Sunday, 23 October 2016 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of the Lord, as we gather together as one people, we heard about that familiar parable from our Lord Jesus, about a Pharisee and a tax collector, who went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray to God. The Lord contrasted the attitudes of the Pharisee who prayed with pride and haughtiness, clamouring and revelling in his achievements and supposed piety, looking down on others who were not like him, including the tax collector.

Meanwhile the tax collector prayed with great humility, bowing down himself and lowering himself before God and before others, for surely those who came to the Temple would be able to see that tax collector bowed and humbling himself, although tax collectors at that time were feared because of their money, their wealth and influence. But unlike the equally influential Pharisees, the tax collectors were often negatively seen as traitors to the country.

And the prevailing opinion then were obviously stacked against the tax collectors, prostitutes and all others whom were considered as unclean, outcast and unworthy of God’s salvation. And the people, the Jews became elitist in their attitudes, thinking that as the heir of Abraham and God’s covenant, they alone deserved to receive the love and the salvation of God. And chief among those who exhibited this attitude were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

But as the Lord Himself made it clear to one of His prophets, Jesus son of Sirach, also known as the prophet Sirach, our first reading today, that all mankind are equal before Him, in His presence. No one can claim to be better than any other based on their race, background, skin colour, appearances, wealth, status, fame or any other parameters that this world often used in order to distinguish how each one are treated.

God did call Abraham to be His servant, and by his obedience, God rewarded him and his descendants with favour beyond that was given all the other nations. But that does not mean that God favoured the Israelites alone, and condemned the other nations, the other peoples. After all, if God did not love those people whom the Israelites often called as pagans and barbarians, then why would He even bother to create them in the first place?

God created us mankind because He loved us all, and He has loved us all so much that His intention for us was that all of us may dwell for eternity in perfect bliss and happiness, knowing true joy and love in what He has prepared for them since the beginning of time. Alas, all of that were not meant to be, as in our disobedience, sin has become a part of us, corrupting us and made us to be unworthy.

Yet, God Who still loved us all so much, each and every one of us, would not give up on us. If He no longer loved us, then there would be no reason at all for Him to prolong our existence, and just as He had willed us to being, He could have destroyed us all and wiped us out from this world. Instead, He gave us another chance, one after the other, help and assistance, guidance and hope through His prophets and servants, and ultimately, by sending His own Son to be our Saviour.

God loves all of His children very much, and He desires for all of these to be reunited with Him in perfect harmony. And this require these same children, that is mankind, to be changed, transformed and altered completely in their ways, that they abandon their past ways of sin and be converted into the light and truth of our Lord. And that is indeed the essence of the Scripture readings that we heard today.

God does not look at hubris, pride and arrogance, and neither does He need any abstract and fake faith that was not founded upon true and genuine commitment and devotion to His ways. That was why He rebuked the action of the Pharisee both in the parable and in reality, because they were so full of themselves, that they had forgotten their true purpose, the purpose entrusted to them as the leaders and guardians of God’s people.

They forgot that they themselves were sinners too, just as the tax collector, all the other tax collectors, prostitutes and those who have been shunned from the society were sinners too. All of us have sinned before God, and regardless whether they are small or big, minor or major, all of us have been equally tainted by sin and therefore had been rendered unworthy before the Lord.

And unless we are reconciled with our God, we shall be doomed to eternal damnation and oblivion, in hellfire reserved for Satan and his fellow fallen and rebel angels. Certainly, this is not the fate that we want for ourselves, but unfortunately, as we have often witnessed, there are many distractions and temptations that kept us from finding the path to our salvation in God.

And one of the major distraction is that pride and prejudice we have within us, as the Pharisees and their fellow allies have exhibited. As Christians, we cannot follow down this path, as we cannot become enclosed within ourselves, trapped in the quagmire of greed and human pride. Rather, as Christians, we should open ourselves to love and to show care and concern for our brethren, all those who need our help.

And rather that condemning others for their sins, perhaps we ourselves should reflect on our own sinful ways first. Jesus told the Pharisees and all those whom they have gathered in one occasion to test Him by condemning a woman caught with committing adultery, that those who had no sin, ought to cast the first stone against the woman. It is yet another reminder that we have to be humble before God, and not to judge others before we look at ourselves.

Instead, let us offer a helping hand to our brethren in need, and all the more this is necessary because we have received the fullness of God’s truth and revelations through the Church, and thus, as the Apostles and the saints before us, we have that same obligation and responsibility given to us by the Lord Himself, that we ought to help and lead and guide each other that all of us may be saved together in God.

May the Lord help us in our endeavours, that through faith, commitment and devotion to the ways of the Lord, through humility and awareness of our own sins, we may discover the path to reach out to the Lord and find salvation in Him. May He guide us as we walk through this challenging path of life, and may He bless us always in all things, that we will persevere and not give up as we approach His merciful and loving embrace. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard a key message from the Scripture passages and the Gospel we heard today, namely that each and every one of us Christians have been given gifts from the Lord, and we have the responsibility to cultivate those gifts that we may bear rich fruits of the gifts God had given us, and thus become the source of grace for all who have come into touch with us.

