Monday, 9 April 2018 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which is traditionally celebrated on the twenty-fifth day of March, nine months before Christmas, but postponed this year to this date as the date fell on Palm Sunday, and during the Holy Week and the Easter Octave, the Solemnity of the Annunciation could not be properly celebrated.

This great and solemn feast of the Annunciation is celebrated nine months before Christmas because, on this day, as according to the Scriptures and the Church traditions, is the day when the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, upon her acceptance and submission to the will of God, Who through the Archangel Gabriel has revealed His long planned salvation of all of His people.

On this day, we celebrate the moment when the Archangel Gabriel came to the small village of Nazareth, to a woman betrothed to Joseph, a humble and lowly carpenter, who truly was the heir of David, as the heir to the unbroken lineage of the family of David, king of Israel and God’s faithful servant. One might wonder why the Lord would choose such a humble and lowly family to enact His plan to save us mankind, but in truth, that is what God has willed, and what He has done.

Through Mary, He was to fulfil the long promised and long awaited salvation He has proclaimed to His people through the prophets and messengers He sent into this world. And through Mary, the Divine Himself, the Creator God and Master of all, was to become a Son of Man, born of a woman, that while He is the Creator of all, He was also born of His creation. Such was the great mystery of our Lord and our faith in Him.

Ultimately, we need to know why God has done this, if we are to appreciate what we celebrate today better. All of these were because of the love which God has for each and every one of us. If God has not loved us, or if He had not considered as us beloved and truly dear to Him, He would not have taken the trouble to do all He had done for our sake, by becoming a Man, to be with us and to dwell among us, that by that action, He might save us all.

First of all, all of us mankind have, by the reason of our disobedience, been cast off from the grace of heaven and from the love of God. We have sinned because of that disobedience beginning from the time of Adam and Eve, when we mankind first disobeyed God by falling into the temptation of Satan. And because of that, we should have perished and should have been destroyed, as due to our sins, we have become defiled and tainted, and no sin or corruption can exist in the presence of God.

God had laid His plan from the very beginning, knowing right from the start, what He would do in order to bring about the reconciliation and salvation of His beloved creation, that is all mankind. That is why He warned Satan from the very beginning, that whatever plots and efforts he had done to sway mankind to fall away from God would eventually fail, as God would give His salvation, and it would come through the Woman prophesied, not just by God Himself mentioning it, but also the prophet Isaiah.

The prophet Isaiah mentioned to king Ahaz of Judah, that a woman would be with child, and though a Virgin, she would bear a Son. This is something that is impossible with man, for no one can have any child or conceive save through sexual relationship and intercourse. Yet, with Mary, God fulfilled His promise and revealed just how wonderful His love for us is, that, He was willing to take up our human existence, and wrapping His divinity in human flesh, that He, from then on, has two natures, Divine and Man, united in the person of Jesus Christ.

Through His wondrous conception in the womb of His mother, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary, God made it clear that He was not like other man in that He was created as a mere creature of God. Instead, He was begotten by the Father, co-equal with Him, as the Son, from before the beginning of time, and by the Holy Spirit and His power, as the Archangel Gabriel mentioned to Mary, He was incarnate in the flesh.

God entered into this world, taking up human nature, so that by that very action, He may reconcile us as the New Adam, as the first one among mankind to be free from the slavery to sin, by His perfect love and obedience to His Father, rejecting Satan and his temptations to obey the will of God His Father, to the point of taking up the cross, suffer indignation and rejection, being nailed to the cross, and dying on that cross, and that by His death, all mankind may be saved.

