Wednesday, 12 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the passages from the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of our duty as Christians and therefore as God’s people to follow the Lord and to obey His will and His laws, to be righteous and good just as He is good, and to be exemplary in our conduct and actions. For if we do not act as we have been called to act, and if we disobey God, then it is by our own disobedience and therefore sins that we will be judged.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel we heard of the great vision of Ezekiel witnessing God’s glory upon His Throne of Angels, surrounded by the mighty Seraphim and Cherubim. What the prophet Ezekiel described of what he had seen was likely the best that he could do to describe within the limitations of the human expressions and perceptions of the great and infinite glory of God that he had seen, and through this, both Ezekiel and the people to whom he was sent were all reminded of the One Who had revealed all the truth they received.

The prophet Ezekiel saw what happened when the glory of God departed from the Temple and the city, where bloodshed and destruction would happen, a premonition of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of God by the Babylonians, as seen by Ezekiel who was then in exile in Babylon. Through the vision, God showed how His grace and presence among the people would leave the city and the House He had chosen and dwelled in, all because of the wickedness and evil of the people who refused to change their sinful ways.

The prophet Ezekiel’s message is parallel to what the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, the Lord said that if someone had erred, then it is the duty, obligation and responsibility for that one’s fellow brothers and sisters in faith to correct and guide the one who erred back to the truth. And therefore, this is a reminder that each and every one of us have this responsibility to be faithful to God and to be examples for one another, and help lead each other down the right path.

However, God also said in that same occasion, that if the attempt to regain the faith in the one who erred fails, and the person stubbornly refused to change his ways, then that person ought to face condemnation for his or her own conscious refusal to obey the Lord and follow His ways. This is also what happened to the people of Israel and Judah, after they continued to disobey God and refused to listen to the many prophets and messengers God had sent to them. They were conquered, crushed and humiliated by their enemies, suffering for their own sins.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded today through these Scripture passages that disobedience against God leads to sin, and sin lead us to suffering and separation from God. And thus we should strive to be faithful at all times and we should do our best to resist the temptations to walk the path of sin. Today, we celebrate the feast of a holy woman and servant of God whose examples can inspire us in our own journey of faith.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the founder of the religious order, the Order of the Visitation of Mary, born into an influential family and married her husband, Baron de Chantal, with which she had a short but happy married life. When her husband passed away from an accident, the baroness was heartbroken and she chose to dedicate herself and her time to God as a religious sister. She forgave those who caused her husband’s premature death and gave herself to pious works and efforts.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal founded the religious order of the Order of the Visitation of Mary which was unique in that they gathered and accepted all those women who had been rejected by the other religious orders and congregations because they were considered too sickly or too old. Inspired by the faith and dedication of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, the members of the order spent much time caring for the needs of the people of God, especially those who were poor and less fortunate.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see how this holy woman and servant of God obeyed God and did what she could to fulfil His will and His commandments. How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to follow in her footsteps or are we going to be stubborn and refuse to change our ways, and continue to sin by our pride and greed, by our ego and ambitions, our selfish desires?

Let us all spend some time to discern about all these, and let us consider how each and every one of us can be more devoted and true in our faith and how we can follow the Lord with ever greater sincerity and commitment, no longer clinging stubbornly to our past ways of sin, but instead embrace fully the love of God in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us and may He guide us in our journey of faith that we may find the true path to salvation in Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded to be faithful and to be humble in our everyday lives, to be obedient to God and follow His ways. And this is what we need to do so that we may find the path towards the salvation in God, just as the Lord has done plenty in reaching out to us and calling on all of us to return to Him, seeking out for us and guiding us on the path towards reconciliation and redemption.

Unfortunately, we are often too busy with our lives and too proud and filled with ego to be able to live with genuine faith. And this is what we have been reminded through our Gospel passage as well, as we heard of the Lord’s words to His disciples, that unless we have the faith of children, be like them and welcome them into our midst, then we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven and be part of the inheritance and glory promised to all of us.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because unlike adults and those who have grown up, children are still innocent and pure, blameless and committed in whatever they believe in. When children believe in something, they will believe it wholeheartedly without doubt and without being distracted by various considerations, as what adults often do. When they believe in the Lord therefore, they will believe with all of their hearts, and given the right guidance, they will all be strong in their faith and love for God.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many of us are lacking, as we live our lives filled with worldly desires and temptations that distract us and prevent us from finding our way towards God. We have often been swayed and tempted by the false promises of glory and pleasure by the devil and his allies, and as a result, we end up being lost from God. We fall into sin and sin led us further astray, away from the right path.

As long as we continue to be stubborn and persist in the path of sin, we will find it difficult to be reconciled with God. In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel the words of the Lord that He spoke to His people through Ezekiel, as He called on them all to stop their rebellious ways and return to Him, and how wicked and terrible their rebellion had been. And yet, God still wanted to call on them and reach out to them, and through Ezekiel, He made His salvation known to them, the words of God’s salvation that is sweet as honey against the bitterness of the rebellion of those who have disobeyed God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings all of us are reminded to be faithful, to turn towards God with heart full of faith and love for Him, to seek Him with all of our hearts, and to be dedicated to Him once again, turning away from all forms of sin and disobedience against Him. We are God’s lost sheep, and we are truly fortunate that the Lord, our Good Shepherd, is willing to reach out to us, find us, and call us back towards Him.

And we need to learn to be humble and faithful once again just as the Lord had taught us all to do, and today we can look upon the examples shown to us by the holy servant of God, St. Clare of Assisi, a great example of faith for each and every one of us. St. Clare of Assisi was remembered for her great piety and love for God, was inspired by a life of prayer since early in her life and was called to follow the path showed by St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Clare dedicated herself to God and gave herself to His service, and despite the attempts made by her father to force her to abandon her commitment and new life, she refused to be dissuaded and remained firm in her conviction to lead a holy life dedicated to God. Eventually together with other women who wished to dedicate themselves to God’s service through prayer and holiness, they became the foundation of the religious order of the Poor Clares, as the group established to channel the women who wanted to follow in the charism and life of the Franciscan spirituality and way of life.

