Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings speak in unison in honour of the faithful servant and messenger of God, St. John the Baptist, who is the Herald of the Saviour or Messiah, as the one whom God had sent into the world to precede the coming of His Saviour Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist has been prophesied by the prophets of old to be the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

He was sent into the world to prepare and to straighten the path for the Lord Jesus, as many had fallen into crooked ways and sins as they were misled by the corruptions of the world, as well as by their wicked and self-serving, corrupt and unjust leaders, the elders and the Pharisees, all those whom God had entrusted with the governance over His people but they had not done what they had been expected to do.

And it was not an easy task, as there were many challenges and difficulties that he had to encounter during his mission. He had to face opposition and stubborn resistance from the Pharisees and the elders, who refused to believe in him and in his message, which called the people of God to repent from their sinful ways. Those elders refused to believe that they were sinners because they thought that their ways were righteous and that they were worthy of God because of all the supposedly pious deeds that they had done.

In their pride, they had brought about their downfall, and also because of their greed for power, privileges and worldly possessions. They were tempted with those things and therefore became resistant towards God and His approach. In the same manner, those in power like the kings and rulers, the Sadducees who consisted of these people, also opposed the Lord and His ways, as He had revealed through St. John the Baptist.

And we all know how King Herod, the son of Herod the Great lived in an adulterous relationship with Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, an unlawful and sinful relationship. St. John the Baptist did not fear for his life or for his safety, and he openly rebuked the king for his sins. And when that resulted in his arrest, he did not fear, but constantly continued to rebuke the king for his sinful ways and in the end, met his end in martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John the Baptist is a role model for all of us Christians, for he is someone who has lived obediently in accordance with the will of God, and he obeyed His will even though it might mean suffering and troubles for himself. He did not allow the temptation of fear and selfishness to distract him from following through with the mission which had been entrusted to him, and indeed thanks to his works, many had been reconciled with God and received justification because of their faith and repentance.

All of us should emulate the examples of St. John the Baptist in our own lives. And we should also heed the examples of another saint, namely St. John of Kanty whose feast we are celebrating today. St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius was a Polish priest and theologian who was renowned for his bright intellect and mind, as well as his numerous works in teaching the faith through his many writings, works and compilations.

And at the same time, he was well known for his great charity and love for the poor, the sick and the dying. He gave generously to them, both in terms of his time, his love and aid, and he inspired many others to do the same. He should also become our inspiration for this Christmas season, in how we ought to spend our time meaningfully and with due consideration for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need.

Let us all not forget about the poor, the weak and all those who suffer even as we rejoice in this coming Christmas season. There are many who are unable to rejoice because of their circumstances, because they were lacking in what they even need in order to survive their daily lives. Let us share our joy with them and help them, as St. John of Kanty himself had once done, and be open to the Lord’s will and obey Him as St. John the Baptist had been, and not harden our hearts as the Pharisees and the elders had done.

May the Lord bless us all and help us in all of our endeavours, so that the true joy of Christmas may be ours, and that we may also share it with our brethren who are in need of assistance and help. May the Lord be with us all and be with them too, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”

They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

The ways of the Lord are love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and precepts. The Lord gives advice to those who revere Him and makes His covenant known to them.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for Whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.

Saturday, 3 December 2016 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the feast of St. Francis Xavier, a renowned Jesuit priest and missionary, whose hard work in evangelisation throughout especially South, Southeast and East Asia had led to the foundation of the roots of the Church in the many countries existing there today, where many millions upon millions of the faithful now live, a growing and thriving Church.

And for what he had done, he was named as the Patron of Missions, as the patron saints for all missionaries and their mission areas, for his pioneering work and dedication in establishing many of the buds of the faith in those far flung areas. And he did not have it easy, because such a task at that time was indeed very monumental and challenging to be done.

First of all, St. Francis Xavier lived during a time of great difficulties in the Church, a time of turmoil, both within and outside the Church, where conflicts and wars were rampant. At that time, from outside, the Turks who reigned in the Ottoman Empire were resurgent and powerful, seizing lands after lands from Christendom, putting many of the faithful under the rule of these pagans. As a result, great suffering occurred and also a great fear arose to threaten the Church, as then, there was a real threat that the Ottoman Turks would be able to overcome all of Christendom.

