(Holy Week) Sunday, 9 April 2017 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of the Holy Week, the very significant and indeed holiest moment in the whole of the liturgical year, when we are commemorating and celebrating the final events in the earthly life, work and ministry of Jesus, the last week of His time when He endured all that He had to endure in order to fulfil God’s plan for our salvation to its perfection.

And it all began with the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem, when He was glorified and praised as a triumphant King, coming to enter His city, the city where God had made His dwelling, and He came riding on a donkey, much as the prophet Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah and King Who would come on the donkey into the city, thus fulfilling completely what God had promised His people.

And that is why we have the blessing of the palms and the procession of the palms, to commemorate that moment when the people of Jerusalem welcomed the Lord Jesus coming into the city, singing loudly and courageously, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!” They were welcoming the Messiah Who came to take up possession of His kingdom and His city, as the Heir of David, to whom God had promised that his kingdom would last forever.

Yet, we may wonder, why is it that we begin with the Gospel reading at the start of the celebration of the Holy Mass at the triumphal procession, and then suddenly, as we progress on to the readings, we then read about the Lord and Messiah Who would suffer for the sake of all people, as mentioned in the book of the prophet Isaiah, speaking about the suffering Servant of God, Who would offer Himself to be tortured and punished for our faults.

And in the second reading, in the famous passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, the Apostle wrote about how Jesus had been exalted and given Name above every other names, because He has obeyed the will and the commands of His Father perfectly and completely, by taking up His cross and emptying Himself, allowing Himself to be the perfect sacrifice of love, to be the ultimate source of salvation for all of us mankind.

And we end up with the long Passion reading, when we heard one of the three accounts of the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, which for this year is taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew. We heard how the Lord Jesus spent the last day from the time of the Last Supper, to His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, to His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, to His trial before the chief priests and before Herod, and how then He was tortured and put to death by false accusations before Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea.

We heard how the Lord Jesus took up His cross, having to walk the path of suffering from Jerusalem to the hill of Calvary among two other criminals. He was condemned to death like a criminal even though He was completely innocent. People mourned for Him, while many others mocked Him, jeered Him and rejected Him, throwing insults after insults, spittle after spittle on the way, and He ascended the cross, nailed onto it at Calvary, and died for all of us.

Why is it that a people who have greeted and welcomed the Lord Jesus as King and cried out, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!”, then within just a time span of less than one week, were also the ones who cried out, “Crucify Him!” and “We have no king but Caesar?” That is because we mankind, by our nature, are weak, brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all weak and vulnerable, easily falling into temptation.

Through falsehoods and false promises of pleasure and goodness, the devil, our great enemy, are planting in us the seeds of doubt, the seeds of evil and wickedness, and all these resulted in our lack of faith. Thus, the same people who believed in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Master, easily turned away from Him and rejected Him, when they saw Him fallen from grace and arrested by His enemies. Those who would once call Him friends, left Him behind and abandoned Him.

Indeed, His own disciples abandoned Him when He was arrested, as they cowered in fear and were at loss on what to do. And one of His own twelve most trusted disciples betrayed Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver, tempted by the allure of money and worldly possessions. This is what had caused many of us to sin as well, to fall into darkness and wickedness.

Through this, all of us must realise that each and every one of us have sinned, be it small or great sin, but all of us have disobeyed God. At one point or more in our lives, we have walked away from our God, abandoned Him, betrayed Him and left Him behind for the pursuit of money, worldly temptations and all the false allures of the devil, which he had placed in our path to make us stumble, as what had indeed happened to all of us.

All of us have acted as the people of Jerusalem, as the disciples of Jesus, as Judas Iscariot, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. We have been like them, in how we welcome the Lord and shout His Name for joy, praising Him and glorifying Him, but then, very quickly, when temptations come, when doubt entered into our hearts, when fear and other things arose, we abandoned the Lord and left Him behind.

Let us reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what had happened throughout this Holy Week, this time when Jesus our Lord did all that He had done for the sake of our salvation. We have been the ones to condemn the Lord to His death, by our sins and by our faults. Yet many of us do not realise this fact and continue to carry on with our lives as if nothing had happened. We have often taken the love of God for granted.

