Friday, 3 February 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that as Christians we ought to be righteous and virtuous in our way of life, obeying the commandments and Law of the Lord, and being good members of the Church and our respective Christian communities, and being upright and faithful in the lives we all carry out as Christians, as members of our Christian families and in each of our parts to play as the members of God’s same one Church. We are likely going to face hardships and persecutions, challenges and trials, difficulties and other obstacles in our journey and path one way or another, but this should not dampen our desire to follow and serve the Lord faithfully in each and every possible moments. We must be inspired and encouraged by the great examples set by our holy predecessors and strive to be good examples ourselves.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author of this Epistle spoke of the responsibility for the people and faithful ones of the Lord to live their lives justly and righteously in the manner that the Lord has taught them to do. The Lord has shown His path and His righteousness to all of them, and therefore, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminded everyone to do what is good and worthy of the Lord, especially for members of families, husbands and wives to be good and faithful, committed and dedicated to each other. The author exhorted everyone to remain true to their Christian faith and to seek righteousness in all things, distancing themselves from the corruption and vices of sin, and removing from them and their lives the temptations of worldly desires, pleasures and glory.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the suffering and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, who was the Herald of the Messiah, and who also stood up against King Herod Antipas of Galilee, mentioned in our Gospel today. In that account, we heard how the king arrested St. John the Baptist, because he rebuked him for having adulterous relationship with his own brother’s legal wife, Herodias when this brother was very much still alive. As such, the relationship between the king and Herodias was an irregular and immoral one, which is not right and sinful in the sight of the Lord, just as what we have also heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews earlier on. And as a king over the people of God, such attitude and behaviour was indeed unacceptable, as he was not showing good examples for others to follow.

St. John the Baptist did not fear reprisal or punishment as he chided the king for his improper and immoral behaviour, and this earned him the ire of Herodias, who was particularly hateful of the man of God for having spoken out publicly against her relationship with the king. Hence, St. John the Baptist was arrested, and that was the backstory to today’s Gospel passage. What happened was that Herodias managed to trick King Herod to execute St. John the Baptist, and he had no choice but to do so, and hence, resulting in the martyrdom of this holy man and servant of God in prison. Yet, through what we have heard today, we can see that first of all, the temptations of worldly pleasures and glory, of fornication, lust and other desires are real, and just as King Herod succumbed to those, we can also succumb as well.

That is why we must always strive to be faithful to the Lord and to be ever vigilant in resisting the many temptations all around us, all of which seek to mislead us down the wrong path in life. All of us must do our best to resist the allures of those temptations and pressures that may end up causing us to sin against God. We have to keep in mind what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke about, in us Christians having to show mutual and true Christian love, the love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters. Just as the Lord Himself has taught us, we all have to love God first and foremost before all else, and then show the same kind of love to our fellow brothers and sisters around us, be it our families, relatives, friends, or even strangers and all those whom we encounter daily in life, and even those who do not like us.

At the same time, we also have to live our lives worthily of the Lord, doing our best to glorify God by our lives. We should be good role models in all of our actions and works, so that all others who see us, hear us and our works, and witness all of our activities and interactions may indeed be inspired as well, and touched by the love which we have for God and for our fellow men, and by the truth and the wisdom with which we have carried out our lives and actions, that more and more people may also become believers in the same Lord, our Saviour. As Christians, it is our responsibilities and calling for us to proclaim the Word and the Good News of God, and the best way is for us to do whatever the Lord has taught and revealed to us, and commanded us to do, in our every day moments in life, even in the smallest of the things we do.

Today, besides being inspired by the courage and the dedication showed by St. John the Baptist as highlighted in our Gospel passage today, all of us should also be inspired by the examples of St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, two great saints whose feasts we celebrate this day. St. Blaise and St. Ansgar were both faithful and courageous servants of the Lord, who dedicated their lives to their respective ministries and also led holy and devout lives, as good role models and inspirations for many of us Christians across the ages. St. Blaise was a Roman bishop and martyr, who was also a renowned physician, while St. Ansgar was a Frankish and German bishop well-known for his evangelising missions and efforts to reach out to the pagans and unbelievers in the distant parts of northern Europe, and through whose works many became believers in Christ.

St. Blaise was renowned for his great compassion and kindness, as a physician who was able to heal many of their physical ailments, and also were sought by many for their spiritual and mental ailments. He cared for many of them, and healed all of them by the grace of God, some even miraculously. It was told by tradition that he even healed animals as well, and those same animals came to him just like the many other sick men and women, seeking for healing and recovery. He also cared for the spiritual needs of his flock as their bishop, and helped many to find their way to the Lord. Afterwards, Christians were persecuted intensely by the Roman Emperor Licinius, in one of the last persecutions of the Roman Empire period. Many Christians including that of St. Blaise himself were arrested, tortured and martyred. St. Blaise himself was arrested, scourged and beheaded for his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Ansgar was renowned as mentioned earlier, in his missionary efforts and works, traversing many areas beyond the traditional boundaries of Christendom back then, preaching about the Lord among many of those who have not yet known or heard of Him, and as the Archbishop of Hamburg and Bremen in what is now Northern Germany, St. Ansgar dedicated much of his time establishing the Church and its institutions, and expanding the Church’s reach among the people. Many more people came to believe in the Lord through him and through all those whom he has gathered to the same mission of the Church. His dedication, hard work and love for his flock, and for all the people of God, just as what St. Blaise has shown in his faith and life, should indeed be inspiration to all of us as Christians, in how we ought to live our lives faithfully.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all henceforth live our lives from now on as Christians in a more committed and wholehearted way, and do our best to serve Him in each and every moments of our lives, so that by our faithful and exemplary lives, we may indeed inspire many more people to come towards the Lord and His salvation. Let us also help one another so that we may be better able to persevere through the hardships and persecutions we may face in the midst of our obedience and faith in God, in the facing of the many temptations and pressures for us to give up our faith. May all of us remain strong in our faith and may God bless us in our every good efforts, endeavours and works, and may He guide us all through our lives, through our darkest moments, that we may always remain strong in Him, always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 February 2023 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the occasion of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas, the fortieth day of Christmas. This is the day which in accordance to longstanding Christian tradition, is the last day of the great 40 days long celebration of the Christmas season. On this day, the fortieth day since we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we commemorate His Presentation at the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. Traditionally, this date also marks the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which Mary, after having spent forty days in confinement after childbirth, according to the Jewish laws and customs, was purified at the House of God and was welcomed back into the community of God’s people.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord to His people through the prophet Malachi, we heard of the Lord speaking of the Covenant which He has established with His people and the Envoy of this Covenant which was coming into the world. This prophecy was often referred to the promise of the coming of the Messiah, the Holy One of God and also His herald, St. John the Baptist. In the context of today’s celebration, we are reminded of the expectation of the coming of the Saviour from the Lord, which the prophets had been proclaiming and reassuring the people of God for ages. The prophet Malachi was one of the last prophets of the Old Testament era, who continued the traditions of the prophets in delivering the words of God to His people. Through his words and ministry, the people kept on waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord’s salvation.