And at the same time, from within, there were divisions among the faithful, where false prophets and heretical teachings arose in the population, heresies such as Hussites and later on, during the time of St. Francis Xavier, the heresy known as the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many people rebelled against the authority of the Church and established splinter groups on their own, with their own teachings that are deviant and in contradiction with the teachings of Christ through His Church.

And within the Church itself, there was plenty of corruption and immorality, where many of the members of the clergy, even to the higher ranks were corrupt and wicked. They engaged in corrupt practices, demanding money and worldly goods for the absolution of sins, a practice known as indulgence, but which was twisted and corrupted by these irresponsible Church leaders and officials.

Amidst all of these challenges and difficulties facing the Church at that time, St. Francis lived through a time of great change and renewal within the Church, known as the Counter-Reformation, spearheaded by his contemporaries, and which he was also part of, through the Society of Jesus or the Jesuit religious order which was established by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Through their hard work, the Church began to purify itself from all its excesses and corrupt practices, and brought back many to the true faith.

It was told that at first, St. Francis Xavier was reluctant to join the effort, and he had aspirations of worldly glories and achievements. Initially St. Ignatius of Loyola and some other of these saints also had similar condition, where they sought for personal glory and achievement and ignored God’s calling at the beginning. But through persistence and constant guidance, who was said to quote to St. Francis Xavier at one time the saying of Jesus, “What would it benefit a man if he gains the whole world, but lose his own soul.” Eventually, he became convinced and decided to dedicate himself to the Lord.

Henceforth, St. Francis Xavier together with the saints of the Counter-Reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Canisius, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri and many others, St. Francis Xavier helped to rejuvenate the faith in many people, and he led the efforts to spread the Good News of God to those areas of the world which have yet to hear it. For at that time was a time of great discovery, the Age of Exploration, where new lands were discovered, and the Christian nations have the opportunity to evangelise to the peoples who have for the past one and a half millennia no chance to listen to the teachings of the faith.

But at that time, travel was not as convenient and easy as it is now. If it is now possible to go from one end of the earth to the other end in a mere day or less, and with relative comfort and little risk, at that time, the only available method of travel was either by land or by sea. The sea route was the faster route, but it was rife with danger, as storms and strong gales could cause the ships to be broken up and sink, and at the fastest, the journey took many months to complete.

Amidst all of these challenges, St. Francis Xavier was one of the first pioneers of the works of evangelisation in that time, bringing the Good News of the Gospel to many countries along the route of his travel, from India to the Malayan Archipelago, to the region of China and the Philippines, and as far as Japan to the furthest part of East Asia.

St. Francis Xavier visited all of these places, sometimes by himself, and sometimes with his fellow brother priests and missionaries, planting the seeds of the faith among the indigenous population, sowing the seeds for the growth of the future Church that would be established in those areas. Some welcomed him openly and willingly, while some others viewed his teachings and the Christian faith with suspect, and still some others outrightly banned the faith and persecuted its followers.

But amidst all these difficult challenges, nevertheless St. Francis Xavier persevered on, visiting many places and countries on his way, preaching to the people wherever he landed on and stopped by on, guiding the priests and missionaries and helping to delegate these faithful servants of God in their mission to bring the salvation of God to these people.

It was told that one time, St. Francis Xavier travelled in a boat with some others, and a great storm occurred, with huge waves that threatened to sink the boat. All of the people in the boat feared for their lives, save for St. Francis Xavier who prayed to the Lord fervently asking for His help. He put a crucifix into the water and the waves and the wind calmed down. But the crucifix was lost as it slipped through his fingers.

When he landed in one of the islands of the Moluccas Islands, it was told that a crab appeared from the water, with a crucifix marked on its back, and holding onto the crucifix which St. Francis Xavier had used earlier on and lost. And St. Francis Xavier thanked God and blessed the crab. This crab does exist and is indeed prevalent in the Malayan Archipelago where St. Francis Xavier once did extensive works.

