Tuesday, 22 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, we are all reminded that the Lord has called us to do His will, to walk in His path faithfully and just as He has set before us His laws and commandments through His Church, we are called to be faithful as good and active Christians in words and deeds, in all that we do.

In our first reading today, from the Book of Proverbs we heard of the Lord presenting to us all the reality of those who obey the Lord and those who disobey Him. And He presented before all of us how those who walk in His path, that they all will be good and honest in the eyes of all, without injustice and wickedness in their actions, while those who refuse to believe in Him and walk in His path show their waywardness in action.

The Lord has also told us that what He needs from us is genuine faith and obedience, real action and living faith rather than just empty gestures and appearances. And to be His followers, it requires us all to spend the time and effort to do His will, to reach out to one another with love, to be exemplary in how we carry out our daily lives in faith that we may inspire each other to be more faithful to Him.

This is what He has also reiterated through our Gospel passage today, as He said to those who told Him that His family were waiting on Him, that His brothers and sisters were also those that have listened to the Lord, obeyed His will and commandments. This statement meant no disrespect to the mother of the Lord or to His relatives, but rather a reminder that for the Lord, everyone else are also equally beloved and important, as many people tend to put their family above others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must consider ourselves as being truly fortunate because we have God on our side, Who is loving and ever committed to the Covenant which He had made with us all. God has always loved us and He will not abandon us no matter what. But have we loved Him in the same way? And have we come to appreciate what He has done for us? If we realise just how much He has loved us, then we ought to live our lives more faithfully from now on.

Brothers and sisters, as we remind ourselves of our Christian calling, let us all consider how we can be more active in living up to our faith in our respective communities. As Christians, we are called to be witnesses to God’s truth and love, and by committing ourselves to live in faith, we can inspire others to follow in our footsteps, to be faithful and committed to God as well and be worthy of His salvation.

Especially during these difficult and troubling times, when the world is facing so many problems and difficulties, how do we as Christians act in such a way that we inspire one another, especially those who are downtrodden, in despair and without hope? Have we reached out to those who need more love, care and concern, those who are in trouble and needy, those whom we encounter and in which we have the opportunity to help?

Brothers and sisters, for us to be faithful to God, and to do His will, we do not really need to do amazing and extraordinary deeds. On the contrary, it is in fact through our little actions in life, in our every day living, our small and little interactions with one another that we become faithful witnesses of the Lord, and it is through our lives and our actions that we will be known as God’s people, and by our actions, more and more people will come to know God and be saved, through us.

Let us all therefore seek the Lord with all of our hearts from now on, and let us all devote ourselves to serve the Lord and proclaim His Good News by our dedication and faithful life. May the Lord help us and guide us in this journey that we may draw ever closer to Him, and find our path to the true joy and eternal glory in Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 21 September 2020 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the great Apostle, St. Matthew, who was one of the Twelve Apostles and also one of the four Evangelists or the writers of the Four Gospels. St. Matthew was originally known as Levi, one of the tax collectors who responded to the Lord’s call, left behind everything in order to follow Him. And thus, St. Matthew came to be, a faithful disciple of the Lord and a great evangeliser by words and by his writings.

The story of St. Matthew is truly an inspiration and hope for each and every one of us, a kind reminder from the Lord that there is no one beyond the reach of God’s mercy and love, and there is no sin great enough that cannot be forgiven by God. When someone is condemned for his or her sins, that is because that person has consciously rejected God’s love and mercy, and chose to remain in sin rather than to walk in the path of God’s Light.

At the time of Jesus’ life and ministry, the tax collectors were seen very negatively by many segments of the community, particularly by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. First of all, the tax collectors were seen as collaborators to the Romans who then had become the overlords of the lands of Judea, Galilee and other lands where the Jews lived in. They were even considered as traitors to the nation because they were deemed to have ‘sold off’ their fellow countrymen by their line of work.

But all these were mistaken perception and generalisation of all the tax collectors, who the Pharisees particularly despised, as the Pharisees looked highly on themselves as the pious guardians of the people’s faith and the Law, and to them, the tax collectors, prostitutes and also those who were unclean and possessed were the worst of the worst, sinful and unworthy of God’s love, and were to be shunned and rejected.

The Lord Jesus therefore did the unthinkable, and what the Pharisees and teachers of the Law must have been surprised with, as He spent time with those who had been mentioned earlier as the sinful and unclean, and in this case, even called one of those tax collectors to be His disciple and even become one of the Twelve Apostles. Some others like St. Mary Magdalene might have had dubious and less than ideal background as well, as in some traditions, she was once a prostitute who then repented and followed the Lord.

Levi, the tax collector whom the Lord called, chose to leave everything he had, his profession and income, his livelihood and others, and followed the Lord wholeheartedly from the moment when he was called. Levi also invited the Lord to have a dinner with him and his fellow tax collectors, and by doing so, in fact, he had done his first act of evangelisation, calling on all the other tax collectors, and introducing the Lord to them all.

The Pharisees were quick to strike at the Lord for His actions, how He approached and even had a meal at the house of those ‘unclean’ and sinful tax collectors. At that time, even going to the house of sinners could make one ‘unclean’, and for the Lord to go to the house of such sinner, was truly unprecedented. But as the Pharisees were busy criticising Him and His actions, the Lord immediately rebuked them and their elitist attitude, revealing to us all just how God loves every one of His children without discrimination.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It means that the Lord never wants to lose any one of us, and to Him, each and every one of us are equally important, from the greatest man to the humblest and lowliest in stature and in standing, all are equal before Him, equally beloved and equally shown mercy and forgiveness. Even the worst of sinners, should they repent sincerely with all their heart and with all of their strength, they will be forgiven all their sins.

This is why the saying by St. Augustine of Hippo is true, that ‘there is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.’ signifying how all of us, first of all are sinners before God, and every one of us have sinned and failed God by disobedience, but God’s generous mercy will rid us of those sins should we respond to His call for repentance, and that we commit ourselves to be forgiven from those sins. This is the future that was mentioned by St. Augustine, himself was a great sinner, who found God and was converted, and became a great servant of God and saint.

Levi experienced the same conversion, as did many other saints, and for Levi, later known as Matthew, he dedicated himself to the service of God, first of all for his efforts in compiling and writing down the accounts of the ministry of the Lord and His revelations of truth, in the Gospel named after himself, the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Through this Gospel, many countless souls throughout the history of the Church had discovered God, known about His love and mercy, and were converted to the faith.