By His death, we have shared in His death, in the death of His human existence, that we die to our sinfulness and all of our taints and corruption of this world. And by His glorious resurrection from the dead, He showed us all a glimpse of our eternal existence with Him, if we are faithful to Him and His ways,

Now, are we aware of this great love which God has for us? Are we aware that He has loved us so much that He went through all of these for us, just so that we may be saved? But yet, so many of us are still ignorant of this fact, or that we know, but we reject God’s love and generous offer of mercy, just because we are too proud to admit that we have been wrong and mistaken in our ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as today we recall the great love which God has for us, that for our sake He has willingly become one of us, embracing our humanity in a way unprecedented and never done before, let us all rededicate ourselves to Him, and love Him just as much as He has loved us first. Let us no longer be disobedient or be rebellious in our ways, that we may draw closer to God in our lives, day after day.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us along our journey, that we will be able to find the path forward, and persevere in our loving relationship with God, the God Who had made Himself Man, that by sharing in our humanity, He may save us all by His death and then by His glorious resurrection. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 April 2018 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Monday, 9 April 2018 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Monday, 9 April 2018 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Monday, 9 April 2018 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Sunday, 16 July 2017 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us gather together listening to the words of the Scriptures, which are indeed the Word of God, which in accordance with what we heard from the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. The Word of God has come into the world, and the Word had been sent from God to dwell among us, He Who is none other than Christ, Son of God and Word of God incarnate in flesh of Man.

The entire theme of this Sunday’s readings is about the growth of seeds and plants, in which the Word of God is likened to seeds that God planted in each and every one of us. In the Psalm, we sing to the glory of God, remembering how He nurtures the earth and cares for it. In the same manner, He nurtured us all and allow us to flourish in this world. But how about that seed, the Word of God which He planted inside each one of us?

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the well-known parable of the sower, in which Jesus our Lord spoke to His disciples about how the sower of the seeds sowed his seeds in various places, only for the seeds to end up in various end results. Some of the seeds ended up on the roadside, eaten up by the birds, while some others fell on a rocky soil, unable to grow because they were unable to establish their roots, and while some others fell among thistles and brambles, which choke the life out of the newly grown plants, and last of all, some fell on rich soil, where the seeds grew and bore in multiples of what had been planted.

The Lord Himself has explained the meaning of each of the segments of this parable, explaining to His disciples what they all need to do in order to blossom in their faith, allowing the Word of God to grow in them and to encompass them completely. However, it is also important for us all that we must heed its message, so that each and every one of us know how we ourselves should live in accordance with God’s will, and be able to flourish best in our faith.

First of all, we heard of the case where the seeds fell on the roadside and were eaten up by the birds of the sky. The Lord Jesus explained that this is the case when the devil came by and took the Word away from the people, who therefore did not believe because of that. It is a clear reminder for every one of us that we have a great adversary in the devil, the one who is always active, prowling about seeking to drag our souls into damnation. He is always active and continue to plot for the downfall of all mankind, God’s beloved creation.

We must be careful lest the devil comes to us and snatches from us the Word of God, because of all his lies and all the things that he tempted us with, pulling us away from the path to salvation and leading us into the path of ruin. He is always ever active seeking for those whose faith in the Lord are weak, and all those who do not have a good relationship with God, whose faith is superficial and lacking in strength.

How should we strengthen our faith in God then? It is by deepening our relationship with Him, through prayer and time which we spend with Him. We should not be too busy with ourselves and whatever it is that we are doing in life. It is often that we leave the Lord to the last priority in our lives, and as a result, we open ourselves to the devil to come into our hearts and snatch whatever it is that God had placed in us. We end up falling into sin and evil, because of our inability to strengthen that relationship we ought to have with God, and God is not at the centre of our lives.

This is related with what we then heard about the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, where they were able to grow quickly and yet, they were unable to form proper roots due to the rocky soil, and they ended up being scorched and destroyed from the lack of water and the intense heat. This is what happened when all of us are closing up ourselves to the Lord, because of what I had just mentioned, when we ended up being so busy with ourselves and our daily business, that we end up shoving God away from the centre of our lives.

Let us ask ourselves, how many of us find going to the Holy Mass to be tedious and as a chore? How many of us are always looking at our watches, wondering when the celebrant of the Mass will finish his long homily or when we will be able to leave the Mass to continue with our daily proceedings and business? How many of us grumble because we have to go to the church on Sundays and on certain Holy Days of Obligation?