If all of us can just come to the realisation that each and every sin that we ever committed in life are the wounds and the sufferings of Christ, Who has suffered and died for us, then all of us would have been very ashamed and would not commit any more sins. But the reality is that many of us have been oblivious and ignorant to the sins that we have committed, and some of us have even been desensitised to sin, because we have committed so many sins, that it feels just normal for us to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today, at the beginning of the Holy Week, to reflect on how fortunate we are, to have One Who loved each and every one of us so much that He was willing to give up His own life for us, He Who was willing to forgive us our transgressions and sins. He has called us to accept His mercy and to share in the burden of His cross, if we believe in Him and what He had done for us.

The question is, are we willing to be forgiven? Are we willing to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are we willing to change ourselves and sin no more? The disciples may indeed have abandoned the Lord, but they all, except Judas Iscariot, turned back to God and sought His forgiveness. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, confessed his devotion and love before the Lord three times, as a sign of his atonement and commitment to be with God. Judas did not repent and change his ways, and that was why Satan used him as a tool to try and undo the good works of Jesus by betraying Him. God gave him chance but he refused to take it up.

Shall we choose to be like Judas or to be like the other disciples of Christ? That is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Let us ponder on this as we go on throughout this Holy Week celebrations, that whatever we do, we may do it with understanding and that we may benefit from them. May all of us find our way to the salvation in our God, and share in the love and mercy with which He had rescued us from death because of our sins.

May the Lord, our loving God, Who suffered and died for us, taking our place in suffering and bearing upon Himself our crosses, bless us all and keep us all in His grace and love at all times. May we all draw closer to Him and to His love, and may we find succour and redemption by the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, and accept wholeheartedly the love which He had given us all. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 25 March 2016 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Good Friday, and we all know that today marks the very special moment in the history of our faith and of our salvation, because on this day we celebrate together the love of our God, the great and infinite love which He had for every single one of us, by bearing our own sins and iniquities upon Himself, and ascending to the hill of Golgotha, He bared Himself before all to see, and though rejected and ridiculed, He persevered to the end for our sake. Yes, so that by His suffering and death on the cross, He may bring us all out from the darkness and into the eternal light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, one might be asking, that given the gravity of the situation of the day, of what we commemorate, then why we do call this day Good Friday? Should it not be one of sorrow and sadness, remembering how our Lord and Saviour was hated, rejected, cast out and sentenced to death on the cross? But this is where exactly we have to understand the meaning of our Lord’s works and His greatest work of all, that by sacrificing Himself and offering Himself on the cross, He has brought us all a new hope, and as well as a new life. Today is Good for us, because if not for this day, all of us would have no hope, and our existence in this world would have been meaningless.

Yes, we have ever suffered in this world, suffered pain and bitterness, sorrow and sadness, and all the other forms of sufferings because of the consequences of our sins and disobedience against God. We have betrayed our Lord, broken our promises to Him, failing to keep His laws and covenants, and by listening more to the words of Satan the deceiver and also to our own human desires, pride, greed and submitting ourselves to sin, rather than to obey the Lord and to live in accordance with His will. It was our destiny and fate for us to face persecution and punishment at the end of our earthly lives, an eternity of suffering and separation from the Lord our God in hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God does despise our sins and He was angry at us with our disobedience. But we must not forget that just as much as He was angry with our sins and wickedness, He also still loved us with equal and even greater intensity, for all of us are beloved in His eyes, and He had created all of us out of love, to enjoy forever the blessings and graces that He had promised to all of us. Yet, because of our disobedience, we have been sundered from Him, separated from those blessings and graces intended for us, and that is why we suffered, because of our sinfulness.

And therefore to that extent of helping us and to keep us away from our fate of being destroyed for our disobedience, God Himself intervened for our sake, by sending to us His Deliverer, the Saviour Who would bring all mankind out of their sins and their misery, and bring them from the darkness of sin and into the light of righteousness in Him. And for this purpose He would send no mere man or any mere servant, but He sent to us His own Son, the very Lord God and Creator of all life and all the universe. He sent to us as a Redeemer, the Word of God, He Who is part of the Trinity, One God and Lord of all things, and yet, in all these, He was willing to empty Himself and came down to us in the form of a humble Man.

