Friday, 17 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together as we heard in the Scriptures being read this day, the love and mercy of our Lord and God, who had delivered us from the power of death, so that we may be freed from the bondage and slavery of sin which leads eventually to death. Through Christ and what He had done in this world in full obedience to the Lord, He had brought us safety and reassurance against the power of death.

That is because by His suffering and death, He willingly took upon Himself the scourge of death, and all the consequences of our sins, so that those who trust in Him and believe in the words of truth and the Good News He brought, may gain the fullness of salvation and new life just as He had promised to the people of God. Christ had broken the power of death and freed mankind from the tyranny of sin by the act of His ultimate love and obedience to God the Father.

As mentioned ll by Jesus, that we have nothing to fear from sin and death if we are faithful to the Lord through our devotion and faith in Jesus, the Lord and Messiah sent by the Father to be our beacon of hope in this darkened world. As long as we keep ourselves strongly attached and faithful to the teachings of God, we will be safe from all evils and difficulties related to sin and death. Yes, Satan will do all in his power to try and wrest us back from the Lord, and bring us back into damnation, but if we are vigilant, we will not easily fall again for his lies and tricks.

That was why Jesus warned the people to be vigilant and careful against the yeast of the Pharisees. What is this yeast of the Pharisees? It is namely the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the human soul and heart, which infect us all mankind, as the tools and leverages of Satan in trying to subvert us and turn us against the Lord our loving God and Father. It is pride, jealousy, hatred, lack of faith, and many other vulnerabilities that exist in our hearts.

The Pharisees were a group of social elites in the society of the people of God at the time, and they commanded great respect from the people and wielded great teaching authority in teaching the matters of the faith. They took great pride in their position and authority, and were jealous in guarding them against anyone they saw as threats and potential rivals to their power and authority, as well as prestige.

This is what brought them into direct conflict with the group of the Sadducees, the rational thinkers and the powerful nobilities in the society of the people of God, as the Pharisees acted as the extremely orthodox and zealous defenders of the laws of Moses, to the point that they pointed out the extremities in the application of those laws through their own actions, leading the people away from the true intention and meaning of those laws.

They violently rejected Christ, who they saw as a revolutionary preacher and a great threat to their teaching authority and influence. To this end, they always tried to disrupt His teachings and also to test Him wherever He went, asking many questions designed to trap Him, in which they failed, for the Lord knew all that were in their hearts and minds, and their evil desire to bring about His downfall.

This was why Jesus was so adamant in His warning to the people, that they need to guard themselves against the yeast of the Pharisees. Indeed, as I have mentioned, that through His own actions and act of supreme and ultimate love on the cross, Jesus had given us all new hope through our liberation from the tyranny of our sins and from the enslavement of evil, but this does not mean that we can just get this easily without effort.

In order for us to be saved, then in all of our actions we have to guard ourselves from the yeast of the Pharisees, that is hatred, jealousy, prejudice, greed and desire, violence, anger and wrath, pride and arrogance, and many other things which are indeed the main cause for all of us mankind in our committing of sins and evils. The many sins and evils of this world can be traced to these evils, the evils of our hearts, which we should indeed excise and remove from ourselves.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter who was the first Bishop of Antioch. He was a martyr of the faith, who was martyred in the defense of the Faith which he held so dearly. St. Ignatius of Antioch was a convert to the Faith in his youth, and he was also told to be among the children whom the Lord had called to His embrace as told in the Gospels.

St. Ignatius of Antioch succeeded St. Peter in the leadership of the faithful in the major city of Antioch, one of the first dioceses in the world, and the place where the faithful were first called by the appelation ‘Christianos’, which eventually became the name we are now known for, the Christians. St. Ignatius of Antioch led the faithful with love, and he devoted himself to them completely, leading them to live their faith truthfully and with zeal.

