Wednesday, 27 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard again about the salvation of God passed down to us through Christ, the High Priest as we continue the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, reminding us yet again how the Lord had offered Himself as the perfect and worthy sacrifice for our sins. The Lord has blessed us with this wonderful grace, forgiving us our sins and leading us into assurance of eternal life through Him.

And now, all of us are called to remember that the Lord has revealed to us all these and therefore we are expected to make good use of all that He has given to us along with this revelation. To each and every one of us God has given us the gift of faith, the wonders of our various talents and abilities, the gift of hope and love as well. These are the seeds that God had sowed in us, and which is aptly summarised and shown through the parable in our Gospel today.

In that parable of the sower, we heard how the sower spread the seeds and those seeds fell on different places. Those different places in fact represent the different attitudes by which we receive and embrace the gifts of God, and how we respond to His call and His truth. Those seeds that fell by the roadside, those that fell on rocky grounds and those that grew amidst thorns and bushes were those who have not fully embraced God’s truth and love.

First of all, those seeds that fell by the wayside were seized and eaten up by the birds, which symbolised the failure of those who reject the Lord and their refusal to even listen to Him or to accept His words and teachings. As a result, those seeds of faith had no place in them, and the devil and all of his fellow forces of evil came and snatched these from them, leaving them barren and without grace.

Then, those seeds that fell on rocky grounds represent those that did receive the word of God, His truth and love, but they hardened their hearts and did not allow these to take root deep within them. Their faith were superficial and merely for appearances rather than genuinely believing in the Lord and in His truth. Thus, similarly those seeds could not grow properly and perished. They did not have the right attitude to welcome the words of the Lord into their hearts.

Those seeds that fell on among the thistles, bushes and brambles represent those who have been more willing to embrace the word of God, His truth and love, and yet they still loved the world more and sought pleasure and enjoyment from the world rather than to fully trust in the Lord. As such, they also failed to grow properly in faith and God’s grace, and they too fell just like the others. The temptations to sin are powerful, and they can bring us down if we are not careful.

Only those seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil grew well and multiplied in produce so much that they produced thirty, sixty and hundred-fold as many in produce as compared to the original. This represents those who embraced the Lord, His truth and love, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to Him, and allowed the Lord to perform His wonders through them. And this is what we are all called to be, brothers and sisters, to be fruitful in faith and to be filled with God’s love.

Are we willing to do so brothers and sisters? Can we commit ourselves to Him and do our best to follow Him and do His will? We can follow the good examples set by St. Angela Merici, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Angela Merici was a renowned religious and educator, who was essential in the founding of the now famous Ursulines Order. She dedicated much of her life and work to the advancement of education especially that among the girls, often neglected at the time.

St. Angela Merici spent a lot of time educating young girls and young women, and inspired many women to follow in her own footsteps, encouraging them all to follow the Lord wholeheartedly while remaining in the world, ministering to the needs of those who lacked basic education and proper guidance. As a result of her dedication and efforts, many people came to follow in her footsteps and their combined effort brought so many changes and impact to the society, a definition of what thirty, sixty and hundred-fold produce is all about.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can do the same with our own lives. We do not have to do great and wonderful things, but even with our small actions, we may impact the lives of others and touch them with the love and truth of God. This will in time cause a great ripple effect as those whom we touch will then continue to touch the lives of others on their own accord, spreading the impact far beyond what we ourselves can do alone.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to God, and spend time to do what the Lord has called us to do. May God be with us always in this journey and may He strengthen us that we may always strive our best to bear fruits in our faith, at all times. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of two of Christendom’s great leaders and as counted among the earliest pillars and foundations of the Church through their great dedication and commitment to the cause of the Lord. St. Timothy and St. Titus were both close collaborators of St. Paul and the other Apostles, who were like the spiritual sons of St. Paul. They were travelling with St. Paul and were working with him at some point of time, ministering to the people of God and preaching the Word of God.

St. Paul and the Apostles entrusted to them the care of the flock of the faithful, becoming among the first ‘overseers’ of the Church, also later known as bishops, as predecessors of the episcopal system that we are all familiar with today. St. Timothy and St. Titus were great servants of God with great commitment and dedication to the Lord and His people, immensely contributing to the growth of the early Church and becoming good examples for their fellow Christians.

