(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Third Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 14 : 15 – Exodus 15 : 1

YHVH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!”

The Angel of God who had gone ahead of the Israelites now placed Himself behind them. The pillar of cloud changed its position from the front to the rear, between the camps of the Israelites and the Egyptians. For one army the cloud provided light, for the other darkness so that throughout the night the armies drew no closer to each other. Moses stretched his hand over the sea and YHVH made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea.

The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea.

It happened that in the morning watch, YHVH in the pillar of cloud and fire, looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly move. Then the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites for YHVH is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Stretch your hand over the sea and let the waters come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.

At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant.

Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : I will sing to YHVH, the glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.

Saturday, 27 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the reality of how we are insignificant before the Lord our God, and how limited our minds and intellect are before the Lord, whose will and plans are often not what we want in our lives. Thus, this was why the Apostles and the disciples of Christ did not comprehend the reason why Jesus spoke of His death and His suffering at the hands of the Pharisees and the elders of the people.

Our minds and thoughts are limited, and we are often not aware of what we are doing in our actions. In fact, we often act before thinking. We often jump into action not knowing that we should first carefully consider them, or else we risk consequences for our actions, which are more often than not, negative and harmful rather than positive.

And thus if we dwell always in our pride and our desires, then we are bound to worry, and worry and worry even more, because it is in our nature to worry and to care for our own well-being, to the point that we are deep in our own selfishness and self-preserving attitude, that we even are capable of deeds that cause discomfort and pain to others, so that we may preserve our own benefits and supposedly our happiness.

The disciples themselves still thought in the same way, and worked in the same way. They followed Jesus because they saw first in Him, a great Prophet and miracle worker of God, through whom many people were healed and made whole, had their demons exorcised and cast out of them, and even the feeding of a numerous multitude of four and five thousand men, and many more women and children. And in the end, they even witnessed how Jesus raised dead people back to life.

And in the Transfiguration, we knew how St. Peter, with St. James and St. John were brought by Jesus to the peak of the Mount Tabor, where they witnessed the glory and the true nature of Christ’s divinity, and how they were so joyful and buoyed by the happiness there, that they wanted to remain there forever, asking even Jesus that they ought to pitch tents there to stay on.

That is how mankind are like, as we always prefer the easy path and easy ways, and as much as possible, we tend to prefer to avoid ways of difficulties and challenges. And that was why the three Apostles pleaded with Jesus that they might stay in that place, in the glory of the Lord. But Jesus reminded them with a rebuke, that the reality and the plan of the Lord for us all, is not always a rosy one. He went down the mountain, away from His glory, and eventually, to strip Himself voluntarily from all of His glory and majesty, to suffer and die like a common prisoner and slave on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also the reality about our faith and our lives as the children of God and part of His Church. At times we will encounter challenges and difficulties, and then we will truly be tested on our faith, on whether we ought to keep our own beings first before others and thus succumb to the temptations of our flesh and being, or to listen to the will of God, and do things as He had once done.

And perhaps, the life of the saint whose life we commemorate today will inspire us to do more in our faith, and this saint is in particular, known for his charitable works and even until today is still the patron saints of charitable actions and organisations. He is St. Vincent de Paul, a priest who lived in the late Renaissance era Europe and were renowned as the Great Apostle of Charity.

St. Vincent de Paul was once caught and enslaved by the infamous Berber Muslim pirates, who forced him to work as a slave on rowing ships and eventually was sold from one master to another. One of his master was a lapsed Christian who had converted into the religion of the heretics and apostates, and it was through the patience and hard works of St. Vincent de Paul, that he and his family was converted back into the true faith, and at the same time, St. Vincent de Paul gained his freedom.

St. Vincent de Paul worked hard throughout his life, dedicating himself to the poorest and the weakest in the society. Challenges and persecutions, opposition and hardships were common part of his life, but just as he had suffered even slavery and hardships earlier, he did not give up, and through his works, he became renowned for his great faith and charity, becoming a great source of inspiration to many who followed in his example.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we reflect on the readings of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels, let us all also take note of the examples and perseverance of St. Vincent de Paul. And we too ought to follow in his footsteps, exercising charity and love in all of our actions, casting away all of the pride and selfishness in us. Instead, let us all follow the way which our Lord Jesus Christ had set up before us, that is to love one another just as He had once loved us first.

