Thursday, 4 July 2013 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord loves us, He loves all of us without exception, and He wants us to be reunited with Him, but He also wants us to be free from the sins and evil that separate us from Him. That was why He sent us Jesus, His Son, that we may have hope of salvation, through His authority, for He, as the Son of God, one with the Father, has authority over all the creation, and over sin. That was why He was able to forgive those whom He deemed worthy, from their sins, such as the paralytic. The Lord loves us all, and He showed mercy to those who suffer.

Obedience to God and His will is important, because while He gave us free will in order to choose what we want to do for our lives, and He did also give us plenty of freedom in that regard. He gave us plenty of time and opportunities in order to live according to His commandments and His Law, just as Abraham had done his entire life.

Abraham did not withhold from the Lord even his only son, and this son is not just any son, but the very son that the Lord had promised him for a long time, and who had been made the heir of Abraham, as the son of Abraham and Sarah, his wife. Sarah gave birth to Isaac in her old age, in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Yet, then that child was requested by the Lord from Abraham, to be a burnt offering for Him.

One may only guess the emotions running within Abraham when he heard of the Lord’s request for Isaac to be a burnt offering. After all the promise and the difficulties that came before Isaac was finally born into the world, this young one was to be burned as a sacrifice for the Lord, and therefore, the entire hope and excitement over Isaac as Abraham’s heir would have been a waste. Certainly, such thoughts must have resonated within Abraham’s mind. Yet, he remained entirely faithful in God and in His plans, and His will, and he gave a full consent to God’s request, bringing Isaac to be sacrificed on the mountains of Moriah.

It is not easy to give up one’s most beloved one, especially to be killed as a sacrifice. But Abraham did it, and he proved his faith to the Lord and his obedience through that action, showing that Abraham valued nothing more than the Lord his God, and put even his own son, only son into risk for the sake of the Lord. But wait, even though we may think that Abraham had gone all the way in giving up his precious one for the Lord, there is indeed another, even far greater case and example of self-sacrifice that had happened in this world.

What is that? Yes, none other than the Lord Himself. He gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, in sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins. Through His death came our redemption, and through His life, we are born again in a new life in God. He gave Himself as the ultimate offering for our sins, as His Blood, the Blood of the purest Lamb of all, the Lamb of God, is the only thing worthy for all the monstrosity of our sins, as great is our sins from our forefathers to us, and from us to our children.

Christ Himself taught that there is no greater love than those who gave their lives for their friends, and in giving up His own life, He showed the perfect nature of His love for all. He died for all without exception, and offered everybody His salvation, if only they would repent and believe in Him as their Lord and Saviour. Abraham too showed his great love through his offering of his only son, the promised son, Isaac, to the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we must always love God, and our brothers and sisters, most importantly those who are in great need for our care and our love.

Today, brethren, we also commemorate the memorial and feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was Queen consort of Portugal, and had been very devout in her devotion to the Lord and to the cause of the faith even before she was Queen, and when she became Queen, she became patron of numerous activities and organisations through which she did much effort to bring love and service to others, particularly those in need, and also preach the Gospel of Christ to those who were still in darkness.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal joined the religious life after she was widowed, and even though she was dowager queen, she did not hesitate to involve herself extensively in numerous acts of charity for the poor and sick, whom she had a special devotion to in her works. She is also a well-known peacemaker, having been a great diplomat and endowed with great intellect and charm. She brokered many peace agreements between warring parties, and even her assistance was asked after she had joined religious life, and even then, she showed her skills in ensuring peace between parties in conflict.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal is an example to all of us, brothers and sisters, that all of us should give love and life through our deeds and actions daily. We must show love in all the things that we do without exception, bringing love to those who need it, and care to those who are poor and suffering. We must also be peacemakers, to bring peace between brothers and sisters who are in conflict, that hate will never take hold in this world, and instead, in its place, love would occupy the hearts of men, that we will once again remember the love God had once given us, through the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, His expression of His ultimate and undying love for all of us.

May the Lord strengthen us and empower us with His love, that we will be always courageous and strong, in our increasingly darkened world, that we will become beacons of light, beacons of hope, and beacons of love. May God bless us at all times and be with us always. Amen.

Thursday, 7 February 2013 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

The Lord in today’s reading sent out His disciples to begin spreading His work across broader spectrum of the society of Israel. This is also the base of the authority that our priests and bishops today have, since the Lord has commissioned the Apostles to heal the sick and cast out demons, with authority that came directly from Himself. Through the Apostles, in an unbroken chain of succession, this authority is passed down to our bishops today, and thus to all our priests. It is in this authority that our priests today exercise many of the similar faculties as those of the Apostles.

Our priests are also important in the Church, since they administer to us spiritual healing of our soul, they listen to our sins and by the authority given to them by our Lord through the Apostles, our sins can be forgiven in the confession, if we truly repent and vow to change our sinful ways. They also can cast out demons with the authority of the Lord, in what we know as exorcism. Although this rarely happen today, but it does still happen, and we must always keep each other strong in faith that we do not allow evil to dwell within us, and exploit the absence of light in our hearts.

Sadly, despite the good works that Christ has commissioned the Apostles to, and therefore, the missions that our priests and missionaries have, many still reject the approaches that the Lord has made. Ironically, even many of these rejections also come from ourselves, from those who believe in the Lord. It does not mean that once we are baptised and in the Church, that we no longer need to listen to the Word of God, and receive God’s good graces and work through the priests. We still need these, and indeed, it is important that we read the Scripture and reflect on it daily, in order to gain our daily ‘food’ of the Word of God.

The priests too, by the same power and authority, conduct the Transubstantiation, which is the turning of the bread and wine into the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the same Sacrifice that the Lord made once and for all in Calvary, the very blood that Christ, the Lamb of God, poured down on us, and being a blood more worthy than all others, even that of Abel’s, this perfect offering is accepted by God, and thus, also the Precious Body and Blood on the Altar at the Mass, for our salvation and redemption from sin.

Therefore, let us strive to regularly and frequently receive the Lord into ourselves, and make ourselves always ready and worthy to receive Him into ourselves. That Jesus will be in us, and we in Him, and through Him, we are justified in our faith. Let the Lord to reside in us, and keep ourselves also nourished always with the words of the Holy Scripture, keep ourselves holy, and anchor all our actions in love, in the love that is of the Lord.

Let us pray together too, my brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord will ignite the hearts of those whom He called, to be priests of the Lord, and ministers to all the faithful in Christ. Remember that while the harvest is truly plentiful, but we do not have good labourers and workers to harvest them. We need holy, young, and faithful young men blessed and called by the Lord to be His missionaries, just like how Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles. We pray for all the seminarians and those who are on their journey towards the priesthood, that God will bless them and keep them holy and faithful in their journey.

We also pray for ourselves, that all of us can also increase further in faith, in love, and in our dedication to God and to the mission that has been entrusted to all of us. Help one another, and support one another in faith, through love. May God bless all of us, and bless His most holy Church, all the priests, religious, and our Pope, Benedict XVI. Amen.