Sunday, 20 March 2016 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Holy Week (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 22 : 14 – Luke 23 : 56 (Palm Sunday Year C)

When the hour came, Jesus took His place at the table and the Apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I was eager to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

Then they passed Him a cup, and when He had given thanks, He said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that, from now on, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Jesus also took bread, and after giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

And after the supper, He did the same with the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant, sealed in My Blood, which is poured out for you. Yet the hand of the traitor is with Me on the table. Know that the Son of Man is going the way marked out for Him. But alas for that one who betrays Him!”

They began to ask one another which of them could do such a thing. They also began to argue among themselves which of them should be considered the most important. And Jesus said, “The kings of the pagan nations rule over them as lords, and the most hard-hearted rulers claim the title, ‘Gracious Lord.'”

“But not so with you; let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is the greatest, he who sits at the table or he who serves? He who is seated, isn’t it? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”

“You are the ones who have been with Me, and stood by Me, through My troubles; because of this, just as the kingship has been given to Me by My Father, so I give it to you. You will eat and drink at My table at My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones and govern the twelve tribes of Israel.”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like grain, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have recovered, you shall strengthen your brothers.” Then Peter said, “Lord, with You I am ready to go even to prison and death.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before you have denied three times that you know Me.”

Jesus also said to them, “When I sent you without purse or bag or sandals, were you short of anything?” They answered, “No.” And Jesus said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and a bag as well. And if anyone is without a sword, let hm sell his cloak to buy one. For Scripture says : ‘He was numbered among criminals.’ These words have to be fulfilled in Me, and now everything written about Me is taking place.”

Then they said, “See, Lord, here are two swords!” But He answered, “That is enough.”

After this, Jesus left to go as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. When He came to the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not be put to the test.” Then He went a little further, about a stone’s throw, and kneeling down He prayed, “Father, if it is You will, remove this cup from Me; however, not My will but Yours be done.” And an angel from heaven appeared to give Him strength.

As He was in agony, He prayed even more earnestly, and great drops of blood formed like sweat and fell to the ground. When He rose from prayer, He went to His disciples, but found them worn out with grief, and asleep. And He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Get up and pray, so that you may not be put to the test.”

Jesus was still speaking when a group appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him, and Jesus said to him, “Judas, with a kiss do you betray the Son of Man?”

Those with Jesus, seeing what would happen, said to Him, “Master, shall we use the sword?” And one of them struck the HIgh Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus stopped him, “No more of this!” He touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to those coming against Him, the chief priests, officers of the Temple and elders; and He said to them, “Did you really set out against a robber? Do you need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But this is the hour of the power of darkness; this is your hour.”

Then they seized Him and took Him away, bringing Him to the High Priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. A fire was kindled in the middle of the courtyard, where people were gathered, and Peter sat among them. A maidservant noticed him. Looking at him intently in the light if the fire, she exclaimed, “This man also was with Him!” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

A little later, someone who saw Him said, “You are also one of them!” Peter replied, “My friend, I am not!” After about an hour another asserted, “Surely this man was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

Again Peter denied, “My friend, I don’t know what you are talking about.” He had not finished saying this, when a cock crowed. The Lord turned around and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word that the Lord had spoken, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter went outside, weeping bitterly.

And the guards, who had arrested Jesus, mocked and beat Him. They blindfolded Him, struck Him, and then asked, “Who hit You? Tell us, prophet!” And they hurled many other insulting words at him.

At daybreak, the council of the elders of the people, among whom were the chief priests and the scribes, assembled again. Then they had Jesus brought before them, and they began questioning Him, “Tell us, are You the Christ?” Jesus replied, “You will not believe, if I tell you, and neither will you answer, if I ask you. Yet from now on, the Son of Man will have His seat at the right hand of the MIghty God.”

In chorus they asked, “So you are the Son of God?” And Jesus said to them, “You are right, I am.” Then they said, “What need have we of witnesses? We have heard it from His own lips.

