Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us listened to the word of God, which spoke to us about the parable of the sower, a parable which many of us are likely to be familiar with, in which our Lord Jesus spoke about the sower of seeds, who dispersed his seeds and they fell on various grounds and soils, from the rocky grounds and the road sides, to the thorny bushes and then rich and fertile soil.

In that passage, Jesus our Lord spoke of what can happen to the seeds which the sower have spread, depending on the condition of the soil. If the soil is of poor quality and if it has plenty of obstacles, then it is unlikely to be able to support plant growth, and less still to allow bountiful products of fruits and crops to be realised. Only if the soil is fertile then the plants will grow strong and healthy, and bear many fruits.

In that parable, the seeds are the seeds of faith which God has spread over the whole world, to all of us mankind, as the Sower of the Word, for God has spoken His Word and gave us His truth, through none other than Jesus, the Divine Word made flesh, Who became Man for our sake, and all those who heard the teachings of the Lord Jesus have therefore received the Word, the seeds of faith.

But how those seeds develop then depends on how we live up to our faith in Jesus, our Lord. If we do not provide a conducive and matching environment to have the seeds of faith develop in us, then nothing will happen, and the faith in us will remain dormant. And we all ought to know what is going to happen to all of those who remain barren and fruitless, namely, that they will be cast out and rejected.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these are constant reminders for us that all of us need to be active in our faith, and to be truly committed to the Lord, for it is only through this commitment that we are providing the fertile and rich ‘soil’ for the ‘seeds’ of faith to grow in us. Otherwise, we are not doing our part in providing the best condition for the growth and development of our faith.

There are many temptations in this world, the temptations of worldly possessions and wealth, the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh and sexual impropriety, the temptation of greed and worldly glory, the temptation of power and fame, all of which are tools used by the devil and his allies in their never-ending attempts to bring about our downfall. The devil is never at rest, always instead ready to snatch us from God’s saving grace.

That is why if we do not let the Word of God, the truths passed down to us through the Church, to be internalised and understood by us, then when trials and difficulties come upon us, we will be tempted to lose our faith and commitment towards God. And then we will end up becoming like the seeds that were eaten by the birds on the roadside, or like the seeds that were unable to grow firm roots on rocky ground, scorched to death, and also like the plants choked by the thorny bushes and brambles.

Is this the fate that we want to happen to us? Is it what we seek in life? It is easier indeed to obey the demands of the devil and this world rather than to walk faithfully in the path of the Lord. Yet, just as farming involves very arduous and tiring labour, thus for us to be faithful Christians it will also require a lot of effort from us. We must be vigilant and ready against all sorts of traps and obstacles the devil is getting ready in our path.

Let us today reflect on the life and examples of the renowned holy saint, whose name may not be foreign to many of us. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, more commonly known by the name of Padre Pio, was a famous and holy Franciscan friar and priest, who was remembered for his many miracles and hard work among the people, his exorcisms of the people possessed by demons, and his stigmata, or the miraculous appearance of the wounds of the Lord on his body.

Thousands and many thousands more flocked to meet Padre Pio, seeking his miracles and prayers. And many were astonished at his miraculous stigmata. Yet, despite all of those, St. Padre Pio remained humble and he distanced himself from any sorts of pride and worldly glory. In fact, Padre Pio was suffering greatly, first of all, physically from the pain of the wounds of the stigmata, and then also through the persecution and difficulties he had to encounter for many years by the skeptics who refused to believe the authenticity of his miraculous signs.

And yet, Padre Pio endured all of these trials and tribulations quietly, with obedience to his superiors and with faith. He placed his trust in the Lord, and continued to work among the people of God despite the criticism and ridicule that many levied upon him, and his piety and perseverance inspired many others who were converted and atoned for their sins because of his examples.

The story of the life of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio should be an inspiration to all of us Christians as well. We must not be complacent or passive in our faith, but instead be active in our commitment like Padre Pio had done in his life. That means, all of us should go beyond our comfort zone and do what we can, in order to do what the Lord wants us to do, so that by our actions we may be fruitful and filled with the good fruits of the Holy Spirit as St. Padre Pio had shown.