Both St. Timothy and St. Titus would eventually suffer martyrdom for their faith, as what was also very common at that time for many of the leaders of the Church and many others among the laypeople. They suffered for the sake of the Lord and the flock entrusted to them, and by their courageous defence of their faith they became inspiration for their fellow Christians, to be the leaders by example and to encourage all those who were filled with uncertainties and doubts in their faith.

In our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord commissioning and sending out His disciples to do the many works He has entrusted to them, to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits, to reveal the truth of God and His Good News to more and more people, to touch the lives of others and prepare the way for the Lord. He reminded all of them to be courageous and strong in faith, that although they would likely encounter challenges and difficulties throughout their journey but they would not be alone.

This is because God will guide them and be with them throughout the journey. He will provide for them and protect them, not allowing them to journey alone. He would strengthen them to bring forth His truth and peace to all the peoples of all the nations. That was all that the Lord did for all His servants, and many responded to His call and served Him. Many suffered and endured martyrdom for His sake, but they never gave up the faith

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that same Gospel passage, the Lord also appealed to us all to follow Him, as He said that while the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. This means that although there are so many opportunities for the Word of God and for His salvation to be spread ever further throughout this world, saving many more souls, but there are so few to pick up the work and do what we can to advance the cause of the Lord.

This is where all of us come in, brethren, as each and every one of us are bound by our baptism to the same calling that the Lord had made to His Apostles, in His calling for all of them to go forth and proclaim His Good News and salvation to the nations. Their work are not yet done, and we are needed to contribute ourselves to this cause. Are we willing and able to follow in their footsteps? Are we willing to walk in the path that our predecessors, such as St. Timothy and St. Titus had traversed?

Let us all discern these carefully, and consider what we can do, even in the smallest ways, in the littlest of contributions, to be the bearers of God’s truth and light in this world. Let us all live our lives with genuine faith so that all those who see us and witness our actions and works, all of them will come to believe in God as well, and more and more will be saved, through us. May God help us all and strengthen our faith, and may the holy saints, St. Timothy and St. Titus, pray for us always. Amen.

Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, marking the momentous event when the great enemy of the Church and the faithful, Saul the young Pharisee turned towards God and became a convert, and eventually becoming one of the greatest champions and defenders of the Christian faith against all the threats rising up that time against the followers of the Lord.

Saul was a young and zealous Pharisee who was deeply involved in the persecutions of early Christians, and he was present at the moment when St. Stephen was martyred and stoned to death. He was also instrumental in leading the efforts of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council in their attempts to destroy the Church and the followers of Christ in its earliest moments. Saul went from place to place and carried out often violent attacks and arrests against the followers of the Lord.

Therefore, it was most unlikely and unexpected for Saul to be called by God, and yet, God called him and spoke to him as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christian faithful and destroy the Church there. The Lord revealed Himself to Saul and spoke of how his actions had been misled and mistaken. Saul turned towards the Lord and was baptised as a Christian. And from then on henceforth, he became a courageous and faithful defender of the faith and worked hard to bring the Good News of God to all the peoples.

That was how St. Paul the Apostle came to be. Much like Simon being called by the Lord and was bestowed the new name of Peter (the ‘Rock’) by the Lord, and even earlier on, as Abram, the father of many nations, upon his making of a Covenant with God, became Abraham, thus the change in name from Saul to Paul also signified this change in attitude and life, from one that was filled with wickedness and misguided anger against the Lord and His faithful, to one that is guided and entrusted fully to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we are all called to reflect on our own conversion. For all of us, we have been baptised and therefore called to share in the same ministry and calling that St. Paul himself had received from the Lord. All of us are partakers of this same calling and ministry as those who have gone before us and responded to the Lord’s call, in being His faithful witnesses and in standing up for their faith in Him.

As we can see how this terrible and most unworthy sinner, who had caused so much grief and suffering for the early Christians, could be converted and turned to the path of righteousness, becoming one of the greatest champions of the faith, thus, all of us we are also able to respond to the Lord’s call and be transformed by His power and love, His grace and mercy to be true witnesses and as faithful servants of His cause. Through the Lord, everything is made possible, and we can indeed be strengthened in all things through Him.

