Sunday, 24 March 2019 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Lent, we heard of God’s call to His people, that each and every one of us ought to heed, as we continue to live our lives in this world. He is calling on each and every one of us to reform our way of life and to turn away from sin, that each and every one of us may be saved from our current wretched state, and be worthy of God’s grace and love.

In the first reading today, we heard of the calling of Moses, when God appeared before him at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, as he was shepherding his flock. The Lord appeared to him as a burning bush that miraculously was not burnt by the fire. Moses approached the burning bush and God called him from within the fire, revealing to him Who He was, and what His will was for Moses, the calling He made to him to be the leader of His people, Israel.

In order to understand this better, we need to understand the context and the historical condition of the time, that is, at the time, the Israelites have been living in Egypt for a few centuries after their forefathers came there to escape the great famine of the time of Joseph, son of Jacob. The Israelites flourished in Egypt, and their numbers grew rapidly, but this created fear among the Egyptians and their Pharaohs, who then enslaved the Israelites and tried to destroy them as a race.

Moses was one of the male children of the Israelites who were supposed to be killed in accordance to the law meted by the Egyptians in trying to destroy the people of Israel. But Moses was saved when his mother put him in the basket in the water, and the daughter of the Pharaoh saved him from the waters, adopting him to become her own son. Later on, as Moses grew up, he saw the injustice and the oppression that his own people had to experience, and in one occasion, murdered one of the guards who were torturing one of the Israelite slave.

As a result, Moses had to flee from Egypt to the wilderness of Sinai, as the Pharaoh and his guards wanted him for his murder of the Egyptian. There in the desert, Moses found a new life as a shepherd and married into a Midianite family. It might have seemed that Moses would remain there till the end of his life, while the Egyptians would continue to enslave and oppress the Israelites, God’s own chosen people.

But God had an entirely different plan, as what we have heard today from our first reading passage. God called Moses to become His instrument to bring His people out of their slavery in the land of Egypt, and lead them towards the Promised Land which God has promised to Abraham, to Jacob and his descendants. This is God’s plan, and He revealed it all before Moses at the burning bush, calling on him to be His servant.

Initially, Moses had his reservations, as he was not sure how the Israelites would welcome him or know his purpose in Egypt, the land he had fled from many years ago in fear of his own death. But God reassured him and told him that He would be with him, and He revealed His Name before Moses, to be told to the Israelites as the sign that God has not forgotten His people after all the years of suffering that they had gone through, but would free them and lead them to their own land as He had promised.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings have deep meaning and revelation to each and every one of us as Christians, those whom God had called from among the world, to be His disciples and followers, servants and friends. God called on us to follow Him just as Moses had been called and led by God to be the leader of His people, Israel. Therefore, there are two main messages that we have to heed from these passages today.

First of all, we must endeavour to be free from the chains of slavery that we have suffered from all these while. We may be wondering these questions in our minds right now, ‘We are slaves? We do not know about that, I thought we have always been free?’ or that ‘How can we be slaves if we are not suffering in this world, but instead we live in abundance and plenty of happiness and joy in this world, being prosperous and good in all things?’

That is because many of us perhaps do not even realise that each and every one of us are enslaved, right now, because of our sins. Slavery of sin has enthralled us all, and the chains of sin have kept us from truly being free in the Lord. Every time we disobey God, we sin against Him, and this sin keeps us chained to even more sin, and the desires, greed, pride, ego, jealousy, hatred and all negative things inside us keep us bound to the bondage of sin.

And we cannot free ourselves from the bondage of sin, for no one can forgive and remove from us our sins, except that of God Himself. Fortunately, God is so loving and so forgiving towards us all, His beloved children, that just as He sent Moses to the Israelites as a deliverer and liberator, He has sent Jesus Christ, His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and Liberator from sin. He extends to us His generous love and mercy through Christ, Our Saviour.

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, the land of their slavery, and made a Covenant between them and God. Similarly, Christ Our Lord also led us all out of the land of our slavery, that is sin and darkness, and made a new and Eternal Covenant between us and God. And while Moses brought the Ten Commandments, God’s Law to the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Law and the fulfilment of the Law of God, that He revealed before us all.

Through Christ, we have been forgiven our sins, and He has lovingly sacrificed Himself, bearing for us the burdens and chains of our sins. But unfortunately, we are often still consciously wanting to bind ourselves back to those chains of sin, just as if we read the rest of the Book of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers, how the Israelites continuously grumbled and complained against God and Moses, rebelling against Him and thus sinned.

