Saturday, 29 February 2020 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called by God to leave behind our past lives of sin, of disobedience against God, of rebelliousness and waywardness in life, of all sorts of temptations and things that have separated us from the fullness of God’s love among other things. We are called to embrace instead the fullness of God’s love and mercy as we continue to progress through this blessed season and time of Lent.

The Lord has given us this wonderful opportunity through His Church in the institution of the time of Lent to precede the glorious season of Easter as a reminder that all of us are sinners and are in need of purification and change in our way of life. God will guide us in this journey of reconciliation and forgiveness, if we allow Him to guide our path and open our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our midst. On the other hand, if we are stubborn and refuse to change or be open to God, then we will not have any progress in this regard.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us now take a closer look at what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, the Lord Jesus called a tax collector named Levi to follow Him, and Levi readily obeyed, leaving everything behind, his work and all, and followed Jesus. Then, before he was to proceed, Levi’s fellow tax collectors had a dinner with the Lord, which was frowned upon by the Pharisees who considered the tax collectors as traitors and sinners.

Tax collectors had always been reviled and hated during the time of Jesus because not only that they were the ones who collected the much hated taxes that saw people’s incomes being diminished due to the tax for the state, but even more so because at that time the Roman Empire reigned supreme in the Mediterranean region and including over Judea, Galilee and all the lands of the Israelites, those taxes were levied by the Romans and the tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation and as collaborators of the Romans.

To that extent, the tax collectors faced not just intense hatred and dislike but also plenty of prejudice and bias against them. They were seen as dirty, unworthy, wicked, corrupt and evil and were generally shunned by the rest of the society. And this is precisely the sentiment made popular and spread by the Pharisees, who saw themselves as the antithesis of those tax collectors, being pious, good and obedient to the Law, as role models for the people and worthy inheritors of God’s promise.

The Pharisees looked down on the tax collectors and they severely criticised the Lord for His willingness to eat in the house of the tax collector and with those tax collectors no less. But they forgot a very important fact, that just like the tax collectors, they themselves were sinners, but unlike the tax collectors who were willing to listen to the Lord Jesus and accepted His truth, the Pharisees instead hardened their hearts and minds and refused to believe in Jesus.

In what the Lord Jesus then spoke before all of them, that He came into this world seeking those who are sick and troubled, as sins are truly the sickness of our deepest beings, corruptions upon our souls, thus, comparing the attitudes of the tax collectors and the Pharisees, we can easily see which of the two would in the end reap the benefit and wonders of God’s mercy and love. The tax collectors though sinners, they wanted to be healed by God and opened themselves to God’s mercy. And one of their own number, Levi, later to be known as Matthew, became a great saint, one of the Lord’s own Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees, though also sinners, they did not see the depth of their sins and refused the healing that God has offered them. They kept themselves in their pride and refused to allow God’s healing to work in them. Nonetheless, the Lord continued to be patient with them, and we can see how He even forgave them all at the moment of His ultimate suffering on the Cross, asking His heavenly Father to forgive them their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what can we learn from all these? It is the fact that all of us are sinners who have been privileged to have such a loving, caring, compassionate and merciful God, willing to embrace us and to heal us from our afflictions of sin. And we are sinners who have been called to a new existence with God, to embrace a new life filled with God’s grace and free from the corruption of sin. God despises our sins, but not us sinners, and therefore, we should make use of this opportunity especially during this season of Lent, we should draw ourselves closer to God.

May the Lord continue to be with us and watch over us as we journey through life and through this penitential season of Lent. May the Lord bless us and our many good endeavours of faith, and may He strengthen our faith and help us to love Him more and more with each passing moment. Amen.

Friday, 28 February 2020 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are brought yet again to the topic of fasting as a practice that we commonly do during the season of Lent. Especially our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Rites traditions practice fasting throughout the season of Lent, and while we in the Roman Rite are required to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, it will be good for us to discern deeper on the significance of fasting to us.

Fasting is meant for us to remind us of the limitations of our physical bodies and also to restrain our ever-present desires, for the nourishment and satisfaction of food. We know how easily we succumb to the temptation to snack and to gobble as much good food as we are able to lay our hands on. Whenever our eyes look upon good food, naturally we will crave and desire for them, and we want to satisfy ourselves with them.

That is why fasting as a practice trains us in our endurance to resist the many temptations present all around us that are threatening to drag us deeper and deeper into sin. All these temptations distract our focus and attention from God and make us to carry on our lives following the wrong path that is the path of sin and darkness, the path of selfishness, greed and pride that will lead us even further down into the trap of sin.

That is why today we are reminded to fast with the right intention and purpose, and not just fasting but also all sorts of our observances and practices for this Lenten season. It is important that we have the right disposition and direction as we move along through this time of purification and repentance. This Lenten season is a good time for us to reorientate ourselves and our lives, as we seek to redress our sins and our past wicked ways of life, and embrace once again God’s love and embrace His mercy.

However, it is very easy for us to end up falling into the trap of following the laws and practices of the Church as mere formality and customary, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah when the Lord spoke to His people about the kind of fasting that pleased Him. He mentioned how fasting was not just about putting on sackcloths and ashes on oneself as were customary at that time in show of repentance and regret, but more importantly, fasting must be accompanied with a change from within and not just the outside.