It is a reminder for us all, that we as Christians cannot be passive, and neither can we be ignorant of what we need to do, our roles in this world. For indeed, as we all should be aware of, we are saved not just by saying to the Lord, “Lord, Lord, I believe in You.” But also through an active and genuine faith, meaning that we practice and do things as how our faith in God had taught us and shown us.

A faith that is not practiced nor lived to its fullness is a meaningless and empty faith. Faith must be vibrant and genuine, and not merely an empty proclamation or declaration. It was what the Lord wanted to tell is in the Gospel today. He mentioned about people who died in a terrible accident, and how these compared to the others who died in normal circumstances.

It was not due to their fault that they have suffered the kind of terrible death they endured, but even though it was not so, but everyone ultimately will face death at the end of their lives. It is God alone Who knows how and when we will meet the end of our earthly existence, but then what truly matters will be the deeds and actions we have done in this life we have, be it short or long, and regardless of how we meet our end, which God alone knows.

There is nothing that we have done, or which we have not done, that the Lord will not know and find out through His most omniscient understanding and knowledge, He Who knows everything, even the very deepest secrets that we mankind have hidden from Him, and from one another. But this is where what we do with our lives make a difference with us.

It is here that Jesus used the example of the fig tree in His parable, in order to show the fate of those who were faithful versus those who have not been faithful to God in their ways. The fig tree represent each and every one of us, while the owner and master of the field is the Lord our God. And as fig tree bears fruits that are sweet and nice to be eaten, when the owner planted the fig trees he must have been looking forward to collect those sweet fruits, and either eat them or sell them for profit.

But he was not happy when the fig tree was found to be barren despite what must have been the best of conditions it had been planted in, the best soil, sufficient water, sunlight and all that the plant needs in order to grow well and bear many fruits, sweet and good. But instead, there were none at all. Imagine then, how is this a parallel to us. We have been given many gifts by the Lord, but are we utilising them and cultivating them in our own lives?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul in his letter to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus reminded them and from them to each and every one of us, that from God, the Holy Spirit has been given to us all who believe in Him, and from the Spirit we have received a rich multitudes of gifts, which were given to us. And he mentioned that to different people, different gifts have been given.

It is a reminder to each and every one of us, members of the Church, that we have our respective roles to play, to contribute and do what we can in order to fulfil our parts as God’s people and servants. Fulfilling God’s will is what made us all to grow in strength and faith, and therefore to bear the rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, faith, hope, joy and many others.

And perhaps, we should follow the examples of the great saint whose feast we are celebrating on this day, one whom many of us are familiar with, our own Holy Father for many years, the leader of the Universal Church, Bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter the Apostle, the Vicar of Christ, Pope St. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, and one of the great figures of the last century.

He was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Krakow in the year 1920 of our Lord, and he had a loving family who cared for him, but he had a rough early years of his life, when one by one his family members were taken away from him. His elder brother passed away due to sickness, his mother also passed away, and eventually during the great conflict of the Second World War, he also lost his father.

But despite the personal tragedies, the difficulties he encountered, and the very fact that his own nation was obliterated and millions of others suffered because of the great war that had happened at that time. He himself brushed against death in many occasions, and had to endure great hardships at that moment of suffering. But that did not stop him from pursuing the path to which God had called him, that is the path of service, the path of priesthood.

Karol Wojtyla was eventually ordained a priest after the war, but just as one problem ended for his country and fellow countrymen, another even bigger problem came to the fore, when Communism came to power in Poland, causing great difficulties for the Church and the faithful in Poland and in other parts of Eastern Europe under the atheist Communist rule.

Nevertheless, he persevered through, and having been made first as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope St. John Paul II, led the people of God in persistence and perseverance against the many forms of discriminations and persecutions that they faced.

When the Communist authorities banned and prevented the construction of a new church building in the suburb of Nowa Huta of Krakow, which the authorities intended to be the first town without a church, in opposition to the Church and a new way to oppress it and the faithful people of God. Archbishop Wojtyla refused to budge and led a silent but real opposition against it, and championed the establishment of a church despite the persecution and challenges.

And he continued to devote himself to serve the Lord’s Church and His people even as he was made a Cardinal and thus a Prince of the Church, and then later on was elected as Pope and successor to St. Peter the Apostle and thus leader of the entire Church in 1978. His many works as Pope, his dedications in bringing down the tyranny of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the world, and his contributions towards peace are truly remarkable.

