Monday, 20 October 2014 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are asked through the Scriptures we have heard, to reflect on our own lives, on whether our lives have been filled with selfishness, self-centredness, egoistic acts and behaviours, as well as pride or arrogance, or whether our lives had been filled with love, that is genuine love for one another, and the love for God just as much as we love ourselves.

It is very difficult for us men to live according to the latter standards as compared to the former standards. We have a big ego with us, just as the word ‘Ego’ in Latin means ‘I’, that is we are first and foremost always concerned first about ourselves, and then far below that concern is the concern about others who are around us. We are by our nature selfish, and filled with desire to the point of greed and unwillingness to show charity to others.

This ‘I’ is dangerous indeed, and do you all know who was Satan, our great enemy, before he is known now as the prince of evil and darkness? He was Lucifer, the ‘lightbringer’, one created bright, beautiful, mighty and great among all the angels who serve the Lord day and night, not to outshine his Creator, but to show all creation how great and mighty the Lord is, in creating such a perfect and wonderful creation.

Yet, in the beauty, greatness and perfection in which he had been created, Lucifer grew proud and attached to his perfection and wonders, and thus his ego grew, and his desires grew to the point that he aspired to be like God and even to surpass His own creation, in his own words, that he wanted to raise his throne above the stars of God, and to rule over all creations.

It is this pride that led to his downfall, and it is this same arrogance over his apparent greatness and abilities that made him to commit sin before God. And his rebellion against God brought him nothing but his own downfall, as he was cast out of heaven, as a sign to all others who also followed him into his rebellion, thinking that in the greatness and all the endowments they had received, they had the right to boast or be proud of those achievements.

And what did he get in the end? Nothing but damnation and eternal punishment, for the pride and greed that brought him nothing else but oblivion. Hence, this is also to help remind us, just as we heard in the Holy Scriptures, how Jesus and St. Paul both urged the people of God to let go of their ego, their pride, their arrogance, their selfishness, and all of the vices they had committed in life, and embrace the true faith, in accepting the fullness of the faith as taught to them by the Lord and through His Apostles and disciples.

How is this relevant to us? We can look at our own lives. It is very obvious that at some points and moments in our lives, we are vulnerable to our ego and our desires. How many times in our respective lives, that we put our own prosperity above that of others? How many of us did not hesitate to do certain actions, even when fully knowing that such actions may bring hurt to others, but may benefit us in some ways?

Surely this life is filled with many of such examples, when we mankind succumb to our desires and began to greedily desire on things and possessions, even often beyond our means and at the expense of others. This is also the precise cause of the many evils and miseries in the world, namely wars, conflicts, abuses, hatred and jealousy of one another. That is because mankind had grown proud of themselves and what they can do, and by what they have discovered in life, that they think too highly of themselves and as a result, inevitably come into conflict with one another due to conflicting interests.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, what then, we can do so that we can prevent or to settle this matter? We are often too focused on the world, and all things worldly, to the point that we ended up worrying too much about what we ought to eat, what we may receive in life, what possessions we should have or obtain, and many other things, while forgetting that in our pursuit of such things and in our worry, we may end up causing trouble for one another.

Worry and fear is not the way, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to realise that our Lord and God loves us very much, and He wants to love us tenderly just as a father loves his children. He provides us with essentially everything that we need in this life. He will care for us as He had always done, and if we put our complete trust and faith in Him, we shall never be disappointed.

Indeed, those who put their trust in themselves will be disappointed, and just like the rich man who worried about where he ought to put his excess harvest products and building new barns to contain them, he did not put their trust in God and thus he will suffer for his selfishness and lack of love, both for men and for God. Thus, this is exactly what we need to avoid.

Let us all from now on, lead a life filled with genuine faith in God, seeking God at all times, and seeking to imitate Him in all that we do, so that in everything we do in this life, we may be truly like the children and the servants of God, and like the Apostles and disciples in their lives, so that our lives may be filled with love and charity, love that we show for our fellow men, particularly those who are in most need for our love, the last, the lost and the least among men.

