Monday, 26 October 2020 : 30th 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 Scripture we are presented with the reminder for us to be genuine Christians in our lives, and not to be hypocrites and lukewarm in living as Christians. The Lord has called all of us to be fully committed and be filled with love for Him and our fellow men, in each and every moments of our lives.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, we heard the Apostle reminding the faithful in that city to keep their Christian faith and dedicate themselves to the Lord and His path, that they should always put God before anything else, and strive to follow the Lord’s path in their livelihood and actions.

St. Paul reminded the people there to keep themselves away from all sorts of impurities and sins, all wickedness and evils, all negative thoughts and actions that lead to sin. He told them to be exemplary in all of their actions, be it in small or significant things that they truly became faithful and genuine witnesses of their Christian faith before everyone else. Otherwise, they were no better than hypocrites.

In our Gospel today, we heard about the confrontation between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees, who saw the Lord healing a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years, a very long time indeed. And the Lord healed her even though it was plainly in the sight of all and on the day of the Sabbath. We may think that there is no issue with this at all, as after all the Lord was doing great things for God’s glory.

However, to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, mentioned as the rulers of the Synagogues, at that time, what the Lord has done was an aberration and travesty, tantamount to blasphemy and committing evil deeds, as they believed that the Sabbath day is a day when no activity of all sorts were allowed, regardless of the type of action and the circumstances and intentions behind them.

They rigidly interpreted and enforced the Law, that even as the Lord showed love and mercy to the suffering woman, they grumbled and were unhappy seeing what He has done before them and the people. They would rather that the woman suffered longer than to be flexible in their enforcement and application of the Law. Their insistence in enforcing strictly the laws of Moses showed how they failed to understand and appreciate their faith properly.

The Law of God, as the Lord made it very clear, is not meant to oppress or make the people to suffer. The Law of God is meant for the people to rediscover their love and devotion to God, to remind them of the necessary things for them to do, in order to direct their effort and attention on God. Through the Law, including the Law regulating the Sabbath, God wants us all to keep and devote some time, reminding us that He is the chief priority of our lives.

That is why, the Sabbath was meant for keeping a sacred and special time for the people that they might spend it with God and keep themselves from all the distractions and the temptations that the world usually brought to them. Instead, the people ended up focusing on the wrong things, focusing excessively on the minute details, on how each observances of the Sabbath could be done, rather than focusing on the intention of the Law.

Through His healing of the woman suffering for such a long time, the Lord in fact wanted to show them His wonderful love. He wanted us to recognise this love and learn to love Him more and more. And how do we do this, brothers and sisters? It is by living righteously and virtuously in accordance to His Law, dedicating ourselves, our time, attention and effort on Him.

May the Lord help each and every one of us to remain more faithful to Him, and may He bless each and every one of us in our every good endeavours from now on. May God bless us all at all times, and guide us in the journey of life. May God be with us, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 25 October 2020 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are reminded by God through the words of the Scripture of what it means for us to be Christians in loving and obeying God’s will and His laws and commandments. As we all have heard, primarily, the Law and commandments of God are about love, the love of God first and foremost before all else, and the love of our fellow neighbours, our fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord.

This is why as Christians we cannot be ignorant of this Law and our need to obey the Lord with true and sincere devotion. We have to recognise that through the love of God each and every one of us have been immensely blessed, favoured and are truly fortunate. It was because of this love which God showed us that the whole world could have been saved. For it was our fate that we ought to have been condemned and destroyed for our sins, but God’s enduring love for us did not allow that to happen.

That was what the Lord Himself had mentioned in the Book of Exodus on the instructions He gave the people of Israel that He had led out of the land of Egypt regarding matters such as how they ought to treat one another, behave as His people and His followers. The Lord told them that they ought to do good to others, and not to oppress them, just as they themselves had been rescued from oppression and slavery in Egypt. They should take good care of those who were vulnerable like widows and orphans, and they were also not to take advantage and make profits over others.

Essentially, the Lord wants each and every one of us to follow His examples in love, to show genuine love and compassion to each other, and not hatred, anger, or to be jealous or egoistic in our actions and interactions with one another. The Lord wants us to be truly faithful to Him and obey His Law with understanding of His intentions of why He has given us His laws. And it is that He wants us to turn to Him and find our way to Him, to rediscover the love which we ought to have for Him, and centre our lives once again on Him.

Unfortunately, as the Lord gave His people the Law and made His Covenant with them, they refused to obey Him and often went against Him and betrayed Him for other gods and by their wicked deeds. As soon as God made a Covenant with them, and not long after He liberated them from Egypt and led them out of slavery, with mighty deeds and showing His love to them before their own eyes, they chose to erect for themselves a golden calf to be worshipped as a false god and idol.

And over many times throughout the Exodus and their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites had repeatedly doubted the Lord, complained and groaned against Him, complaining that they did not have enough or they had it much better even in slavery in Egypt, when the Lord had obviously shown great care and love for them, giving them provisions of the heavenly bread manna each day, as well as flocks of birds in the evening and good water to drink throughout their long journey in the lifeless and empty desert.