There are many other miraculous works attributed to St. Francis Xavier, and this is related to what we heard in the Gospel today, that the Lord Jesus said that all those who do His work and bring the Good News to others will perform wondrous works, not necessarily be miracles, but most importantly, as St. Francis Xavier had proved and done, many millions upon millions up to this day have been saved from hell, and many among them were saints and martyrs themselves.

Today, as we all commemorate the feast of this holy and courageous, hardworking and diligent Patron saints of all missionaries and the Mission itself, let us all look again at all the examples which St. Francis Xavier had done, some of which we have discussed earlier on, and then let us ask ourselves, are we able to do what he has done, and contribute to the good works of the Church in preaching the faith to many others?

We may be thinking that in this world today, where all the peoples are easily connected to each other and where travel is so commonplace and easy that everyone would have heard of the Good News, but the reality is that, there are still many people outside the bounds of the Church, either because they rejected the Good News, or were ignorant of the Good News, or received the wrong messages because of false prophets and messengers in our midst.

And within the Church itself, there are many who have slipped away from their faith, because they were lukewarm and also for some, lazy, as they did not live out their faith with zeal, but instead, were what we often call as nominal Christians, those who call themselves as Christians, and they are indeed Christians, but in their actions in life, they do otherwise.

If we look at it, the situation today is pretty much just as how it was five and six centuries ago, at the time of St. Francis Xavier and his fellow saintly contemporaries and martyrs, all the holy missionaries who went through a great deal of suffering and persecution, difficulties and inconveniences to bring the Good News and the truth of God to many people. But because of their dedication, many were saved.

Shall we not then do the same, brethren? Shall we not follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and these saints? Jesus our Lord has given all of His disciples and followers that final command before He left them to ascend into His heavenly glory, that all of us should go to the nations, and preach the Good News to all the peoples, that all may believe in God and give themselves to be baptised in the Lord’s Name. And it is also important that we have people who have that quality in their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what shall we do then? How do we do what the Lord had asked us? We do not have to start from very big things. We can and indeed should begin from ourselves. Live our lives faithfully with real care and mercy for our brethren, showing concern for our neighbours and those who are suffering. Let us all through our actions show one another and all the people of God, that the Lord Jesus calls all to repentance and to turn our hearts towards Him, that in the end, all may be saved through Him.

May God bless us and help us in all of our endeavours. May He strengthen our faith and show our commitment to Him, that like St. Francis Xavier and all the good workers of the faith, missionaries of the Good News, we may continue the works that they have started, and by our works, we may awaken the faith in many people who are in need of God’s salvation. May the Lord be with us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of a truly great and renowned saint, of whom many of our brethren around the world, particularly in Asia and in the Pacific region owed their faith to in the beginning, when the Church and the Faith first reached those regions of the world and was able to anchor themselves until today as flourishing communities of the faithful as we witness today.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, or Franciscus Xaverius, a Spanish Jesuit priest and great missionary, whose missionary works caused a great flowering of the cause of the Faith in the East Indies, in countries now encompassing India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong, China, and also Japan. It is also likely that his works had also had even wider contributions to the whole Universal Church both in the mission areas and at home, in the heart of Christendom.

For St. Francis Xavier lived during a very difficult time for the Faith and the Church of God. This is because at that time, the very heart of Christendom were besieged both inside and outside by its enemies, both heretics, heathens, pagans and other enemies of God and His Church alike. The Islamic Ottoman Turks were on the rise and they had conquered many nations, and after vanquishing and subjugating Christian nations one after another, it seemed that they were poised to strike at the remaining nations faithful to the Lord.

Meanwhile, the so-called false Protestant ‘reformation’ was on the rage in most of Europe at the time, with many people, rulers and even clergy alike were swayed by the lies of the devil and by the greed of men, in following their own hearts’ desire and following false doctrines, forsaking the truth and the wholeness of the teachings of Christ as espoused and kept by the Church of God. Princes and peoples alike rebelled and broke free from the Church of God, destroying the unity of the Church.

Wars were fought in many places for the sake of the souls of the faithful. Many were lost to the Lord, but many also were called back to the Faith and repented their sins and rebellions. But at a time when external threats to the Faith were mounting as mentioned earlier, the Church and the faithful were not in good position to deal with all of them at once.

