Friday, 10 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are given a plain, clear and stern warning, that we have a clear choice in life, whether we choose to obey the Lord and His will and walk in His ways, or we can choose to walk in the ways of this world, following the whim of our desires and wants in life, and thus we gain the enjoyment of this worldly life, but we lose out in the life of the world to come.

Those who are not righteous and who allow themselves to be taken over by the lies of Satan will perish, and the curse of sin will be with them. They will not have any part in the inheritance of the Lord, the promise of eternal life and happiness which He had revealed through Jesus and sealed through the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And all who believe in Him will be saved.

That is because, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have fallen into sin and evil ever since the very first time when we disobeyed the Lord, and through that we have lost our right to receive the inheritance which God had promised mankind. Men were not made to suffer the consequences of sin and suffer death and pain. Men were destined for happiness as the greatest and most beloved of God’s creations, but instead, in the free will which He had given us, we chose to pick the temporary pleasures of the flesh rather than the eternal pleasure of the soul.

But God did not give up on us, for He is indeed our loving Father and Creator, who would not suffer to see us fall into eternal damnation with the devil who had brought us to our downfall. Instead, He gave us a new opportunity through the covenant which He had made with Abraham, our father in faith and the father of many nations. The faith and devotion which he showed in life had gained justification and righteousness for him and those who are his descendants.

However, being descendants of Abraham by virtue of birth does not guarantee us salvation, as Jesus once rightly said to the people of Israel who were defiant against Him, that even God could raise the children of Abraham from mere rocks, when they boasted of their status and their supposed privilege as the children of Abraham. That was because while they claimed to be children of Abraham by birth, their actions suggested otherwise. Abraham himself would be ashamed to have them as his descendants!

As the Holy Scriptures had mentioned, that all of us mankind who have done God’s will and obeyed Him in the things which He had asked from us, even though we may not be counted among the tribes of Israel, but if we have done as God had commanded us, just as Abraham had done, then we deserve and are indeed counted together among the children of Abraham, and hence we will also deserve the inheritance promised by God to us.

God also renewed the covenant which He had first established with Abraham, after his descendants reneged on their part of the covenant due to their unfaithfulness, and in order to fulfill the promise made to men at the beginning of time, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and God, as our Saviour. Christ became the hope to all who remain faithful in the Lord and reject the ways of Satan.

For Jesus Christ followed the will of God His Father perfectly, and obeyed even until suffering death, for the sake of all of us mankind. That while the old Adam and the descendants of Abraham disobeyed God and spurned His love, the new Adam, that is Christ, is perfect in obedience and love for God, so that through Him mankind is made well again, and worthy of the inheritance promised to them, because Christ had taken flesh, and the Word was made Man.

Nevertheless, as we can see in the Gospel, there are always dissenters who refused to believe in the truth of Christ and they preferred to follow the whims of their flawed humanity, and preferred to be lead by the lies and comforts promised by Satan, just as their ancestors had done before. This was what happened, when the Israelites refused to believe in the miracles of Jesus, accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of demons because in their hardened heart, they failed to see Christ as He was.

Thus, brothers and sisters, the readings of this day serve as a stern reminder to all of us, that we should keep all of our ways within what the Lord had instructed us, and we should not allow ourselves to be bought off by the tricks and the lies of Satan, who will tirelessly indeed continue his assaults on us, to wrench us away from the safety and salvation in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we stay faithful, and do all that is good and righteous, then we will be counted among the children of Abraham, and the Lord who had established His new covenant with us, by the shedding of His Blood on the cross, will make us inheritors of our promised rewards. However, if we do not remain faithful and turn our back on Him, then He will also turn His back against us, and we will be cast away from His presence into eternal damnation.

Lastly, Jesus our Lord also reminded us of a very important fact, when the people accused Him of using devil to fight against other devils. He pointed out how a house will not be able to remain standing if it is divided against each other. Thus, if all of us the children of God are not able to remain united, either because of hatred, jealousy, prejudice, arrogance or many other lies and evils Satan planted in our hearts, then we are in great danger to succumb to the assaults of Satan against the people of God.

Thus, let us today renew our commitments to the Lord, that we will be truly faithful to Him, and that we will work together as one whole community of the Church, to resist together and rebuke Satan together as one. May Almighty God guard us always, protect us from the evil one, and awaken in us the faith of our father in faith, Abraham, His faithful servant, that we may all partake fully in the inheritance promised to us. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate with the whole Church, the feast of our Lady of the Rosary, that is we celebrate the Blessed Mother of our Lord herself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom we always ask for intercession and help, whenever we pray the holy rosary. Today we are reminded on the good qualities of Mary and why we ask for her intercession, to help us on our path towards salvation in God.