May Almighty God thus also awaken the spirit of love and charity inside each one of us, that we may do something to help our brethren in need, especially those who are weak and poor, that the Lord who sees all and knows all, will approve of our actions and justify us in our faith and in our actions. God be with us all, brethren in Christ. Amen.

Saturday, 30 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

1 Corinthians 1 : 26-31

Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; He has chosen what the world considers weak to shame the strong.

God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing to nullify the things that are, so that no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace you are in Christ Jesus, who has become our wisdom from God, and who makes us just and holy and free.

Scripture says : Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Monday, 18 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 24 : 15-24

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, I am about to suddenly take from you the delight of your eyes, but you are not to lament or weep or let your tears flow. Groan in silence and do not mourn for the dead; wear your turban, put on your sandals, do not cover your beard or eat the customary food of mourners.”

I spoke to the people in the morning and my wife died that evening. The next morning I did as I had been commanded. Then the people said to me : “Explain to us the meaning of your actions.”

I said to them, “The word of YHVH came to me in these terms : ‘Say to Israel : I am about to profane My sanctuary, your pride, the delight of your eyes for which you long.'”

“‘The sons and daughters you left behind will also fall by the sword, but you will do as I have done : you will not cover your beard or eat the customary food of mourners; you will keep your turbans on your heads and sandals on your feet. You will not lament or weep. Instead, because of your sin, you will waste away and groan among yourselves.'”

“‘Ezekiel will be a sign for you. Do as he did and when this happens you will know that I am YHVH.'”

Monday, 11 August 2014 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of a very relevant passage from the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels. We heard how a people in bondage and slavery is given a new hope, where the darkness and the chains that bound them were proven to be loose-able, and mankind gained a new hope in God.

In the first reading, we heard about the calling of Ezekiel by God in the land of exile, in Babylon where some of the people had been brought to when the king Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah and Jerusalem. He was called from among the group of exiled people of Judah, a people enslaved by war and conquest, and a people without hope under the chains of the Babylonians.

Yet, God made Ezekiel to be His servant and spokesperson to the people in exile and to the future generations, giving them new hope in life and assurance that God is on their side. In the Gospel today, Jesus explicitly mentioned when He spoke to Peter on the matter of paying taxes, that we are the children of God, and to those of us who are true children of God we are given special privileges as the children of our loving Father.

Jesus mentioned that the children of those who tax the people, namely the kings and rulers, need not pay the tax by common sense and rationale. That means those princes and the family members of the rulers do not need to pay the taxes because they belong to the group of those with power and wealth, and thus instead of paying taxes, they truly should be the ones who receive the taxes from the people.

In that sense, therefore, because we are children of the Most High God, Lord of all lords and King of all kings, Master of everything that exist in this Universe, we need not be bound or answer to any other powers and forces, except that of our Lord and Father of course. He is the only One whom we should be obedient to, and the only One whom we should listen to, and not any forces of this world, and definitely not Satan, the father of corruption and evil.

And yet why are we still bound by the laws of this world and obey the statutes of our countries and nations? Why are we then still bound to the earthly rules established by the rulers of this world, our leaders and rulers? It is the exact same reason as why Jesus mentioned in the Gospel, that in order not to incite outrage and opposition from the masses, the sons and relatives of kings and rulers also have to obey and pay their share of the taxes.

And thus, we all, as the children of God, do still have the need to obey the laws and statutes of this world. But we have to always remember that in doing so, we must always use our faith in God and our conscience as guidance. We must never obey those that come in direct opposition to the laws and statutes of the Lord. Obey and be faithful citizens, but we have to be children of God first before considering ourselves as children of this world.