Eventually, St. Clare would become the abbess of the community of San Damiano where the sisters of Poor Clares were gathered and established in, and she was essential in maintaining the spiritual rigour of her congregation and inspiring all of them to live in poverty and in commitment and dedication to God. And miraculously, St. Clare also repelled the invasion of armies that tried to ransack the city and the monastery she and her fellow sisters were living in, by praying before the Blessed Sacrament and presenting the monstrance before the invading forces, that fled in fear witnessing great light that shone on them.

From the examples of St. Clare of Assisi, all of us are called to follow her inspiration to live her life filled with virtue and faith, to be pure in our love for God and to be sincere in our commitment, free from the taint of greed and worldly desires, free from the shackles of sin and evil, from pride and ego and worldly ambitions. But this path will not be an easy one for us, and we will need to resist the constant temptations present all around us.

Let us all have the faith of a child, a genuine faith and dedication, filled with love and the desire to seek God at all times. Let us all pray that the Lord will strengthen us and guide us in this journey, and give us the strength and the courage to serve Him wholeheartedly from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of St. Lawrence, Holy Deacon and Martyr of the Church, as one of the most renowned saints of the early Church. St. Lawrence was one of the deacons of Rome and as such was greatly involved in the many important decisions and works in the very heart and centre of Christendom, the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter.

And on this day whatever we have heard from the Scriptures are essentially what we have seen from the lives and examples of St. Lawrence, who in his capacity as one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, laboured tirelessly day and night in taking care of the needs of the people and ministering to the faithful, especially to those who are weak and poor, those who are less fortunate and needy. As the Archdeacon of Rome, despite his very important position, St. Lawrence remained humble and committed to his ministry.

At that time, the Church was going through a particularly tough and difficult persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Valerian who imposed strict and harsh measures against Christians, persecuting them, arresting many among them and even to the extent of making by the norms of Roman law of the seizing of the properties of those convicted by the state of crimes and penalties in order to condemn many among the Christians, from all walks of the society, and seize their belongings and assets.

As the Church did hold a considerable asset in its constant efforts to reach out and take care of those who are suffering, poor and less fortunate in the community, it quickly became a target by those who sought to gain the wealth and possessions of the Church for their own. The Emperor published a decree against the Church and its leadership, condemning all of the bishops, priests and deacons to death and that all of them were to be summarily executed, without trial.

Pope St. Sixtus II, the then Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ was among the first to suffer from the bitter rounds of persecutions, as he was captured and arrested as he was celebrating the Holy Mass at the catacombs, and was immediately put to death by execution soon after. More and more bishops, priests, deacons and and many among the laity would come to suffer in the coming days, and eventually, as it was evident that the authorities would move to confiscate and gain the possessions of the Church, St. Lawrence as the Archdeacon and therefore the one in charge of the management and the distribution of the properties of the Church quickly acted to distribute the properties and disposable materials to the poor and those who need them so as to prevent them from falling into the wicked hands of those who sought to claim them for their own benefits.

St. Lawrence was confronted by the prefect, who demanded the surrender of all the Church properties and its material wealth. And in response, he gathered all the infirm, the sick and all those who were poor and destitute, and presented all of them before the Roman prefect as the true wealth of the Church. This further infuriated the prefect and St. Lawrence was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron, which was made even hotter by the anger of the prefects over St. Lawrence’s defiance, which if we remember the Old Testament, was also what happened to the three righteous compatriots of Daniel who refused to bow down to king Nebuchadnezzar and his false golden idol.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Lawrence showed us all the true meaning of Christian calling and virtue, which each and every one of us should also emulate in our own lives. St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of the great wonders awaiting all those who had been generous in giving and charity, in love and compassion towards the poor and the needy. St. Lawrence showed us the examples of these by his great generosity and love, genuine concern for the poor and those who need help in the community.

And St. Lawrence also gave generously to the Lord, his faith and dedication, spending his time and effort to serve the Lord and giving everything to help the Church and the faithful. He showed us all what true Christian life and charism is all about, to give generously from ourselves to one another, to love tenderly and care with compassionate hearts and minds, and to reach out to help those who are in need, and to be faithful in all times and situations, even when things may be challenging and difficult for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord said to all of us through His disciples, in our Gospel today, “Unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains just as a seed, but if it dies, it produces much fruits.” These represent what we need to do in order to follow the Lord’s will and commandments, and this is by dying to our greed and desires, our pride and ego, all the things that led us to selfishness and to close ourselves up against God and against our fellow men.

The Lord called us all to follow Him, and following Him means that we should shed from ourselves our personal agenda and desires, our ambitions and all the things that had led us astray all these while. And let us all follow Him just as St. Lawrence the Deacon and Martyr had done, he who gave his whole life for the service of the Lord and His Church. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to reach out to the needy and the less fortunate in our midst, in our community, especially during these difficult times and moments?

Let us all be inspired to walk in the path set before us by the saints, principally St. Lawrence whose memory we remember today. And let us all realise that through our generosity, faith and love, God will certainly bless us all and glorify us, and all that we do, all of these shall be counted for us on the day of judgment. Let us all be beacons of God’s hope and light in our communities, among our friends and loved ones and also among all those whom we encounter daily in life. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 9 August 2020 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are presented with the reminders that God has always been faithful and He will always be by our side no matter what, and although we may not perceive it or realise it, but the fact is that God is ever present in our lives and as we heard last Sunday from the words of St. Paul, ‘Who can separate us from the love of God?’ And therefore this is why we must all realise just how fortunate we are to be God’s beloved people.