And why is today selected as the day to remember this very important nature and use of the holy rosary? That is because the holy rosary is a powerful tool of prayer, and when used right, it will help us to fortify ourselves against the forces and the assaults of Satan, by asking for the help and intercession of the Blessed Mother of our God, the one who is nearest to the throne of her own Son, praying and interceding for us all the time.

And today marked the anniversary of the great victory of the faithful against the threat of the great forces of evil and infidels, in the Battle of Lepanto, the renowned great battle in which the combined forces of the faithful from all over Christendom defeated the great force of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, conqueror of the Christian city of Constantinople, the scourge of Christendom and the Empire of the heathens. This victory marked the turning point in which, the faithful triumphed against their enemies.

The Pope at the time, Pope St. Pius V, dedicated the great victory to the Blessed Virgin, and attributed it to her constant intercession for the faithful ones of her Son, through the holy rosary, at the time when Christendom was threatened with oblivion and darkness, when the forces of the enemies of the Lord were advancing. The holy city and capital of the Roman Empire of Constantinople had fallen to their advance, and as the tide went on, it seemed as if it was inevitable that the rest of Christendom would also fall to the same force.

The intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the faith of the people of God eventually triumphed over the forces of the evil one. And this is because of the promise which God had granted mankind and all of His faithful, that He would give them hope through the Saviour, also called the Messiah, who He promised to the people who had fallen into the darkness of evil and sin.

When mankind first fell into sin, they have lost the inheritance and the promise shown to them, as they became unworthy due to their lack of faith and inability to listen to the will of God, and rather they followed and listened to the sweet lies of Satan instead. But God reminded both men and Satan after that unfortunate event, that while mankind would suffer the consequence of their disobedience, that is to suffer the difficult life in the world, but salvation would come through them.

The Lord said that while Satan the snake would trouble mankind and cause problem to them, a Son would be born from the woman, and that the woman would crush the head of the snake. This woman in fact referred to the very one whom the Lord had chosen among many, to be the instrument of His salvation, that is Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was her and her Son’s actions and deeds which counteracted the evils which our first ancestors had committed, and thus in the process, gained for us a renewed hope in God.

The obedience and faith of Mary, which she showed perfectly when the Archangel Gabriel came to her with the surprising and unprecedented news, the Good News of the coming of the long awaited Saviour, and that she would be the crucial cornerstone in the execution of the plan of salvation, by being the bearer of the Saviour Himself.

And unlike Eve who chose to listen to Satan instead of God, Mary listened obediently to God’s will, and rather than succumbing to the temptation of her flesh, like that of Eve and Adam, who were tempted by the temptation of knowledge and power, Mary declared obediently, that she was the handmaid of the Lord, and all that God wills for her, she will have it done unto her.

And it was also the obedience of Jesus our Lord, who listened and obeyed the Lord till the end, even unto death. Remember what Jesus had done in the agony which He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane? He was indeed tempted to forgo such a great burden He was to bear for the sake of all our sins. Imagine the weight of all of our sins, from our youth to our old age, all mankind combined together as one, and that combined weight of sin burdened on Jesus.

But Jesus did not complain, and through His obedience, He gained favour with God, and through His sacrifice on the cross, He gained for us salvation and eternal life for all of us who believe in Him and put our trust in Him. He is the new Adam who obeyed in His fullest to the Lord, in contrary to the old Adam who disobeyed and sinned before the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this day, we call into our mind this fact, that we all are sinners, and yet if we obey the Lord in all things as Mary had done, and as Jesus Himself had done, we will be assured of safety and salvation in God. However, we have to also keep in mind that the evil one, Satan, who is always desiring to bring about the downfall of every mankind is always lurking around us, seeking to tempt us into sin.

That is why it is recommended that all of us pray the holy rosary regularly, and if we do so, the rosary is a powerful tool against the advances of Satan, just like forces of the faithful who prayed and asked for the intercession of the Lord and His blessed mother before the great battle against the forces of the unbelievers and the followers of Satan.

And triumph and victory was given by the Lord to His faithful, just as decisively as Jesus had defeated Satan forever through His triumphant resurrection from the dead, by which He liberated all mankind from the bonds of their original sins and granted new hope to all those who believe in Him.