All these were done, so that by His humble and perfect offering before God His Father, the Lord God may accept His offering, and use it as the redemption and grace for all of us mankind who have ever lived, from the days of Adam to the days of the last man at the end of time. God offered Himself on the cross for us, that all of us who have a share in His suffering and death, may receive the gifts of eternal life and redemption from our sins. This was a sacrifice beyond all other sacrifices and offerings, for if in the past, the people of Israel offered the blood of goats and doves in order to absolve them temporarily from their sins, but God Himself offered His own Flesh and Blood, the perfect and spotless offering beyond all others, which was the only one worthy to redeem the whole multitude of our sins, every single taint of original sin that had held us back from our salvation and reunion with our loving God.

And if He had loved us so much, then what are we all supposed to do, brothers and sisters in Christ? Christ had chosen to die for all of us, for all mankind, from the least of sinners to the greatest among them, and from the humblest and smallest person, to the great and the mighty. He did not choose from us, and neither was He biased against a certain group or towards a certain person, but He offered His love, mercy and salvation to all. It is our choice now then, whether we are to accept that rich offering of love and mercy, or whether we want to reject them and instead continue to proceed on with our own lives.

Today we are all reminded that the cross that our Lord bore on His way to Calvary, and the cross on which He was nailed to, and hung between the heavens and the earth is a cross of love, the cross of mercy, the cross of forgiveness. For it was through that cross, that God made His love evident to all, and it was through that love, that He endeavoured to gather all of His beloved children to Himself, and took for us, for our sake, the punishments intended for us. And that cross is also the cross of victory, of the triumph against evil and sin, and of the triumph against death. For we know that His death was not forever, and neither did death had any power over Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, but we also have to realise that the cross of Christ is also a cross of suffering, as well as a cross of responsibility. Jesus Himself had said to His disciples, that all those who want to follow Him ought to take up their own crosses and follow Him. So, all of us mankind also have the same obligation to carry up our crosses with us, if we are to follow Him. This is what Jesus told us about how by becoming His followers and disciples, life will be difficult for us, because of all the opposition by the world, and by all the forces of darkness that did not desire to see us saved from our fated destruction.

And just how do we carry our crosses, brethren? It is by remembering that the cross itself is a symbol of love, a bridge between God and mankind, which our Lord Jesus had built for us. For once because of our sins, a great and wide chasm had existed between us and God, and none of us could go to the Lord without crossing that chasm, which was impossible. But our Lord Jesus made it all possible by His death on the cross. For we all who share in His cross, dying to ourselves and our sins, share with Him the glorious joy of His resurrection and brought into a new life of righteousness worthy of our Lord. It was through this that God Himself made the bridge between Him and ourselves, that is the cross of Christ.

Therefore, in order to carry our crosses, we ought to remember that the cross itself is a joining between two components, the vertical bar and the horizontal bar. The vertical bar represents the love and the relationship we have with God, while the horizontal bar represents the love and the relationships we have with one another, with our fellow men. And hence, if we are to be faithful to the Lord, and to be worthy of the salvation which He had offered us through His cross, we ought to remember to obey His covenant and His laws, that is by loving Him with all the might of our bodies, minds, hearts and soul, and do the same to our fellow brethren around us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all use this opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Have all of us been faithful to the Lord, and obeyed all of His laws and commandments? Or have we instead been more faithful to our whim and desires? Have we been loving and merciful in our interactions with our brethren around us, showing them acts of love and mercy, of care and compassion, of tenderness and justice? Let us all do so, if we have not done so yet. Let us all go forth in celebrating this Easter Triduum and the whole joyful season of Easter, by bringing forth the joy that God brought us, and share it with others who have little or none. May God bless us and keep us, and may through His holy Cross, He brings us to eternal life in Him. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 20 March 2016 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great beginning of the Holy Week, the very important week of celebrations of the core tenets of our faith, of the very crucial events surrounding the history of our salvation in God through Jesus Christ, His Son. For it was through Christ that we were all saved from destruction and damnation guaranteed for our sins.

Today we begin the celebration of the Holy Week with the celebration of the Palm Sunday, where we all know that it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus our Lord into Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. Then, certainly, one may ask, what is the significance of such an entry? Did Christ not enter the city of Jerusalem on other occasions as well? After all the Gospels did say about how Christ went to the Temple of Jerusalem for a few times throughout His journeys, and surely He had entered the city a lot of times, even when He was still young and was only twelve years old.