For the Pharisees in the Gospel passage today criticised the Lord and His disciples as the disciples did not fast as how the Law of Moses has prescribed fasting on certain days and customs. The Pharisees looked down on them because they in particular treasured the Law and how they observed the Law with great particularity and zeal, to the point that they actually had forgotten the purpose of what they were doing. The Pharisees fasted and did all that because they wanted to be praised for what they have done and they liked it when others looked up to them for their piety and commitment.

If that is the way that we observe our Lent and our fasting and abstinence, then it will not do us any good as when this happened, our hearts and minds are filled not with the love and desire for God and to be forgiven our sins and faults, but instead we are filled with the sin of pride and greed. And the devil knows this very well, so that is why he is busy trying to distract us and to lead us down the path of pride, seeking glorification and satisfaction for our actions and for our piety that defeat the purpose of our Lenten observances in the first place.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on how we can make best use of this Lenten season by turning ourselves and our whole being towards God. Let us not be distracted by vanity and pride, and in fact, let us humble ourselves before God, stripping ourselves free from all the corruption of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire that had clouded our judgment all these while, leading us down the wrong path of sin. Let us all sincerely repent from our sins and make best use of this opportunity that God has given to us, His wonderful and generous mercy that He has provided us. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 27 February 2020 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we enter into the season of Lent that began yesterday with Ash Wednesday, we are constantly being reminded that as Christians our lives in this world will be filled with trials and challenges that we must be ready to endure, the crosses of our lives that we have to bear daily, in following Christ each and every moments of our lives.

If we have not had a difficult and challenging time in life, perhaps we have not truly been faithful in how we have lived our lives so far. I am not saying that we have to go through difficulties and challenges in life in being Christians, but rather that, maybe we have tried to avoid those challenges and difficulties by taking the easier way out by compromising on our Christian values and way of life, and instead adopting ways that are more acceptable to the world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy was the words of the Lord that He had spoken and conveyed to His people, the Israelites through Moses towards the end of their Exodus and journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, on the matter of choosing between the life and path that God has provided and the path of worldliness. He pointed out that while one path leads to life and good, the other leads to evil and death.

This is the same choice that we have then heard being presented by the Lord Jesus to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, as He first revealed to them what He would have to endure as the Son of Man, to be betrayed and made to suffer before He was to die on the Cross, a most painful and humiliating death. And He said how those who believe in Him put their faith in Him ought to take up their crosses and follow Him, to lose their lives that they may gain in the eternal glory that is to come.

In this instance, the Lord also presented the same truth to us, on how we have a choice between enjoying all that this world has to offer us, all the materialistic pursuits and excesses of pleasures that are abundant in our world today, all the pursuits for satisfaction in money, possessions and wealth, in the accumulation of fame and glory, in the gain of prestige and honour, in satisfying our desire for the pleasures of the flesh in all kinds. All of these give us a great and enjoyable life in our world now, but the reality is that, all these things draw us further and further away from God.

The devil knows this very well, and this is why he is doing all that he can do tempt us, persuade us, force us and coerce us to fall into the many temptations present in our lives. The temptations to choose the path that seem more acceptable, easier and more profitable and beneficial to us, which is more often than not, the path of comfort and selfishness, the path of pleasure and indulgence, the path that leads us to temporary joy and satisfaction in this world but which leads us to damnation.

On the other hand, following God more often than not requires us to endure opposition and rejection, ridicule and persecution from others as what Our Lord Himself has experienced. It is a challenge for us to remain faithful as a Christian in our daily living, to be witnesses of our faith in the midst of our communities and among others who do not yet believe in God. And some of us have it more difficult than others, especially those who live in places where Christians are being persecuted daily.

There are many of our fellow brethren out there who are still struggling daily as they have to even hide their faith for being a Christian may mean certain death or suffering, where the worship of Our Lord is forbidden and difficult to get by, among other reasons. There are many out there who are prejudiced against, persecuted and rejected just because they believe in Christ, and these are those who share in the cross of Christ daily. But it does not then mean that if we do not suffer in the same way they do then we are not carrying our crosses.

Rather, to carry our cross means that we ought to be true disciples of Christ in everything, and not just in mere formality only. There are many of us who treat our faith as no more than just fulfilling the basic obligations of our faith, and we even did so grudgingly, preferring to make use of the time to satisfy our other desires and wishes instead. If we carry on living like this, it is what the Lord exactly meant by losing our souls and everything just so that we can gain the glory of the world. Is it worth for us to gain a temporary pleasure now and then suffer an eternity in suffering from which there is no escape? Let us think carefully about it.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this season of Lent, each and every one of us are called to live our lives with a newfound faith and commitment to God. We are all called to be true witnesses of the Lord and dedicate our lives to the service of God from now on. Let us all reflect on this and see in which way we then can live our lives in a more Christian manner, by taking up our crosses in life daily, striving to love the Lord our God through our daily actions and deeds at all times. Let our Lenten observances, deepening ourselves through prayer, charitable works, fasting and abstinence bring us closer to God and away from the many temptations around us.