If Christmas marks the moment when the Lord entered into this world and appeared at last, bringing forth God’s salvation and hope, and if Epiphany marks the moment when He was revealed to the nations, to the pagan peoples and all mankind through the Three Magi or Wise Men, then this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord marks the moment when the Lord appeared and was presented not only before the Lord but also before the people of God, those who belonged to the nation of Israel. Indeed, some would have said that the Angels had appeared to the shepherds in the wilderness of Bethlehem when the Lord was born, but it was at the moment of the Lord’s Presentation at the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God, that He was revealed to the Jewish people, to the people to whom God had promised His salvation.

The coming of the Lord and His Presentation as we heard in our Gospel passage today marked the fulfilment of the Lord’s many promises and the renewal of His Covenant which He has reassured His people again and again every time. The elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna both witnessed the coming of the Lord in the form of the little Child, presented there that day at the Temple and House of God, and they must have been so joyful to have glimpsed the coming of God’s salvation in the flesh, before their very own eyes. And they spoke of the many great things which the Lord would do through His Son, to His parents, Mary and St. Joseph and to all those who were assembled and present there at the Temple on that day. Truly today we celebrate the Lord’s revelation to His people, the coming and appearance of His Light in this world.

That is why today’s celebration is also known as the Candlemas, the celebration of the Light of Christ revealed to all of the people of God and to all the nations. On this day we recall how the Lord has shown us His most amazing love and revealed to us His Light through His Son, so that there is Light that illuminates our path in this darkened and sinful world. All of us have received the assurances from the Lord of His love and salvation, and this day we are reminded that everything that He has ever promised and spoken to us, all have come true in Christ, our Lord and Saviour. It is thanks to the coming of the Lord that all of us can have hope again, and His Light has come into our midst to dwell among us, that we have seen the path out of the darkness and despair that surround us, the Light that is our guide and strength amidst the hardships and challenges facing us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now as we rejoice today on this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, let us all also then take note that the Light of Christ has been passed on to us, just as we have the blessing of candles this day, to remind us of the Light of Christ that we all have received at our baptism. All of us have received the Light of the Lord and His Light having been present in us, should be the source of light for this world, for one another. What does this mean? It means that we should be beacons of God’s Light, His truth, love and all the hope which He has brought into our midst, taught and revealed to us. As Christians, all of us have received this truth and share this same knowledge and love of God, and we should therefore be the bearers of His Light in our world today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we be truly worthy disciples of the Lord and the bearers of His Light in our world today? In order to do that, then all of us have to be filled with the Light of Christ, filled with God’s righteousness, virtues and justice. All of us have to live our lives to the best of our abilities so that we may become source of inspiration and hope for others, and that we may help others to find their way in obeying the Law and the commandments of God. Each and every one of us are parts of the Church’s effort to evangelise and to proclaim the truth of God to more and more of the people all around us, both within and outside the Church. Each one of us are the bearers of His Good News and truth, and through us many people may come to find our way to salvation and eternal life.

May the Lord continue to lead and guide us down this path of righteousness. May all of us continue to strive to live our lives as best as we can in showing our faith truly through our every day actions, even in the smallest and the seemingly most insignificant things we do in life. May all of us continue to be encouraged to live our lives to the fullest, and may He empower all of us to walk in His presence, and to glorify Him, as the beacons of His Light, righteousness, virtues and justice, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the love that God has given very generously to each and every one of us, in sending to us His only begotten Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Through Christ, all of us have received the assurance of salvation and the path to eternal life, in which we shall be truly joyful and happy, and we have to persevere through the challenges, trials, obstacles and many hardships in this life to enter into the glorious kingdom of God. All of us are reminded not to be easily swayed and distracted by the many temptations all around us, the temptations of pride, ego, desire, worldly glory and many other things that may distract us from finding our true focus in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author of this Epistle spoke of the reminders for the faithful people of God to seek righteousness in God and to be good and virtuous in their lives for they have all been made the adopted children of the Lord by their sharing of the human nature of Christ, Who has borne our many sins and died for our sake on His Cross, so that we may be reconciled with God, our most loving Father and Creator. And as His children, the Lord as our loving and caring Father will chastise us according to His desire, to see us growing better in our actions and lives, so that we do not end up falling into the wrong path or into the darkness. He does not want us to be lost from Him once again, having already been reconciled with us.

