Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Monday, 18 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us today heard about the story of the army centurion in the Gospel passage, where he requested the Lord Jesus to heal his very sick servant. Yet at the same time, feeling the uttermost unworthiness upon him, the army centurion spoke to Jesus in the words we are surely familiar with, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.’

In this we see how each and every one of us are afflicted in our body, our mind, our heart and our soul, all of us are sinners who are unworthy of God, just like the army centurion who felt that he was unworthy that God should come to his house even though it was for the healing of his servant. He did so because, probably he was not Jewish but Greek or Roman as was custom at that time for a Roman army centurion, and it was considered taboo for a non-Jew to enter the house of a Jew and vice versa.

How about us? Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been tainted by sin, the affliction that is affecting all of us, corrupting our mind, heart, body and soul, our entire being. And it was because of our sins caused by our disobedience against God, beginning with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our first ancestors that we have ended up being cast out of Eden, the gardens of God, and sundered away from His grace and love.

Therefore, in our state of sin, we have become unworthy of God, and we cannot stand in God’s presence, because He Who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the presence of sin, just as darkness cannot withstand the bright light of the Lord. All those who sin and have been corrupted by sin are therefore supposed to be damned and rejected, to suffer the same fate as accorded to the devil and his angels, that is eternal suffering in hell fire.

Yet, that was not what the Lord wanted to happen to us, as He gave us all a new hope, through Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and mankind, for He, having taken up the flesh of man, taking up our own human form upon Him, lies between God the Creator and Master of all, and the children of man. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man, having both divine and human natures united in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Therefore, He is the bridge that has bridged the once uncrossable chasm between God and us, caused by the sins we have committed, which separated us from God. He has given us another chance to be reconciled with God, and through His cross, His suffering and death on that cross, He has brought us mankind back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father and Creator.

Yet, many of us are reluctant to return to Him, and many of us are even ignorant or hostile to His love. We do not act in the manner the army centurion had done, but instead, first of all, many of us think that we cannot be afflicted or that we are in the wrong. We think that our way and what we have done in life cannot have been wrong, and that we are fine in whatever it is that we are doing. Yet, the reality is that many of us are heading down the wrong path.

Should we let our pride and ego to become obstacles in our journey towards reconciliation and reunion with God? Should we let our obstinance and the temptations we encounter in life to derail our effort and progress towards the salvation in God? We should not. We should instead heed the examples of the army centurion, who despite knowing that he was unworthy, but he had complete and full faith in the Lord, that the Lord will be able to do what He wills to do for those whom He loves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are God’s beloved children, and yet we have been sundered from Him and were separated from His grace because of our sins and mistakes. Now we all need to realise just how sinful and wicked we have been, how corrupted and unworthy we have been, and then we have to realise that there is a way out of this predicament. It is through our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, that we will be saved.

Let us all therefore from now on, draw ever closer to God’s loving embrace, and sincerely seek repentance and resolve to turn away from all of our sinful habits and actions. Let us all no longer be stubborn and prideful, but instead, humbly, like the army centurion in the Gospel today, seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, which He readily gives to all those who are willing to repent and desire reconciliation with Him. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 17 September 2017 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard the Scriptures telling us what God wants from each and every one of us Christians, that all of us who believe in Him and therefore, are Christians, must be filled with forgiveness, the readiness and willingness to forgive, and to let go of the anger in our hearts and minds, and forgive those who have slighted us, caused us pain, suffering or sorrow.

That is the essence of what we have heard from the Scripture passages this Sunday, beginning with what we heard from our first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach. In that passage, grudge and wrath were mentioned as the two major obstacles for all of us in seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness. That is because when we are filled with grudge and wrath, anger and hatred against another, then we cannot be forgiven ourselves, since we ourselves have not forgiven those who have wronged us.

It is in our human nature to bear grudges against another, hatred and jealousy towards those whom we perceive to be better than us, to be more privileged than us, to be more fortunate than us. We are easily angered by those who have caused us pain, suffering, harm or loss of face, and there are many, many reasons for us to hate others and to have revenge on what we have been slighted or discomforted with.

