Sunday, 5 July 2020 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are reminded of the love that God has for all of us, and how all of us are called to put our faith in Him and to entrust ourselves in His care. And the message from today’s Scripture readings is indeed apt and fitting especially during these days when we are facing so many challenges and trials, hardships and troubles all around us.

All of us have heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Zechariah in our first reading today, in which the Lord promised the coming of salvation when the King Himself would come to Jerusalem and bring forth salvation and new life to all of His beloved people. This is also the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, seated on a humble donkey, which would be fulfilled when Christ came to Jerusalem on the donkey just before His Passion, suffering and death.

In that same passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of how there would no longer be chariots in Ephraim and neither there would be horses in Jerusalem. These spoke of the means of war represented by the chariots and horses, between Ephraim, where the northern kingdom of Israel was centred and Jerusalem, the centre of the southern kingdom of Judah. Both kingdoms had been divided since the time of king Solomon’s death, and feuded for the next few centuries since.

Therefore, the Lord spoke of the coming of the good time when the people would no longer be divided, of the times when they would be restored and strengthened, when the veil of shame and humiliation would be lifted from them, after each kingdoms were subjugated, conquered and their populations exiled and enslaved by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively. The Lord would bring them all out of their misery just as He had once done with them as He delivered them from the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This was then fulfilled in Christ, when He came into this world and revealed the fulfilment of God’s long planned salvation of His people, as the Gospel passage today had told us, that He, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of all, has brought with Him the truth of God, how He was going to save all of us mankind, and how there is only one path to salvation, that is through Him, by believing in Him and trusting in Him.

He calls on all of us to come to Him, to seek Him and to put our trust in Him as His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and we ought to seek our rest in Him. But are we willing to come to Him and to seek Him? Or have we instead been distracted and swayed to follow the wrong and false paths promoted by the devil and all those seeking to turn us away from God? This is where as Christians we must indeed show good examples, and strive our best to put our strong, living and genuine faith in Him.

From what the Lord Himself had revealed to us, and from what many of our predecessors in faith had experienced, all of us have to realise that being Christians is not meant to be an easy and trivial one. When the Lord mentioned that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He exactly meant what He said, that there will still be yoke and burden for us to shoulder and endure. Some among us had held the misunderstandings and wrong impression that when we follow the Lord then we will have an easy and comfortable life, but this was not what the Lord meant.

What the Lord wants us to realise is that by putting our trust in Him, we gain the assurance of the true glory and joy, the guarantee of eternity of rest and new life, a new existence with Him, free from the shackles and chains of sin, and reconciled completely to Him. We must not instead think in worldly terms and matters, seeking glory and worldly satisfaction, fame and pleasure, and these are not what we are going to get from following God and being faithful to Him.

St. Paul spoke of this as he wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, part of which is our second reading today. He spoke of all of us Christians who have believed in God and received the baptism into the Church as those who no longer live in accordance with the flesh, and instead, we are living by the spirit of God. If we still continue to persist in living in the flesh, it means that we still allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the allures of worldly desires and sin.

St. Paul reminds us that we have all shared in the death of Christ through our baptism, and by His death, all of us have been redeemed by His loving sacrifice on the Cross. And that is not all, for as the Lord triumphed over death and conquered sin, as He rose in glory in Resurrection, all of us have therefore also shared in His Resurrection into a new life, a new Christian way of life that each and every one of us have been called to live up to by the Lord Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures and remember again what we have just heard, and as we look into our own lives thus far, our actions and our faith, let us all ask ourselves now. Have we all been good and faithful as Christians living our lives in this world? Have we spent our time well thus far, in trusting in the Lord? Or have we been living for ourselves, putting trust in all the things the world offer us and which we have spent our lives gathering and desiring for?

During these first few months of this year, we have seen and witnessed for ourselves how the usual order of this world have been completely disturbed and affected. The coronavirus pandemic and its multiple negative effects on the world’s economy, society and various other factors, coupled with societal instabilities and issues, racism and violence, interstate conflicts and more, reasonably heightened due to the fear and the uncertainties brought about by the combination of all these, natural disasters among others, all these had made this year among the worst for us to live in.

Many of us have suffered in one way or another, and many among us had been disturbed in more than one way, some among us losing our work and employment, losing that iron bowl of income that we once thought to be secure and good. People had been losing their savings and income in all the economic recessions and instabilities that occurred. People had been sickened, lost their loved ones to the illness, or be disabled by what had happened, among other things.

Let us all therefore realise that for whatever assurances and strengths we used to think we have in this world, all of those stood for nothing and would be meaningless in the end, as there is nothing in this world, no matter how great or plentiful, that will last forever. Instead, let us all make use of this opportunity to realise again just how fortunate we are to be beloved by God, to have One Who has always cared for us and lavished His love and attention towards us. It is in God alone that we have sure hope and trust. Are we going to take Him and His love for granted?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, renew our faith and commitment in Him and devote ourselves to Him. Let us seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Let us all take on the yoke and burden the Lord has given us with faith, entrusting ourselves to God, no matter what we may face in the future. Let us all carry on living our lives as good and genuine Christians, committing ourselves to Him daily, and be inspiration and good examples for one another.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, as we carry on our journey in life with faith. May He help us to persevere through the challenges and trials we encounter, and renew our hope and trust in Him, as we still endure the current effects of this pandemic, our societal problems among others. May the Lord show us the path forward and give us the courage and strength to endure it. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard from the Scripture passages today, all of us are strengthened and reminded of the Lord reassuring all of us that He will bless us, strengthen us and restore to us the true glory and happiness that we are meant to receive, and yet failed because of our disobedience and sins. However, this also requires us to be open and to be willing to welcome the Lord into our hearts and minds, into our beings to transform us and change us.