That was why God gave Moses series of instructions and rules, which eventually became the Law of Moses as codified in the Torah. God wanted His people to follow those rules and obey them in the context of that time, when they were constantly disobeying Him and therefore were in great danger of falling into damnation and destruction. For those who continued to sin and refused to turn towards the Lord would be judged by their own sins, by their own conscious choice to refuse the love and mercy of God.

Therefore, even in all these, we can see what God’s true intention was when He gave His Law to His people. It was out of His love for them, His desire to be reconciled with them and to keep them away from destruction that would surely happen to them if they disobeyed Him and continued to live in sin. The Law was meant to be a guide and inspiration for them all to follow and obey that they might discipline themselves and keep their wicked desires and all the temptations of the world in check.

Unfortunately, all of these were misunderstood and the true meaning and purpose of the Law ended up being forgotten as time passed on. The people ended up seeing the Law as merely a formality and even for some, a burden to be fulfilled lest they incurred the wrath of God. The people misunderstood God’s intentions and became fearful of Him. And this became worse as over the centuries, modifications and extensions of the Law, its interpretation by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law ended up misleading the faithful and the people.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were very strict in their observance of the Law, and it was such that they caused great difficulty for the people in their enforcement of the standards of the rules and regulations, that many of the people were unable to keep up with its standards. Unfortunately, in truth, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves were unable to observe all of those laws according to their own standards.

That was likely why the Pharisees asked the Lord, what is the most important commandment in the Law, partly to test the Lord and also partly out of their own desire to know that out of all those rules, regulations and commandments, which one was the most important one. And out of all these, in their busy preoccupations and being distracted by their obsession in obeying the Law according to their own flawed and incomplete understanding and interpretation.

The Lord therefore wants us all to realise that first of all God loves each and every one of us without exception. And through the Law that God has granted and revealed to us, the Lord wanted to show us the path leading us to Himself, through love. As the Lord plainly and clearly explained to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, that the whole Law, in its entirety, can be summarised into two main laws, that is in itself is all about love.

Just as the Lord has loved us all so much, that He has cared for us and given us His Law to guide us down the right path, to prevent us from falling into sin, then each and every one of us should indeed love Him first and foremost, in the same manner as He has loved us from the very beginning. That is why our lives must be Christ-centric, revolving around God and His teachings and ways. We should focus our time, effort and attention on the Lord and do whatever we can to serve Him and glorify Him.

And in order to do so, we have to love our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and fellow men too. We cannot truly love God if we have not loved our fellow brethren in the same way that we love ourselves. After all, if we truly love God, then shouldn’t we also love those whom God has loved? If God loves each and every one of us equally without any exception, and shows mercy and compassion even to the greatest of sinners, then why can’t we do the same as well?

Many of us may think that being faithful Christians just means for us to fulfil our obligations such as going to the Holy Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligations, fast and abstain during the times stipulated by the Church and others. But these laws and rules established by the Church ultimately came from the Law of God, as revealed and fleshed out by the Lord Himself through His Apostles. And we have clearly heard how the Lord intended for us to love Him. In the same way, all those laws of the Church are meant to lead us towards God.

That is why, we cannot be lukewarm in living our faith. Many of us grumbled and complained even in fulfilling the basic obligations of our faith, and were not fully attentive and participative at the Holy Mass. We cannot wait until we can resume our daily routines and other worldly things in our minds, and we even consider all of that a waste of our precious time. Aren’t we ashamed of our lack of faith and our inappropriate conduct, brothers and sisters in Christ?

We must not forget that the Holy Mass is a constant reminder of the loving sacrifice that the Lord Himself had done for our sake from the Cross. He willingly bore our sins and all of their consequences, all the punishments due for us, on His own shoulders, bearing the wounds and hurts, all the sufferings for our sake. He poured His own Precious Blood to mark and seal a new Covenant with each and every one of us, the New and Eternal Covenant of Love, as a tangible and true revelation and evidence of His enduring love.

The Lord Himself had shown the perfect example of love to each and every one of us, by loving all of us, His brothers and sisters, and also obeying His heavenly Father’s will, bringing the Law in its fullness and showing us that it is indeed possible to be truly obedient to the Law. What matters then is, are we willing to follow the Lord’s examples and love Him, and love one another just in the manner that He has shown us? Or are we too busy with ourselves, to selfish, too distracted by temptations and desires to be able to do this?

As Christians, let our actions be filled with love, and not just any kind of love, but selfless and genuine love, especially towards all those who need this love. We should reach out to those who are unloved, rejected by others, and as the Lord Himself said, that we should love even all of our enemies, all those who have hurt us, forgiving them and asking for forgiveness ourselves, for any of the faults and hurts that we may have intentionally or unintentionally inflicted on them.

In our world today, there has been a lot of hatred, anger, injustice and many other things caused by the selfishness of mankind. And because of this, our calling as Christians is to be the difference, to show love where there has been anger and hatred, to show forgiveness, compassion and mercy where there has been conflict, divisions and disputes, to show the selfless love of God when we are frequently tempted to put ourselves and our selfish desires above the needs of others.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be true Christians in our daily living is not going to be easy. If we find it easy to be Christians, that is likely because we have not done what we should have done as Christians, as those whom the Lord had called and chosen to be His people. It is by our deeds and by our humble faith and obedience to God’s will that all will know of God’s love through us, and they will come to know that we truly are God’s people, and more and more will come to believe in Him as well.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be more faithful from now on, in how we live our lives and in how we act in each and every moments of our lives, to be the bearers of God’s love, dedicating ourselves to love God and to love all of God’s people, reaching out to those who are unloved and less fortunate than us, and sharing whatever blessings God had given to us, that all of us may truly be blessed together in love. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, continue to love each and every one of us, bless us and take good care of us, as He has done all these while. Amen.