But no, brothers and sisters in Christ, for this entry into Jerusalem is different from the other entries and visits by Jesus and His disciples to Jerusalem. For this entry marked the beginning of the end, that is the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus our Lord in this world, and yet also the beginning of God’s final phase of the plan to save us all mankind.

For it was what happened in that Sunday, a week before the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which set up the stage for the whole culmination of the work of our Lord, that began in Bethlehem on the day of His birth into this world, which came to His baptism, His ministry, and then His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and then how the people who had proclaimed Him as King would then turn on Him, and demanded the Romans to crucify Him instead.

Jesus knew that going into Jerusalem at such a time would mean that He would have to face rejection, suffering, punishment and death, and death by the hanging on the cross, by the Romans. But even knowing this, and knowing all of the persecutions, torture, the pain that He would have to endure, He still pressed on, and entered Jerusalem regardless, going forth to face whatever it was that those who were opposed to Him were trying to do to Him.

And why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of His love for all of us, which transcended everything else. If God did not love us the way He had done, then He would not have bothered even to rescue us from our seemingly hopeless situation. After all, we mankind have proven ourselves throughout history to be very stubborn and resistant to the love and mercy which God is showing us.

We continued in our rebellious ways, not listening to God reminding us and constantly trying to pull us away from our fallen ways. And we resist even those whom He had sent to call us back into righteousness, the messengers, the prophets and the other holy men and women. God fully knew how His rebellious people would treat Him if He Himself were to come into their midst and call them to do the same thing, that is to repent.

But He did so regardless, just as at the mountain where He was transfigured, at Mount Tabor, where He did not remain forever, but continued to descend down the mountain, knowing that in order to save mankind from their fate, there is something that must be done, and it is to offer a worthy sacrifice as the means to absolve them from their sins.

And in order to absolve the whole multitude of mankind, all the billions and countless billions of them, and all the sins each had accumulated or will accumulate in their respective lives, which is really a gargantuan, a humongous amount of sins, nothing is worthy save if the Lord offers Himself, the one sole, perfect sacrifice, worthy to absolve us all. Just imagine all the sins, big and small that we have committed in life, and we should realise just how many sins we have committed.

And then imagine how that many sins being committed by all mankind who have ever lived, past, present and future, and all their sins, our sins are placed firmly on the shoulders of our Lord, Who willingly bore them all the way to the cross, and die for the sake of all of us criminals through our sins, so that our punishment may not be ours, but our lot becomes that of eternal life with God Who loves us.

And as we think and reflect about the love which our God has for us, let us also reflect on our own lives, our actions, words, deeds and all the things we have done in our lives. Have we been like the people of Jerusalem in their deeds, in how they treated the Lord Jesus? They welcomed the Lord with great pomp and celebrations, hailing Him as the Son of David, the Messiah and King, and yet, just less than a week later, they were the same ones who chose Barabbas over Jesus, and cried out, “Crucify Him!” when Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus.

That means, have we proclaimed ourselves as Christians, saying that we are faithful to the Lord, and yet, have we been truly faithful to God? Are we faithful in our actions and in all our dealings with one another? If we say that we are faithful to God and yet our actions are detestable to Him, then we are no better than those people in Jerusalem, who proclaimed Jesus as King and Messiah on one day, and on the other day, called for Him to be crucified.

But remember, Jesus forgave them all, and He prayed for them. And He also died for them all, for He gave Himself up to be crucified, to suffer and die for all mankind, and not just for all those who are good to Him. Ultimately, it is our acceptance to His offer of mercy, and our commitment to make our own lives a better one that will make a difference in our lives.

As we proceed into the Holy Week celebrations beginning from today, and as we rejoice in God, crying out aloud, “Hosanna!” Let us also remember that we today also celebrate the Holy Passion of our Lord, He Who suffers for our sins and Who were tortured and wounded because of our trespasses. Let us be thoroughly and completely changed in body, mind and heart, so that we may become more devoted and faithful in all things, and be worthy of God’s promise of everlasting life. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 3 April 2015 : Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Good Friday, which we all know is the celebration of that momentous occasion when all of mankind were brought out of the hopelessness and despair of the darkness of the world and into the new hope because of one singular act of God, who made it all possible, through what Jesus Christ had done. It is exactly by His obedience to God His Father and by laying down His life on the cross, that He had brought us mankind to salvation.

