Wednesday, 4 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 1-6

At that time, leaving the place where He raised the daughter of Jairus, Jesus returned to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard Him were astonished.

But they said, “How did this come to Him? What kind of wisdom has been given to Him, that He also performs such miracles? Who is He but the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the Brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offense at Him.

And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And He could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying His hands on them. Jesus Himself was astounded at their unbelief.

Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.

Monday, 20 October 2014 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are asked through the Scriptures we have heard, to reflect on our own lives, on whether our lives have been filled with selfishness, self-centredness, egoistic acts and behaviours, as well as pride or arrogance, or whether our lives had been filled with love, that is genuine love for one another, and the love for God just as much as we love ourselves.

It is very difficult for us men to live according to the latter standards as compared to the former standards. We have a big ego with us, just as the word ‘Ego’ in Latin means ‘I’, that is we are first and foremost always concerned first about ourselves, and then far below that concern is the concern about others who are around us. We are by our nature selfish, and filled with desire to the point of greed and unwillingness to show charity to others.

This ‘I’ is dangerous indeed, and do you all know who was Satan, our great enemy, before he is known now as the prince of evil and darkness? He was Lucifer, the ‘lightbringer’, one created bright, beautiful, mighty and great among all the angels who serve the Lord day and night, not to outshine his Creator, but to show all creation how great and mighty the Lord is, in creating such a perfect and wonderful creation.

Yet, in the beauty, greatness and perfection in which he had been created, Lucifer grew proud and attached to his perfection and wonders, and thus his ego grew, and his desires grew to the point that he aspired to be like God and even to surpass His own creation, in his own words, that he wanted to raise his throne above the stars of God, and to rule over all creations.

It is this pride that led to his downfall, and it is this same arrogance over his apparent greatness and abilities that made him to commit sin before God. And his rebellion against God brought him nothing but his own downfall, as he was cast out of heaven, as a sign to all others who also followed him into his rebellion, thinking that in the greatness and all the endowments they had received, they had the right to boast or be proud of those achievements.

And what did he get in the end? Nothing but damnation and eternal punishment, for the pride and greed that brought him nothing else but oblivion. Hence, this is also to help remind us, just as we heard in the Holy Scriptures, how Jesus and St. Paul both urged the people of God to let go of their ego, their pride, their arrogance, their selfishness, and all of the vices they had committed in life, and embrace the true faith, in accepting the fullness of the faith as taught to them by the Lord and through His Apostles and disciples.

How is this relevant to us? We can look at our own lives. It is very obvious that at some points and moments in our lives, we are vulnerable to our ego and our desires. How many times in our respective lives, that we put our own prosperity above that of others? How many of us did not hesitate to do certain actions, even when fully knowing that such actions may bring hurt to others, but may benefit us in some ways?

Surely this life is filled with many of such examples, when we mankind succumb to our desires and began to greedily desire on things and possessions, even often beyond our means and at the expense of others. This is also the precise cause of the many evils and miseries in the world, namely wars, conflicts, abuses, hatred and jealousy of one another. That is because mankind had grown proud of themselves and what they can do, and by what they have discovered in life, that they think too highly of themselves and as a result, inevitably come into conflict with one another due to conflicting interests.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, what then, we can do so that we can prevent or to settle this matter? We are often too focused on the world, and all things worldly, to the point that we ended up worrying too much about what we ought to eat, what we may receive in life, what possessions we should have or obtain, and many other things, while forgetting that in our pursuit of such things and in our worry, we may end up causing trouble for one another.

Worry and fear is not the way, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to realise that our Lord and God loves us very much, and He wants to love us tenderly just as a father loves his children. He provides us with essentially everything that we need in this life. He will care for us as He had always done, and if we put our complete trust and faith in Him, we shall never be disappointed.

Indeed, those who put their trust in themselves will be disappointed, and just like the rich man who worried about where he ought to put his excess harvest products and building new barns to contain them, he did not put their trust in God and thus he will suffer for his selfishness and lack of love, both for men and for God. Thus, this is exactly what we need to avoid.