And lastly, let us all love God by devotion and by action, showing our genuine faith to Him founded in love. May Almighty God see our love and our faith, and by those love and faith we have done in this life, may we be made justified and worthy of salvation and the promise of eternal life which God had made through Jesus His So. Let us pray therefore for one another, and helping one another that all of us will reach the Lord our God safely. Amen.

Monday, 29 September 2014 : Feast of the Holy Archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast day of the Church, that is the feast of the Holy Archangels of God, and primarily of which, is the Prince of all heavenly hosts, the leader of all the angels of God, that is St. Michael the Archangel, the faithful servant of God and one of the seven holy Archangels serving before the throne of God, the vanquisher of Satan, who defeated the forces of evil and all the fallen angels, and cast them out of heaven.

The Holy Archangels, three of whom were named, St. Michael the prince and leader of angels, St. Gabriel the messenger and the voice of God, and St. Raphael the healer and the mercy of God, all of them represent the different aspects of God, and they are the greatest servants of the Lord, sending and giving His messages to all whom the Lord wills to reveal Himself to.

The Archangels of God are also the chiefs of our protectors, the leaders and the ones in charge of our guardian angels, and all the angelic hosts and forces of heaven, who are locked in constant and regular combat and battle against the forces of darkness, led by the prince of evil, that is Satan. Satan desires nothing but for our destruction, for in his jealousy of the Lord, he desires to destroy all that is dear to God, especially all of us mankind, the greatest and the most beloved of all His creations.

Satan himself was once a great Archangel, and in fact was once the mightiest, most beautiful and the greatest of the angels of the Lord, created with such perfection and beauty, and with such might and authority, that the bright and mighty Archangel, Lucifer, was filled with great pride about himself. But it is this same pride which became his greatest undoing and became rightly, as the greatest sin of all.

For in his pride, he chose to rebel against God and His love, thinking that he is mightier than his own Creator, the Lord of all the universe. The creation failed to realise that despite all of his power, might and beauty, and despite all of his perfections, that he is still merely a creature, and not the Creator. And he is still nothing compared to the Lord of all, who is perfect in all things that He has, and He truly has everything.

Satan, who was Lucifer, the lightbringer, boasted that in his majesty, glory and power, he would raise his throne above the throne of God, and thus rule over all creations. He brought many of his fellow angels into sin and darkness, what we now know as the fallen angels. But his pride is his undoing, and instead of rising up in glory, he was thrown down in shame. The one who led the hosts of the faithful angels was Michael the Archangel, who was made the chief of all the angelic hosts.

St. Michael the Archangel was made the chief of all heavenly angels and all the heavenly hosts not because he was great and mighty, nor because he was proud and beautiful as Lucifer or Satan was, but because he obeyed the will of God fully and completely, as an obedient servant of God Most High. It was said that St. Michael always trembled before the presence of God, not because he was fearful or afraid, but because he knew that he was in the presence of the Lord and Creator of all the universe, and he is nothing before Him.

That was why, God rewarded him such as to make him chief of all the heavenly hosts, as a great protector and role model for all of us the faithful. Remember that Jesus always said that the mighty would be humbled, and the humble would be glorified? This is the exact thing that had happened. Lucifer was cast down for his pride, to suffer for eternity the torture of hell and the lake of fire, while Michael the humble was raised to a position of honour.

St. Gabriel the Archangel and St. Raphael the Archangel also followed and obeyed the will of God in their own way, listening to God in all things and carrying out His will into the world. St. Gabriel the Archangel delivered the Good News of the Lord to Mary in Nazareth, while St. Raphael was sent to the family of Tobit the Israelite exile, and to help exorcise the demon Asmodeus from Sara, the soon-to-be wife of Tobit’s son, Tobias.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice together as one to celebrate the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and his fellow Archangels, let us all realise our frailty and our prone nature towards sin, and how we can follow the examples of the holy Archangels to lead our lives to come into closer relationships with our God. Let us heed the examples of the holy angels of God, who fought day and night at all times to protect us from the depredations of the evil one and his forces.