That is why today is a good day, the Good Friday, for it is because of what had happened on this day that changed our fate. For once we had expected only suffering and death, and we feared death because it brings us nothing but anguish, sorrow, difficulties, uncertainties and many others, and because of what Christ had done on the cross for us, now we can look forward and head to the world that is to come, one that lies beyond death, and one that is of hope and joy.

There are indeed several aspects to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and there are several dimensions and significance that all of us should be aware of. And on this occasion when we commemorate that moment of the crucifixion, is the most appropriate moment for us to reflect on the significance of this to our own lives, and to our own faith in God.

We most likely know of the fact that when Christ carried that burden of the cross, He was in fact carrying the burdens of our sins. We most likely should also know that, based on what we have commonly heard in catechisms and teachings of the Church, that because He carried for us the burdens and punishments for sins, in place of us, then that was why we who believe in Him have been made free from the consequences of the sins we had committed.

However, the significance extended even much deeper beyond what we often knew, and indeed, the crucifixion, the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, was the culmination of God’s grand plan to rescue us mankind, the pinnacle of the entire Holy Scriptures and all the things in them. God has planned our salvation and liberation from sin from the very beginning of time, a very, very long time ago, and in Christ, all those plans and promises were completed perfectly.

God had made Himself into Man through Jesus, assuming the flesh of a lowly and humble Man, so that in doing so, He might reverse what mankind had erred at the beginning, starting from the first man, Adam, who disobeyed the Lord’s commandments together with Eve, his wife, and ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were persuaded and tempted by Satan to listen to their own desires rather than to listen to and to obey the Lord.

The new Adam, that is Christ, has been the One who showed mankind, all of us, that it is possible to resist and reject the temptations of our flesh and of Satan. It is possible indeed for us all to refuse the malicious offers of the evil one, but indeed only if we follow what Christ had done. He listened to the Lord, who is His Father, He refused to listen to the sweet lies of Satan and to give in to human desires and wishes.

He is God, Almighty and All-Powerful, All-Knowing and Ever-Present. There is nothing in this world that is impossible for Him. If He wanted it, He could have had it easy, refusing the cross and the suffering, letting us all to perish because of our sins. And yet, He did not do that, firstly because He loves us all so much, to the point that He was willing to go through the most horrendous and greatest of sufferings just so that we may be brought to freedom from our sins and their consequences.

He obeyed the will of the Father, and even though He was tempted during His moments of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, He obeyed and pushed on, out of His infinite and undying love for all of us. And His perseverance brought us much goodness, the liberation from the bonds of sin. God gave His only Son, for this very purpose, and He showed us as the new Adam, that mankind has the choice and the potential to change their fate, and to reject the rebellious ways of our ancestors.

And we can indeed compare this moment, the new covenant and Passover of the Lord, with the ancient and first Passover, when the people of Israel were liberated from their slavery under the Egyptians and their Pharaohs. At that night, before they were freed, they were told to eat the Passover meal, where the Passover lamb whose blood had been used to mark their houses and the flesh as the food for the people, had been given as sacrifice for their liberation.

That night was different from every other night, and at every Passover, the Jews commemorated that moment, including at the Last Supper, when Jesus had the Passover meal with His disciples. At that night however, it was indeed very different from any other night, and from any observation of the Passover. It was because instead of the usual celebration of the Passover, Jesus gave His own Body and Blood as the sacrificial offering, offered freely by the Lamb of God, through whom then He liberated us all from the true slavery, that is the slavery by our sins.

So, just as the people of Israel were set free, we have also been set free by our Lord through the cross. The cross of Christ represents the symbol of hope for us all, that by the Lord’s power, the power and poison of death had been destroyed forever. At the time of Moses, when the people of Israel were journeying through the desert, they rebelled against the Lord and as a punishment, God sent fiery and poisonous serpents that killed many of them.

Moses pleaded for the mercy of God, and God instructed him to craft a bronze serpent mounted on a tall staff, so that all who saw it may not die but live. And as Jesus told to Nicodemus, that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up and people who saw it were saved, so thus He, the Lamb of God, would also be lifted up high on the cross, that all who believe in Him and His cross, will be saved.

The cross, on which Christ hung from, is a clear reminder of that act of ultimate selflessness and ultimate love which our Lord had shown us, but it is also a reminder of what we need to do on our side, in order to fulfill the covenant, the new covenant which God had sealed with His own Blood and His own sacrifice on the cross. It is love that we should do and commit to in our lives.