We all knew of his deeds and contributions both to the Church and to the world. And we have to take note that he is just a man like us, and as I have mentioned earlier on, he did not exactly had an easy life, and he lost most of his family early on in his life. And yet, all of those did not stop him from doing so many good works that throughout his life, and impacted the life of so many others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if Pope St. John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla had shown to us how to be a fruitful son of God, bearing rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, making use of the many gifts God had given him, then we too can also do the same as well. And each of us can contribute in our own ways. Many of us will continue to do as what we have done in this world, the laity, who help the Church in numerous groundwork, while some of us may be called by the Lord to serve Him and His people as priests and religious.

May the Lord help us to realise our vocation in this life, that we may give our best and devote our whole life in full hearted commitment to the Lord and to His ways, and may He bless us and keep us forever in His grace, deliver unto us the fullness of His blessings. Amen.

Friday, 21 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we are approaching fast to the closing and the end of the liturgical year in November, we are reminded to be prepared and to be ready for the coming of the Lord and His judgment that awaits each and every one of us at the date and time of His own choosing. And we do not know when this time will come for us, as only the Lord alone knows it.

Through the readings which we received and heard today, we are also reminded that we have been sundered from the Lord because of our sins and iniquities, all the things that prevented us from being able to be reconciled and reunited with God. And unless we are reconciled with our God, we have no hope in us, and we are in a great danger for eternal damnation.

And the way for us to achieve this reconciliation is just as what our Lord Jesus mentioned, that is by seeking to make peace with God, and to be absolved and be freed from what had made us to be lacking that peace of God in the first place. And this requires us to seek true and genuine repentance for our sins and wickedness. It means that we must learn to change our ways and adopt what the Lord had shown us, His ways and precepts.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his letter to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus mentioned how through baptism we have been made members of the Church, and be made into one body, the members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and be freed from our past sinful ways, and be brought into a new life, namely a life blessed and graced by the righteousness of God.

And therefore, all of us Christians, who have been washed anew by the holy water of our baptism, have passed on from the chains of slavery of sin, just as the Israelites have walked through the sea from their slavery in Egypt, and into liberation in God, Who brought them and guided them through the desert into the lands promised to them and to their ancestors.

But perhaps from that experience and history, we can also learn several things that we ourselves need to take note of in our own lives today. Firstly, the people of Israel, despite having been liberated from their slavery, they were easily tempted and in many occasions, they complained and even openly rebelled against God and His servant Moses, comparing how their lives in Egypt had been far better than living in the desert, although God cared for them day and night.

It is a lesson for us, that as we live our lives in this world, today, it is easy for us to get distracted and to be tempted by the many persuasions and temptations that the devil and his forces arrayed against us, the people of God. It is a reminder for us that as Christians, we cannot be lukewarm in our faith, but instead, we must be active and be truly devoted to God via our actions, words and deeds.

And this is what is meant by true reconciliation, where we cast away our sinfulness, our past rebelliousness and resistance against God, and instead learn to live with faith, with a new commitment for our God, be true Christians in our way of life, and not just be a Christian on paper alone. And surely, God Who sees our actions made with genuine faith in Him will reward us and bless us, and we will be made righteous and just, worthy of Him and His salvation.

May the Lord bless us all and grant us strength to persevere on in this life, filled with zeal and devotion, to do what He has asked of us and more. May the Lord bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 20 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through what we heard in the Scripture readings and the Gospel passage reminded us that being a disciple of our Lord is no easy feat, and certainly it requires from us dedication and commitment, that through our actions, our deeds and our ways, by whatever we do and say, we will always bring glory to God and proclaim His truth to the nations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all ask ourselves these questions: ‘How many of us are truly living out our faith in our Lord Jesus? How many of us truly practice what we believe in our faith? Have we instead been lukewarm and ignorant of the tenets and teachings of our Church about the faith we have in God? Have we forgotten what it means to be a Christian? And indeed, what does being a Christian mean to us, and what it entails for us?’

These are the questions that we ought to internalise within ourselves, which we should spend some time thinking about, as we go through our own actions and deeds, what we have said and done in the past, and see if we have become conformists to the ways of the world, and thus ignored the way of the Lord, or whether we have stood fast to our faith and committed ourselves fully to the Lord our God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have had it easy all these while as Christians, well there is nothing wrong about it. But perhaps we should have a look again at how we live out our faith life. The ways of the devil, his allies and ultimately this world which is dominated by him and his fallen fellows, are inevitably opposite of that of the Lord’s, as these have rose up in rebellion against God, and now they sought to bring us to our downfall as well.

It does not mean that we have to come into conflict and trouble with the world, its ways and its forces, but it also means that we should not be conforming and letting everything goes the way it has been for this world, meaning that as Christians, we have to be strong anchor of the faith, and be beacons of light that shine brightly amidst this darkened world.

And sometimes, and in some occasions, even often, this may lead us into conflict within our society, with those whom we know and those whom we consider our very good friends and family as well. If we want evidence of what had happened in the past, we do not need to go further than see what happened to the Roman martyrs and saints, many of whom went through suffering, torture and eventually martyrdom because they rejected the old ways of pagan worships of their ancestors and followed the Lord, and their families, relatives and friends opposed them.