They argued that it was better for them to have remained in Egypt and therefore remained being slaves, rather than for them to die in the middle of the desert. This was despite the fact that God had cared for them so well, that even in the middle of the desert, God gave them food to eat, the bread of the manna from heaven, and clear and sweet water to drink, and they had all that they needed even in the middle of the barren desert.

That was why they had to journey for forty years in the desert, a long journey before they enter the Promised Land. In the same way, therefore, we live our lives today in parallel with what the Israelites experienced. The Israelites went through the baptism of water, as they passed through the Red Sea that God opened before them, destroying the armies and chariots of the Pharaoh in the sea behind them, as the symbolic sign of their liberation. In the same way, we have been freed from the chains and bonds of sin, through our own baptism.

But along the rest of the journey, in our lives today, we can still be tempted by sin. Our life today, from the moment of our baptism till the end of our earthly life, is like the journey of the Israelites, with all of the challenges and difficulties. The temptations of the devil is all over the place throughout our journey, as the devil, who was our slavemaster, wanted us to be enslaved once again to sin. Yet, God provides for us, just as He has provided for the Israelites.

We heard last Sunday, that our Promised Land is heaven itself, for according to St. Paul, our citizenship is in heaven. And that is the very Promised Land that we are heading towards. God is leading us towards there, but at the same time, if we look at the example of the Israelites again, there were many who did not make it towards the Promised Land because of their refusal to obey, their sins and defiance against God.

That is why, this journey towards God and His eternal glory, our final destination in heaven will not be an easy one. It will be filled with challenges and difficulties, but this is exactly what St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us, that God is with us along the way, and we should heed His words and obey His laws, and do not follow the path of the wicked, who will lead only into death and eternal suffering.

In the Gospel today, we are reminded to be fruitful and to bear good fruits, as the Lord in His parable reminded us that those trees that do not bear fruit ought to be cut down and be destroyed. God gives us another chance in this life, just as the gardener pleaded for the trees, to be given more time and fertiliser to grow, that they may grow in due time and produce fruits. Now, it is up to us, whether we want to be fruitful and bear good fruits of our lives, or whether we prefer to remain barren or produce bad fruits.

What are these good and desirable fruits, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fruits of love and faith. That is why, today, we are also secondly challenged by God, just as Moses is called by God, to be the leader of God’s people, that each and every one of us may lead one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, by bearing the true faith in ourselves. How can we expect others to believe in the Lord if we ourselves have not believed in Him? And how can others believe if we have not practiced our faith? Anyone who profess to believe in God and yet act in ways opposite to that faith are hypocrites.

That is why, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded to make good use of the wonderful opportunity that God has given to us all, by doing what the Church has prescribed for us in this season of Lent, that is to restrain our greed and desire, our pride and ego through abstinence and also fasting. Let us all turn away from our past sins, wickedness, selfish actions and any moments when we have caused hurt and suffering in one another.

And let us also be generous with love and with our giving, in sharing our blessings with those who have little or none to get by with. Let us all not be ignorant of their pleas for help, and be willing and be courageous, like Moses, in answering God’s call to free His people Israel. Moses could have refused the Lord and remained in a good life with his new family, but he chose to follow the Lord and embark on the arduous path, not just in liberating the Israelites, but in leading them for many decades to the Promised Land.

Just as Moses endured so many difficulties, even plenty of people who were not thankful and rude towards him, and how he had to suffer rejection many times, and threats to himself, we too will encounter all these challenges throughout our life and journey towards God. But we must keep heart and remain faithful, for remember, our end point and last destination is heaven, where we truly belong and God will reward all of us who have borne good fruits of faith and love for Him.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Lent, that we may make good use of the opportunities given to us, that we may draw ever closer towards God, and be ever more righteous and upright in all of our actions and deeds. Let us all heed God’s call and commit ourselves to Him, as Moses had once done, and devote ourselves to Him from now on, with hearts and minds full of faith, love and dedication. Amen.

Saturday, 23 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the love which God has for each and every one of us, and so great is His love that He is willing to forgive even the greatest of sinners, no matter how great the sin that the sinner has committed, provided that the sinner is willing to be forgiven and willing to commit himself or herself to the path of redemption and reconciliation.