Unfortunately, it is our stubbornness and often lack of faith that have led us to be rebellious and to refuse the Lord’s repeated generous and kind offer to forgive us our sins and mistakes. The Lord has given us many opportunities, assistance and reminders all these while, chastising and rebuking us, disciplining us as He saw fit. All these are not because He despised us, but on the contrary because He truly loves us very much. If He despised and hated us, He could have easily willed us out of existence and cast us all into the eternal darkness and damnation. He could have destroyed us and crushed us by the power of His will alone. But this is not what He chose to do with us. As our loving Father and Creator, Who loves us all very dearly, God wants nothing less than our redemption and complete reconciliation with Him.

But as we heard in our Gospel passage today, many among us are still stubborn, refusing to believe in the Lord and His truth, especially because of our pride and ego, our inability to accept the truth that we may be mistaken and faulty in our thinking, judgment and understanding. Like those people in the hometown of the Lord Jesus who judged and doubted Him simply because they thought they knew Him and that just because He was apparently the Son of the local carpenter, then He was unworthy of the great Wisdom and the deeds that He had carried out in the midst of the people of God. Those people presumed that whatever they had heard and witnessed must have been wrong or mistaken because it could not be feasible for this mere Son of a village carpenter to have done them all, or spoke of all the great words of Wisdom that He had spoken.

By looking down on them, those people had shown the ugly nature of their prideful existence and hearts, their stubborn minds and all that they had put in place to keep themselves from listening to God and His truth. The Lord has patiently reached out to them and showed them His love, and yet, they continued to oppose Him, rebuff Him, reject Him and His most generous offer of love and kindness. It is easy for us to dismiss those people as being rebellious and delinquent, but what we cannot forget is that, we ourselves have often shown the same attitude as well, the same stubbornness and refusal to listen to the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having often witnessed and experienced God’s most generous love and kindness, we should all be thankful for the Lord and His constant love for us and for having been ever patient with us, despite our many stubborn rebelliousness and wickedness. However, we cannot continue to walk down this path of wickedness and sin, and we have to embrace Lord’s path, His forgiveness and mercy, or else we may end up falling deeper and deeper into this path of darkness and sin. We cannot continue to let ourselves be dragged ever deeper into this trap which the Devil and all of his wicked forces are always actively trying to put in our path.

Let us all hence commit ourselves anew to the Lord, dedicating our time and effort to grow ever closer to Him, in each and every moments, and let us all continue to strive in our effort to live ever more worthily of Him, by doing our best in following the Law and the commandments of God, in living our lives well according to the precepts and ways taught to us by the Lord, and reminding ourselves of the errors and the faults that we have committed all these while in our lives. Each one of us as the children of God are expected to be like our Father, Who is good and perfect in all things. Hence, we too should be good, faithful, committed and righteous at all times.

May the Lord continue to help us and guide us in our journey of faith throughout life, and may He continue to bless us in our lives, in our actions and works, so that we may continue to what is right and just in accordance with His will. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen and empower us with His love, His Wisdom, His grace and blessings, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded yet again of the trials, challenges, difficulties and hardships that we may have to face as faithful people of God, as proven by our many predecessors and all the saints and martyrs who had shed their blood and suffered in the midst of their lives and in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Yet, at the same time we are reminded of the assurances that the Lord has provided us His faithful ones, that He will always be by the side of all those who have faith in Him, and He will heal and strengthen them once again, all those who have suffered for His sake and entrusting themselves to Him, just as we have heard in our passages of the day.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard of the words from the author of this Epistle, speaking about the examples of the innumerable witnesses that had existed all around us and at the same time, also looking upon the good examples that the Lord Jesus had brought into our midst, the sufferings, hardships, trials, persecutions and humiliations that He Himself has suffered for our sake. Each and every one of us are reminded that whatever hardship we face in this world, and whatever tough things we have had to endure, all of these had been shared with us by the Lord, Who has taken upon Himself willingly, the entire burden of our many punishments and sins, which He took upon His own shoulders as He bore the heavy burden of His Cross. He carried them all to Calvary, all for the sake of the salvation of our souls.

Then as we heard from our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the moment when the Lord performed His miraculous healing and restoration of two individuals, one of the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhage problems for many years, while the other case was that of the daughter of the local synagogue official, who was very sick and eventually died before the Lord made it to her, but He healed her nonetheless and restored her back to life. Through all these that we have heard in our Gospel passage today and others, we are hence reminded of the providence that God will provide for all those who trust in Him, and that in His own good time, He will raise us all up again from the depth of our darkness and despair, leading us away from the darkness and into the light of salvation.

The woman who had haemorrhage problem had been suffering from her condition for many years, and she had no other recourse but to seek the Lord, as no matter what she had done, as mentioned in the Gospel today, and even with the help of many doctors, they only managed to make her condition worse. She therefore sought the Lord and had such a faith in Him that if only she could touch the fringe of His cloak, she would be healed and her troubles would cease, especially as she likely must have heard how many other miracles had been performed by the Lord. What matters is that she believed in the Lord thoroughly and completely, and entrusted herself to Him. Yet, at the same time, she also did not dare to seek the Lord openly, as her condition according to the Jewish Law and customs would have made her unclean, and she likely did not want to get attention on herself, or be shunned because of that.

