(Easter Sunday) Sunday, 27 March 2016 : Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week, Easter Octave (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occured throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power.

He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him; we are witnesses of all that He did throughout the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem itself. Yet they put Him to death by hanging Him on a wooden cross.

But God raised Him to life on the third day and let Him manifest Himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – to us who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from death. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead.

All the prophets say of Him, that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His Name.

Prayer to our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (24 May)

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”, the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.

We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the people of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently say “yes” in the house of Nazareth, you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.

You willingly and generously cooperated in that work, allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul, until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary, standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way, the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.

Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter. Grant that your children may discern at all times, even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high, offering Him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love. Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses of this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us now and forever. Amen!

Monday, 21 April 2014 : Monday within Easter Octave (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are now celebrating the great joy of Easter, which is so great that it overflows throughout the entirety of the fifty days of the Easter season, and particularly this week, which is the Easter Octave, which runs between the Easter Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter, which is the Divine Mercy Sunday.

At this time of great joy, the Scriptures reminded us that we have to remain faithful and joyful servants of the Lord, but not just that, as we also have to be the faithful servants of our Lord, in being truthful and upright in our testimony and  as true witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and abandoning and casting away all forms of falsehoods which the devil tries to plant in the hearts of men.

When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke the truth with great courage to the people who ridiculed the apostles for being drunk after they spoke in tongues filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter testimonied and witnessed for the Lord before the thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem, and the power of the Spirit gave great courage to this man once riddled with fear and uncertainty.

The testimony of Peter was true and firm, and it showed to the people how mistaken they had been in their beliefs about Christ and on what the leaders and the elders of the people had tried to falsely portray the Christ as. The words of Peter and the angels of the Lord that appeared to the holy women rang true and shed light over the darkness of evil that veiled this world.

Why did the elders of the people try to deceive the people by lying to them about the resurrection of the Lord? And this even though the fact was that they were the ones most knowledgeable about the Scriptures and therefore should have been the ones who knew most about what the Lord will do through His Son the Messiah?

That is because of sins in the hearts of men. Even the supposedly most holy and learnt of the people of God could be corrupted by these sins, which blocked the light and salvation of God, as sins, especially that of pride, clouded the hearts and judgments of men, preventing them from taking part in the Lord’s plan of salvation and instead did their best to undermine the Lord’s good works through Jesus.

The elders and the chief priests feared that if Jesus was allowed to have His way, and if what He has done and shown the people is true, then their influence and power within the society and with the people of God will be undermined and destroyed. That is why they hated Jesus and always tried to be in His way as He performed His many good works, and even to the end, they mocked Him on the way to Calvary, on the cross, and even tried to undermine the good news of His glorious resurrection.

Such indeed, was the danger of the human pride and sins that inhabit our hearts. They can derail us from our path to God and close our senses from the ability to sense and understand the love that God has for us, which He had shown in perfection through His Son Jesus, in His life, His suffering and death, and ultimately, His resurrection from the dead.

Let us in this Easter season, as we celebrate the joy of life, a new life in the Risen Lord, also help one another to witness for the truth about the Lord and about our genuine and dedicated faith in Him. Let us preach the Good News of the Risen Lord and Saviour to all mankind, praising Him before all creations that more and more will come to believe and accept Jesus Christ as God, as Peter had once done with the great courage of the Holy Spirit.

May this Easter be a great, wonderful and blessed one for all of us. Let us rejoice and be glad in our Risen Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the fifth and last Sunday of Lent, we come ever closer to the holy season of Easter and to the Week when we will celebrate the most important mysteries and features of our faith, when Jesus Christ our Lord gave Himself for us and died for us. And today that is why if we notice the readings, they all drew the same conclusion, that deliverance is upon us, and God has prepared deliverance for all of us without exception.

Yes, we are all God’s beloved children and people, and therefore it is just natural that God would intend good things for us. He did not intend us any harm or let destruction be our fate, because He created us in His love, and He wanted only good things and blessings for us. It was we ourselves, mankind, who cursed ourselves and turned our back on the love of God, that we were headed into doom and eternal destruction.

Yet, we are truly special in the sight of the Lord, for unlike Satan and his fellow fallen angels who rebelled against God, we were all given a second chance of eternal life and salvation, because God loved us so much, so much so that He gave us that love in the form of Himself, in Jesus His Son, the Word made flesh and born into this world through the Virgin that He might save us all.

That is why Jesus our Lord is the hope for all lives, for all of us in this world, past, present and the future. That is because through Him, mankind were given hope once again, a light which pierced through the darkness of our souls and the darkness of the world around us. He breathed new life into us, and through His teachings, He showed us how to love God and be in His eternal grace.