Yet, it is far more difficult for us to forgive others, to let go of the anger and all the emotions pent up within us. It is much more difficult for us to keep ourselves cool and to be able to embrace our enemies, and all those whom we dislike. But as Christians, in truth, all of us are challenged to do so, as the Lord Himself taught us that the way forward for us, is to learn to forgive one another.

Do you know why is it that we find it so difficult to forgive? That is because we are often too full of ourselves, too selfish and too filled up with our ego, that we cannot bear to make ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us, or even to seek to be forgiven. It is our pride that has become our undoing, because we have allowed pride to blind us and to prevent us from seeing and understanding the love of God.

We feel entitled in our lives, and we often feel that we have the right to demand justice and to have people begging forgiveness from us, just because we feel that we are wrongly treated or that we do not get what it is that we wanted. Yet, how can we be forgiven, if we ourselves do not open ourselves, our minds and our hearts to forgive others?

In the Epistle or the second reading today, we heard St. Paul telling the faithful and the members of the Church in Rome, that all of us, each and every one of us belong to the Lord, and all of our lives belong to Him alone. We live for Him, and our existence is thanks to Him alone. Without His grace and blessings, and His love for each and every one of us, we would not have existed at all.

And yet, many of us place far greater importance on ourselves instead of the Lord. We are often so focused on ourselves, that we forget that it was, in the first place that by the grace and mercy of God, that we have been able to live in this world. That is because, as what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, God, our Lord and Master, have forgiven us all our debts, our mistakes and shortcomings, as represented by the Lord Jesus in His parable.

In that parable, Jesus spoke of a servant who owed his master a lot of money, ten thousand pieces of gold in fact. The master wanted to punish the servant, threw him into slavery with all of his belongings and family, but when the servant frantically begged to be given a second chance before the master, the master had pity on him and forgave him from all of his debts, his entire huge debt of ten thousand gold pieces and more.

Yet, we heard then that the same servant, upon being released from the bondage and the great burden he had, turned onto another servant who owed him money, a sum far smaller than what the servant owed the master. The servant refused to listen to the pleas made by the servant who owed him small amount of money, and put the latter into prison.

This upset the other servants who reported the case to the master, who was angry at the servant whom he had forgiven from his debts. The master then sent the servant to be punished even more and demanded from him to be punished according to his original debts, where he would remain in prison and suffered whatever fate that was originally intended for him.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, while the servants represent each and every one of us, God’s people. And indeed, all of us have great debts that we owe to the Lord, and this debt is none other than the multitudes of our sins, all the wickedness we have committed in life. And as the master had had mercy on the servant, forgiving him the entirety of his huge debt, so has our Lord forgiven us the great burden of the multitudes of our sins, because He loves each and every one of us.

Yet, if we refuse to forgive others, and choose instead to be obstinate and succumbing to our ego, placing ourselves ahead of the others, trying to satisfy our desires and wants, keeping anger and hatred stoked against our brethren, then we will end up being the same as the servant who had been forgiven and yet refused to forgive his fellow servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to reflect on this, even as we remember how we have treated each other all these while. Let us think about all the times we have been angry against our brothers and sisters over various matters, be it over money, over other forms of worldly possessions, over fame, influence, glory and many other things that we consider to be precious. Yet, despite all of our anger, hatred, jealousy and bitterness, do we realise that all the things that made us to be angry, to be filled with hatred, jealousy and bitterness, are nothing to the extent of our sins against the Lord?

Do we realise that our faults against each other are but like a pinch of sand amidst the entire huge desert, or like a small cup of water against the entirety of the world’s oceans, representing all the faults, mistakes, all of our shortcomings and the debts of disobedience that we owe the Lord our God? And yet, He forgave us our sins, while He could have just willed us to be destroyed and annihilated for our sins.