We heard how this woman was healed by her faith, as she sought the Lord with faith, and her haemorrhage or bleeding stopped completely. The Lord praised her for her faith, and made an example of how her commitment and faith was so great, and it was by that same faith that she had been healed and saved. The same happened to the daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus as well. Jairus’ faith in the Lord allowed the Lord to come and bring His love and healing upon his daughter, and as we heard, he still believed in the Lord even though those gathered at his place mocked the Lord for saying that his daughter was merely sleeping and not dead. Jairus had faith in the Lord that He could save her, no matter how He would do it, and thus, by that faith, she was rescued.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the messages of these Scripture passages, let us all hence remind ourselves that while challenges, trials, hardships, difficulties may be aplenty in our lives and in our paths, but if we have faith in the Lord and keep our sight upon Him, entrusting ourselves to Him, then we have hope and assurance with us that no matter what, we shall have that promise of true happiness, joy and eternal life through our Lord, through the salvation that He has offered each and every one of us freely. And while we suffer, we are suffering with Him and together with Him, just as He has also borne His Cross, all wounded and pained by the many rejections, humiliations, betrayals and the other wicked things that we had done to Him, despite of His love for us.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is right and just for us to follow the Lord once again more wholeheartedly, and learn to commit ourselves to Him once again, to the best of our abilities. Today, we can model ourselves based on the great examples which our holy predecessor, St. John Bosco, a great priest of the Lord and holy man of God, whose feast we celebrate today, have done. St. John Bosco was remembered greatly for his great piety, love and dedication to God, as well as for his great love and compassionate care for those whom he encountered in the midst of his missions and works, as a priest and most well-known in his role as one who initiated and was in charge of an outreach to the underprivileged youth, those juveniles and teenagers who had none to lead and guide them to the right path.

St. John Bosco helped to get them proper education and place to stay for those who were orphaned and homeless, and cared for their spiritual, mental and material needs. He dedicated much of his time to touch the lives of the underprivileged, and inspired many others to begin similar initiatives, resulting in the blooming of many institutions of Christian education that benefitted especially the underprivileged youths, and in particular underprivileged girls. The faith, dedication and commitment which St. John Bosco has shown us should inspire us all as well in our lives so that hopefully we may also become good sources of inspiration and hope for many others whom we encounter and all those who have witnessed our actions and works.

May the Lord continue to guide us all and bless our many good works and efforts, and may He continue to strengthen and empower us all to be the beacons of His light and truth, and to be the fearless and most faithful ambassadors of His love and grace in our world today. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all reminded that God gave strength to His people, His servants and followers, granting them the courage and power to endure challenges, trials and tribulations in their paths, and enabling them to follow Him with faith and commitment. God has given them all His strength, wisdom and guidance, and empowered them to serve Him and His people in great and mighty ways, in various means throughout history, by using the examples that is contained within the Scriptures to remind us of how He has blessed us and our predecessors so much, and how He has also sent His own Beloved Son, into our midst, to be our Saviour and as the One to deliver us from the hands of Satan and his evil forces.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author spoke of the examples of the Judges and Kings, the faithful servants of God who had served the Lord in the past, including the famous King David himself, and pointed out to his targeted audience, the Jewish people or the Hebrews living in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere, that the Lord had called ordinary people, who were from unassuming, unknown background, as shown by where those Judges and King David himself were called from, and the circumstances in which they were called, in which they were empowered by God to carry out magnificent deeds for the glory of His Name and for the good of His people. The Lord had called on the ordinary to do extraordinary deeds on His behalf in this world.

The author of this Epistle also wanted to remind the people of God, mainly the Jewish people, whether converts to the faith or not, and even those who were Gentiles that became believers in the Lord, that each and every one of them had been called to the same mission and path in life as their holy and great predecessors, not withstanding and regardless of their background and origins. What matters is not how great they were or how powerful and influential they were in this life, but rather, how faithful, committed and trusting they are in God’s power and providence, and how faithful they are to His commandments, His Law and teachings. Without all of these and without God to guide and lead us, we are nothing, and we will easily fall prey into the assaults of those who seek to destroy us, Satan and all of his fellow fallen angels and evil spirits, all seeking our downfall and doom.

Each and every one of us as Christians are called to the same mission and calling as those whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had mentioned, to serve the Lord and to follow His path faithfully in our own lives, allowing God to lead us and to guide us to wherever and whatever He wants us to do with our lives in each and every possible moments. He wants each one of us as Christians to be good and righteous, worthy and dedicated to Him, as role models and inspirations to each other in how we live our lives so that we may help one another to remain firm in our faith, and we cannot be idle in living our lives with true, genuine and strong Christian faith, with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with us always ever caring about the needs of others, our fellow brethren all around us.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the famous parable of the Lord driving the evil spirits out of a man possessed by many evil spirits in the region of the Gerasenes. He has been living in the wilderness for a long time because of his possession by those same evil spirits, and the people feared him because of that. He could not return to the community because of his condition, shunned and cast out from the rest of the community. But the Lord willingly came to him and approached him, wanting this man to be healed from his affliction, and authoritatively ordered those evil spirits to get out of him, and sending them to the flock of pigs that were there, grazing for food. The man was therefore healed from his troubles, and could return to his community. But the herders were afraid of him, and with the local populace, begged Him to depart from their lands.

The significance of this account of the exorcism of the possessed man and the casting out of the demons into the pigs are plenty, but first of all, it highlighted the love that God has for each and every one of us, in reaching out even to the most abandoned, ostracised and rejected ones among us, and showing us that even the most ordinary and seemingly unworthy ones among us, like that of the possessed man, is worthy of God’s salvation and grace. We must not give up or thinking that leading a good and holy life is impossible simply because we think that we are not good enough for God, or that others are doing way better than us, and that we are less worthy than they are. God does not judge us based on all that. What is important is our love and desire for ourselves to return to Him, and to love Him, and this is a process that each one of us are going through right now in our lives, together with the Lord by our side.