Today, as we continue to journey through the season of Lent, we are called to reflect through the passages taken from the Scriptures as our readings today, to think about our own lives and experiences, in how each and every one of us can make good use of this opportunity that God has given us, that we may be forgiven from our sins and be saved from the certainty of our impending doom and destruction due to those sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, we heard the prophet speaking to the people of God about the wondrous deeds that God has done for His people in the past, when He delivered them from the hands of their enemies, provided for their needs and blessed them with so many good blessings and graces. This was a reminder of God’s love for His people to those who have not been obedient to Him, rebelled against Him and were wicked in His sight.

This must be understood in the context of what the prophet Micah experienced, at the time of the northern kingdom of Israel, when God was no longer respected and worshipped in those places, and where the pagan idols and wicked deities have taken over the worship of God among the people. The prophets of God like Micah were rejected and oppressed, and they had to fear for their lives.

And yet, Micah told the people how the Lord was known for His mercy and forgiveness, His love and compassion for His people, that He will forgive them if only that the people were willing to be forgiven. And this often requires a change in their way of life, and in the commitment to reject the wicked practices and ways of the world, and instead embracing the righteousness and justice of God’s ways.

In today’s Gospel reading we heard the famous parable of the prodigal son, which correlates just perfectly with what we have heard from the prophet Micah. In that parable, we heard of a prodigal, younger son of a father who had two sons, who took his part of the rich inheritance from his father, and went to a distant land, squandering off all the wealth on wicked and immoral way of life, described as loose living in the Gospel.

And when the prodigal son had wasted all of his money and properties, he was left destitute and alone. All of those whom he might have regarded as friends abandoned him because they only wanted to enjoy the money and wealth he had, and once he ran out of them, they left him all alone. The prodigal son had to endure all sorts of humiliation, and endured the suffering of having nothing, not even his human dignity, when he decided to return in shame to his father.

He would have expected that his father would be very angry at him, and did not want to treat him as a son anymore, not after everything he had done in squandering off the wealth and portion of inheritance entitled to him. That is why he wanted to be treated like a slave in his plea for the father’s forgiveness. But little did he realise that his father loved him so much that he was welcomed back with such a great festivities and joy, as the lost son was found and returned to his father.

In this parable, we heard the story of the prodigal son, which in fact represents all of us mankind, all of us who are sinners, who have disobeyed the Father’s will, God, our heavenly Father, Who has blessed us with so many wonderful things and blessings, just as He had done to the Israelites in the past. Instead of appreciating all that He has done for us, like the Israelites and the prodigal son, we acted in defiance and disobedience, and did all that were abhorrent to God.

And yet, God loves us all so much, just as the father loved the prodigal and lost son, that He gave us chances after chances to return to Him and be forgiven from our sins. And the ultimate proof of this love, is how He gave us Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who gave us the hope and sure pathway to the eternal glory and life with God, our loving Father. By His loving sacrifice on the cross, we mankind have been gathered like a shepherd gathering his lost sheep from among the darkness and wilderness of this world, and into His eternal light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, we are called to do two main, important actions. First of all, we must be like the prodigal son, who has willingly, despite all the risks he took and in swallowing his pride, sought to return to his father. That is why we must turn away from our sinful way of life, and humbly seek God’s love and forgiveness. It is often that our ego and pride stand in the way of our forgiveness, because we do not want to admit that we have been wrong.

This is where we really need to be humble, to admit our mistakes and shortcomings before God. God Who loves us and Who knows our faults will have mercy on us, and He will grant us pardon and forgiveness, if only we seek Him with all of our heart. But then, we must also heed the other calling of today’s Gospel, and that is, for us not to be like the elder son, who has always been with the father, and became angry when the younger, prodigal son returned and treated with such fanfare that he became jealous.

This is why, secondly, this Lent, we must also reach out to our brethren, who may be in deeper and greater darkness than we are, those who have not embraced the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We should not act with pride and haughtiness, looking down on those who are still sinful and filled with wickedness. Ultimately, they too are our brothers and sisters, and they have no less right than us, to enjoy God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we should imitate the good examples of our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, who as bishop in the New World, the Americas, devoted himself so much to his ministry and works, that he often braved through difficult conditions to minister to the people, caring for them physically as well as spiritually. He spent a lot of effort improving the people’s livelihood, and preached the truth of God in their midst. Countless people came to the Lord through his works, and he was still remembered for all of his dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to make this our Lenten commitment? In fact, we should commit to this new way of life, to serve God and His people, from now on, giving all of our efforts and strength to love God with all of our hearts and be forgiven our sins, just as we assist one another in seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. May the Lord continue to bless our works, and may He guide us to His eternal glory. Amen.