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claming to be Christ the King.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up with His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him now; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while, the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence, I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

On the Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner. Therefore, shouting as one man, they protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder.

Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “To the cross with Him! To the cross!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes.

When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the fields, and laid the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!'”

“And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the king of the Jews? Free Yourself!”

Above Jesus there was a inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts.

But those who knew Jesus remained there, at a distance, especially the women, who had followed Him from Galilee; they witnessed all this.

Then intervened a member of the Jewish supreme council, a good and righteous man named Joseph, from the Judean town of Arimathea. He had not agreed with the decision and action of his fellow members, and he lived uprightly in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. Joseph went to Pilate, and asked for Jesus’ body. He then took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a yet unused tomb, cut out of a rock.

It was Preparation Day, and the star which marks the beginning of the Sabbath was shining. So the women, who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph to see the tomb, and how His body was laid. And returning home, they prepared perfumes and ointments. And on the Sabbath day, they rested, as the Law required.

 

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 23 : 1-49

The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation : “We found this Man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claming to be Christ the King.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this Man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up with His teaching. He began in Galilee and now He has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the Man was a Galilean. Finding the accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him now; for a long time he had wanted to see Him because of the reports about Him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while, the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed Him and with his guards mocked him. And when he had put a rich cloak on Him, he sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this Man before me and accused Him of subversion. In your presence, I have examined Him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to me. It is quite clear that this Man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have Him scourged and then release Him.”

On the Passover, Pilate had to release a prisoner. Therefore, shouting as one man, they protested, “No! Away with this Man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder.

Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “To the cross with Him! To the cross!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have Him scourged and let Him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes.

When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the fields, and laid the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Him; among them were women, beating their breasts and grieving for Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!'”

“And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, He was crucified together with two criminals – one on His right and another on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And the guards cast lots to divide His clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at Him, saying to one another, “Let the Man who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the chosen One of God!” The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the king of the Jews? Free Yourself!”

Above Jesus there was a inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.” And saying that, He gave up His Spirit.

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God, “Surely this was an upright Man!” he said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts.

But those who knew Jesus remained there, at a distance, especially the women, who had followed Him from Galilee; they witnessed all this.

Monday, 19 January 2015 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the Gospel and the readings, we heard about the nature of the incompatibility of the beliefs and practices of the people of God, Israel, between the ancient practice of animal offerings and harvest offerings to God at the Temple, the shedding of the blood of lambs and the offering of fats, which priests offered daily for various purposes, namely thanksgiving, giving praise, and most importantly, sin offering, for the remission of the people’s sins.

The priests offered the offerings of goat and birds’ blood for his own sins and for the sins of the people, but this is only a temporary measure to remit one’s sins, and thus the offering had to be made again and again, for the simple fact that no amount of animal offering, even the best fats of the lamb can account for the vastness and the depth of mankind’s sins and wickedness.

And all of the practices of the people of Israel, as the elders described them and included them in the customs, such as the ritual washing and purification, as well as the observation of fasting and penitence, are all external application of the people’s desire to be made pure and clean from the defilements of the world as they come to celebrate and worship the Lord.

But all those had been turned obsolete by the action of a single Man, who single-handedly carried all of the sins of mankind past, present and future, every single man from Adam the first man to the last man, that He might absolve them by His action as a priest, and indeed not just as any priests, but as the one sole High Priest of all creation, of all mankind, that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest, just as the Letter to the Hebrews had highlighted in our first reading today. He is the High Priest who offered the perfect offering and sacrifice, the only one that is worthy to absolve and erase our sins, once and for all, for all eternity. And that sacrifice is none other than the very sacrifice that He had made on Calvary, the place of the skulls, where He laid down His life for us on the cross.

He offered not the blood of lambs, goats or doves, but His own Blood, the Most Precious Blood of the Lord, which is perfect beyond any others and the only one that is worthy enough to pay the entire debts of our sins, once and for all. He therefore offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sake. His suffering, the wounds He sustained and endured, and the nails that pierced His holy hands and feet are the manifestation of His love for us, that He was willing to endure all that so that we can be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all these shows why the old ways and customs which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law stubbornly clinged to, are no longer valid and necessary. The sacrifice of Jesus had made it unnecessary to offer regularly the animal sacrifices and the oblations which they persistently insist, along with the various laws and observations they imposed on the people of God.