Evil is never at rest, brethren, for Lucifer, fallen and shamed, as Satan had enmity on us mankind, and this was why he tempted our first ancestors into sin, so that through that disobedience we might also follow in his footsteps, and therefore end up in eternal suffering and destruction. But the Lord clearly does not want this to happen, and that was why He sent us Jesus His Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer.

And the angels constantly are on guard against the attacks of the evil one, but they certainly cannot fight on their own. We too should take part in this fight and resistance against the evil forces, and thus rebuke the devil who is trying to set us up against the Lord. Therefore, let us all reflect on our own actions, so that we may know how to be a true follower of Christ and thus gain salvation through Him.

May all of us be able to cast away our pride and arrogance, knowing full well that all of us are sinners who are unworthy of God’s love and presence, for our disobedience and the disobedience of our forefathers, but it is the love of God our Lord and Father, who made us whole again, by sending us love Himself through Jesus, who shed His life so that we may live once again, not just any life, but life supported by the love and the grace of God.

Let us be like the holy Archangels, obedient and faithful, always listening to God in all things, faithfully carrying out His will. And what is God’s will for us? None other than so that we can love, first that is to love God Himself, with all of our hearts, with all of our souls and with all of our minds and strengths, and then to show the same love to our brethren around us, in particular those who are in the greatest need.

May Almighty God guide us on our ways, so that we may find our way towards Him, not by pride or arrogance, nor through our power and might, but through our sincere desire to be reunited with Him, and to seek His mercy and love, so that, with the help of the angels and the holy Archangels of God, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, with His Blessed Mother and His saints, we may attain salvation and eternal life, in the loving grace of God, leaving Satan to suffer by himself with his fellow rebel angels, for eternity, while we enjoy the fruits of our good labour in this world.

St. Michael the Archangel, and all the holy Archangels and angels of God, pray for us, and protect us in battle, that we may always triumph against anything that the devil, Satan, that old snake and deceiver has put in our path, that we may rebuke him and profess our faith and love for the Lord our God. Amen.

Sunday, 1 September 2013 : 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today Christ taught us the value of humility, of doing things in humility, and seeking not human glory in all our dealings. The prophet Sirach in the first reading today also put the emphasis on the relations between greatness and humility, that the greater someone is, the more that he or she should be humble, and to seek not things that lie beyond our capabilities and our reach.

Brethren, too many times have we heard about mankind trying to reach things beyond what they can do, that they became too absorbed in that pursuit and forget about anything else. It is very often that we even sacrificed much in order to get to that destination, to that desire that we seek to achieve. More often than not, this involved sacrificing even those dear to us. What makes mankind so desperate for such aims and targets that they devote so much for them?

That is because we often become immersed in our pride and in our desire, so much that we simply cannot let go when things do not go the way we wanted it. We always want to be the first in everything, the first in getting new items from the store, the first in our academic, economic, and other performances, that we fear so much from losing out to another people. In our deep pride, we cannot bear to lose to another person, because to us, there is often no consideration for being the second place.

It is in our human nature that we want to be preeminent, and first in all things, and that is our pride, that we ought to stand alone at the top without rivals. Yet remember, brothers and sisters, it is exactly the same sin that had brought down the greatest angel and the mightiest angel of all the angelic host of heaven. Who is that? Precisely, it is Lucifer, the false lightbringer, now known as Satan, the evil one, the devil, the deceiver, and the great enemy.

Lucifer was created as the most brilliant of all of God’s angels, the most perfect and beautiful of all God’s angels. It was told that he was created with twelve wings of a seraph, with incredibly bright light illuminating his figure, and hence his name, Lucifer, the lightbringer and the morning star. To him had been given power, glory, and might in addition to his beauty and wonder, by the Lord the Creator of all.