Are we then willing to take up our crosses and follow our Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Indeed, we have been called by the Lord, but it is really up to us to accept this calling and respond to Him. If we are willing to respond to Him just as St. Paul had done then we will be just like him and the other Apostles, as the true and faithful bearers of our Christian faith in the midst of our communities in this darkened world.

Brothers and sisters, let us all open our hearts and minds, and allow the Lord to enter into our lives, and allow Him to transform us and work His wonders through us that all of us may carry out His will obediently and bring about many good things for everyone all around us, that more and more people may come to know the Lord to us, be called to the same faith we have, and be saved.

Let us all faithfully continue all the good works that the Apostles and their successors had begun, and let us all contribute to the best of our abilities, to the good works of the Church in proclaiming the truth of the Gospels, the Good News of salvation and the eternal life in Christ. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and may God strengthen us all in faith, as we continue journeying through life, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 23 January 2021 : 2nd 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 through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures all of us are again reminded of the redemptive work that Our Lord Himself had done for our sake on the Cross, and that by offering Himself as a worthy sacrifice for our sake and for our sins He has delivered us and led us into a new hope and a new life through Him. By His perfect obedience He has overcome the disobedience of man, and revealed to us the depths of God’s love.

And again we are also presented with the Lord as our High Priest Who has overcome the sins of mankind by His singular act of supreme love on the Cross, that for once and for all He has accomplished the offering for the atonement for our sins, by the outpouring of His own Most Precious Blood, the Blood of the Lamb of God. This Blood is far more precious than the blood of any lamb or sacrificial animals that had been prescribed by the old laws of Moses.

Then Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the High Priest Himself is truly superior to the other priests, as while those priests of the Lord needed to offer for the sake of themselves and their own sins first, before they were to offer for the sake of the people, here is the Sinless One, Who had willingly embraced our humanity so that He could unite all of us and our every intentions, our cries for mercy and forgiveness, and offer them all through Himself to God, His heavenly Father.

Thus, there was no longer need for any sacrifices as prescribed by the old laws and the Covenant of Moses, and the Lord has promised all of us that if we believe in Him, and put our faith and trust in Him, we shall no longer need to be afraid, for He Himself will stand by us and through Him we have been healed. And then, if we are curious why is it that in the Church we are still celebrating the Eucharist during every single celebration of the Holy Mass, that is because the Holy Mass is not a repeat or a mere reminder of the Sacrifice of Christ, Our High Priest at Calvary.

On the contrary, the Holy Mass is the eternal celebration of the Sacrifice at Calvary itself, the very same Sacrifice that the Lord made at that day, when He shed His Blood and cast His Body onto the Cross, to bear our sins and all the multitudes of the weight and burden of the whole entire consequences and punishments due for those sins. By His power and authority, He has entrusted to His Church and to all of His priests, the power to turn the bread and wine at the Holy Mass to be the very substance and real existence of His own Precious Body and Blood.

And just as He has said, that He is the Bread of Life, and that all who partake and eat of this Bread of Life shall live forever and not perish, thus all of us who partake and receive the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Our Lord, the Lord Crucified at Calvary, shall have eternal life and a new life and existence through Him. As long as we put our trust and faith in Him, we shall not perish and will not be shaken by the evil forces arrayed against us.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, let us all turn towards the Lord with a new heart and with a new spirit, that all of us may grow to love Him with ever greater zeal and commitment, going forward in life. Let us all be ever grateful for the love, kindness and compassion that God has shown us ever so generously all these while, by giving us the best and the most perfect manifestation of His love through Christ, His Son.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the courage to live our lives with passion and the desire to follow Him and to serve Him in each and every moments of our living existence. May God bless us always in our every good endeavours and may He remain with us always, all the times. Amen.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard of the Lord’s assurance of a New Covenant that He had made with us all, His beloved people in our first reading today, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presented the Lord Jesus as the Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant replacing the old Covenant between God and His people Israel.