May God bless us all and may He grant us the courage and strength to be faithful even through the difficult challenges and moments of our journey in faith. May God also help us to resist the temptations to abandon our faith and seek instead the pleasures of life, that all of us may be reminded instead of the love which God has for each and every one of us, so that He was willing to bear the suffering and pain of the Cross and death, that each and every one of us may not perish because of our sins, but live. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020 : Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we mark the beginning of the sacred season of Lent, the forty days of preparation for the season of Easter. On this day which is Ash Wednesday, all of us as Christians are reminded of our own sinfulness, vulnerability and mortality, with the symbolic use of the blessed ashes sprinkled or marked on our foreheads that is accompanied by the words, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’ or ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’.

Today on Ash Wednesday we mark a break from our usual life with the practice of fasting and abstinence, in which all of us Christians are bound to do in accordance with the laws and rules of the Church. Abstinence is a must for all Christians aged fourteen years and above, for them to abstain from eating of meat, as well as other form of restraining of oneself from a desire. Meanwhile, fasting is compulsory for all Christians aged between eighteen and fifty-nine years old for them to have only one full meal during the day with two smaller meals called collations that when added do not constitute a full meal.

The practice of fasting and abstinence are done as part of our faith and the Church law as these help us to remind ourselves to not be overcome by the many temptations present in our lives, be it the temptation of wealth, the temptation of glory and fame, the temptation of pleasure and all sorts of other worldly pursuits that we often face daily in this life. This is why we practice fasting and abstinence because we want to control ourselves and restrain our desires and attachments to worldly things.

For all these attachments, desires and temptations in life often caused us to falter in our lives and in our journey towards God. As long as we allow ourselves to be distracted with those temptations in life, we will not be able to fully reconcile ourselves with God, and as a result too, we will likely be drawn further and further away from Him as if we allow our desires and all the worldly temptations to affect us, we will end up seeking self preservation and fulfilment in life, in our actions and words and deeds, thinking of our own wants and desires above that of serving God.

That is why so many of us mankind have forgotten about God, overlooking Him and denying Him His rightful presence and position in our lives. Instead of being the sole focal point and centre of attention, God has often been sidelined and ignored, and we only remember Him when we are in trouble and in need of help. Even then, many of us prefer to seek comfort and help from other sources besides God, as we are often tied by our own attachments to wealth, power, fame and all sorts of worldliness as mentioned.

The Lord has called all of us as Christians to free ourselves from all those things that often become obstacles in our path towards God and His salvation. He wants us to be rid of the excesses of our greed that kept our attention to be focused on fulfilling our desires and doing things that are contrary to what God has taught us through our Christian faith and the Church. That is why we fast, we abstain and restrain ourselves with humility and determination that we will not end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

That is why beginning on today, Ash Wednesday, we enter into this time and season of purification and the rediscovery of our faith. It is also a time to reorientate our lives and find our path towards God if we have fallen away or moved in the direction all these while. God has always been willing to welcome us back and forgive us all our sins, provided that we are willing to change our ways and repent wholeheartedly from our previous waywardness and sinful ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is exactly where the difficult part is, as too many of us are prevented by our ego and pride to admit that we have erred and made mistakes in our lives. We are too proud to admit that we have been wrong and that we are in need of healing, and that is why then many among us just carry on through life not bothered by our sins and failures to keep God’s laws and commandments. And thus on this particular day, as the blessed ashes are sprinkled on the crown of our heads or marked on our foreheads, we are reminded to humble ourselves that after all, no matter how great or prideful we are, if we allow sin to continue to reign over our lives, there will truly be nothing left for us but annihilation and damnation.

Many of us are distracted by the temptations I mentioned earlier, and we spent so much time and effort trying to pamper and satisfy ourselves, pleasing ourselves will all sorts of worldly preoccupations and rejoicing. We live thinking as if we will live forever or that whatever we have accumulated in life will be ours forever. We are obsessed with our appearances and with maintaining our good persona in front of everyone else, and yet, we forget that no matter how much we have invested into all these, it takes just one moment of death to separate us from all these.

As I said before, the blessed ashes remind us that ultimately, all of our ambitions and desires, our obsessions and schemings are meaningless due to our mortality, and we are all reminded of the shortness of our lives. We should not think that we can just do it as we please, and take advantage of God’s generous and rich offer of mercy. If we keep on postponing and delaying, waiting for the right moment for us to repent, we will be disappointed to know eventually that we may likely end up in damnation before we manage to repent.

We should not delay or wait any longer, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have to make good use of this precious opportunity given to us to embrace fully God’s generous mercy and love. That is why this season of Lent is also known as the season of preparation for Easter, as not only just that we are looking forward to the glorious joy of Easter, but we are also reminded that during this period, we are to make ourselves ready in heart, mind, soul and indeed in our whole being to fully immerse ourselves in the celebration of the most important moments of the history of our salvation.

For Lent is when we are constantly reminded of the nature of our frail and weak human existence, easily tempted by the devil and all his wicked allies the evil spirits who are always ready all around us trying to bring about our downfall. And it is also then a reminder that while we have sinned and fallen from grace, but we must remember that in the end, the love of God for each and every one of us is even far greater than the terrible weight of our sins.

And that is why today we are reminded, that for all of our Lenten practices and observances, such as fasting and abstinence, as the Lord mentioned in our Gospel passage today, must have the right intention and purpose. We are warned not to follow the examples of the Pharisees who fasted publicly and with great emphasis to be seen and praised by others for their piety and observance of the Law of God. That kind of faith is empty and meaningless as deep inside their hearts, God was not present. Instead they were too full of pride to allow God to enter.