This is not to mention that within the Church itself there were many corruption and wickedness, with simony and even sexual impropriety all over the places. Buying of positions and honours were abound, nepotism and collusion were commonplace. And these further caused troubles to the already beleaguered Faith, Church and the faithful of God. This was why, there were a new movement then within the Church aiming for a great reform and purification of the Faith, which led to the great Council of Trent and Counter-Reformation, to reclaim the souls of many from heresy.

The Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, together with many others of his comrades, St. Peter Canisius and including St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Missions whose feast we are celebrating today, they were pivotal in the efforts of Counter-Reformation, to reclaim for the Lord His people who have been lost to the darkness of the world and all those who had been lost to heresy of men.

Many of these brave missionaries and servants of God preached throughout Christendom calling them to repent from their sins and return to the Faith in the Holy Mother Church. While many resisted and persecuted the missionaries, there were also many who were moved by the preachings and they returned to the one and true Faith. But at the same time, there were challenges and opportunities beyond what had been mentioned here.

For at that time, advances in technology allowed the people of God for the very first time, to explore the entirety of the world. New worlds and places were discovered and this represented a great opportunity for the evangelisation of the Faith as it could not have been done before. St. Francis Xavier was sent as part of the evangelisation effort, to spearhead the Faith’s effort to bring the Good News to many of those who have yet to hear it before, bringing the Light to a people still living in darkness.

All these are linked to the readings of this day we heard from the Holy Scriptures, all of which talked about one thing, that is evangelisation and the spreading of the Good News to all of the world. That was the last and ongoing mission given by the Lord Jesus to all of His Apostles and disciples after His resurrection and just before He ascended to heaven, as we heard in the Gospel today.

Jesus told His disciples to bring forth the Good News and preach it to the entire world, to the whole mankind, so that all peoples may hear and witness the truth of God’s love and salvation, and thus be stirred from their slumber, to be awakened to walk and seek the Lord’s saving grace. This is a mission which He charged the Church with, and thus the mission which the Lord entrusted to all of us His faithful ones.

And the actions of the Jesuits in the traditional home of Christendom in Europe, wrecked by the Protestant ‘reformation’ and heresy, represented also a kind of evangelisation and spreading the Good News. They worked hard to dispel the lies of the devil and the falsehoods spread by the wicked agents of the evil one, and instead preaching and teaching the truth of Christ which the Church had kept faithfully since the very beginning.

What St. Francis Xavier and his fellow missionaries had done, then also expand the works of evangelisation even further, carrying out the mission of our Lord Jesus as He had entrusted to His disciples. Yes, which is to spread the Good News to all the nations and to baptise many nations and peoples in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, which was exactly what St. Francis Xavier had laboured hard for.

St. Francis Xavier travelled from countries to countries and from places to places, spreading the Faith wherever he went. He baptised many of the local communities and populace whom he encountered along his missionary journeys, and gained for the Lord many more souls he had helped brought to salvation. He preached the Lord’s Good News wherever he went, and he also helped to build up the Church in various places in Asia, at Goa in India, Malacca in the Malay Archipelago, Macau in China, and Nagasaki in Japan.

He faced and encountered many difficulties and challenges along the way, and yet he persevered. He performed many miracles and wonders throughout his missionary journeys, and he also even calmed a terrible storm which threatened to sink his boat while he was sailing to a place he was to preach the Good News at. He healed many of the sick and cast out demons.

Yes, brethren, was this not what our Lord Jesus had told His disciples too in the Gospel today? Those whom He had sent to preach His Good News and those who had devoted themselves and their lives in the service of God and His Gospel, He will not leave alone, but He will grant them His blessings and power to carry out their mission successfully.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy occasion of the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Missions, let us all learn from what I have shared with you, of the courage of the missionaries and the servants of God in preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the nations, not only to those who had erred in their ways and walked away from the truth, but also to those who have not yet heard a single word of the Good News of Christ.