Then, the symbolism of the evil spirits being cast out into the herd of pigs is also significant in that, in the end, our human lives and existence, even just a single one, is far more worth than any other worldly and material things. Those pig herders and others rightfully feared the Lord and begged Him to leave their lands because He had just caused them a lot of monetary losses. However, all these happened so that the man, who had been cast out, abandoned, rejected and feared by everyone else in that area, could be saved, and could be returned to his community, and not wander off in the wilderness, treated way less than even those animals and herds. It is a reminder that our human existence and lives, each and every one of us are important and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

That moment was also a symbolism that in the end, Satan and all of his wicked forces, the evil spirits and demons, all will face their downfall and ultimate defeat just as the pigs were all running down the cliff and perished. It is a reminder for all of us that no matter how challenging and tough our lives may be, and how difficult it may be for us to remain faithful to the Lord, in the end, if we remain truly faithful to Him and remain committed in Him, we shall be triumphant with Him in the end, and we should not worry about the persecution, trials and challenges from the world, and from all those wicked forces and evil spirits. Again, that is because all of us are truly precious to the Lord, and each one of us are important to Him. We must never underestimate ourselves and our capacity and the opportunities we have been given for conversion and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now what matters in the end is our desire to live our lives worthily of the Lord and the drive in our hearts and minds to obey the words of the Lord and to walk in His path at all times. We are reminded that all of us are truly precious in the eyes of the Lord, and all of us will be strengthened and guided by God if we continue to put our trust in Him, and if we allow Him to lead the way for us, and if we steadfastly continue to follow Him despite the many pressures, temptations and challenges that try to keep and distract us from following the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly. Let us all assist each other and help one another in doing our best to keep us all aligned and rooted in the path that God has led us through, and may all of us continue to strive to do our best in living our lives faithfully, in each and every moments of our lives.

May God be with us always and may He continue to bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. May He help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and devotion, in our righteousness and virtues, and in all of our qualities as good and faithful Christians, at all times. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us as Christians we are all reminded to be ever more righteous and committed to the path which the Lord has shown and taught us all, and each one of us are called to embody what the Lord taught His disciples and hence all of us, as He laid out for us in the Eight Beatitudes that we heard in our Gospel passage today. Each one of us as Christians are expected to be exemplary in our lives and we are all reminded that our actions and way of life do affect others and can either be an inspiration to one another to follow or can instead be a source of scandal for the Lord and His Church.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the about the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah, a prophet who lived and ministered during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of that kingdom and in the last decades of Judah as an independent entity. Zephaniah called on the people of the Lord to be meek, humble and just, as well as to seek refuge in the Lord so that on the Day of Judgment, they may truly find rest and consolation in God, their Hope and their Strength. Zephaniah spoke of these in the context of how the people of God in the past centuries before that time had often refused to obey the Lord and His words, and had acted proudly and with ambition, seeking worldly glory and satisfaction, all of which led them down the path of sin.

And due to their sins, they had been sundered from God’s grace and love, and suffered the consequences of their sins. They had been defeated, crushed and conquered by their enemies, their cities and towns destroyed and burnt, their houses and dwelling places turned upside down and occupied by the others brought in to dwell in their lands. Many of the people of God themselves were also brought into exile as what happened when the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of the people of God, were destroyed by the Assyrians, and many of its people were brought away to distant lands by the victorious Assyrians. This happened just a few decades before the time of the prophet Zephaniah and his ministry.

Hence, what Zephaniah delivered before the people is a reminder to the people that each one of them ought to return once again to the path that God has shown them, to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide and lead them down the right path instead of insisting on walking down the path of rebelliousness, pride, greed and ambition that many of their ancestors had taken. Zephaniah assured them of the Lord’s guidance and that if they remained faithful in God, then the Lord would provide for them and that they would be preserved and protected. They would once again be God’s people and they would be restored once again to their honourable state and position. Unfortunately, the people of God lapsed again into sinful ways after King Josiah passed on, rebelling against God and hardening their hearts against Him, eventually leading to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, much like how the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel earlier on.

In our second reading passage today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth, in which he told them how God chose the seemingly weak and unimportant people to receive His grace and salvation, and how God will strengthen and give His grace, wisdom and strength to the weak and the humble, all so that they can indeed gain glory through the Lord, and be saved, as opposed to the proud and the haughty, all those who trusted in their own power and greatness more than they trust in the Lord and His providence. The Apostle hence reminded the people of God not to follow the path of worldliness, greed, pride and ambition, which the world advocates, but to follow the Lord and the path He has shown us all and taught to us.

That brings us now to the Eight Beatitudes itself, which the Lord pointed out in His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as detailed in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes highlighted to us some of the great virtues that all of us as God’s faithful and righteous people ought to have in our lives. Unless we live our lives according to the Beatitudes, we cannot truly call ourselves as true and genuine Christians, as if we profess to have faith in God and yet, our actions are otherwise, and in opposition to what He has presented in the Beatitudes, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. Through His presentation of the Beatitudes, the Lord is exhorting and reminding us all to model our lives based on the Beatitudes, to be good and righteous just as He is good and righteous.

As we heard from the Beatitudes, the virtues of being a Christian is essentially to be able to put God as the focus and centre of our lives and existence, and removing from ourselves the taint of pride and ego, to put the need of others and our fellow brothers and sisters around us ahead of our own selfish desires, ambition and greed. A good Christian and a good follower of the Lord is someone who seeks the Lord with all of his or her heart and strength, who loves Him and who desires to obey Him and His will, and who wants to walk with Him in the path of righteousness, justice and peace. That is what is meant by being poor in spirit, as it refers to our internal desire to let God come into our lives and transform us to be His righteous and good servants, realising the limitations of our own human power and ability.