Why do we fast or do abstinence, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it so that others see us and applaud our faith? Or is it that we can satisfy certain desires we have, such as being cleansed and forgiven from our sins? The second and latter one is certainly not too far from what we ought to be doing, but as I mentioned earlier, for forgiveness and mercy to come fully to us, there is a need for us to have that love for God and the desire because of that love to seek to be forgiven from our sins.

Remember how Christ loved each and every one of us who are sinners, who betrayed Him and abandoned Him, who were among those who condemned Him to a most painful death on the Cross. And yet, it is exactly because He loved us so much, that He was willing to bear the burden of the Cross for us. That is how the Cross of Christ become for us a symbol of victory and triumph from our sins, a symbol of God’s ultimate love for us and our redemption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we bear the symbol of the blessed ashes on the crown of our heads today, and begin the proper season of Lent, are we able to love God with a new zeal and commitment knowing just how much He has loved each and every one of us all these while? If He can love us all so much to bear the immense suffering of the Cross, then surely we can also make the effort to love Him no? And this is why we fast and do our abstinence today, and observe our Lenten observations and practices, because we love God and because we love Him, we want to be purified from our previous, wicked ways.

Let us all begin this season of Lent right, brethren in Christ, that we may make good use of this time and opportunity given to us to change our lives and repent wholeheartedly in this season of Lent so that we who are sinners may be forgiven our sins by God, our loving Lord and Father, and receive from Him the assurance of new life filled with true joy and grace, by His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and His loving sacrifice on the Cross for us. May the Lord be with us always and may His blessings always be upon us. I wish all of us, a most fruitful and blessed season and time of Lent. Amen.

Saturday, 20 April 2019 : 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! On this most blessed night, the greatest of all nights and the greatest of all days in the entire liturgical year, we celebrate the long awaited moment of when the Lord Jesus Christ has been risen from the dead, the coming of Easter after the long wait during our Lenten observance for more than forty days including the sacred Holy Week observances. On this day we mark the great culmination of the work of the Lord’s salvation, the triumph of the Cross and the Resurrection of Our Lord in glory.

The Resurrection completed the Passion of Our Lord, the suffering, pain and trials He had suffered as He endured the pain of the Cross, which would have all been meaningless and fruitless had He not risen from the dead, and therefore remained dead as all other men were. He rose from the dead by His own glorious might and power, to show that not even death had the power and dominion over Him, as He is truly the Master over life and death.

On this night, we celebrate that very moment when Christ overcome the tyranny of death, which is caused by sin. Death is the sting of sin, and all of us have been freed from its power by the Lord’s own action, His selfless offering on the Cross, by which He united us all to His death, in dying to our own sinful selves, and through which He then united us all to His resurrection, as we enter into the new life blessed and filled with God’s grace.

In the many Scripture passages and readings we heard on this blessed Easter Vigil, seven from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, we are constantly reminded of the Lord’s many good works, providence and love for each and every one of us mankind, throughout the history of our world, from the beginning of time and creation, and leading through the ages to the culmination of God’s saving works in the glorious resurrection.

We are reminded first of all, of the creation of the world, when God imposed order on chaos that existed before then, and the first thing that God did, was to bring forth Light into the world, into a world that was once filled with darkness. And then, He created all things, all creatures that were all made good and perfect, just as their Creator Himself is all good and perfect. And in the same manner, all of us mankind, were made as the culmination of God’s work of creation, created in His own image and likeness.

Thus, that was how God created the whole world, and all of us mankind, created good and perfect in all that God had intended. But unfortunately, through our disobedience and by our refusal to obey the Lord’s commands, and by our choice to side with the devil and follow his tempting words, we have been made unclean and unworthy, sundered from God’s grace and separated from His love. That was how we have fallen into sin and into our unfortunate state.

Yet, the Lord continued to love each and every one of us regardless of the sins we have committed. Indeed He despised all of the sins we have committed in life, but He did not despise us all, those whom He Himself had created with His hands, made out of His love for each and every one of us. If God has not loved us so dearly, He would have destroyed us outright the very moment we chose to abandon Him and to commit abominable sins in our lives, and cast us immediately into hell.

It was God’s enduring love for all of us that we have come to celebrate throughout the entirety of this Holy Week and Paschal Triduum, as we recall the love that He has for every one of us, so great that He willingly emptied Himself of all glory and honour, and humbled Himself to bring about the salvation of all the world, of all mankind. And He did all these by assuming the flesh of Man, that He might share with us our humanity, and therefore, uniting ourselves to His suffering and death, He might bring us through the journey to embrace the fullness of His redemption and mercy, and receive from Him, the fullness of grace and eternal life.

And through the mysteries celebrated this Holy Week and Paschal Triduum, we saw how God restored to us all, the graces He has intended for us all mankind since the beginning of time. We may have been deterred temporarily through sin, and we probably had faced this obstacle in our journey due to the many temptations present in our respective lives, but God is calling on us to embrace the new life that He is now calling us into, a new life and existence in Him.