Saturday, 24 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we listened to the words of the Lord reminding us of the gifts that each of us have been given by God, and how we need to dedicate ourselves to Him or else, if we do not, we will be found wanting for our lack of faith, and for our lack of fruitfulness in that faith, as per what we heard of the Lord’s words in our Gospel passage today, that all those who sin and do not repent, and act in accordance with faith, will be condemned.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus in which he spoke of the various gifts and talents that God has given to us His people, in its variety of calling and missions entrusted to us. And through this, God wants us all to know that we are all as members of the same Church of God, must be active in living our faith and in committing ourselves to the mission God has entrusted to us. We must support each other in the fulfilment of the successful ministry of the Church.

Not everyone has been called to be priests, or missionaries, or married people with families, each and every one of us have our own respective calling in life. Each of us has been given unique sets of talents and abilities that we can use to fulfil these callings we have received from God, to touch the lives of others and to bring God’s love and light to one another. We can help one another as members of God’s Church, working in tandem to accomplish many things together.

St. Paul continued on in saying how Christ is the Head of the Church and all the faithful are parts of the same Body of Christ, that is the Church. As he spoke of how the parts of the Body are working together in tandem and cohesion with each other, therefore all of us are members of the Church ought to work together as well, cooperate and do our best in our respective capacities, that we may be able to coordinate our efforts for the greater glory of God and to fulfil the mission He has entrusted to all of us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to us through the examples of the Galileans who died in the struggle between the Roman governor and the locals, and also those people who perished in the tower of Siloah. The Lord wanted to make examples of those cases known to the people who heard Him, that they perished not because of their own sins and misdeeds, and they did not perish just because they were more wicked but all would perish unless they repented from their sins.

This is to highlight to us all that we have to stay away from sin, and we have to do what we can as Christians, living our faith virtuously and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. We have to play our part as Christians in being part of the Body of Christ, in reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters, as Christians, all committed to dedicate our time, effort and attention on serving the Lord to the best of our abilities. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to do this?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the founder of the Claretians and also an Archbishop, renowned for his works in Cuba as the shepherd of the faithful. He was a dedicated shepherd who gave much of his effort and attention on his flock, caring for their needs and providing for them. St. Anthony Mary Claret was instrumental in his work and efforts in reaching out to his people, touching the lives of many and converting many to the faith.

When he was recalled to Spain to become the Queen of Spain’s confessor, St. Anthony Mary Claret continued to dedicate his life and efforts to serve the poor and care for those who are in need of spiritual guidance and help. He devoted much time and effort to establish schools and education for the people among other efforts. Through all these, we can see how St. Anthony Mary Claret had done with whatever has been placed under his power to contribute to the Church of God.

We can also do the same with our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ. And we are all called to follow the Lord as St. Anthony Mary Claret and the other saints had done, to give our very best in our respective capacities and callings in life, be it as those whom God had called to be His priests and missionaries, or as the members of the laity and all who have been called to lead good examples of Christian living in our families, showing how each and every one of us can serve the Lord together, and complement each other in our efforts. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours, for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded to live our lives as Christ-like as possible, that is heeding what St. Paul and the Lord had told us through the readings of the word of God today. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul exhorted the faithful to live faithfully as members of the one Church of God, while the Lord in our Gospel passage today told us to be always ever ready for everything.

In our first reading today, we heard the conclusion of a relatively long series of discourses the past few weekdays from this Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which centred a lot of attention on the divisions within the Christian community and Church, as the many among Jewish converts disagreed with the non-Jews or Gentiles who had also become converts as well.

The Jewish converts who belonged to the Pharisees group wanted to impose the strict observance of the laws of Moses and their even stricter interpretation and impose all these on all the Christian faithful. As I mentioned earlier, many of these practices and rigours would have made it very difficult and even impossible for the Gentiles to follow the Lord as that would have made them having to adjust immensely, which was not easily done or acceptable at that time.

Hence, St. Paul came to be the peacemaker and also intermediary between these two groups, and reinforced the same decision of the Apostles made earlier that the old observances of the Law should only be done in its utmost essentials, and removing the obligation to all the unnecessary excesses of the old Law and the Pharisees’ interpretation of it.

St. Paul reminded the faithful community in Ephesus that God loved all of them equally, all of mankind without any prejudice or favouritism. And what God wanted was not the excessively harsh application of the laws of Moses, but rather for His people to love Him wholeheartedly, sincerely and genuinely, and for them to show the same love to their fellow men, no longer divided by categories like whether they were Jews or Gentiles, or whether they were servants or free.