And at the same time, He forgave us through the most loving and selfless acts of all time, by His assumption of the human flesh, becoming one like us, so that through the Divine Word made Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, He died on the cross for us, bearing the heavy burdens of our sins and trespasses upon Himself, so that we may not perish because of those sins, but live in the renewed grace of God, which He willingly bestows on those who repent from their sins and desire to be reconciled with Him.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, the cross is the ultimate price which the Lord had paid for our sake, out of His everlasting love for us, His mercy and compassion for us sinners. If He had forgiven our sins, so great and so terrible they were, then should we not have done the same as well to our fellow brothers and sisters? Shall we not forgive those who have wronged us, because ultimately we ourselves may have wronged them?

Let us all, as Christians, truly mean it whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and not just utter the words without truly understanding, appreciating and meaning them. Do we mean it when we pray to the Lord, asking Him to ‘forgive us our trespasses, just as we forgive those who trespassed against us?’ We often focus too much on the first half, expecting to be forgiven from our sins, and yet, we forget to do what is necessary in the first place.

In that prayer of supplication to God, it is clear that we ourselves must first forgive those who have slighted and wronged us, before we are even worthy to be forgiven from our own sins. Let us all not walk in the same path as the servant who refused to forgive the other servant while he himself had been forgiven. Let us all instead take up the challenge to become true Christians in spirit and in deed, by being forgiving, merciful and compassionate towards one another in all things.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our lives, that we may be ever like Him, loving, compassionate and ever ready to forgive those who desire to change their ways and repent from their sins. May God be with us all in our endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 16 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message from the Scriptures telling us all as Christians to be true disciples of the Lord, that in all things we do, we must be truly faithful to the Lord, and not just having superficial faith. That is the essence of what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people His parables.

He began with the parable of the good tree producing good fruits, and vice versa, the bad trees producing bad fruits. What the Lord said was that if the trees were healthy and in good condition, they would not have produced poor quality or rotten fruits. Similarly, if the trees are bad and rotten, it is unlikely for them to produce good quality fruits. And all these trees in fact represent all of us mankind, God’s people.

Jesus our Lord then also elaborated on another parable, the parable of the foundations, where He mentioned two types of foundation, firstly the strong and solid rock foundation where a house would remain sturdy and strong even when battered by strong winds, rains or waves. And then, He mentioned about the house built on the weak foundation of sand, were although it was quickly and easily built, but when strong winds and rains batter it, it quickly fell down and collapse.

In these two narratives that Jesus had taught His people, He wanted to show them, and therefore to all of us that as Christians we cannot resolve to cut corners and take it the easy way out, or to make compromises if we are to truly become good disciples of the Lord. Much effort and hard work will be required from each one of us, and from time to time, there will be challenges and difficulties that will come to assail us, just like the winds and waves that assailed the houses in the parable.

It also takes a long time and a lot of effort to grow a healthy and productive plant such as a fruit tree. It requires a lot of hard work to produce a good tree, which we can know that it is good because it produces good fruits. If the tree is not properly taken care of, then it is highly likely that it will end up bad and rotten, and the fruits it produces will be of bad quality and rotten too.

In the same manner, therefore if our faith is not strong, and if we do not put the necessary effort required for us to remain faithful to the Lord, then we may end up losing our faith when the troubles and challenges of life come upon our path. We may end up like the house built upon the foundation of sand, shaky and weak, because we have chosen not to strengthen the foundation of our faith, and when challenges come our way, everything end up collapsing.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must be strong and courageous in our faith, that we may remain true to our faith despite all the difficult times and moments we may encounter, and despite the opposition and troubles that may come from even those who are dearest and closest to us. Remember that Satan and his allies have many things in their power and ability in order to try to bring about our downfall, and we must be ever vigilant.

Let us all look up to the examples of the holy saints whose memory we remember today, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, holy martyrs who have stood faithfully by their faith despite the difficult and challenging times of the early days of the Church, when being Christians was considered as equivalent to having a death wish upon oneself. Christians and the Church were persecuted and many were arrested and put to death for remaining true to their faith and refusing to abandon the Lord.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Church throughout the years of difficult persecution under the Roman Emperors, while St. Cyprian was the Bishop of Carthage, the contemporary of the Pope, who was one of the leaders of the Church. There were great divisions within the Church at the time, as there were those who under the famous Novatian, who refused to allow the re-baptism of those who have lapsed from their faith, disagreeing with Pope St. Cornelius, St. Cyprian and many other of those who remained to the true faith.