Even the closest of friends and family members turned to be their enemies as they rejected those who have followed the Lord and His ways. And this has been repeated many times throughout history, from time to time, again and again, even until this very day. We can relate this to the many occasions in many places around the world where many Christians still have to practice their faith in secret, in order to prevent themselves from being killed, tortured and made to suffer because of their faith.

Therefore, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to give our solidarity to our brethren who are still suffering the daily effects and impacts of this clash between the ways of this world and the ways of our Lord, let us all give hope to each other, by doing our very best in order to live out our lives with dedication and faith to the Lord, that we show all the people that we belong to the Lord, He alone Who should be followed. And through this, hopefully we may enkindle the fire of faith and hope amongst those who are suffering.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves to God anew from now on, so that we will be able to draw closer to Him, and stay with Him throughout this life which we live in this world, that we may not lose our way, and be able to reach out to the Lord and His salvation, and therefore receive the fullness of grace and eternal glory with our God.

Let us all not be distracted by the temptations of worldly pleasures, glory and fame, all of which last only but a short while. It is a temporary distraction, yet one that is truly very dangerous as these can distract us and pull us away from finding our way to God. Let us help one another to persevere and to stay focused on our true goal, finding the Lord and reaching out to Him through righteousness and justice in life. May God help us in these endeavours, and bless us always. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests 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 heard the Scripture passages telling us firstly about the works of St. Paul the Apostle who was called by God and was sent to preach the Good News of God into the foreign lands to the pagan peoples who have yet to hear the Good News, and who have yet to know the identity of their true Lord and Saviour.

He has worked among them and preached among them the Good News, calling them to conversion and to understand the will of God for them. God helped him and guided him along the path, and in doing so he has been like the good and hardworking steward that Jesus our Lord mentioned in the Gospel today, where He praised the actions of the good steward who was committed to fulfil the work he was entrusted with by his master.

This was contrasted with the lazy and wicked servant whose actions were not what his master wanted from him. The lazy and wicked servant was not forthcoming with his works, and he thought that when the master was not around, he could do whatever he wanted and nothing would happen to him if he did not do as what was expected of him.

Unfortunately the master came back unexpectedly and he found out that the lazy servant had been neglecting his works, and he had therefore become unworthy of his position, and thus, the master sacked him and punished him heavily, while he praised and graced the good servant who did his work admirably, and this is a reminder to each and every one of us, we who are God’s people, His servants and followers, that we should not neglect what the Lord had entrusted to us.

And what is that brothers and sisters in Christ? What is it that God entrusted to us? It is the mission of evangelisation, to preach the Good News to our brethren, to one another, to all those who have yet to receive and to hear the Good News, all those who are living in sin and corruption of their darkness and wickedness, that all of these may be saved and may be freed from the evils that beset them and be brought into eternal life in God.

Many of us Christians are not aware of this mission which God had entrusted to us through His Apostles and His Church. We are all called to continue the works of the Apostles, continuing the good works that St. Paul had started, the labours and hardships he had encountered which we have heard in our first reading today. We may have thought that their works were completed, but in reality, there are always more work out there to be done.

Perhaps we should look at the examples of the holy saints whose feast we are celebrating today. This day we celebrate firstly the feast of the martyrs of North America, namely St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, and their many companions, fellow priests and missionaries, as well as many laymen who died defending their faith and in their mission to spread the Good News in the region now known as Canada and the rest of North America.

These missionaries, who were members of the Jesuit order, went from France to the wild lands and unexplored territories known now as Quebec and Canada, working and preaching among the local American Indian populations, introducing them to the Lord Jesus and to His salvation. Their work was not easy, as although there were some of the Indian populations who listened to them and converted to the Faith, but there were many others who refused to believe and were hostile to the missionaries and their efforts.

Nevertheless, these brave and courageous missionaries did not let the difficulties and challenges to overcome them, and despite all the mounting challenges facing them, they persevered on and continued to minister to the people whom they have called from the darkness. But several of them were martyred as they were captured and tortured by those tribes who refused to believe in Jesus and in His salvation.

Eventually the rest would be martyred as they were caught in between conflict among the worldly powers as well as between the Indian tribes, but their missionary works and pioneering examples served as examples for many generations of Christians in that region and in other parts of the world alike. Many more missionaries were to perish and to suffer in their attempt to evangelise to the people living in ignorance and darkness, but their contributions had saved countless souls and helped to establish the Church in various places.

St. Paul of the Cross meanwhile was an Italian priest and mystic, who was a simple man devoting himself to a life of service to God and to His people, and he was very devoted in his prayer life to God, and established with many other similar-minded companions, the congregation of the Poor of Jesus, devoting their time and efforts to live in a life of poverty and commitment to God, while teaching many others how they can become closer to God.