Yet, in his heart, due to his seemingly perfect beauty, power, and glory, he began to form dissensions and dissatisfactions with being a servant of God, and instead, in his great pride, he wanted to rise above all things, and take over the throne of God, as the ruler of all the creation and over all of heaven, as written in the Book of the prophet Isaiah. That he will raise his throne above the stars of heaven and ascend to the heights of heaven, seated on the throne of God, such are the things in his heart, the schemes that he plotted against God.

And yet, he failed. In his great pride he had sought to be like the proud guest who seek to reach the first place in the banquet, and he failed, badly. He was struck down and cast down from the heavens, as we read in the Book of the Revelation, when the Archangel Michael and the angels of heaven fought with the dragon, that is Lucifer, and defeated him with the power of God, and cast him away from heaven. The Book of the prophet Isaiah continued with the lamentation on the fate of Lucifer, as the fallen morning star, that had fallen and would never rise again as he had once boasted.

Indeed, as Christ had said to the Pharisees in the feast, that the one who seek to be the first will be made last, and will be relegated to the last position in great shame and humiliation. Truly, Lucifer, once the brightest, most brilliant, and mightiest angel of heaven, is now a shadow of his former self, known to us as the great enemy and the evil one, twisted, broken, and marred in his beauty, all because of his pride and lack of humility before God.

On the other hand, the Archangel Michael, whom we know as the chief of the angelic host and the leader of the angels of God, is made such not because of his pride, his power, or his might. Instead, the Archangel Michael was known for his great humility and obedience to the will of God, and it was indeed told that he always trembled before the presence of the Lord. That humility made the Lord to choose him as the leader of His angelic host, in the same way as the humble guest who seek the worst and last seat, is invited by the host to a position of honour.

After quoting the example of the archangels, of Lucifer and Michael and the comparison between them, and how it relates to the lessons we learn today from our readings and the Lord Himself, of the importance of humility in our lives, let us take some time to reflect on our own lives, whether we have always let our pride get in our way, and whether we have let our pride to take over us, as it had done to Lucifer.

To be humble is not easy, as temptations will certainly be great. We tend to compete with one another, not least in this increasingly more fast-moving and competitive world, where everyone’s success in life is measured by their achievements and by the things that they are able to do better than others, fueling even more and more competition in a vicious cycle, that if not controlled may result in excessive competition and everyone sought to overcome one another, at the expense of others as best as possible.

Yet, the Lord challenged us today to be different, to dare to be different from others, to be humble in our increasingly prideful world, in a world where people increasingly care less about one another, in a world where everyone vies to be the first ahead of others, and to achieve things that they are not able to do. The Lord challenged us to know the meaning of humility and the value of satisfaction, of knowing that we truly have enough in our lives, that all that we need have truly been taken care of by the Lord our God in various ways.

Christ had taught us the meaning of humility, and also teach us love, how to love one another, and how to love God. He has shown us all that through His own actions, that He, who is God, and who is divine and all-powerful, is willing to take the last seat of all, the most humiliating seat of all, to be born into a poor family of a carpenter and born in a dirty stable, even though He is indeed a King, King of all kings no less, the Master of all the Universe.

It does not just stop at that, as He lived humbly and did not seek glory for Himself. Many times the people who were amazed at His miracles and powers sought to force Him and to make Him their king, as the king of a renewed Israel, and yet, Jesus walked away from all that, and not only that, He even willingly walked towards His own death.

Yes, brethren, in His great humility, He who is God, let Himself be captured, tortured, mocked and spat at. He was given many lashes and eventually after carrying His own cross, was nailed to that cross on Calvary. Such is His great humility that He endured all sufferings intended for us, and took them all upon Himself. His wounds marked all the sufferings He had to suffer in our place, that we may live. He died, and died a humiliating death, a criminal’s death on the cross.