It is indeed important to take note that we should make use of the rosary meaningfully. Praying it for the sake of praying and praying for the sake of saying the prayer is meaningless. Rather, when we pray the rosary, let us be like our mother Mary in heaven, who is ceaselessly praying for us, interceding for us, and begging for our sake the sinners, just as she had done in Cana, on behalf of the wedding couple in distress.

Let us therefore from now on, especially on this day too, pray the holy rosary regularly, sincerely and devotedly, that we may honour Mary our mother, and the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, for her model in faith and obedience to God, and at the same time, also ask her sincerely to intercede on our behalf, that as she is the closest to the throne of the Lord, she may be our greatest defender against the evils of Satan.

May Almighty God therefore, awaken the zeal and love we have for Him within our hearts, so that from now on, with the help of the devotion of the holy rosary, we may be brought ever closer to our Lord and God, and to His love, which He gave freely to us. God be with us all, brethren, now and forever. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Feast of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr (II Classis) – Sunday, 28 September 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of St. Wenceslaus, martyr of the faith, Duke and ruler of Bohemia, a holy, devoted and pious leader of his people, and ultimately, the humble and good servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who walked in His path so faithfully, that he brought good things to those entrusted under his care, and he even obeyed Him all the way unto death in the hands of his enemies.

The key of our readings from the Holy Scriptures on this holy day is that we ought to be exemplary and faithful in our lives, so that in every things that we do, we do it in e Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that through our every words and deeds, we may give glory to our Lord, and so all those who see us will know who the Lord is, and that we belong to Him, and we are saved by our works.

For the Scriptures had said, that even the Gentiles would come to proclaim the Lord as Lord and God, even though they once did not know who He was, until the Apostles came to them and deliver to them the Good News of God’s salvation which He had first proclaimed to the world through the coming and the works of Jesus, His Son. The Apostles became living witnesses of His works, and thus from them, they passed on that knowledge to others, who in turn became witnesses of the faith.

Jesus Himself showed to His people, how to live as a faithful and good servant of our Lord. The cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love are always indeed at the forefront, and we should always keep these in mind. And in all things, we ought to think not of ourselves first, but we ought to keep the Lord ever first in our minds and our hearts, and then also our brethren around us.

Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the elders of the people of God, who failed to look beyond the words of the Law of God, on the matter pertaining to the sabbath day and its observations. They failed to understand the meaning of those laws which God had given His people, and instead, they oppressed the people by their strict and unbending word-to-word obedience to the law. But, as Jesus made it clear to them their folly, that what they did was in fact feeding on their own ego and obeying their own human-made laws and not the law of God.

For the Law of God is in essence, love. And love will not cause or bring unnecessary suffering among the people whom He loved greatly. What He seeks after all is not empty promises and empty profession of faith, or empty observances of the laws and the events, but rather, a true and sincere love which mankind, His people, has for Him. He seeks for our hearts and our love, not our appearances!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why St. Paul and the Apostles, as well as all the saints and holy men and women of God were witnesses to the love of God, and what He desired out of us. They showed not by mere words or appearances, as the Pharisees and the elders had once done. Where these people showed off their supposed ‘piety’ in the common places by praying loudly and openly in the sight of the people for their praise, the Apostles and disciples of Christ toiled and worked, in the defense of their faith and in the effort to bring the Good News to the people, to us all.

And St. Wenceslaus, the saint whose feast we celebrate today is no different indeed. He was born into privilege, into the ruling house of Bohemia and Moravia, which today corresponds to the territories of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and St. Wenceslaus became the Duke of Bohemia, a great lord and a respected position in Christendom.

St. Wenceslaus was one of the first Christian rulers of his people, together with his father. Many of the people under his care remained as pagans and beyond the reach of the Church. St. Wenceslaus was a wise and great ruler, who truly cared for his people. He built many churches and other facilities, designed to help the people of God, both in things physical and spiritual. He helped the faith to grow and spread among the faithful, bringing countless souls closer to salvation.

He led by example, and practiced his faith by real and concrete example, serving the people of God humbly even though he is mighty and powerful. He brought the people he has been entrusted with closer to the love of God, as a faithful shepherd and servant of God. He had his enemies of course, and those plotted against him, assassinating him while he was on his way to a celebration, the enemies of all the faithful and the agents of Satan who had done this to remove this holy servant of God.

