Sunday, 24 November 2019 : Thirty-Fourth and Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the thirty-fourth and the last in our current liturgical year cycle, we celebrate the great Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the King of Kings, King of all Universe, rejoicing together in our one and only True Lord and King. On this day we honour and adore our Lord and King, the One to Whom all glory and honour are due. All the other kings and rulers of this world derive and receive their authority and power from God, our King.

And His kingship is truly a very unique and wonderful one, which is different from the ways of the kings of this world. For this is not a king who uses his power and authority for his own gain and benefit, and neither did He make use of the authority to show His glory and might before His people as the kings and rulers of this world often did. Instead, if one were to look at the whole life and ministry of the Lord, one would not be able to recognise that He is a King if we make use of the standards of this world.

That was what the Pharisees and the enemies of the Lord took issue against Him for, as they could not recognise how He was truly the Messiah of God, the One Whom God had promised from the beginning of time, to be the perfect fulfilment of all those promises and all the words of God to us. The people thought of the Messiah as the mighty and conquering King like that of David and Solomon, and that the Messiah would come as a mighty King that will restore the kingdom of Israel as how it was during its glorious days.

Yet, Christ is truly a King, and King of all kings and Lord of all lords. His coming into this world precisely showed us all what His true purpose and mission, as well as the true nature of His kingship. His kingship and leadership is not one of pride and tyranny, but instead is one of service and of generous giving, in leading by example and in reaching out to every single one of His people without bias or prejudice, without fear, full of compassion, mercy and love.

Through Him, and by what we have heard today in the Scripture passages, we are reminded of the love which God has for each and every one of us, that He, our King, was willing to do everything He could for our sake. He came into this world to gather us all in to Himself, to be reconciled because of all of our sins and wickedness. And He has willingly bore the Cross for our sake and to suffer because through all that, all of us may live and not be destroyed because of those sins.

Here therefore, we have a great and wonderful King, One Who truly knows us all by heart, and Who is always ever concerned for our well-being. He has always sought our welfare and we are always foremost in His mind all these while. Yet, for all and everything that He has done for us, we mankind, His beloved people have not treated Him in the manner that we should have treated Him. We ignored Him, abandoned Him, betrayed Him and chose other things that we prefer more than Him.

Although the Lord is truly the King of our lives, but we acted as if our king and lord is something else, be it our own pride and ego, or our attachments to worldly possessions, to money and all the likes. We put our trust and hopes in these much more than we have placed our trust and hope in the Lord. And essentially, in our many pursuits of worldly glory, power, honour and all the sorts, we have forgotten about God, ignored Him and abandoned His ways.

Though we call God our King, but the way we behaved and the actions we take in life, the words that we uttered and spoke, the attitudes we adopted in this life all spoke of a different thing, as it is often quite evident that we have other kings in our lives other than God. And it is the sad reality that we even honour all these false ‘kings’ more than how we honoured and treated God. This is sad and truly ironic considering all the things that God, our King had done for our sake.

On this day, as we celebrate this Solemnity of Christ the King, we are therefore called to discern carefully on our lives, our every actions and deeds, our words and interactions with one another. Let us ask ourselves if we have truly regarded Christ as our Lord and King in our lives, or whether we have instead turned our back against Him and put other ‘kings’ that we deem to be more important than Him, by putting the idols of worldly glory and achievements, human praise and power, money and possessions in our hearts and minds?

Today we are all called to reflect on what we are to do if we truly love God as our Lord and King, and we are all called to action, if we sincerely and truly believe in that faithfully. For if we truly honour God as our King, then we need to begin to show it through our every day lives and actions. Otherwise, we will end up scandalising Him and our faith in Him, if we call Him our King and yet our actions and words show otherwise as what often happened in our lives today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then honour Our Lord Jesus Christ as King? First of all, let us all embrace the wonderful love and compassion which He, Our King has shown us, accept His generous offer of love and mercy, opening our hearts and minds to welcome Him and enthrone Him therefore in our hearts. And then, having welcomed Him into our hearts, there can be only place for one King in us, and that is why we need to remove from us all the other false ‘kings’ that we have filled our hearts with.