And not just that, as St. Matthew also ministered among the Jewish people in Judea, preaching the Word of God and His Good News to them, as was also evident in how his Gospel were also written primarily being addressed to the Jewish people. This showed that St. Matthew had taken it upon himself to evangelise the truth about Christ among the Jews and to call more of the Lord’s first chosen people to follow Him into the fullness of truth in the Christian faith.

St. Matthew also evangelised in distant lands, preaching the Good News to many people, and it was told that he went to Ethiopia, who had by then began to receive the Christian faith and had growing communities of the faithful. St. Matthew, according to one tradition, was martyred after he rebuked the local king who lusted and desired for her own niece, while the latter had also dedicated herself to a holy virginity dedicated to God. It was told that St. Matthew was martyred while celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see how God’s power of love and forgiveness are so great and wonderful. Sinners He has called and transformed into great saints, those who have impacted the lives of many among the faithful. And this therefore gives us the hope that all of us shall also share in the same joy, as long as we are faithful and embrace God’s mercy, repenting sincerely from our past sins and waywardness.

Let us all therefore follow the examples of St. Matthew, St. Augustine and all the other holy men and women of God, transforming our lives into ones that bring glory to God, through our daily actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God’s mercy and love, and seek to be forgiven from all of our unfaithfulness, our wickedness and waywardness, our sins and shortcomings that had prevented us from finding our way to the Lord all these while.

May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He guide us into His everlasting kingdom, and help us that we may grow ever stronger in faith, not to be swayed by greed and pride, and also showing the same concern and love that He has showed us, in how we interact with each other, with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. May St. Matthew also intercede for us and inspire us to be courageous witnesses of our faith in our respective communities, that more and more may come to believe in God, by witnessing our own dedication and authentic living of our faith. Amen.

Sunday, 20 September 2020 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to seek God with all of our strength, and to purify ourselves from sins and wickedness, as mentioned in our Scripture today. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading passage today spoke of this call for all of us mankind to turn to God and to trust in the Lord in all that He had planned for us, responding to His call and follow Him into the path of righteousness.

Contextually, the prophet Isaiah was addressing a people who had had plenty of history of disobedience and unfaithfulness against God, as they frequently abandoned God for false idols and pagan gods and goddesses, living wickedly and indulging in the excesses of the worldly pleasures. Prophets and messengers had been sent to their midst from time to time to call them back and to repent from their sinful ways.

And it is truly reminiscent of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord spoke of a parable that related the story of a vineyard owner that was seeking for workers to work in his field. He went out to seek those workers, and as he found some of them, he called them to work in his fields. Those workers and people gathered from many places represent those whom God had called to Him, including all of us.

In that parable, the vineyard owner went out and gathered some people to be his servants and workers in the field. And as time moves on, the owner continued to look for more workers, and went out all the way to seek for the workers, and called those whom he gathered to work in the field. And he continued doing so until the eleventh or the final hour, in which he again went out to gather workers from those who were by the roadside and from other places.

In this, we heard how the vineyard owner went out of his way, gathering as many workers as possible for his vineyard. The vineyard owner represents the God Himself, our Lord and Master, while as mentioned, all those whom the owner called represent all of us. And thus, in all these, we heard how God is reaching out to us, His beloved people, sending messengers, prophets, and all those servants to call us, to remind us that we may be reconciled and reunited with Him.

And the meaning of this parable, its subtle details are truly significant, if we come to realise how God loves us all so much that He constantly tried to call us and to bring us back to His embrace, then we must truly be grateful and appreciate the many opportunities that He has given to us all these while. But unfortunately, many of us are not aware, ignorant and not being thankful for the love that God has shown us.

Instead, we still continue to live in sin, and we ignore God’s reminders and patient efforts to reach out to us. Nonetheless, God did not easily give up on us. Until the very last moment, to the very last hour, as long as we are still breathing and living, it is never too late for us to repent with all of our heart, and we can still be forgiven by God, and be reconciled completely to Him. And in this case, I can bring one example of a real encounter between a woman and St. John Vianney, the famous saint and priest.

At that time, a woman came to St. John Vianney, just as many thousands others did, and this particular woman wanted to tell him and confide in him that she was devastated and worried because her husband had committed suicide by jumping down from a bridge into the water and perished. Suicide is a mortal sin for taking one’s own life in direct disobedience against God Who is the Lord and Master of all life, and taking one’s own life is truly a serious sin because our lives are not ours to take.

St. John Vianney was very popular and the queue for the people to see him was always very long. The wife of the man who committed suicide wanted to give up after queueing for many hours, when suddenly St. John Vianney exclaimed joyfully, addressing that particular woman, that her husband had been saved from the fires of hell normally reserved for those who committed mortal sins like suicide.

When the woman kind of did not believe in him, St. John Vianney once again stressed it out and repeated it clearly to her, that her husband has been saved, and had entered into Purgatory, where he would remain for a while to be purified from his sins, but with the ultimate destination and assurance of Heaven in the end. St. John Vianney likely received a heavenly and mystical vision he was also known for, seeing and knowing what happened even before the woman even approached him.

And truly, that man who committed suicide was really fortunate that he has been spared from the utter and eternal suffering and destruction. And all of these were because the man, just right before he hit the water, had managed to make a genuine act of contrition, regretting sorrowfully and wholeheartedly his many sins before God, and he was forgiven. This is the true and real definition of the pardon at the very last hour, just like those workers whom the vineyard owner gathered at the very last moment.

From this we can see yet again the power of God’s love and mercy, His compassionate care for us, and His desire to be reconciled with us. That is why, we must not wait until it is too late for us. The man who committed suicide in St. John Vianney’s case was fortunate to have a change of heart at the very last moment, but no one, no one at all knows the moment when our lives will be taken from us, the end of our earthly lives.

If until the very last moment we still refuse to repent and remain in our disobedience and sins, then it is by that stubborn refusal and by our own sins that we will be judged against, and thrown into hell and suffer for eternity. This is not so much because God is wrathful or fearsome, but rather, it is the just result and outcome of our own conscious choice to ignore, reject and spurn the very generous love He has lavished on us, and all the opportunities He has given us to repent and be reconciled with Him.

And then, besides this, what we heard in our Gospel passage today is also a reminder, that each and every one of us, all of us are in this journey of faith together, having been called into this new life, our new Christian life and existence through baptism. This was represented by all the workers who have been gathered through many hours of search and calls, and all of them shared in the same reward from the owner, one piece of silver coin.