But it does not mean that their works ended just there, brothers and sisters in Christ. The mission which Jesus entrusted His disciples continues even today, and we are all, brothers and sisters in Christ, all the faithful ones of God are also tasked and entrusted with the same mission, to preach and spread the Good News of God’s salvation to all the nations and to all the peoples.

Therefore, let us all pray to the Lord, that in our hearts, the courage and desire we should have to preach His words and truth may be awakened and strengthened in us, so that we may also live faithfully and truly live out our faith with real action and real devotion, by loving one another as our Lord had loved us, and show love to all those around us who need them. Let us all follow and walk in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of missions! God bless us all. Amen.


First Reading :


Psalm :


Gospel Reading :

Wednesday, 3 December 2014 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.


Homily and Reflection :

Wednesday, 3 December 2014 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him. How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.


Homily and Reflection :

Wednesday, 3 December 2014 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To win the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.


Homily and Reflection :

Sunday, 19 October 2014 : 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday and Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs; and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the love of God for us in the Eucharist through which He gave us all His own Body and Blood, so that we who share in them, we may receive salvation in our God, and be freed from the bondage of sin and death. And we are reminded of this fact in the readings from the Holy Scriptures which we read today.

In the first reading, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord revealed to Isaiah His servant, of the coming of salvation for the people of Israel, in the person of Cyrus, the King and Emperor of the Persian Empire, who would deliver the people of God the salvation which they would come to await for. For a background understanding, I will share with you the significance of this passage from the Book of Isaiah by telling you the historical background behind it.

At the time the revelation was made to the prophet Isaiah, it was at the time just as the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the conquering power of the Assyrian Empire. The people of the northern kingdom was unfaithful and were engrossed in wickedness and in the worship of the pagan gods. As such, they were handed over to the hands of their enemies and brought away as slaves and exiles from the lands promised and given to their ancestors.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Judah, the southern kingdom, the people of God there were also not always faithful. They also from time to time rebelled against the will of God, preferring to follow their own ways and disobeyed the Lord’s instructions. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judea, the consequences for these were not so apparent yet, but then soon they too would suffer the same fate as their northern brethren, the kingdom of Israel.

They too would be defeated, conquered and exiled, as well as into slavery by the rising power of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, under the famous king Nebuchadnezzar, who brought siege to Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, and brought it to ruin. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed and the Ark of the Covenant was lost in the chaos. This represented the end of the southern kingdom of Judah and the rule of the kings as a whole, and also marked the beginning of what would be called the Babylonian exile.

During this period of exile, the people of Judah were also uprooted and cast away from the land promised and given to their ancestors, and brought in chains to the foreign lands. There they suffered indignation and much humiliation, and they were made to work hard and experienced the bitter pills of difficulties of the world for a period of time, when, according to the word of God through the prophets, that they were humbled among the nations.

Yet, God did not leave them alone with that fate for long. He promised them deliverance, precisely through the prophet Isaiah, that the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, who conquered many kingdoms in the known world at that time, would conquer Babylon and then liberated all the people of God from their bondage and slavery, allowing them to return home to their ancestral lands of Israel, freed at last from their bonds and exile.

God called Cyrus from among the nations, and gave him His blessings and grace, even though he did not know Him. Such was the Lord’s will and plan, and how He put all of His desires and will into effect. He never retracted His promises, nor is He ever being unfaithful. He fulfilled His promises through Cyrus, who just like Moses, brought the people of God out of suffering, bondage and slavery into freedom and God’s renewed promise and covenant.

But at the time of Jesus, the nation of the Jews have endured many cycles of persecutions, oppressions and enslavement by other, more powerful nations, and the latest to be added to the list at the time was the Roman Empire, which ruled over most of the known world, and was known for the first regular and organised ruling imperium in the world, with a meticulous system of taxation, both to maintain control and to obtain revenue for the Roman state.

However, the imposition of taxes also represented the symbol of Roman dominance and mastery over the world, and over the peoples of the Mediterranean at the time, including the Jews, who lived in the Roman province of Judea, which constituted roughly the old Promised Land which they had been given, together with the provinces of Galilee and Decapolis.