Yet they have failed in the end, as the examples of St. Wenceslaus shone very brightly for all to see and follow, and he was made a saint, truly because of his great virtues in life, and he now is our intercessor in heaven, who together with the many other holy men and women, pray for us unceasingly before our Lord, that we too may repent from our sins, and endeavour to be faithful in all of our actions.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be examples to one another, that in our actions and deeds, we show our faith in God, and we show how devoted we are to the Lord, not just by empty promises and professions, but through real action, founded upon the three cardinal virtues of our faith, that is faith, hope and love, and love for God as well as love for our fellow men. God bless us all, brethren, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 28 September 2014 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we hear very, very clear message from the Lord through the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels we have heard from, that it is important for us to distinguish between acts that please God and the acts that are disapproved by God, as things evil and unworthy for us as the children of God. And indeed, we are also called to reflect on the obedience and the works of Jesus Christ our Lord, the new Adam, as compared to what our first ancestor, the old and original Adam had done.

And it is also important for us to take note the kind of faith that we have, whether we have the faith of hypocrites or instead if we have the faith of those who sincerely desire to follow and seek the Lord in their lives, amidst all the difficulties and challenges, and despite the fact that we mankind are often sorely tested and tempted by sin. The importance of sincerity in our faith, and the crucial nature of our desire to seek God’s forgiveness cannot be overlooked.

The key idea here is that we are all always first of all, sinners and sinners among sinners. This is because ever since Adam, our ancestor and Eve, his partner, disobeyed God and His will, and instead following Satan into his rebellion, mankind have fallen into sin, and the sins of our fathers also passed down to us, as our original sins, which continued to be on our way in our effort to seek out the Lord and His forgiveness.

But God who loves us very much, did not let us to languish and suffer in the darkness and pain. Instead, He sent us the greatest help He could give, that is to give His own Son, part of Himself and His Trinity, to be our Saviour and Redeemer, and by no other means than to give up Himself and offer Himself as a worthy sacrifice as the Lamb of God, to shed His Blood, and thus gain salvation for all of us who believe in Him.

Jesus Himself showed the kind of obedience which all of us ought to emulate, that is obedience unto death and perfect obedience without doubt and interference of our own self-interest. This is the kind of obedience we need to have on the matters pertaining to our faith in God, and indeed, this is the kind of faith we need to have, and not the kind of faith which the Pharisees and the elders of the Israelites once had.

Their faith is an empty and superficial faith, which did to them no good and brought them no closer to salvation and grace in God. In fact, their actions did not reflect what they professed to believe. What they did was in contrary to what they preached to the people, that they truly deserved their title of hypocrites, as Jesus said of them.

Their hypocrisy was made clear when they paid mere lip-service to their faith and to their God. They did not love God, and neither did they love their fellow men as the Lord had asked them to. Instead, they loved only themselves, and in their actions, they oppressed the people of God entrusted to their care, and misguided them to follow their wicked examples. Therefore, their sins were even greater, for not only that they did not do as they should have done, but they also misled others into the darkness.

They were exactly like the son who said to his father, that he will obey and do his desires, but in the end he never acted as what he had said. This is the essence of hypocrisy, on faith that is not based on real action and genuine love, as well as devotion to God, but based on lip-service and superficial actions, designed to show off their piety and supposed obedience to God, where in fact they served only their own ego and human desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our faith cannot be merely just superficial in nature. Instead, it must be alive and vibrant, based soundly on the centre tenets of our faith, as Jesus had taught His disciples and passed down to us through His holy Church. And thus, as we all believe, that our faith must be based on action and real deeds, as we justified not by faith alone, but through faith made strong, living and reinforced through the acts of love and devotion, to both God and our fellow men.

I would also like to share with you the lives of two saints, whose feasts are traditionally celebrated on this day, namely that of St. Wenceslaus, the Duke of Bohemia and martyr of the faith, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz or also more commonly known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, who together with many other of the faithful were martyr saints of the faith in the persecution of the faithful in the Shogunate era Japan.

St. Wenceslaus was the Duke and thus ruler of the area known as Bohemia, now the modern day Czech Republic and parts of Slovakia, which at that time was still a mixture of pagans and Christians, and the opposition from the pagan worshippers to the conversion to the true faith was still great and truly was a great challenge facing St. Wenceslaus.