We heard from the second reading today, how God established His Covenant with Abraham, promising him that his descendants would be numerous and would form many nations, and Abraham promised to be faithful to God and to His Covenant, and that his descendants would do so as well. This is the Covenant that the people of Israel upheld, and which they carried with them as they went through what we heard in our third reading passage today, of the time of the salvation of Israel from the hands of their oppressors.

And on this day, on the occasion of the Easter Vigil, the third reading from the Book of Exodus invites us to reflect on the moment of our own baptism, and on those who are going to be baptised in the Rite of the Christian Initiation later on in today’s liturgy. We heard how the Israelites were fleeing from their former masters and oppressors, the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, who hardened their hearts and changed their minds about letting the Israelites to go free to the land promised to them by God.

The Egyptians chased them to the edge of the Red Sea, when the Israelites despaired having seen themselves pressed between the sea and their enemies. But God reassured them and stood between them and death, and through Moses, opened the sea itself before their eyes. They walked through the dry seabed, and crossed to the other side safely, while their oppressors were destroyed by the same waters, when the Lord crushed them all with the rushing waves as they tried to pursue God’s people.

And this is a reminder to each and every one of us, how God has brought us through the water of baptism, as we have all been sealed by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, in the Name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and for those who are about to be baptised tonight, this moment was just about to come, like the Israelites who were once frightened and fearful for their lives at the edge of the Red Sea, and yet, God made them to walk safely through the water.

Water is capable of both destruction and of nurturing lives. Water in its destructiveness can cause such harm that led to the loss of much property and human lives, and how it destroyed the armies and chariots of Pharaoh was ample proof of how water was capable of destruction. Yet, water is also capable of bringing life to us, for without water, nothing can live and survive, and water nourishes and nurtures life.

Therefore, by reflecting on the salvation of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea, we recall our own baptism, and prepare ourselves to witness our brethren who are going to have theirs this very night. Through baptism, we have been united to the Lord’s own Passion, suffering, death and most important of all, His glorious resurrection. By the water of baptism, we have entered into death, just as Christ truly died on the cross, and we die to our past, sinful and unworthy lives.

But we did not remain in death, just as the Lord did not remain in death, but rose in glory, the glory of His Easter Resurrection. And thus, just as the Israelites emerged from the Red Sea unharmed, into a new life of freedom from slavery, we too have left behind our old slavery to sin, and enter into a new life, resurrected from our sinful selves, and become sharers in the new Covenant that the Lord Himself had made with each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as mentioned in the beginning of this homily, the occasion of Easter Vigil celebrates the culmination of our Lord’s Passion and work of salvation, completing perfectly what He had begun, by the offering of His own Body and Blood, which He shared with His disciples on the Last Supper, as we share in His own Real Presence in us. Through our sharing of His Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we enter into the New, True and Everlasting Covenant that He Himself established with us, the children of Abraham, our father in faith.

And this Covenant is the restoration of the grace and the goodness that are ours at the beginning of time, as God Himself has become the bridge by which all of us pass through safely through the danger of death. Between us and God, there had been a chasm that separated us all because of our sins, but Jesus Christ, Our Lord, through His sacrifice on the Cross, has offered His own Precious Body and Blood, to be the atonement for our sins, and by that sacrifice, restored to us the grace that we have lost through sin.

On this day, the day of most wonderful Easter joy, we rejoice because we have been freed from sin, and through the water of baptism, either as the newly baptised or as those who have been baptised earlier on, we have received the promise of eternal life and glory from God. And we have also received the wonderful Light of Christ, reminding us of the moment of Creation, when God brought order to all chaos and created everything good and perfect. The Light of Christ has penetrated through the darkness that surrounded us, casting out from us the sins and all things that have kept us enslaved, that is our sins and wickedness.

On this day, we recall the promises which we made at baptism, when we resoundingly and resolutely reject Satan’s false promises and shows, all of his temptations, and abandon all the darkness of this world, and instead, embrace wholeheartedly the Light of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. On this day, Light has triumphed over darkness, Christ has triumphed over sin and death, our enemies and all those who sought our downfall and destruction.

On this day, we rejoice together as the whole entire Universal Church, as God has renewed in us again and again, the hope of His salvation, reminding us of the love which He has given us through the Passion of His own Beloved Son, Who suffered so grievously all of the persecutions and pains He had received, but which He endured willingly, out of His love for us. It was this enduring love and His liberation of each and every one of us from our sins that we rejoice for today.

Let us all now carry on this Easter joy in our own respective lives, and have that courage and faith in us, to bring forth the Light of Christ to the whole world. And this is our calling and responsibility as baptised Christians, to be the witnesses for the Lord, and proclaim His Risen glory to all, through our own lives, by living the message of the Good News of the Lord, by practicing in our own lives, fundamentally the love for God and the love for our fellow men.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, that all of us will grow ever closer to God and be more attuned to His ways and be more obedient to His commandments and laws. Let us all bear the joy of Easter to all of our brethren, especially all those who are probably unable to rejoice in the same way as we do because of various reasons, either because of persecutions or because of the many distractions of the world. And let us also bear this joy of Easter to encourage all those who have not yet received or seen the light of Christ, by showing that Light in our own lives and actions.

Let us all be joyful bearers of Christ’s truth, and let us all share this Easter joy, living fully our lives with faith from now on, being role models to one another, inspiring each other to be closer to God and to be more faithful to Him. May the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Risen Lord and Saviour be with us always. Amen.