Let us all from now on, lead a life filled with genuine faith in God, seeking God at all times, and seeking to imitate Him in all that we do, so that in everything we do in this life, we may be truly like the children and the servants of God, and like the Apostles and disciples in their lives, so that our lives may be filled with love and charity, love that we show for our fellow men, particularly those who are in most need for our love, the last, the lost and the least among men.

And lastly, let us all love God by devotion and by action, showing our genuine faith to Him founded in love. May Almighty God see our love and our faith, and by those love and faith we have done in this life, may we be made justified and worthy of salvation and the promise of eternal life which God had made through Jesus His So. Let us pray therefore for one another, and helping one another that all of us will reach the Lord our God safely. Amen.

Friday, 3 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today in the Scriptures we heard about how Jesus sent His curses and warnings against the cities of Galilee, that of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, on their lack of faith and refusal to listen to the truth which Jesus had brought into the world, into their very midst, while at the same time, saying how in Tyre and Sidon, if such truth was delivered, they would have believed.

Then in the Psalms we heard how God is so great and powerful, and how in all things within our lives, He had His role to guide and lead us into the ways of the righteous, to lead us so that we may find our way to Him and not to be lost to the darkness of the world, and how indeed we ought to recognise Him and what He had done for us, to deliver us from certain destruction.

And lastly, in the first reading taken from the Book of Job, was the reply which God gave in the end, after the long series of lamentations, complaints and words from the suffering Job, who suffered tremendously at the works of Satan to test his faith in the Lord, and God reminded Job how the vastness of the Lord and His wonders, as well as the infinite nature of His thoughts and plans, could not possibly be understood by Job and his human mind and intellect. And Job realised how God did not abandon him and in fact was about to bless him for his constant faith, and through his repentance, he gained blessings and graces.

In this we see the very importance for us to put our trust in God, and to listen to Him in all of His words. We should not put forward our pride or our ego, which are indeed great obstacles to our ability to reach the Lord and all His goodness. Pride and human ego lay in the path towards of our salvation, especially because they lead us to believe that we are saved, because of our greatness, our superiority and others that separate us from the love of God.

In order to fully understand and discern the meaning of the Gospel today, we have to understand the kind of prejudice and opinion prevailing in the society of the people of God at Jesus’ time. The Jews lived in the land once given to their ancestors, but they did not live there alone. Just as their ancestors once had lived among the nations, they also lived among many nations, the Samaritans, the Nabataeans, to which King Herod the Great and their descendants belonged to, and the people of the region of Tyre and Sidon, north from Judea, the land where the Jews lived in.

Some Jews also lived in Galilee, occupying cities such as Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin among many others, including the village of Nazareth where Jesus lived with His parents on earth early in His life. And the Jews at the time, particularly among the caste of the Pharisees, were very puritan and fanatical in their faith and lives, to the point that they disdained all the foreigners living in their midst.

They thought highly of themselves, thinking that they alone among all the races and peoples of the world who deserved salvation and grace in the Lord, and that all others were condemned to hellfire. They thought of that because they considered themselves being the people chosen by God, they deserved that salvation, and they looked down on the ways of those who lived in their midst.

But they failed to understand that God does not desire the destruction of the righteous, just as He did not desire the destruction and the suffering of Job, His faithful servant. God therefore did not act with prejudice against those whom He did not choose first, and He will also save them if they are indeed righteous and just, and walk in His path.

This is why, God Himself had spoken through His prophets, through Isaiah and others, that even the Gentiles would come and see the light of God, and revel in its wonder. This is to presage the flock and throngs of the non-Jewish peoples coming to seek salvation in God by following Christ and His teachings. Isaiah at the same time also mentioned, how a new light has dawned in the land of Issachar and Zebulun, which is exactly at the place where Jesus lived, in the land of Galilee.

But we have to take note indeed, that no matter what the Lord had done, and even when the light of God has arrived in the world, if those to whom the Lord had intended it to, never paid attention and ignored it, then it will be of no use to them. And this was exact what had happened. The people of God saw the miracles which Jesus had performed in the areas around His hometown of Nazareth, including the three cities mentioned in the Gospel.