In our first reading today, we heard about the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Amos to His people Israel, those in the northern kingdom of Israel who have been separated from their brethren in the kingdom of Judah in the south. The prophet Amos was sent to the northern Israelites and he spoke of the upcoming reckoning and judgment that the people would suffer for their rebellions and disobedience against God.

Earlier on this week, from the same prophet Amos we have heard the words of God regarding the destruction of Israel and the downfall of the false priesthood and false idol worship at Bethel which king Jeroboam of Israel had promoted to keep the Israelites under his rule from returning to the House of David’s allegiance. All of these would eventually come true as the northern kingdom of Israel would be crushed and destroyed by their enemies and the Assyrians, the people led into exile.

But then, as we heard in our first reading passage today, the Lord also told His people through the prophet Amos of His mercy and compassion towards them, that His love for them is such that He would bring them back once again into His embrace and love, and He would restore them to the good old days, when God and His people were in harmony, as were in the days of king David and king Solomon.

All of these showed us all that firstly, God is always ever loving towards us even though we have disobeyed Him, angered Him and betrayed Him for other idols, gods and forgot about Him for our own worldly pursuits and desires. But then at the same time, if we disobey Him and lead a life of sin, reckoning and judgment will also come our way, and that is to be our fate, unless we accept God’s generous love and mercy.

God has always offered His love and mercy generously to us, but are we willing and are we open to accept them? For us to receive the fullness of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, then we need to heed what the Lord told His disciples and the Pharisees in the Gospel reading today. In that passage, we heard the Lord using the parable to teach exactly this meaning, by saying in response to the Pharisees who questioned and probably even ridiculed the Lord and His disciples for them not following the fasting rules as written in the Law.

The Lord then rebutted them saying that while He was with them, they would not fast because truly, Him being present with them was a joyous time, not to be marred by the sorrowful and penitential nature of fasting. It was only when He depart from them, a premonition for His suffering, death and sacrifice on the Cross, that they would fast, in sorrow for their sins. But God would restore them as He gloriously triumphed in His Resurrection and gather them once again, strengthening them and giving them the guide in going forward.

Then, the Lord used the parable of the wine and the wineskin to highlight first of all, that the ways followed and advocated by the Pharisees were incompatible with the true path that the Lord was revealing to His people, He used the analogy of new wine that ought to be paired with new wineskin, or else the wine would destroy the old wineskin, and vice versa if old wine is kept in new wineskin. The old way of the Pharisees, their preoccupation and distraction with the minute details and appearances, were therefore incompatible with those who want to seek God with true faith.

And then, with the same parable, the Lord also wants us all to know that disobedience, wickedness, evil and sin are all incompatible with His path, and if we do not change our ways, then we will be judged by exactly our disobedience and sins, and also by our refusal to change our ways. That is why, with this parable, the Lord wants us to realise that to follow Him, and to receive the fullness of His generous love and forgiveness, all of us must change our ways, and embrace the righteousness of God.

Today, we have a great example and inspiration to follow, in the person of St. Elizabeth of Portugal as we celebrate her feast day this day. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was a royal princess of the Kingdom of Aragon and married into the Portuguese royal family, becoming the Queen consort of Portugal. She has been noted for her great piety even from her early youth, as she regularly attended daily Mass and said the Divine Office daily.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal continued her pious practices and dedication to the Lord even after becoming queen, devoting herself to love her people and care for them, especially those who were poor and sick. For her actions, she was actually disliked by some among the nobles and the royalty who considered her actions unbecoming of a royalty, more so for a monarch and queen. Nonetheless, this did not discourage her, and in fact, her dedication and sincerity moved many others to follow her footsteps, and even her husband the king, was also convinced to leave behind a sinful life he had led up to then.

And when her husband passed away, St. Elizabeth of Portugal retreated to a convent and continued to care for the poor and the sick as she had always done, establishing hospitals and projects to help those who were uncared for and dying, and to give lodging to pilgrims and those who were homeless and suffering. Through all of her efforts, her great and consistent piety and devotion to God, many people were touched and converted, and all of us can indeed also follow in her footsteps.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then reflect on our own lives. Have we been living our faith genuinely all these while? Or have we instead been tempted by our various desires and all the things that distracted us from being able to give ourselves to God with all of our hearts? Let us change our way of life, that while once we might have lived in sin and committed what was unworthy of God, from now on, we commit ourselves to a new path and a new life, walking righteously with God, in the path He has shown us.

May all of us be inspired by the good examples, faith and genuine sincerity showed by St. Elizabeth of Portugal, that we ourselves may grow in faith and be ever closer to God, and from now on, remain righteous and good in His presence. May God bless each and every one of us, and may He guide us in the path of life, and bless our every good and faithful endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus. St. Thomas was mostly remembered in the Gospels as the one disciple who have always been skeptical and doubtful about the Lord, and was kind of lukewarm in his faith and in his commitment to follow the Lord. St. Thomas has always been kind of a dissident, and the last one to believe, including in His Resurrection.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord when He spoke of His coming persecution at the hands of His enemies, and when He mentioned that He wanted to go to Judea, St. Thomas sarcastically commented before everyone, that everyone ought indeed to follow Him, and follow Him to their certain deaths. And lastly as we heard in our Gospel passage, St. Thomas would not be convinced when the other Apostles told him that the Lord has risen from the dead.