And from now on, let us truly behave as one of God’s people, following Him as King. It means that we have to live our lives with faith, genuinely devoting ourselves to the path which God has taught and shown us. We have to show that God truly is our King, and all who see us will know that we belong to Him, and to Him alone. It will not be an easy path for us to take, as we all know how the Lord was rejected and despised by many, how He was persecuted and condemned to die when He came into this world bringing and revealing His truth to us all.

Yet, Christ willingly stood up for our sake, speaking the truth even though it meant His suffering and crucifixion. He willingly embraced the worst sufferings out of love for us, truly a King Who loves us all His people, worthy of all praise, glory and honour. And since God loves us all so much, to endure all these for us, then should we not love Him in the same manner, even if it means that we have to bear our own crosses in doing so?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on therefore, let us all cease treating God less than that of the one and only true King of our hearts, and let us steadfastly proclaim Him as our King and Master, not through mere words alone, but through real and concrete actions of faith, by being exemplary Christians in all things, becoming genuine witnesses of the Lord’s truth by our lives. Let us all truly make Jesus our King, not just in name alone, but in reality and all truth, in all things.

Let us obey Him and follow Him and His truth in everything we say and do from now on, and glorifying Him by our lives. Let us bear our crosses patiently with Him, and follow Him to the end of our earthly lives so that when He comes again in the fullness of His glory at the end of time, He may gather us all and find us all worthy of the glory of His eternal kingdom, and bless us with graces everlasting and true joy and happiness with Him forevermore.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, Our King, and the King of all the Universe reign gloriously ever, and reign gloriously in our hearts and minds, that every inch of our being and existence may be filled with our love, devotion and dedication for Him, that we will no longer allow any false ‘kings’ or idols to occupy our hearts and minds, from now on. Let us all adore Our Majestic King and glorify Him always by our lives. Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat! Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by God through His words in the Scriptures not to put our trust in any worldly things or dependencies, but instead put our whole trust in the Lord our God alone. If we place our trust in the world, all the glories, power and wealth it can give us, then in the end, what we will face is just disappointment and regret as our Scripture passages today should remind us of the truth.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Greek Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in continuation of the narrative of this week from the Book of the Maccabees. King Antiochus IV was the same king who ordered all the people in his whole Empire including the descendants of Israel in Judea to abandon their laws and customs, their faith and worship of God for the pagan worship of the Greek gods, and enforced Greek customs and ways on them.

And for that purpose and end, the king persecuted many of those who remained faithful to their dedication and faith in God, and those who refused to abandon their faith were put to great suffering and many even met death in martyrdom. That was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in which the Maccabees, the sons of Mattathias, one of the faithful Jew, rose up against the king in revolt, seeking to free themselves from his tyranny.

In today’s first reading then, we heard of the great campaign carried out by king Antiochus IV as he went to the land of Persia and Media to reclaim parts of the kingdom which once belonged to his predecessors but had been lost in the past decades. We can see from all these that king Antiochus IV was a stubborn and ambitious man, who sought above all the glory of the world, power and majesty above everything else that he was willing to go against God.

Yet, as we have heard and witnessed from history, for all of his pursuits and aims for greatness, king Antiochus IV failed in all of his efforts, as not only that his religious policies and oppressions led to rebellions particularly in the lands of the Jewish people, but he also failed terribly in his efforts to reclaim the lost lands of his predecessors and his plans to gain the wealth and taxes from those lands. And he ended up dying and meeting his end in regret and sorrow.

This is then related to what we have also heard from the Gospels today, in which we heard of the exchange and debate between the Lord Jesus and the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the major and very influential groups at the time of Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were those who were very spiritual and particular of the commandments and the Law of God, the Sadducees on the other hand were like the ‘secular’ party, who did not believe in many of the tenets of the Law.

The Sadducees did not believe in Angels and spiritual things, and neither did they believe in the resurrection from the dead. To them, the life in this world as they enjoyed was the ideal and death was nothing more or less than the end of all the joy and happiness. This fits the personality of the Sadducees perfectly as they were men of this world, those with positions of power and close connections to the king and members of the ruling class.

As they debated and asked the Lord with regards to whether the woman who had seven brothers as husbands had any one of them as her husband in the afterlife, they were in fact thinking in a worldly manner, thinking and wondering if they could retain the possessions, wealth and things in this world as how they have enjoyed it even to the afterlife. They could not bear to part with all of that they have gained and enjoyed in life, just as how king Antiochus IV himself also behaved.

