Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the great story of the moment when David, chosen to be the king of Israel by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, refused to take the excellent chance and opportunity to strike at Saul, his predecessor who have fallen from grace and yet, as David rightfully mentioned, Saul was still the anointed king of Israel.

Although all the men who were accompanying David persuaded, begged and kept asking David to strike at Saul when he was at his most vulnerable in that cave when Saul came into the cave and rested, not knowing that David and his men were also inside, but David firmly refused to do so. Although those who accompanied David even persuaded him by saying that God had brought Saul into his hands and gave him the opportunity to kill Saul there and then, but David still firmly refused to lay a finger on Saul.

Saul had indeed been affected and tempted by the evil spirits and the devil himself as he felt insecure, angry and jealous at David, plotting to have him killed and destroyed to avoid this upstart to threaten his own authority and kingship. But David would not allow himself to be affected in the same manner, the same trick by which the devil definitely tried to bring down David as well.

David did not allow his pride and his desire to overcome his faith in God, his righteousness and commitment to do what God has shown him to do. He remained steadfast although it must have indeed been hard to resist such a powerful temptation right there and then with so many pressing and persuading him to kill Saul and be freed from everything that he has been suffering from that time.

Yes, we must not forget that it was because of Saul that David had to become a fugitive, running from place to place and living in the wilderness, even having to resort to flee to the territory of the Philistines with some of his followers just that he might escape from Saul and his wrath against him. He was also a rightfully anointed king as Saul was, and had he killed Saul then, he would have no issue in getting the legitimate claim over the kingship of Israel. But then, if he had done so, he would have sinned and stained his life with Saul’s blood.

David gave us a very good example of what we should do as a follower of Christ. As a follower of the Lord, we have been called as Christ called and chosen His Apostles in our Gospel passage today. And we should put God above all else, obeying Him and listening to Him, doing His good works and whatever it is that He has entrusted to us to do. David has done this well, resisting the temptations to fulfil his desires and satisfy his own personal vendetta and agenda.

It is something that we will likely encounter in our lives as well, the moments when we will be tempted to follow our own desires rather than to obey the Lord. Are we able to resist those temptations and do what king David had once done? Let us also not forget how the Apostles of the Lord were surely faced the same temptations, that eventually they fell too into those temptations, one of them betraying the Lord for money, that is Judas Iscariot, while others abandoned Him in the hour of His greatest agony and misery.

Yet, in the end, except for Judas Iscariot, all the rest remained true to their faith and almost all of them gave their lives to the Lord in martyrdom during their many years of ministry in establishing the Church of God. They put God and His greater glory ahead of their own desires and pride, as King David did. And today, we have yet another one of our holy predecessors whose memory we venerate, that is St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and a Doctor of the Church.

St. Francis de Sales was renowned for his role as the Bishop of Geneva in what is now present day Switzerland, at the height of the Protestant reformation, when many of the people left the Church for various heretical and dissident leaders who persuaded them to follow their ideas instead of the truth in the Church. St. Francis de Sales was a great preacher and teacher, and he ministered in that area with great patience and love, facing lots of trials and difficulties as most of the people were not initially interested in what he came to offer.

From the earlier days of his ministry prior to his time in Geneva, St. Francis de Sales had seen how the deteriorating morale and faith among the rulers and the people contributed to the decline in the quality of faith and life, and subsequently leading to further divisions and misunderstandings within the Church. And this is why St. Francis de Sales worked so hard in trying to evangelise with love and compassion as he carried on his missions, first as priest and then as the Bishop of Geneva.

St. Francis de Sales faced much opposition, persecution, challenges and threats during the duration of his ministry, but all these did not dim his passion in reaching out to God’s people including all those who were opposing and rejected him. He preaches with love and care for all those whom he reached out to, as was his motto, ‘those who preach with love, preach effectively’. His care, understanding and mild-mannered behaviour were remembered by many who were touched by his dedication and passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Francis de Sales and his life example has shown us, it is indeed not going to be easy to be a faithful disciple and follower of Christ. But we must persevere and put our trust in God for He will definitely not abandon us and will always be with us no matter what. Let us follow then the good examples of king David and St. Francis de Sales, in serving the Lord with all of their hearts and strength and not allowing their pride and desire to interfere as they lived their lives with faith.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through our respective journeys of faith and life, and may through the intercessions of His servants, king David and St. Francis de Sales, all of us may be inspired to live ever more faithfully and be more dedicated in serving Him and in resisting the many temptations present in this world. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture, we are again reminded of God’s providence and love for each and every one of us that He would not let us to be destroyed by those who sought our ruin and destruction. As we heard in our first reading, God protected David, His chosen one from the plots and attacks from king Saul, while in the Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord healed all those who were afflicted especially those possessed by the evil spirits.