Nevertheless, St. Wenceslaus, as the ruler of his people and as a servant of the One True God did not give up amidst the difficulties, and he continued good works to establish the faith in his lands, building up churches and properties to help the evangelising works of the Church, and devoutly committing himself to many acts of charity and pious celebrations, leading more and more people to embrace the true faith and be saved.

Opposition and challenges faced St. Wenceslaus throughout his life and reign as Lord over Bohemia. Squabbles between the nobles and lords, and uprisings by the pagan believers were occurring frequently, but St. Wenceslaus handled all of them with patience and with firm faith in the Lord. Yet, this is where also he met his ultimate end, though he faced it with firm faith in God.

St. Wenceslaus was murdered by the plotting of his own brother, later known for his bloodshed and vile acts, together with many barons and nobles who were displeased with the pious and good actions of St. Wenceslaus. Thus the holy servant of God met his end at the hands of pagans, and even these were Christians who professed to have faith in God but proved the contrary through their actions and deeds, whereas St. Wenceslaus remained faithful and true to the faith till the end, walking righteously in the way of the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz was a Filipino layman faithful, who lived in the Philippines in the early days of the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines. He was raised as a devout faithful and a pious servant of God by his parents. He lived a peaceful and normal life, raising a family in good faith, until the day when he was framed for the murder of a Spanish, which was a capital offense at that time.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz therefore sought refuge and boarded a ship destined for Japan together with several missionaries bound for that country as well. At the time, the Japanese people were ruled by the military governor, the Shogun, as the supreme ruler of the country. Japan had just gone through a long period of warfare and instability, which was ended by the new shoguns, of the Tokugawa family, taking over power in Japan.

In previous years, the various Japanese warlords and lords had been sympathetic to the faith and the missionaries, which managed therefore to gain salvation for many thousands of souls, and the Church was indeed growing rapidly at that time. However, the coming of the new order brought with it a very intense wave of rejection and persecution of the faith.

Thousands upon thousands were tortured, persecuted and forced to choose between abandoning their faith and their life. Many abandoned their faith, leaving behind their salvation for the sake of their temporary life and happiness, condemning themselves to an eternity in hell, but there were also many who remained strongly faithful to the Lord, and chose suffering and death rather than to succumb to the temptation of pleasure and safety offered to them.

Similarly, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his many fellow martyrs refused to allow themselves to be tempted and persuaded by Satan and his allies, and they remained true to their faith, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord, and in the process became holy martyrs of the faith, and became inspiration for countless faithful, especially many of those who were also enduring persecutions and oppositions from the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the two saints which I shared with you just now are truly should be what can inspire us all to follow their examples to live our lives with faith, but not just with any faith, but a genuine and living faith, found firmly on piety and real action, that is charity and love, hope and perseverance, and in actions that truly show that we practice what we believe in and not just paying lip-service to God, as the Pharisees and the elders of Israel had done.

Let us all follow the examples of the saints and holy men of God, and the example of the great piety and obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and finally the very obedience of Jesus Christ our Lord Himself, the new Adam, whose perfect and complete obedience to the will of God counteracted the actions of the first Adam who had brought us into sin and destruction.

May Almighty God therefore free us from our bounds to evil and death, and through the actions of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, let us therefore be made worthy and be glorified in Him, so that we may be justified and receive our eternal glory through what we have done in this life, in living our faith graciously and with full obedience in the Lord. Amen.

Monday, 15 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 5 : 7-9

Christ, in the days of His mortal life, offered His sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to Him who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His humble submission.

Although He was Son, He learnt through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him.

Sunday, 14 September 2014 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is truly a great feast day of the Church, of such a great importance for us, as in it lie one of the greatest aspect of our faith itself. And this is none other than the exaltation and the glorification of the Holy Cross, on which our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ had hung upon as He went on His mission of salvation to save us all from death because of our sins.

The Holy Cross is not just any cross, but it has been made holy and sacred because it was on that wooden cross, made from a tree, that Jesus had emptied Himself completely from His divinity, and suffered a grievous and horrendous pain as He laid dying, hanging from that cross. The Holy Cross is a reminder for all of us, of He who once hung there out of His love for us, so that we may have new hope in this life, and that we may look beyond death that is once our fate.

The cross was the favourite punishment method by the Romans, the conqueror of the known world at the time, where they used it to punish rebels against the Roman authority, as one of the most severe methods of punishment, reserved only for those who brought about great harm and threat to the Roman state. The victims of crucifixions were left to hang on the cross, made from a tree and carved to form a cruciform plank, so that the victims were left to hung between the heaven and the earth.