He established many communities devoted to contemplative life to God, and through his many visions received from the Lord, St. Paul of the Cross shared with many of his followers and others about these revelations and through his many writings and works, he gave to them and also to all of us, the insight into how we ought to follow the Lord and walk in His ways.

The examples from these holy saints and all the faithful predecessors who have walked and laboured before us should be inspirations for us all to follow, that by walking in their footsteps, we may be able to draw closer to God ourselves, and at the same time, also help to bring one another especially those who have lost their ways, that we all may find our way to God together and receive the fullness of His grace together. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the commemoration of the great feast day in honour of St. Luke, one of the writers of the Four Holy Gospels, the Gospel according to St. Luke, which was known as one of the most detailed among the four Gospels, filled with rich details about the life of Jesus our Lord, His works, His family and His disciples, and all other testimonies of faith that helped us to know what our Lord had taught us through His Church.

In today’s readings, we heard about the works of the Apostles and the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the works of St. Paul the Apostle, who went about to many places, cities, towns and villages throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, crossing back and forth between Greece and the Roman province of Asia, Syria and Judea, he had proclaimed the word of God in many occasions, testifying to the communities in the places he had visited about the Lord and Saviour of the world.

In the Gospel we also heard how Jesus sent His chosen seventy-two disciples who had been appointed to assist the twelve Apostles in the deliverance of the Good News to the people, and these helped the work of the Lord by preparing those people and communities for the coming of the Lord Jesus, that when He came, He would be able to relate better to them and many more of them would listen to Him and be saved.

And as Jesus had foretold, their works and missions were not to be easy, but instead many obstacles and challenges exist on their path. There would be those who welcomed them into their places, and many more would listen to them and be changed in accordance to what the Lord intended for these, but there were also to be many more who would refuse to listen to God’s call, rejecting the call to repentance and mercy.

There would be those who were obstinate and stubborn in following the path of the world, worshipping pagan idols and being devoted to worldly pursuits such as money, power, fame and all other things, and these would come to oppose the Lord and His disciples, and in time, would come to persecute them, to chase them away from their lands, and to torture them, imprison them, and even to make them meet their end in martyrdom.

But without those courageous disciples and Apostles of our Lord, who have given their all to bring the Good News to the people who were still living in ignorance and in the darkness, there would have been no Church, and no salvation and grace for the countless souls who had been saved because of their works. Their blood, the spilling of their blood and the destruction of their mortal bodies served to be the foundation of the Church, as the saying goes, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.

How is this relevant for us all, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because we all are the current day’s Apostles and disciples, whom the Lord had continued to entrust the same mission which He had given to His Apostles and disciples as mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. We may be thinking that their works had been completed and the mission was over, but in reality, the mission God had entrusted to us is still very much real and ongoing.

We may not have to lay down our lives in the manner of the Apostles and the disciples of our Lord at that time in the early days of the Church, but we have to realise that there are places in this world where being a Christian, and believing in our God may equate to suffering and being persecuted even unto death, when even the enemies of the Lord will not show mercy to the faithful.

And there are also still so many of our brethren who still live in the darkness, lacking knowledge and understanding of our Lord and His salvation. And we can devote ourselves in the many ways available to us in accordance with our talents and abilities, and in terms of what we are willing and what we are able to give to our brethren who are in need of guidance and help.

We can start little from ourselves, be good and faithful disciples of our Lord, who shun all forms of fornications and sins, be it of the flesh, or of the mind and the heart. We can be charitable and be generous with all those whom we meet along the way, who need help with sustenance, with care, love and attention, and also most importantly, those who have not received the message and truth about God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the examples of St. Luke and the other saints, Apostles, disciples and holy martyrs be inspirations for all of us to follow in their footsteps, so that by doing what they have done, and by staying devoted and being faithful in all things, and beginning from whatever little and simple things that we can do in our own surroundings, may we all work together to bring the enlightenment to many others and that many more souls may be saved through our work and dedication. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Monday, 17 October 2016 : 29th 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, on this day, we are reminded again how we have been saved through the loving action and through the mercy of God, Who have forgiven our trespasses and opened for us the path to salvation and eternal life, a liberation from the darkness and the corruptions which had trapped us all these while.

God has by His grace allowed us to receive the good fruits of His blessings, and through Him He has enabled us all to enjoy the promise of everlasting life, the hope amidst all of the despairs of this world. Yet, we mankind are the ones who are often obstinate and adamant in our ways, refusing to believe in Him and even rejected Him for lesser beings, false idols and all other distractions of this world.

We trust more in our own judgments and desires rather than listening and obeying to the Lord our God. And in doing so, we have often fallen into sin and deeper into the darkness. Our desires pull us ever more to try to attain for ourselves even more of what satisfied our flesh, the pleasures of our bodies, that we acted in ways as mentioned by Jesus in the Gospel today.

He mentioned about a rich man who had plenty of wealth, in his barns, crops and coins he possessed. And yet, he still desired for even more of these wealth, and thinking as well as worrying about what to be done to his ever growing wealth. He had planned long into the future to accumulate all the more of what he had attained, and to gather even more of what brought him satisfaction, fame, glory and prosperity.