Friday, 19 April 2019 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the occasion of Good Friday, the day which commemorates the moment when Our Lord Jesus Christ bore His Cross and suffered for each and every one of us, and died on the Cross at Calvary, a pivotal and very important moment in the whole history of our salvation. That is why, despite the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are often associated with this day because of the Crucifixion, but we call this day Good Friday, because the Lord has truly brought us true goodness on this day.

And in order to understand this better, we have to understand and appreciate the significance of what happened on Good Friday, and know how Good Friday has changed our history and our lives forever. Before Good Friday, there was no hope yet for our salvation, and all of us mankind were still enslaved by sin, and there was no escape from our fate of death, for our disobedience and refusal to believe in God.

But after Good Friday, there is a fundamental transformation, as dramatically shown to us as the Lord’s death on the cross, and as the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem was torn open into two. For through the crucifixion, our Lord’s death and resurrection, the Lord has fulfilled completely all that He has promised to all of us from the very beginning, that is from the moment when we mankind first fell into sin.

And the Lord, Our Saviour and Liberator, became the New Adam, as the Son of Man and Son of God, in overturning all the old sins and faults of the old Adam, by which all of us mankind have been brought into sin, and separation from God, our loving Father and Creator. The New Adam brought with Him instead, reconciliation and new life blessed by the grace of God, and countered all that the devil had put in place to bring about our downfall.

The old Adam represents the old life of sin, which we too have had a share in, in our own sinful existence, in our disobedience and refusal to be wholly devoted and committed to God. While the New Adam, Christ was the revelation of the new life that we have been called to embrace, a life wholly dedicated to God, and marked by the love which Christ Himself has shown us, a perfect and selfless love for God and for our fellow men.

Let us begin the comparison and appreciate just how the Lord has overturned all the barriers and traps by which the devil had enslaved us with. In the Book of Genesis, Satan tempted both Adam and Eve, tempting them with the temptations of power and knowledge, embracing their ego and desires, that as Satan himself said, that if they took and ate of the fruits of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat, they would not die, but rather, became like God because they would come to know of all things good and evil, to be equal to God.

Eve succumbed to the temptation, and in turn, tempted Adam to do the same, and as a result, both sinned against God because of their disobedience, and Satan won his first victory against us, God’s beloved people. But almost immediately, God countered with a solemn promise and prophecy that Satan would be defeated and all of his wicked designs would be broken and defeated by His Saviour, the One Who was promised, and was fulfilled in Jesus, the Saviour of the whole world.

Jesus was born of Mary, His mother, and although He is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who embraced the flesh of humanity, but He is also fully Man, just as He is fully Divine. And it is through Jesus, His Passion, suffering and crucifixion that Satan was handed the definitive and decisive blow, that completely countered and negated all the evil designs he had had for us mankind from the foundations of the world.

While Jesus is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve. And both acted in ways that rebuked Satan’s attempts to bring about our downfall. While Eve was disobedient and persuaded Adam to disobey, Mary was faithful and committed totally to God, and in fact, faithfully stayed by the side of her Son, all the way through the Way of Suffering, following Him and remaining close by His side even when all of His disciples fled and ran in fear, right down to the feet of the Cross.

And this is the reflection of the ultimate faith, obedience and commitment that the Lord Jesus Himself showed, as He willingly obeyed His Father’s will, in taking up His Cross, despite of knowing fully what was awaiting Him, all the trials, torture, pain and suffering, challenges and difficulties, and the most humiliating and painful death He was to suffer from. He could have rejected it and abandoned His mission, and yet, He gave Himself so completely and obeyed so well that His prayers for our sake were heard and fulfilled.

While Adam was filled with greed and pride, and fell because of that pride, the Lord Jesus willingly emptied Himself from all glory, emptying Himself from the glory of His Kingship and Divinity, and accepted the most humiliating, inhumane and painful death, death of a criminal on the Cross, reserved for the worst of criminals and rebels at the time of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, while through pride and greed, Adam as well as Eve fell into sin, the Lord Jesus, together with His mother Mary through humility and faith regained for us our heavenly grace.

And last of all, while the old Adam and the first men fell because of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the forbidden tree, the Lord Jesus was crucified on another tree, the tree of the combination of all the sins and wickedness that we have committed because of our pride, our ego, our desire, all of the wicked things within us. And that tree, on which Our Lord and Saviour was hung, is none other than the Cross of our salvation.

Therefore, as we have seen and heard for ourselves, the Lord opposed the works of the devil on every front, and while men had faltered and fell into sin, the Lord showed that sin did not have the final say. For He is much more powerful than even sin and death, and His death on the Cross proved that He can conquer sin and death, and broke the hold that sin and death had over us all mankind, who believe and trust in Him. And we see the proof of this at the Resurrection.

And He also did this, by doing what the Father has willed Him to do, as mentioned by the second reading passage today, in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In that passage, we heard of how the Lord Jesus was described as a High Priest, and not just as any other High Priests, but the one and true, Eternal High Priest, Who has offered His offerings with tears and pain, with sorrow and suffering, for the offering He offered was not of animals and the blood of lambs, but of His own Flesh and His own Blood, He Who is our Paschal Lamb, making a new, Eternal and unbreakable Covenant with us.