And allowing God to lead us, all of us ought then to seek for a good and holy life, one that is filled with the same love that God has for each one of us, in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, in seeking peace and harmony between all the peoples, and in doing what is right and just in every opportunities available to us, and in enduring the persecutions, challenges and trials that may come our way in the midst of our journey as Christians wandering through this world filled with sin, evil and darkness. We should be good examples and role models for one another, living our lives faithfully and commit ourselves each day with faith, so that all others who witness our actions and hear our words, see our way of life, may all come to believe in God and know Him as well through us.

The Lord Himself has said and reassured us that if we live in the way that He has taught and shown us, in the way of the Beatitudes, then we truly will be blessed and be filled with His grace, and on the Day of Judgment, mercy and love shall be shown us, as the gates of Heaven and eternal life will surely be opened to us. However, if we continue to persist in our state of sin, in our disobedience and rebellion against God, then we will end up falling deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation and destruction, as what had happened to many among our predecessors. And if we recall what we have just discussed earlier on, all these were caused by their failure to adhere to the values and virtues espoused in the Beatitudes. As good Christians, we truly need to live our lives according to the Beatitudes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best (if we have not done so yet) to live our lives according to the Beatitudes. Let us all be that examples of virtue and love, of righteousness and justice in our daily actions and living, so that by our faith and dedication to God, we may continue to inspire one another in living our Christian lives faithfully, and we may also remain humble and committed to the Lord, and not be easily swayed by the many worldly temptations all around us, which can indeed mislead us down the wrong path in life. Let us all resist those many temptations and attachments we may have to worldly vices and evils, and get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly matters and desires, so that we may indeed grow ever closer to the Lord and be ever more worthy of Him and His grace and salvation.

May God be with us all and may He empower all of us with the strength and courage, the virtues and the goodness in us so that we may truly walk in the path of His Beatitudes, ever reminding ourselves to be good and righteous in all things and at all opportunities available to us. May He show us His love always and may all of us continue to live worthily in His Presence, loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may all inspire one another to get ever closer to the Lord, our Saviour and loving Father. May God bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all of our actions and dealings, interactions and more. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to have faith, a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, to trust in Him wholeheartedly and not to be easily swayed by fear and indecision in our trust in the Lord. Just as the examples from the Scripture passages today should have highlighted to us, all of us should remember the past examples of how God has provided for His people and how many among them have received liberation and rescue from their trials and troubles. And even when the people of God apparently did not receive any help from the Lord, that is actually more because the Lord operates in His own time and in His will. But no matter what, the Lord will always love us and show His care for us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the past examples of how people in the past have had faith in God even through their darkest moments, and even when they did falter, the Lord had always helped them out of their predicament. The Lord never abandoned them or left them all alone. Even when they were suffering, the reality is that God has always been with them all the way, and sent to them His deliverance, help and assistance through various means, either directly or indirectly. The Lord has always reached our to His faithful ones, granting them His help and strength, as He had done to Abraham and Sarah in the past, Isaac, Jacob and all the other members of His beloved people and flock.

When Abraham and Sarah were already desperate for a child after having many years of failed attempts to have one, the Lord reassured them and reminded all of them that His promises and Covenant will always hold true no matter what. God made a solemn Covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and peoples, and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. All these indeed came true, as Abraham trusted in the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to. The Lord guided Abraham and protected him, and gave him a son, Isaac, whom He had promised to him from the beginning. Even when the Lord tested Abraham for his faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, while Abraham might have had moments of pain and doubt, he remained faithful nonetheless.

While Sarah also doubted the Lord and even laughed at the suggestion that she would have a child within the year from the Lord Himself Who came to visit Abraham, eventually she remained firm in her faith and trust in the Lord, believing that the Lord will always be faithful and will never abandon His faithful ones. The Lord gave Abraham who was willing to give even his own beloved son as a sign of his faith and trust in the Lord, the assurance of His blessings and faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established with him, sparing Isaac and reminded him and all of us yet again of just how loving, gracious and committed the Lord is to love all of us. Throughout history, this has been repeated and renewed again and again, as the Lord continued to reveal His faithfulness and love to us. The author of this Epistle was also trying to reveal more about the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people as this author had intended.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the the disciples of the Lord Jesus travelling through the lake, during which time a great storm and huge waves came to batter the boat that they were in. In that occasion, the Lord was sleeping while the disciples were panicking and worried that those waves would crush and destroy their boat, which would have likely caused them to drown to their deaths in the middle of the stormy seas. They desperately begged the Lord for help and asked Him to help them, and the Lord rebuked them for their lack of faith and trust in Him. The Lord Jesus then showed His power and authority by commanding the wind and the waves to be still, and immediately the entire storm vanished miraculously to the total astonishment of all the disciples who witnessed it.

Through what we have heard in that Gospel passage we can see how the boat represented the Church of God, while the disciples all represented all the faithful people of God, all of us who are part of God’s Church. The Lord Himself is at the Head of the Church, guiding the boat to its safe destination, just as He has always led us through the many difficulties and challenges facing us in our journey throughout life. Those storms and waves represented the many challenges, trials and obstacles that we will have to face as members and parts of God’s Church, which may indeed tempt us to abandon everything and the Church, seeking for other sources of help rather than to trust in the Lord. That is exactly what happened if someone in that boat were to try to abandon the boat and jump into the water instead of trusting in the Lord.

This is a reminder for each one of us that no matter how tough or difficult our battles and challenges may be, we must not be easily swayed, dissuaded or forced to abandon our path walking with faith in God. We must entrust ourselves in God’s love and guidance, which He has always faithfully given to us all these while, from the examples that we have heard from our Scripture passages today. The Lord has done so much for us that He has not held back from even giving us His only beloved Son, much as Abraham had done earlier in offering Isaac to God. But unlike that offering of Isaac which was just a test by God for Abraham’s faith, God truly sent us His only Son, to suffer and die for us, as the Lamb of God, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice offered for the salvation of all mankind, of all creation.