This is what the Lord has told us all that we need to be exemplary in our Christian way of life, in how we interact with one another with actions founded upon the basic Christian principles and tenets. In the Gospel passage today, the Lord told us all to be vigilant and ready, that is to live our lives in the most Christian manner from now, and not to delay any longer.

We can see this from how He rebuked the people for recognising the signs of nature, of seasons and others, and yet implying that they could not recognise the imminent coming of the kingdom of God through Christ. And in the latter part, He said that those who had not made peace ought to settle their matter beforehand, before they reached the judge, or otherwise, they would have to account for their mistakes and wrongdoing.

Therefore, it is a kind reminder from the Lord that we must be reconciled to Him, abandon our sinful ways and adapt His truth so that we will be found worthy on the day of Judgment. And we should do our best to live up our lives to the fullest, as Christians, dedicating ourselves to walk in God’s path, in being virtuous and just. We have to be the shining beacons of our Christian faith and calling, and we cannot be ignorant or lukewarm about these.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? We should seek inspiration from our holy predecessors, the saints, and kkwtoday, in particular we should look upon the examples of St. John of Capestrano, the Franciscan priest who was once the governor of Perugia and a diplomat, who received a calling to religious life, when he received a vision of St. Francis of Assisi which inspired him to follow his calling as a Franciscan, and devoted himself from thereafter to the mission of the Church.

St. John of Capestrano was a renowned reformer of the Church, who was involved in the purification of the Church and in the reforms of many of its practices, helping the Church and the faithful to rediscover their true faith. Many people were helped by his efforts, and in his role as a frequent papal diplomat and emissary, St. John of Capestrano also helped to reconcile the opposing and conflicting factions in the Church. In the end, he was also a soldier who was involved in the defence of Christendom, fighting against the enemies of the faithful with great courage and devotion.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern how each and every one of us can be more dedicated to the Lord, in each and every moments of our lives, following the examples of St. John of Capestrano and other multitudes of saints. May the Lord be with us and may He continue to guide us in our journey of life, that we may always ever walk with Him in His grace and love, at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 22 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded to put God at the centre of our lives, to make Him the pivot around which our whole lives revolve. The Lord has blessed us so much and so wonderfully, and yet, many of us still do not appreciate all that we have been blessed with. We ignored His love and were apathetic to Him, and all these were because of the lack of genuine faith in our hearts.

That is why we are reminded yet again today to refocus our lives on God and ask ourselves, what is truly the meaning and significance of our Christian faith? It is by following God with all of our hearts, by being virtuous and by practicing our faith with real and sincere actions, in each and every moments of our lives.

Today, through the Gospel passage we have just heard, we are told of the reality of being a Christian, that may bring us tough challenges and difficulties as we go forward faithfully in life as Christians. The Lord Himself told His disciples frankly how His coming into this world, His work and revelation of truth would bring divisions, struggles, challenges and difficulties for all of them. This means that we should not expect that becoming Christians would bring about happiness, joy and satisfaction for our lives.

This especially refers to those who claim and think that by believing with God, we will be endowed with blessings and good things, the false theology and teaching called the ‘Prosperity Gospel’. Instead, we must always be prepared to defend our faith and to be prepared in case we have to face opposition and ridicule, rejection and hardships because of our adherence to the faith and to our Christian tenets and the truth of God.

It does not mean that we will necessarily suffer and endure hardships, but neither should we expect that life will be smooth-sailing for us just because we believe in God. And ultimately, these divisions came about not because the Lord desires this deplorable state of disunity. Rather, it is our own stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to the Lord and our disobedience that led to these divisions.

It is because we as Christians standing faithfully by the Lord and His righteous path, that we face conflicts, divisions and persecutions from those who refuse to believe in the Lord. Our righteousness and faithful way of life are abomination and terror for those who have chosen the wicked path of life, without faith in God and those who disagreed with His truth.

This is where, our wonderful saint today can show us so much how to live faithfully in accordance with God’s will even amidst the greatest of challenges and difficulties. Karol Jozef Wojtyla, later known as Pope St. John Paul II, was one of the most renowned leaders of the Church as the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, known for being the first non-Italian pope in over four centuries, as well as for his long reign of almost twenty-seven years.

Pope St. John Paul II was born in Poland in the town of Wadowice not long after the end of the First World War and the independence of Poland, after great destructions and all the horrors of war that had occurred. He lost his family and loved ones early on, and he faced challenges that were truly great as his country edged on into war, and as Poland was conquered and occupied before he even turned twenty, he did not have it easy.

Even as the young Karol Wojtyla entered the seminary and studied to be a priest, he had to do it in secret due to the difficult conditions at the time, and he spent those years amidst bitter conflicts that happened and killed multitudes, including those whom he knew personally. And when the war and NAZI Germany atrocities were over, immediately the Communists led by the Soviet Union took over.

The young Pope St. John Paul II spent his early years of priesthood amidst the increasingly difficult situation for the Church and as many were persecuted for remaining loyal to the Church and their faith in God. When he was chosen as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then later on as the Archbishop of Krakow, only more challenges faced him and his flock. He faced opposition to his efforts to care for his flock, and when a new church was to be built in a new town called Nowa Huta, the authorities tried to prevent its building, in a city without church in the attempt by the atheist Communist government to oppress the Church and the faithful.