A priest in the time of the Old Testament acted as the intermediary between God and man, as the bridge between God and man, linking what had been separated by sin. The priests offered on the altar, the blood of lambs to be the temporary atonement and source of consolation for the sins and rebelliousness of the people of God. But the priests themselves were sinners, and they had to offer sacrifices to atone for their own sins first as well. On the other hand, Christ, Who is the Sinless One, willingly took up upon Himself, both the role of the High Priest as well as the Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed.

We have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Cross of Christ, is the Altar upon which our Eternal and True High Priest, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has offered Himself as the only perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice, by which He brought upon us, healing, pardon and complete reconciliation with God, bringing on us the promised salvation, grace and everlasting life and glory.

By His own loving sacrifice, His own selfless offering and love for God His heavenly Father and for each and every one of us, Our Lord Jesus has brought upon us the salvation that God has long promised to us, and He has brought upon us a new hope and the Light that pierced through the darkness that is in our lives. With Christ, a new Light has dawned, and a new Hope has come into our midst, that with Him, there is hope for each and every one of us sinners.

Today, on this blessed Good Friday, let us fix our attention on the One Who is hung on the Cross. Let us all gaze upon His wounded face, and look at all the wounds that cover His Precious Body. Let us realise that each and every one of those wounds are the very sins that we have committed each and every days of our life, even to the smallest and what is seemingly most trivial of sins. All of these are wounds that we have inflicted on the Lord, and yet, which He willingly took up on Himself because of the love He has for each and every one of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do we all know why is it that Christ suffered so dearly and so painfully? That is because of His love, His great and amazing love for all of us, even to the greatest of sinners. And it is because of this love that He experienced such great pain and sorrow, such suffering and agony, because He knows that unless we get rid from ourselves these sins, He will be separated from us eternally, as we fall into the eternal darkness, out of which there is no escape.

His agony on the Cross, as we continue to gaze on Him Who is hung on the Cross, is caused by all of our refusal to be faithful and to obey the will of God. His pain and sorrow are caused by our own pride, our own greed and jealousy, our ambition and selfishness, all of the wicked things we have done towards one another, every moments we have caused hurt on others, when we trample on the rights and dignity of our fellow brethren, and every time we fail to act with love, when there are people who are suffering and unloved in our midst.

Yet, He endured them all, because of His love for each and every one of us. His love and compassion for us so great that He even forgave His enemies and persecutors from the Cross, praying that their sins would not be held against them. Thus in the same way, God has also willingly loved us and desired to forgive us from our sins, and He extends His hands to us, to embrace us and to welcome us back, that we may be fully reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the love of Christ made evident in the Cross today, on this Good Friday and beyond. Let us all bear our own cross with love, following the examples of Christ, that we accept His ever generous offer of mercy and embrace His compassionate heart. Let us all turn wholeheartedly to Him and abandon all things that have separated us from Him, all things that have caused Him to be wounded, our sins and rebelliousness.

Let us from now on, endeavour and do our best to love God, Who has loved us first so much that He endured all those sufferings for us. And let us all also love one another, that we truly become the beacons and bearers of Christ’s Light and love in this world of darkness, that through our love, many more will come to believe in the Lord and in the salvation He has brought to us through His Cross. Let us follow the example of the Christ, the New Adam, and abandon the past sins we have, the life of the old Adam, who fell into sin.

May the glorious Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ be our guide always, that each and every one of us will grow ever deeper in faith and in our love for God, remembering at each and every moments of our life, the boundless love that He has shown us through the Cross. May He continue to be present within our hearts, that the love of Christ Crucified will fill us to the brim, and allow us to be loving to one another and towards God in the same way that Christ has loved us, all the way to the Cross. Amen.

Thursday, 18 April 2019 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate together the first day of the Paschal or Easter Triduum, the three most important days in the entire liturgical year, marking the beginning of the events that marked the very crucial moment in our human history and existence, the moment when God Himself intervened to save us all from our fated destruction, by His own Passion, suffering and death on the cross, and by His glorious resurrection, through which He conquered sin and death.

On this night we gather to celebrate the moment of Our Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples, which marked the beginning of the long sequence of events that led to His death on the cross, and on that night, when the Last Supper happened, the Lord instituted not just one, but two of the most important Sacraments of the Church, that is of the Eucharist, as well as the Holy Orders of the sacred priesthood.

First of all, with regards to the Eucharist, on this night, through the Scripture passages we heard, we are reminded of the Last Supper being the new and true Passover, which fulfilled and completed the Passover as known to the Jewish people, the one that celebrated the moment of the liberation of the people of Israel from their slavery in the land of Egypt, when God brought them out by His own power, and freed them from the tyranny of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

The details were mentioned in our first reading passage today, in which the Israelites were told to take a lamb for each household, and in which the lamb was to be slaughtered and to be eaten after being roasted on the fire for each of the members of the household. Meanwhile, the blood of the lamb was to be marked on the doorposts of the houses of the people of Israel, so that the Angel of God bearing the plague of death on the Egyptians would not harm them.