St. Thomas was only convinced when the Lord Himself suddenly appeared again before him and the other disciples, and as St. Thomas earlier on challenged that he would not believe unless he could put his finger into the wounds and the side of the Lord, to know that He was truly the same Jesus Who suffered and died on the Cross and yet inexplicably rose from the dead, thus the Lord invited St. Thomas to do exactly what he had said that he would do.

It was then that St. Thomas declared before all, ‘You are my Lord and my God’, out of love for God and probably even ashamed and embarrassed for the lack of faith he has shown all those while. St. Thomas would then go on to serve the Lord faithfully, and his faith strengthened and no longer wavering, the Apostle has shown us all what it means by true conversion of heart, a profound change from one lacking in faith and filled with doubt into one ardent and firm in the love he had for God.

St. Thomas would later be remembered for his great contributions to the Church, especially for his ministry to the community in faraway region now known as the southern coasts of the Indian subcontinent, where unto this very day, the Christian communities are often called ‘St. Thomas Christians’ and the various communities traced their faith and the roots of their communities to St. Thomas and his courageous works of evangelisation as he preached the words of God’s truth in those mission lands.

Like the other Apostles, St. Thomas would also encounter martyrdom at the end of his earthly journey. But for all that he had done, for the sake of the Lord, he had certainly done a lot more than what he had once doubted about the Lord, being willing to suffer and die for the Lord’s sake, to endure bitter sufferings and hardships for His Holy Name and for His greater glory. And through all these, all of us should also be convinced and be ready and willing to follow the Lord all the same in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas might once have doubted the Lord so much and stubbornly refused to believe in Him. But how are we then different from him? Are we not also often doubtful of the Lord, or else we also tend to forget about Him, ignore His words and truth and preferred instead to listen to the lies of the devil and follow his false leads and ways? Have we ourselves not been stubborn in refusing to follow the Lord and obey Him?

Let us all look upon ourselves and cast St. Thomas the Apostle as our model and guide, together with the many other Apostles, saints and martyrs of the Lord, the innumerable holy men and women of God. And even more importantly, let us all follow in the footsteps of these holy and dedicated people, and realise that indeed, there is no saints without a past and there is no sinners without a future. This means that all of us have sinned and erred at some point in our lives, but what matters is that we turn away from those sins, and embrace God’s love and mercy, be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Let us all realise that each one of us are also unsteady in faith, having our own doubts and vulnerabilities, and that is exactly why we are easily tempted and pushed to turn into sin and rebellion against God. But we have to leverage on the fact that even the saints were once sinners, doubters, filled with sin and disobedience, and for some, even great sinners and wicked, and yet, in the end, they allowed God to enter into their lives and transform them for the better.

Are we willing and able to commit to this new path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we want to love God once again with renewed hope and strength, and do we want to dedicate ourselves to Him as the Apostles, the saints and martyrs had, particularly St. Thomas the Apostle, whose renewed faith and zeal led him to perform wonderful good works among the people of God even in distant lands?

Let us all be better Christians, be more dedicated and committed from now on, focusing our attention on God and spending time and effort to serve Him in whatever capacities and opportunities we have been given. May God bless us all and guide us in our journey, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of God’s love and generous compassion, His ever wonderful compassion and mercy that He extends to all of His people, to all of us who have disobeyed against Him and sinned. All of us are privileged to have the opportunity to receive this most wonderful grace from God, and we should heed His call for us to return to Him and be forgiven.

Yet, unfortunately, it is very often that we shut Him off and turned away from Him, refusing to listen to Him and His patient calls for us, despite all the efforts He had shown in trying to be reconciled with us. And the reason for this is because we are too proud or that we trust too much in our own power and capabilities, and we feel that we cannot be wrong, and in our ego and pride, we end up falling deeper and deeper into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we heard in our first reading today, as the prophet Amos went face to face against the false priest Amaziah, the priest of Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel. That time, the northern kingdom was just recently established under the reign of king Jeroboam, who ruled over the ten tribes of Israel in rebellion from the House of David. King Jeroboam feared that the Israelites would turn from him and return to David’s descendants as they continued to go to Jerusalem to worship God, and hence, he established a rival centre of worship in Bethel and Dan in the two corners of his new kingdom.

But in doing so, Jeroboam led the people to sin against God, as he erected golden idols in those places and chose priests not from among the Levites as required by the Law, and therefore, led the people away from the true worship of God. God sent the prophet Amos to bring His words and warnings, to remind the king and the people of their sins and to return to the true way of the Lord, but the king and his people refused to listen.

And one of the priests of Bethel, named Amaziah as described in our first reading today, harassed Amos and went against him as he saw Amos as a rival and a threat to his own influence, and that was also why Amaziah went up to king Jeroboam complaining about Amos earlier before that. Amaziah wanted Amos to get out of Israel and return to the land of Judah, and perform his works in Israel and Bethel no more, although in truth, Amos was doing the work of God while Amaziah and king Jeroboam sinned against Him.

As the false priest of Bethel hardened his heart, likely driven by his ego and personal desires, he shut himself off from God, and Amos brought the word of the Lord’s warning, how the disobedience and sins committed would eventually lead to reckoning and grave repercussions. These same attitudes would unfortunately be adopted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during the Lord Jesus’ time, as they refused to believe in Him, doubted Him and did many things in trying to put obstacles in His work.

In what we heard in our Gospel today, the Lord was met with a man suffering from paralysis, and He extended His mercy and compassion to the suffering man, healing him and saying to him, that his sins have been forgiven. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were angered by this and alleged that the Lord Jesus was a blasphemer and sinner simply because they consider that only God alone could forgive sins, and they refused to believe and to listen to the truth that Jesus Himself, is God Incarnate.