King Saul was the first king of Israel who was chosen from among the people. He was initially good, faithful and obedient to God, but he ended up disobeying God and following his own will and desires, pursuing his own agenda and leading the people into sin. As he was not repentant and insisted on doing things his own way, God withdrew His support from him and chose David to be his successor as the king over the people of Israel.

David became very famous among the people after he defeated the giant champion of the Philistines, Goliath in single combat. And as David became more and more prominent through his many victories in battle, as the Lord was with him, the people began to laud him more and more and king Saul became jealous and felt very insecure over his position as king, probably knowing that Samuel the prophet had anointed David as the new king of Israel succeeding him.

That was how the devil entered into king Saul, as specifically mentioned in the Book of the prophet Samuel. The devil manipulated Saul and made him even more angry, jealous and insecure, and thus wanted to have David killed and destroyed before he became a threat to his kingship and rule. But God was with David, and as we heard in our reading today, he had a great ally in one of Saul’s own sons, Jonathan, with whom David had a great friendship with.

Through Jonathan, God helped David to escape from his predicament, as Jonathan helped David to get away from Saul and his plots against him. Jonathan helped David on several occasions and God also led him through the challenges and trials that he had to go through for years in the run from Saul, even when he had to wander among the Philistines and in the wilderness. God provided for the needs of His servant and remained with him until the day when David succeeded as king, and continued to bless him and his house afterwards.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of God Whom through His Son was healing many of the people who came to Him for all their sick and those who were afflicted in all sorts of ways. Those who were possessed by evil spirits, whom none other could have helped, sought the Lord and the evil spirits were cast out by Him. All those demons and spirits knew Whom the Lord Jesus was, but He would not allow them to reveal the truth as that might jeopardise His works and efforts.

Through all of these we have seen how God constantly cared for us and showed His generous love towards us. He does not want any one of us to fall into the traps of the devil and his wicked allies, and like how He cared and provided for David, He also provides for each and every one of us in His own way too. But too often we do not realise this, and we tend to forget about God and ignore His constant show of love and kindness towards us.

We have allowed ourselves instead to be made busy by the many temptations of pleasure, glory, materialism and all sorts of these things in this world. And this in fact is yet another sinister tactic by the devil in trying to bring us down with him into damnation, as he tries very hard to keep us away from reaching out to God and embracing the fullness of His grace, love and mercy. We really need to wake up and realise how it is very important for us to overcome these many temptations and redirect our attention back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to love the Lord more and more, just as David loved the Lord and dedicated himself to Him. Let us be ever more faithful and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, being thankful and grateful for all that He has done for our sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us in everything we do. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages we are all reminded of the need for us to put our trust in God and allow Him to lead and guide us through to the right path. We have to do what is right according to God’s will even when at times we will face great opposition and challenges which will make us feel very discouraged at times because we are likely going to face daunting pressures and trials.

This is where we should look at what we have just heard today, from our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel as we continued from the discourse on the works of the prophet Samuel who had anointed David to be the new king of Israel. David was then still in his youth and not physically imposing in stature, and today he went face to face against his great enemy, the renowned Philistine giant and champion, Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well-known stories from the Scriptures as we all know how David beat Goliath despite him being so much smaller and weaker physically compared to the giant champion of the Philistines. David was not even wearing an armour unlike his heavily armoured opponent, and was armed with nothing more than a sling and some stones. David was even laughed at by the king and his advisors when he stood up and said that he wanted to fight Goliath when no one else dared to do so.

David trusted God completely and allowed him to be the instrument through which God worked among His people. When Goliath spouted much blasphemy against God, David allowed God to make use of his sling to strike at the giant, and God guided David in all that he do, such that David was able to defeat Goliath even though no one would have expected him to do so at all. David allowed God to guide him through later as well, when he became the king of Israel.