But all of these had led many among us mankind into our downfall as they made us to be greedy and obsessed with all the worldly concerns and things that often distract us, mislead us and bring us further and further away from the path towards God and His salvation. And many of us also failed to realise until it was too late, that none of these things will last forever, and the joy and happiness they provided were merely temporary and not true joy, unlike what God can give to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all instead as Christians seek for the true joy and happiness in God, by learning from the examples of our holy predecessors in faith, the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating on this very day, namely that of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them had led holy and wonderful lives committed to God, which we ourselves can imitate and follow in our own lives. All of us should look up to the examples of these two holy men for inspiration.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the Pope of the Church, remembered for his great zeal and faith, for his tireless dedication to build and maintain the Church through difficult years of persecution and struggles. He was known for his many letters and Epistles to the various parts of the Church through which he reminded the faithful to keep their faith strongly in God and to persevere through the challenges and trials that they had to face.

And like the other early Church fathers and the Apostles, Pope St. Clement I had to suffer persecution as well, as it was told that he was arrested and put into exile, and he was also put into hard labour as part of his imprisonment and suffering. In the end, Pope St. Clement I was martyred, but he met his death with joy, unlike king Antiochus IV who met it with regret and the Sadducees who feared it, because Pope St. Clement I knew that God was with him, and he would receive the gift of eternal life and glory from Him.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a famous and pious Irish missionary who was a great missionary and abbot, who helped to strengthen the foundations of the Church and also monastic practices of the Church of his time, as he helped in the establishment of many monasteries and places that eventually attracted many monks and people who wanted to serve the Lord through prayer. St. Columban was remembered for his great dedication to God, his enduring love and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples which these two holy men had set for us. Let us all follow in their footsteps and grow in our own faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us through life, and may He help us to remain faithful to Him and to love Him with ever greater devotion from now on so that we may look beyond earthly things and desires, and seek only His eternal kingdom and glory. May God bless us all and our good works for His sake, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages by which we are reminded of the duty and responsibility that each and every one of us have to keep as all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as true Christian disciples and as the followers of God’s will and commandments. All of us are called to be full of faith and love for God in all things.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the victory and triumph of the rebellion of Judas Maccabeus, one of the Maccabean brothers who revolted against the kings of the Greek Seleucid Empire because of their oppression of the faithful people of God and their attempts to destroy the Law of God and outlawing the worship of God and by forcing the Greek pagan worship to the Jewish people.

The city of Jerusalem was taken over by the pagans and the citadel built there kept the entire populace under the power of the kings, while the Temple of Jerusalem was desecrated and made to be a mockery of the faith, where pagan idols and pagan worship took place at the altar once reserved only for the worship of the One and only True God. As such, the House of God was defiled and could not be used for the purpose of divine worship.

That is how it was until the time when Judas Maccabeus and his forces managed to score victories against the king in rebellion and eventually came to occupy the Temple of Jerusalem once again, and as described in our first reading passage today, the abominations, pagan idols and corruptions in the Temple were cleared out and the old altar torn down to make way for a new altar dedicated to God.

There is then a clear parallel between that event and how just over a century later, the Lord Jesus cleared the same Temple from the corruptions of merchants and sinners as described in our Gospel passage today. At that time, the Temple courtyard just outside the main Temple building itself was filled with numerous merchants and people peddling their wares and goods to the visitors and worshippers of the Temple.

Yet, many if not most of those merchants and peddlers cheated their customers to gain more profits for themselves. They bought their goods at a low price while raising their sale prices to be as high as possible to profit from all the people visiting the Temple for various purposes. As many of the worshippers came from faraway places, they would have no choice but to accept the prices imposed by the merchants even at a great loss.

Such wicked and sinful practices should not have been allowed at the Temple, and yet the Temple authorities tolerated them all and even became angry at the Lord Jesus when He cleared them and chased those merchants out of the Temple grounds. Why was that so? That is because the presence and the activities of the merchants were mutually beneficial to both the merchants themselves and the Temple priests and elders.