May the Lord bless us all, that the seeds of faith He has sowed in us may grow through our loving actions and commitment to Him. May He help us to persevere as St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio had done in his life, that we may not grumble or complain, but accept the suffering with grace, knowing that God Who finds us fruitful will bless us many times more. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, holy man of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Friday, 22 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by St. Paul through his Epistle to St. Timothy, that all of us ought to remain true to our faith, and keep ourselves in the path of God’s righteousness. It will not be an easy journey for us, as our way will be filled with difficulties, temptations and all sorts of obstacles, as St. Paul had mentioned, in our struggles with money, possessions, worldly ambitions and other tempting pursuits.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are not careful and if we are not vigilant with how we live our lives, we may end up falling for those temptations and slip into sin. It is easier for us to do what the world demanded from us than to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord. And the temptation is always there, pulling us away from God and His righteousness. Now, the question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to give in to the temptations, or are we going to stand up for our faith?

To be a good and devoted Christian, therefore, we cannot be a lukewarm disciple of the Lord. We cannot be a passive and inert Christian. That means, we cannot be conforming and be permissive in our actions and deeds in life. We cannot be thrown from side to side, just because we have no strong root of our faith. That is what will exactly happen to us, if we do not have that firm foundation in the Lord. We will be like a ship battered by the winds and the waves, and we will sink.

Nonetheless, for many of us, our faith is not a priority, and we are often distracted by our pursuit of fame, renown, personal and worldly glory, wealth and possessions, trying to gain more for ourselves all those things, which end up causing us to be drifting away from God, because He is not the priority in our minds and hearts. We end up becoming filled up with greed and desires, with ambition and haughtiness.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect upon our lives, and think carefully about how we should proceed with those lives from now on. Are we going to continue living as we have lived, becoming slaves to our desires and human greed, to our ambition and love for the world? For money and for renown? For pleasures of the flesh and for power, glory and worldly goods?

Or do we rather change our ways for the better, discarding all those wickedness we have done, and all of the failures we have made, all the greed and human ambition, and instead we seek the Lord, the true Source of our joy and happiness. For we all have to realise that there is nothing in this world that can truly satisfy us, no matter how enjoyable and pleasurable they may be, as ultimately, all of them are merely temporary.

We should not be so fixated with whatever joys and good things we may find in the world, and become obsessed with gaining more of them for our own selfish gains and wants. If we make these as our treasures, let us all remember that first of all, those things do not last, and can be destroyed by fire, by water, by worldly forces and disasters, by wars and all other human deeds. Yet, if our treasure is in the Lord, we do not need to worry, since that treasure will truly last forever.

The folly of seeking worldly joy and happiness is evident, since no mortal man will bring forth his or her worldly treasures, their money and possessions, and all other things they have when they die. They will leave behind everything, and come before the Lord naked and empty without any status, possessions or wealth, and God will judge them not based on how rich or powerful they are, but rather by how much they have obeyed Him and done what He had taught them to do.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard the message from the Scriptures regarding this matter. Let us all as Christians seek to be ever better disciple of our Lord, persevering through the temptations of this world, and grow ever better and deeper in our commitment and devotion to our Lord. May the Lord give us the strength to continue faithfully living and walking in His path, that eventually we will find our way to His eternal glory. Amen.

Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one great servant of God, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, whom God had called from among the tax collectors, a group of people who was long reviled and hated in the Jewish community, considered as betrayers and traitors to the nation. Yet, from among this group, God had called up a great saint.

It is often that we thought of certain group of people as being sinners and wicked in their deeds. And we often look down on them, thinking that we are better than them. But, do we realise that each and every one of us are sinners too? Do we realise that no matter how great or how small the sins we have, they are still sins in the sight of God? And that those sins have made us all to be unworthy?

With great sins and wickedness, also comes great opportunity at redemption and liberation. God has granted us the new hope and opportunity of being forgiven, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose action, His sacrifice on the Cross, He has brought healing and redemption upon all those who have been lost to the Lord, all those who have gone wayward in their lives.