Friday, 22 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture readings are reminding us in the midst of this blessed season of Lent, of the dangers of the pride, ego and jealousy that are often found in the hearts and minds of men. Very quickly all of these can lead us into sin, as the Scripture readings today presented before us the example of Joseph and his brothers as well as the parable of the vineyard owner as mentioned by the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading today we heard of the story of how Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob or Israel, came to conflict because of the jealousy that existed between them. In order to understand this better, we must understand that Joseph was born from Jacob’s favourite wife, and was born in his old age, and therefore, Joseph was really doted on by Jacob as a favourite son. It is inevitable that the brothers of Joseph became jealous at such a treatment.

That was why we heard how they plotted to have Joseph killed, thinking that if Joseph was killed, then they would not have him in their midst any longer and became a rival to their father’s attention and even inheritance. To them, even though he was of their own flesh and blood as their own brother, but they did not hesitate to commit such a heinous and wicked crime just because of their jealousy, the ego, pride and greed in their hearts.

Thankfully, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob, heard of the brothers’ plan and told them to think in a more reasonable manner, and therefore, not to kill Joseph but in the end, selling him off to a Midianite caravan that brought Joseph to Egypt. And God turned the wicked acts of the brothers of Joseph into something good, as Joseph came to be the Viceroy of Egypt and prepared the way for his whole family to come to Egypt and be saved during the seven years of great famine.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard then the Lord Jesus in the parable with which He taught the people, on a vineyard owner who leased out his vineyard to tenants, who became greedy and haughty, proud and ambitious, in refusing to obey the terms of agreement in the tenancy. In fact, they plotted against the owner, his workers and servants, and even the son of the owner, when they were sent to remind the wicked tenants to fulfil their agreement.

This was in fact a representation of how wicked men treated the prophets of God and eventually, God’s own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ Himself. The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, the vineyard is the world and all creation, the messengers and servants are the prophets and the servants of God, and the son of the owner is the Lord Jesus, Saviour and Lord, Who was betrayed, rejected and condemned to death by those who refused to listen to the Lord, just as the wicked tenants put the son of the owner to death.

All of these happened, just as Joseph was ill-treated and almost put to death by his own brothers, because of jealousy, because of desire, because of the pride and ego that fill up our hearts and minds. When we start to desire for worldly acclamations, influence, fame, glory, joy and other forms of temptations that are always around us, we will find that we will not be able to have peace in mind, because we will end up plotting against each other and being unhappy, because others have what we ourselves do not have, and vice versa.

In this season of Lent, all of us are called to break off from this vicious cycle of greed and desire, of pride and ego. That is why we practice fasting and abstinence, to restrain our inner desires and the wicked temptations that are always trying to pull us to commit sin by being jealous to one another. We are called to practice this restrain to prevent us from falling deeper and deeper into the traps of sin.

And that is why we are also encouraged to be charitable and give almsgiving during this period, because rather than grumbling and being angry and jealous at what we do not have, we should instead share what we have with each other, that instead of us all being unhappy at one another, why not if we can be happy together as a community and family of God’s people together?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, drawing from the wisdom of the Lord in the Scriptures, as well as from our own human experiences, in which we must have experienced a lot of injustice, anger and pain, suffering and hurt from actions of ours that are selfish and prideful, let us all turn away from these wicked thoughts and deeds, and commit ourselves anew in this season of Lent and beyond, to be true and loving disciples of the Lord from now on. May God bless us always, in all of our good endeavours, in loving one another and in being ever more selfless, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 21 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us of the importance for us to be good and to do good in our respective lives, while we are still able to do so. God has given us a lot of opportunities for us, in order to make good use of the talents and graces given to us, in following what He has commanded us all to do, that is to love Him and one another wholeheartedly.

Yet, many of us have not done what we have been called to do, as we preferred to act in ways that enrich ourselves, benefitting our own lives and even causing others to suffer and ending up in pain, just because we want to preserve our own selfish gains and needs. As long as we put our trust in all these worldly riches, power, glory and all sorts of things that often tempted us, as the prophet Jeremiah had warned, we will find it difficult to be truly faithful to God.