In our Gospel reading then, we heard of another Man Who had to face tremendous pressure and opposition, none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who had to go up against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, very influential and powerful group of people at that time, as they were highly educated and were considered among the elites of the people. And the Lord Jesus was hated and often harassed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His ministry.

A particular thorny issue that came up between them was on the matter of the law of the Sabbath, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law applied a very strict interpretation of the Sabbath law saying that on the day God had made holy, no one could do anything at all as written in the Law. But the Lord Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, chiding them for failing to understand the true intent and purpose of the Sabbath laws.

The Sabbath was meant for God’s people to refocus their attention to God and to remind them in their daily, busy schedules that God was still central and should be the focus in their lives, and that was why one day was set aside out of the seven days of the week for the purpose of rest and for the time to be spent with God. Instead, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law zoomed in on the technicalities and legalities of the regulations rather than the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath.

And this was done even to the point of condemning good acts and deeds done for the greater glory of God on the Sabbath day when Scriptural and historical evidences clearly had shown the Law has not always been interpreted in the manner the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law interpreted it. And the Lord Jesus went against them nonetheless, healing the man who had been paralysed on the hand, showing God’s love and mercy to him.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, that means as all those who believe in Christ as Our Lord and Saviour, and as those who trust in God and love Him, we will likely encounter challenges and trials along the way. Our lives will not be easy and smooth if we want to continue living faithfully according to God’s will. But we must not give up or abandon our faith because of that. Let us instead take note and be inspired by the courage and faith showed by David as he went up against Goliath, and what the Lord Jesus had done in obedience to the will of His heavenly Father.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Vincent the Deacon, a renowned martyr of the faith. St. Vincent, like many other saints and martyrs, had to endure much suffering and trials for the sake of his faith in God and for his ministry in God’s Church. He was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, for his dwelling and ministry in his native area now known as Zaragoza in northeastern part of Spain.

At that time, Christians went through a particularly difficult time of persecution by the infamous Roman Emperor Diocletian who ordered all Christians to abandon their faith or else suffer and lose their lives. St. Vincent, as a devoted servant of God and deacon of the Church was also arrested and forced to abandon his faith, and it was told that he would be allowed to go free if only he would burn the Scriptures he had with him and reject the faith publicly.

Like David who stood up against Goliath and trusted completely in the Lord, St. Vincent courageously refused to abandon his faith and chose instead to suffer and die a martyr’s death. His defence of his faith was so vigorous and passionate that it made those who persecuted him and the other Christians to torture him even more, but the holy servant of God welcomed death in his unyielding faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we have heard all of these inspiring stories from the Scriptures and from the history of our predecessors in faith, we are then challenged to live our lives faithfully in the same manner as what we have heard just now. Are we able to love God and to be faithful at all times, in every moments and in every parts of our lives? Are we able to give ourselves to God and to trust Him completely as we should?

Let us all contemplate on these and think how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us and show the path going forward. May God bless us all in everything we do and protect us and deliver us from our trials, as how He once guided David and St. Vincent the Deacon, His holy servants. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin 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 of the need for us to be truly faithful to God in everything and not just having superficial and empty faith. God wants us to love Him and to be focused on Him in our lives and not to be distracted by worldly temptations and desires, and what we heard in our Scripture passages today are a great reminder to that fact.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the prophet Samuel was sent by the Lord to pick one of the seven sons of Jesse to become the new king of Israel succeeding Saul, the previous and first king of Israel who had disobeyed God and led Israel into sin. This brought Samuel to the land of Judah to find Jesse and he met six of his sons whom Jesse presented all before the prophet to find the one with whom God was pleased and had chosen.

Samuel thought that the first son was handsome and great in the sight of man, as was the other elder sons, with intellect, appearance and charisma that seemed to make them acceptable and likely to be God’s chosen one. But God told Samuel that despite what he had seen and thought, God had not chosen any one of them at all. Instead, it was David, the youngest and seventh son of Jesse, a young man still in his early youth, a shepherd of the field whom God had chosen to become the king over His people Israel.