Each and every one of us are called with the same calling that Jesus made upon His Apostle St. Matthew, while he was still called Levi, the tax collector, with the words, “Follow Me!” He called Levi to leave behind his old life, his old work as a tax collector, and embrace wholeheartedly and completely his new role and calling as a disciple of the Lord, as the one through whom the Lord would exercise His will upon this world.

We often feel that we are inadequate or incapable of contributing to the causes of the Lord, through His Church. Some of us feel that we do not have any special talents or abilities to do what the Lord had done through His Apostles and the other disciples. But we forget that it is not we who decide or choose who it is that is worthy of the Lord, just as it is not ours to decide whether someone would be unworthy of the Lord, as the Pharisees had done on the tax collectors and prostitutes.

Rather, God chooses those whom He had chosen and He makes worthy all those who He wishes to be worthy. He has granted us His blessings and gifts, as what St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, our first reading today, mentioned. God has given to different people the different gifts according to what He deems to be right for each one of us. Not all of us are called to be leaders, and neither are all of us called to be teachers, or to be pastors and priests.

That is therefore how things are working out in the Church today. There are different members of the Church, with different professions and callings in life. Some are called to the married life, where man and woman are called to glorify the Lord through their commitment to one another, and by building up families that are founded upon the firm foundation of faith, raising up children devoted to God, praying together and doing the will of God as one family.

Some others are called to labour for the good of the Church, and this may indeed overlapped the calling to married life. For there are those who, while being busy with their families, but they still, in various ways, contribute to the Church, in their effort and time spent, to help the good works of the Church, volunteering their best to help realise the Lord’s work done through His Church.

And of course some heard the noble calling to surrender their lives completely to God, to heed His will and to follow wholeheartedly in His Apostles’ footsteps, to become His holy priests, to become the ones who have been entrusted with the guidance of the people of God, to forgive the sins of man by the virtue of them being the Alter Christus, representing our Lord Jesus Himself.

Regardless of what God has called us to be, what each and every one of us need to do is to discern what it is that God wants us to do with our lives, and with all that He has granted us and blessed us with. Let us heed the examples of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist, who heeded the Lord’s call and went forth, trusting completely in God’s will and providence, and devoted himself completely to God.

Let us all do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, with a renewed zeal, knowing that in Him alone that we will be able to find true satisfaction and joy in life. Let us embrace what God has called us to be, in our own capacities, as the lay members of the Church, as married couples and family members, and also as those who have given themselves to consecrated and religious life, as well as the holy priesthood.

May the Lord be with each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us so that we may be courageous in living our lives to the best of our abilities. Let us contribute in whatever way we can, trusting that God will show us the way forward. Let us all follow Him and love Him ever more, with each passing day. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures of the contradiction that came from the world, its expectation from us, and how we ought to live in accordance with God’s ways regardless of what the world demands from us. In the Gospel Jesus mentioned to His disciples how the world always refused to acknowledge God and His works, finding a reason at all times to find fault with Him and His servants.

Now, all of us as Christians are given the choice, whether we all want to be conforming to the world that we may be accepted and welcomed, or whether we should remain true wholeheartedly to our faith in God, obeying His ways and His laws, despite the opposition and disapproval from the Lord. We need to make a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ, for if we are lukewarm or if we are ambivalent, we will end up getting nothing in the end, neither righteousness in God, or approval from the world, and we will fall nonetheless.

We should instead be inspired by the examples of the holy martyrs and saints who predeceased us, what they have done in their lives, and how they have stood up to their faith despite the challenges and the suffering they had to encounter. And today we remember the holy martyrs of Korea for that reason, all those multitudes of the holy people of God who have suffered and died in the land of Korea, through the many years of persecution when the faith was still young in that land.

At that time, the Korean government was staunchly anti-Christian in nature, and the government agents and officials were very harsh in their oppression of the Christian faith, rounding up and arresting missionaries and making life very difficult for all the Christians. Yet, the Christian community was thriving, and more and more people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and were baptised into the Church.