When the Lord Jesus chased those merchants outside the Temple, the Temple authorities, the elders and the chief priests became angry because while the Lord stated the right thing but those Temple authorities were more concerned about their own worldly concerns and attachments, their desire to retain power and authority, and saw the Lord Jesus as a dangerous threat to their own worldly power.

But the Lord wants us all to know through these that if we are too attached and distracted by the many temptations of life present in this world, we will end up forgetting what our true focus in life should be. And we will end up walking down the same path of wickedness and sin that have been mentioned in our Scripture passages today. We heard of the defilements of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, twice, first by the Greeks and then secondly by the wicked merchants with the tacit approval of the elders and the priests.

But more importantly for us all today is to take note that each and every one of us are also in fact God’s Temple, the Houses of His holy Presence. Why is this so? That is because firstly, through our Holy Communion and by sharing in the wonderful gift of the Eucharist, we have partaken in the Lord Himself, being fully present in the Eucharist in Body and Blood. And not only that, but the Lord Himself has given us His Holy Spirit through our Baptism and which He reaffirmed and strengthened in us through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, if we are God’s Holy Temples and are His dwelling place, then if we act in manners that are wicked and sinful, we are in fact corrupting and defiling the holiness of this Temple that is our body, our heart, our mind and our soul. We are no better than the Greek kings, those wicked merchants and all those who have defiled God’s Temple. And we saw how God’s anger became manifested against all those who had done that.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today all of us are reminded of this fact and are called to live upright and virtuous lives, turning away from sin and from all sorts of temptations that can cause us to fall and to defile the sanctity of these Holy Temples of ours. And today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, St. Cecilia for inspiration and strength.

St. Cecilia, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a well-known patron for musicians and choirs. Yet, she was also a dedicated servant of God, who remained true to her faith in God despite the challenges that she had to encounter because of her faith, that she had to suffer and eventually die for the sake of her faith. St. Cecilia dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity, and although she was forced to marry a pagan noble by her parents, she remained a holy virgin and persuaded her husband, who was touched by the miracle he had seen and became a Christian as well.

St. Cecilia met her martyrdom with faith, as she was executed following her husband and her brother-in-law, both having become Christians through her. She remained adamant and strong in her faith, and no amount of suffering could have convinced or pressured her to abandon her faith in God. Truly, her dedication and commitment to God is an inspiration to all of us who are still struggling in this world in our own journeys of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to be virtuous and righteous, maintaining our purity from sin as St. Cecilia herself had done in her way. We do not have to follow her in her vow of chastity and virginity, but rather, we should imitate her love for God, and as a result, keep ourselves away and free from sin as best as we can that the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, our bodies and our whole beings may remain pure and worthy of Him. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord in all things and devote our whole lives to Him from now on. May God bless us all, our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 21 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation 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 feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. On this occasion we recall the moment when Mary as she was presented to God at the Temple of God in Jerusalem at the time of her birth. On this day we commemorate that moment when Joachim and Anna, Mary’s parents brought her before God and dedicated her to the Lord.

And on this day therefore, we remember how at that time, the Lord has chosen Mary to be the instrument of His salvation and work in delivering all of His people from their fated destruction. The Lord has made her to be special, the Immaculate Conception, free by the grace and will of God from all the taints and bonds of original sin, so that she would be worthy of becoming the Vessel of God’s Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

On that day, Mary was presented to the Lord, offered to Him and dedicated to Him, to the holy and yet challenging life that she would have to endure and go through. That was the beginning of the mission which Mary was to take up, as eventually the Archangel Gabriel came to her and revealed to her the Good News of God’s salvation. And it was then that Mary accepted her role fully and obeyed God’s will perfectly.

By what Mary had done, through her dedication and commitment to the Lord, her thorough obedience to the will of God even if that meant suffering and pain for her, especially when she had to see her own Son, Our Lord and Saviour being rejected, humiliated and condemned to die by the leaders and elders of her own people, we can see what being a true Christian is all about, in giving her all for the sake of the Lord.

That was what the Lord Jesus Himself had said in our Gospel passage today, when He spoke of how those who obey the will of God and followed His commandments faithfully are those whom He considered to be His mother, His brothers and His sisters, essentially to be part of His own beloved family. And He made this remark not out of disrespect of His mother, unlike what some would have misunderstood, but rather, in fact, He highlighted His mother’s own virtues and good examples.