This punishment was both designed to bring the greatest amount of suffering to the victim, by denying the victim a quick death, giving them a slow and increasingly painful suffering, and also to give the greatest humiliation possible, as the victims were stripped to mere loincloth or even naked, stretched wide on that cross, often on the roadsides and high places like hills, so that many would be able to see the humiliation and suffering of those who dared to test the might of Rome.

Thus, the cross was a symbol of ultimate humiliation and suffering for all who see them at the time of Jesus, during the peak of the Roman Empire. But yet, many centuries prior to the time of the Romans, the prophets have foretold of the suffering Messiah, namely through the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied how the Messiah would come and bear the suffering for all of mankind. It was also mentioned how He would suffer, even long before the time when the punishment was common.

For in crucifixions, the victim would either be tied to the cross or in especially serious and severe occasions, the victims would be nailed upon the cross. The latter method would be more grievous and painful, and even more humiliating, and was indeed reserved only for the worst enemies and the greatest of punishments for the enemies of Rome.

And the prophet Isaiah mentioned that the Messiah would be pierced, and that piercing indeed represented how Jesus, the Lord and Messiah would be nailed on the cross. He would also be lifted up high, like when Moses lifted high up the bronze serpent in the desert. This too is a premonition of what was to come when the Lord came to save His people from destruction and death.

When the people of God, the Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt, they went through a long Exodus and journey through the desert in their progress to reach the land promised to them through their ancestors. In that journey, which was not an easy one, God was with them along the way, and He blessed His people, giving them great providence and food along the way.

Yes, if we read through the Book of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we should all realise how blessed this people had been. God destroyed their enemies and all those who went on to fight against them were crushed and have their forces utterly beaten, and God gave them into the hands of His people. And we all should be aware that God Himself freed them from the chains of the Egyptians with great might, with ten plagues, each of which were of terrible ferocity.

God even sent His people the bread from heaven to eat, in the form of manna, and large birds for them to catch and eat as well. He gave them clear and sweet water to drink, and we have to imagine that, having crystal clear and good water to drink in the middle of the desert is no mere small feat. Nothing is of course impossible for the Lord, and He loves us beyond anything else.

And it is that love that prevented Him from totally and completely annihilating that people which had risen up against Him, despite all He had given them and blessed them with. Having been given and endowed with so much graces, the people of God made complaints after complaints of their supposedly ‘miserable’ existence and life in the desert, and even longed for the ‘good’ life in Egypt where they once lived in slavery.

They spurned His love and kindness, complaining even against what they have been given to eat, bread from heaven itself. This was why, eventually, God took action against them, to remind them that He is Lord over all, and that those who constantly defy Him and oppose Him will meet their end in eternal suffering and destruction. He sent them therefore, fiery and poisonous serpents that attacked them, struck them and killed many of them.

But we have to always remember and take note that it is not God who desired our destruction, as it had happened with the Israelites. In fact, it was the people’s own stubbornness and refusal to return to the light of God which had caused their own destruction. The serpents represented the suffering and the punishment that the people must endure for their sins, and the ultimate effect is indeed none other than death.

Ever since mankind had first disobeyed against the Lord, they have sinned against the Lord in their hearts and in their bodies, such that they were no longer worthy of the Lord. The consequence of sin is death, as sin separates one from the Lord. The Lord who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the imperfections caused by evil to be in His presence, and therefore, naturally, sin led mankind to death, and if nothing had been done, then all mankind would have faced death eternal, and eternal separation from the love of God.

And that is hell. Hell is the total separation of a creation of God from the very love of the Creator and Lord of all. And this total separation is final and unchangeable. Thus, this is what hell is truly about, not the fires and the images of hell that we are commonly exposed to, but the suffering in hell is far greater than we can ever imagine, since it means that the total separation from God’s love, that should be unimaginable to us all, because it was God’s love that is everything to us, how we live and why we live in the first place, and we are able to walk and enjoy this life on earth because of God’s love that is with us and in us.

Hell is what is due to mankind as the punishment for our sins, and in hell, it is the despair and the state of total hopelessness which is the greatest suffering, as all the souls in hell know that there is absolutely no hope of escaping that state, eternally damned and separated from God’s love, and it is this eternal and constantly repeating despair, hopelessness and guilt of having betrayed the Lord which brought about the greatest suffering for the souls in hell.