Unfortunately, many of us often do not realise this truth, and we are often ignorant of the rich and wonderful love that He has given us all these while. The Lord has always been patient in loving us, but too often, we are too preoccupied and busy, and especially we are often blinded by our fears and uncertainties, our doubts and lack of strong faith and trust in God. And that is why we have often failed to recognise God when He had been there for us, and with us all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the moment when the prophet Elijah came to meet with the Lord at Mount Horeb, after a long journey of forty days and forty nights from the land of Israel. At that time, for the context, the prophet Elijah had laboured among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel for some time, and went up against the king Ahab of Israel, his wicked queen Jezebel, and the many priests of Baal who all pushed for the worship of the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Elijah stood alone in his struggle against the many enemies he had, and he often had to suffer and endure difficulties throughout all the years of his ministry, and even after he showed the might of God by the miracle of the fire on Mount Carmel, in which he humiliated the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by their failure to prove the existence of the false god Baal, he was then hunted and persecuted especially by Jezebel who despised him and wanted him dead.

Elijah chose to flee into the wilderness and escape in hiding from the persecutions and the threats to his life. And the Lord for a time gave him food and water to drink, to give him the strength and called him to His mountain in the desert, and when he reached the mountain of God, as we heard in our first reading today, the Lord revealed Himself before Elijah, and this began with a great and mighty windstorm that came before the Lord, a great earthquake and then a great fire, and yet all of these were not where the Lord was.

Instead, God came after all of these mighty conflagrations and events, as a gentle breeze, or what some translations call as a ‘great silence’. The Lord came to Elijah in a moment of quietness, stillness and silence, as a reminder for us all, that first of all, amidst all the great challenges, trials, difficulties and ‘noise’ of this world, in the end, we will still find God in our midst in the depth of the silence of our hearts. Had Elijah fled from the great windstorm, the earthquake and the fire, he would not have perceived God’s presence.

This is echoed in what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the miraculous appearance of Jesus walking on the water in the middle of a great storm, with very strong winds and waves striking against the boat which the disciples were travelling in. The Lord was not with them because He sent the disciples ahead of Him while He went to pray alone to the Father in the mountains by Himself. And it was then that the Lord appeared to the disciples in the middle of the storm.

Although the disciples had seen all the miracles that the Lord had performed up to then, performing the impossible tasks of healing those who were sick, opening the eyes of the blind, loosening the tongue of the mute, opening the ears of the deaf, casting out demons and evil spirits from the possessed, and even raising up those who had been dead back into life, and heard all the words of wonder and wisdom that He had taught all of them, they still did not have firm faith in Him.

That was why they were very afraid when they saw Him in the middle of the storm, thinking that they had seen a ghost. They thought of this because they did not truly trust the Lord yet with all of their hearts and minds, and they still had those fears and uncertainties, probably thinking that as they feared for their lives because of the storm, they might have hallucinated and saw visions that were not there, and that was why, they thought they had seen a ghost. Indeed, when someone was about to die or experience similar kind of near-death encounters, history had shown that people could act erratically or hallucinate.

But in this case, it was truly the Lord Who appeared before them, walking on the water towards the disciples’ boats. He said to them all, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” And this is exactly what would also happen later when the disciples again saw the Lord suddenly appearing before them just after His Resurrection. Again that time, they thought that they had seen a ghost, but the Lord again told them, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” and showed them that He was not a ghost by eating before them, for ghost had no physical body and could not have eaten.

In both occasions, as we can see from our viewpoint of those who looked back into history, we see the doubt and fears in the hearts of the disciples and the uncertainties in their minds that kept them and prevented them from truly having a complete faith in God. They doubted and thought that, ‘No, the Lord could not have done that, or that could not be really Him, or how can He be there? I thought I was all alone in this suffering’ among other thoughts possibly running through their minds.

And St. Peter showed this sentiment further when he asked of the Lord, that if that was really Him, that He would enable him to walk on the water just as He did, and that he could come to Him through the water safely. St. Peter in this sense had more faith in the Lord because he still wanted to try and trusted in Him enough to want to walk on the water. And as he did miraculously walk in the water, it was later then the waves and the wind that returned the fear in his heart and mind, and as his resolve faltered he began to sink.

Yet the Lord reached out to St. Peter and helped him up, after a light rebuke of his still lacking in complete faith, to show that first of all, again, God will never abandon His beloved ones, all of us to fall and suffer alone in the darkness. He will lift us up, strengthen us, rescue us and empower us. This is what He had also done with the prophet Elijah from earlier on, when the prophet was also despairing over the toughness of the challenges of his work and ministry, how he was hated and persecuted, and even had his life clearly threatened.

The Lord reassured and strengthened Elijah, and gave him a new command, to return to the land of Israel and follow in whatever He would command him to do, to continue in reaching out to the stubborn people of the northern kingdom and call more of them back to be reconciled with God. And the Lord also reassured St. Peter and the disciples, both on the occasion in the middle of the storm, as well as at His appearance just after His Resurrection, that He was always with them, guided them along the way, and although they might have been shaken in faith, but He would never abandon them, and sent them to carry out His will, to spread the Good News to all people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord wants us all to remember through all of these that even in our darkest moments, when we think we are all alone and without hope, He is still there for us, and will help us to get out of our troubles and trials. However, we need to realise just how the fears, uncertainties, doubts and all these obstacles in our hearts and minds often keep us from seeking the Lord and working with Him to get on the right path, and we need to overcome these, and grow in faith that we may trust the Lord ever more and put our faith more in Him.

This year, more than ever, our faith and resolve had been tested to the maximum and even beyond by all that had happened. Not only that we have this terrible pandemic that still continues on claiming lives and causing many more to suffer in the hospitals, but all the collateral damages it caused to the economy by severe and almost complete disruption to the economy, supply lines and transportation, travel and hospitality industry, businesses and others caused so many among us to lose our source of income through unemployment or through severe pay cuts or pay freeze, and many others also suffer mentally from the combinations of these issues.