It is what each and every one of us are therefore called to do today as we recall the memory of the Presentation of Mary, the Blessed Mother of our Lord and God. The Lord is calling on us to follow His mother’s own good examples, her purity and her faith, her commitment to the Lord’s wishes and her total obedience and surrender in allowing herself to be the instrument through which God made evident and real His salvation.

Mary is indeed our perfect role model, the one whom we should look up to in how we should live up to our lives. She is the bright star of faith that we should be following as the saying goes indeed, ‘to the Lord Jesus through Mary, His mother’. By following Mary, all of us can find our path towards the Lord better, even amidst the many challenges, obstacles and trials that we may have to face in this journey of faith.

Let us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, dedicate and present ourselves before the Lord, and let us all grow ever stronger in our faith in Him, in the love which we all should have for Him and in the hope that we should always put in Him. Let us all be ever more courageous in living our lives with genuine faith and may God continue to bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are called to reflect on what is our true calling in life as Christians, and how we should proceed in life in being obedient to God and in following His will and obeying His commandments. And today we heard two main readings, first of all from the Book of Maccabees on the persecution of a mother and her seven sons, and from the Gospel passage on the Lord’s parable of the silver talents.

In that passage from the Book of the Maccabees we are presented with the grim story of the great persecution of the faithful Jewish people by the king of the Seleucid Empire, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who wanted the entire people of his whole empire to embrace the same customs and practices, that is of the Greeks, speaking the same language, doing the same customs and worshipping the same pagan idols and gods, abandoning their old ways.

To this extent, the people were forced to abandon the ways of their ancestors, including the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites in Judah who were forced to abandon circumcision and to consume food that are considered unclean according to the laws of Moses. This law of the king was enforced under the pain of great suffering, torture and death. The suffering and painful death of the mother and her seven sons were one among the many sorrowful stories of those who chose to remain faithful in the Lord.

The seven brothers remained resolute, courageous and strong even in the midst of the greatest persecutions, in the real and fearsome reality of death, as they saw how one by one, they were tortured and made to suffer before being martyred for their faith. Most painful was indeed for the mother to have seen all of her seven sons to be martyred before she herself was martyred, and yet, even she remained strong in her faith despite all she had had to endure.

This can be related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the famous parable of the silver talents, where three servants were given different amounts of silver by their master who was about to go on a journey. In that occasion, two of the servants made good use of the silver and invested them. As a result, they gained double the original amount they received from their master by the time he returned and asked them about the silver entrusted to them.

Yet one of the servants hid the silver out of fear of his master and refused to do anything with it, and as a result, he did not gain anything from the silver that he should have made use of or invested in. The master was furious at the lazy and irresponsible servant and cast him out to be punished. And all these are reminders for each and every one of us, that just as the master truly is a representation of the Lord, our God, then we are all like the servants of that master.

For God has entrusted to us many gifts, each and every one of us having unique set of abilities, talents and powers, and also the opportunities to make use of these. God has given us all the free will to choose how we are to use these blessings that He has bestowed us with, whether we want to use them for the good purposes and for the glory of God, or to misuse them for wicked purposes or to ignore them and keep them unused and hidden.

The mother with her seven sons in our first reading today have the gift of faith, hope and love, and through the story of their courageous defence of their faith and readiness to face suffering and martyrdom, we have seen how they made good use of what God has given them, sowing the good examples and becoming inspirations for one another, that all of them could remain true to their faith and resist the temptations to give up and to sin.

Now, we do not have to follow them exactly in how they have suffered and died for their faith, and we may not have to do it in their manner as circumstances for us will likely be different, for better or for worse. Nonetheless, all of us as Christians are called to be faithful and to be committed to God, our Lord and Master just as how those seven brothers and their mother had been faithful and true to their faith.

Let us all therefore renew our faith and conviction to live our lives from now on, no longer ignoring or misusing what God has given to us, in the faith we have in us, in the talents and abilities He has given us, in the seeds of hope and love He has sown in our hearts. Let us all be true disciples of the Lord, spreading His love through our own actions, and be the bearers of His truth by our words and deeds.