Today we heard the very well-known story on the Resurrection of Lazarus, who was brought back into life by Jesus after he had died of an illness for a few days. Through this wondrous miracle, we were shown that Jesus is Lord and He is all powerful, being God, having absolute and complete power over life and death. And as He is the Master of life, life is His to bestow, and on Lazarus, man among whom He loved, He gave that life so that all who saw it may also believe in Him and therefore themselves gained life for themselves.

Yet it is also important that today we make a clear distinction so that we will not be confused later on. Lazarus was resurrected and was returned to life, but not by His own power or will, but by the grace and power of God through Jesus. The same also happened during the time of the prophet Elijah, who returned the life to the son of a suffering widow whom he was staying with.

Jesus, on the other hand, who is God and who was with God as His Word, rose from the dead by the power of His own will and might, as the Lord over life and death. That was the key difference between Christ and Lazarus in their respective resurrections. And this is also to show that Christ is the Saviour, the new hope for all mankind, that all who believe in Him and in the Father who sent Him, He will raise up to new life like that of Lazarus, and even more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have often forgotten about Christ in our own busy schedule in life, and in all our occupations and works, that we have turned away from the Lord and in the life and salvation that He offered us all. That is why, we have to constantly remind ourselves of the fact of our frailty and weakness, that we are predisposed to sin and vulnerable to committing trespasses to God.

It is why this Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for all of us to repent and commit ourselves to change our ways. This Lenten season is the time for renewal and rejuvenation of our souls, in which we can reorientate ourselves that we may forsake what is evil and harmful for our salvation and seek the love and mercy of God.

We should not waste this perfect opportunity, and make best use of it, so that we will be able to reach out for the Lord and His salvation, and we should humbly ask the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness rather than hardening our hearts as what the people of God had once done, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. God is rich with His mercy and love and He will not forsake us, providing that we ourselves are open to accepting His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the life, and the bringer of the new life in salvation that He freely offers us all. We should all take the time from now on to make concrete our love and devotion for the Lord, that we may commit to changing our ways for the better and dedicate ourselves to God without reservations. We should be like the two sisters Mary and Martha, who loved the Lord, who had faith in Him and believed in Him.

Let us all now resolve to seek God and to have Him always in our heart, committing ourselves to total change of self, abandoning all things that are evil in the sight of God, washing ourselves clean from these taints, and commit to doing good from now on. May the Lord our God and Father, see always the good that is in us, and our desire to be reunited with Him, and thus forgive us our trespasses and welcome us back into the grace and blessings He had prepared for all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Thursday, 27 March 2014 : 3rd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters, today we learn again another lesson, as Jesus went around to teach the people of God, that we must not be doubtful in our hearts and even more importantly, we should not be quick to cast baseless accusations, especially if they are made out of poor judgment and idea on our side.

It was truly horrifying to see how the people of God, who had been graced with the presence and witnessing the Lord Himself in action, could ever condemn and criticise Him by saying that what great deeds He had done, was done by the power of the evil one and the other spirits.

They saw the miracles performed by Jesus, and all the things He had done, and yet they refused to believe, and all the teachings that Jesus had made, should all have been very clear to them, showing them the true nature of God’s laws and ways. This is because of their hardened heart, which they kept indignantly even against the love God had shown for them.

The same can be compared to how their ancestors behaved in the desert, the same generation of people who saw the Lord doing great deeds in bringing the Ten plagues to crush the Egyptians and liberate them from their slavery. They also witnessed how God split open the sea to let them pass and pour the waters over their enemies. They received even food from heaven and crystal clear, sweet water from the rocks, and yet they complained and complained.

These people were so stubborn because they did not keep the Lord in their heart but Satan! They were so influenced by the things of the world that instead of thanking God for His very obvious guidance and kindness along the way, they dared to say things such as life was better in Egypt, with food and drinks, even though they were in slavery! What they thought are in the realm of human greed and desire, that nothing God gave them is likely to be ever enough.

The same therefore happened to the people at the time of Jesus, as there were many factions, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, and many others, including the common people. These people were obsessed with power and the influence they had on the people, and they were loath to give them up or even share them with someone who is technically an outsider, like Jesus.

Jesus showed them that their stubbornness and hard-heartedness ought to be taught a lesson, that they should not be so stone hearted as if to defy the works of the Lord, putting obstacles in His way, and worse still, blaspheming against God through their indignant attitude, calling the work of God as the work of Satan.

Shall we also be like them? Shall we be indignant and refuse to listen to the Lord because of our own human interests, and greed for power? If we do so, then we will have no part in the salvation offered by the Lord. We have to cast out our pride and our greed, especially for power, that we may lower ourselves and understand what God has given us, in Jesus, His Son, the manifestation of His everlasting love.

May the Lord open our hearts, and help us to understand better His love, that we too may love Him the same way. Let us all devote ourselves more to the Lord, and promise Him that we will stay forever loyal and faithful, no matter what. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jesus spoke about Himself when He talked about the parable of the evil tenants in today’s Gospel reading. And indeed everything came true as He spoke of. Jesus was the son of the owner of the vineyard, and the owner is God the Father, while the vineyard is this world where we live in. The grapes and the grapevine are all of us, the people of God.