The way of the Pharisees were filled with human laws and human interpretations of the Law, which is often flawed, and indeed, in its execution, they lost the true focus of why they observe the laws of God, that is to serve God and to follow His will. They end up serving human purposes and even misuse them to glorify themselves and bringing human praise to themselves.

That is what Jesus meant by His parable of the cloth and the wineskins. One cannot patch old and new cloth together, as they are incompatible. When you wash the two together, they will shrink differently and thus will tear apart from each other. And old wineskin cannot be filled with new wine, and vice versa for the same reason. Things that are incompatible will not be able to match, and they will bring about difficulties and conflict, just as the Law of Christ are incompatible with the laws of men advocated by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Then some of us may ask, why then, our priests and the Church continue to celebrate the Holy Mass daily and regularly? The Holy Mass is a sacrifice, the Sacrifice which our Lord Jesus had made on the cross. Does this mean then that Jesus is crucified again and again? Does this mean that we ignore the fact that Christ died once and for all, for us?

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, for the Holy Mass is the same sacrifice that Christ had offered at Calvary, and not a new sacrifice. The priests represent Christ Himself, as Alter Christus, who offered the same offering on the cross at Calvary. The Holy Mass is united in meaning and purpose, in substance and reality to the same sacrifice made that day when Christ laid down His life for us.

And that is why we also believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, for the bread and wine which the priest by the power of God invested in him as the Christ personified, are truly transformed in material and spirit, into the Real Body and Real Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, even though in appearance, they remain as bread and wine. This is our faith and this is what we believe in, for our salvation.

Remember that Jesus told His disciples and the people that those who eat of His Body and drink of His Blood will live forever and not die. And thus this is what will happen to all of us who believe and worthily accept Him into ourselves. If we choose to believe in Him and follow Him, we can be assured that we will be well taken care of. Thus, we need to support our priests, who are working hard, and who daily celebrate the Mass for our sake, that through the Mass which is the same Sacrifice of Jesus our Lord, we may receive eternal life through His sacrifice.

May Almighty God be with us all, bless us all and guide us in our life. Let us no longer be stubborn in our sinfulness, but remain faithful to the Lord and be grateful ever for the love He had shown us all. God bless us. Amen.

Thursday, 17 April 2014 : Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Easter Triduum (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This chalice is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this chalice, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 10 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God established His first covenant with our father in faith, that is Abraham. Yes, Abraham is our father in faith, because even though we may not be descended from him by blood, but we are all his descendants by our same faith, that is in the same God, the very God who had made His contact with Abraham and made him the father of many nations because of his faith and devotion.

Abraham, once known as Abram, was not chosen because of his greatness, his wealth or his power. He was not chosen because of his abilities or talents, nor because of the number of his sheep, as shepherds with many sheep were indeed very great in his time. No, Abram was chosen not because of all of these. He was chosen because of one singular but very important reason, that is his faith and his actions that were based strongly on that faith.

Abram was faithful, and he was righteous in all of his actions. He lived closely to God’s will and followed the way of the Lord all of his life. He believed in God and he trusted completely in Him, even to the point of giving up his own long promised son, Isaac, to be sacrificed at Moria, when God supposedly asked him to do so. God tested his faith in that moment, and Abram followed through with complete faith and trust in God.

He obeyed God and he believed. And that was how he became renowned and great among many and among the nations. God made true the covenant that He had established with him, and from him came forth many nations and many peoples, uncounted and numerous indeed like the sands on the seashore as God had promised Abram, who later then known as Abraham, the one whom God was pleased with.

