Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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 we heard of the servant of God sent before the coming of the Messiah, that is St. John the Baptist, the one to announce the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, and the one who would prepare the way for Him, as prophesied by the prophets and as promised by God to His people.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Malachi, of the promise of God regarding the sending of the messenger who would come ahead of the Lord Himself to clear the way and prepare the path for His coming, who would be like the prophet Elijah, whose faith had been tested by fire and trials, and whose works would lead many people to the Lord.

The prophet Malachi was one of the last prophets of the Old Testament, and his book is placed at the very last place as the last chapter of the Old Testament, just before the coming of the New Testament, that came through Christ. Therefore, it is significant indeed that Malachi spoke of the coming of the one to prepare the path for the Lord, that clearly referred to St. John the Baptist.

In our Gospel today then we heard of the moment when St. John the Baptist was born, and all of his relatives gathered at his house and wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, as was common during that time. Zechariah had been mute and unable to talk ever since the Angel of God revealed to him that his wife, Elizabeth was about to bear the one whom the prophet Malachi prophesied about, the Herald of the Messiah.

Just as the prophet Isaiah also proclaimed in another prophecy, this servant of God, whose name had been known before he was even born, as revealed by the Angel, was to be the one to lead the people of God to their Lord and Saviour. He came into this world, born miraculously of an old couple who had been barren throughout, as the first miracle of God’s approaching salvation, and as proof that God truly loved His people.

The moment that Zechariah wrote down the name that the Angel had revealed to him, and wanted his son to be named John, hence, Zechariah could speak again and praised God for all His wonders. All of the people gathered were astonished and praised God as well for the wonders He had done. And through St. John the Baptist, God would lead many of His people down the path to salvation, as he laboured and called many to repent from their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do all these relate to us then? All of us have heard of God’s salvation and received the Good News, and we have believed in the Lord and all that He had done through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. But have we proclaimed Him in our lives, and truly show that we are Christians not just in name only, but also in deeds and in all of our actions? Have we shown that Christ is truly the centre of our celebrations in Christmas, and not only just that, but also the centre of our whole lives and existences?

Today, as we are just two days away from Christmas, we are all called to look upon our lives and actions, and we should reflect on whether our actions have shown our true Christian faith at all times. We should dedicate our actions to the Lord and strive our best to follow Him and His saints’ examples, especially for today, that of St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius, whose feast day we celebrate.

St. John of Kanty was a Polish saint whose life and work as a priest, philosopher and theologian was truly inspirational as he dedicated much of his life to the Lord, and spent a lot of effort in his numerous academic works and in the advancement of the Christian theology and teachings. But not only that, St. John of Kanty also dedicated much of time caring for the poor and the needy, being especially charitable towards them.

St. John of Kanty was remembered for his outreach and generosity to the poor, and also to the needy students in the university in which he taught as a professor. He was remembered for his almsgiving and his genuine faith and humility. He made pious pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Rome, and some of those pilgrimages were made on foot. His life and work remain an inspiration for many long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples set by St. John of Kanty, and as we approach Christmas, let us all seek to celebrate it wholeheartedly with a new attitude of faith, renewed in love for our God, and dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him so that all who witness us and our actions, as well as our Christ-centric life and celebration of Christmas, may come to believe in Him as well, so that by our lives and actions, even more people can be saved and share in our joy.

Let us all discern on this carefully as we come to the joyful celebration of Christmas, that we may truly celebrate it with true joy and with genuine celebration, so that we may draw ever closer to the Lord and be worthy of Him and the everlasting glory that He has promised us all. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 22 October 2020 : 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, on this day we are all reminded to put God at the centre of our lives, to make Him the pivot around which our whole lives revolve. The Lord has blessed us so much and so wonderfully, and yet, many of us still do not appreciate all that we have been blessed with. We ignored His love and were apathetic to Him, and all these were because of the lack of genuine faith in our hearts.

That is why we are reminded yet again today to refocus our lives on God and ask ourselves, what is truly the meaning and significance of our Christian faith? It is by following God with all of our hearts, by being virtuous and by practicing our faith with real and sincere actions, in each and every moments of our lives.

Today, through the Gospel passage we have just heard, we are told of the reality of being a Christian, that may bring us tough challenges and difficulties as we go forward faithfully in life as Christians. The Lord Himself told His disciples frankly how His coming into this world, His work and revelation of truth would bring divisions, struggles, challenges and difficulties for all of them. This means that we should not expect that becoming Christians would bring about happiness, joy and satisfaction for our lives.

This especially refers to those who claim and think that by believing with God, we will be endowed with blessings and good things, the false theology and teaching called the ‘Prosperity Gospel’. Instead, we must always be prepared to defend our faith and to be prepared in case we have to face opposition and ridicule, rejection and hardships because of our adherence to the faith and to our Christian tenets and the truth of God.