The old Covenant, the old laws and ways, the practices of the past linked to that older pact no longer applied to anyone, after the Lord had revealed and sealed that New Covenant. The New Covenant was sealed by the loving sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Eternal High Priest on the Cross, as He laid His life bare on the Cross, as the Lamb to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been saved.

Through this New Covenant, God had made full His promises to us, His promise to love us all and show His compassion to the very end. Each and every one of us have a share in this love, and the Lord had offered Himself as our High Priest before His heavenly Father, for the atonement and the forgiveness of all of our sins. His suffering and death were meant for us, and all of us have been called to partake in this New Covenant He had made with us.

God had revealed the fullness of His laws, all of His truth to His people as part of this Covenant, as He also sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth, which He has revealed and passed down to us through His Church, by the sending of His Apostles to be the ones leading the charge in spreading His Good News and the truth He has revealed to us. In the calling of the Apostles, God has also called us all to follow in their footsteps, that we should also serve Him as those whom God had called had done earlier.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Apostles were sent before the Lord to places to preach and to reveal His truth, and they were also given the power to heal and to cast out demons, doing the many good works of God. Their work did not stop with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, but in fact, guided by the Holy Spirit and the commission that God entrusted to them, they went forth to the many peoples of many nations, spreading the Word of God and calling many people to be a disciple and follower too.

They helped to build the Church and were truly its important foundation, and now, all of us who are members of the Church and belonging among Christ’s faithful ones, we have been entrusted with the same responsibility, as part of the Covenant that God has established with us, and which we have received generously through baptism. And therefore we are all called to live up to the Lord’s call, follow Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Today, we should reflect on the life and works of St. Vincent, holy Deacon and Martyr, whose examples can be great inspiration on how we can follow the Lord wholeheartedly in each and every moments of our lives. St. Vincent was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, one of the Deacons of Saragossa in Spain, the modern day Zaragoza, serving the bishop and local Christian community, occupying a very important position in the Church.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian carried out intense persecution against Christians, which caused many martyrs to emerge, and St. Vincent was one of these martyrs. St. Vincent was arrested together with his bishop and was threatened with great torture and suffering, unless he would burn the Sacred Scriptures and publicly repudiate his Christian faith.

St. Vincent spoke fervently and courageously against this and refused any further attempts to turn him and the other Christians away from the Lord in order to save their own lives. And the way St. Vincent spoke, with great courage and wisdom, without fear and anxiety greatly angered his persecutors so much so that he was tortured terribly and martyred by being grilled on a gridiron, which he was to be renowned for. But even in suffering, he remained resolute, firm and calm in adhering to his faith, which touched even his jailer, who became a convert afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the martyrdom of St. Vincent, all of us are shown what it means to be a Christian. As Christians, we need to put God above all else, and foremost before anything else. And our lives must be centred and focused on Him. We should love Him more than anything else, and through our words and actions, we should commit ourselves to Him and not to allow our actions or words to scandalise our faith.

Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and let us all commit more and more time, effort and attention so that we may be ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of Him, that God will bless us and bring us all into the everlasting inheritance He has prepared for each one of us. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (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 called to reflect on the salvation and healing that we have received from Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, our High Priest and the One Who offered Himself to free us from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death. The Lord Jesus as mentioned in our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews is the One Who has liberated us and brought us to the hope of eternal life and glory.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke at length for the past two weeks’ weekday readings regarding the nature and the role that Christ had as the Mediator of the New Covenant that God had made with us all mankind. As the High Priest, He was the One to intercede for our sake, gathering our prayers and petitions, and therefore, our cry for help and mercy. He offered not the imperfect and inadequate offerings of lambs and animals, burnt offerings and others that the priests up to then had offered from time to time again for the people’s sake.

Jesus offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the perfect and worthy offering for all of us, that by laying down His life on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He shed His Most Precious Body and Blood, and by which we have been saved. For the offering of our High Priest has been accepted by God and the Lord has willingly forgiven us all through the Mediator of this New Covenant that He had made with all of us. The Lamb that had been slain, our High Priest, has shown us the pure and true face of God’s enduring love.