The imposition of the taxes were hated and disliked by the people, who viewed them as first the symbol of their submission to the Romans and their Emperor, the Caesar in Rome, as well as the symbol of their renewed enslavement and the end of their freedom which they had often fought hard for and gained for. It also burdened them economically, and thus they were resented by the people as a whole. This was also why the tax collectors were so hated by the people, and they were considered outcasts and traitors, as they were seen as serving the hated Romans in imposing their hated taxes.

The Roman taxes were paid with the Roman currency, that is the Roman coins, most commonly the silver variant, the denarius. On the denarius, just as all the other Roman coins, the face portrait of the Emperor were printed, such that to the extent of the Romans and the peoples of the Empire recognised their Emperor by the coins they released.

This represented a problem, and a rather serious one, in the view of the Jews, as the Roman Emperors at the time, beginning with the Emperor Augustus, and even his pre-Imperial predecessor, Julius Caesar, were deified and worshipped in the Empire as gods or descendants of the gods. Thus, for the Jews, particularly to the Pharisees, the act of paying the taxes with the Roman coins represent a potentially dangerous and serious sin.

Yes, that is the offering to the idols, as equated by the ‘offering’ of the Roman coins with the Emperor’s portrait to the Empire, and thus to the Emperor himself, the deified entity, the pagan god patron of the Empire. Thus, the Pharisees and the elders of Israel wanted to trap Jesus with the question, and had He answered that they should pay the taxes, then they could whip up the masses’ opinion against Jesus and accuse Him of collaboration with the Romans, essentially a traitor to the nation.

On the other hand, if He had answered that they should not pay the taxes, then the Pharisees and the elders, with their links to the Roman establishment could claim that Jesus wanted to lead the people in rebellion against the Roman rule, by refusing to pay the taxes due for them. But Jesus knew all that they had plotted against Him with, and He gave them the answer which none of them had predicted.

Give to God what belongs to God, and give to the Caesar, the Emperor of Rome, what belongs to him, namely the coins and the wealth of the world. Jesus wanted to remind us, just as He wanted to rebuke His opponents, that the wealth and the materials of this world belong to the world and ought to be returned back to them. Thus, money and possessions that we have and gained in this life, is no more than the means for us to live a good and sufficient life, enough for us to sustain ourselves, but they should not be the focus of our life.

Yes, for God is the Creator of all of us, the most beloved ones of all His creations. We were made by God with love, given life by His Spirit and intended for greatness and goodness, and despite our waywardness and disobedience, in the end, we still belong to God, and nothing and noone can deny this very fact. Hence, whatever we are and whoever we are, we ought to give it to the Lord, as we truly belong to God and not to this world.

And hence, we should avoid all the evils of this world and keep ourselves pure, and the Lord had already warned against these sinful ways, namely the sins of the Pharisees, who preached what they believed in, but they did not practice what they had preached. That is why they were called hypocrites, and rightly so, for their faith in the Lord was superficial, and all that they cared about was their own vanity and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what God wants from us is our love, that is what we ought to give to Him, after He Himself had loved us all first. We should also keep ourselves away from the vices and evils of the Pharisees. Think not about bringing harm and plotting against others, but think rather of love, and how we can better love one another, as well as forgiving those who had sinned against us, as Jesus Himself had taught us.

And today in our world, as it had been in the past, there are still many people who live in the darkness of the world, following the ways of the Pharisees and have yet to see the love of the Lord and have yet to understand His ways. And thus, today, in which we also celebrate the occasion of the Mission Sunday, we have to remind ourselves of the responsibilities and the obligations which we have been given by the Lord when we became the member of His Church.

God desires not the destruction of mankind, just as He did not desire the condemnation of His people, Israel. This was why He sent them deliverers, beginning from Moses and then Cyrus, and finally Jesus Himself, His own Son, the One who would deliver not just the Jews but all mankind from the greatest of their bondage and slavery.

Yes, all of us who have sinned and under the whim of sin are enslaved and bonded to sin. And the chains of sin that bind us will eventually and inevitably lead to death, the punishment and ultimate consequence for sin. And not just any death, but eternal death, which will separate us from the love of God, the suffering of hell for eternity, where we are completely and entirely devoid of that love which God lavishes on us.

