Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained within the Scriptures, we are all reminded that as God’s people, each and every one of us are called to be genuine in our Christian way of life and devotion to God. All of us must live our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us all, or else we are truly no better than hypocrites and unbelievers, and unworthy of calling ourselves as Christians, or God’s children and holy people. He wants each and every one of us to rediscover this faith and zeal that we all ought to have within us, especially through the faithful and dedicated observance of this holy and blessed season and time of Lent, a time of reflection, discernment and reconciliation between us and God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we heard the Lord telling His people through Moses and His servants, that the people of Israel had been called and chosen from among the nations to be His own people, as the first of those whom He had called, to walk in His path and to devote themselves to Him. That was why He gave them all His Law and commandments, His precepts and taught them His ways and the truth. Unfortunately, the people of God were stubborn and often gave in to their desires and worldly attachments, and ended up causing them to sin many times in many occasions, unable to resist those temptations and get rid from themselves their stubbornness and attachments to worldly things. The Lord reminded all of His people that just as much as He has blessed and loved them, they also have the obligation and the requirement to obey the Law and the commandments that God has given them.

This means that they ought to do what the Lord had taught them to do, distancing themselves from sinful practices and ways. The Lord has given them His Law and the Ten Commandments to guide them in their path so that they would have something to hold onto in their lives, amidst the many trials, challenges, temptations and many different pressures for them to conform to the worldly ways and paths, and abandoning God’s path and truth. Indeed, to live our lives in the manner acceptable and appropriate for the Lord is not something that is easily done, and more often than not we will realise, just as our ancestors and predecessors had discovered before us, that to be a faithful Christian is something that is easier said than done, and that there are a lot of challenges and difficulties that await in our path, in obeying and observing God’s Law and commandments in our lives.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples, which also serves as a reminder for us all, that as the followers and disciples of the Lord, we must always remember to love one another and to be full of compassion and love even to those who did not love us back, and those who despise us. That is the challenge which the Lord has also given us all as Christians, to be different from the world, which is definitely more used to us loving those who love us, those who benefit us and those who care for us, and also putting ourselves ahead of others. As Christians, on the contrary, the Lord taught us all to put others before ourselves, and to do whatever we can to reach out to others with genuine and pure love, and He Himself has shown us this by His own example, which we remember particularly during this time of Lent.

I am referring to the suffering and the trials that the Lord Himself would willingly endure and suffer for our sake during His Passion, as He picked up His Cross and brought it up all the way to the Hill of Golgotha, or Calvary, where He endured all the pain, humiliation and the worst of sufferings so that by His sufferings, in His Passion, He might lead us all into freedom, by bearing upon His own shoulders, all the multitudes of our sins and the punishments for them, to die on our behalf and becoming for us the perfect offering of pure love, to atone for all the sins of the whole world. He endured all of that out of His ever present and patient love for each and every one of us, desiring to see us forgiven and reconciled with His heavenly Father, that none of us hopefully will be lost to the damnation of hell due to our many and innumerable sins.

That is why during this time and season of Lent, all of us are called to remember God’s ever generous love for us, and His rich and compassionate mercy, remembering how He has always provided for all of His beloved ones, and even for those who have betrayed and abandoned Him. The Lord chose to willingly suffer and die for everyone, and not only for those who have already loved Him. He went out of His way, seeking all those who have been lost to Him, those who indulged in sin and wickedness of life, and refused to listen to Him, reaching out to them patiently, each time, so that hopefully they might listen to reason and His truth, and be converted, and be reconciled with Him. This is what He has done to each and every one of us as well. No one is truly beyond God’s mercy, forgiveness and love, unless we ourselves choose to reject Him to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, let us all continue to discern our way of life and see in what way we can be better and more committed disciples and followers of His, and we can do this by following the good examples set by our holy predecessors, one of which, whose feast we are celebrating today, is St. Casimir of Poland. St. Casimir was a Royal Prince of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, who was known for his great piety and devotion to God, as well as charity and care for the needy and the poor in the kingdom from his early age. He was remembered for his exemplary faith and actions, his chaste and holy lifestyle at a time when it was common for someone in his status to embrace a debauched and hedonistic way of life. St. Casimir dedicated his life to the end to the glory of God, and despite dying in a relatively early age due to tuberculosis, the example of his holiness and dedication to God continue to inspire many people right up to this day.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, can we follow the good examples of St. Casimir and many other of our holy predecessors in how we ought to live our lives? In this season and time of Lent, let us all reorientate our lives and redirect our focus in life back towards the Lord, Whom we should put right at the very centre of our lives. Let us all turn towards Him with faith, and do whatever we can to serve Him faithfully each day and at every moments given to us. May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us all and may He empower each and every one of us to be ever better and stronger in our desire to serve Him, and to do His will, at all times. May God bless us always, in our every actions, deeds and efforts, to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 4 March 2023 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Casimir (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and draw ever closer to Christmas, we are all reminded of the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, into our midst. The Lord has sent us His messenger and herald to prepare the path for His coming into this world, and He has fulfilled that promise, with the coming of St. John the Baptist, the one who was prophesied to be the one to prepare the way for the Lord. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, all these happened so that the Lord might come and rescue us all from our troubles and bring us into His loving presence once again, and that is the reason why we rejoice this Christmas.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the prophet Malachi, speaking about the coming of the days of God’s messenger, who would come to prepare the hearts and minds of the people, to prepare for the coming of the Lord, which was also alluded to in the words of the prophet Malachi. Malachi was one of the last prophets chronologically in the Old Testament era, who ministered to the people of God a few centuries before the Lord’s coming, and his words of prophecy further set the expectation of the coming of God’s salvation, which the people of God looked forward to, as they heard the words of reassurances that God had made through His many prophets, including that of Malachi.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the one whom Malachi and the other prophets had been prophesying about, the one to prepare the path for the coming of the Lord. His miraculous conception and birth truly became knowledge among the people, as he was conceived by his mother at the age well-past childbearing and after being barren for so many years. His coming, conception and birth were also announced by the Angel of God before his father Zechariah, whose doubt led him to become mute before the moment as we heard in our Gospel today, that once the baby was named John as the Angel spoke of, Zechariah was miraculously able to speak once again. All of these and the later events in the life of St. John the Baptist serve as a reminder for us that as we approach the coming Christmas season with expectation and joy.