But is this what God intends for us? Is this what He intended for the people He loved and which He had created in His own image, as the pinnacle and the greatest of all His creations? No! This is exactly why He wants to save us, and so great was His desire, that the very truth was laid bare for all to see and hear, as we often heard in the famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3 verse 16, namely that God loved the world and His people so much, that He sent His only Son into the world, so that all those who believe in Him would not be lost and perish, but gain eternal life.

This is the very essence of what we are celebrating on this day, that is the glory and the mystery of the Holy Cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Lord Himself had sent, a part of Himself, His own Word made incarnate into flesh as one of us, and to walk among men, so that He might exercise His power and bring salvation to all those who believe in Him. And the way how He did that, was through the cross of suffering, which He transformed into the cross of glory and triumph.

As I had mentioned much earlier on in this homily and reflection, that the use of crucifixion and the punishment of the cross was indeed to punish and to bring the greatest suffering on the sufferer, and also to humiliate the sufferer, and in this case, this suffering One is Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of all. Even though He was guiltless, blameless and without sin, He offered Himself freely as part of God’s long planned salvation for His people, so that through His death, He might open a new path for them, into salvation and eternal grace.

To those who observed His death and especially among those who followed Him during His ministry would indeed question, why would such a holy Man and the Messiah no less, suffer such a humiliation and suffering so great if He was indeed chosen by the Lord. And we know that even throughout history and until today, there are still many those who refused to believe in the crucifixion of Christ because they deemed it impossible and unreasonable for such a great One to suffer such a humiliating death.

Yet we know that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah and Lord of all, chose this way because indeed, He loves us all very dearly, and He would not want us to be sundered forever from His love, that is hell. He does not desire for us to inhabit hell, simply because, that was not His intention for us. His intention is for us to live happily with Him in love and harmony. And that was why He chose to come into this world, that is to bring all peoples to Himself.

But sin lays between God and us, as a great and seemingly insurmountable barrier that prevent us from returning to God our Lord. Therefore, if we read the Book of Leviticus, we know that there is such a thing as sin and burnt offering, where animals such as lamb were slaughtered and then burnt on the altar, and the blood together with the animal constituted a worthy offering to God, who then accepted it as the partial reparation and remission for the sins committed by God’s people.

But the people of God remained in sin, and also they inherited the original sin of their forefathers, ever since they rebelled against the will of God and followed Satan into his rebellion instead. This original sin and other sins that mankind committed kept them separated from the love of God, and due to the immensity of the sins of mankind combined together, no amount of sacrifice would be able to redeem mankind from their sins, save for one.

Yes, the one sacrifice and the only one, when the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself offered His own Body and Blood as the only worthy sacrifice for the immensity of the combination of our sins together. Only He who is perfect, perfectly unblemished and pure, without any taints of sin, and He who is Lord of all, had the worthy offering to make in order to save us from our sins.

And thus He suffered, all the sufferings and humiliations He endured, all the spittle and the mockery from the people He endured, and the cross of suffering He carried on His back, enduring lashes after lashes and mockery after mockery as He made His journey towards Calvary. Yet He did not give up. We cannot even comprehend the kind of suffering which Jesus endured for our sake.

Why so? This is because the suffering He endured was much more than just the apparent physical suffering, even as great as that suffering was. He endured the weight and the consequences of our sins, and all of this bore down on Him as a great weight beyond any other weight. He was blameless, and yet He was crushed for our sins. This was also yet another fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophets.

But Jesus endured all of them with perfect obedience and perfect love for us. He is truly the new Adam, as St. Paul had said, as the One who went to correct all the wrongs that began with Adam, the old Adam, our forefather who sinned against God. Just as Mary His mother is the new Eve, whose obedience and faith, rebuking Satan and his lies, Jesus is the new Adam through which God renewed mankind.

Jesus therefore changed that symbol of ultimate shame, the cross, designed as such by the Romans, into a symbol of hope and glory. He turned the cross from a symbol of death and destruction into a symbol of salvation and liberation from sin, from the slavery of the forces of evil, and the guarantee of life eternal as promised by the Lord. Thus, the essence of the cross and the crucifix we have today signify this important turning point, which Christ had made the cross into our hope, through His death on the cross for our salvation.

Sadly indeed, despite all that the Lord had done for us, many of us mankind still acted like the people of Israel of old, disregarding the love of God and even ignoring Him altogether. How many of us actually realised the love that God had for us? Every single step He took on His passion journey towards His death, He did it out of His love for us. He did not want us to perish, but it is many of us who chose perishing in the world rather than embracing God’s love.