What does that represent? It represents to us the fact that, in the end of our journey, all of us will receive the same inheritance and reward, that is eternal joy and true happiness, all in the perfect bliss of heavenly glory with God. Regardless of how early the timing is, or the circumstances of our conversion and reconciliation with God, all of us are to receive the same inheritance, nothing more and nothing less. For indeed, there is nothing greater than what we are to receive from God through our dedication and faith.

But we must also be vigilant that we do not end up like those workers who had been employed earlier by the vineyard owner and grumbled seeing that those who had been called and employed much later than they were, received the exact same reward in the end. This is somewhat similar to another well-known parable, the parable of the prodigal son, in which the elder son complained and became angry when the father welcomed back the sinful and wicked younger son with a great party when he returned in remorse and complete repentance.

This attitude was also reflected in many among the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and many of the members of the Sanhedrin, who looked at themselves as being more worthy of the Lord than others, especially those who were deemed unclean and sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes. And unfortunately, this attitude persists even in our Church, down throughout time, and to this very day.

Many of us compete against each other and also argue among ourselves, on who among us are more pious than the other, or how our pious practices are better than others. Even worse, in our Church ministries and in our communities, we end up giving in to slander and gossiping, jockeying for position and power instead of putting God at the centre of our lives. This is the sad reality for the Church and for our Christian communities.

What is it that we are really fighting, arguing and disputing with each other for, brothers and sisters? Is it for the Lord? Certainly not! And is it for our own good? Definitely not as well! It is to satisfy our own pride and ego, our own greed and ambition that we have done all these, and these are truly scandals to our Christian identity and faith. As Christians we cannot condone this kind of attitude and way of life, and we are called to be different from this.

And this is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have heard today is very significant for us, not only just because we are reminded to turn away from our sinful ways and sincerely repent from those sins, but we are also reminded that instead of focusing on ourselves and being selfish, on the contrary, we need to reach out to our fellow brethren, and especially to all those who have lost their way rather than to despise them or to look down on them.

Remember, brothers and sisters, that each and every one of us are equally sinners before God, unworthy and weak, ought to be condemned, but instead, by God’s love and grace, He has called us to turn towards Him, repent from all of our sinful ways, and embrace once again the fullness of His love. Therefore, let us all as fellow children of God, show love on each other, care for each other and help those who are struggling and together we move forward in this journey towards God.

Let us all be thankful for the life that God has given us, and be grateful for all the love and mercy He has shown us. May He strengthen us all in our faith that we may draw ever closer to Him, and in the end, receive from Him the crown of eternal glory, and the eternal life of pure bliss and joy, in His presence, forever and evermore. Amen.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue with the exhortation of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, as he tackled on the issue of the resurrection from the dead, both of the Lord’s own glorious Resurrection and also the belief that all the faithful would share in this resurrection after their death. Some segments of the community of believers disagreed with this and found it hard to believe in the resurrection.

That was why St. Paul went into great detail and with effort trying to explain the significance of resurrection and how it will truly happen for all the faithful, as the consequences of Christ’s sacrifice and death on the Cross, and through the revelation of the words of truth and the Holy Spirit that had been passed down to them and to the Church. This was made particularly against those who argued that there was no life after death.

Regardless of the reason why they did not believe in the resurrection after death, or any life after death, this refusal to believe in such a fact usually leads to the attitude of excesses and overindulging in life, as one would then believe that the earthly life was the only thing they had and nothing else, and this led one to sin and to be tempted away from the path of righteousness and into wickedness and evil, excesses and indulgence in life and in worldly pleasures.

The Lord has called us all to believe in Him and to reject these false ways and the desire to seek worldly pleasures in life. That is why He has called those Apostles and disciples through whom He has revealed His truth, and sowed the seeds of faith among innumerable people throughout history, through the Church. And this is aptly summarised in our Gospel passage today by the parable of the sower, in which the Lord sowed in the hearts of His faithful, the seeds of His faith.

This very well-known parable tells us of the seeds that is sowed by the sower, representing the Lord Himself, that fell on different places and had completely different outcomes depending on where they had landed, mainly because of the varying conditions experienced by the seeds in those places. The Lord used this parable to explain and convey His intentions because many among the people of the time were farmers, and many others would have also understood the terms used.

The seeds represent God’s truth and words, the faith which He has sowed, into the world, and which we have received. But we see how the seeds that fell on the roadside did not even have a chance to germinate and grow, as they were snatched and eaten up by the birds of the air. And this is how those who have rejected the words of God and His truth, and all these were snatched away from them, and they had nothing in them, no faith and no salvation.

Meanwhile, as we heard, those seeds that fell on the rocky ground germinated and grew, but was unable to grow deep and strong roots to keep themselves alive and in good health. This represents those who have indeed received the word of God, but put it aside and did not take it seriously, treating it without honour and are instead being busy with other things in life, and hence, the truth of God failed to take root in their lives, and did not remain in them.

And those seeds that fell on the soil where there were lots of thorns and bushes, weeds and other competitor plants, while the seeds did germinate and grow well, but they failed to grow properly and eventually perished because the budding plants were choked by those weeds and rivals that grew all around them. These represent those who did receive the truth of God, and believed, and yet, allowed temptations to get the better of them, and failed in their faith.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich soil which can germinate and grow well, healthy and good that they bore very rich fruits, many times fold of what had been planted in the first place. Those seeds were the only ones that were successful, and thus, that is what is the fate of those who have received the word of God, His truth, embraced them, believed wholeheartedly, and did what they could to provide the best and most optimum condition for the growth of their faith.

And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by practicing our faith sincerely, walking with faith and devotion, by showing love in each and every moments of our lives following the examples that the Lord Himself had shown us, and which His disciples had also showed in their own lives and in their dedication in service to Him. The Lord had revealed to us His love, and His truth, and all of these are things that we should keep in mind as we progress forward in life.

As long as we allow ourselves be tempted and swayed by worldly pleasures and all sorts of temptations in life, it is likely going to be difficult for us to grow in faith and to grow in our love and devotion for God, just as those seeds that fell on the wrong places failed to grow and perish, because they did not have the right and optimum conditions to grow well in. This is also why, we should look upon the life and examples set by St. Januarius, the holy martyr and Bishop of Beneventum or Benevento in southern Italy and the patron saint of the Italian city of Naples, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Januarius, also known in Italian as San Gennaro, was a popular saint who was remembered chiefly for the miraculous occasion of the liquefaction of the relic of his blood which happens on his feast days and on some special occasions. He was born into an influential noble family and eventually rose to become Bishop of Naples and in some accounts also the Bishop of Benevento, both in southern parts of Italy.