St. John the Baptist went on to call the people of God to be converted and to turn away from their sinful paths, and this is also therefore a reminder for all of us that as we approach Christmas, we should also prepare ourselves in heart and mind to turn towards the Lord, to return our focus upon Him, and to make Him the centre of our upcoming Christmas celebrations and rejoicing. We should not be distracted by the many temptations and distractions all around us, all the glamour and merrymaking surrounding the often secular and worldly Christmas celebrations. We have to be committed to the Lord and renew our faith in Him, and serve Him with ever greater conviction and zeal. We should do our best to make sure that we celebrate Christmas in the right way, and with the right predisposition and mindset.

That is why we should make use of this short remaining time before Christmas, whatever is left this Advent season to deepen our understanding of Christmas and its true meaning, its significance and importance for us. Today we should therefore spend some time to reflect upon the life and works of one St. John of Kanty, also known as St. John Cantius, a Polish priest and philosopher whose life and work should inspire us to become ever more worthy of God, ever more connected to Him, and ever closer to Him. St. John of Kanty was remembered for his great intellect and philosophical as well as theological prowess, as he became great professor and instructor, helping many of his students and followers to understand better their faith in God, as well as the many mysteries and aspects of the Christian faith.

Not only that, but the same St. John of Kanty was also well remembered for his great love for God, his personal piety and holiness, and especially also for his great compassion, love and care for the poor and the suffering all around him. He was known for his care for the needy students at his university and faculty, helping to support them whenever and wherever it was possible. He also spent time and effort to care for the poor and the needy in his community, and at wherever he was visiting and ministering. He lived his life simply and full of devotion, spending not more than what was necessary for him, and he made several pilgrimages on foot all the way to Rome. The faith and humility that St. John of Kanty showed in his life should be inspiration for all of us to follow in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore seek the Lord with a new heart, with a new commitment to follow Him and to devote our time and attention to Him, and from this upcoming Christmas celebration, to put Him back as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all follow the examples set and shown by St. John of Kanty, doing our best to walk faithfully in the path that God has shown us. First let us all start by changing our Christmas celebrations from one that is worldly and self-centred into one that is centred on God, as well as love and life-giving, inspired by the love and generosity which St. John of Kanty has shown to those who were less fortunate all around him. Let us also remember that Christmas is all also possible, and that we can rejoice exactly because God has shown us His most generous love and kindness, compassion and grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, empowering us with the love and courage to do our best in our lives, to be ever more loving and generous to each other. Through our faithful and worthy Christmas celebrations, where Christ is at the very focus and heart of our joy, let us all inspire more and more people that each one of us may be the shining beacons of God’s hope, light and truth. Let us show our love and generosity to those around us and not be distracted by the worldly glamour and desires. May all of us draw ever closer to God and be blessed as we approach the glorious and joyful season of Christmas. Amen.

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

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

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

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

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

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

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

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

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are meant to do what we can as Christians, having been given various talents and gifts, blessings and graces by the Lord. Each and every one of us are therefore expected to make good use of those gifts of the Lord and be fruitful in the grace of God, bearing the rich fruits of our actions and commitments in life, in accordance to what each one of us have been called to do as Christians. All of us are reminded today of this calling, and we should embrace the Lord’s calling wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, we heard about the matter of the gifts that God had given to His disciples, to the Apostles and the others who have given themselves to the service of God. The Lord has granted them all the gifts and the blessings, the opportunities and the abilities to do His will, and gave them each a mission to fulfil in their lives. St. Paul therefore wanted to remind the faithful in Ephesus of their calling and mission in life, on the significance of them being Christians, as followers of the Lord. The Lord has called on all of them to be the members and parts of His Church, His one united Body, made up of all the different various parts, all the different peoples of different origins and background.