And yet, God reminded him and indeed all of us, each and every one of us, that for all the wonders and the good things we have, all of these do not last forever. And just as much as we mankind can plan for all the things we want to do in life, ultimately, it is God Who decides our fate, and it is He alone Who understands us fully and knows the exact lengths of our earthly existence. He gave us life, and He alone can take the same life back.

It is a lesson and a reminder for us all Christians that our existence and our salvation depends on God, and indeed our lives depend on God, and His love is the one that made everything possible for us. He is generous and rich in mercy and love, but are we doing anything in order to accept these rich offerings of love? The love of God is ours to take, but do we love Him in the same manner and just as much as He has loved us?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to appreciate more what God had given us, and then to take up into ourselves the responsibilities and the tasks which He had entrusted to us just as He entrusted those same tasks in His commands to His Apostles that many years ago just before He left to ascend to His heavenly glory.

We are all called to serve the Lord with faith and zeal, and to deliver unto the whole world, the revelation of God’s salvation and of His hope for us all, that through believing and accepting that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour, and through complete and total change in life attitudes and actions, all of them, all of us mankind may be brought to the salvation God promised His faithful ones.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, a very influential and important disciple of the Lord who was the successor of St. Peter the Apostle in his capacity as the Bishop of Antioch, and therefore was its second bishop, in a city where the Church was first established and where the faithful were also first known as Christians.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was very devoted to the Lord, giving his best in the works to establish and to strengthen the foundations of the Church in the region and beyond after he converted to the faith and became one of the leaders of the Church. It was because of his hard work and contributions from the other faithful and Church leaders that the Church endured through the difficult first decades of its existence.

He wrote extensively about the teachings of the Lord and published these among the faithful, encouraging them to keep the faith courageously even amidst threat of persecution and suffering imposed by the Roman authorities. He often led by example, serving the poor and the weak ones in the community, and the numbers of the faithful continued to grow during his leadership of the Church in Antioch.

While he was eventually martyred in Rome as the traditions held, truly, he had no regret or fear, for unlike those who have endeavoured to build for themselves earthly wealth and treasures. For he had built up for himself immense treasure in heaven, one that truly matters. For no one who have placed their trust in the Lord shall be disappointed, and neither was St. Ignatius of Antioch and the many other holy saints and martyrs.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore join our efforts together, to bring the Good News of God to all the peoples, to our brethren by our own faith and fidelity to our faith and to the teachings of the Church. May God help us on our journey and may He help us to draw closer to Himself, leaving behind our sinful past and embrace a new future filled with love and joy. Amen.

Sunday, 16 October 2016 : 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of our Lord, we listened to several different discourses from the Holy Scriptures, telling us firstly from the Book of Exodus, the tale of the time when the Israelites defeated the people of Amalek, the greatest enemy of the people of God by the guidance of the Lord through Moses, His servant.

Then, we heard about how inspiration and true wisdom comes from God in the form of the Scriptures itself, as St. Paul mentioned in his correspondence letter to St. Timothy. The Scriptures are the words of the Lord, His servants and His prophets who all delivered the word of God to us all and made known to us all His will. By reading through the Scriptures we will then come to understand the way that God wants us to walk and tread on.

In the Gospel then we also heard about Jesus our Lord Who taught the people using the parable of an evil judge and a widow who harassed him day and night, from time to time, so that the evil judge who did not bother about anyone, would come to her rescue by giving what she righteously desired for, the protection and guarantee over her share of inheritance.

In the end we heard how the evil judge acquiesced to her demands and fulfilled what she had asked him, just so that he might be spared from her constant nagging and demands. In all these three readings and the Psalm which we heard, we can see a theme that is arising to us, telling us to look towards the One and the only One indeed Who can be the freedom and the liberation from our troubles.

God stood by His people on that day when Amalek unexpectedly and unprovoked launched an attack on the people of God, Israel. He stood by them faithfully as they fought against this ferocious and dangerous enemy, and eventually they triumphed, not by the might of their own arms, but because God was with them. This was shown to us through Moses who was told to raise his hand holding the staff of God in his hands. Whenever he lifted up his arms, the people of God would be winning, and when he became tired and lowered his arms, the people of God were losing against the Amalekites.

How is this relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is relevant because we ourselves are always in a constant struggle and conflict, not just within our own lives in this world, with all of its goods and troubles, but even more importantly, the battle and conflict over our souls, the eternal soul within us that will determine our fate for eternity, whether it will be in glory with our God or in agony suffering torment for the consequences of our wickedness.

And we are not in this conflict alone, brethren. Satan is more than willing, and indeed wanting and desiring to claim us all, our souls, and bring all of these with him as he descends into hell with all of his fellow rebel angels. But on the other side, we have our guardian Angels, whom God had sent together with His many other Angels, all the servants and holy men and women He had called and inspired to lead us to the right path and to resist the pull of evil.