What this passage is telling us is that God chose the one whom He deemed to be worthy and not the one who made himself or herself to be worthy of God. No one is truly worthy of God and the more pride, greed and ambition there are in our hearts and in our minds, the further we will end up being from God. Saul, the first king was overcome by his pride and greed, in wanting to do things in his own way and probably in wanting to gain worldly benefits that he ended up disobeying God and therefore was replaced as king by David.

In our Gospel passage, we heard something that is quite similar in nature as we heard of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who complained about the behaviour of His disciples as they picked the grains of wheat in the field on the Sabbath day, something that the Pharisees interpreted to be a grave sin and mistake to be done on the sacred day dedicated to God.

But the Lord then told the Pharisees the story of how king David and his followers when they were exhausted and completely hungry as they fled from their enemies, namely king Saul and his soldiers who wanted David dead, David and his followers went to the house of God and the High Priest gave them the bread that was normally reserved only for the priests. They ate and they had their fill and they then continued on their journey, eventually by God’s grace, succeeded in surviving and David succeeded Saul as king of Israel when the latter was killed in the battle with the Philistines.

Through that story, the Lord again wanted not just the Pharisees but also all of us to understand and to realise that the Law of God cannot be understood just superficially, and this also then requires us to have a faith that is deeper than just the superficial appearances. If outwardly we are good but inside our hearts and minds we are conflicted and not united with God, then we do not truly have genuine faith in God and can even be considered as hypocrites like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

What God wants us to know is that we do not just obey the Law and fulfil its requirements just for the sake of doing it or for appearances. We must truly love God and have that love for God within our hearts underlying all of our actions and deeds. David was chosen not because of the superior nature of his physical build or appearances but rather because he truly had a genuine love for God. Although as a man he was not perfect and sinned, but as can see throughout his life, he remained faithful to the Lord and devoted his life and reign to His glory.

In the same manner, all of us as Christians we are all called to be truly faithful to God in all things and not to be merely superficial in our obedience to the Lord and to His Law. We are all called to love God with all of our strength and with all of our heart. And today, we can also look upon the examples set by the faithful St. Agnes, a holy martyr of the faith renowned to the whole Church.

St. Agnes was a beautiful Roman noble woman who was a Christian at the time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was chased after by many men whom she declined because she wanted to dedicate herself out of purity and maintain the sanctity of her holy virginity to God. As a result, those men who were rejected reported her to the authorities for her supposed Christian faith, and the prefect in charge at the time subjected her to arrest and suffering.

She was dragged naked through the streets to a brothel and made to be raped by men, but miraculously by God’s intervention, all those who attempted to do so were struck blind. It was told that the son of the prefect was struck dead and through the prayers of St. Agnes, he was revived, and the prefect, visibly touched by this, had to pass on the judgment to another person, who then condemned St. Agnes to die by burning at the stake.

Again, the flames would not burn her and she was completely unharmed. It was only when an officer stabbed her and beheaded her with his sword that St. Agnes was finally martyred for her faith. Despite all the sufferings she had to go through, she remained completely faithful to God, because she truly had faith and genuine love for God from her heart, and her faith was not just merely superficial or only for appearances. This is why all of us should also be inspired by the faith that St. Agnes had and strive to live our lives faithfully from now on as she once had lived hers.

May the Lord always be with us and may He continue to strengthen us all in our journey of faith. May He through the intercessions of St. Agnes, holy virgin and martyr, continue to guide us all and bless us in everything we do, that we may be courageous in faith and in loving God with all of our heart from now on. Amen.

Monday, 20 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures that remind us all of the need for us to change our lives and follow the Lord wholeheartedly in all things. We must obey Him and do whatever it is that He has shown and taught us to do, and abandon our past life of wickedness and evil. This is what all of us as Christians are called to do with our lives, that we may truly glorify God by our lives in this world.

In our first reading today, we heard of the exchanges between the prophet Samuel and the first King of Israel, Saul, whom God had called and chosen from among His people to be the king over all of them. Samuel anointed Saul himself and Saul was faithful in leading the people of God to victory against their enemies, especially the Philistines who oppressed them. But it was not long before Saul began to disobey God and followed his own will rather than God’s.

In that occasion, the Israelites went up in war against the Amalekites, their old enemies, who were defeated in battle by the Lord’s grace and strength. The prophet Samuel had instructed Saul on God’s will, not to allow anyone or anything from the Amalekites to survive, their whole people and their whole possessions and herds. Yet, Saul thought it better on his own decision to spare not just the herds of the Amalekites but even the king of the Amalekites, Agag.