Yet, they would not believe in Him, although they were awed by what He had done, and those who knew who He was in life even rejected and ridiculed Him, and none worse than His own hometown relatives and acquaintances, who ridiculed Him as they thought that He was a mere carpenter’s Son. The people of God refused to listen to the Lord and believe in what He had done, and that is why, He bypassed them for those who truly are worthy of Him.

Many of the non-Jewish populations, including a widow from the region of Tyre and Sidon, the Samaritans and others believed in Jesus and His truth, despite them being looked down and ridiculed by the people of God, especially by the Pharisees. Yet, their actions were clear, and they were faithful not just in words but also deeds, and as such, they would indeed receive the promised salvation of God.

Those who only believed superficially and gave only lip-service to the Lord, such as the Pharisees and those who refused even after Jesus revealed to them the truth about Himself through His actions, were doomed to oblivion and suffering. They did not understand that, in their own little minds, they thought they have everything and they were able to do as they please, but of course they were wrong.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all come to reflect about these words of the Lord which we should ponder within our hearts. That we should aim to be closer and closer to our Lord, seeking always His mercy and love, that in all things, we may grow to be more like Him, and be found righteous and just in all our ways, and thus merit the salvation which God had promised to all those who walk in His ways, not just by mere words, but also with actions. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded yet again on the importance of understanding the will and the nature of God, and how He worked His wonders and good works in our lives, learning to trust more of His love and kindness and casting away from our hearts all forms of prejudice, bias, judgmental attitude and self-righteousness.

We mankind are all prone to all of these, as we have been created with much abilities and gifts given to us. Among all of creations, we are special in that we have such an intellect and ability to discern the right and the wrong, partly because our ancestors committed sin by eating the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In that, we all are aware of the things around us and we are able to discern, but because our intellect, the human intellect, and our human wisdom are not divine in nature, what we have in us, in our minds are limited and flawed by its nature. That is how we fall into the trap of prejudice, bias and judgmental attitude towards others, thinking that we are righteous over other peoples, and in our selfishness, which is part of our nature, we condemn and judge others based on our own standards.

It is common for us to look at someone and judge them based on their character, on what we observed from them, in terms of what clothes they are wearing, what accessories they are wearing, and what company of friends and background someone has. We judge others based on what we observe from them, and we tend to look at the exterior, on appearances to make our judgments, and once we have judged, it is hard for us to remove that bias and prejudice from our minds.

The same happened to Jesus, who went to His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee. He went there to continue doing the good works He had done during His ministry in this world to fulfill and accomplish the long promised salvation for the people of God, the Messiah and Saviour who had eventually come to bring all of His people into a new life in harmony with God and His will.

Yet, as we all know, Jesus among men were seen as a mere carpenter’s son, the son of a simple and humble yet hardworking carpenter named Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, and through this, became His foster-father. Yet, the people even when presented with the truth, that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and the Son of God, and Joseph was His foster-parent refused to change their bias and prejudice, choosing to reject Him rather than listening to His truth.

Why is this so? Because every men are by nature selfish and they are always concerned about themselves and their own self-preservation. This is our nature, and it is not easy to change unless through a determined effort and understanding of the teachings which Jesus had passed down to us. Those people in Nazareth must be thinking, that how is this Son of a humble and simple carpenter, a noteworthy job and yet one that did not bring about much respect due to its low position in the hierarchy of the society, can be the Messiah.

They thought not in divine terms but in the terms of men and the world. They judged Jesus for His supposed simple and low-rank birth to a carpenter and from there they developed the prejudice that prevented them from truly listening to the words which Jesus had to say. And this did not happen to just Jesus, as many of the prophets as mentioned also suffered the same fate, rejected especially by those who knew them and those who shared their homes with these prophets.