If we do not prioritise God in our lives, and if we find serving and worshipping the Lord as a chore, that is exactly when we have the seeds spread by God landing on a rocky soil, on our souls, hearts and minds that are filled with so many distractions and other preoccupations that we do not allow the Word of God to take roots and grow deep inside each one of us. That is when we start to wander off, away from God’s salvation and into damnation, since the Word of God has no place in us and thus we also will have no place in God’s kingdom

Then, for the case when the seeds fell among the thistles and brambles, as the Lord Jesus explained to His disciples, were those who have accepted the word of God, and yet when challenges and troubles come, when the concerns of this world come, they ended up losing the faith and the Word of God was cast out from them, as they abandon God when they were unable to commit to Him wholeheartedly as they should have.

This is quite clear cut for us, as it is often that as Christians, we will encounter difficulties and challenges, when those who are around us, even from our friends and families, who do not agree with us and with what we believe in our faith in God. There will be difficulties, obstacles and even rejection, and there will be moments when we will stumble and be tempted to give up, to compromise our faith and to appease those who demand that we change our ways and abandon our faith.

It is our human nature for us all to think about ourselves first, and to preserve ourselves. And it is also our human nature for us to want to feel accepted by others, and that is why, many of us will be tempted to make compromises and to abandon tenets of our faith. That is when we falter, and when we fail in our faith. If we do not have the courage to stand up for our faith and continue to walk righteously before God, how then will God find us worthy of Him, if we are not capable of committing ourselves to Him?

There will be plenty of temptations awaiting us the faithful people of God, from the temptation of physical goods such as money, wealth and possession, that had indeed kept many of us occupied, in how we spent so much time in our career, trying to accumulate for ourselves all these worldly goods, or in order to achieve acclaim and worldly fame and glory. These are some of the common temptations that had caused so many among us to stumble in our way.

Rather, all of us as Christians are called to be like the case where the seeds fell onto rich soil, grew healthily and produce tremendous amounts of returns in the form of products, in many multiples, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold or even more than these. This is when all of us do not just receive the Word of God and remain passive, ignorant or lukewarm in our faith, but instead, we must embody what we believe in and be genuine with our faith.

This is how we provide a good soil for the Word of God to grow and blossom, by providing an environment filled with faith, hope and love. All of us are called to be true and living disciples of the Lord, filled with compassion and love for others, with mercy and forgiveness for our brethren who have caused us pain and suffering, those who have hurt us or hated us, and then also for us to be truly just and righteous in all of our ways and actions.

Just as farmers need to toil the soil, to provide ample amount of air in the soil, and as they also need to place animal droppings or chemical fertilisers on the soil in order to keep the plant healthy, in the same manner, our faith and the Word of God within us, the seeds of faith God has planted in us require us to commit ourselves to action that accentuates our faith and make what we believe no longer just mere words but also a reality.

That is how we make ourselves to be fruitful in the sight of the Lord, by devoting ourselves to do what He wants us to do, to walk in His path and to do what His will is for us. It is how we take what God had given to us, and then make it into a rich harvest, which the Lord will reap at the end, and seeing our great and bountiful faith, He shall bless us all with everlasting life and eternal glory.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us all to live in accordance with His will, filled with joy knowing that because all that we have done, all the hard work and toiling we have given for the sake of the Lord, all of these are meant for the glorification of God, as what St. Paul in his Epistle in our second reading today mentioned. We await for the coming of the Lord, Who will come in His glory and reward all those who are faithful to Him. May He look favourably on our faith in Him, and bless all of our works. Amen.

Sunday, 16 July 2017 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 13 : 1-23

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Then His disciples came to Him and said, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.”

“In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled : However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them.”

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.”

“Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath. The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the Word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the Word, than he gives up.”

“The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the Word; but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the Word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the Word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)
Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”