This happened during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous as the Emperor during whose reign the last great systematic persecutions against Christians were carried out, causing many martyrs and countless members of the faithful to suffer from those persecutions. It was told that St. Januarius was a dedicated bishop, who committed himself to the care of his flock, and despite the terrible persecutions that grew worse each day, he hid many of his flock from their persecutors during those dark years.

It was not long that St. Januarius himself was arrested, while in the midst of his visit to the Christian convicts in prison, and he together with some other Christians were martyred, in some accounts by beheading. Thus, this faithful bishop and committed servant of God, who loved both God and his fellow brothers and sisters, chose to remain faithful to the very end, and even suffer rather than to betray his faith in God.

And the actions showed by St. Januarius ought to inspire us, for despite the obvious risks that he had to take in reaching out to his suffering flock, he did so nonetheless, caring for their needs, visiting those in prison and endangering himself while doing so, as a sign of his genuine love and therefore, authentic and genuine Christian faith. This is what we are also called to do, brothers and sisters, to be genuine as Christians in our way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the memory of St. Januarius today, let us all discern carefully what it is that we can do in our daily lives in loving God, through our dedication and faith, through our righteous life, and in our love for our fellow brethren, that each and every one of us truly provide the best condition for our faith to grow, that these seeds of faith we have received from God may grow well, and bear rich and bountiful fruits in the end, that is the crown of glory and eternal life with God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives with faith from now on. May He give us the courage to walk in His presence day by day, with ever greater devotion and commitment, to be true to our faith in all things. St. Januarius, holy servant of God and martyr of the faith, pray for us all! Amen.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard from the Scriptures one of the key tenets and foundational belief of our Christian faith, as we heard principally from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading today, of the belief in the resurrection. At that time, St. Paul was addressing the community of the faithful in Corinth which then were divided on many issues, both communal and secular, as well as matters pertaining to their faith.

For at that time, there were both Jews and Gentiles among the early Christian converts throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, and Corinth was not an exception to the case. There were those who still found it difficult to accept that the Lord has risen from the dead, or that there is life after death. This could probably have also arisen from the members of the Sadducees, some of whom might have been converted to the faith, whose belief exclude any notion of spirituality and resurrection.

Some cultures, traditions and depending on the prior experiences of the converts also excluded resurrection from their belief systems, and therefore, the concept of someone rising from the dead was hard for some among the members of the community to accept. And it did not help that some among those who helped to propagate the faith also held this view, which St. Paul referred to as some of those who said that there is no resurrection of the dead.

That was why St. Paul wanted to remind them all that their Christian faith is fundamentally and essentially centred on the Christ crucified and Christ Who has risen from the dead. For if He has not been crucified or has not risen from the dead, then the Christian faith is empty, meaningless and is devoid of truth, just as the Jewish High Council or the Sanhedrin, the chief priests tried to suppress the truth by spreading lies that the disciples of Jesus had stolen His Body and claimed that He had risen from the dead.

Yet, all these falsehoods and attempts to suppress the truth had not been successful, as the courageous Apostles and the other disciples all spoke with one voice and all spoke with the same one truth, the truth of the Lord crucified and the Lord risen from the dead. And these were spoken and testified by those who had followed the Lord throughout His ministry, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. Chief among His disciples were the Twelve, and not only that but also some women mentioned, including Mary, the Lord’s mother herself, and Mary Magdalene.

All of these had witnessed everything the Lord had done, all the miracles and wonders He had performed, saw His suffering and Passion, His death on the Cross, and witnessed His Risen Body appearing to them in the flesh, not a spirit or ghost, but truly risen and having conquered death, and they have received all the truth and wisdom He had imparted to them, and they have also received the Holy Spirit, that came down upon them on the Pentecost.

This same truth and revelation have also then been passed down to us through the Church, as the treasures of the faith, the deposit of the faith in both the Sacred Scriptures and in the Magisterium, the official teachings of the Church, have been passed down from generation to generation, from the Apostles to their successors, and from them to their own successors, right down to our Pope, the bishops, and the priests today, from whom we have heard the exact same truth.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received this truth, and have therefore become witnesses of our Lord’s Resurrection and love. That is why each and every one of us now have to be the faithful and dedicated witnesses of our true faith, in all of our actions and deeds, in our every words and in every moment in life. We are all called to give our very best in our daily life to love the Lord, to love our fellow brothers and sisters, to spread His Good News to all peoples.

Let us all spend some time to think and consider all these carefully. Let us all discern how we are going to live our lives from now on, walking faithfully and with ever greater devotion to God. Let us all be the beacons of His light and hope, the witnesses of His truth and His Resurrection, sharing the love of God to all of our fellow brethren, showing genuine love, care and concern for those who are suffering, just as the Lord Himself had loved us all, cared for us, all these while.

May the Lord, our ever loving God, continue to guide us in our journey, help us to be always faithful, to resist the temptations and false teachings, and remain firm in our faith at all times, being true and zealous in our daily living, at all moments of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, 17 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day each and every one of us are reminded of the faith and the teachings which we have received from God, and to which we have been called, just as St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians in our first reading reminded us, that we need to cling closely to the Good News and the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles, their successors and the Church.

And what is this truth and Good News, brothers and sisters? It is what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, the essence of our Christian faith in how the Lord treated the sinful woman, a prostitute who came to the feast hosted by the Pharisees for the Lord. When the Pharisee host saw this he was evidently hoping for a chance to catch the Lord off His guard by this opportune moment, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and large segments of the Jewish society then looked down on prostitutes whom they considered as sinners and unworthy.

Therefore, as the sinful woman came to the Lord, they would perhaps hope that the Lord would either cast out the woman and condemn her, therefore affirming their own position and practices of the faith, by showing that even the Lord Jesus was on their side supporting their way of interpreting the Law, or else, by allowing her to touch Him without resistance, the Pharisees could then discredit the Lord and condemn Him for allowing a sinner to taint Him among other things.

But what the Lord did to the woman, just as what the woman also did to Him were surely beyond belief of all those who witnessed the occasion. The woman took a very expensive jar of alabaster with best perfumes inside, and used the perfume to anoint the feet of the Lord with great love, and she humbled herself, most likely kneeling down low in doing so, and then dried the feet of the Lord with her own hair, the crown of her beauty and her pride.