Yet, all these did not stop the Archbishop from eventually prevailing and had the church built after over a decade of struggle, and when Karol Wojtyla was elected as the Pope and Supreme Pontiff in the Year of Our Lord 1978, he continued to labour hard for the sake of all the faithful. And even through an assassination attempt just few years into his Pontificate, which left him injured quite badly, as well as other challenges and troubles the Church had to face, up to the personal sufferings and physical disabilities caused by Parkinson’s Disease towards the end of his Pontificate, Pope St. John Paul remained firm in his dedication to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see from the well-known life and examples of Pope St. John Paul II that to be Christians does not necessarily mean that we will have smooth-sailing and good life without troubles. Trials, challenges and troubles can beset us at any time, and if we are not firm enough with our faith, we may end up being dragged down the path of sin. We must instead stay strong and resolute, and follow the inspiring example of Pope St. John Paul II in his faith and devotion to God.

Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment from now on, striving to be good and faithful Christians at all times and in every moments of our lives, in our every actions and interactions with one another. May God bless us all and may He guide us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings, all of us are reminded that God has revealed His love and truth, His salvation to each and every one of us through His Church that has been passed down to us from the Apostles who heard all these from the Lord Himself. The Lord has shown us His love and grace, and He has revealed to us how much He cared for each and every one of us and He will entrust all things to us. But we must not take all these for granted.

First of all, in our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, of the Lord Who has called all of us mankind to Himself, extending His grace and salvation to all, to both Jewish and non-Jewish people alike. Contextually, we need to understand that at that time, the Jews believed that they, as God’s chosen people, the descendants of the Israelites, were those whom God had favoured and no one else had the right and privilege like theirs.

That was why many of the Jews, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them, held the view that the Gentiles, a term used to describe the non-Jewish people, being pagans, were wicked and unworthy of God, sinners and they would perish and be destroyed. Those who wished to be saved must abandon their identity and embrace the Law of Moses, and became one of the Jewish community, severing their ties to their previous culture and identity.

But what St. Paul said was that, God did not intend for this to happen. And as a matter of fact, God called all of His people, loved them equally, whether they were culturally Jews or descended from the Israelites or not. God has revealed His love and His Good News to all, and sent His disciples, St. Paul and all the others, to be witnesses of this truth and love, to all the nations and to all peoples. We have therefore also heard these from the Lord and been called to be part of His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should also take heed of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as we listened to the parable that the Lord Jesus used to explain to His disciples the need for all of them to live a virtuous and responsible Christian life. He used the example of stewards appointed and entrusted by their master to bring forward His point to them.

Each and every one of us are those stewards, entrusted by God with the care of this world and its people. God has blessed us and He has given us the means and the abilities to carry out these responsibilities in these lives we have, in our respective areas of responsibility. However, are we willing to embrace these with faith and commitment?

We have been called, and unfortunately, many of us were too busy to respond to the Lord’s call, and we slackened and waited, refusing to do what we were supposed to do in our lives to be committed and good Christians. In this manner, we were just like that lazy and wicked steward mentioned in the Lord’s parable in our Gospel today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life. May the Lord continue to guide us as we proceed on in life, in following His will and in obeying His commandments and living our faith life with sincere and firm devotion. Let us seek the Lord’s guidance in all things, and walk with Him in the path that He has set before us. Let us embrace wholeheartedly the mission which the Lord has entrusted to us. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture passages, a reminder that as Christians and members of God’s Church, we must always be first and foremost, dedicated to God and centre our lives on Him. For it was through God that all of us have been vindicated and liberated from the chains of our sins. And as long as we live, we should glorify the Lord by our lives, at all times.

The first reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians highlighted very, very clearly the role that Christ our Lord has played in the salvation of all mankind. The Lord Jesus has made peace between us and God, and He has reconciled us through His Cross, which reconnected us to God’s love and grace. By His perfect and humble obedience on the Cross, Christ has bridged what was once a great chasm separating us from God that was impossible to cross.

He came when we had no hope and were in wretched state. He extended God’s love and compassionate mercy to us, and redeemed us with love when we were in the greatest need for His love, care and mercy. He made a new Covenant with us when we were in darkness, lost and were distracted by sin, calling on all of us to return to Him with love and sincere faith and commitment. We can therefore see just how generous the Lord had been towards us all these while.

And all these are very timely kind reminders from the Lord to us, that each and every one of us ought to be ready and prepared for the Lord by living our lives each day with the full conviction and desire to proclaim our Christian faith through our lives, to serve the Lord and glorify His Name by our every living moments. We must always be ever ready and prepared, as the Lord reminds us again today, how the time of reckoning may come at any time, and we do not want to be caught unprepared.

How do we then live our lives that we truly become worthy of our Christian faith and God? We can therefore look upon the examples of the Lord Himself, as He dedicated Himself completely and humbly to obey the will of His heavenly Father, in reaching out to us all, the wretched children of mankind, in loving us all even when we have not been faithful and obedient to Him, and when we have abandoned and betrayed Him for false gods and idols.