Amidst all these challenges and troubles, do we still have faith in God? Do we even still have hope in our hearts? Or have we instead been filled with fear and doubt, uncertainties and concerns? As I said earlier, many of us are inundated with all these obstacles that prevented us from appreciating and knowing just how close God is to us, and how He has always been with us, even through these most difficult moments of our lives. Many of us continued to fear and worry for the days to come, because our faith in God is not strong, and we allow the devil to sow even more fear within our hearts, that led us to act irrationally and selfishly, that inadvertently led to even more fear and suffering.

Take for example, the actions of many people who wanted to take care of themselves first amidst these terrible problems, as we saw people who tried to hoard essential goods for themselves, or important items like masks and gloves, and also those who allow their fear to turn into anger, and lash out on others, being uncaring and even violent when everyone are supposed to be helping one another in overcoming these difficult situations together. We must not allow fear, uncertainty, all the ‘storms’ and ‘waves’ in our lives from distracting us and being obstacles in our trust in the Lord’s providence.

Instead, brothers and sisters, as Christians all of us are called to be the beacons of God’s light and hope, His guiding light and strength, that through us, our words and actions, in how we interact with one another, we should help one another, awaken the hope in those who have been despairing and without hope. Let us all remind one another that God is always with us, ever faithful to the Covenant that He has established with us, and that in the end, all those who remain faithful in God will rejoice.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that we are all God’s beloved people, the descendants of the holy patriarchs and all those holy men and women, saints of God and more, as St. Paul had said, and we will always be beloved by God. Let us all be inspired and strengthened, encouraged that God will lead us and He has called us to do His will. Let us all glorify Him by our deeds in life, and let us bring hope and light to this darkened and suffering world. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, from the first reading in which we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard of the words of anguish spoken by the prophet on behalf of the people highlighting their frustrations and desperation seeing how those who were righteous and faithful suffered and endured bitter trials while those who were wicked seemingly managed to live on without harm or trouble.

But the Lord reassured His people and told them that He will never abandon them no matter what, and that everything will happen as it has been deemed by God, and everything will happen in due time. When we think that why is it that those who were wicked rejoiced and lived while the righteous and the faithful suffered, then we must remember that every bits of sin, no matter how small, will be left untouched, when the Lord judges all of His people at the time of the Last Judgment.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His interaction with a man who approached Him begging on Him to heal his son, who had been afflicted with epileptic activity, which at that time was also one of the signs of the demonic possession. The man said that although he had sought the disciples, but they were not able to heal the child from his condition, and he therefore asked the Lord to help him.

The Lord rebuked His disciples and those who followed Him for their lack of faith, and after immediately healing the man’s child without issue, spoke of just how little faith they truly had in Him, that they doubted Him and doubted the ability and power by which He could have saved the child. We may indeed be a bit confused by everything that happened, but contextually, it was likely that first of all, the disciples thought that the miracles they performed were because of their own power and might, and not by God’s power.

And it was also likely and possible that the disciples themselves had doubts in their hearts and minds, and they had not yet trusted the Lord completely, as what the Apostle St. Thomas frequently showed during the days of his ministry with the Lord, as he constantly spoke out showing his doubt and disagreements with the Lord, in the midst of the other disciples. The other disciples, although they might not be as skeptical as St. Thomas had been in those days, but they were likely to have their doubts as well.

This is just like what the prophet Habakkuk, speaking the sentiments of the people as included in our first reading today, was exactly speaking about. The prophet’s words was a representation of the people’s doubts, and how those doubts in fact became themselves obstacles in the path of the people in realising that God truly cared for each and every one of them. God reassured His people and showed His love, that no power on earth or beyond earth, are capable of standing between us and Him.

Just as the Lord spoke of the coming of reckoning for Assyria and all the enemies of the faithful, thus, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed before all those who doubted Him, either intentionally or unintentionally, those with weak and wavering faith, that He is truly faithful to the Covenant He had made with us, and He will always uphold His words, as He liberated and healed the man’s son from his troubles, from whatever demonic possessions or other shackles he had been troubled with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we still doubt the Lord and do we still lack the faith that God is always with us and by our side even in our darkest times and in our most challenging moments? Especially as many of us suffered during these past weeks and months, losing our jobs and livelihood, suffering in health, in body or in mind, and as we endure the continuing and depressing impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic, the associated economic collapse and troubles, among other things.

Are we still having faith in God, and believe that even in the midst of great challenges, that God is still there with us? If we do not, then perhaps it is because our relationship with God is not strong and good enough as it should have been. As unless we are deeply committed to God, and live in the midst of His love and grace, and appreciating His daily blessings, it is unlikely that our faith in God will be strong and enduring.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why this day as we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints in the Church, namely St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the Founder of the Order of Preachers, also famously known after their founder as the Dominicans, we ought to look upon St. Dominic as our great example and inspiration in faith. St. Dominic was remembered for his tremendous zeal and commitment in serving the Lord, his great piety and dedication he showed in serving the Lord and His Church.

St. Dominic had been renowned for his piety even from a very young age, when he was still very young and famine ravaged the lands. It was told that St. Dominic donated part of his possessions to help the poor and feed those who had been terribly afflicted by the great hunger. St. Dominic then dedicated himself to be a holy and devout priest, and dedicated his time to preach to the people, especially in his efforts to convert the Cathar heretics who have abandoned the true faith in the region now part of southern France.

As St. Dominic began his efforts in trying to convert the heretics, he began gathering the effort to establish a religious order of like-minded men who would reach out to those who have erred and fell away from the right path, as what the charism of the Order of Preachers is all about. St. Dominic led the efforts of the Dominicans as they were all came to be known for, in preaching the words of truth to the people and calling them to embrace once again the truth and love of God.