In doing so, the sinful woman lowered herself and humbled herself such before God, with tears and sorrow, repenting for her sins with great sincerity. She must have heard of the Lord’s coming, and His fame and works, which preceded Him, must have stirred the woman, who wanted to be forgiven from her sins and faults. And that was how the woman came to the Lord and humbled herself before Him, begging for His mercy and forgiveness. And God gave her the forgiveness for the sincere repentance she had shown.

The Lord then pointed out immediately to the Pharisees who were baffled by what the woman had done and by what the Lord had told her, that the Lord is loving and forgiving, generous with His mercy and compassionate forgiveness. He used the parable of a creditor who had two people owing him money at the same time to explain this, and highlighted how the forgiveness of those debts made the indebted ones felt so thankful and appreciative of the forgiveness.

Thus, the woman, who was sinful and had done many wicked things earlier on, would naturally be more grateful for the mercy shown to her, rather than the Pharisees for example, who did not appreciate this mercy and love of God. And the Lord made this to point out that, after all, every one of us are sinners, regardless whether we are great sinners or whether we have only sinned a lot less against God, and sin is still sin to be forgiven.

Unless the sinner seeks the Lord’s forgiveness with an open heart and with the genuine desire for repentance, the sinner will not be forgiven. And as the example showed has clearly been presented to us, for each and every one of us to be forgiven, we need to get rid from ourselves pride and arrogance, hubris and ego, and be open to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to seek Him with a remorseful and repentant heart.

We are truly so fortunate to have such a loving and merciful God, and we often do not appreciate this opportunity presented to us, spurning the chances that God has given to us, in His generosity and kindness, and therefore, we should embrace this love and mercy wholeheartedly and not wait until it is too late for us. And today we should follow the good examples of the saint whose feast we celebrate, namely St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and servant of God, declared Doctor of the Church for his works.

St. Robert Bellarmine was one of the most prominent leaders of the Church at the height of the Counter-Reformation, in his many writings and works, and in his role as a bishop and Cardinal in assisting the Pope in the governance of the Universal Church, particularly in the struggle against the many heresies and divisions, various conflicts and disagreements among the members of the faithful at the time.

Through his many actions, writings and efforts, St. Robert Bellarmine was instrumental in the efforts of the Church at the time to bring many segments of the people and the communities to return to the true faith in God, to abandon the false ways and all the false heresies and divisions, and to be reconciled to God. And as we celebrate his feast day today, we ought to recall our own sinfulness and imperfections, all the obstacles that had prevented us from being reconciled to God.

Let us all atone for our sins, turn our hearts, minds and indeed, our entire beings to God, our loving and most merciful Lord and Master, that He may forgive us our sins, and forgive our great transgressions and sins. Let us all be genuinely repentant and regret fully our sins, and endeavour not to sin any more, and to be righteous and worthy of God, from now on. May God be with us always, and guide us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020 : 24th 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that as Christians, it is our primary objective in life to love, and not just any kind of love, but love in a selfless way, to love God with all of our might and strength, and to give of ourselves with love to one another, and not to be selfish and haughty, but rather place ourselves in the way of God’s love.

In our first reading today, we heard St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth reminding all of them of the importance of love to all of them, and how love is at the core of the Christian tenet, virtues and teaching. He highlighted how without love, then no matter whatever gifts and talents, graces and abilities we have received, then everything is meaningless.

And the Apostle also highlighted that true love is pure, and is truly wonderful, and that love is never selfish and is about caring and truly being attentive and concerned about the needs of others. St. Paul essentially exhorted all the faithful to follow the examples of the Lord and His Apostles in love, in being generous in giving and in the sharing of that love, rather than following the selfish ways of the world.

It is by our love that we will be recognised as Christians, as God’s own beloved ones and people, as His followers and those who have lived according to His Law and His ways. That is what is alluded in our Gospel passage today when we heard the Lord speaking about how the people failed to recognise Him and St. John the Baptist. He elaborated how the people looked down and were judgmental against St. John the Baptist because of his appearance, and the same people also judged against the Lord because He interacted and reached out to sinners.

All of these were caused by their lack of love, their inability to appreciate God’s love and all that He has done for the sake of us all mankind. They were too engrossed and preoccupied in themselves that they have ended up being blinded to the truth and the love of God. That is precisely why, despite their intelligence and great power, but without love, all these were of no use, as these referred to many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who criticised St. John the Baptist and the Lord, being considered the most well-educated and influential among the Jews.

It was those who did not hold on to their pride and ego, their preconceived notion of superiority that came to believe the Lord wholeheartedly and genuinely, for they perceived God’s love in the way that those who had allowed their pride and desires to get the better of them could not. They saw the Lord and all that He had done for the sake of His people, and came to believe in Him not just through words but also through His loving actions.

Meanwhile, the Lord often rebuked the Pharisees and also warned those who listened to Him, not to follow the examples of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who did not follow the Law in the manner that they should have. He told them to listen to these teachers of the faith, but not to follow their examples, as their actions and deeds, their behaviours were done in order to satisfy their own personal desires and greed, and hence, they were misguided and in turn, could misguide others in their journey towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, today’s set of Scripture readings remind us that the Lord has called us to be His faithful witnesses in all things and in all occasions, and the best way for us to do that, is to be His witnesses of love, that is by showing love in each and every one of our daily lives’ actions, being genuine in our love and tender care for each other, in the concern we show towards others who are suffering and less fortunate than us.

And perhaps we can learn a lot and be inspired by the examples set by today’s two great saints, whose lives had been exemplary and filled with God’s love. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were holy servants of God who dedicated their lives to the service of God and for the love of Him and their fellow brethren. Both were martyrs who died under great persecution, firm in their faith and unwilling to abandon the Lord Whom they had served so faithfully.

Pope St. Cornelius was elected as Supreme Pontiff, Pope and Successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ at a time when the Church was undergoing great tumult and period of great challenges, both from outside the Church as well as from within the Church itself. The Church was facing great persecutions from the Roman Emperors and their government authority officials, and at the same time, the Church was bitterly divided by those who then supported a charismatic Novatian, an influential priest who was then opposed by those like Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian.