The Church of God is made up of all these people and parts, each one of them with their own talents and capabilities, with their own missions and responsibilities. For example, as mentioned, the Lord called and gave the gifts and entrusted some with their responsibility as Apostles, some others as missionaries and teachers, while some others were entrusted to be evangelists and preachers, while others were called to be involved in building good and faithful Christian families, to be good fathers, mothers, children and other members of the Christian community, as parts of the same united Body of Christ, the Church.

At that time the Church and the Christian communities in the various parts of the Mediterranean and elsewhere were still in their early stages, as the Apostles and the other missionaries spread the Good News and the Christian faith to various parts of the world, proclaiming the truth of God courageously despite the many challenges that they had to face. The Lord has sent His disciples to those places, revealing His truth and salvation to all the people of all the nations. That is why, the Lord wants us all to remember how all of us have the same mission that He has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and thus, we have to make good use of the gifts and talents given to us. We can neither be idle or ignore our calling and mission.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord telling His disciples that all those people who had suffered due to the riot in Galilee and the collapse of the tower in Siloah had met their end, and while it was not due to any fault of theirs, but the Lord highlighted to them all, that unless they changed their ways and actions, then they would face the end in the same manner as those who had perished experienced. He used this example to highlight how all of our actions and works, our beliefs and faith truly matter as they all determine whether we are going to be worthy of the Lord, or whether our actions and lives will condemn us at the Day of Judgment. The choice and opportunities have been given to us, and now therefore it is up to us whether we will act on it or not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that as Christians, as members of the Church of God, all of us like that of the Apostles and the early Christians, are all the same disciples of the Lord, and we all share the same calling and mission which the Lord had given and entrusted to us through His same Church. Each one of us have been given the gifts and talents, and the various capabilities and opportunities, for us to reach out to more and more of our fellow men, and proclaim the truth of God through our own exemplary lives and actions. We do not have to perform amazing and wonderful things, as in truth, what really matters is for us to do whatever we can, in our own small little ways, to do the will of God, and to follow His path, at all times.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of one of the great recent saint, whose name and memories must be familiar to so many among us both young and old, as he was the leader of the Universal Church as the Successor of St. Peter, the Pope and Bishop of Rome. Pope St. John Paul II, also known by his birth name as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the first Polish Pope and non-Italian Pope after close to five hundred years. Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in Poland after the First World War to a loving family, but unfortunately, he lost his family members one by one, beginning with his mother, then his elder brother and finally his father, during the harsh early years of the Second World War.

The young Karol Wojtyla suffered hardships during the war years, and during that time, he went through discreet seminary preparation as he committed himself to priesthood. He was ordained a priest, and then went through another hard period of oppression of Christians by the Communists, who were in power at that time. Christians were persecuted and oppressed, but Fr. Wojtyla cared for the needs of his flock, and this quiet obedience and commitment to the Lord eventually led to him being chosen as first the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, and from there on, his participation as a leader of the Church continued to rise on.

After being made a Cardinal by the Pope, the then Cardinal Wojtyla continued to fight for the rights of the Christians in his homeland, in Krakow and elsewhere, and he was particularly remembered for his period of struggle against the Communist government, as he led the faithful in the effort to establish a church in the new town of Nowa Huta, which the Communist government had touted back then as a churchless town, in a seeming symbol of triumph of Communism over the Christian faith. Cardinal Wojtyla helped to lead the campaign which eventually led to the completion of the church and shrine at Nowa Huta of the now famous Black Madonna of Nowa Huta.

He was then elected as the successor of St. Peter as the Pope and leader of the Universal Church. As Pope St. John Paul II, he led the Church on a great campaign of renewal, in leading the Church through efforts to evangelise to many more people, to lead to the greater unity within the Church, the repair of relations between the separated brethren among the Christian Church splinters, as well as in his great and memorable role in leading to the downfall of Communism, which happened just over a decade after he took over as the Pope and leader of the Church. He travelled to many countries, more than any Popes ever before and ever since until today, and as the Apostles long before his time and ours, Pope St. John Paul II continued to carry on the mission entrusted to the Church of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II and the many other saints who are our good role models, including that of the Apostles and the other disciples themselves, and let us ask all of them to pray for us, that God may strengthen us in our missionary journey, in whatever we do as members of the same Church of God, for our current Pope, Francis, the Cardinals and the Archbishops and Bishops all throughout the Church, all the priest and deacons, and everyone in the religious orders, brothers and sisters, and of course all those among the laity, in their various capacities and workplaces, as fathers, mothers and children, as members of the living Church of God.

Let us all do our best to obey the will of God and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, resolving to follow the path that God has shown before us. May the Lord continue to guide us all and be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and the grace to remain faithful to Him despite the challenges and trials that we may have to face in our journey of faith through our respective lives. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, one day, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.”

“And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will perish as they did.” And Jesus continued, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it continue to deplete the soil?’”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.’”