Similar to the case of the priest Amaziah, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were too engrossed by their pride and desire to maintain their prestige, status and power in the community, that they saw the Lord as their rival, and therefore tried all they could to try to undermine His works and authority. But the Lord rebuked them all, showing them that He is truly Who He has said He was, the Messiah of the world, the Son of God, and One with authority over life and death, over everything and anything.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we look upon the examples presented before us today, let us all reflect on them and look deep within our own lives. Have we also been like the priest Amaziah and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, refusing to listen to God and follow Him just because we are so full of ego and pride, and so easily tempted by our worldly desires and concerns? This is what happens if we allow ourselves to be controlled by those desires and other things that lead us away from God.

How do we then do our part to overcome these? It is by resisting the temptation of pride and desire, by being more humble and be filled with more generosity of heart and love for God and for our fellow men in our every words, actions and deeds. We have to learn to die to our ego, to our greed and personal ambitions, and instead of putting ourselves and our egoistic self in the forefront, we should put God as the centre and focus of our whole existence.

God has always been kind and merciful, compassionate and loving, and He is loving towards each and every one of us. God has been patient with us, sending help and assistance one after another to guide us down the right path. But are we willing to accept God’s help? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord’s path? Let us all therefore pray for the humility and grace to accept God’s assistance and help, His strength and encouragement.

May the Lord guide us all, and may He empower us all to be good and faithful Christians, as witnesses of His truth and Resurrection, through our daily actions and deeds, at all times. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the words of the Sacred Scripture to reject all sorts of evil and wicked behaviours, all sorts of things that can lead us into sin. In our first reading today, the prophet Amos urged the people to turn away from evil and sin, and to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, while in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord Jesus performed exorcism on two possessed men in the region of Gadara.

In our first reading today, the prophet Amos delivered the message of God to the people of Israel who had long been disobedient against God and abandoned His precepts and laws, preferring instead the wicked ways of their neighbours, adopting pagan practices and worshipping idols instead of worshipping the one and only true God as they should have. Their sins and their wickedness led them to suffer and unless they repented from their sins, they would be destroyed by those same sins they had committed.

This is where the prophet Amos then reminded the people to turn once again towards God and to have genuine faith once again in Him. The Lord spoke to the people through Amos that what He cared about was not the offerings and sacrifices, but rather the sincerity of faith and the genuineness of the love that each and every one of His people ought to have for Him, just as He has loved them all dearly first.

This means that the laws of God, the offerings of sacrifices and obedience to the law must come with genuine desire to love God and the love for God which leads to this obedience, and not empty and meaningless obedience for the sake of merely fulfilling the law and the words of the law. That was why, the Lord Jesus later on would often be very critical on the actions of the Pharisees, who have pushed for the blind obedience of the law, obeying the tenets and the detailed customs of the law, and yet, failing to understand its true meaning and purpose.

Linking what we have heard to the Gospel passage today, the Lord came by the region of Gadara beyond the Jordan, in the wilderness where He encountered two men possessed by the evil spirits, who lived in that wilderness away from civilisation and from the community, shunned and feared by the other people. The Lord commanded the evil spirits to leave the two men, and the spirits begged to be let to go into the herd of pigs that were in the area.

This healing of the two possessed men was symbolic of the healing of God’s people, the same people who had sinned and disobeyed God, and because of those sins, as warned by the prophet Amos, led to the destruction of their kingdom, their subjugation by their enemies, and enduring shameful long period of exile far away from their homeland, just as the two possessed men had to live in the wilderness away from the community.

Through the Lord’s action, each and every one of us are reminded that no matter how great our sins are, by which we have been separated from God and cast away from His presence and grace, God alone has the power to heal us and to bring us back into His embrace. But at the same time, we must also be willing to welcome the Lord, and to allow Him to heal us, and get rid from ourselves all these taints and corruptions of sin.

The Lord spoke through the prophet Amos highlighting that He wanted His people to be righteous and good, in all of their actions. He wanted all of them to be good and to follow His path, to be good just as He is good. But are we willing and able to commit to Him in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are often tempted and swayed by the many desires we have in life, and as a result, we end up failing to recognise our sinfulness and just how much we need God’s healing and mercy.

Let us all therefore turn wholeheartedly towards God and let us all seek the Lord once again with all of our hearts, with all of our might and strength. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may ever more faithfully walk in the path He has set before us. May God bless us all, and may He guide us to eternal life in Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to be faithful to God and to follow His teachings and ways, rejecting the falsehoods of the world and to resist the temptations to sin against God. And we are also reminded to put our trust and to have faith in God, and not to be afraid, for God is and will always be by our side.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard of the words of the Lord through Amos chastising His people for their lack of faith and sinfulness. At that time, the Israelites and their descendants had veered away from the path that God had shown them, persecuted the prophets sent into their midst to remind them and to guide them back to the path of righteousness.

As the people continued to sin and disobey God, that was why the Lord reminded His people to listen to Him and to His prophets, that they ought to turn away from sin and embrace once again the path of the Lord, for those who have sinned against God, they all know what the terrible consequences of their choices were. Their sins were by their own conscious choice and by their deliberate actions in following the temptations of their desires, ego and pride that led them to their downfall.

Then, in the Gospel today, all of us heard of the narrative of the moment when the Lord and His disciples were travelling in a boat in the middle of the lake of Galilee when a great storm raged over the waters, with terrible winds and waves that were so great that the disciples all feared for their lives. They panicked and begged the Lord to save them all, and the Lord rebuked them for their little faith in Him. They had not yet placed their complete trust in Him and that was why then the Lord showed them, they had truly nothing to fear.