St. Dominic also helped the faithful to renew their faith and commitment in God through the deepening of their spiritual lives, most well-known being through the popularisation of the use of the rosary as a prayer, which eventually would become one of the most popular of devotions in the Church, helping to connect countless souls throughout the ages to the Lord, with the assistance of His blessed mother, Mary.

Through his many great contributions and his establishment of the Dominicans, St. Dominic showed us all that God can do so many great deeds before us, if only that we allow Him to act through each and every one of us just as He had done with St. Dominic. And this is only possible if we lead a life of virtue, faith and love as St. Dominic had done, and all of us are called to follow in his footsteps, in putting our trust and faith in God, and in obeying His will at all times, in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that we have all been called to follow the Lord and to focus our attention on Him, as those whom He had called and chosen to be His people. And at the same time we are also reminded that to follow God and to be faithful to Him will often require from us dedication and commitment that may lead us down the path filled with obstacles and challenges.

That is why the Lord said to His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today, that for all those who want to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. This means that we ought to share in the Cross and the sufferings that He had borne for our sake, and strive to seek the Lord and His righteousness above all other things, and to look beyond the false glory, pleasures and satisfactions of the world, resist the temptations and remaining faithful to God.

Indeed, this will not be an easy task, as just the Lord encountered plenty of opposition and challenges from those who disagreed with Him and refused to believe in Him, was persecuted and forced to endure humiliation, punished for the punishment that He was innocent from, and bore the cross of condemnation, and we heard how these enemies also acted against His disciples, that is why as followers of Christ, we too are likely to suffer the same fate as the Lord, hated and despised by the world.

That is why, we are presented with the choice, whether we want to follow the Lord, taking up our crosses in life and walking with Him, or whether we want to follow the path of the world, to embrace the path of disobedience and sins against God. These are the paths and choices presented to us, and unless we have strong faith in God, it is very easy for us to fall into the temptation to walk away from God.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Nahum, we heard of the Lord’s promise to His people that He shall crush the wicked and all those who have oppressed His people. It is the promise that the Lord will be faithful and will stand by His people in the midst of persecution and suffering. He will not abandon them to the darkness, and while for a while they might suffer, in the end, those who have kept their faith in Him will be triumphant while those who opposed Him and rejected Him will be crushed and destroyed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is therefore a kind reminder for us not to easily give in to the temptation to sin and disobey God, although the path of faith may seem to be challenging and daunting. In the end, as the
Lord said, “What worth is it for man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” This shows us that it is better for man to lose the whole world and yet remain in God’s grace. For the pleasures and glory of this world is all but temporary, while the soul is eternal.

What worth is it therefore for us to gain the comforts and pleasures of this world if we end up losing in the battle for our souls? When the souls of the wicked and those who were unrepentant are judged and condemned, they will all suffer for eternity from which there is no recourse or any way out at all. All these for the temporary taste of worldly goodness and joy, and in the end, eternal suffering awaits us all.

And the devil and his forces are always active out there trying to pull us away from God’s path, by tempting us to follow the temptations of our desires, by presenting to us many forms of worldly pleasures and false leads, into which if we succumb to them, it will be difficult for us to get out and escape, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations. What shall we do then? This is where we should thus look on the examples set by our predecessors in faith.

Pope St. Sixtus II, holy Pope and Martyr, together with his many companions were persecuted by the Roman Empire and the pagans, who tried to destroy the Church and crush the faithful. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church during the turbulent days of the Church when persecutions were rampant, and even so, he dedicated his life and effort to unite the Church, and tradition stated that he successfully restored the relations between the Church in Greece and Africa that had been torn apart and divided by certain issues earlier on.

And to the very end, when the Roman Emperor Valerian continued the persecution of the Church and the faithful, Pope St. Sixtus II was among the many faithful arrested for refusing to abandon their faith in God, and despite the efforts to convince them otherwise, and the pressures, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions in faith chose to remain faithful to the very end, dying as martyrs rather than to enjoy reprieve and comfort by giving in to the state.

Meanwhile, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Cajetan, a priest and also founder of the Religious Order of the Theatines, remembered very well for his care and concern for the poor and the needy, for those who were suffering especially from spiritual sickness and the lack of faith. He chose to dedicate his time, effort and attention to help all those who have lost their compass and guidance in life, and chose to spend much time to care for their needs and guide them back to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see from today’s saints’ examples, we can see how being faithful and doing what the Lord had asked us to do is not something that can easily be done, and we see just what kind of difficulties and trials that they all had to face, and how some had to endure even death in martyrdom for being faithful. But this is exactly what is meant by ‘taking up our crosses and following the Lord’, for being Christians is not one of inaction and comfort, but instead one of dedication and commitment.

Let us all therefore discern carefully from now on, how we will carry on living our lives, with all the opportunities that we have been given. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and be ever more genuine and devoted in our love for God from this moment onwards. May the Lord, our loving God, continue to guide us and help lead us down the right path in life, giving us the strength to carry our crosses faithfully and follow Him wholeheartedly, all the days of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we rejoice in the remembrance of the historic event of the Dedication or Consecration of the Papal Basilica St. Mary Major, also known well by its Italian name, Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and it is also the most important of churches and basilicas dedicated to the Blessed Mother of God.

The Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major is a great Marian shrine, most well-known for its holy icon of the ‘Maria Salus Populi Romani’ or the Protectress of the Roman people. This icon is a Byzantine style icon that dated from the fifth or century after the birth of Christ, and therefore had been around in Rome for a very long time, and was well-known and had great following both in Rome and beyond. In recent years, our Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis had been visiting the icon before and after his foreign trips and thus made the icon even more popular.