May the Lord’s truth and salvation come upon many more of His beloved children through us all, His servants, to whom He has entrusted many things for the sake of His greater glory. May our every words, deeds and actions glorify God, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to listen to what the readings have spoken of today, especially with regards to the matter of sin and the judgment of our souls. As we quickly approach the end of the current liturgical year and soon to begin a new liturgical year cycle with the season of Advent, this is a good time for us all to take stock of the past year.

In our first reading passage today, taken from the second book of the Maccabees, we heard of the sorrowful tale of the suffering, death and martyrdom of Eleazar, one of the elders of the people of Judah, who was forced by the king to disobey the Law of God and follow the way of the pagans. Eleazar refused to obey and remained steadfast in his faith in God and in the obedience to His Laws.

In fact, as mentioned in the passage, even when the king’s enforcers tried to make a compromise that Eleazar could pretend to eat the meat forbidden by the Law but in fact was eating a meat that was allowed by the Law, Eleazar refused to comply, as he knew that by doing so, while he might save his life and be spared of the sufferings and painful death he would have to suffer from and the martyrdom he would have to go through, but he would scandalise his faith and become a bad role model and example.

Eleazar showed us true and genuine faith in God, faith that was not shaken even by the threat of suffering and pain, or distracted by the temptations of worldly pleasures and satisfactions, or defeated by the pressure to conform and to obey the will of those who are against God’s will and laws. Eleazar stayed true to his faith and dedicated himself wholly to God to the very end, knowing that while he suffered, but God will surely remember him and his faith.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we encountered Zaccheus, the tax collector who was short in posture, and who wanted very badly to see the Lord Jesus that he went through the dense crowd and climbed a sycamore tree just to see Him. And even more, when the Lord knew that Zaccheus was up on the tree and called him down, and as the Pharisees were kind of rebuking and judging Zaccheus for being a sinner, he made a public profession of faith before all those who were gathered.

Zaccheus proclaimed with great faith that he would right all the wrongs he had once done, and if necessary paying back all those whom he had cheated or treated unfairly many times more than what they had suffered or been cheated from. It is definitely a true declaration of faith and love for God, as it would have been incredibly difficult for anyone to make such a declaration and humiliating oneself before many people.

Yet again, in this case, we can see clearly the faith that Zaccheus had in the Lord, as contrasted to the lack of faith among many of the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom in fact opposed the Lord and His works. Just like Eleazar we have mentioned and talked about earlier on, Zaccheus is also a great example of a person who have faith in God and love Him with all of his heart.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Have we been faithful in our lives, in our actions, words and deeds before God and people alike? Have we been exemplary in how we lived our lives thus far that all those who see us, hear us and witness us know that we truly belong to God? Or have we instead lived our lives in opposition to God and in ignorance or even defiance against His will?

God has given us all free will to choose the path that we want to take as we move forward in our respective lives, and the decision is ours to make, if we want to follow God or whether we prefer and want to follow our own path, away from God. Let us all then also remember that all those who remain faithful to God, God will also bless them and protect them, and their rewards in the end will be wonderful.

For God Who loves us all will restore to us the true joy and glory that had been lost from us because of sin, and that is the promise which Eleazar looked forward to even as he waited for the suffering and the pains he would have to suffer for his consistent and adamant faith, and which Zaccheus, the repentant sinner also rejoiced for, because he knew that God is a loving and forgiving God Who wants each and every one of us to be reconciled with Him.

May the Lord guide us all through the right paths in life, and may He strengthen us all to live ever more faithfully, and with greater love and devotion towards Him. May He inspire us all to walk in the footsteps of Eleazar the courageous and Zaccheus the repentant sinner. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memory of the anniversary of the Dedication of two of the great Papal Major Basilicas of Rome, namely the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, the largest of all the churches in the entire world and the primary place for the Papal ceremonies and liturgical celebrations while not being the Cathedral of Rome, and also the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

On this day we therefore remember the memory of the Dedication of two of the four greatest churches in all Christendom, dedicated to none other than the two patron saints of Rome and the Universal Church, namely St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the Vicar of Christ and first Pope, to whom all of our Popes are successors of, and also St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles whose works among the pagans and the Gentiles were crucial to the establishment and growth of the Church in its earliest days.