It does not mean that we will necessarily suffer and endure hardships, but neither should we expect that life will be smooth-sailing for us just because we believe in God. And ultimately, these divisions came about not because the Lord desires this deplorable state of disunity. Rather, it is our own stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to the Lord and our disobedience that led to these divisions.

It is because we as Christians standing faithfully by the Lord and His righteous path, that we face conflicts, divisions and persecutions from those who refuse to believe in the Lord. Our righteousness and faithful way of life are abomination and terror for those who have chosen the wicked path of life, without faith in God and those who disagreed with His truth.

This is where, our wonderful saint today can show us so much how to live faithfully in accordance with God’s will even amidst the greatest of challenges and difficulties. Karol Jozef Wojtyla, later known as Pope St. John Paul II, was one of the most renowned leaders of the Church as the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, known for being the first non-Italian pope in over four centuries, as well as for his long reign of almost twenty-seven years.

Pope St. John Paul II was born in Poland in the town of Wadowice not long after the end of the First World War and the independence of Poland, after great destructions and all the horrors of war that had occurred. He lost his family and loved ones early on, and he faced challenges that were truly great as his country edged on into war, and as Poland was conquered and occupied before he even turned twenty, he did not have it easy.

Even as the young Karol Wojtyla entered the seminary and studied to be a priest, he had to do it in secret due to the difficult conditions at the time, and he spent those years amidst bitter conflicts that happened and killed multitudes, including those whom he knew personally. And when the war and NAZI Germany atrocities were over, immediately the Communists led by the Soviet Union took over.

The young Pope St. John Paul II spent his early years of priesthood amidst the increasingly difficult situation for the Church and as many were persecuted for remaining loyal to the Church and their faith in God. When he was chosen as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then later on as the Archbishop of Krakow, only more challenges faced him and his flock. He faced opposition to his efforts to care for his flock, and when a new church was to be built in a new town called Nowa Huta, the authorities tried to prevent its building, in a city without church in the attempt by the atheist Communist government to oppress the Church and the faithful.

Yet, all these did not stop the Archbishop from eventually prevailing and had the church built after over a decade of struggle, and when Karol Wojtyla was elected as the Pope and Supreme Pontiff in the Year of Our Lord 1978, he continued to labour hard for the sake of all the faithful. And even through an assassination attempt just few years into his Pontificate, which left him injured quite badly, as well as other challenges and troubles the Church had to face, up to the personal sufferings and physical disabilities caused by Parkinson’s Disease towards the end of his Pontificate, Pope St. John Paul remained firm in his dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see from the well-known life and examples of Pope St. John Paul II that to be Christians does not necessarily mean that we will have smooth-sailing and good life without troubles. Trials, challenges and troubles can beset us at any time, and if we are not firm enough with our faith, we may end up being dragged down the path of sin. We must instead stay strong and resolute, and follow the inspiring example of Pope St. John Paul II in his faith and devotion to God.

Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment from now on, striving to be good and faithful Christians at all times and in every moments of our lives, in our every actions and interactions with one another. May God bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

Thursday, 22 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 12 : 49-53

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is finished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided : three against two, and two against three.”

“They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Thursday, 22 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Thursday, 22 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Ephesians 3 : 14-21

And, now, I kneel in the presence of the Father, from Whom, every family in heaven and on earth has received its name. May He strengthen in you, the inner self, through His Spirit, according to the riches of His glory; may Christ dwell in your hearts, through faith; may you be rooted and founded in love.

All of this, so that you may understand, with all the holy ones, the width, the length, the height and the depth – in a word, that you may know the love of Christ, that surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled, and reach the fullness of God.

Glory to God, Who shows His power in us, and can do much more than we could ask or imagine; glory to Him, in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, through all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, 5 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first of all from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Galatia in Asia Minor, addressing them on the matter of the true Gospel and revelations of our Lord. Then, we also heard from our Gospel passage today, the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan, in which a Samaritan helped a Jew who was wounded, while a priest and a Levite passed by without helping.

In our first reading today, we heard of the frustrations shared by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Galatia regarding how many among them followed the false teachings and different doctrines held by those who turned the true teachings of the faith to suit their own purposes. Even from this very early time in the history of the Church, there had been division and confusion sowed by the devil and all of those opposed to the good works of God, trying to mislead the faithful to the wrong paths.

That was why St. Paul spoke sternly against all those who misinterpreted the Gospels and the Scriptures, the words of God and His truth for their own purposes, and sowed divisions and confusions among the Christian communities. He said that the truth of God is unchanging and also should have been faithfully kept as it was revealed, and anyone who preached otherwise, had committed sin against God and against His people. St. Paul warned the people in such a way to keep themselves guarded against those who would claim that the Lord had spoken to them and reveal to them a new truth that is contrary to what the Lord had revealed through His Church.