We always like to presume that we know it all, and we know all about those around us by just looking at them and we judge them based on how they look and how they act in the society. And Jesus wanted to tell us that this attitude is wrong. We must never be judgmental to others as we too can be judged if we judge others. And that we should look deeper and not just be focused on the appearances, but also on what are inside a person’s hearts and minds.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives, on whether we have done what the people of Nazareth had done, in prejudicing and in being judgmental against others. Let us all change our ways if we had done so, and become better children and servants of our Lord. Let us stop our selfishness and judgmental attitudes, and from there let us all instead work together with one another, so that we may live in harmony and love together, and love sincerely and love tenderly.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us on our way, and strengthen the love and faith which He had planted in our hearts, awakening in us the desire to love one another and to love our God, our Lord and Creator, He who also loves us so much that He gave us Jesus, His Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 4 : 16-30

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He entered the synagogue on the sabbath, as He usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.”

Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”

All agreed with Him, and were lost in wonder, while He spoke of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s Son?” So He said, “Doubtless you will quote Me the saying : Doctor, heal Yourself! Do here in Your town what they say You did in Capernaum.”

Jesus added, “No prophet is honoured in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon.”

“There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought Him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw Him down the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went His way.

Friday, 1 August 2014 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened how the very people of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, rejected Him and had a serious prejudice against Him. They talked of Him being a carpenter’s son, as in their mind, He was nothing more than the son of Joseph, the simple carpenter of the town. To them it was absolutely impossible that the son of a carpenter could be the One to bring the salvation of God to them.

Yes, within their hearts they had been blinded by their own sense of jealousy and human desire. They thought of evil in their heart when they see someone whom they considered inferior to themselves, gaining the ultimate glory and honour. And this is a problem which had plagued mankind for ages. Mankind had the tendency to envy and to want from others what we do not have.

The people of God at the time of the prophet Jeremiah had also rejected the Lord and opted to walk in their own paths in rebellion against God. And instead of following the Lord, they followed their own heart’s desire. That was why the prophet Jeremiah was called from among them, so that God might speak with these wayward children of His, and hopefully to call some of them back into His fold.

These people acted like just how the people of Nazareth acted against Jesus. In fact, the priests and the educated elite, the leaders of the people were the ones who were ganging up against Jeremiah, the chosen prophet of God. They refused to listen to the truth, because they thought they were better than others, and thinking that what they had done were right, while in fact what they had done were wicked in the sight of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today God wants us to know that we ought to listen to Him speaking to us in the depths of our hearts. We should throw far, far away our pride and learn how to humbly follow the Lord. This is important if we are to gain salvation in God and avoid the fate of those who had rejected the Lord, both those who lived in the time of Jeremiah, and those who lived in the time of Jesus.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Alphonsus Mary Liguori, a bishop and doctor of the Church, as well as the founder of the renowned Redemptorist religious order. As the founder of the Redemptorists, or also known in their official name as the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, St. Alphonsus Liguori is renowned for his devotion to the Lord as the Redeemer of all mankind.

You see, brothers and sisters, that God desires nothing but our salvation and redemption from sin that separates us from Him. He wants us to be brought out from the pit of darkness we have fallen into. God has sent us nothing less than His own Son to be our Saviour. Yes, Jesus our Lord and Saviour. And it is on this salvation that God had provided us that St. Alphonsus Liguori and his Redemptorists had tried to bring us closer to.

St. Alphonsus Liguori himself had a bright career in life as a lawyer and working in the field of legal studies, before he decided to give it up and devote his life entirely to God, and to help his fellow men to come closer to the redeeming love of our God. Through his writings and numerous works, we come to realise the love that God has for us, as well as the need for us to draw from His love and mercy in our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all renew our pledge and commitment of love towards Jesus our Lord and Redeemer? St. Alphonsus Liguori had shown us the way, and he had given us a guide. Through his congregation and brethren in the Redemptorist order that we have amongst us even today, we are brought ever closer to the salvation and the mercy of God whom we had rejected, like the people of Israel of old, and like the people of Nazareth to whom Jesus Himself had come.

Let us not be like them, and let us welcome the Lord with open hands and open hearts, just as He Himself opens up His hand to welcome us back. May God forgive us our sins and trespasses, and may His light shine upon our path, that we may find our way back to His love. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 1 August 2014 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? How did He get all this?” And so they took offense at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.