Remember, that in Jesus we have been saved, out of God’s love. He wants to forgive us our sins, but this is only possible if we too play our part, and believe in Him. We can start this through our own actions and our own daily lives. Have we acted in accordance what our Lord had taught us? Have we practiced our faith and what we believe in our lives? Have we loved our brothers and sisters as much as we love ourselves?

We have much work to do in front of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our lives will indeed be difficult, if we choose to follow the Lord and walk in His path. But our Lord had made His cross a sign of victory and triumph, the Holy Cross, that even Satan and his forces will tremble and flee from. Satan knows that the cross was his ultimate undoing. His defeat lay at the cross that had liberated mankind from the burden of their sins. He knows that his doom is coming, and he cannot avoid that final defeat.

However, Satan will grow desperate and he will do all he can to stall as many souls as possible on his way to doom. Remember that he has all the power in this world to tempt and persuade us to divert our path from the path of salvation into the path of doom. Temptations of the evil one is plenty in this world saturated with materialism, consumerism and love of the self. Selfishness and violence is on the rise, brethren, and if we do not guard ourselves against Satan’s advances, we will fall.

Therefore, let us all work together, brothers and sisters in Christ! We who have been saved by the suffering and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ must be strong in our faith and in our dedication to God, so that Satan will not stand against us. Remember the Holy Cross and Jesus our Lord whenever temptations of Satan come to prevent us from seeking the Lord. Proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus and staunchly rebuke Satan for his attempts to tempt us.

Jesus has indeed been given the Name which is above every other names, for first He is God made flesh, and thus, it is the Name of God Himself, Master of all the universe and over all creations. Then, through His perfect love and obedience, He had become an example for all mankind and for all creation, and no one in creation can do anything other than to obey this Lord and Master who had given His all to save His beloved ones. And even Satan had to obey the Lord, with fear and great trembling on his knees. Such is the power of the Name of Jesus Christ. Do not use His Name in vain!

And even in the Roman Empire, which was pagan and idol worshipping, the Lord also gained a final victory. Many Emperors of Rome persecuted the Christians, the faithful ones in the Lord, but their prayers and the blood of the martyrs eventually triumphed, the triumph of the Holy Cross, when the Lord made them strong and grow in might, so that more and more people would come to listen to the words of salvation in the Gospels and the Scriptures.

Ultimately, the famed Emperor Constantine saw a bright sign of the Lord, Christ Himself in His insignia, as the victorious and conquering King, and went on to win a great victory that eventually led to the repentance and conversion of the Roman Empire into a great, Christian Empire belonging to God. Thus, the Cross had triumphed against the enemies of the Lord, led by Satan and his fallen angels.

Therefore, let us all take an opportunity, every day in our lives to look at the cross, at the crucifix on which lie the Body of Jesus our Lord, as a reminder that He died out of His infinite and enduring love for us, so that we who have seen Him and believed, will not die but live a new life everlasting, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent and all who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent did not die but live.

We have been bitten by the serpent, Satan, and his poison is threatening to destroy us, that is sin. But if we trust in the Lord Jesus, and look at the victorious cross, the Holy Cross of Christ, we will not die but live too! Let us carry together our crosses in life with Christ, so that just as He told His disciples, that we may have a share in His resurrection, and therefore be granted new life eternal, freed from all vestiges of sin and evil, and rejoice for eternity with our loving God. May Almighty God bless us this day and every day of our lives, that we will always be faithful and dedicated to the Cross of Christ! Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Double Major Feast, II Classis) – Sunday, 14 September 2014 : Epistle

Lectio Epistolae Beati Pauli Apostoli ad Philippenses – Lesson from the Epistle of the Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Philippians

Philippians 2 : 5-11

Fratres : Hoc enim sentite in vobis, quod et in Christo Jesu : qui, cum in forma Dei esset, non rapinam arbitratus est esse se aequalem Deo : sed semetipsum exinanivit, formam servi accipiens, in similitudinem hominum factus, et habitu inventus ut Homo.

Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum : et donavit illi Nomen, quod est super omne nomen.

(Genuflect here)

Ut in Nomine Jesu omne genuflectatur caelestium, terrestrium et infernorum : et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris.

English translation

Brethren, let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it be not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself as nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a Man.

He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For which cause God also had exalted Him, and had given Him a Name which is above all names.

(Genuflect here)

That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.