He wrote extensively, and in his many letters both to the other bishops and to his own faithful, he affirmed the many central teachings of the Faith, and urged all of his people and peers to adhere closely to the teachings of the Lord as revealed in the Good News the Apostles and disciples of Christ preached. And to the end, St. Ignatius of Antioch remained true to his faith, and even in suffering after he was arrested, he continued to attach himself strongly in faith to the Lord.

He suffered martyrdom in the Colosseum, being thrown to lions and other wild beasts, the fate which also awaited many other of his successors and contemporaries in faith, but indeed, he did not fear death nor he had any need to fear death. Why so? That is because he had been faithful in his life, and was completely devoted to the Lord, and in his righteousness, he was justified and made true in faith, and death no longer has any power over him and all the other faithful who kept their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all also reaffirm our faith in God, following in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch and the other faithful saints and martyrs. Let us all not just have faith in mere words, but with real and true actions as well, so that our faith may be alive and living well, and so that we may be truly devoted and our Lord who sees our living and genuine faith, will justify us and bring us to His promised eternal life and reward, and free us forever from the threat of death. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014 : 3rd Week of Easter (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

This world is hostile against us, not the people, but the systems and the nature of the world itself, for evil is in this world, and evil hates us who are light in the darkness. That is what the devil tried to do when the faithful and the Church was still young, that is to snuff out the light that would banish the darkness away forever, and this was done through lies, persuasion and temptations.

Saul, the young man, zealous or in fact overly zealous as one would say, belonged to the group of the Pharisees, who strictly observed the laws of Moses and the other rules and regulations that had been brought up over the years by the people of God. This strict adherence, in addition to the persistent refusal by most of the chief priests and the elders of Israel to receive the truth of God as revealed by Christ the Messiah, caused someone like Saul to be born.

Yes, the archenemy of the faithful as one would have said it. The scourge of the faithful, the persecutor who brought great sufferings and miseries to those who believed in the truth and kept it alive and true. Saul hunted down hundreds, if not thousands of the people of God, just because they believed in the truth and Saul refused to believe in it, not least until the Lord Himself appeared to him and brought him to a new life of service to the truth.

Saul later would be known as Paul, the great servant of the Lord who would bring the Good News to all the peoples of the world, the Gentiles and pagans in particular, and through them, to us eventually. We all know what happened to Saul, his conversion and later works. And we know that he too, suffer from persecutions, rejections and oppositions to his good works, as he had once done to the people of God before his conversion.

Opposition and challenges is a staple of our lives if we choose to remain faithful to God and be the bearers of His Good News. The world, ruled by the evil one, hates the truth, for the truth of Christ is the key for our redemption and liberation, that we will no longer be in the dominion of death and sin, but instead be free forever in the light and love of God.

But do not fear, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the oppositions that pile up against us should not deter us from continuing our works and missions, but instead serve as a further reminder of how good and wonderful our Lord and God is. Why so? Because remember, in the Gospel today, the Lord Himself assured us all, that He will be by our side, and He will not abandon us to the powers of those who seek our destruction.

Yes, Jesus mentioned that all that the Father had given Him, none He will lose, and that includes all of us. Yes, we have been granted by the Father to Christ, through our baptism, when we, in faith, are sealed to be the possessions of the Lord, in His Most Holy Name. We who have been baptised have received the seal of faith, and the Lord dwells in us since the day of our baptism onwards.

But that does not mean then we can be complacent in our faith. While Christ assured us that those whom the Father had given Him, He would not lose, but if we changed our ways back to our old lives filled with sin, then that is tantamount to us rejecting this gift of the Father to His Son, and therefore, we made ourselves lost, and bereft of the holiness and worthiness of heavenly glory promised to us on the day of our baptism.

Hence, brethren, as we continue to proceed in this life and in this holy season of Easter, let us always constantly remind ourselves to keep our faith living and strong, and not to be worried about challenges and oppositions we may face along the way. Remember that God is always on our side, and ready to help us, if we too play our part and keep a good and faithful attitude in our lives.

May the Lord be with us, protect us, and keep us safe in His everlasting grace and infinite love. God bless us all. Amen.