The icon of ‘Salus Populi Romani’ further highlighted the Marian character of this great church and Basilica, but how did this Basilica came up to be in the first place? It was one of the oldest churches in Rome, lasting from the late era of the Roman Empire, from a time not long after Christianity was tolerated and eventually became the official faith of the entire Empire. This Basilica was also often known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Snows for the well-known miraculous occurrence that led to the foundation of the Basilica.

It was told in the Church history and tradition that a Roman patrician named John and his wife made a vow to donate their personal land and wealth as they had no son and heir to continue their family and inherit their legacy. They made the vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and they prayed asking for guidance and help in finding the proper site to build a church dedicated to God and to His blessed Mother.

And in the most wonderful and miraculous way, on the fifth day of August, on one of the hills of Rome, the Esquiline Hill on which the Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands, during the very height of the hot Roman summer, snow falls on the hill and covered the very spot that Mary had marked for this great shrine and church. And that was how this great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Snows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, came to be.

Ever since then, the Basilica had stood for many centuries as the symbol of the faith that all of us mankind has in the Lord through His mother Mary, and it has become a strong rallying point and place for devotees and the faithful, inspiring many to return to the faith. And this homage to the Blessed Mother of God was also part of the affirmation that came with the official recognition of Mary as the Mother of God at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which took place around the time the Basilica was built and dedicated.

Why is it that we have such great dedication and devotion to Mary? That is because we honour her first and foremost as the Mother of God, by virtue of her being the mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who is both God and Man, and because Mary is the Mother of Him Who is God Incarnate, that is why she is also the Mother of God. And throughout history the mother of an important persona, such as rulers and kings have always had great honour applied to them.

And even more so than just this, Mary is so honoured because of her exemplary faith and dedication, her righteousness and piety, her love for her Son, all the virtues she has possessed that are great examples and inspiration for each and every one of us. Indeed, if the Lord were to point out for someone or an example for us to follow, first and foremost, He is likely to say, “There is My mother, follow her and her examples, devote yourself to her, and you will find the straightest path to heaven.”

That is why, as we celebrate the Dedication of this church and House of God, we recall Mary, the mother of God, and her brilliant examples in faith. Let us all follow her and be inspired by her and love God wholeheartedly as Mary had once done. Let us all look towards the Lord with faith, and commit ourselves anew to Him, with His mother Mary by our side, guiding us on the path forward that we will always do what the Lord has taught us to do, that indeed, we will be blessed because we obey God’s will and does what He wants us to do as said in our Gospel passage today.

O Holy Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady of Snows, most virtuous and wonderful of all the children of man, pray for us and intercede for our sake always, before your Son in heaven. Pray for all of us sinners now, and at the hour death, and lead us all into your Son, that He may show us mercy and forgive us our sins. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate as the whole Universal Church the feast of the great saint, St. John Vianney, the renowned Patron saint of all priests and all those who have dedicated themselves in the sacred priesthood in serving the people of God. St. John Vianney, also known by his epithet of the ‘Curé of Ars’, based on the town in which he based himself at, was a truly great and holy man of God that should be our inspiration in how we should live up our faith.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and spent the early days of his youth enduring plenty of difficulties due to the upheavals caused by the French Revolution. Most importantly, for St. John Vianney and his devout family, it was tough for them as many people especially those who supported the revolution who persecuted the Church and those who remained faithful, and they often had to travel far in order to find and participate regularly in the Holy Mass as priests were being persecuted and many were martyred, and celebrations of the Mass sometimes had to be done in secret.

All these and what the young St. John Vianney saw in the priests who still braved through persecutions and celebrating the Holy Mass in secret during those difficult years inspired him in his own journey and calling to priesthood, and he grew up strong in faith despite the challenges that he had to endure throughout his formative years. He did face difficulties in his academics and studies however, as the Revolution interrupted his crucial young academic formation years.

And the wars that occurred during that time under the reign of the Emperor Napoleon caused further trouble to this young aspirant, as he was drafted to the army and further disrupting his studies. Sickness and other circumstances caused him to unintentionally deserted from the army. Nonetheless, God helped the young man and having been pardoned from the desertion, he could once again continue with his studies, which he nonetheless faced a lot of difficulties from.

As he was struggling with Latin and other academic matters, St. John Vianney was almost expelled or suspended from his formation as a priest, because he was considered too slow and sluggish in his studies, unpromising and uneducated. But thanks to the intervention of a local priest, Abbé Balley, St. John Vianney managed to receive his minor ordination and eventually ordination to the sacred order of priesthood, as his piety was used as a reason to push him through the formation.

Because of his issues, he was assigned to be the parish priest of a small and insignificant village of Ars, a small village of merely just over two hundred individuals. Not only that St. John Vianney got lost as he travelled to the secluded village, but he also faced great difficulties from the indifference showed by most of the people, his parishioners, many of whom did not practice their faith and led a wretched life. St. John Vianney was determined to do what he could in order to resolve the situation.

As the local parish priest, St. John Vianney began to do the work to undo the worst damages caused by the French Revolution among other things, spending much time providing for the needs of the people, and he spent long hours in the confessionals, as more and more people gradually became touched by his efforts and outreach, his commitment, his piety and humble outlook in life. He spent much effort in reaching out to sinners, and long lines came to form as more and more people came to him to confess their sins and seeking his guidance and advice, and miracles were told by those who witnessed it.

For all of these, all the dedication that St. John Vianney had showed, someone who was slow and academically challenged due to the circumstances of his youth and formative years, almost did not succeed in fulfilling his calling to be a priest, all in the end did not matter because what mattered was that St. John Vianney was faithful and true to his faith in God. And in answering God’s call, St. John Vianney gave himself wholeheartedly and with true zeal and love, as a great and true inspiration for all of us to follow.