The cross is made of two bars, joined together, namely the vertical and the horizontal bars. This is to remind us that act of love, that is when we love, we cannot separate the two important acts of love we need to do, firstly to our God, and then to our brethren, our neighbours around us, our fellow men. The vertical bar represents the love which we should have for our Lord, who had loved us so much first, so much so that He was willing to sacrifice Himself and suffer all the consequences of our sins, for the sake of us lowly humans, sinners and unrepentant rebels.

But it will not be complete, if we also do not love those who are around us. This is represented by the horizontal bar of the cross. A cross will not be complete without the vertical or the horizontal bar. This is to show us that we cannot just love ourselves and others without loving God and loving what He had done for us out of live, and neither can we just love God and ignore others who are around us. There are many people out there who are ostracised, rejected and unloved daily, and if we have the capacity to love, then why not?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we commemorate this important moment, let us all reflect on our own actions, whether we have loved God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, as well as loving our fellow brothers and sisters, without bias and without prejudice. It is what we should do. Remember also that every time we come for the Mass, we share together the meal of the Last Supper of the Apostles, where our Lord Jesus Christ transformed the bread and wine into the substance of His own Body and Blood.

Therefore, we all in the Eucharist also share the same Body and Blood of our Lord, who had given them freely, so that we who worthily receive them, receive also Him, who dwells in us, justifies us, and allow us to receive the heavenly grace of salvation and eternal life, which Christ had made possible by His suffering and death on the cross. Let us all today therefore commit ourselves to be better servants and followers of our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, 2 April 2015 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, tonight we celebrate the beginning of the three most important days of our Faith, the Easter Triduum. Tonight we celebrate that night when our Lord Jesus Christ had given to us all, through His disciples, His own Body and His own Blood, which He gave to us through the Eucharist, the bread and wine which He transformed into the very essence of His Body and Blood.

And tonight we also commemorate that moment when God renewed His covenant and promise of love for us, which He made by the renewed gift of the Passover lamb, which blood once became the hope and liberation for a people and a nation under slavery, whom God marked among the nations with the blood of the lamb, as a people blessed and favoured by God, whom He brought out of Egypt in the first Passover.

That Passover was a very important moment for the people of Israel, for it was at that Passover that God, with His own mighty power and deeds, singularly freed the people whom He had chosen, from the slavery of the Egyptians. They were freed, all those whose houses were marked by the blood of the unblemished lamb, as they ate the flesh of the same lamb at the threshold of liberation and salvation from the Egyptians.

And today, we commemorate the renewal of that covenant which God had established anew with all of His people through Jesus, His Son whom He had sent into the world to be the salvation of all who believe in Him. There is a strong parallel between the Passover and the true, Christian Passover instituted at the Last Supper. While at the first Passover, the Lord freed a nation from the tyranny and slavery of the Egyptians, the true and renewed Passover was when the Lord in His might brought all of His beloved people, out of the tyranny of evil and the slavery of sin.

And while the people of Israel marked their houses with the blood of a young, unblemished lamb and ate its flesh roasted over the fire, as a sign of God’s salvation, Christ is the true Paschal Lamb, the true Lamb of God, who gave Himself freely to all of us, offering His own Body and His own Blood, so that all of us who ate of His Body and drank His Blood shall not die but receive everlasting life.

Through the bread and wine which Jesus Himself transformed into His own Body and Blood, He had marked us all as His chosen ones, all of us who have been baptised into His Church and who have received Him in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. Just as the angels of death passed over the people of Israel whose houses were marked with the blood of the lamb, from which came the term ‘Passover’, thus we all who have been marked by the Blood of the Lamb of God shall also be passed over from death, and shall receive the rich rewards of eternal life.

But today’s very special occasion also reminds us all that this does not come easily and without challenges. We cannot be passive in our faith life, and neither can we just expect salvation to come while we sit down and relax. Our faith is not one where we just have to wait for the Lord to come and feed us an guide us, and we do not need to do anything else. On the contrary, our faith must be a living and real faith, filled with action and deeds that justify our faith.

And our Lord Jesus Himself showed by example what this means. He took of His garments, and wearing the clothes of a servant and slave, He went down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples, an act that at that time, and even today, would be considered in terms of the world, a very humiliating and debasing act for whoever is the one who performed the act of the washing of the feet.