And yet? He who has died for all of us has risen from the dead! He has triumphed and conquered over the prideful one, Satan, the old Lucifer, whose pride had brought him from glory to humiliation. Christ had risen to His glory and made the greatest and most prominent of all. The Lord Himself had proven His own words today through His own actions, which He made out of pure love for all of us, that we all may live, that He had humbled Himself to die a humiliating death, despite being the Master of all, for our sake.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the very example of our Lord Jesus, let us today heed His call, that we be humble in all our words, in all our deeds, and in all our actions. Let us be humble in all our dealings with one another, caring and loving for one another, just as the Lord had commanded us. Let us be truly brothers and sisters to one another, and do not seek the downfall of others or the failure of others for our own success. Let us throw away our pride and don humility instead, just as our Lord Himself had once done for us.

May the Lord continue to watch over us, protect us, and bless us, and that may He remind us at all times that we ought to be humble and loving in all our actions, and in all our dealings to our brethren, remembering the very life He had given us, through His own humble death. God bless us all, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 17 February 2013 : 1st Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflection)

Today, again we listened to the Word of God, and found that if we stay faithful to God, despite all the temptations and the challenges facing us in our journey towards Him, God will reward us greatly, and in heaven our reward is great indeed. God loves us, and He does listen to us when we call on Him, and if we keep Him in our heart, we will not lose Him, for He is faithful.

Our modern world is filled with many things, tempting indeed for us, and many of these are so attractive that they divert our attention away from God, and into them. Worse still, these temptations made us forget about the love God has on us, how He died for us on the cross to save us from death and sin. Instead, we sin even more, and cause the Lord to grief over our continued rebellions against His ever-gracious mercy. For today, we learn indeed that there are three main forms of obstacles against us, against us in our journey towards the Lord. These are greed, power, and pride. These also translate as the three sources of temptations that affect us terribly, namely, commercialism, the world, and ourselves, our sinful beings.

First of all, when the devil tempted Jesus to turn the stone into bread, in order to fulfill His hunger, the devil tapped into our own weakness to greed and for more. For hunger is a natural occurrence in our lives when we do not intake any food for a while, but many of us who are in great abundance, not only fail to resist the temptation of the devil, and place our stomach above all the rest. Just look at all the greed in all the excessive eating habits, the high rates of obesity in many developed nations, where people eat without abandon, and eat like as if there is no tomorrow.

Not only in the matter of food, but also in fact with regards to possessions and wealth, where there are many who dedicate their whole lives solely for the pursuit of wealth, and more wealth, and affluence, and then more affluence. These people may even stop at nothing to gain what they want, including hurting others in the process, especially those they see as competitors to their goal. This is how sin and evil permeate into the hearts of all the people, including even among the faithful today. Jesus told us the way to overcome this, that is to focus on the Word of God, for we do not live from bread alone, but indeed what is most important is the spiritual food that we have, that is the Scripture. Read the Scripture, reflect on it, share it, and understand it, and you will find that you will find fulfillment greater than food, wealth, and affluence can offer.

For food, wealth, possessions, and affluence will pass away, and they will not be with us after we die. There are many out there in the world who suffer from hunger and poverty, and yet many of the rich and even those who are in the middle class who are too busy with their worldly pursuits, to offer a helping hand. The Church, which is also the world’s largest humanitarian agency, had done much to help these people, the least among the least, the last, the shunned, and the weakest.

However, there is only so much the Church can do, and ultimately it depends on us to also extend our helping hand. After all, through the word of God in the Scripture, we now know that when we give aid to these least among us, to those shunned and rejected by the society, we have done it for Christ. For Christ too is rejected by many, and hated by the world. But we, who believe in Him, if we cling strongly to Him, we will gain our due reward when the time comes.