They lived in a very difficult time, when even the slightest inclination of hint of one being a Christian might mean the difference between life and death. It was certainly a time when someone would rather not be known as a Christian, and where many would end up giving up the faith, as was what truly happened then. There were those who were unable to resist the temptation and the pressure for them to give up the faith, and they faltered.

But there were those brave and courageous servants of God who refused to let fear to overcome them, and they continued to serve the people of God and remained true to their faith. There were European missionaries amongst them as well as the local Korean priests and the laypeople, who continued to minister among the people even under the very real threat of suffering, pain and death.

Their commitment to the Lord was truly commendable, especially in the case of one of the saints whose story I can really relate to, as he was the saint who inspired the name of the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, because of his dedication to the people and the flock he had been entrusted with in Korea, as the first Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of the country.

St. Laurent Imbert was a French Missionary of the Mission Etrangeres de Paris or the Paris Foreign Mission Society, who went to Asia and the Far East to preach the Gospel and evangelise to the people, including countries in Southeast Asia like Singapore, where he helped to build the foundation of the Church, and then later on in Korea, where as the first Vicar Apostolic, he was committed to care for his faithful flock even amidst the difficult times.

He was betrayed at one time, and realising that it would be inevitable that he would be arrested, he surrendered himself to the authorities, to avoid bloodshed and trouble for his flock. And believing that if the foreign missionaries surrendered themselves the authorities would spare the people from harm, he encouraged his fellow missionaries to surrender themselves. At that time, many of the priest missionaries were in hiding, as the authorities were looking for them.

St. Laurent Imbert encouraged two of his fellow priests, St. Pierre Maubant and St. Jacques Chastan to surrender themselves to the authorities, hoping that they would gain safety for the people, and through their suffering the people might live. There was indeed no guarantee that the authorities would not persecute the people even if they surrendered. However, St. Laurent Imbert as the leader and shepherd of the flock of God showed the example, saying that, ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’

In putting his flock’s safety ahead of his own safety, these saints imitated our Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who has laid down His life for all of His sheep, these holy saints and martyrs have shown each and every one of us what is the true meaning of being Christians. Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians must be sincerely and devoutly committed to God, standing up for our faith through our actions and deeds.

Let us all treasure this faith which we have, which our predecessors have even suffered and died that they might pass on the faith to us. Let us all ask for the intercession of the holy Korean martyrs, that they will pray for our sake before the Lord, that the Lord will move our hearts to be ever better servants to Him in all of our actions. May God bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.

Monday, 18 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us today heard about the story of the army centurion in the Gospel passage, where he requested the Lord Jesus to heal his very sick servant. Yet at the same time, feeling the uttermost unworthiness upon him, the army centurion spoke to Jesus in the words we are surely familiar with, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.’

In this we see how each and every one of us are afflicted in our body, our mind, our heart and our soul, all of us are sinners who are unworthy of God, just like the army centurion who felt that he was unworthy that God should come to his house even though it was for the healing of his servant. He did so because, probably he was not Jewish but Greek or Roman as was custom at that time for a Roman army centurion, and it was considered taboo for a non-Jew to enter the house of a Jew and vice versa.

How about us? Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been tainted by sin, the affliction that is affecting all of us, corrupting our mind, heart, body and soul, our entire being. And it was because of our sins caused by our disobedience against God, beginning with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, our first ancestors that we have ended up being cast out of Eden, the gardens of God, and sundered away from His grace and love.

Therefore, in our state of sin, we have become unworthy of God, and we cannot stand in God’s presence, because He Who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the presence of sin, just as darkness cannot withstand the bright light of the Lord. All those who sin and have been corrupted by sin are therefore supposed to be damned and rejected, to suffer the same fate as accorded to the devil and his angels, that is eternal suffering in hell fire.

Yet, that was not what the Lord wanted to happen to us, as He gave us all a new hope, through Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and mankind, for He, having taken up the flesh of man, taking up our own human form upon Him, lies between God the Creator and Master of all, and the children of man. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man, having both divine and human natures united in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Therefore, He is the bridge that has bridged the once uncrossable chasm between God and us, caused by the sins we have committed, which separated us from God. He has given us another chance to be reconciled with God, and through His cross, His suffering and death on that cross, He has brought us mankind back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father and Creator.