We are all called to love as generously as the Lord has loved, to show the love of God in everything that we say and do, in all of our interactions with one another. We should be faithful bearers of our Christian faith in our community, and to be beacons of God’s light, to love and care where others had caused hurt and injury, to bring forgiveness and compassion where hatred and jealousy, anger and divisions had once reigned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to be true disciples of Christ, not just in appearances or formality, but in real deeds, in all the little things we do that bring honour and glory to God. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in this way, brothers and sisters? God has called and chosen us to be His followers, but are we ready and willing to dedicate ourselves and answer His call definitively?

Let us all discern God’s call carefully, and think of what each and every one of us can do in order to respond to His call. Let us all wait no more, and give our very best to serve God and to love Him with all of our hearts, by living virtuously and most-Christianlike in all of our works and efforts, actions and interactions. Let us bring God’s light, truth, compassion and hope to this world, that through our efforts, more and more people can be saved. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 19 October 2020 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the Lord’s generous love and providence, all that He had done for our sake, in caring for us and giving us our freedom and for bringing us out from our fated destruction. The Lord has called on all of us to have faith in Him, to put our trust and also be humble, as much as we can.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus on the Lord and how His love for us has rescued us from the depth of darkness and destruction, liberating us from the fate that we ought to have suffered because of our sins and disobedience against Him. God has given us this wonderful gift thanks to His enduring love for each and every one of us.

And therefore, we are reminded that we have been saved by God’s grace and love, and not by our own might and achievements. But for those who argue then that we are saved by faith alone then they must realise also that faith without any actions and deeds done in accordance to that faith is truly an empty, meaningless and dead faith.

And we shall also then be judged by our inaction, which is tantamount to committing sins of omission. Whatever it is, we have to follow the path that the Lord has set before us and have genuine faith in Him, living our lives virtuously and being centred on God. This is not something that can be easily done as there would definitely be plenty of temptations and challenges in our path and journey.

One of the most common temptations is that of pride and desire, as we heard the warning from St. Paul in our first reading today and also in our Gospel passage today through the parable the Lord used to teach His disciples and the people on the futility of worldly desires and pursuits, and the foolishness of human desires and greed, as well as pride and ego. In that reading, we heard about a rich and powerful man who owned a vast holding and earned plenty of harvests from his vast farmlands.

We heard how the man worried and wondered how he were to store all the things he had gained, and planned to build even larger barns and storehouses to gather more worldly wealth and possessions, thinking that he had secured his future completely and that he had nothing to fear from. This was the fault of his pride and ego, as well as his greed that he was oblivious and unable to recognise his own limitations and mortality.

And the Lord through that parable showed clearly all these, by showing how the life and death of man are completely in the hands of God. And no one could ever know the exact time and moment of the ending of one’s earthly life and existence. For all the wealth, glory and power that man had gathered as according to the parable, all of those would have amounted to nothing and are meaningless, as none of them would end up following the man to the afterlife.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded this day that as Christians we must lead a life that is filled with faith and devotion to God, free from the corruption of ego, pride, greed and earthly desires in our hearts and minds. And we can look upon the good examples set by our saints whose feast day we celebrate today, the Holy Canadian Martyrs or the North American Martyrs, the martyrs St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, holy Jesuit missionaries of North America, as well as their companions in martyrdom.

St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues were the members of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus that had been instrumental in Counter-Reformation and were also involved in missionary works. In that particular area, St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues ministered among the native populations and tribes of North America, spending much time and a lot of effort in reaching out to the pagan tribes and preaching the Good News of Christ to them.

As those tribes lived in some of the least hospitable and difficult conditions known to men, St. John de Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and other missionaries had difficult time trying to adjust and to minister to the people, which was further compounded and made difficult by the reluctance and opposition by some of the native tribes against the efforts to evangelise among them by the Christian missionaries. There were misunderstandings and even conflicts, and also disagreements between the tribes that converted to the Christian faith with the other tribes.

Yet, despite all of these, the missionaries dedicated themselves wholeheartedly, and devoted their time and effort to minister to the people, both caring for them and providing for them, especially spiritually. In the end, amidst all the hardships they encountered, they were attacked by those who misunderstood the intentions of the missionaries, and they were tortured, made to suffer and eventually killed. Nonetheless, the seeds of faith they had spread and nurtured by their efforts remained strong and became the source of the Christian faith among many of the people for generations onwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those missionaries laboured in terrible conditions, had nothing on themselves, and had nothing else but God’s providence and guidance. They entrusted themselves completely to the Lord and allowed Him to lead them through the path that He has led them through. Are we as Christians, able to follow in their footsteps, and be inspired by their faith and courage to live their lives with genuine faith?

Let us all carefully discern this, and see in which way each and every one of us are able to commit ourselves to the Lord, in our every moments and actions. Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord, strengthen ourselves with faith, and walk faithfully and virtuously in the Lord’s presence, that our every efforts and works will be for the greater glory of God. St. John de Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and all the martyrs of North America, holy servants of God and courageous defenders of the Faith, pray for us all. Amen.