Can we still not trust in God after He has done so much for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has done so much for us to the point of giving His best and the most perfect gift that He can give us, to have His own Son to carry the huge burdens of our many sins, so that by His coming into this world, He may save us all from our certain impending destruction, death and damnation. His love for us is so great that this Love even overcame the entire combined might of all the sins and the forces of evil arrayed against us. The Lord has shown us His most generous and powerful Love through His Cross, and we are hence reminded again and again to put our trust and faith in Him, and doubt Him no longer. We should not doubt what He has done for our sake, and we should continue to have full faith in Him, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all also follow the good examples of one saint whose life and works can inspire us to deepen our faith and trust in God ever further. I am quite sure that many of us have heard the name St. Thomas Aquinas, a great and holy Priest and servant of God, and also an esteemed Doctor of the Church after his passing from this world. The Universal Church celebrates his feast on this day. He was known for his great devotion to God and great theological masterpieces, particularly his magnum opus, the ‘Summa Theologiae’. As a great theologian and servant of God, St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of time and effort to help the people of God to know better about Him and the truth about His love and compassionate mercy towards us. St. Thomas Aquinas did a lot of great works together with his other contemporaries like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, who in their own ways help to bring God’s people to be ever closer to Him.

Let us all hence strive to do our best to get to know more about the Lord God, our Saviour and loving Father. Let us all return to Him once again with love and devotion, by following the zeal and the examples showed by the holy lives of the saints, particularly that of St. Thomas Aquinas in today’s Feast celebration, and let us be good role models and examples so that in all the things we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and commit ourselves wholeheartedly, to walk in the path of His grace. May the Lord continue to help and guide us through the many trials and tribulations, the challenges that we may have to face and overcome, in each and every moments of our Christian living. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Thursday, 26 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of two of the earliest bishops and leaders of the Church, as the successors of the Apostles and in this case, as the protege of St. Paul the Apostle. St. Timothy and St. Titus were two of the Lord’s disciples who collaborated closely with St. Paul during his missionary works and journeys, and they were addressed by St. Paul each with an Epistle, as he wrote to both of them exhorting them to remain faithful to God and to do the will and the works of God to the best of their ability. St. Paul reminded them all of the role of the oversees or elders, also later known as bishops in the community of the people of God, as the exemplary role model that become the foundation and pillars of the Church and the Christian community.

According to tradition, St. Timothy was born in Lycaonia in Asia Minor, to a mixed parentage of a Greek father and a Jewish Christian convert mother. He likely had become a Christian believer as well and met St. Paul during his second missionary journey throughout the Mediterranean region. He was a respected member of the local Christian community, and his maternal family was also noted for their faith, with his maternal grandmother and mother were also noted for their piety and faith. St. Timothy dedicated his life henceforth as a great shepherd for the flock entrusted to him, as St. Paul placed him in Ephesus to care for the faithful there, and for many years, he accompanied St. Paul and then, afterwards, served the Church faithfully for many decades. In the end, it was told that when he was already eighty years old, he tried to stop a procession of pagan idols all around the city. He was arrested, harassed and finally stoned to death, dying as a martyr.

Meanwhile, St. Titus was a Greek who became a follower of St. Paul and was likely converted by the latter, as he accompanied St. Paul during his missions as a companion and interpreter. St. Titus went with St. Paul to many places including Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Macedonia and more places, gaining more experiences and wisdom along the journey. St. Titus was then left at Crete and entrusted by St. Paul to be the bishop and overseer of all the faithful in that island, because St. Paul held St. Titus in high esteem, entrusting him with the important mission of caring for the needs of the faithful in Crete, who back then had no shepherd to look after them. St. Titus henceforth became that leader and guide of many among the faithful people of God, and while the latter details about him are more scant than that of St. Timothy, it was likely that St. Titus also died in martyrdom as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all heard from the Scriptures and the lives of these two glorious saints of God, St. Timothy and St. Titus, each one of us are reminded to be more like them in our own faith and way of life. We should do our best in order to live our lives in a more Christian way, following the examples of the Apostles and the saints, as the dedication showed by St. Timothy and St. Titus in their respective lives should have shown us. Their commitment to God, their zeal in serving the faithful entrusted to them as their bishops, the time and effort that they must have given to glorify the Lord and to help His people are truly what we should be doing in our own lives as well. St. Timothy and St. Titus showed us all as Christians that we cannot be idle in our lives and that our actions and way of life should be exemplary and worthy as far as possible so that we will not end up causing scandal and distancing people away from the salvation through the Church of God.

That was what St. Paul himself exhorted his two protege, St. Timothy and St. Titus, that the role of bishops were truly very important one for the Church. St. Paul highlighted how the bishops must be selected and elected from among those whose lives were truly good and worthy of God, filled with holiness and righteousness, devotion and commitment to God. Those who were to be chosen as bishops ought not to have been living immorally or against the teachings of the Christian faith, but they must be good role models through their lives and actions, and they have to be filled with the love both for God and for their fellow men and women, fulfilling what the Lord has told His disciples to do, to be faithful to His Law and commandments of Love.

How about us? The same parameters and expectations can be expected of us as well. All of us should live our lives worthily of the Lord and dedicate ourselves at every opportunities provided to us in order to obey the Lord and His commandments faithfully. We should not cause our lives to be a source of embarrassment and scandal for the Lord and His Church, and we have also been constantly called and reminded to adhere ever more closely to the path that God has shown us. All of us should spend more time to deepen our relationship with the Lord and also make the conscious effort to be ever more attuned to Him and His path. Each and every one of us should draw ever closer to God and become ever more filled with Christian grace and commitment, with each and every passing moments in our lives each day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called and reminded to be more like St. Timothy and St. Titus in serving the Lord, in loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters more and more. Let us ask ourselves if we have been faithful and true to our faith in God, or whether we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the many temptations of worldly desires and pleasures that we end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin and evil. We are called to be better examples and role models of our Christian faith, and the best way for this to happen, is for each one of us to strive to be righteous, just and committed at all times, and not be lukewarm and ignorant in our faith. How can we convince others to believe in God if our own actions do not reflect this strong and profound love that we should have in the Lord?