In our Gospel today, that is what we have seen as well, through the Lord’s healing of all those who came to Him seeking for help. He healed all those who were sick and with diseases, cast out evil spirits and freed those who had been possessed by demons. He touched the lives of those who came seeking God, and hence, we too should come and seek Him and find Him, as we are all in need of healing and help.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although we may be perfectly healthy in body, but in truth all of us are sick from sin. Sin is the affliction of our souls, caused by our disobedience and refusal to believe in God and His words. And the only one who can heal us from this affliction is none other than God Himself. But we need to accept Him and seek Him with all of our hearts, full of remorse and regret for our sins too.

Today, we are all called to reflect on this, to appreciate and to be thankful for the gift of God’s love, in just how generous He had been towards us, in caring for us and showing us much compassion despite how we have treated Him, rejected and ignored Him all these while. The Lord wants us all to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and therefore, let us all make the conscious effort to turn ourselves and our hearts once again towards Him.

And today, let us all also be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, in living our lives with faith so that we may come closer to God and be part of His eternal and glorious inheritance that He has prepared for all those who have been faithful to Him. Today in particular we remember the memory of St. Agnes the Martyr, the great Roman saint and martyr whose love for God and dedication was truly well known, and which we should be inspired to follow.

St. Agnes also known as St. Agnes of Rome was a young Christian girl from a noble Roman family who was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. At that time the last great persecution of Christians was occurring throughout the entire Roman Empire, and many people, both the laity and the ordained alike suffered and were martyred. St. Agnes herself was still very young at the time, and she had many suitors whom she rejected out of her love and dedication for God.

One of those suitors reported St. Agnes for her Christian faith, which made her to go through great pain and suffering. But when she was to be violated on the order of the authorities, God protected her and struck down blind those who tried to have their way with her. And after other miraculous signs in which the prefect’s own son returned to life after St. Agnes prayed over him, eventually she was stabbed and beheaded by a sword, dying as a holy martyr of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we love God as much as St. Agnes had done? Let us all spend our time and effort to grow ever more in our love and dedication to the Lord, and strive to be ever more faithful with each and every passing moments in life. May God also be with us at all times, strengthening us and giving us the courage to remain firm in our love for Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Scripture all of us are again brought to focus our attention on the love of God that He has shown us all through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord has kindly showed us His mercy and forgiveness, extending to us the compassionate hands of His Son, Our Saviour, to reach out to us and to free us from our bondage to sin and death.

In our first reading today, we continue to hear the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which today’s portion focused on the High Priest of God, Melchizedek, also known as the King of Salem. Melchizedek was a mysterious man who was highly regarded and a High Priest of the Lord no less, just as his title as the king of Salem bring about reminiscence of the name of the city of Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, the place of His holy Temple and House.

That is why, the Lord Jesus, Who is the High Priest of all mankind, the one True High Priest is often compared to Melchizedek. Some traditions and histories even had Melchizedek as a prefigurement of the Messiah and the Son of God, our Lord as the High Priest of all. Nonetheless, regardless of who Melchizedek truly was, Jesus was cast as the High Priest belonging to the order of Melchizedek, just as all of our priests are called the priests of the order of Melchizedek.

The significance of this is that, as High Priest, the Lord Jesus was the One Who offered on behalf of mankind their prayers and offerings. And as what we have discussed and discerned in the past few days, the Lord Jesus is our one and true High Priest, Who offered nothing less than Himself as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins. Through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has redeemed us by the price of His own Body and Blood shed on the Altar of the Cross.

Thus, unlike the other priests and High Priests, through this sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, all of us are assured the salvation in Him. He, our everlasting High Priest has given us this assurance Himself, and He has done everything in order to bring us to Himself, redeeming us from our sins and freeing is from the bondage of sin and from the tyranny of death. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the same love the Lord has shown us by His healing of a paralytic man, even when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised Him for that.

In that account, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law found great issue and were irritated that the Lord continued to perform healing and miracles even on the day of the Sabbath. To the former, the Sabbath was a sacred day dedicated to God that could not be disturbed or used for other purposes, or work. And the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were taking its interpretation to the extreme.

And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that the Law was not made to oppress or make the life difficult for any one of us. Instead, the Law was meant to remind us all to redirect our attention and focus to the Lord, to remind us that the Lord should be the centre of our lives and we should spend time with Him, to love Him and to remember all the kindness He has shown us.