As such, it was truly a difficult time for the Church and for the faithful, and yet Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian remained strong in their faith and commitment to God. They showed their faith and commitment through their never ending dedication that inspired many others to remain strong in their faith to God, despite all the challenges and persecutions. And to the very end, unto their martyrdom, they did not give up their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples of these holy saints and devoted servants of God. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord following their footsteps. Let us walk faithfully through the journey of our lives, and let us all draw ever closer to God’s love and mercy. May He bless us and guide us all as we continue to struggle daily in our respective lives, trying our best to remain true to our faith in Him. Amen.

Friday, 15 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is related to the Feast which we have just celebrated the day before, that is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And while yesterday we rejoice in the glory of the Holy Cross and the triumphant victory which our Lord Jesus Christ had won because of His sacrifice on the Cross, today we remember that behind the Cross, precisely at the foot of the Cross, was Mary, the mother of our Lord.

For Mary was ever faithful and devoted to her Son, Whom she followed throughout His life and ministry in this world, ever loving Him and caring for Him at all times, even to the point of following Him to the Cross at Calvary. It must have been painful and unbearably excruciating for a mother to have to witness her Son being made to suffer, tortured and rejected by the people whom He had loved, and the pain which Mary had felt upon seeing the nails piercing the hands and the feet of her Son must have been tremendous.

This was what the prophet Simeon had foretold to Mary and Joseph, at the time when they brought the Baby Jesus to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. He foretold that a sword would pierce the heart of Mary, the mother of our Lord, but through that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. It is the thought which Mary always had for her Son, ever placing Him at the forefront of her mind, and the care and love He had for her, which she now shows us from her wounded heart.

Therefore, today, all of us look upon Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, whom her Son had entrusted to us as our Mother, and vice versa, that we have also been entrusted to her as her adopted children. And in her we see the sorrowful eyes which have gazed on the suffering of her Son, as He took up His cross, walking the long path from Jerusalem to Calvary, seeing her Son rejected and trampled upon, loathed and made to suffer, bearing the burdens of our sins, the entirety of mankind’s unimaginably huge burden of sin.

Therefore, that is why the sorrow of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows is clear, even unto this very day, because even though God had loved us and He even willingly laid down His life for our sake, sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, but we continue to sin and commit what is evil in the sight of God, refusing to obey God and His laws, and continuing to do what is against the Law of God.

Every single sin that we commit, every single one of our failure in doing what we could have done to obey God’s will, are every wounds that have been inflicted on our Lord Jesus Christ, the wounds and the whiplashes that tore at His Body, which made Him to suffer and to bleed. And all of these brought more sorrow to our loving mother, who loves each and every one of us just as she loves her Son.

Yet, we mankind continue to walk down our path towards destruction, by our ignorance of the Lord’s ways and teachings, by our refusal to repent and to turn away from all of our sinful ways. That is also why Mary made so many appearances in various times and places, including at Fatima, which centenary of her Apparition we celebrate this year.

Every time Mary, our mother made her appearance, she called upon her children to repent from their sins and to turn away from their wicked ways. She showed them the horrors of hell and what awaits those who are not faithful to God. That is because each and every one of us are precious to her, for she is our mother, and she loves us just as she loves and tenderly cares for her Son Jesus. She does not want even a single soul to end up in the damnation of hell.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the great sorrows of Mary, our loving mother and the mother of our Lord, who have witnessed just how great the love God had for us, that for our sake, He was willing to die for us, that each and every one of us may have life in us, let us all therefore spend some time to think about what we have done in our lives thus far, and what we have not done in accordance with God’s ways and teachings.

Let us from now on turn ourselves wholeheartedly and completely towards the Lord, our God, and through the guidance shown upon us by His mother Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, may all of us be able to find our way to the salvation and eternal life found in Him alone. Let the sorrowful heart of our loving mother Mary remind us of the need for us to reject all forms of sin, and live with faith, zeal and devotion from now on.

