are also often like Judas Iscariot, who outwardly had faith in the Lord and yet, betrayed Him in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin this solemn celebration of the Holy Week, let us make good use of this time and opportunities provided to us that we may redirect our lives and our focus and attention back towards God. This Holy Week, let us all spend more time with God in prayer, deepening our devotion through works of charity and through reading the Scriptures with greater clarity of purpose in mind. Let us all also spend some thoughts for all those who are suffering, sick and dying during these days, unable to rejoice and celebrate as how they have usually done.

Many of us these days are unable to celebrate as we usually do, and in many parts of the world, due to the current pandemic, the celebrations of the Masses publicly have been suspended, extending through to the Holy Week and possibly even through the Easter season. And even for some of us and our communities, much of this season of Lent had indeed been a time of spiritual desolation and sadness, as we have been in many ways deprived either the regular celebration of the Mass or access to the Eucharist.

However, this is probably a good time and reminder for us all that amidst all these darkness and uncertainties, all the despairs and terrible things all around us, we still have that very one hope, the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, our King and Saviour. That is why we should still celebrate this Holy Week with much enthusiasm and faith, and we should try our best to bring forth this spirit of faith and enthusiasm to our fellow brothers and sisters. For we all should know that sin and darkness mo longer have permanent hold on us, as Christ has promised us freedom and liberation from these through His own suffering and death on the Cross.

Let us therefore enter into the Holy Week with an open heart and mind, welcoming the Lord to enter into our hearts and into our beings as gloriously and joyfully as the people of Jerusalem had welcomed Him with branches of palms and with great rejoicing and reverence. Let us all welcome the Lord into our beings that from now on, He may truly dwell in us, and be enthroned in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole beings, and that we may focus ourselves on Him from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He guide us through this blessed and most wonderful time of the Holy Week, that we may be filled with much faith and we may make good use of the time provided to us, to help us to draw ever closer to God, and to receive the fullness of God’s saving grace, forgiven from our sins and trespasses. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 4 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are about to enter into the time of the Holy Week beginning tomorrow on Palm Sunday, we heard of the promises of God’s salvation as He spoke to them through the prophet Ezekiel, as well as the conspiracies and efforts that were being raised up against the Lord in our Gospel passage, preparing ourselves for what we are going to celebrate during the Holy Week.

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of God’s assurance that He would save His people and deliver them from all of their troubles then, as at that time they were all troubled after having been humiliated by the destruction of their kingdom and homeland, both the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed and most of the people carried off into exile in far-off lands.

God promised His people that He would restore them and bring them back to the lands of their ancestors, and He fulfilled this promise later on when the descendants of Israel were allowed to return to their homeland by the king of Persia, Cyrus. God restored their honour as a nation and showed them once again that He has loved them all the while despite the disobedience and sins they have committed. Nonetheless, He still wanted them to change and to repent from their sinful ways.

Then in the Gospel today, we heard of the discussions and plans among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council to arrest Jesus and hand Him over to the Romans. And as many of the members of the Sanhedrin belonged to the Pharisees, most of whom were opposed to Jesus, the voices of those who called for the arrest and punishment for Jesus easily overcome those who wanted to listen to Him more carefully and those who supported Him.

This reading is setting us up for the coming of the Holy Week in which the final moments of the Lord’s most important mission was about to be celebrated, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and later on, how the plans of the Sanhedrin came to fruition with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin, and eventually how He was handed over to the Romans, sentenced to death by crucifixion and died on the Cross which we celebrate on Good Friday. And finally He rose from the dead in glory, and we celebrate this gloriously in Easter.

This is how the Lord showed us His salvation and fulfilled all the promises He had made to us earlier on, that by enduring the immense suffering of the Cross and by dying for us, He restored us all into a new life, no longer bound by the tyranny of sin, but through Him we become eligible of the wonderful inheritance of God’s grace. This is the fulfilment of God’s love and promise to all of us which He has made to us and reminded us again and again through time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard in these readings today, we have seen how fortunate we are to have such a wonderful and loving God by our side. God has been so patient with us and so caring and loving, willing to forgive us our trespasses and sins although they may be so plenty. But we need to be willing to receive God’s forgiveness too, for unless we are open to God’s mercy working in our lives, we will not enjoy the fullness of God’s forgiveness and redemption.