God fulfilled the promise He had made with His people, to Jacob that he would be great and a nation would come forth from him, Israel, the chosen people of God, from whom the descendants came the people discussed in today’s Gospel, and Jesus Christ Himself. God also fulfilled the promise He had established to Israel, that He would bring them to freedom and live in happiness in the Promised Land of milk and honey.

God also fulfilled the promises He had made with David, His faithful servant. He promised that his descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel and rule over God’s people forever. Yet, just as in the case of the covenant God established with Jacob and Abraham, it was God’s people who disobeyed the Lord and broke their part of the covenant, by abandoning God and worshipping pagan idols, and committing practices wicked in the sight of God.

The people of Israel and even the kings, among the descendants of David were disobedient, and as soon as the messengers sent by God to remind them of God’s love and promise were gone, they were quick to return to their old, debauched and wicked lifestyle. That was why God gave them to the hands of their enemies, and they were scattered, not to punish them per se, but rather to remind them yet again that without God, they are nothing.

But brethren, does that mean God also forsook His covenant with Israel? No. In fact God remained faithful to the covenants and promises that He had made. Covenant is the greatest form of promise compared to other forms of promises, and it was we and our ancestors who broke the covenant we have with God. God was always faithful and He never gave up on us, unless we ourselves gave Him up for other idols.

And God showed His commitment and love for us, through the ultimate gift that He gave to us, namely the gift of Jesus, His own Son. Through Jesus, God showed yet again, and in finality, the perfect love He has for all of us, and the total commitment He has to the covenants He had made. He fulfilled the promise He made with Abraham, Jacob and David through Jesus, the son of David who is seated at the throne of God and rules for eternity as the King of all kings.

And through Jesus, God made a new covenant, the last and greatest of them all, with us, renewing the promise He had made with mankind of many generations. And this new covenant is sealed by God with none other than by His own Precious Blood, poured out by the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, who died for us. He died so that we may live, and such is His love for us, indeed!

Yes, brethren, that is how faithful God is to us, and how loving He is towards us. He had proven again and again His dedication and yet we always spurn His love. The people rejected Him because they preferred the devil and his pleasures rather than the true love offered by the Lord through Jesus.

Shall we then follow their examples? Or shall we remain true to the Lord? Let us no longer be rebellious and ignorant of God’s love, but instead embrace His love to the fullest and prove that we can hold our part of the new covenant He had established. May the Lord see in us the love and hope that is still in us, that He may forgive us our trespasses and bring us once again closer to Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 John 1 : 5 – 1 John 2 : 2

We heard His message from Him and announce it to you : God is Light and there is no darkness in Him. If we say we are in fellowship with Him, while we walk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.

If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, His word is not in us. My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial victim for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Gospel reading that we should not hamper the works of those, while not belonging to our group, but they work in the Holy Name of the Lord. Jesus Himself said that it is impossible for those who do not belong to Him and use His authority to be able to perform such miracles as what they had performed.

And in addition to that, I am sure that we had heard some people thinking that this means that, we do not need to belong to the Church to do the work of God, is it not? We can then just be ourselves, so long as we believe in God or some kind of greater being up there, and doing what is good in our lives, then we all can be saved, is it not? Why then bother to join the Church and be troubled by the numerous rules and regulations as laid down by the teachings of the Church?

That is because, while mankind indeed has the capacity to do good, because mankind indeed was created by God who is good, but this kind of goodness that is in them is imperfect. Without the presence of God, goodness remains just superficial, and although they may seem to be real goodness, but they lack the necessary ingredient to make them perfect, and this crucial component is none other than God.

There are those who also quote someone who said that Jesus redemption is for everyone, even for atheists. Who are atheists, my brothers and sisters? Atheists are different from agnostics in that while agnostics believe in the presence of certain superior, ‘supernatural’ being, but atheists reject the notion of this supreme being and God in its entirety.

There had been many atheistic movements rising in our societies in the past decades and centuries, like humanism, and scientific atheism. Many too are their champions, with the most prominent ones being Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who adopted a very aggressive approach in relation to religion. Particularly Dawkins who had been very confrontational in the matter of religion and he even launched a suit to bring the Pope to trial!