God is our light and our guide in the darkness of this world. Indeed, there are many moments when we can easily fall into despair, such as when we are persecuted or hated because of something, especially if it is because of our faith. But as the Lord showed Ezekiel, that everything that are arrayed against us, they are all nothing compared to the infinite and great majesty and power of our God.

God had given us Jesus, His own Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer. He is the One whom we can trust and place ourselves to. There is no other option for us other than to follow the Lord whenever we lose our way in this world. We must seek the Lord and find Him, and even in greatest despair and sorrow, we must never lose hope because Christ is our hope and our light.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Clare, the founder of the Clarist religious order, also known as the Order of Poor Ladies, much inspired by the Franciscan order of St. Francis of Assisi, a contemporary of St. Clare, also known as St. Clare of Assisi. The religious order she founded became the female counterpart of the Franciscan tradition, and over the years they worked together to bring much goodness to the people of God.

St. Clare was born into a rich and privileged background, and she was destined to be married off to another rich man and heir of other Italian noblemen and wealthy peoples, and yet, God had another plan for St. Clare. St. Clare was very devoted and faithful to God since when she was still very young, and she was adamantly opposed to any plans to marry her off to a rich suitor. She ended up running away from home and sought refuge with St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Clare then devoted herself fully in prayer and to the works related to her religious order, and together with her sisters in service to God, they served the people who are poor and weak, those who are marginalised and bring them new hope in life. She was also well known for her defense of her convent, when an invading force by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II was about to ransack the place.

With the monstrance containing the Holy Eucharist inside lifted high above her head, she repelled the invaders, who were scattered in great fear by a blinding light that came out from the Real Presence in the Eucharist. This is a sign of God’s devotion to mankind, to release them from their bonds, just as He released St. Clare from her bonds in her family, Ezekiel and the exiles of Israel from their Babylonian exile and slavery, and eventually all of mankind from the slavery of sin through the loving sacrifice of Jesus, His Son.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the life and works of St. Clare, we all should from now on put our complete trust in God. We should no longer doubt Him but believe in Him completely, that in Him we have our hope, and our only hope against the forces of darkness and evil arrayed against us, seeking to bind us with the chains of sin, in order to drag us with them into hell.

Therefore, let us all put our trust in God, and strengthen our faith in Him. Let us all no longer fear Satan and his darkness, for God is with us, and He will always be with us, and His light will dispel the darkness of our sins. What we need to do now is to truly repent, change our ways and follow Him. God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 4 August 2014 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 28 : 1-17

Early in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah spoke to me. Hananiah son of Azzur from Gibeon proclaimed in YHVH’s House in the presence of the priests and the people, “This is what YHVH the God of hosts and the God of Israel says : I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

“Within two years I will bring back to this place all the objects that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from YHVH’s House and carried to Babylon. I will likewise bring back Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all who were taken from Judah and deported to Babylon. For I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon – word of YHVH.”

Then Jeremiah replied to Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people, “So be it! May YHVH fulfill the words you have spoken and bring back from Babylon to this place the objects taken from the House of YHVH and all the exiles. Yet hear now what I say in your hearing and the hearing of all the people.”

“The prophets who came before you and me continually prophesied war, disaster and plague to many nations and great kingdoms. So the prophet who prophesies peace will not be recognised as truly sent by YHVH, until his predictions are fulfilled.”

Then Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah and broke it. Hananiah proclaimed in the presence of all the people, “YHVH says this : In the same manner within two years I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all the nations.” Then Jeremiah the prophet went on his way.

Some time later, a word of YHVH came to Jeremiah, “Go and tell this to Hananiah : This is what YHVH says : You have broken a wooden yoke but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. For this is what YHVH the God of hosts and the God of Israel says : I am placing a yoke of iron on the neck of all the nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.”

Then Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “Listen! Hananiah, you have not been sent by YHVH and yet you have deceived these people, giving them false hope with your lies. That is why YHVH says with regard to you : I am removing you from the face of the earth. You will die this very year because you have counselled rebellion against YHVH.”

And in the seventh month of that year Hananiah died.

Sunday, 29 June 2014 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles and Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me on that day; and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!