Novatian led those who took a hardline stance on those Christians, known as lapsi or lapsed, because they abandoned their faith in the midst of persecution, either by offering sacrifices to the pagan idols and the Emperor or by publicly renouncing their faith and embracing back paganism once again. Thus, Novatian was the leader of the faction who argued that under no circumstances at all that those who have voluntarily left the faith or even those who had been forced to do so, would be allowed to return to the Church.

But Pope St. Pontian and St. Cyprian were those who argued that those who have lapsed and abandoned the faith, for various reasons and circumstances, and then showed sincere desire to repent and the commitment to be a dedicated Christian once again, then that person can be readmitted to the Church once again. Novatian and his followers argued that the Church did not have the authority to do so, and only God can judge the sinner, but they forgot that God’s love is so great that, if a sinner were to repent sincerely, he will still be forgiven.

And they had also forgotten that the Lord had granted the authority to His Church, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to bind and loosen souls, and therefore the authority to forgive sins as the Lord Himself had explicitly granted to His Apostles, and from them to their successors, to all the ordained priests of the Lord. Any attempts to exclude permanently anyone from the Lord’s grace and salvation, is in fact a great sin for those who did so against God and against those whom they tried to exclude and cast out.

That is why Pope St. Cornelius and St. Pontian tried very hard and went up against all those supporters of Novatian who held that elitist, erroneous and dangerous view of self-righteousness and exclusion of those who could have been saved. They laboured hard to restore unity in the Church and also to reach out to all those who have been separated from the Church, reconcile the people on the two sides of the schism caused by Novatian and his supporters.

In the end, they were persecuted and remained faithful, and under the great persecutions of Christians mentioned earlier, both Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were martyred for their faith, and suffered great trials and pains during all these. Yet, we all certainly remember the love and zeal with which they had dedicated themselves to God and to their fellow brethren, showing with concrete action the love of God, by fighting for the cause of those who believe in the power of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards God, inspired anew by Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, that we may grow ever stronger in faith in Him and grow ever deeper in our love, commitment and dedication to serve Him and glorify Him by our every actions, in each and every moments of our lives. May God be with us always, at every stage of this journey of faith we have through life. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020 : 24th 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, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we celebrate the feast of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. It is interesting that after the high of the celebrations of the joyful exaltation and triumph of the Holy Cross yesterday, then we come to the remembrance of the sorrows of our Blessed Mother, who was sorrowful at the suffering and death of her Son.

But in truth, this is an important reminder that the Cross of Christ, while it is a sign of great victory and triumph against sin, evil and darkness, but it is also where our Lord and Saviour suffered grievously for the sins and faults that He had willingly bore for our sake, every blows and wounds that He bore up to the Cross, as a most worthy offering to God, for the redemption of all mankind and atonement of all of our sins.

And in all these, His mother, Mary, grieved as a mother should when the mother sees the suffering of the child. As the mother grieved in seeing her son suffers, Mary saw her own Son, born of her womb and Whom she took care all her life, suffering so much for the sake of the whole world, fulfilling the task which had been entrusted to Him as the Saviour of the world. And Mary saw all of that, and faithfully walked beside her Son, following Him as He took the last steps of the journey towards His crucifixion.

It must have been painful for Mary to witness such a horrific scene happening before her, as she saw her Son suffering in such a manner, deprived of all dignity and honour, betrayed and cast aside by the authorities and the people, condemned to death for faults that were not His. Yet, Mary obeyed perfectly and completely to the will of God, and bore her sorrows with the faith and knowledge that everything would happen as God willed it.

It must have indeed been most sorrowful for a mother to witness her own child’s death, but that was exactly what happened as Mary beheld the lifeless body of her Son, at the foot of the Cross. This is most commonly depicted as Our Lady of Sorrows, the most sorrowful and sad depiction of Mary, as a loving Mother holding her Son, His mission fulfilled and completed, but with sorrow piercing her heart seeing all that happened.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can just see how great Mary’s faith and dedication is, that despite her sorrows and the trials she had to endure, she remained firmly committed to the cause and mission that has been entrusted to her. And seeing her Son suffered in such a way, certainly brought Mary to shown great concern and love for each and every one of us, whom by adoption into the Church, has become her own children and beloved ones.

That is why, if we notice, Mary has appeared many times to many people in various times and places, all with the similar message imploring us mankind to turn away from our sins, to repent sincerely and to embrace God’s forgiveness and most generous mercy. That is because she knew full well the suffering that we all will endure for our sins, in the suffering that her Son had endured and which she had witnessed herself as she followed Him faithfully right up to the foot of the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we commemorate this Feast of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, let us all look up to Mary, our loving Mother for her exemplary faith and dedication to God. Let us all be ever more faithful and turn away from our wickedness, from our actions that had brought scandal to our faith, and genuinely seek God’s forgiveness so that we may be forgiven our sins and be worthy of the eternal glory, life and joy that will be ours in God’s presence.

Let us turn to our sorrowful and loving Mother and comfort her by our dedication and desire to lead a more Christ-like life, to obey the Law of God and to follow His will in every actions and deeds we have, and to be shining beacons of Christian faith for one another in this darkened world. Let us all sin no more, and strive to follow our Mother’s faithful examples, so that we may receive the crown of eternal life and glory, and triumph with the Holy Cross of Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

May the Lord, our crucified Messiah and loving Saviour continue to bless and guide us, and may His ever loving Mother continue to show her tender care towards us all. O Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us all sinners, and pray that we may all endeavour to turn away from our wicked sins, and enter into God’s mercy and forgiveness. Amen.

Monday, 14 September 2020 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross or also known as the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. This day marks the glorious and joyful moment when the True Cross of Jesus Christ, the very wooden cross on which our Lord and Saviour had been hung on, was discovered by St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, who was also the first Christian Roman Emperor.

St. Helena was a devout Christian woman whose love and devotion for both of her husband and son, the future Emperor Constantine probably helped the then young Emperor to eventually become a Christian, as a good influence always being present and well-respected by her son. St. Helena, although the Empress Mother of the Romans, she remained humble and devout, charitable and dedicated to the cause of the Lord.

To this end she embarked on a mission to the Holy Land, to discover the instruments of the Lord’s Passion, most especially the Cross of Our Saviour itself, and which she managed to discover in Jerusalem. There were three crosses in that place just as there were three crucified on that fateful day, the Lord and two convicted criminals sentenced to death. And in order to find out which one was the Cross of the Lord, St. Helena touched the Cross to a very sick person. And the one that instantly and miraculously healed the dying person is the True Cross of Christ.