In the Gospel passage today we then heard about the story that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples, on the experience of a rich man as contrasted with a poor man, Lazarus. Both of them lived a very contrasting and different kind of life, with the rich man enjoying all the kinds of pleasures and joys that the world could give, while Lazarus, the poor man, had to suffer from hunger and poverty.

Lazarus hoped that the rich man would share some of the food he had with him, even if that would be the scraps of bread that fell off from the rich man’s table. But even that was not available to him. In the end, both Lazarus and the rich man died, passing away from this world. But their fates could not have been more different, just as in life, they experienced very different kinds of life and treatment.

The rich man went down to hell, suffering for all the sins he had committed in life. The poor man, Lazarus, instead went up to heaven, to be with Abraham and enjoying all the good things that he had not been able to experience in life. And Abraham mentioned to the rich man when he called for help, that there was a chasm between them, between hell and the blessed heavens, that none of them could cross, and no help could be given to the rich man.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us, that unless we live our lives in a righteous and God-fearing manner, we will end up into the trap of sin, and sin will lead us to the eternal separation from the love and grace of God, that is hell. And from that state, there is no escape or any more hope of salvation and liberation. God wants to remind us that the consequence of sin is truly severe, and all those who put their trust in things other than God, is likely to regret like the rich man had done.

In all of these, we must understand and we must be mindful that God is not condemning the rich people or their riches. He does not condemn the powerful or their influence and power. Rather, what He condemns is the attitude that we mankind take with power, glory, and all those worldly things. We are too easily tempted by all these wicked desires, and that is why we end up making use of our wealth, power, fame and abilities for the wrong reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that as Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with faith and genuine dedication to follow the path that the Lord has set before us. In this blessed time of Lent, in particular, we are called to be more generous with our giving and with the sharing of our blessings. Therefore, instead of doing what we have always done in trying to bring glory and good things for ourselves, we should turn away from selfish and proud ways, and be loving and generous in our interactions with others.

We must remember that sin can be caused not just by wicked actions in life, but even by the sin of omission, which is the sin of not doing what we could have done while we are perfectly capable of doing something to bring good to others. When we ignore the plight of the poor and the weak, the oppressed and the ostracised around us, just like how the rich man ignored Lazarus, then we will end up sinning against God just as the rich man has done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to make this Lenten season into a meaningful time for us to seek reconciliation with God? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with a new commitment, that while once we may have been sinful and disobedient, now, with the spirit of reconciliation and sincere repentance, we may become new in faith, and grow in our love towards God, from now onwards.

May God continue to guide us on our journey, and may He empower us all to live faithfully in accordance with His ways and be obedient to all that He had taught us to do. May God bless us all and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures speaking to us about the importance for us to look beyond our human aspirations, desires, pride, ego and ambition in life, so that we may be able to discover our true vocation in life, that is to do our best to serve the Lord and to love Him, by caring and loving one another in the best way we can.

In today’s first reading we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah on how the prophet faced a lot of opposition and challenges from the many enemies that he had among the king’s court and followers. As the prophet Jeremiah spoke many of the prophecies of the upcoming doom and destruction of both Judah and Jerusalem, he was often resented and attacked for his works, and treated as a doomsayer and even traitor for his many ominous warnings to the king and people of Judah.

And then we heard about how Jeremiah pleaded the Lord to help him, after all the wicked things that those enemies and accusers had done towards him, all the sufferings that he had to endure all those while. He had to endure all those sufferings and pains patiently, often being humiliated and disgraced as he continued to carry out God’s mission among the people of Judah. In the end, all the pride and the wickedness of the enemies of Jeremiah were crushed, when what the Lord had revealed through His prophet was fulfilled. Jerusalem and Judah were destroyed, its king, nobles and people were sent into exile.

In another occasion, in the Gospel passage today, we heard how the disciples were bickering with each other because of their struggle for power, influence and glory, when two of them, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, came with their mother to ask a special favour from the Lord, asking for positions of importance and favour at the side the Lord. Naturally, the other disciples who witnessed and came to know all of these were not happy.

And the Lord rebuked all of them for that, as they have not truly understood what it meant for them to follow Him wholeheartedly. They did not realise that following the Lord did not mean that they would enjoy power, happiness and pleasure, as how it would have been for any other worldly leaders and kings. They thought that the Lord Jesus would be just like any other kings and rulers of the world, the One Who would reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and those who won favour with Him, would gain riches and glory.