The Sabbath was meant to help the people to overcome the temptation to get away from God and to forget Him just because they were so busy with their lives and their activities. It was not meant to prevent them from doing anything that is useful and good, and especially if good things can be done, even on the Sabbath, then they should be done, and in fact, not doing good and purposefully avoiding doing good is a gross misunderstanding of God’s Law.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through this all of us are therefore called to focus our attention on God, for the love that He has shown us and lavished on us all these while. God has always been kind to us even when we have disobeyed Him, rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him. When we have been stubborn, God has always been patient in reaching out to us with love, and we really should appreciate all of that.

Today, let us all be inspired by our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, both of whom served the Lord wholeheartedly and gave themselves and their lives in defending their faith. Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Church and the faithful during difficult and turbulent years when the Christian populations went through successions of persecutions by the Emperors of the Roman Empire and the state apparatus and authorities.

Pope St. Fabian himself dedicated his life to the service of the Lord and the Church, and took good care of the faithful, and even during those days, risked himself in his activities to provide for them all. In the end, he was martyred during the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius, who was indeed notorious for his particularly harsh persecution. However, Pope St. Fabian remained true to his calling and love for God to the very end.

Similarly, St. Sebastian was also a faithful servant of God, who was a member of the Roman military, secretly being a Christian in a largely pagan forces. It was told that St. Sebastian was a member of the Imperial guard, and at that time, the Emperor Diocletian took over power and governance over the whole Empire. And as the Emperor began a series of intense persecutions of the Christians, the members of the military were also obliged to obey the Emperor and offer sacrifices to the gods and the Emperor.

St. Sebastian steadfastly refused to abandon his faith in God or betray his conscience and love for God, and as a result, he was tortured and forced to recant his faith on the pain of death. To the end, when he was shot with many arrows and put through many other forms of sufferings and pain, St. Sebastian remained firm and committed himself as a true servant of the Lord, dying as a great martyr.

Brothers and sisters, clearly we can see how these two saints truly loved God from their heart, and if they had been able to do so, then should we not do the same as well? All of us ought to be inspired by their examples, and we should also encourage one another to be faithful to the Lord, to understand His laws and ways, and to love Him from our heart, and not just give Him lip service or fake faith.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our every endeavours. May God bless us always, and may He guide us all to eternal life and glory in Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded today that God is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us and our ancestors, and that He has loved us all beyond everything else, with a love so pure and great, that He has promised and made oath through the Covenant, that He will bless us forever and gather us all into His presence, unless we ourselves reject Him and refuse to believe in Him.

And this Covenant He has fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, sent into the world to be our Saviour. The Lord has dedicated Himself to us that He willingly embraced us personally, and descending from the heavens, He assumed our human nature and existence, that His love became concrete and tangible in Christ. Through the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the proven love of God in the flesh.

Then in our Gospel today, we heard of the confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His disciples because the disciples were picking on the grains in the field as they were hungry. Because this happened on the Sabbath day, by the strict literal interpretation of the law of God revealed by Moses and the Jewish traditions, that was considered as a violation of the Law of God. The law of the Sabbath stipulated that there should be no action or work done on that day.

However, if one were to understand the intent and purpose of the law of the Sabbath, then we will realise that the law of the Sabbath was not meant to oppress man and impose hardships on them, especially when they were in trouble or were in need. In fact, there had been occasions when the law was overruled such as when the Israelites agreed to act on the Sabbath when their enemies were about to overwhelm and destroy them on the Sabbath during the Maccabean rebellion.

And of course there was also the example presented by the Lord Jesus on the much revered King David of Israel himself with his men, when they were tired and hungry after being chased by their enemies during the difficult early years of his refuge from king Saul. King David and his men ate of the bread that was preserved only for the use of the priests in the House of God.