This is truly prescient as in time, many people came to claim to have knowledge of a better truth, or used the truth to mislead the people, leading to heresies that divided the Church and caused confusion among the faithful. All these happened long after St. Paul had encountered the same troubles during his missionary efforts and journeys. But despite all of these, because of the efforts and reminders that St. Paul mentioned, the Church had remained faithful to the truth of Christ, and preserved the same truth despite all the heresies and divisions that had occurred in the past two millennia.

And part of this truth is what is espoused in our Gospel passage today, in the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, the Lord used it to highlight His points, especially to the teacher of the Law and others present at the time who were trying to test Him and placed upon Him the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ when the Lord reminded them that the Law of God is about loving God with all of one’s heart and also loving one another, our fellow neighbours.

The Lord used the example of a Samaritan, as Samaritans at the time were often reviled and hated by the people in Judea, especially by the religious establishment and the elites of the society. The Samaritans were seen as pagans and foreigners, as wicked people who have strayed away from the teachings and Law of God. The Samaritans themselves were in fact descended from the people who once inhabited the land of Israel, with the people who were brought in by the Assyrians and others to inhabit the land after many of the Israelites of the northern kingdom were brought to exile in Assyria and other lands.

As such, they were deemed as impure, as foreigners, and as those who were unworthy of God. And as a result, they were shunned and tensions often existed between the Samaritans and the Jews, with both of them disagreeing on the matter of worship of God. But as the parable of the Lord showed, it served to dispel the notion that the Samaritans were worse as human beings, and in fact, from the example of the Good Samaritan, it showed that while the priest and Levite, themselves highly respected within the Jewish community, had ignored the plight of the man beset by robbers, the Samaritan stooped down to help, and not only help, but even went the extra mile in helping him.

The victim who was a Jew, was abandoned by his own people, and worse still, by those who were highly respected and deemed within the community as righteous and pious. Instead, it was a Samaritan, often hated and shunned, who was there to help, to reach out to the victim, and cared for him with extra efforts, to make sure that he recovered completely, without regards for his own inconvenience, and also without regards or considerations or worries about helping a Jew, something that both the Jews and Samaritans were then loath doing, as neither side wanted anything to do with the other.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what the Lord wanted to remind us as His truth, the teachings of His love, that He wants us all to embrace and accept, and we should embrace the fact that every one of us are beloved by God, no matter what we are, where we came from, what our background and origin is, or what group we belong to, all of us are equally beloved by God. And we must not look down on others or think that others do not deserve God’s love or not worthy of Him.

The Good Samaritan story is both a story that breaks prejudices and biases, as well as a story that highlights to us the calling as Christians to reach out in love to others, especially those who are suffering and in need of help. We should not be like the priest and the Levite, who just passed by without even offering any help at all, or being concerned with the well-being of the man. As Christians we must always be filled with compassion and love for one another, and even to those who despise us and hate us.

That is why, linking to what we have heard in our first reading today, should anyone or any teachings by some state that we must be discriminatory or act in ways that highlight our differences from our fellow men, especially against those who have not believed in God, or those who have lapsed from their faith, these are not true teachings of Christ. Throughout history, there had been those who deemed themselves as being more righteous and more worthy of God, and looking down on those whom they deemed to be inferior or different from them. And these are those who have followed the wrong path and even are misleading the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not entertain these false ideas and attitudes that are not in accordance to God’s ways and teachings. And today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who was most remembered for her visions of the Divine Mercy of God, from which stemmed the now very popular Devotion to the Divine Mercy.

St. Faustina Kowalska initially faced a lot of opposition for her visions and writings, and it took many, many decades before her writings and experiences as genuine and integral after extensive and intensive research to make sure that they are in accordance to the Church teachings, and not misleading the faithful as what some other false visionaries and teachers had done.

Now, the Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God became a very important reminder of God’s love and mercy, which He has showed us without prejudice or bias just as the Good Samaritan had done. God is ever patient and merciful, and He is calling on all of us to be more Christ-like in our lives and way of life. We can be inspired by St. Faustina’s faith and perseverance through all of these.

Let us all embrace wholeheartedly God’s calling for us to be faithful in life, to be compassionate towards those who are in need, and especially during these difficult times, these challenging moments, let us all spend time and effort to care for those who are not as fortunate as we are. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew, with a new commitment to love and serve the Lord with ever greater devotion from now on. May God bless us all, in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 5 October 2020 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Luke 10 : 25-37

At that time, then a teacher of the Law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do You understand it?” The man answered, “It is written : You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.” The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead.”

“It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him.”

“The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.'” Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”