To wash someone else’s feet is among the greatest if not the greatest act of lowering oneself before another, for that is indeed the act showing greatest amount of humility and total disregard of one’s own pride and self. And this was what Jesus had done. He is King of all kings, Lord of all lords, Creator and Master of all the universe, the Almighty God and Omnipotent Lord of all, and yet there He was, washing the feet of His own disciples, sinners and mere men.

What Jesus wanted to show us is that, to be greater and to be endowed with greater gifts come equally great responsibility, and a leader should not boast or gloat in his or her power or might, but instead he or she should serve and give the best to guide all those who have been entrusted under his or her care. In this Jesus also showed us that as a King, a Lord, a Master and a Leader, He was like a shepherd guiding his flock of sheep.

A good and dedicated shepherd serve the needs of his sheep, and guide them to safety. He does not run when danger comes, and when wolves come to strike at the sheep, the good shepherd would even gave his life in exchange for the safety of his sheep. And that was what Jesus had done. Not only by His service to those who had been entrusted to Him, but also by His perfectly selfless sacrifice on the cross.

On this day, all of us are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to give of ourselves, our entire being and selves, to help one another and give of our heart, our attention and care to others around us. We cannot be selfish in our faith, and neither can we just be concerned only about salvation. No matter how much piety we have or devotions to the Lord we have, but if we do not have love for our brethren, our faith means nothing.

Today is also named Maundy Thursday, and the word Maundy comes from the term ‘Mandatum’ which is the Latin word for ‘command’, and this is because on this occasion, at the Last Supper, which we commemorate tonight, our Lord Jesus Himself had given is all a command, a new commandment as part of our new Covenant with God.

And this commandment, is exactly as what Jesus Himself had said about the essence of the Law, the true meaning of the Law of God as revealed first to Moses long ago during the Exodus. It is that we should love one another, just as our Lord Himself had loved us, and therefore, vice versa, we should also love our Lord in the same way too. There is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for his friends, and Jesus died for all of us, even while we are still sinners and rebels against God.

We have to give it all when we love others. We cannot be biased or be judgmental in loving one another. Forgive the faults that others had done to us, just as they should forgive whatever faults we have done to them, and we must not hold grudge. These things are easy to be said, but not easy to be done in reality. Therefore, on this occasion of Holy Thursday, we are also reminded that we have much homework to do, in order to become ever better, ever more faithful servant and followers of our Lord.

Therefore, let us all pray, pray fervently and obediently, that all of us may be ever strengthened in our faith, so that we may be justified also by our actions based on that same faith we have in us. Let us be reminded always that our faith must be made real through action, and all of us have the duty and responsibility to one another, to help each other grow in faith and love, and to be more devoted servant of our Lord. Let us follow the examples of our Lord Jesus Christ and walk ever in His light and grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 2 April 2015 : Maundy Thursday, Chrism Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this occasion we are celebrating the Chrism Mass, which is always celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week, also known as Maundy or Holy Thursday. On this special occasion, the bishops of each diocese will celebrate together with all of each diocese’s priests, where they will all reaffirm their promises and vows made at their ordination and consecration as anointed servants of God.

On this occasion of Chrism Mass as well, the oils to be used for various purposes are blessed and made holy. There are three types of oil, the oil of chrism for baptism and confirmation, the oil of the catechumens for the anointing of the candidates for baptism, and finally the oil of the sick, for the last unction, or the Sacrament for the Sick and Dying. These holy oils are blessed on this occasion, and the significance of it in relation to what I have mentioned earlier about priests are great.

This is all in accordance with all the readings of the Holy Scriptures today, that all of us who have chosen to take up the cross and follow our Lord Jesus had been chosen and taken out from the world to be made special and different. We were once sinners and estranged children of our Lord, but through this effort and by the grace of God, we have been made to share in the glory of Christ.

Since the ancient days of the Old Testament, anointing with the holy oils have been a special sign to the people, that whoever was anointed, was chosen by the Lord to be His servant. Saul, the first king of Israel was anointed, and so was David, whom God anointed through Samuel. The kings of Israel were anointed, and the priests of Israel, the descendants of Aaron were also anointed, since the days of Moses and the Exodus when the priesthood was first instituted.