That was the root and origins of this celebration of the Exaltation or Triumph of the Holy Cross, celebrating the rediscovery of the True Cross, and even more significantly, is the timing of its happening. The True Cross was rediscovered just not long after the Christian faith itself has finally gained a reprieve from centuries of persecutions and trials, in the Edict of Milan, the very first edict of toleration of their faith, jointly declared by the aforementioned Emperor Constantine the Great.

The Church and many among the faithful who had borne a lot of martyrs through the constant and at times, terrible persecutions, had finally triumphed, and this began with the memorable Battle of Milvian Bridge, which likely inspired Emperor Constantine the Great to adopt the Christian faith later on in his life. At that battle, the Emperor, outnumbered by his rival and enemy, saw a great vision from God, in which either he saw a cross, or the symbol of the Chi-Ro, the symbolic representation of Jesus Christ, the Greek letters Chi and Ro that are the short form of the Name of the Lord.

As the Emperor Constantine saw the vision, accompanying the image of the cross or the Chi-Ro is the words, ‘In hoc signo vinces’ which means, ‘By this sign, you shall conquer’. The Emperor went on to be triumphant against his enemies, and eventually also won against all those that persecuted the Christian faithful and communities. And this also marked a new beginning for the Church and the faithful alike, as persecution gave way for favour and acceptance, and eventually wide adoption of Christianity but most of the Roman Empire and beyond.

And more profoundly, the triumph of the Cross is not just limited to the triumph of the faith against persecutions and trials, but even more importantly so, as our Scripture passages today indicated to us, that the exaltation and triumph of the Holy Cross refers to the triumph it brings us against the forces of evil and darkness. For it was through the Cross that our Lord has triumphed against Satan and all of his malice and evil, and showed us all His salvation.

The cross has always been, up to the time of Christ, associated with defeat, shame and humiliation. For the cross is not just used to punish any criminals, but reserved by the Romans to punish the worst of criminals, those considered as traitors and worst of all criminals in the nation. The use of the cross is the most humiliating and painful method of punishment, and not only that the victim is exposed and bared before all, without a shred of dignity left, but for the Lord’s case, in which He was nailed to the cross, it was even more painful.

That is because vast majority of crucifixions in fact did not involve the use of nails, and the criminals were just left hanging on the cross for even days on end. The use of the nails were reserved to those who were considered the worst of the worst, and thus, our Lord truly suffered a most excruciating and terrible death on the cross. But through His suffering and death, the Lord transformed this once shameful and humiliating symbol, into a symbol of victory and hope, and into the genuine manifestation and proof of God’s ever enduring love for us.

In the first reading today, we heard the occasion when the sins of the people of Israel as they travelled from the land of Egypt into their Promised Land, caused many of them to perish from the fiery serpents that came into their midst. When they rebelled against God and refused to listen to Him, grumbled and complained, and even threatened God’s servant, Moses, they sinned against Him. And those fiery serpents represent the punishments that are due for those sins.

And it is a reminder that the ‘sting’ of sin is death, according to St. Paul, who called death as the ‘sting’ of sin. For sin is the product of disobedience against God, and because of that sin, we are made corrupt and unworthy of God’s grace and love. Sin separates us from God, and separated from God, we have no life in us. When we consciously chose to sin and disobey God, then we may end up being judged and damned for those sins.

But that is not the end, brothers and sisters in Christ, for in the same passage, we heard of the love of God, which remained for us unchanged, and when Moses pleaded for the sake of the people for mercy and when they had regretted the errors of their ways, God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent on a tall staff, and through that, all those who were bitten by the serpents and were dying, lived on if they saw the bronze serpent.

This is referred to by Christ Himself when He spoke with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, on the night when Nicodemus, secretly a believer of Jesus, asked Him about God’s truth and plans for mankind. The Lord told him how the Son of Man, referring to Himself, would be lifted up high for all to see, just as the bronze serpent of Moses was lifted up for the Israelites as the symbol of hope and salvation, and those who put their trust in Him would live just as their ancestors who saw the bronze serpent did not die or perish.

Thus, as Christ has been lifted up high on the cross, He gathered to Himself all the sins of the world, bearing those burden for us, being humiliated and punished for us, just as the bronze serpent is a reminder of how deadly those serpents had been in killing so many among the Israelites from their sins. When we look at the crucifix, the Cross of Christ, what do we see, brothers and sisters? We are looking at a very important reminder that we are sinners, wicked and unworthy for God because of our disobedience.

And yet, Our Lord and Saviour came to us, calling us to His salvation with love, taking up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins and faults, and humbling Himself unto suffering and death, He changed that Cross by His ultimate, selfless loving sacrifice into the ultimate symbol of triumph and victory, from what was once a symbol of humiliation, defeat and destruction. He broke the power of sin and death by His own death and resurrection, proving that neither sin nor death can overcome us.

The Cross is the sign of triumph, and more than just the triumph that the Emperor Constantine gained, or the triumph that Christians gained over those who persecuted them, because in the end, far more importantly, the Cross brings us triumphant against sin, and leads us into the final victory, that by the power of the Cross, we are no longer bound and enslaved by sin, and have been freed from the tyranny of death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we rejoice in the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us all remind ourselves of the great love of God by which He has loved us, done everything so much for us even up to the extent of sacrificing Himself for our sake, that we are no longer burdened by sin, and no longer bound by it, but free and triumphant, because of His Cross and the wounds that He had endured and bore for us.

Let us all glory in the Cross of Christ, praise the Lord for His ever amazing love and dedication to us. And let us therefore dedicate ourselves, our time and effort, our attention and our whole being to love God, to follow Him, and to be faithful at all times, bearing the Cross of Christ with pride and joy, and knowing that we have been saved through the Cross, proclaim God’s Good News and salvation that more and more can be saved. Amen.

Sunday, 13 September 2020 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings all spoke very strongly and firmly on one topic, that is forgiveness. As Christians, forgiveness is a very important aspect of our faith, and we are all called to forgive one another generously, to let go of the anger and hatred in our hearts, to be forgiving just as the Lord, our God is rich in mercy and forgives generously.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today spoke very firmly on this matter when St. Peter asked Him, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive the faults of my brother or sister?’ And the Lord answered to his suggestion of seven times, with an even greater number, of seventy-seven times, or in another, seventy times seven times. The use of the number seven here is symbolic and does not literally mean that we must forgive exactly seven, seventy-seven, or seventy times seven times.