This was the same issue that those who opposed the prophet Jeremiah had faced. They all were filled with worldly thoughts, desires, the greed for power and the lust for worldly pleasures. They only thought about their own wants and desires, hoping to gain for themselves as much benefits and advantages as possible, even at the disadvantage and suffering of others. That was why they persecuted the prophet Jeremiah, when the prophet spoke of the wickedness of their sins, and how all the glory and power those people wanted to amass, would be swept away and destroyed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all these are reminders to all of us as Christians, that we must understand how we ought to live our lives as true Christians, as those who are truly committed and faithful in God. If we want to be true Christians, then we must ready to leave behind our ego and pride, our human desires and attachments to worldly concerns. Otherwise, all of these things will become serious obstacles for us, in our journey of faith.

Following the Lord means that we must model ourselves after the Lord Himself, Who humbled Himself so much that He had emptied Himself from all glory and honour, in serving even all of His disciples and taking up the work of a slave, to serve those who have been entrusted to Him. And He humbled Himself, even to take up the suffering and pain of the cross, because He revealed to us that all of worldly glory and fame are in truth meaningless and impermanent.

What did those nobles and all those false prophets gain from opposing the works of the prophet Jeremiah? Nothing! And what did the Pharisees and the chief priests gained by opposing the Lord Jesus and His followers? Nothing! What they gained were the destruction and ruination of their ambition when everything they valued were crushed by worldly forces, showing them the harsh reality of how meaningless their pursuit for power and stubbornness has been.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this time of Lent, let us all turn away from all these pride and wicked desires in our hearts and minds, and reorientate ourselves to live in accordance with God’s ways instead. Let us all change ourselves that while once we may have been disobedient and proud, now, we may grow in humility and obedience to the Lord. Let us all go through this season of Lent, being awakened and strengthened in faith, that we may grow ever closer to God and His love. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 : Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the foster-father of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. St. Joseph was a humble and simple carpenter of the village of Nazareth, probably uneducated and poor, unremarkable and unknown, and yet, God chose him to be the one who would protect and be part of the Holy Family into which He was to send His Saviour.

St. Joseph was the heir of David, as he was descended from David’s son, king Solomon, as well as the rightful kings of Judah of the house of David, and then to their heirs in exile in Babylon and after the return to the Promised Land. St. Joseph was the forgotten heir to the kingdom of Israel, who was so unknown that even in his own village, he was not highly regarded and later on, the Lord Jesus would be ridiculed for being supposedly the mere Son of the village carpenter when He came to proclaim His truth in Nazareth.

God chose St. Joseph because of the great virtues exhibited by his life and actions, which exemplified righteousness. St. Joseph was highlighted in the Scripture as an upright and just man, who always acted in obedience to the laws and the commandments of God, and yet at the same time, also constantly cared for his fellow men, keeping others around him in his thought. This is made evident by the accounts of the Scripture although St. Joseph did not appear many times in the Bible.

St. Joseph was a God-fearing and righteous man, because he knew and understood the precepts of the Law. When he heard that Mary was with Child even though she has not even married and consummated the marriage with him yet, St. Joseph obeyed the Law and wanted to break the engagement with her. Yet, at the same time, he was also considerate and compassionate, as he wanted to do so in secret, knowing that had he divorced Mary in public, she would have been stoned to death.

He was a righteous man who was responsible as well as loving, as shown in how he willingly took up Mary to be his wife and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as his own Son, despite him not being biologically related to Him. He willingly took care of the Lord Jesus as a legal father and He as his Foster-Son, as if He is of his own flesh and blood. He followed wherever the Lord led his path, when the census called him and the rest of the Holy Family to travel the long journey to Bethlehem, taking care of the heavily pregnant Mary along the way.

St. Joseph also protected Mary and the Baby Jesus, when king Herod wanted to slaughter all the babies and children below the age of two in his attempt to eliminate the threat to his kingdom. When the Angel of God came to him and told him to bring his family into Egypt to keep them safe there, St. Joseph willingly obliged and guided Mary and the Child Jesus to the land of Egypt for a period of time until it was safe for them to return back to Nazareth.

In all of these, we have seen how St. Joseph was truly a great father figure to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Although He is the Divine Word Incarnate, God in the flesh, Son of God, but He is also the Son of Man, born of man and having the frailness of the human body, save that of sin. When He was a mere Baby and a young Child, St. Joseph as a father to Him must have taken good care of Him, and prepared Him for the life and works that had been entrusted to Him.