And this is where the new, Christian Passover of Our Lord Jesus Christ, represented in the Last Supper, was truly significant when we understand the importance of the first, old Jewish Passover of the time of the Exodus. At the new Christian Passover, that is at the Last Supper, there is also lamb to be sacrificed and shared by the people, but that is not the usual Passover as known to the Jewish people at the time. For the Lord Himself is the Lamb, and He offered Himself, His own Flesh and Blood, to be the Lamb of Sacrifice.

And the Last Supper was merely part of a larger celebration and event, which is why, we celebrate it all together as part of the most sacred Paschal Triduum, where if we carefully look through the entirety of the liturgical celebrations, is one large and extended celebration of the Holy Mass, because the same Eucharist consecrated on this night, at the celebration of the Last Supper, will also be used tomorrow on Good Friday, the day when we celebrate the Lord’s crucifixion and death.

As such, the Last Supper cannot be separated from the Crucifixion, for both of them are part of the one and same sacrifice of Our Lord. Jesus Our Lord is the Lamb of the Passover, the Paschal Lamb Who has been sacrificed for us all, just as how the priests of the ancient Israel offered the sacrificial lamb for the atonement of the sins of the people, and the sacrificial lamb’s blood was spilled on the altar as a reminder of how the blood of the lamb marked Israel’s salvation and liberation at the time of the Exodus.

Significantly, the Lamb of God, our Paschal Lamb is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, willingly embraced to be slaughtered for all of our sins, and spilled His own Most Precious Blood on the Altar of the Cross. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Calvary or Golgotha, the place where the Lord was crucified, is the Altar on which the Lord offered Himself both as the High Priest of all of us mankind, and offering Himself as the perfect offering by which God reconciled us all to Himself.

When the Lord at the Last Supper took the bread, blessed the bread and said the words of the Institution, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is My Body… which shall be given up for you…” and when He took the chalice, filled with wine, blessed it and gave it to His disciples to drink, “Take this, all of you and drink from it… for this is the chalice of My Blood… the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant…” He did not just symbolically just mentioned the bread and wine being His Body and Blood.

On the contrary, Jesus was very clear, that the bread and wine, through His own Divine Power and united to His own crucifixion that would soon to happen at the time, that the bread He gave to His disciples was His Real Body and the wine He gave to them was His Real Blood. And to all of His disciples, He has given them the commandment and the mandate, to do what He has done, in His memory.

And when He passed His Body and Blood to His disciples, it was just as the old Jewish Passover, when everyone shared in the lamb that has been slaughtered, by which blood they have been ‘passed over’ by the Angel of Death, and were saved. The Israelites were saved and liberated from the slavery of sin by the blood of the unblemished lamb, and now, all of us who believe in Christ, are saved by the Blood of the Lamb of God, the true and perfect unblemished Lamb, worthy to save us all from our sins.

That was why, just as the Lord instituted the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist, He also instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Orders at that occasion of the Last Supper, which we are celebrating tonight. Each of those whom God has called and chosen to be His holy priests, are the successors of the Apostles, to whom the Lord has given the power and the authority, to unite their own offerings at every celebrations of the Holy Mass, to His own sacrificial offering on the Cross at Calvary.

That is why, every single celebrations of the Mass is properly known as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by the Lord Himself, as the same sacrifice that the Lord has performed at Calvary. The Lord is not sacrificed again and again, but only once and for all, and this is the same sacrifice which is reenacted again and again at every celebration of the Holy Mass, when the priests, ordained by the successors of the Apostles, and become successors of the Apostles themselves.

The responsibilities that our priests have accepted to bear are enormous, as they are entrusted with the role to be in persona Christi, to represent Christ Himself in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and therefore, to bring forth and unite all the people of God to the same sacrifice that the Lord Jesus has done on the Cross. Through His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has become the ultimate servant of all, the servant of all the people of God, humbling Himself and emptying Himself of all glory, that He may save us all through His perfect and selfless offering of love.

Thus, let us all pray, brothers and sisters in Christ, that each and every one of us will deepen our faith in God, especially as we enter into the sacred mysteries of the Paschal Triduum, and reflect on our belief and faith in the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, and unite our prayers together with all those whom God had called to be His servants, to be those called to the Holy Orders, to be like Christ and to be His representatives on this world.

Let us all pray that our priests will be filled with love, and also a spirit of humility and selflessness, that they may offer their own loving self and give themselves in sacrifice for the good of all the people of God, just as the Lord Himself has done. Let us all pray that they all will be faithful to the calling and to the mission which God has entrusted to them, that just as He commanded them as He washed the feet of His disciples, that they will be filled with a spirit of faithful servanthood, of courageous faith to serve all of God’s people.

And finally, let us also be inspired by the examples set by our priests and all those who have given themselves to the service of God, that we too, may follow the example of the Lord and obey the commandment that He has mandated to His disciples, that we love one another, and be humble in all things, becoming servant to one another in love.

Let us all recall that infinite and boundless love that Christ has shown us, by His willing sacrifice in becoming our Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, so that each and every one of us who partake in Him in the Eucharist, will share in His death, by dying to our own past, sinful selves, and then share in His glorious resurrection, to a new life filled with God’s grace. Let us all then prepare ourselves to celebrate meaningfully the most important events in the history of our salvation, by focusing our attention on this Paschal Triduum on Our Lord Jesus Christ, His love for us, and His selfless sacrifice, by which all of us have been saved, by the power of the Cross. Amen.