Are we all willing to follow in the footsteps of St. John Vianney? For all of his dedication and exemplary actions as priest and shepherd to those entrusted under his care, and to countless others who came to him seeking God’s help, St. John Vianney was honoured as the Patron saint of all priests, especially the parish priests. While not all of us are called to be priests, and each one of us have our own vocations and calling in life, be it as priests, as religious brothers or sisters, as lay members of the Church, as responsible members of family in sacred matrimony and those who have dedicated themselves to holy life, all of us are called to look upon the examples of St. John Vianney, humble servant of God, holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be holy and exemplary in life, following the good examples of St. John Vianney. Let us all dedicate ourselves to God anew and serve Him faithfully through our holy and pious lives from now on, that just as St. John Vianney had done, we may also lead more and more people to the salvation in God by our holy lives and faithful examples. St. John Vianney, holy patron of saints, pray for all of us and especially our priests that they may indeed be holy as you were, and that our priests may have the ‘heart of a priest’ like you. Amen.

Monday, 3 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to trust in the Lord, in His promises and in His providence. We must listen to God and hold onto Him, and be careful not to be easily swayed by the words of the false prophets and all those who may attempt to mislead us for their own benefits and selfish gains.

In our first reading today we heard from the story of how the prophet Jeremiah faced tough opposition from all those false prophets that were present during the end days of the kingdom of Judah, as those false prophets tried to mislead the king and the whole nation for their own benefits and gains. For example, when the prophet Jeremiah constantly warned all of them that the Lord’s judgment and day of reckoning would come upon them with the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, the false prophets tried to speak otherwise.

The false prophet Hananiah spoke to the king before everyone that the Lord would help Judah to crush the Babylonians, and helped to reverse all the losses and humiliations that they had suffered under the latter. But this was not the truth or the words of God, rather, it was the words of opportunism and designed to please its listeners. Hananiah said something that everyone wanted to here, reassurance and hope, but unfortunately it was false reassurance and false hope.

What Hananiah had told the king and everyone was meant to earn him a good standing among the king and his council members, and history had often showed that, sometimes, such people were indeed possible to have been agents of the enemy, placed in the court of the king to sow confusion and to undermine them before the enemy themselves were to strike. Hananiah might not have been an agent of the enemy, but his actions and some among the courtiers and the people might have been hidden agents, supporting what Hananiah said to support their own agenda.

In the end, the kings of Judah rebelled against the Babylonians and wanted to free themselves from subjugation by the latter. They thought that they could free themselves from the bondage and servitude to the kings of Babylon by depending on politicking and support of the world, and their ego filled with the false words of the false prophets like Hananiah among many others. If only that they could see the futility of their efforts and how they would be humiliated and crushed for their lack of faith in God.

Through all of these, we are all reminded and shown that to trust in man and in the world is futile and pointless, as none of these can compare to the Lord, His providence and everything that He has done for our sake. In the Gospel we heard of the story of the Lord coming to His disciples in the middle of a great storm walking on the water, and the disciples were all very afraid that their boat would sink due to the waves and wind hitting and rocking their boat.

But the Lord told them all not to be afraid and to trust in Him. And as unbelievable as it might have been to them to see the Lord walking on the water, even to the point of thinking that they had seen a ghost, the Lord reassured them and said that it was indeed Him that they had seen. St. Peter asked the Lord that if that was truly Him, then he would be able to come to Him walking on the water. But along the way, St. Peter still doubted even as he miraculously walked on the water, proving that the Lord’s words were indeed true.

The Lord helped St. Peter when he doubted and almost sank into the water, rebuking him for his lack of trust and faith in Him that made him doubted. This is why all of us are reminded today of this need to put God first and foremost as our trusted hope and ally in whatever situation and challenges we encounter in life. We must not be like the king of Judah who easily trusted in the falsehoods of Hananiah, in the lies of the false prophets who tried to sell forth untruths and temporary respite and comfort, but one that lasts only for a short while before the reality comes and sets in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all from now on put more faith and trust in God, putting our trust in Him Who has provided for us and blessed us with His love. And God has proved to be ever faithful even in our darkest moments and hours. Let us all cling to Him and do not fall to the temptation of pleasure and listening to the lies of the devil, all the falsehoods that did not come from God. Instead, although the path forward may be filled with trials and challenges, let us all trust in the Lord, Who has always been faithful to the Covenant He has established with us, all the time.

Just as He lifted St. Peter up from the water and helped him to renew his faith in Him, let us all pray and ask the Lord for the strength and faith to be always ready to persevere in faith, that we may indeed be filled with trust and faith in God, now and always. May God bless us all and guide us through our journey in life. Amen.

Sunday, 2 August 2020 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard one clear message from our Scripture readings today, that God is Love, and God loves each and every one of us so greatly and so wonderfully that we must really appreciate all that He had done for us all these while. Too often we mankind have ignored God’s love, rejected His compassion and mercy and preferring to do things our own way. Imagine how terrible it is for to be so stubborn and to rebel against God Who has loved us all so very much.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke to us all, calling on us to look for Him, that He will provide for us whatever we need, be it food or drink, be it sustenance in other form, as well as love and care, and He will fulfil the Covenant that He had once made with our ancestors, and which He has renewed again and again throughout time, and which He made one final renewal for all eternity in the New Covenant that He has established through Christ, His Son.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, as the Lord was faced with five thousand men and thousands more of women and children, their family members, who followed Him as He taught them and spoke to them of God’s truth and love. As we all know, the Lord miraculously fed all the multitudes of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, blessing them and breaking them for all the people to eat until they were all satisfied.

The Lord fed His people who hungered for food, and not just the physical food as we heard how they all ate of the bread and the fish, but in fact also, the food of the Word of God, as the people listened to the Lord teaching to them. The Lord said, that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’. It is there then the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, became the Bread of Life for all of His people.

Thus, from what we have heard in today’s Gospel and the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of just how God fulfilled His promises and words, that truly, He meant every single words that He had said, and gave us the ultimate gift and the perfect manifestation of His love in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. For through Him we received the guarantee of eternal life and glory with Him, that by our living and genuine faith, we are to be part of this Covenant He has made with us.