As all fathers at that time did, St. Joseph must have also taught the Lord Jesus how He ought to live in this world, teaching Him important skills in life, and helping Him to grow in wisdom and faith. This is why the role that St. Joseph plays in our faith and in the Church is not one that is insignificant. In fact, that is why Blessed Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the Patron and Protector of the Universal Church in the year of Our Lord 1870.

There are many things that we can learn from the examples shown by St. Joseph. And we are called to follow these good examples in our own lives, in how we act in righteous ways, obeying the Lord and also loving Him. Thus, today, we look up to St. Joseph, holy father and protector of the Church, asking him to intercede for our sake, the faithful and the Church of God, so that God may grant us all the strength to persevere through the challenges and difficulties, trials and oppositions we may encounter.

And let us all keep on remembering the righteousness and courage that St. Joseph has shown, in all of his actions, in being a good role model for his Foster-Son, Our Lord Jesus. Let us all also learn from him, and try our best to live our lives better and more attuned to the ways of God, that we may grow ever closer to Him, particularly during this blessed season of Lent. Let us all rediscover that love which we ought to have for God, and do our best to be righteous at all times. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 March 2019 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of God’s mercy and love for each one of us, and we are reminded also of the need for us to be merciful and loving in the same way towards each other, towards our fellow brethren and all those whom we encounter in life. This is what each and every one of us need to realise, as we live our lives in this world, as fellow sinners in the presence of God.

It does not matter how great or how small our sins are, but the fact remains that we have been tainted by sin, and we have therefore become unworthy of God and His love due to the sins we committed, out of disobedience and refusal to listen to Him and the stubbornness in tracing our own path in life in defiance of His will. It does not matter how small our disobedience is, how insignificant our sins have been, as sin is still sin.

And yet, despite all of our stubbornness, wicked attitudes and refusal to listen to the Lord, the Lord remained full of patience and mercy, and willing to forgive us our sins and be reconciled with us, should we make the effort to turn away from those sinful ways and embrace the mercy and forgiveness that He has provided us all so generously. Why not? He even gave us His own beloved Son, to be our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Now, if God, our Lord and loving Father has been merciful towards us, patient and loving despite all of our childish and stubborn attitudes all these while, then why should it not be that we, as God’s children, follow His examples and learn to love and to be merciful as He had done to us. But unfortunately, the reality is such that many of us mankind are still so stubborn in our hatred and jealousy for one another, that we prefer to cause pain and suffering, to be angry and unhappy instead of to forgive and to love.

That is why, God reminds us all again and again, with the love and mercy He Himself has shown us, so that all of us may also learn to be loving and to be merciful ourselves. It is through true and genuine love that we will be able to break free from the bondage to sin. If we continue to act with heart filled with hatred, jealousy, ego, pride and greed, we will continue to expose ourselves to the temptations to sin, and we will end up falling ever deeper into the chasm of sin.

That is why we need to make the conscious and sustained effort to resist those temptations, by restraining ourselves in the flesh, and being conscious of how sinful we have been, regardless of how serious our sins may have seemed as compared to the sins that others have committed. As mentioned earlier, sin is still sin, regardless of how small or how insignificant it may seem to be. Sin is a corruption and taint on our souls and our beings, and unless we are free from those sins, small or big, then we have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make use of the opportunities given to us during this season of Lent to turn our back on sin, on all the stubborn oppositions we have committed against God in our past actions and deeds, in our words and utterings. Let us all sharpen instead the edge of our humility and let go of the pride and greed in our hearts and minds, that we may come to be righteous in our actions, words and deeds, leaving behind all those attitudes that cause us to be full of pride and disobedience.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a holy man and servant of God, one of the early Church fathers who was remembered for his loving and forgiving nature, which he presented in his writings, in which he wrote extensively about God’s love and mercy to His people. St. Cyril himself had endured many challenges and oppositions throughout his life and he was falsely accused many times by his rivals. Yet, he remained composed, and continued to serve the Lord and the people regardless of those challenges.

Therefore, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, by growing more generous in love and forgiveness, keeping in mind that our most loving and patient God has loved us all so dearly, each and every moments that we live in this world. Are we able to change ourselves through embracing the way of mercy and the way of love? Then we must be loving and merciful at every living moments of our life. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us all in everything we do. Amen.