Are we able to prepare ourselves well to celebrate the upcoming mysteries of the Holy Week? Are we willing to make this Holy Week a meaningful one by living through it with openness to God’s mercy and through our renewed faith and obedience to God’s will? Let us all spend some time to reflect on how we can better live through our upcoming few days, as we enter into the most sacred time of the year, so that we may truly grow in our spiritual beings, and draw ever closer to God in all things.

Today, we also should look at the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Isidore of Seville, who was the Bishop of Seville in what is now southern part of Spain, renowned for his great piety and dedication to God. St. Isidore championed the efforts to propagate the faith through education and purification of the faith. He convened several Church councils to overcome the falsehoods of heresies, particularly Arianism, and he did his best to help the spiritual growth of his flock. We can definitely learn from his dedication and commitment to God.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and may He guide us in our journey, now and forevermore. May all of us be strong in our faith like that of St. Isidore of Seville, holy servant of God and defender of the faith. Amen.

Friday, 3 April 2020 : 5th Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord showing us even more of the frictions and tensions that existed before the Lord Jesus was to go through His Passion in Jerusalem, suffering and eventually death, as we are really near now to the commencement of the Holy Week, which begins this coming Sunday on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. This brings into our attention what we have been spending time in this season of Lent for, that is to prepare ourselves to celebrate the glorious and solemn mysteries of the Holy Week and Easter.

In our first reading today, we heard of the lamentations and words of the prophet Jeremiah for all those who have persecuted and plotted against him. For at that time, there were many people who despised Jeremiah for all the ominous words and prophecies that he brought to the people, especially the false prophets who tried to persuade the king of Judah and the people otherwise, that they were all doing fine in their state of sin and disobedience against God.

Jeremiah was persecuted terribly and he suffered much during all those years. Had it not been for some help among the few allies he still had, he would have been killed by his enemies. But he trusted in God and remained committed to the mission which the Lord had entrusted him, that he braved the challenges and difficulties in order to carry out the works of evangelisation among the people of God.

Jeremiah’s faith and trust was indeed truly evident, as he remained confident in God’s guidance and help as shown in the first reading today, that God, as a mighty Warrior who is ever faithful will be with His people, and He has devoted Himself to them and would not abandon them in their time of distress. It was this faith which allowed Jeremiah to remain strong in his ministry despite all the trials and difficulties that he had encountered in Judah and beyond.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard of the immense difficulties and challenges that were mounting against Jesus, as the Jews in Judea, particularly the Pharisees and the members of the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin as these took issues with the Lord’s ministry and teachings, and they had done a lot in trying to oppose Him and challenge Him publicly in many opportunities. And in today’s Gospel passage, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, with many of the Jews opposed the Lord and took great issue with His claim being the Son of God.

The Lord had told them the truth and revealed everything to them plainly, but they refused to believe in Him and they did not have faith in Him, and that was why they hardened their hearts against Him and wanted to have Him arrested and killed, as they considered Him as blaspheming against God. Since they were also already deeply biased and prejudiced against Jesus, it was difficult for any words of truth or reason to change their minds, and hence, they persecuted the Lord just as their ancestors had persecuted Jeremiah and the other prophets.

Today, as we approach the beginning of the Holy Week and as we continue to proceed through this season of Lent, we are called to reflect on all that we have heard in today’s Scripture passages. We are all just like those who have persecuted the prophets and also refused to listen to the truth of the Lord. Through our disobedience and sins we have committed, we have acted just like those who rejected the Lord and His prophets and persecuted them.

Yet, God is always merciful and He is always ever willing to forgive us our sins, if we are willing to turn back to Him and embrace once again the fullness of His grace and love. He wants us to get rid of our hardened and stone-like hearts, and exchange it for a new heart of love, filled with renewed faith and desire to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may indeed be more like our Lord in how He has loved us and in being so patient with us despite our constant rejections and refusal to listen to Him.

Let us all proceed into the blessed moments of the Holy Week with this new heart of faith, and open our minds and our whole beings to God to welcome Him into our hearts and minds that we may truly experience a most wonderful and life-changing time in this upcoming Holy Week and also the glorious Easter season. And let us also not forget to continue to pray for the world, especially for all those who are now sick and suffering. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.