By taming and calming down the storm, the Lord showed all of His disciples that it is folly for them to trust in any worldly powers or matters, and not to trust in the Lord. If we trust in the Lord, then in the end, everything will be fine for us even though in the journey we may encounter challenges, trials and difficulties. We need to remain faithful and endure the difficulties and obstacles in our path if we are to follow the path of the Lord as good and devout Christians.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, celebrating the memories of the martyrs of the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, during the time of the Great Fire of Rome and the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. These Christians were the victims of slander and false accusation, as scapegoats by the Emperor who was allegedly the one responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, and yet, put the blame squarely on the Christians living in Rome.

And thus, many of the Christians there faced persecution, arrests, imprisonment, and many suffered martyrdom for their faith. And some among them were the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we celebrated just yesterday. This feast today marks the memory of all the other martyrs of the faith, who had also suffered in this first wave of great persecution of Christians, those who trusted in the Lord and remained faithful despite the sufferings they had to endure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, when we are facing the great storm of uncertainty in our lives, are we able to trust in the Lord to lead us through the difficult moments and persevere through the challenges without losing our faith in Him? Let us all trust in the Lord more, and be inspired by the faith of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, whose memory we glorify and remember today. Let us all follow the Lord with ever greater commitment and faith, and let us all be righteous and just in all of our words, deeds and actions from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to be His faithful and good disciples. And may the First Holy Martyrs of the Roman Church intercede for us as well, praying for us sinners still living in this world and enduring the temptations and sufferings of life. Amen.

Monday, 29 June 2020 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the glorious memory of the two great Apostles of the Church in Rome in particular and also of the Universal Church as a whole. On this Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, we remember the great contributions that these two faithful follower and servant of God had given throughout their lives and ministries, in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and revealing the truth of the Good News.

St. Peter the Apostle was the leader of the entire Universal Church as the Vicar of Christ, as the one to whom the Lord Jesus Himself has entrusted the leadership and care of the entire Body of Christ, the Church. He was known as the Prince of the Apostles and as the leader of the Twelve Apostles, the one whom the entire Church looked up to for leadership and guidance during the early days of the Church.

St. Peter went about his own missionary journeys and works, travelling from places to places recorded especially in the early part of the Acts of the Apostles, when he went to places like Lydda and Joppa, and he was also instrumental in leading the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem, when he led the Apostles in reconciling the two opposing sides that were then bitterly divided regarding the matter of obedience to the old Jewish laws and traditions, and the attitude shown towards the Gentile converts to the faith.

St. Peter founded several Christian communities and dioceses, most prominently of which were two of the greatest five Sees of ancient Christendom, namely the See of Antioch, the place where Christians were first called as they were by name, and among the first large Christian community of the time, and of course, the Apostolic and Papal See of Rome, the centre of Christendom by virtue of it being the place where St. Peter himself, the Rock of the Church and faith was martyred and buried.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was truly the greatest missionary and evangeliser of the faith, as he travelled on four great missionary journeys and many important travels across many cities and towns of the Mediterranean region, spreading the word of God to many of the communities of the people of God, composed of both Jews and Gentiles or non-Jewish people alike. Through St. Paul and his many works, tireless travels and efforts, as well as his many letters and Epistles to the many Christian communities, the Church has been greatly strengthened.

For all of these contributions and hard work, St. Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he has dedicated his life to the spreading of the truth of God among the non-believers, by ministering to them, speaking to them and patiently enduring all sorts of challenges and trials he had to face and encounter. He certainly did not have it easy and on more than one occasions, he truly brushed death itself very, very closely. He had to go against many people who opposed him, both from the Jews who refused to believe in the Lord, as well as from the Gentiles who viewed the Christian faith as a threat to their old, pagan ways.

Eventually, St. Paul at the end of his ministry and at the last of his missionary journeys went to Rome as part of his trial where he sought appeal to the Roman Emperor for his case put forward by his enemies among the Jews in Jerusalem. St. Paul would stay on in Rome for a while and ministered there to the people of God, to the growing community in Rome, before eventually, he was also martyred in Rome as St. Peter had also suffered.

Listening to the examples and inspiring greatness of these two Apostles, we must have been swayed to think that the Lord had such wonderful and mighty servants by His side, and that we are nothing compared to them. But this is something which we need to dispel from our thoughts, and which we all need to realise just how all of us, every single one of us are equally blessed and called by God to be holy and to walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God.

Why is this so? That is because, looking at these two holy men of God, we cannot but wonder just how great a transformation they had experienced, as they were in the beginning just like us all, sinners and unworthy, weak and vulnerable, and in both cases, they were seemingly most unlikely to be the ones God would be using as His tools and instruments in bringing His salvation and truth to His people.

That is because, in the beginning St. Peter was merely an uneducated and illiterate fisherman of the lake of Galilee, someone who was of little importance and often overlooked and ignored. St. Peter was also not truly firm in his faith, and he was tempted by Satan before and in moments of distress such as when the Lord Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing the Lord not just once but three times, fearing for his life and worrying that his affiliation with the Lord would be discovered by the bystanders at the trial of Jesus. This was after at the Last Supper, St. Peter proclaimed that he would even lay down his life for the Lord.

And St. Paul was known earlier on as Saul, a great enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful. Saul persecuted the Church throughout Jerusalem and all of Judea, and was even in the midst of trying to expand this persecution to beyond the land of Israel, in Damascus when he encountered the Lord and was converted. The persecution was truly great and many suffered and had to endure prison and more for being a believer of Christ. Saul was burning in his heart with ambition and desire to destroy the Church and the faithful.