Saul thought that by doing what he had chosen to do, he was doing what God wanted, even arguing back against the prophet Samuel and trying to justify himself and his actions before God. But he did not realise that he has disobeyed God by his choice of actions and therefore led the people of Israel into sin. And his attempt to justify himself and arguing with Samuel showed that he was not remorseful or regretful over his action at first instance.

Saul was thinking in the manner of how he perceived the Lord would think, and many others also shared his perspective. To them, the Law that the Lord has given His people was to be obeyed to the letter, but they often failed to understand the true intent, meaning and purpose of the Law. Saul and others tried to go around the technicalities of the Law and even tried to benefit from it, because in his mind it was likely that he had the desire to gain from the spoils of war, that while some of them were to be offered to God, the rest would be his to possess.

That was how Saul led his people into sin and disobedience against God. He allowed his desires and pride to make him fall for the temptations of the devil. And this is the same predicament that we also see in the Gospel passage today, as we heard the argument between the Pharisees and the Lord on the matter of fasting which the Pharisees practiced fervently while they criticised the Lord and His disciples for not doing what they have done.

But the Lord rebuked them in turn because they failed to understand the true significance and meaning of fasting. The Pharisees, like Saul, fasted with some intention to gain attention for themselves, to satisfy their own personal desires for glory and honour, for fame and renown which led them to sin against God. They would not allow the Lord to go on with His works in peace and kept on opposing Him because their pride and desires led them to act in self-preservation to keep whatever privileges and good things they had gained, even if they actually went against God’s will.

This is what the Lord actually meant when He spoke using the parable of the new and old wineskins and cloth, and also the new and old wine. The incompatibility between the new wine and the old wineskin, vice versa and the new and old cloth highlighted the incompatibility between the ways of man, that is pride, desire, greed and selfishness with the ways of the Lord, which is love, humility, compassion, tenderness and mercy. As Christians we should embrace the way of the Lord and leave behind our past, worldly behaviour as described.

We are therefore also reminded today by the examples of king Saul and the Pharisees that we must be ever vigilant for it will be very easy for the devil to have his way with us if we are not careful and if we allow him to tempt us with the various desires and allures of the world, the lure of the glory of this world, the temptation of pleasures of the flesh among many others. We have to resist these temptations and do our best to overcome the devil and his lies.

Today, we are all fortunate to have two great saints whose feasts we are celebrating, namely that of Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian. Pope St. Fabian was one of the early Popes of the Church, who was elected under miraculous circumstances as it was told that a dove miraculously appeared and settled on him, which was interpreted as a sign of divine providence and made everyone assembled to elect him as the successor of St. Peter.

Pope St. Fabian led the Church in the era between persecutions and helped to stabilise the Church and grow, despite the rise of heresies and divisions in some segments of the Church. Pope St. Fabian sent bishops and missionaries to help settle this matter, and he dedicated himself passionately to the mission of the Church entrusted to him by God. And when the Roman Emperor Decius came to power, a new wave of brutal persecutions came to be, and Pope St. Fabian was among the first to be martyred for his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was a high ranking Roman soldier, a captain of the Praetorian Guards, the Roman Emperor’s own bodyguards, who was a secret Christian at the time when being a Christian would mean certain suffering, persecution and death. St. Sebastian helped many Christians to escape torture and suffering under the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, especially those who were condemned to death. Some of the people were even converted and strengthened by the faith of Sf. Sebastian while in prison

But eventually, St. Sebastian’s secret was discovered, and the Emperor, angry at this supposed betrayal by one of his closest confidants, made him suffer by tying him to a tree and made arrows to be shot at him many times until he was covered by them. Yet, miraculously, the arrows did not kill St. Sebastian. St. Sebastian miraculously recovered and reproached the Emperor for his persecution of Christians publicly. This was when St. Sebastian was beaten to death and finally had his martyrdom for his faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the great faith and examples set by Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian should inspire us all to also be faithful as they had been faithful, to follow God and to obey Him in every moments of our life. Let us all devote ourselves and be ever more faithful to God from now on, and let us grow ever stronger in faith and dedication to Him with each and every passing moments in our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time all of us have heard from the readings of the Scripture today on the matter of the mission of the Church in proclaiming the word of God and our part in this mission as we are all members of this same Church. From what we have heard through today’s Scripture passages we are reminded of how God has called us all to follow Christ, the Lamb of God and Saviour of the world.