We can just begin to imagine the kind of suffering when we lack and are denied the wonderful love which God has for us. The pain and suffering far dwarfs the kind of physical and mental suffering which the people in exile and slavery had suffered. And this is exactly what God does not want to happen to us, and thus He also sent His people more deliverers, and who are they? They are none other than each one of us, who have been received into His Church, and have been endowed with the faith.

Let me share with you the inspiring lives of the saints who we also commemorate today, that is St. Jacques Chastan and St. Isaac Jogues, as well as St. Paul of the Cross. For the case of St. Jacques Chastan and St. Isaac Jogues, they were French martyrs, who were part of the French missionaries, the Mission Estrangeres de Paris, the M.E.P. priests who were specialised in the missions to the far ends of the world, spreading the word of God to those who have yet to hear the Good News of the Lord.

St. Jacques Chastan was sent to the missions in Asia, to Thailand, then called Siam, and to Macao, and finally to Korea, where he met his death with faith, in a holy martyrdom. Through his works there and with the collaboration of many other missionaries, many souls were called to the Lord, and heeding the call of conversion, they gave themselves to be baptised and to be part of the Church of God.

The Korean authorities were strongly opposed to the efforts of the missionaries, and they did everything they could to prevent the spread of the faith. Many people, including St. Jacques Chastan were martyred in the defense of their true faith, refusing to renounce the faith and salvation which they had received. After all, when one had been liberated and delivered from slavery, who would want to be enslaved again? To do so would condemn oneself to an eternity of suffering.

Meanwhile, St. Isaac Jogues was a French missionary who was sent to the wild and undiscovered regions of North America, then known as the New World. He worked for the Lord among the many tribes of the North American indigenous populations. Life was indeed difficult for him, and the wars and conflicts between the tribes made it even more difficult. Nevertheless, St. Isaac Jogues persevered and continued to minister to them, spreading the Good News and converting many of them, urging them to abandon their old ways and learn the ways of the Lord.

St. Isaac Jogues was also martyred for his faith, while he was on his mission. He never gave up until the end, and as a result, together with him, many people who were enslaved by sin and darkness, were made free and gain salvation together in God. Such was the role model which actions we can and that we indeed should follow in life.

Lastly, St. Paul of the Cross, the Italian priest of the early modern era who was particularly devoted to the memory of the Holy Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the remembrance of that singular act of ultimate love of God, through which mankind were delivered from the chains and the tyranny of sin into true freedom. Through his works and devotion to the Holy Passion of our Lord, St. Paul of the Cross bring many of the faithful into greater and deeper understanding of their faith, and how all of us too have our own roles to play in helping one another to reach out to God’s salvation.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, heeding the call of the Lord which He had made through the Scriptures and the Gospels which we had heard today, let us all be renewed in our faith and zeal for the Lord. Let us all realise the great love which God has for all of us, that He does not want to see us remain chained to sin and darkness, and for that He had sent us Jesus, to be the One true Saviour of all, in the mould of Moses and Cyrus, but He did even greater things than these two had done.

Why so, brethren? That is because sin is a greater slavery than anything else that may affect our body. Sin enslaves both our body and soul, our heart and mind, and all that comprise us. And thus, through Christ, by believing in Him and in His love, and in His death on the cross, through which He showed us the act of ultimate love, offering Himself in exchange for us as a ransom for death, the consequence of our sins, we have been made free.

Hence, on this occasion of Mission Sunday, inspired by the examples of the saints whom we remember today, let us all also imitate the love which Christ had shown us, and let us imitate this love and show the same love in our own actions and deeds in life, that we may come to realise the great potential within us, and also in the many others who still live in darkness and sin.

May Almighty God bless us and our efforts, the missionary works which we ought to take on, in order to spread the Word of God and the Good News of the Gospels to all the nations, especially those still under the thrall of sin, so that we may truly be what Jesus had asked of us, to give to the Lord what belongs to Him, that is all of us, our hearts and our minds, our entire being. May God bring more and more souls to Him and rescue them, and free them from the shackles of sin and into the everlasting life in true joy which He had promised us all. God be with us, forever and ever. Amen.

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