In fact, the number seven is a frequently used number throughout the Scriptures, as the symbolic number of ‘perfection’, and many things associated with God number in seven, such as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven Sacraments of the Church, the seven Holy Archangels ministering in the presence of God, the seven Spirits of God in the visions, among others. That is why the use of seventy-seven or seventy times seven, represent the ‘perfection’ of forgiveness.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must learn how to forgive without end, forgive unconditionally, forgive without being transactional and to forgive with all of our hearts, with all of our whole being. Forgiveness is something that is very difficult and it is something that many people find very difficult to do, but it is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do.

Why is that so? That is because to forgive means that we learn to let go of our ego and pride, of our hatred and perhaps jealousy, among other things. Many of us cannot forgive because we cannot find it in ourselves to do all these, and more often than not, it is our ego and pride that are the greatest barriers in preventing us from forgiving others. And we must know, brothers and sisters in Christ, by remembering again today’s Scripture readings, particularly the Gospel parable, that unless we forgive others, how can we expect to be forgiven ourselves?

In that parable, the Lord used the example of a great lord and master who had many servants, some of whom were indebted to him. And in that occasion, a servant who owed the master a very large sum could not pay his due, and therefore was to be punished and to suffer until he could return all that he had owed his master. He begged his master to give him more time to pay off his debt, for mercy and compassion.

The master who saw his pleas for mercy was moved and decided to forgive that servant’s entire debt, a sum of ten thousand pieces of gold, a very considerable sum. It was truly very generous act by the master, and the servant was free to go, free from all of his debts. And then, almost immediately we heard how that very same servant threatened another servant who owed him some money, a much, much smaller sum of a hundred pieces of silver.

The symbolic comparison between the cases could not have been clearer, with the other servant’s debt being represented with a far smaller sum and also in silver, a far less worthy and valuable, although still precious, metal and commodity at that time as it is today. The contrast was also made between the master’s great generosity and willingness to forgive, even the huge amount of debt, and the ungrateful servant’s insistence to persecute his fellow servant for a far smaller debt.

Through all of that, the Lord gave us all in fact, a very stern reminder that we must not be like that ungrateful servant, who had been forgiven his massive debt only then to persecute and refusing to forgive his own fellow servants who owed him a far smaller sum. Using this parable, the Lord showed the comparison between the mercy of the master, representing the Lord Himself, and the lack of mercy and compassion showed by the ungrateful servant, representing us mankind.

God forgave us our sins, even though they were numerous, terrible and wicked, and He wanted to forgive us all those faults and shortcomings, extending His most generous mercy and compassion to all of us, at all times. However, He has not showed us this mercy only for us to take revenge and to persecute our brethren because of their debts and faults against us. And we must also not forget that each and every one of us ourselves also had faults and mistakes against each other.

That is why, before we become angry against others, before we judge others and persecute others, thinking that we have the right to do so, or that we are better and superior against them, we must reflect on these readings we have heard today. We must wake up, brothers and sisters! Wake up and realise just how fortunate we are to have such a merciful and loving God. For every single one of our innumerable and terrible sins, we could have been cast to eternal suffering and destruction, if not for God’s enduring love and mercy for us.

And yet, we are not appreciative of this, we do not thank God as we should have done, and we failed to do what He has asked to do, that is to be merciful and loving as He Himself had done. We are being judgmental and biased to our fellow brothers and sisters, exacting revenge and held contempt and hatred for one another, and we refuse to forgive when we can do so, preferring to hold on to that anger and desire in our hearts and in our minds to satisfy our own ego and our own personal agenda.

Let us then do not forget that by whatever standards we have judged others, be angry on others, be unforgiving on others, then we will also be judged by those same standards. And it is not just that others will judge us in the same way, for as I said earlier, all of us have faults and mistakes, shortcomings and failures, and none of us are perfect, and if we are to hold others accountable for theirs, we shall be held accountable for ours too. We must then not forget just how even much more shortcomings that we owe the Lord.

This has been very clearly shown and summarised by the master in the parable told by Jesus, and how he has forgiven the immense debt of the ungrateful servant, only for that servant to hold a double standard and attack his own poor fellow brother, and thus, in the end, he was held accountable for his original debts, not being forgiven anymore for he himself did not show mercy when he should have.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we all truly have great challenges ahead of us, considering how we have been called to live, that is to love when we ourselves have not been loved, to forgive others especially those who hurt us and made our lives difficult, even when they themselves have not forgiven us. The challenge for us is to dare to be different from the world, that when the world champions individualism and the ego of the self, we dare to break free from that, and seek instead to love and show genuine care for others, even to those who have hurt us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the question is, are we willing and able to humble ourselves to forgive generously and sincerely? As I said earlier, ego and pride are the greatest obstacles in the path to sincere forgiveness, and no true forgiveness will come forth unless we remove these burdens and obstacles from our hearts and minds alike. God Himself has forgiven us so generously, showing us His love despite the multitudes of times we have betrayed and abandoned Him. Can we forgive others just as how God has forgiven us?

The prophet Sirach echoed this again in our first reading passage today, that grudge and wrath are the things that are abominations in our lives, and these lead us deeper and deeper into sin, for grudge and wrath ultimately stemmed from our pride and ego, and our refusal to let go of these, that when we feel hurt, we hold grudge and are angry against our fellow men. Unless we get rid from ourselves all these, we cannot truly be God’s holy and devout people.

And lastly, a very good reminder from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in our second reading today is perhaps a very important reminder and also suggestion on how we can lead a holier existence in God from now on. He elaborated that no one lives in this world for himself or herself, but rather one lives for God. And as long as we remember this fact, and also remember God’s love and mercy for us, then we will be able to resist the temptations to be angry against others, and to be willing to forgive one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect carefully on what we have heard in the Scriptures today, and let us all discern what we can do from now on to live faithfully in accordance with the Lord’s path, to be inspiration and good example for one another, in being loving and forgiving just as the Lord, our loving Master and Father had done for us. Let us remember His love and mercy each and every moments of our lives, and trust in Him with great faith, now and always.

O most loving and merciful God, our loving Father and Creator, the Divine Mercy, have mercy on us sinners and forgive us our sins, and help us all to be able to forgive each other our mistakes and sins to each other too. Help us to be charitable and to be compassionate, to be generous with love and mercy whenever we are able to. Have mercy on us and on the whole world, forgive us and bring us into Your everlasting glory. Amen.