Looking at these things, then we must wonder just how amazing God has been, in calling people from the most unlikely sources and origins. God has made the unlikeliest and the most mind-boggling choices in His choice for Apostles and followers, servants and champions of the faith like St. Peter and St. Paul, and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives in the service of God.

This is exactly where the Lord showed us that it is Him Who made us worthy and not we ourselves who consider ourselves to be worthy of Him. In fact, the more we think that we are worthy of God and be proud of it, the less worthy we may become. Instead, let us all be open-minded and allow God to enter into our lives, in order to transform us and change us, that each and every one of us may be just like St. Peter and St. Paul in their courage in faith and deeds, having themselves been transformed by God’s grace.

Seeing how the once uneducated, brash and doubtful St. Peter became such a great defender of the faith and as the foundation of the Church, and also how a great enemy of the faithful like Saul could have become one of Christianity’s greatest defenders should have reminded us that for God, nothing is truly impossible. If God calls us, and if we are willing to respond to that call and welcome God into our lives, with His guidance, we too can walk in the footsteps of the Apostles.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what each and every one of us need to realise is that many of the works of the Church and the Apostles were still in progress, and there are still many areas in which, more people are needed and even more have been called to contribute. Each and every one of us have been blessed in our own unique ways with gifts and talents, all of which we can make good use of for the greater glory of God. Are we then willing and able to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all be inspired by the courage and faith of St. Peter and St. Paul, who dedicated the whole rest of their lives from the moment they accepted God’s call, to serve God wholeheartedly, not withstanding the trials and sufferings that they had to endure. Let us all be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on, and seek to glorify God at all times through our lives and actions, in each and every moments of our living. May God bless us all and our good endeavours in faith. St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us all, and pray for the Universal Church! Amen.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday each and every one of us are yet again reminded of what it means for us to be called as Christians, that is as people who are truly believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Divine Word Incarnate, by Whose deeds and sacrifice on the Cross all of us have been saved and redeemed from certain death. To all of us who have kept our faith in Him, the Lord has given us the reassurance of eternal life and true glory in Him.

Unfortunately, this is what many of us have forgotten in the midst of the hectic life we have in this world, all the experiences we have encountered in life among others. Many of us have forgotten God and ignored Him, and instead of trusting Him and having faith in Him, we worry and focus on the many distractions present in this world. We placed our trust in our own strength and power, and we are therefore bound to fall unless we are able to trust in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Second Book of Kings, about the prophet Elisha who came by the city of Shunem, and a rich woman and her family sheltered him and took good care of him during his stay. First of all, the rich woman recognised Elisha as a holy man of God and treated him nicely, giving him as good as an accommodation possible. At the time when being a follower of God and prophet was truly tough, as many among the people and the king worshipped pagan idols and disobeyed God, such a treatment for the prophet Elisha must have been really rare indeed.

And the Lord knew well what has been done to His faithful servant, and the woman did it without having certain ulterior motive or desire for her own selfish wants or purposes. Not knowing much more from the Scriptural sources, it can safely be assumed that the woman was simply a God-fearing woman and someone who believed in God enough that she respected His prophet Elisha very much, and treated him well. And the result of this was that, as the rich woman and her husband did not have a child of their own, God, through His prophet Elisha, granted them the child of their loving union.

This is related well to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the matter of following God and becoming His disciples. In the first part, the Lord mentioned how being His followers would require them to give their all, to commit themselves body and soul, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly, taking up and carrying their crosses together with the Lord, which means that they would face sufferings and difficulties, rejection and challenges just as the Lord Himself had faced these from the world.

But then, in the second part of the Gospel, the Lord said what had been recounted in the first reading, as He spoke of those who welcome the disciples and followers as having welcomed the Lord as well, and those who listened to them and treated them well as having listened and treated the Lord well too. This was clearly related to what had happened to the rich woman who welcomed the prophet Elisha to her home and treated him well, and God blessed her and her whole household because of that.

What then, is the significance of all these passages from the Scriptures today, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is that we must first of all be willing to follow God, and to trust ourselves in His providence and care, not worrying about what will happen to us or what we have to endure during the journey. Whether we will have an easy or difficult time in living up to our Christian calling is not something that we can predict or compare between us. Some of us may have to suffer a lot while others may suffer less or little, but nonetheless, what is important is that we serve God all the same.

Why I mention this is that, there are many of us who are afraid or unsure of following God and His path, and we always tend to delay, postpone and push aside God’s calling for us, and we tend to keep away from those responsibilities and duties we have been called to do as Christians and members of the Church. We are often worried about ourselves and our state in this world, our livelihood and all the things we have. We worry that if we follow the Lord, then we have to abandon whatever we have possessed and whatever we are comfortable with.

But, let us all not forget that, this is first of all, our responsibilities given to us as part of our Christian baptism, which in our second reading today, St. Paul highlighted that through baptism, we share in the death of Christ, that by plunging through the sacred waters of baptism, we go through that passage from death into life, recalling the journey of the ancient Israelites from their slavery in Egypt to their freedom through the Red Sea, and unite us all to the sufferings of Christ, Who took upon Himself all of our sins and the punishments due for those sins.

Through baptism, all of us have been made the members of the Church, and God has made us all His own beloved children, that all of us have become adopted sons and daughters of His, as we share in the death of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and by the common humanity we share with Him. But then, we must not forget, that as we share in the death of Christ, as St. Paul told us, we also share in the new life He has brought us into through His glorious resurrection.