Sunday, 18 October 2020 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we reflect on the Word of God in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to do our part as Christians, as those who believe in God and follow the Lord. As Christians, all of us are God’s beloved people, and we have received His truth through the Church. If we truly believe in the Lord, then we must act and do things in ways that are in accordance to His teachings. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we are hypocrites.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the Lord proclaiming His salvation of His people through Cyrus, the then future king of the Persians. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, it was still two centuries or so before the time of king Cyrus. Yet, the Lord had proclaimed the coming of His salvation even at that time, in advance, that when His people who by then had become wayward and fallen into sin, and humiliated and humbled when their city, country and the Temple were destroyed, they were ultimately still beloved by God in the end.

When the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and Judah, looted and destroyed its Temple, the House of God, and brought most of the people off into exile in Babylon and far-off lands, it must have been very despicable and terrible for the descendants of the Israelites then, who had to endure such shame and humiliation, suffering and persecutions, as aliens and foreigners without any homeland. But God showed all of them that He still cared for them and loved them, and sent them a deliverer through Cyrus.

Cyrus, the ruler of Persia rose to power and eventually came to destroy the reign of the Babylonians and their tyranny, overthrowing them and their king, and brought about a new reign and era. King Cyrus was remembered for his upright and just rule, and for his revolutionary advancement of the rights of peoples and nations. He respected the rights of the various peoples and nationalities that existed in the vast Persian Empire he created, and his successors respected this same custom and practice.

It was this same Cyrus, whom God had revealed beforehand through prophecy, that freed the descendants of Israel from their bondage and exile, after many, many decades. They were allowed to return to their homeland, to regain the lands and places they had lost, and they were allowed to freely practice their faith once again. This is unusual as at that time, usually the ruler of the kingdoms got to decide what the people believed in, and usually persecuted foreign beliefs and practices.

Thus, Cyrus was considered a righteous among the nations, even though he did not belong to the Israelite nation, and even though he did not worship God the way that the Israelites worshipped Him. Cyrus obeyed God’s will and did everything that God had entrusted him with, as a just ruler and as the liberator of God’s oppressed people. Cyrus became a paragon and example among the Israelites henceforth, and he therefore is a good example for us all as well.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus as He spoke with the Pharisees, who at that time wanted to trap the Lord with cunning trickery, as they asked Him with sweet but insincere words, seemingly praising Him for being honest and upright, and then attempting to trap Him by asking if it was lawful and fine for the people to pay the taxes to Caesar, that is to the Roman government.

This was truly a very cunning and tricky attempt in trying to discredit and even harm the Lord. The Lord was in fact would end up in deep trouble had He answered either that the people must not pay the taxes or that they should obey and pay their taxes. This was because, the matter of Roman taxes was a very divisive and dangerous one at the time, with most of the people resenting the taxation, the money that they had to pay to their Roman overlords.

That was why the people resented the tax collectors very much and reviled them as one of the lowest in the community, treated with contempt and branded even as traitors to the nation. They were seen as collaborators who got rich and had good life due to their connections with the Roman government and its apparatus, and the people came to resent this very deeply. Thus, had the Lord answered that the people ought to pay taxes to the Romans, then the Pharisees would have severely discredited Him and made Him hated by the people.

On the other hand, had the Lord said that the people must not pay taxes, then the Pharisees would have used the opportunity to strike at Him by reporting Him to the Romans, just as they would eventually do together with the Sanhedrin when they handed the Lord to the Romans for the crucifixion. Not paying taxes was one of the most severe faults that the Romans would definitely punish very harshly. After all, the Romans had treated traitors and treasonous activities with the great harshness throughout its history.

Instead, the Lord wisely manouevred His way out of the predicament by first rebuking the Pharisees for their wicked attempt in trying to trap and discredit HIm, and then saying that on that matter, then everyone ought to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and in the same way, give to God, what belongs to God. In this way, the Lord neither said that the people must submit to the Romans for their taxes, or that they should not pay taxes. On the contrary, they give whatever is due to each.

We can see here that the Lord wants to remind us that all of earthly possessions, all these things all belong to the world, and just as we have been blessed and given these possessions, some of us having more while others having less, we have to let them go and give them back whenever it is necessary. And then, all of us must remember that all of us ourselves, belong to God and to Him alone, and because of this, we ought to give to God what is due to Him, that is to love Him and dedicate ourselves to Him wholeheartedly.

The example of king Cyrus of Persia in our first reading today is a reminder that God has empowered in this world, governments and states, nations and rulers with the authority from Him, to govern and rule, to lead and guide, in tandem with the Church which He has established in this world. To those rulers, God had entrusted us His people who are still living in this world. This is why, as good and committed Christians, we cannot be disobedient or rebellious against those governments and rulers God had placed over us.

We have our part to play as obedient and dutiful citizens and peoples of the countries we are in. Of course this does not mean that we follow the rules blindly, as we have to obey the laws and teachings of the Church as well. But it means that as long as the rules of the land do not contradict the essence of Christian teachings and are in line with the virtues and values of our Christian faith, we should obey and follow them.

That is why, all of us as Christians, we must be good and virtuous in all of our actions and deeds. We have to be good Christians and followers of the Lord, just as we have to be good and law-abiding citizens as well. We must not be like the Pharisees and all those hypocrites, who outwardly showed piety and faith, and yet, they had no real and genuine love and dedication to God. In this way, they had not given to God, what belongs to God, that is their love and their obedience.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see in king Cyrus, who was not even counted among the Israelites, and yet, highly regarded and praised for his actions, his righteousness and justice as a just ruler and liberator for many people including the people of Israel, all of us are called to follow in his examples, to follow the path of God, all the more that since we know of His truth and teachings, then we are expected to obey Him and to show our faith through our actions, at each and every moments of our lives.