As I said earlier on, God is Love, brothers and sisters in Christ, and God’s love is the very reason why the world and all of us exist. God is perfect in all things, and His perfection means that He does not have need for anything. Yet, in the overflowing love that exists between the members of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God Who is Love created all of us to share in this wonderful love, for that is what love is all about, to show care and concern, passion and desire for the best things for one another.

And God’s love for us is so powerful, great and all-encompassing that St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans in our second reading today said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ and he also said how no power, no matter how great, be it on earth, in heaven or hell, or from wherever in the universe or beyond, will be able to separate us from the love of God, the wonderful, gentle and all-encompassing love of God. God’s love has been provided for us so generously, and which He has shown again and again through the generations, just as our Gospel passage today is just one small example of this Love.

Yet, the question that often then comes to our mind is that, ‘Lord, if You love me so much, why is it then I have to suffer in this world?’ And this question is often the number one reason why we doubt, why we are unsure of God’s love, why we even become angry at God and refuse to believe in Him. We see suffering all around us, and which we also see in ourselves, and we doubt God’s love and even existence, for after all, if God does love us, then shouldn’t all of us be happy and good?

This is then where we need to understand that while God’s love for us have always been genuine, unconditional and true, the same often cannot be said for us. Our love is often conditional, selfish and self-centred, tainted with desire and greed, with jealousy and even with hatred. And that is why we have not been able to experience the fullness of God’s love as all the many temptations and obstacles present in our lives prevented us from truly experiencing this true love.

For example, on the matter of hunger and food, sustenance and providence that we have focused on a lot today, a lot of people may ask, if God truly loves us, then why is it that people are suffering daily from hunger, from famine, from lack of food and from impoverishment? Should all these things be absent if God truly loves us? These are definitely questions that run through our minds if we look at the situation all around us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer is actually simpler than what we think.

God’s love has been abundantly given to us, and He has blessed us wonderfully. In the optimal and expected condition, this would have meant that everyone has enough for themselves, and yet, if we look around carefully, don’t we see plenty of inequalities, as some people dined in great excess and how food wastage is common in many countries, just as others suffered from hunger and famine in other countries? It was in fact our greed that had led to this sad and unfortunate situation.

What do I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was our misuse and indeed, abuse of God’s wonderful love and also freedom given to us that led to much suffering of all forms all around the world, in the past as it is in the present now and how it will also be in the future. As people succumbed to their greed and the temptations in desiring for more good things for themselves, this led to oppression, manipulation, extortion and even exploitation of others just so that some people can enjoy benefits at the cost to others, those who are less powerful, less wealthy and less privileged.

Alas, this is exactly what I meant when I said that the way we mankind has loved is imperfect, conditional, selfish and self-centred. We allow our ego and pride to mislead us, and greed to pull us into the trap of selfishness and self-centredness, and we have not loved as God loved us, as we were so preoccupied with ourselves and our desires that we ended up hurting others, being unfair, selfish and wicked in our actions in life.

That is why today, all of us as Christians are reminded that as God is Love, and as He has shared His love with us, we too shall love just as the Lord has loved us, in an unconditional, selfless and sincere way. This is true, genuine love that all of us must have within us, and which we must aspire to and spread in our practice towards one another. As children of humanity, and as God’s beloved children, and all the more, as Christians, we need to walk in the path of God’s love.

Therefore, we need to show this love through our every day actions, through every little gestures and interactions we have with one another. We must remember how God fed His multitudes of thousands and everyone had enough, just as in the past, during the Exodus, God fed His people with manna and everyone had enough to eat, with no one lacking or had excess, and as proven by the twelve baskets of leftovers that God had given His people more than enough.

As it was our selfishness and greed that caused hunger, suffering and sorrow for many, then it is our responsibility and calling to be the ones leading the way and show everyone the path of God’s love. Are we willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to show God’s wonderful love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and are we willing to challenge the customary ways of this world by rejecting the inherent selfishness and greed present in our current way of life?

As we all share in the one Body of Christ, let us all remember that we are first and foremost brothers and sisters, one family in the same one Lord, and through Him we have been united and have a share in His infinite and amazing love. Let us share God’s blessings by being more generous in giving, in whatever means we are able to, in order to help those who are less fortunate and suffering in our midst, especially this year as we have seen so many people suffered the extended effects of the pandemic and economic troubles in the past few months.

Many people have suffered, lost their jobs and getting retrenched, lost their pay or got their wages and salaries cut or suspended. Many people have fallen sick and suffered, not just from pandemic but also from various other health problems and are facing issues because of the strain being experienced by healthcare systems worldwide. And many lost their loved ones from these illnesses and from other reasons.

And we have seen how during these difficult and challenging times, the stresses and trials caused great friction and conflict within our communities, that we saw all the civil disturbances, riots and troubles that occurred between the divided members of our communities, as people fought one another over matters of racial divisions and prejudices, economic imbalance and insecurities, biases and intolerance. We have seen how people acted selfishly in trying to protect themselves, hoarding for essential goods and items that created scarcity for others who really needed the supplies.

Unfortunately, Christians were among many of those who participated in these actions, these selfishness and lack of compassion which caused even greater anguish and suffering for those who have already suffered. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this and discern in what way that we can share the love of God in our communities beginning from now, if we have not done so yet. Let us all be filled with God’s love and love Him first and foremost, and love one another with genuine love, now and always.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father continue to love us as He has always patiently been doing all these while. May He grant us the strength to continue to show the same love, and the perseverance and compassion in our hearts, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren all around us, to those who were unloved and poor, those who had been marginalised and suffered, especially during these difficult days and times. May God bless us and our good endeavours and works, now and forevermore. Amen.