And that is what we need to take note of, as we heard from the closing part of our second reading today, ‘So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.’ That is exactly why we have to abandon our old fears and uncertainties, and embrace the Lord’s calling for us all with enthusiasm and desire to commit our lives in the service for His greater glory. God has called us all to various purposes in life, and we have received various talents, capabilities, skills and abilities to be used for this purpose.

There is no single calling that is better than the other in the Church and among us the faithful people of God. Some of us might have the misconception and wrong idea thinking that the ordained ministry, priesthood and religious life are better and higher compared to the lay ministry. Some of us glorify the holy orders and those in consecrated life as those who are better and holier than us, and that they are the ones doing all the work and the ministry, and some even misunderstood thinking that we then can be the content, receiving end of all the benefits without contributing much.

But we must forget that the lay ministry is equally as important, and we must dispel from our thoughts any preconceived notion that the lay ministry is anywhere less important. In fact, without active participation from the laity in proclaiming the Gospel in our daily living, then those in the holy orders, and those in religious and consecrated lives will also be affected badly in how they conduct their efforts. They cannot do what they are supposed to do, unless the laity and all work together to achieve the greater aims of the Church in obeying God’s will.

Each and every members of the Church are indivisibly part of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church, and just as how all the organs need to work together to achieve the same purpose of sustaining the body, thus, all of us the faithful people of God must also do our part for the same purpose. Then, at the same time, each and every members of the Church also have their own respective and specific functions, and each can do best in their area of responsibilities, not competing but rather supporting each other.

Just as each organ are best in doing whatever they were designed to work as, thus, each and every one of us in the Church are also bound to do our best in whatever we have been called to, in our respective calling, to be holy priests, deacons and bishops, to be holy religious brothers and sisters, to be good missionaries and friars, prayerful monastics and all dedicating themselves to ascetic lifestyle, and of course to be good as laypeople, as singles or as married couples, as fathers and mothers, as sons and daughters, as members of good Christian families.

As the Lord Himself said, that ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.’, this means that if all of us support one another, and do what we can to serve God in our respective capacities, abilities, talents and opportunities, then just as the rich woman and her husband in our first reading today were blessed by God, then we too will enjoy the wonders of God’s providence and blessings. But we must not desire them or focus ourselves on them, lest we be distracted and fall into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith and conviction to serve God at all times, with all of our strength and with all of our efforts. Let us all be the sources of strength and inspiration for one another, especially all the more important during these days when our world is facing so many troubles and great tragedies. Almost half a million people had lost their lives to the current coronavirus pandemic, and there had been so many acts of violence and divisions in our communities in the past few months alone, and it is our calling as Christians, to do whatever we can, be it as those in holy orders or the laypeople, to show the love and truth of God to all mankind.

Let us all be the light in the darkness for others, and let our words, actions and deeds bring hope and strength, encouragement and renewal for those who have been downtrodden, sorrowful and in despair. May the Lord continue to do His most amazing and wonderful works through our actions in life. May God bless us all in our good endeavours in fulfilling our Christian calling through our baptism, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 27 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to seek God’s mercy, forgiveness, kindness and compassion. We are all reminded just how we are all truly sinners and unworthy of God and yet, all of us have been so fortunate and blessed to enjoy the graces of God and to be given many opportunities, yet again and again just that we may be reconciled with God.

Continuing from the previous few days’ discourse from the Old Testament in which we heard of the final days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and how both kingdoms were destroyed because of the disobedience and sins of the people who chose to trust in their worldly designs and other worldly supports and matters rather than trusting in God, today, all of us heard in our first reading the part from the Book of Lamentations, which as the title holds, is filled with sorrow and regret for the sins that people have committed before God.

In that passage we heard of the destructions that had ravaged through the land, the destruction of Jerusalem and the entire kingdom of Judah and Israel centred in Samaria, which have been this week’s topic. And we heard how the Lord had laid the people humbled and low, shamed for their actions, disobedience and all. But at the same time, the author of the Book of Lamentations also called on the people to seek to return to God, to cry out for His mercy and forgiveness, to beg for His compassion and love to allow them to be reconciled with Him.

Then, we remember what we have then heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord encountered an army captain, whose servant had fallen sick and perhaps was on the verge of death. And being an army captain or centurion at that time, it was likely that this army captain was a member of the Roman army, and could very well have been a Roman himself. At that time, it was also quite common for the Jewish people to look down on the pagans and people whom they deemed to be unworthy of God’s kingdom, like the Samaritans as well as the Greeks and the Romans.

That was the context behind what the Lord then uttered when the army captain humbly sought the help of the Lord to heal his sick servant. And when the Lord wanted to go to his house, the army captain politely declined, and instead, spoke in a very interesting if not intriguing manner, saying that since in his position as an army captain, a mere word of his would be translated into direct order to be completed without fail, thus, if the Lord were to just speak the words, then the army captain believed that his servant would immediately be well.

First of all, visiting the house of a Gentile or a non-Jew especially if the Gentile is a pagan was truly a sensitive matter at the time, and many considered interacting with the Gentiles would make them unclean, going to the house of a Gentile made it even more unclean for them, and thus, was frowned upon by the society. The army captain might have been aware of this and wanted to avoid the Lord getting into controversy by visiting his house to heal his servant.