Of course, atheists, agnostics, and all the people who do not yet belong to the Church are all belonging to mankind too, brethren, and they are our brothers and sisters too. Even among our own family members, our friends, our relatives and acquaintances, I am sure we will meet many of them, each with beliefs of their own.

And indeed, Jesus may indeed die on the cross in Calvary, for the sake of all mankind, including even those who had persecuted Him and His disciples, and even the chief priests and the Jewish people who had condemned Him to death and cried out for His blood. He forgave them on the cross, especially asking the Father to forgiveness because in their ignorance, the people did not know what they had done, that is killing the Messiah of the Most High God, and the Son of God Himself.

Christ forgave them, and therefore also offered His redemptive death on the cross to all of them, to those who love Him, and also to those who hated Him. Christ certainly did not choose or prefer one over the other, and offered His salvation to everyone. Remember, brethren, that all of us, His children, are equal before Him, and our ranks, our degrees matter no more before Him. But there must be a clear distinction made between redemption and salvation, and this is indeed ought to be misinterpreted by many of the people, especially those not in the Church, but even by many in the Church, especially indeed because the Pope himself had made the utterance.

Misunderstanding the teachings of the Church can be fatal, brethren, because, the Church had been the continuous font of light of Christ, since it was established by Jesus Christ Himself upon Peter, His apostle, and which grew amidst tribulations and happy times, to become the Church as we know it today. The teachings of the Church are not there just to be trifled with, and neither are the teachings to be ignored, since it has been passed down to us, by the Apostles and the early Fathers of the Church themselves, to guide us in the path of salvation.

What then, is the difference between redemption and salvation? Both of them may mean the same thing in the English language, and terms are indeed very confusing at times, but in order to make it clear, let me elaborate that, while Christ offers salvation to all mankind through His death on the cross, by the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood, the blood of the Paschal Lamb of God, but few would eventually receive Him and accept Him and the salvation that He has offered in its fullness. Fewer still, even among those who had accepted Him, would truly do His will and do what is good in His eyes. Of course not to forget, as I mentioned earlier, those who do good in their life, but do not receive Christ and did not take up the offer of salvation that Christ had freely offered to everyone.

When Christ died on the cross, His death and His blood redeems all mankind from their sins, their original sins. This is what redemption is about. Original sins are the sins that remain with us and become a taint in our soul, ever since our ancestors, the first mankind, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord’s commands by falling into the devil’s temptation, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Therefore, when Christ died, He who came as the new Adam, to make a new covenant between God and mankind, which first had been made at creation, but broken by the rebellion of the first mankind, a new covenant was made, and Christ became the source of redemption to all mankind, all who are descended from Adam and his wife, Eve, erasing from them the taint of sin, and releasing them from the slavery of Satan.

But this is where it is important to distinguish between salvation and redemption, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why do I keep referring to all of you as my brothers and sisters, my brethren, in Christ? In Christ because, through our baptism we have become the children of God, and we have therefore become one body, united by Christ, and this one body is our Church. Brethren, salvation is different from just redemption because, salvation requires that necessary step, that is baptism, and entry into the Church of God, which can only be done through baptism.

Why is baptism so important? Because, at baptism, we place ourselves humbly before God, and ask Him for forgiveness, and at the same time, mark ourselves with the eternal mark of baptism, which sealed us in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, essentially sealing us as a children of God in the Holy Trinity.

Therefore, brethren in Christ, if anyone who does not belong to the Church and the faith asks you, if we can just be good people and do good in this world, in the absence of God, why then do we even need to bother with joining the Church at all? Why then do we need to be Catholics and follow the teachings of the Church if we can just be good person, be a good man, and doing good to our brethren?

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the first word you should tell them, and that while goodness is indeed possible for those not within the Church, as indeed Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is it not? Therefore, they would have been able to identify what is evil from what is good, and capable therefore of doing good, just as they were able of doing what is evil. The same therefore also applies to us living in this world today.