All of us who have given ourselves to be baptised, or by our parents’ wish and decision, have been chosen from among all the people of the world, and in baptism and by anointing with the holy oil of chrism, we have become God’s children and in serving Him, we share together, the three aspects of Christ, namely His Kingship, His Priesthood and His service to God as a faithful servant.

And those of us who have chosen to deepen our faith and do more for the Lord, by joining the sacred order of priesthood and the ordained ministry, we have been anointed and chosen even more by our Lord to do ever more things for His glory and for the good and salvation of all mankind, our brethren. It is to remind us, with this occasion of Chrism Mass, the dedication and the commitment which all of us ought to have for the Lord and for His people.

All of us have our duties and obligations, the responsibilities which all of us should take up together as the members of God’s Church. We have many tasks to do, beginning of course from ourselves, to change our ways so that our own lives will be more attuned and in line with the ways of the Lord, and so that we may show to others how to follow the Lord and walk in His ways.

We have our responsibilities to take care of one another to grow in faith. Rather than be disgusted by one’s wickedness and condemning others because of that wickedness, it is better for us to learn to accept each other’s weakness and work together to be better and more faithful servant of the Lord. We have to be awakened to our responsibilities and learn how to take up the crosses of our life, and contribute to make a difference.

Today as we bless this oil, of catechumens, of chrism, and those of the sick, let us all renew our faith, dedication and devotion to the Lord, and renew our commitment, which we ought to show through our actions, and in how we interact with one another. Let us all remember that all of us have been called and made holy, as a priestly people, a royal people and a people dedicated to the Lord, so that we may share together the love and grace of God, for the good and salvation of all mankind. God be with us always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015 : Wednesday of the Holy Week (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with simple, clear and undeniable fact of how we are so weak so as to be corrupted by sin, to the point of even betraying our Lord, who had endeavoured to love us and to carry us out from the pit of darkness and back into the light. What Judas had done, is also what we have often done in our own lives, albeit one that is of lesser severity, but yet all the same in nature.

As we draw ever closer to the celebration of the Easter Triduum, of our Lord’s Passion and death, and also His resurrection from the dead, all of us should be jolted and be awakened from our slumber, from our apathy and ignorance. Many of us today live as if we do not care what has happened to us, and especially what our Lord had done for us two millennia ago.

It is the time now for us to realise that our Lord had done so much for us, for the simple reason that He does not wish for us to be lost forever in the darkness. He desires for all of us to receive His grace and goodness, and He wants us all to be changed for the better. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why Jesus came into the world, and why He came into our lives.

He did not come to gloat over our sins and our faults, and neither did He come to expect our praise and glorification. Instead, He came into this world, fully knowing that He would suffer and be rejected by the world and by His own people, betrayed by His own disciple, loathed and cursed by the same ones who adored and glorified Him when He entered into Jerusalem in triumph, and to be crucified like a sinner with thieves and criminals.

Such was the great price that our Lord has paid in order to deliver us from sin and from the domination of the evil one. In Him lies our salvation, and in Him lies our only hope. Without Him, then our lives would be meaningless, for no matter whatever we do in this life, we know that because of our sins, we are forever separated from God, as it had been in the days of Adam, when our first ancestors were cast out of Eden, out of God’s presence because of their sins.

Jesus had become our Bridge, the one and only bridge linking us back to God our Lord and Father. It is because of Him that we have hope once again, because He allowed us the chance to return to our Father, with repentance and humility, knowing that we are sinners and yet we have been given the great grace of God, forgiven from our sins and welcomed with open hands to return once again to His embrace.

What more can we ask from Him? He has given us so much, and yet it is so often that we do not show gratitude for the care and love which He had given us. We are often so indignant in our ways and ungrateful, that this is why we remain in sin. It is important that as we prepare to enter into the celebration of the most important aspect of our faith, we have to be ready for it.

What can we do? We can begin from small things and take small steps, from something as simple as changing our bad habits in life. If we once often loathed against our brethren and said bad things to them, or if we have done injustice to our brethren and slandered against them, then I say that we take the chance and put in a lot of effort to change our ways.

I am certain that if we do so, slowly we will grow stronger in God’s grace, and as long as we are sincere in our desire to serve the Lord and to walk in His ways, we will triumph. May Almighty God keep us in His ways, and may He enlighten us all and show us the path to redemption, so that we may no longer be lost in the darkness but return to the light. God bless us all. Amen.