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in each and every moments throughout our lives. May He empower each one of us that we will always be ever more courageous and committed to live our lives with ever greater faith and love for God and for our fellow men. May God bless our every actions, good efforts, works and endeavours, and may St. Timothy and St. Titus, holy servants of God, intercede for us all sinners. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, in which we remember the moment when St. Paul the Apostle, then known as Saul, turned away from his path of persecuting the followers of Christ in the earliest days of the Church, and then became one of the Lord’s greatest champions and defenders instead. This Feast marks that moment when even such a great sinner and enemy of the Lord and His people could turn away from his wrong path and walk in the path of God’s righteousness. The example of St. Paul the Apostle and his conversion is a classic and very good example that no sinner is truly beyond God’s help and grace, as long as the sinner is willing to make amends and listen to the Lord calling on him or her, and turn back towards Him.

As Saul, in his earlier life, St. Paul was a young and overzealous Pharisee who was convinced to try to eradicate the Christian faith and all Christians throughout Judea and beyond. He was the leader of the efforts to persecute and destroy Christian believers, arresting and torturing them, and striking at them in conjunction with the Pharisees and the chief priests. Saul caused great harm to many among the faithful and he probably led to the suffering and death of many earliest Christians. He was present at and approved the martyrdom of St. Stephen, one of the Church’s seven original Deacons and the first of the martyrs of the Church. No one therefore could have believed that it was possible for one like Saul to embrace the Christian faith, less still to become one of the Lord’s chief defenders and servants.

Yet, that was what happened. The Lord called Saul on his way to Damascus to arrest and eradicate the Christians living there. He was called by the Lord in a miraculous and dramatic encounter between the two of them, as he saw and witnessed the Lord appearing to him, and revealing to him the truth, of the mistake he has committed in persecuting and arresting the Lord’s followers. Saul experienced for himself the encounter with the Lord and ever since then, through his baptism and miraculous healing via the assistance of Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, Saul’s life was completely changed and made anew, as he embarked on a new life that was faithful to the Lord, giving his best, all of his efforts and hard work to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, becoming one of the Lord’s greatest disciples and champions.

That was how Saul turned to eventually become St. Paul the Apostle, from a great enemy of Christians and the Lord Himself, to a great disciple and a most faithful servant of God, one of the Apostles and a great missionary who devoted his whole life, a lot of time and effort for the sake of proclaiming the Lord and His truth to more and more people all throughout the world. St. Paul’s example, faith and dedication ought to inspire all of us that even if we have sinned against God, or think that our sins made us to be unworthy of Him and His love, we have the hope of salvation and eternal life all the same. God’s love for us is far greater than all of our sins and wickedness, and in St. Paul’s own words, in one of his Epistles, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Undoubtedly, St. Paul was referring to his own example as the great example of how even great sinners can become great servants of God and saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle all of us are reminded that we are all also called by the Lord for the same purpose and mission in our own lives. Each and every one of us as members of the Church are parts of the Church’s works and missions in proclaiming the truth of God and evangelising the whole world. All of us are successors of the works entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, the missions that the Lord entrusted to His Church. The works of St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord are still aplenty and ongoing, as there are ever more people out there who have not yet known the Lord and His truth. St. Paul the Apostle showed us the way forward in life, in how we should commit ourselves to God’s mission and works.

Now the question is, are we willing to do our best to follow the Lord in the way that St. Paul himself had done? Are we willing to embrace the Lord and His mercy and forgiveness once again, as He continued to reach out to us, calling us to turn away from our sinful and wicked ways? Are we willing to embrace God’s love and grace in showing us His mercy even when we have often disappointed Him? All of us should appreciate the things that God has done in patiently embracing us despite of our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness. He has always loved us and wanted us to be reconciled with Him, and gave us the means to do so through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. By His suffering, death on the Cross and by His Resurrection, the Lord has opened for us the gates of Heaven and shown us the path towards Him.

Now, what each one of us need to do is to reflect on how St. Paul embraced the Lord wholeheartedly and humbly accepted that he was mistaken and wrong in his youth, and allowing the Lord and His other Apostles, as well as the Holy Spirit to help and guide him down the wrong path. Too often many of us continue to sin and disobey God because we are too proud to admit our mistakes and faults, and we are unwilling to let the Lord to correct us. For all that St. Paul had done in his youth as Saul to persecute Christians, he was humble enough to accept the truth of the Lord and embrace His mercy and compassionate love. Are we also willing to embrace God’s truth and love with humility and faith? The choice is ours alone to make. If we continue to walk with pride and refusing to accept our errors and mistakes in life, we will likely end up continuing down the wrong path.

Let us all therefore strive to renew our faith and lives by our humble obedience to the Lord and the willingness to change ourselves by listening to God’s will and words. Let us all be growing ever stronger in our faith and relationship with the Lord in the way that St. Paul had done himself. Let us be converted in life and draw ever closer to the Lord, and be good role models in our lives and actions, that we may inspire many others to live worthily of the Lord. Let us trust in God’s love that is so great that not even the greatest of sinners are beyond God’s mercy and forgiveness. May God continue to strengthen our faith and may He bless us in our everyday lives and actions. May God bless us in our every endeavours, efforts and good works for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.