Thus, goodness and doing good alone is not enough. That is why, while our salvation comes not from faith alone, as some would have it, but neither is our salvation from good works and service alone. Anyone can be good and does good service to the poor, to all mankind, if they wish to, but that does not give them salvation, because, although Christ redeemed them through His death on the cross, they did not accept the salvation He offered, by having faith in Him.

Neither can then, that we just have faith in Christ without doing anything good at all. Many Christians in fact are ‘do-nothing’ Christians, Sunday Christians, and passive Christians, because they do not make use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that had been granted them. Our faith must be made alive through action, and through service that is grounded in love. Without love, we are dead, and if we do not make use of the love that is in us, and keep it to ourselves, we will also perish.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to step up evangelisation, to ensure that the many good people in the world out there, who does good things and service for the sake of their fellow mankind, can gain true salvation by accepting Christ as their Lord, their God, and their Saviour, through baptism, when they, like all of us once, will be sealed with the Lord’s seal of the Holy Trinity’s Name.

And of course not to forget those Christians who had grown complacent and cool in their faith, that through our action, we can reawaken the flames of the Holy Spirit once again in them, and allowing them to truly make use of the gifts they have in them, and do good things for the sake of God, and for their fellow men.

Finally, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we also commemorate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a religious sister who was made a saint out of her great piety and endurance for the faith, despite being abused and hurt by her former husband before she joined the religious profession. Her life was truly exemplary to all of us, through her loving actions in ensuring that her family remained in the love of God, and her teaching of the value of forgiveness and kindness to her son. Through her actions, she made great peace between the feuding families of her hometown, which had resulted in her husband’s assassination.

St. Rita of Cascia is therefore, brethren, a perfect example of what we need to learn today, that we need both faith and good works in order to gain greatness, glory of God, and salvation. St. Rita of Cascia’s strong and inviolable faith in the Lord enabled her to endure her suffering and anchored her against the hatred and corruption of the world, and as a result, transformed those around her, and this, coupled with her numerous good works, are great examples of faith lived through action, of faith made alive and vibrant through good deeds, and not mere words and devotions.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, let us reflect on ourselves, whether we have already done what the Lord wants us to do, that is to fully accept Him as our Lord and God, and to accept His teachings that are reflected in the teachings of the Church, that is our faith, and whether we have already implemented this faith in the reality of the world, through service and good deeds to others. And not to forget also, that we need to accomplish the mission God has placed on us, that is to make disciples of all nations, and seal them with baptism in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.

Remember, redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is not enough for salvation, for in that redemption, Christ freely offered Himself to us, and if we do not accept Him, we can have no part in Him, and we will be condemned, even if we have done good things in our life, because we often do it not for God, but for ourselves, for our own pride and glory. And be careful not to misinterpret the Scripture, and hence, learn the Scripture through credible and authoritative source, that is the Church. That man who performed miracles in the Name of Christ, did those miracles because he has faith in Christ, and therefore belonging to Christ, in the same way as baptism marks us as children of God, and the saved ones, so long as we also do good in the practice of our faith.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, pray, and pray hard that more and more people will come and see the light of Christ, especially through our own actions, that reflect Christ, that more people who are good, and who do good things, but have yet to believe and accept Christ, can truly be saved, through the waters of baptism. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Acts 20 : 28-38

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has placed into your care. Shepherd the Church of the Lord that He has won at the price of His own blood. I know that after I leave, ruthless wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. And from among you, some will arise corrupting the truth and inducting the disciples to follow them.

Be on the watch, therefore, remembering that for three years, night and day, I did not cease to warn everyone even with tears. Now I commend you to God and to His grace-filled word, which is able to make you grow and gain the inheritance that you shall share with all the saints.

I have not looked for anyone’s silver, gold, or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have provided for both my needs and the needs of those who were with me. In every way I have shown you that by working hard one must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus Himself said, “Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving.”

After this discourse, Paul knelt down with them and prayed. Then they all began to weep and threw their arms around him and kissed him. They were deeply distressed because he had said that they would never see him again. And they went with him even to the ship.