And today’s Scripture readings cannot have been more apt, including even the first reading from the regular weekday readings if the special readings for the Dedication of the two Basilicas are not used. That passage was taken from the first Book of the Maccabees relating to us the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt when the Greek Seleucid Empire under King Antiochus IV began to persecute the Jews in his kingdom because he wanted to enforce all the peoples in his Empire to embrace the Greek customs and practices.

At that time, many among the Jewish populations refused to follow the king’s commands just as there were sizeable numbers of the community who acceded to the king’s demands. The king used force to occupy the city of Jerusalem and built a great fortress there, and also desecrated the Temple of God in the city, the Second Temple of Jerusalem which became a pagan temple, its altar desecrated with idols and pagan worship and offerings.

It is significant that this passage is a reminder of the great sorrow which the people of Israel then suffered because their House of God had been defiled and they were made to bow low and humiliated as a people. And yet, that was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt, in which by God’s grace and guidance, strength and power, eventually the Seleucids were driven out, the city of Jerusalem retaken and the Temple of God purified and cleansed from all of the defilements and corruptions.

And then through the special readings dedicated to the Dedication of the two Basilicas today, we heard of both the labours of St. Paul the Apostle, as he embarked on his last journey and ministry in Rome, preaching and witnessing for Christ among the Christian and Jewish populations, as well as the Gentiles in Rome alike, establishing firm foundation of the Church in Rome together with St. Peter, who is the first Bishop of Rome.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus walking miraculously on the water in a terrible and great storm, that famous miracle which most of us should have been familiar with. The disciples were all scared and fearful, thinking that they had seen a ghost because they could not truly believe that it was the Lord Jesus Whom they had seen. St. Peter tried to walk towards Him, but overcame by fear, he began to sink in the waves.

The Lord helped St. Peter up and rebuked him for his little faith. He then calmed the whole storm and made everything calm again. And through all these, we can see how the Lord reminded His disciples and all of us that truly, He is the Head and the true Foundation of the Church, the sole focus and reason of our existence, the power and the strength behind His Church today, as it had always been since when He founded it.

But at the same time, He built that Church based on the strong foundation of His Apostles, who are the pillars and the support of the Church, under the leadership of none other than St. Peter, whom He appointed as His Vicar, the Vicar of the true Head of the Church. Yet, we saw how weak and feeble the faith the disciples of the Lord had, and this is an important reminder for us that even once, those Apostles were just like us, weak in faith and sinful men. But God strengthened them and gave them the authority, wisdom and power.

That was how St. Peter and St. Paul eventually performed many wonderful works, as were the other Apostles and the many disciples, holy saints and martyrs of the Church. St. Peter and St. Paul both had to suffer in many occasions, and were martyred for the sake of the Lord and their faith in Him in Rome. St. Peter was crucified upside down at the place where the great Basilica of St. Peter on Vatican hills is now at, while St. Paul was beheaded and buried at the place where the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the significance of our celebration of the Dedication of these two great Basilicas cannot therefore be underrated, for we celebrate and remember nothing less than the memory of our great predecessors in faith and the struggles that the Church had to go through in standing up for the truth of God. And even more importantly, all of us must then realise that we are all part of the Church of God.

Going back to the reading from the first Book of the Maccabees, we are reminded of what had happened as the Temple of God was defiled. We are all also Temples of God’s Holy Presence, for in us, the Lord Himself is truly present, we who have partaken His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and who have received the Holy Spirit of God, poured to us by the grace of our Baptism and reaffirmed in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, on this day, it is important for us all to discern on our lives and our actions carefully. Have we treated our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our whole beings in the way and manner that is worthy of God’s House and Temple, we the faithful and the living Church of God? Or have we instead defiled ourselves and God’s Temples by our sins and by our disobedience against Him? Let us all think carefully of how we can move forward from now on.

If we have sinned by our disobedience against Him, then let us all remember that God is ever merciful and willing to forgive us our sins, if we are truly repentant and willing to return to Him with faith. Let us all be righteous and follow the Lord with a renewed faith and love for Him from now on then, following in the footsteps of the great Saints, St. Peter and St. Paul, holy Apostles of the Lord. May the Lord be our guide and be our strength in life, always, now and forevermore. Amen.