As we begin this season of the Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent, we are reminded of the need for us not to make this season something that is merely ‘ordinary’. For in fact, the real meaning and significance of this ‘Ordinary Time’ is such that in between our focus and observations of the very important events in our faith like that of the birth of Christ in Christmas, the preparation time for Easter in Lent, the resurrection of Jesus in Easter itself, there are many things that we can do in the time between all these events and seasons.

It means that we are called to come and do our best to make good use of this time to do the ‘ordinary’ work of God, carrying out whatever it is that He has called on each one of us to do, from being faithful and good Christians, behaving in ways that conform to our faith and through all those, becoming true witnesses of our faith in our everyday life. We must not think that our works and contributions are insignificant in any way, for it is indeed by whatever little things we do, that are done in faith, that we become good witnesses for Christ.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord Who spoke through His prophet Isaiah of the coming of the One Who would bring forth the salvation of the world, gathering all of His people scattered all around the world and bringing them back once again to His presence. He spoke of how that Servant He sent into the world would become the Light of the world and the salvation for the nations, which was fulfilled finally at the coming of Jesus Christ into this world.

It was this same Messiah promised by God which St. John the Baptist proclaimed before his own disciples at the River Jordan just after He was baptised by him. He proclaimed the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God, as the One Who would take away the sins of the world and save it. And some of the disciples of St. John the Baptist went on to follow Him such as St. Andrew the Apostle, the first of the Twelve Apostles to be called.

What St. John the Baptist had done essentially was what the Lord has also wanted us all to do, in proclaiming the salvation in the One and only Messiah of God, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God by Whose sacrifice on the Cross, saved us mankind from the tyranny of sin and reconciled us with God the Father. Through His loving sacrifice, Christ made us all to be reunited with God, that sin which once prevented us from returning to Him is no longer an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

And through His Baptism at the Jordan, which we have just commemorated last Sunday and marked the beginning of the current Ordinary Time, all of us also share in the common baptism that unites all of us to Christ, as the members of the one Church He has established in this world to be a symbolic and concrete sign of the coming of God’s kingdom into this world. All of us through our baptism have been made parts of the Body of Christ, the Church and made to be God’s own adopted sons and daughters.

This is what the Apostle St. Paul spoke about at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth in our second reading today, when he spoke of how all of us as Christians have been called to follow God and have been sanctified and blessed to be God’s people, reunited and brought together from the world, to be one people and with one purpose and intention, that is to glorify God and to do His will. All of us share the same mission which God has entrusted to His Church.

What is this mission, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is for us to be true and living witnesses of our faith in God, to proclaim His salvation among the nations and the peoples of the earth. We have been entrusted with the Great Commission of God, Who called all of us His disciples to go forth and baptise all peoples of all the nations in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, making all of the children of mankind to be God’s children through His Church and through baptism.

But how are we going to do that? It is not by forcing people to believe in God by the use of intimidation, coercion or force, and neither should we use any forms of tricks or false persuasions. All these methods do not usually lead to true faith and love for God, and in fact they may cause people to be antagonised against God and the Christian faith instead. Rather, we should do our best in living our lives with faith each and every moments of our life.

How can other people believe in God if we ourselves do not truly believe in Him? If we do not act and do things according to what we believe in, does that not make us hypocrites then, who believe in one thing and yet do things in a different way? If our actions and way of life do not match what we profess to believe in, how can we then expect people to believe in us or in the Lord by our lack of genuine faith? Instead of bringing others closer to God, we will only end up making others to be disillusioned and pushing them further away from God.

That is why we are all challenged as we proceed through our lives that we should do our best to live our lives as how the Lord has taught us to live them. He has showed us what it means to be Christians, that is to put our trust in the Lord and to put Him as the centre of our lives and existence that our every actions no longer seek to glorify ourselves and satisfy our desires, but instead, we seek only to glorify God through whatever little actions we take in life.