In all of these, we can see that the Law of God was not a law that is so strict and unreasonable, unlike how they were interpreted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who grew proud of their interpretation of the law and their own enforcement of such standards on the rest of the faithful, forgetting that the Law of God was first and foremost intended for the people of God to find their way and return to the Lord, that they may learn to love the Lord, Who has loved them first before all else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we listened to these readings from the Scripture, we are all reminded of the wonderful love which the Lord has shown to each and every one of us, the generous love by which He has blessed us all these while, from the smallest among to the greatest, from the greatest of sinners to the greatest of the holy ones, all without exception.

The Lord wanted us all to find Him and to respond to His call when He calls, that we may find our way in this increasingly darkened world, that we will not lose our way in our journey of life. Are we willing to look for the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him, brothers and sisters? Let us all reflect on this as we discern the meaning and importance of the words of the Lord that we have just heard today.

Let us all spend some time to thank the Lord in our hearts, and be appreciative of all that He has done for us. Let us all draw ever closer to Him and be ever more faithful at all times, and dedicate ourselves to Him, in our every actions and every commitment in life. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today we heard first of all the continuation of the discourse on the High Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, highlighting the role of the Lord Jesus that He took in order to bring the people of God to salvation through Him and His ultimate loving sacrifice on the Cross.

The author first began by highlighting the role that priests had in those days, as according to the law of God revealed through Moses, the priests were to offer sacrifices for the sake of the people, for many purposes. But those sacrifices were especially meant as means for mankind to be reconciled with God, for through those sacrifices, God would then forgive the people their sins. The priests interceded for the sake of the people as they offered the sacrifices on the Altar.

However, those sacrifices, which involved the offering of slaughtered animals like lambs and doves, were not permanent and lasting, and the priests had to offer the sacrifices again and again for themselves as well as for the people, for all were sinners and fell again and again into the traps and temptations to sin. And therefore the priests had continued offering the sacrifices for the people’s sins for all the centuries right up to the time of Jesus and His ministry.

The Epistle to the Hebrews directed at the believers from among the Jews and the Jewish people in general explained that with His coming, the Lord Jesus has brought about the perfection of the old Law, by revealing Himself as the one and Eternal true High Priest for all of us. He is the High Priest Who offered the one and final offering for the sake of our salvation, and by His offering, He has opened the path for all of us to reach God’s grace and everlasting love.

The Lord Jesus offered not the blood and sacrifice of animals on the Altar like what the priests had done earlier. Instead, He as the High Priest, was also the sacrificial Lamb of offering, the Paschal Lamb that was slain for us on the Altar of the Cross, when the Lord bore His Cross to Calvary and died, shedding His Precious Body and Blood for the sake of all of us. From the Cross, He lifted up that perfect and most worthy offering to His heavenly Father, completing once and for all the redemption of all mankind.

This is what we have heard from the Gospel passage today as well. In that passage we heard the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who argued with the Lord and asked Him why He and His disciples did not fast as stipulated by the laws of God revealed through Moses, which the Pharisees and the disciples of St. John the Baptist did. And then, the Lord said that He was revealing the truth about all things, and using the parable of the wine and wineskin, the new and old piece of cloth, He told them all of the new way that He Himself was about to show them.

That parable of the wine and the wineskin, as well as the parable of the new and old pieces of cloth spoke of the incompatibility between old and new ways, the old and new practices. The Lord was highlighting the differences between the way that the Law used to be practiced and interpreted, and preserved by the Pharisees, and the truth that He had then brought to the midst of the people.

The Lord has made a New and everlasting Covenant with each and every one of us, as our one and true Eternal High Priest. No longer that the sin offerings and animal sacrifices need to be made, for the Lord Himself has offered the perfect offering to the Lord, His own Self, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, slaughtered and made to die on the Altar of the Cross. And by His own Precious Blood, He sealed this New Covenant between God and us mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard today’s readings, let us all first of all be grateful of the great love that the Lord has for each and every one of us, that for our sake, He willingly went through the worst of sufferings, and picked up upon Himself our punishment, that through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, He may free us all from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death, and by sharing in His Resurrection, we too may enter into the glorious new existence and life in Him.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us on our journey of faith, at all times. May all of us grow ever stronger in faith and our love of the Lord, so that no matter what happens, we will be ever faithful and be good witnesses of our Christian faith, our love for God, in our communities, as shining beacons and examples of the truth of God, now and always. Amen.