God protects us from the depredations of these demons and all those seeking to destroy us with themselves. However, it does not mean that we do not have to do anything and just wait patiently and quietly for salvation to come to us. In that same second reading, St. Paul as mentioned earlier on told St. Timothy about the importance of the Holy Scriptures for us.

It is therefore that by adhering and understanding the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures that we are able to appreciate better what our Lord wants from us, and which is the way that we need to take as we embark on this life. Otherwise we may lose our path and ended up committing ever more sins and wickedness that will eventually be held accountable against us.

How many of us spend time to read the Bible and its contents, trying to understand the Word of God contained inside it? How many of us attempted to comprehend the examples of the holy saints and the servants of God as written and recorded in the Old Testament, and the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord in the New Testament? There are truly many examples of their courageous faith, and also some other examples of wickedness that we should avoid.

But we must also be careful lest we fall into another trap of the devil. Never think that the devil cannot use the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures against us, as he had shown when he used the Word and twisted its meaning against Jesus Who was fasting in the desert just after He was baptised in order to test Him and made Him fall. But he did not meet any success at all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to spend time reading through the Scriptures, for the Word of God is key to our ability to keep the faith and understand the Lord and His will, His commandments and ways. But we have to understand it and read it through the guidance and help from the Church and from our Faith. That is why we should not allow ourselves to have our own interpretation of the meaning of the Word if these are not in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

Let us all from now on devote ourselves to be ever more devoted and committed people and servant of our God, spending time to read the Scriptures and then commit ourselves to do what the Lord had told us to do through His words in the Scriptures, loving our brethren who are in need, be charitable and be loving to our unloved, hated and ostracised brethren, being merciful and forgiving to all those who have slighted or angered us whether intentionally or unintentionally.

May the Lord bless us all and keep us always in His grace, that we may draw ever closer to Him and at the end of our days, He may bless us and strengthen us, and consider us all worthy of His salvation and eternal life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 15 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded yet again that as Christians, each and every one of us have been made righteous and just in Christ our Lord. Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world has made us whole and liberated us from the sins of our ancestors and that of our own, that is through His great and ultimate love shown through the sacrifice of the cross.

And yet, we mankind have responded to God’s love with scorn and contempt. We refused and rejected God’s love because of our pride, and because of our inability to wrench ourselves away from the temptations of pleasure and the persuasions and lies of the evil one. We are easily tempted by our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities and proneness to sin and to the wickedness of the flesh.

And it is all these which have separated us from the love and grace of our God. And one example was shown by the people of Israel themselves, ever since when they escaped from the land of Egypt. God showed His might to them, liberating them from the hands of the Pharaoh by the Ten Plagues that struck down the Egyptians, from their mighty Pharaoh to the smallest and least of the Egyptians and their animals.

Yet, even though God had rescued them and brought them into freedom, opening the seas and destroying their enemies before them, these people were very stubborn and rebellious. They complained and resisted the authority of Moses and all those whom God had entrusted with their care. They gave in to the temptations of their stomachs, the temptations of pleasure and easy life, and they ditched the Lord on many occasions and instead worshipped the idols.

These were those whom God had punished through death and pestilence, as His anger raged amongst them, and many did die, as the whole rebellious generation of Israelites would show, when they perished in the desert and did not enter into the Promised Land. Only those who obeyed the Lord received His grace and allowance to settle in the land of milk and honey.

It was the same with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who despite having witnessed the miracles and the healing works, the wondrous deeds of Jesus and His disciples, still refused to believe in Him, doubted Him and tested Him to the very end, when they mocked Him hanging on the cross to rescue Himself if He was truly the Messiah. This attitude of lack of faith and stubbornness are really a characteristic of us mankind.

And as they continuously mocked the One Whom God had sent into the world in order to save it, including these very people, they were not forgiven their sins and they were considered as true sinners, even as they themselves liked to parade around their piety and deeds and looked down on others whom they considered as sinners, the prostitutes and tax collectors. And yet, as Jesus Himself said, that these people were going faster towards the Kingdom of God because they repented from their sins.

In Jesus we have our hope of salvation and liberation, and thus, we should try our best to resist the temptations of this world, so that we may be able to truly accept the Lord in our hearts and not harden our hearts and closed our minds as those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. In His holy Name we shall find our succour and liberation from these darkness and the threats of the devil.

St. Teresa of Jesus, who was also known as St. Teresa of Avila after her birthplace in Avila, Spain, who is our saint of this day, is a strong proponent of renewed faith and commitment to our Lord through strong spirituality and devotion to God. St. Teresa of Jesus was renowned as the founder of the Discalced Carmelite order with St. John of the Cross, and both of them were strong and dedicated reformer of the faith and the Church.