May all of us draw our attention to the Blessed Mother Mary, and through her may all of us find our most direct path to her Son. May the Lord continue to bless us and be with us all the days of our life. Amen.

Thursday, 14 September 2017 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion today, all of us celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a feast that originated with the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St. Helena. The cross is a symbol that is both essential and inseparable from our Christian identity, for the Cross and more importantly, Jesus Who was crucified on the Cross, is the centre of our faith.

For we believe wholeheartedly that the Cross is the means by which our Lord Jesus had brought forth for us our salvation from sin and death. It was once the symbol of the ultimate humiliation, a practice done by the Romans, who crucified those who were considered the great enemies and threats to the Roman state. It was reserved to the worst of the criminals and it was meant as a symbol of ultimate infamy and defeat. And yet, because of our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, that Cross, the Holy Cross of Christ has become the symbol of ultimate glory and triumph.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to look upon the Holy Cross, just as in the days of the ages past, in our first reading, we witnessed how the people of Israel were afflicted with the plague of the fiery serpents because of their disobedience and insolence actions against God. Their refusal to obey God and their wickedness caused the anger of God to be stirred against them, and the fiery serpents struck them and many died.

The fiery serpents were reminders for the people that because of their sins, they have been made mortals and they have been struck and would be struck by death, which is the ultimate consequence for their sins. They would suffer because of their sins, and if anyone then contemplated on their situation, it might seem that their fate was sealed, and everything was hopeless and meaningless. Yet, that was not what the Lord intended for those whom He held dear in His heart.

He told Moses to fashion a great bronze serpent, that when the bronze serpent was lifted up high above, the people throughout the camp of the Israelites could see the bronze serpent, and those who have been bitten and yet saw the bronze serpent, was spared from death. This is the grace and the proof of God’s love for His people, even though they had been disobedient and having refused to listen to Him, or appreciate His love and kindness.

Jesus Himself compared this to His sacrifice on the cross, prophesying about it to Nicodemus, that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent high, the Son of Man, Jesus Himself, would be raised up as well, on the Cross, as what indeed happened on that day at Calvary, the hills where Jesus was crucified and condemned to die a criminal’s worst death. He died among thieves and sinners, and was accused falsely of wrongdoings that were not of His doing.

But Jesus accepted His death willingly, and willingly He suffered for our sake, as we believe that Jesus took upon Himself, the entirety of the burden of our sins, all of our wickedness, our shortcomings and disabilities, all of our disobediences and lack of faith. He has willingly took up all these upon Himself, because of His great and everlasting love for each and every one of us. We might have denied Him and not been faithful to Him, but He could not possibly deny His love for us, just because of how great is His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that we celebrate today precisely celebrate the loving sacrifice of our Lord, by which He has saved us from our fate of death. And through that He has also utterly changed what was once the symbol of ultimate humiliation, shame and defeat, into the instrument of salvation, and the symbol of ultimate triumph, glory and hope.

That is why the cross of Christ is the centre of our faith, because we believe in the Crucified Christ, and that is why the Crucifix is such an important element of our faith. There are those detractors who sneered at us and complained that we have not done it right with the Crucifix, because Christ had risen from the dead, and that it is inappropriate to show the Lord crucified on the Cross. And yet, that is the reality that all of us must know, that the Cross without Christ is nothing.

The cross without Christ is just a mere cross, without meaning and without significance. An empty wooden cross may be an evidence that Christ is no longer dead, but has risen in glory. Yet, the presence of the Body of the Lord on the Cross, is a stark and constant reminder to us that Christ has been crucified for us, and that He has willingly taken up the flesh of our kind, that He might suffer in our place, and to die in our place, so that we may live.

There can be no Resurrection without the Suffering, Passion and Death of our Lord at Calvary. Thus, the Holy Cross and Christ Who hung on it is inseparably and intimately linked to the whole mystery of the Resurrection, and thus to the central tenet of our faith. And we follow the way of this same Lord and God, Who had been born into our world, and sharing our pains and sorrows, dying for our sake on the Cross, and Who has risen in glory, to show us the way that each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow.

The Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people, that if they want to follow Him, then they must be ready to pick up their crosses and follow Him. And by this, He was not referring to the physical crosses made of wood, or the crosses and crucifixes that we often wear on ourselves. Rather, what He meant was that, all of us must be ready to suffer as He had suffered, if we want to remain faithful to Him. There will surely be challenges and obstacles that we are going to face in our journey.

The question is, are we able to bear those crosses faithfully? Are we able to stay strong despite the pressure for us to give up the fight and the temptations calling us to turn away from God’s path, just because it is too difficult and challenging for us? How many of us face the temptations and choices in life, where we must choose between obeying God or satisfying our own needs and seeking our own comfort?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not be ashamed to carry the cross of Christ, but carry the cross with zeal and commitment, knowing that in the Holy Cross of Christ lies our salvation, and indeed our only hope to be freed and liberated from the tyranny of sin and death. Let us all remember that no matter how hard the challenges and difficulties in life we face, that Christ had suffered for each and every one of us, and bear upon Himself the consequences for all the multitudes of our sins, as painful and unimaginably horrible they may be, so that we may live.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord, He Who has been crucified for us, Who gave up His life and suffered for our sake, that we may have life in us. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, and as we walk in His way, bearing proudly the crosses of our faith, may we remain resolute and strong in our commitment to Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the readings from the Scriptures, both from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Colossae and the Gospel passage, of what we all need to do as Christians, as those who belong to the Lord and are faithful to Him. We cannot be true Christians unless we obey the Lord with genuine and sincere faith.

In the first reading today, St. Paul reminded the faithful of the need to set our minds on the matters of the Lord, and beyond our usual earthly concerns and commitments. We should be righteous in all of our ways, and resist the temptations of the flesh, and all the pressures that are pressing on us to abandon our faith in God. We have to learn to resist those temptations and put our effort to do what the Lord had asked us to do, even though it may not bring us popularity, renown or greatness in the sight of the world.

It is easier for us if we just succumb to those temptations and give up the struggle, and yet, if that is the path we have chosen, we may end up falling into damnation and eternal suffering which awaits all those who do not walk righteously before God, and those who committed wickedness in their actions. Ultimately, we have to realise that what is acceptable according to the world may not be acceptable to the Lord, and vice versa.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives, through introspection of our actions and deeds in life. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord in all that we say, in what we do, and in how we interact with one another? Have we endured suffering and difficulties as we proceed on with our lives? Do we realise that all of that are the tribulation and trials that may await us all, who believe in God and remain faithful to Him?

The way of the world is the way of sin, the way of darkness, and the way of rejection of God’s love, filled with selfishness, greed, inappropriate lust and desire for the pleasures of the flesh. And all these things are incompatible with the way of life that Christians should adopt. And yet, it is something that we are often bombarded with, and inundated with in our society today.

Are we able to persevere through the temptations and challenges? Are we able to remain true to our faith even though those whom we know and care for denounce us because of our faith? That was what happened to the many saints and martyrs who remained true to their faith and refused to give up their faith even though there were those who pressured them to give up and apostasise.

In this perhaps we should also follow the good examples of St. John Chrysostom, the brave and courageous saint, who remained true to his faith even amidst challenging moments and times. St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople who was renowned for his commitment and devotion to the faith, preaching against heresies and even against those who abused their authorities.

It was renowned that St. John Chrysostom even went up against the Empress of the Empire, who was criticised openly by St. John Chrysostom for her excesses, for her extravagance and lavish lifestyle, including many of the wealthy nobles and courtesans. He was exiled twice for the opposition and righteous works he had done, and for what he had faithfully committed for the faith and the Church, and yet, he did not give up to the very end.

From St. John Chrysostom all of us should learn the courage and the faith with which he conducted his actions, for the good of his flock and all those whom God had entrusted to his care. Each and every one of us should follow in his footsteps and learn from his deep faith and devotion to the Lord. May the Lord bless us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to become ever more faithful to Him. St. John Chrysostom, holy saint of God, pray for us. Amen.