And then, what the army centurion said to the Lord also underlined his great and genuine faith in God, as contrasted to those who have seen the Lord’s works, heard His words and teachings, and yet, continued to doubt Him and demanded to see more signs and miracles, the army captain did not need to see the sign or witness for himself whatever the Lord was going to do. Instead, he believed that by the will of God alone, such a feat was possible and would be accomplished.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is exactly the kind of faith that all of us must have as well. The faith that leads us to seek God wholeheartedly, to be humble before Him and to love Him above all else, and not to allow the pride, ego, hubris and our desires from intervening and swaying us into disobedience and sin against God. In the past it was all these things that had brought the ancestors of the people of God into their downfall through sin and disobedience.

Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to God with new strength and hope, with new courage and desire to love God even more? That is why today we should also take courage and inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, namely St. Cyril of Alexandria, a great Church father and leader of the Church in Alexandria, and as its Patriarch, is one of the members of the Pentarchy, the five most senior leaders of the Church at time, and he was busy dealing with many issues facing the Church at that time.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was a courageous defender of the true Christian faith against the errors and the heresy of Nestorianism, which at that time was endangering the unity of the Church, with the false ideas being promoted by the then Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, the Imperial Capital of the Roman Empire. Nestorius claimed that the humanity and divinity of Christ were separated and not united together, creating a dual personality that were distinct, in contrast to the true teachings of the Church.

As Nestorius had his support from yet another powerful leader, the then Patriarch of Antioch, he had great sway over the Church and the faithful, and being the leader of the See of Constantinople, he had great influence over the secular Empire and its leadership as well. But this did not deter St. Cyril from trying his best to oppose the efforts of the heretics from gaining influence and further ground in the Church and among the faithful. He had to endure much suffering and opposition for his efforts.

But in the end, the efforts of St. Cyril of Alexandria bore fruits, as he managed to gain the support of the Church and many among those who remained true to the Orthodox faith, that the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus was convoked and in that Council, the true nature of Christ, his two natures, divine and human jointly united though distinct in the person of Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, was affirmed and the heresy of Nestorianism was condemned.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen and heard what St. Cyril of Alexandria had done, all that he had done for the greater good of the Church, let us all devote ourselves, our time and attention, our faith and commitment to God from now on, that we may truly be able to follow God wholeheartedly from now on, following the good examples set before us by the army captain who professed his faith publicly before the Lord, as well as St. Cyril of Alexandria, the faithful servant of God.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through life, and may He strengthen us in faith and in the resolve to continue living our lives with faith from now on. May God bless us all and all of our good endeavours, at all times, now, always and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 26 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard of the story of the destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of the final kingdom of the Israelites, as the northern kingdom centred in Samaria had been destroyed and conquered by the Assyrians almost a hundred and fifty years earlier on. Then, the city of Jerusalem, its Temple and the southern kingdom of Judah were conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians, most of its population brought into long exile in Babylon and Mesopotamia.

All of these happened because the people and their king consistently and continuously disobeyed God, rejected His mercy and forgiveness, spurned and turned away from His love, worshipping pagan gods and idols, and entrusting themselves in the hands of mortal beings rather than to trust in God. The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, chose to rebel against the Babylonians who at that time was the overlord of Judah, because he counted on the support of allies such as the Egyptians, who in the previous occasions had not intervened in Judah’s sake.

But again and again, the people would not listen to reason and they continued to be stubborn, sinning and sinning, again and again, and all of them have sinned and therefore suffered the consequences of their sins. The whole city of Jerusalem destroyed, the Temple built by king Solomon destroyed and ransacked, its holy vessels used for profane purposes by the Babylonians, and the entire population enslaved and brought into faraway lands. Yet, despite all these, God did not forget about His people.

On the contrary, God has always been patient and He has always remembered the love which He has for His people, and despite their stubborn and persistent disobedience and betrayal, His love for each and every one of them still remained, and that was why, He still yet sent prophets after prophets to remind them, to help them, to guide them and to call them back to Him, and in time, having suffered and realised their mistakes, the people of God were to return to their land once again, and Jerusalem and its Temple were rebuilt by the prophet Ezra and Nehemiah.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the healing of a leper by the Lord, as the leper came to see the Lord and said to Him, ‘Lord, if You want to, You can make me clean.’ Through these words, and linking with what we have heard earlier on in our reading from the Old Testament, we can see just how great and wonderful the power of God’s love and forgiveness are for us. Leprosy had always been feared and even hated by the Israelites, as the disease was considered to be dangerous and contagious, and hideous to the appearance.

That was why people who suffered from leprosy were shunned by the rest of the community, and by Law had to spend their lives away from the community, rejected and left to fend for their own in the wilderness. Was this not just like the Israelites who disobeyed God and sinned, and thereafter had to endure their exile and suffer in the foreign lands for quite some time? This was what they had endured, and yet, God rescued them and brought them back to their homeland in the end, just as the leper was healed by the Lord Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is really important for us to take note here is how we can be forgiven from our sins, and how forgiveness itself works. Forgiveness requires us to make the commitment to change ourselves, to turn back towards God once again with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, just as the leper came to the Lord with faith, and knowing with faith that the Lord could heal him and make him better. This is what all of us must have as well, a strong and genuine faith.

Are we able and willing to dedicate ourselves to God and seek Him with a new faith and desire to follow Him? Let us all go and find the path to forgiveness from all of our sins and wickedness, and let us all be wholly committed to follow God with all sincerity and with the genuine desire to be loved by God and to love Him equally in the same way. For God so loved the whole world that He gave us His own only Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour.

May the Lord continue to help us to walk faithfully in our path in life, and may He guide us that we will not fall again into the temptations to sin and the allure of worldly desires. May the Lord strengthen us and may He bless us in all of our good endeavours. Amen.