At that time, the Church, the Faith and the faithful people of God were under great threat from the massive heresy of Protestantism, which was called by the heretics as ‘reform’, and yet, in the false teachings it proposed, it has led into many people of God to fall away from the path towards salvation, and through the devil and his works in the false prophets like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many others, many had been cast down into hell for their sins.

It was a time of great distress for the Church and for the faithful. But there were many courageous and devoted servants of God who worked hard to stem the tide of heresy and bring back many thousands and more to the true faith in God. St. Teresa of Jesus was among them, a great visionary and mystic, a great writer and contributor to the teachings of the Church, and a strong proponent of an active spiritual life dedicated to God.

St. Teresa of Jesus devoted her whole life to the Lord, as well as for her religious congregation, persuading many and pushing for reform and change in the way how many of them lived their lives, deepening their spirituality and relationship with the Lord their God. She purged worldly elements and unworthy conduct from amongst her fellow religious, and wrote extensively on the matter, on how to become ever more devoted and holy in the sight and presence of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves wholly to the Lord in the same manner as that of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Teresa of Jesus, as well as the many other saints, holy men and women of God. Let us no longer be stubborn and wicked in our hearts, but be converted thoroughly to the Lord. May the Lord bless us all and keep us in His love at all times. Amen.

Friday, 14 October 2016 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings reminded us all that God is our loving Father, our loving Lord Who created each and every one of us out of His boundless and never-ending love. He has promised to each and every one of us the promise of everlasting life and eternal glory with Him, which was what He intended for us and for our ancestors, if not for their sins, and ours as well.

For we were all destined to be loved by God, and to live forever in the grace and in the light of God’s presence, all the more that we are the most special among all of God’s creations, the ones whom He loves the most. He does not want us all to perish, even the smallest and the worst among us, for we are all equal before God, equally loved and equally cherished by our Lord and Creator. And yet, because of our sins, we have drifted away from the Lord and from His salvation.

And we are often not aware of that love which the Lord had for us, because our eyes, our senses, our minds and our hearts are veiled and blocked by that darkness that had been in us, which corrupted us and twisted us into creatures of sin and darkness. And sin is that veil that had corrupted us and prevented us from being able to realise and understand just how much love God has for us.

And that sin is the same that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for, the yeast of the Pharisees. It is the accumulated sin of greed, of jealousy, hatred and all things that these people have gathered in themselves, and which they unleashed against the Lord that had made the works of Jesus to be very difficult. Their sins were many, and they refused to admit these and repent from those sins, and as a result, they led even more of the people of God into the wrong path.

They thought that whatever they had done could be hidden from the knowledge and awareness of the people, but God saw all that they had done, and He would count all these against them on the day of judgment. Jesus Himself said that, nothing that has been hidden will remain hidden forever, at any one time, these may come to light, all scandals and inappropriate acts even those which were most well-hidden of all.

It is a reminder to all of us Christians, that each and every one of us ought to live righteously in God’s presence, following and obeying His will, His laws and commandments, and these are as we all know it, love. His will for us is love, that we all love one another, care for one another, for each other and be concerned about the salvation of one another, that each and every one of us may find our way to God.

We should not follow the examples of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were very proud of their status in their society, and they were haughty and proud, looking down on others who did not belong to their caste and class. As Christians, each and every one of us should be humble, caring, loving and merciful. And perhaps we should also be inspired to follow the example of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope of the Church and holy martyr of the Faith, whose feast we celebrate today.

Pope St. Callixtus I lived and reigned as Pope at a time of great difficulty for the Church and the faithful. During that time, at the height of the pagan Roman Empire and in the early days of the Church, many persecutions faced the faithful and many were in hiding because they were members of the Church. Discrimination, oppression, resentment and hatred against these faithful people of God were rampant.

Yet Pope St. Callixtus led the Church and the faithful with courage and vigour, often not fearing the dangers and the risks he had to face as he went on to minister to the faithful, caring and serving them with love. He faced many difficulties and sufferings throughout his life, having been punished, incarcerated, exiled and forced to do tough labour in many occasions, and yet he continued to persevere hard in his life and in his vocation as a servant of God.

He helped to establish the Church and made it stronger by resisting the works of heretics and rebels against the authority of the Church, while encouraging many sinners to repent their sins and to return to the Church of God. There were those who refused to follow this path of mercy and forgiveness, but through Pope St. Callixtus I and his deep commitment to the salvation of sinners, many souls were saved from certain eternal damnation.

Through these examples which Pope St. Callixtus I had shown us, we too should learn from his examples on how to become an ever better Christian, and how to practice our faith ever more devoutly in our respective lives. Let us all do the same, devoting ourselves, heart and mind, to show mercy to our brethren in need, whether it is for material or spiritual sustenance.

Let us all as Christians be beacons of light for one another, that by working together, inspired by the examples of our Lord and His holy saints, we may help each other to draw ever closer to God and to His salvation and eternal life. May God bless us all and keep us always in His grace. Amen.