This is the challenge that we have been presented with, brethren. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to walk down this path of faith? God has called us all to follow Him, and to do what He has taught and shown us to do. We are all called to bear His truth and love, to be His faithful witnesses in our respective communities. And especially, during these difficult and challenging times, have we been good neighbours and friends to all those who are in need around us? Or have we been more interested in settling our own matters and desires?

We have seen how many people selfishly took care of themselves, or being disobedient for the sake of their personal freedom. And there had been occasions when we as Christians complained that we have been restricted in our freedom to worship especially in the last few months, and we disobeyed the government and regulations all amidst the terrible few months of this pandemic. This is the perfect example of why, as Christians, we must not forget that while we obey the Lord first and foremost above all else, but we also have a duty to be good and responsible citizens too.

Let us think of this, brothers and sisters in Christ, if by our actions then by refusing to wear mask, or by refusing to follow community gathering and restrictions currently in place, we cause harm to others, and make others to suffer more, and by prolonging this pandemic, we unnecessarily extend this pandemic’s impact, aren’t we being hypocrites and unfaithful, and worse still, being selfish and sinful? This is why, we must not lose ourselves to our own pride and desires, and be disobedient for the sake of being convenient for ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on, especially during these difficult times, be exemplary in our actions and deeds, in being responsible in our daily actions, and in showing care towards others in need. Let us all help one another and play our part, doing the best we can to be first and foremost, dutiful and loving Christians, and also as contributing and law-abiding citizens of our respective states and realms.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us with His wisdom that we may discern carefully our choice of actions, avoiding actions that bring about harm to others just that we feed our own ego and selfishness. Let us be guided by God and our Christian faith in our actions and way of life. May God bless us all and help us in our efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 17 October 2020 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of our faith in Christ, and our calling and indeed obligation as Christians to proclaim Him as our Lord and Master, as the One and only God we have, our one True God. We are called and we call ourselves as Christians because of this fundamental belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh as the Son of Man.

And we believe that He has come down into this world to be our Saviour, and we have been saved through His sacrifice on the Cross, that by dying together with Him through our baptism, and rising together with Him in His Resurrection, we have been brought into a new life and existence. The Lord has revealed all of these to us, and blessed us, and called us to this new life and existence. As Christians, therefore, we are God’s people, united to Him by our faith.

But our faith cannot be just merely a stationary and stagnant faith, that is without any actions or examples through which we stand up for that faith and be genuine witnesses to our belief in God. On the contrary, our faith must be vibrant and active, filled with genuine actions through which all who see us, hear us and witness us, interacting with us may know that God is in us, working through us and that we are His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what all of us are called to do with our lives, that is to be righteous and good, striving for virtue in life and obeying the laws and commandments of God. We are called to be good models and inspirations for one another, that we may help each other, fellow Christians, to remain faithful to God and to follow His path with piety and commitment.

Many of us today are no longer active in how we live up to our faith, as well as our calling as Christians. Many of us prefer to keep to ourselves and do just the very minimum. Even to do that, many among us were already often grumbled, complained and refused to participate fully. When the Church states that we have to fulfil our Sunday obligations, we grumbled and could not wait until the Mass is over.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us are taking our faith and even good life for granted. Many of us may have been blessed abundantly by God, or to have the freedom to worship God and follow His path without any issues. But do we realise just how tough it was for one to be Christians, and even up to today, there are still parts of the world where to be Christians may mean certain death and great sufferings?

Christians had to endure many persecutions during much of its history, and today, our saint of the day, St. Ignatius of Antioch, was himself a victim of this brutal persecution, having also witnessed how many of the faithful were persecuted and killed. St. Ignatius was the successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch as its bishop, and was the overseer of that Christian community, which according to the Acts of the Apostles, was the very first place where the faithful were known as Christians.

St. Ignatius, as one of the most prominent and important of all the early Church fathers, was very influential in the early Church, and helped to establish solid foundation for the Church, not just in Antioch, but also to the larger Universal Church. He wrote extensively to the other Church communities and was also instrumental in guiding the faithful and the Church in Antioch during those years when he was the shepherd of the faithful in that city.

St. Ignatius himself as mentioned was martyred at the end of his ministry as the Bishop of Antioch, and he suffered greatly like his flock, defending his faith to the very end. But he and the many other martyrs remained faithful and committed to God, despite all the challenges that they had to face. They put their complete faith and trust in the Lord, and followed Him to wherever and whatever He led them into.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all take all these into mind as we endeavour to live our lives with greater zeal and dedication to the Lord. Let us all be courageous and truthful in standing up for our faith whenever it is necessary, that we may continue to be inspiring examples for one another and that we may become shining beacons of God’s light and truth. May the Lord bless us all, in our every endeavours and good deeds, now and always. St. Ignatius, holy servant of God and holy martyr of the Church, pray for us all. Amen.