The evil tenants are, in specific terms, the Pharisees and the elders of Israel, those who rejected Jesus the Son, and who later crucified Him to death on the cross. But in more general terms, they can also refer to anyone with power or holding any positions of power. They can also refer to any of us, brethren. For we mankind are prone to temptations of power and they may come at any time.

Why are we like the evil tenants? That is because we relish in the glories and joys of this world, that we grow attached to them, and we became obsessive over them, not wanting to give them up. That is what had happened to the Pharisees and the chief priests by the time of Jesus. They who had been entrusted with power and authority over the people, grew attached to that power, and it consumed them with desire for power, and jealousy for anyone they saw as threat to that power.

That explained why they were so stubborn and tried their best to undermine the works of Jesus and His disciples wherever they went to. They followed Jesus and heard Him as He taught the people of the revelation of God’s truth and salvation, but they did not listen to Him. Yes, they keep their ears and hearts closed against the Lord who tried to reach out to them and reconcile them with Him.

They tried to come out with plots after plots, and plotted they did, against the Lord and Messiah whom they are supposed to serve and preach for. They hardened their hearts against Him and branded Him a heretic and a blasphemer while in fact it was they themselves who had blasphemed against God through their wicked actions.

It is a lesson that all of us can learn from, that we should not let our human pride and ambition to get in our way as we go to seek the Lord and ask Him for His saving power. We cannot let ourselves be manipulated by the evil one, who sowed the seeds of lie in us, making us think that it is good for us to disobey and break the law of God as long as it suits our own desires and purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we be like the Pharisees and those whose greed for power and control had obstructed their acknowledgment of the Lord’s authority? Or shall we be meek and humble, asking our Lord for guidance and for Him to lead us into a blessed life with Him? The choice here is clearly ours and we have to act upon it.

Let us not be brought down by the trap of power, and the pull of desire and wants, that we end up being great obstacles in the Lord’s work of salvation. Instead, let us learn to be humble, to set aside our own greed and human pride, and allow the Lord to be our guide and our leader, entrusting with Him and truly trusting Him to make the decisions that will be good to our own lives.

May the Lord our God help us to be reconciled with Himself, and to cast out all semblances of evil and wickedness from ourselves, that we may once again be made worthy, that we will not be judged to be among those who are unworthy of His salvation and those destined for damnation in hell. Let us pray for one another, and support one another, that our faith in God may be always strong. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Be righteous, be humble and be faithful. These are the key takeaways from today’s readings, from both the letter of St. James, urging us to seek the Lord and His will in our lives, and to be humble, and in the Gospel today, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, that we may have a genuine faith, that is like the faith of a young children.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the things that were reality at the time of Jesus, and indeed is still a reality even today. We squabble and fight with our own friends and neighbours, because we desire certain things, be it power, affluence, wealth, friendships, and many other things, and we as mankind, has in our nature to be greedy and to desire for more and more things.

And in the end we often miss the point on what it means to be the children and disciples of the Lord. We often seek power and glory, position and honour, that we often forget about the Lord. We did not keep faithful to His commandments but instead walk in our own ways, that is following the ways of this world, which include violence, hatred, prejudice and many other things.

We follow the ways of the world often because it offers us very many things, things that look beautiful and tempting in our eyes. It offers us influence, power, authority, wealth and other things that may prevent us from reaching out to the truth in God. The reality is that, while these things seem to be very enjoyable and pleasurable to us, they are merely temporary. The pursuit of these things will not bear us much fruits, other than bitterness and regret at the end of our lives.

For if we make friends with the ways of the world, in all its corruption by evil, then we are no longer following God or remain as His disciples. We instead walk in the rebellious path of the devil. And God does not want this to happen to us, and that is why He sent to us Jesus His own Son, to straighten the path for us and to make us aware what it truly means to be followers of the Lord.

We have to be genuine in our faith and love for God, and we have to change our mindset and actions, that we no longer adhere to the ways of the world, but instead follow the Lord in His ways and walk in His ways. We cannot be half-hearted in our faith, because we must be firm and strong in resisting the temptations and challenges of this world.

We have to put away our pride and dull the edge of our human ego. At the same time, we should also remain humble, and keep strong this humility at all times in our life. Pride and arrogance often separates us from the Lord, and they act as barriers preventing us from accessing the Lord, keeping us away from His salvation. Humility, on the other hand, allow us to open ourselves to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the Lord and His call. Let us not turn our back towards Him, and let us give Him our full attention without divide. We have to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, and practice it in our words, deeds and actions. As the prophet Micah said, let us walk humbly with our God, and let us follow Him with all of our hearts. Amen.