Then the second obstacle, which is power and the offer of worldly power indeed. The very well-known phrase of “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” is the perfect illustrator of this condition, in which power can corrupt us and twist us into a power-hungry beings seeking to gain more power or preserve our own power or control over others. This does not mean that power cannot be handled responsibly, but again, who do we then base that power on? Is it based on the Lord? or is it based on the evil one?

For indeed, a power that is of the Lord is also humble, and is also loving, for those wielding power responsibly, and belonging to the Lord will also know justice and love, and will not wield that power to cause suffering for others. Yet many use power and misuse that for their own purposes, and often cause suffering in others. The world offer a great temptation for many who has power, to always seek more and more in power and others, which is linked to that of the first obstacle, greed.

The quest for power has brought many destruction in the past, although also many constructive ones. Many people have died in wars and conflicts, especially those brought up by personal ambitions of certain people who seek ultimate power. They achieved it but for what? For power too does not last, and it is only temporary, either they are overthrown or they lose that power upon their death. Power is something that God entrusted to us, and therefore let us seek to use that authority responsibly, and not to misuse them for our own personal benefits and the detriment for others.

Then again, Jesus fought the devil and taught us that we should focus ourselves on the Lord and give the devil no attention, and base our own authority and power indeed in God and His teachings, that we can truly become wise, responsible, and just stewards of this power God has bestowed on us, for the good of others around us.

Then the last one, is the most difficult obstacle of all, that is the pride within our own being, and ourselves. We who are weak in flesh, are constantly tempted, and though our spirit is strong, but temptation of the flesh can indeed lead us astray from the path towards the Lord, but nothing is more difficult to conquer than that of pride. We humans are prideful in our nature, and pride is what has become the downfall of many. For pride prevented us from seeing in ourselves the defects that we have, and in pride too, we grow to seek more for ourselves, and hence greed, and also the quest for more power, that hunger also began from pride, pride in ourselves and our own abilities.

It is perfectly fine to be proud of our achievements if we also give what is due to the Lord, since it is with the Lord’s help that we can accomplish many things that we otherwise cannot accomplish on our own. Pride, undue pride in particular, is the main obstacle blocking us from giving what is due to God, to thank Him for His great blessing and kindness. Remember, the devil himself was the greatest, brightest, and most brilliant angels in all heaven, who was Lucifer, the light-bringer. But in pride, he has allowed himself to indulge in his own vanity, in his beauty and might, that he aspires to ascend and become God himself, challenging God the creator who created all including him. In his pride, he fell, and became the devil. We too, in our pride, can fall, and from the beautiful ones we are upon our creation by the Lord, we can fall to become nothing better than the servants of the devil in our pride and our hubris.

For pride prevents us from bowing down before the Lord, from acknowledging our sins and faults, and from approaching the Lord most merciful with a humble and contrite heart. Jesus taught us to be humble, and to not challenge the Lord our God in our pride, but to rather open ourselves to God’s love and mercy. Read the Scripture, understand the Word of God, and share our faith with one another, that we can learn more on the values and virtues of humility, simplicity, responsibility, and love itself.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this Lenten season, strive to make this time a fruitful one, where we learn to wield power and authority we have responsibly, and to extend our hands to help those needy around us, those who hunger for food, those who hunger for love, and those who hunger for God. Bring to them what they need, and show God’s enduring love for all of them. Then let us also approach God with great humility, acknowledging our sins and weaknesses, and ask the Lord for His forgiveness, which He will be happy to do so, if only we approach Him with broken, humble, and contrite heart. A heart that longs for God and His love alone.

Let us like Jesus, confidently reject Satan, devil, Lucifer, the fallen angel out of pride, with a solid commitment to God, rejecting all his temptations and all his offer of corrupting goods and powers, and rather put ourselves completely in God’s hands and entrust ourselves to Him with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls. May all of us have a blessed Lent, and be prepared to commemorate our Lord’s Passion this coming Holy Week. Amen.