This means that we should first of all show love and care, compassion and concern to our fellow brethren in our actions just as the Lord has loved us generously. We should be more selfless and forgiving in how we interact with one another, putting the needs of others before ourselves, and putting aside our pride, ego and desires in our daily living. We should reach out especially to the poor and the marginalised, showing God’s love and grace to them, that we, as the extensions of God’s love may truly touch them not just in material and physical terms, but also mentally and spiritually.

If all of us are able to be Christ-like in how we live our lives, in serving others and in showing genuine love and care, then in no time people who see us will also be able to see God and His presence through us. And eventually some if not many more people will also then come to believe in Him and want to become His disciples through us and our good examples of life in faith. That is how we should carry out our mission in evangelisation and in witnessing for the truth of God.

We do not need to worry that we cannot do great many things, for the truth is that, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, our every little acts do count towards the greater cumulative efforts of the Church. When all of us are in one mind and one spirit in trying our best to serve God through our lives, all of our actions and deeds combined together will truly become an immense effort in fulfilling the mission that God has entrusted to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore as we continue to live our lives let us all strive to be faithful to God even in the smallest things we do, that with every actions we take and with every moments, we always adhere to His ways and obey His will, resisting the temptation to sin and to do what is wicked and evil in God’s presence. Let us all be inspiration for one another and help each other in living our lives with faith from now on.

May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith. May He empower us all to be able to live courageously in His presence from now on, filled with faith and devotion. May God be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 18 January 2020 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the missions which God has entrusted to us as the people of God, whom He has called to be His servants and followers. We heard first of all the story of the calling and anointing of Saul as the first king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, and then the story from the Gospel on how the Lord Jesus called Levi the tax collector to be one of His disciples.

Therefore today we heard the story of the calling of two men by God to be the instruments of His works among His people. Saul was called from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest and least important of the tribes of Israel at that time; and he was also from the least important and smallest of the groups and families within the tribe of Benjamin. And God called him to be the first king over His people Israel when the people cried out to have a king over them.

Saul was just a simple man without prestigious or powerful background, and God chose him to be the king over His people, much as how later on He would also choose a simple shepherd boy, David, the youngest and smallest of the many sons of Jesse to be the successor of Saul. God indeed chose His servants and called them, and not the other way round, that is we choose ourselves. He made those whom He had chosen to be worthy and empowered them as how He led Saul and David to many victories over their enemies.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the calling of the tax collector Levi, whom the Lord Jesus called to be His disciple. Levi left behind his job and everything he had, following the Lord and eventually would be known by a new name, that is Matthew. As one of the Twelve Apostles, he would be known as St. Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist as not only that he was one of the Twelve but with St. John the Apostle he also had the distinction of being also the writer of one of the four Holy Gospels.

When Levi invited the Lord to have a meal with him and the other tax collectors at his place, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law immediately judged Him and those tax collectors, condemning His actions and questioning why a supposedly holy and popular Man of God would mingle with the tax collectors who were considered among the least welcomed and also hated by a large portion of the population.

The tax collectors were despised because they were seen as collaborators who ‘sold’ their own countrymen and people to the Romans as they helped to collect the hated taxes and money for the Roman governors and magistrates. But in truth, those tax collectors were just the same as anyone else, when looked upon without the bias that many were looking at them with. In fact as we can see, while the tax collectors welcomed the Lord and were willing to listen to Him, it was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who refused to believe in the Lord and rejected Him.

Again, as I said earlier on, God chose and called those whom He wished to be His followers. And unlike many of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who wanted to show off their piety and righteousness before the people, and wanted to justify themselves as being better than others especially the tax collectors, they actually failed to see that God honours the humble and those who love Him more than they love themselves.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this significant for us? It is so because we are all also called by God to be His disciples. God has called us to follow Him through our baptism, and if we are truly willing to follow Him, then we should open our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our midst. Are we able to do this? Are we able to trust in God to lead us down the right path going forward? God will lead us down the right path if only we allow Him to guide us.

Let us all seek the Lord and allow Him to guide us in our journey of life and faith. Let us dedicate ourselves anew to Him, and let us grow in our trust and faith with each and every days of our lives from now on. May God bless us all and may He be with us always, through all the goods and trials of this life we have in this world, that we may be His faithful disciples and witnesses to the nations. Amen.