Yet, many of us are reluctant to return to Him, and many of us are even ignorant or hostile to His love. We do not act in the manner the army centurion had done, but instead, first of all, many of us think that we cannot be afflicted or that we are in the wrong. We think that our way and what we have done in life cannot have been wrong, and that we are fine in whatever it is that we are doing. Yet, the reality is that many of us are heading down the wrong path.

Should we let our pride and ego to become obstacles in our journey towards reconciliation and reunion with God? Should we let our obstinance and the temptations we encounter in life to derail our effort and progress towards the salvation in God? We should not. We should instead heed the examples of the army centurion, who despite knowing that he was unworthy, but he had complete and full faith in the Lord, that the Lord will be able to do what He wills to do for those whom He loves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are God’s beloved children, and yet we have been sundered from Him and were separated from His grace because of our sins and mistakes. Now we all need to realise just how sinful and wicked we have been, how corrupted and unworthy we have been, and then we have to realise that there is a way out of this predicament. It is through our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, that we will be saved.

Let us all therefore from now on, draw ever closer to God’s loving embrace, and sincerely seek repentance and resolve to turn away from all of our sinful habits and actions. Let us all no longer be stubborn and prideful, but instead, humbly, like the army centurion in the Gospel today, seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, which He readily gives to all those who are willing to repent and desire reconciliation with Him. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 17 September 2017 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard the Scriptures telling us what God wants from each and every one of us Christians, that all of us who believe in Him and therefore, are Christians, must be filled with forgiveness, the readiness and willingness to forgive, and to let go of the anger in our hearts and minds, and forgive those who have slighted us, caused us pain, suffering or sorrow.

That is the essence of what we have heard from the Scripture passages this Sunday, beginning with what we heard from our first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach. In that passage, grudge and wrath were mentioned as the two major obstacles for all of us in seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness. That is because when we are filled with grudge and wrath, anger and hatred against another, then we cannot be forgiven ourselves, since we ourselves have not forgiven those who have wronged us.

It is in our human nature to bear grudges against another, hatred and jealousy towards those whom we perceive to be better than us, to be more privileged than us, to be more fortunate than us. We are easily angered by those who have caused us pain, suffering, harm or loss of face, and there are many, many reasons for us to hate others and to have revenge on what we have been slighted or discomforted with.

Yet, it is far more difficult for us to forgive others, to let go of the anger and all the emotions pent up within us. It is much more difficult for us to keep ourselves cool and to be able to embrace our enemies, and all those whom we dislike. But as Christians, in truth, all of us are challenged to do so, as the Lord Himself taught us that the way forward for us, is to learn to forgive one another.

Do you know why is it that we find it so difficult to forgive? That is because we are often too full of ourselves, too selfish and too filled up with our ego, that we cannot bear to make ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us, or even to seek to be forgiven. It is our pride that has become our undoing, because we have allowed pride to blind us and to prevent us from seeing and understanding the love of God.

We feel entitled in our lives, and we often feel that we have the right to demand justice and to have people begging forgiveness from us, just because we feel that we are wrongly treated or that we do not get what it is that we wanted. Yet, how can we be forgiven, if we ourselves do not open ourselves, our minds and our hearts to forgive others?

In the Epistle or the second reading today, we heard St. Paul telling the faithful and the members of the Church in Rome, that all of us, each and every one of us belong to the Lord, and all of our lives belong to Him alone. We live for Him, and our existence is thanks to Him alone. Without His grace and blessings, and His love for each and every one of us, we would not have existed at all.

And yet, many of us place far greater importance on ourselves instead of the Lord. We are often so focused on ourselves, that we forget that it was, in the first place that by the grace and mercy of God, that we have been able to live in this world. That is because, as what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, God, our Lord and Master, have forgiven us all our debts, our mistakes and shortcomings, as represented by the Lord Jesus in His parable.

In that parable, Jesus spoke of a servant who owed his master a lot of money, ten thousand pieces of gold in fact. The master wanted to punish the servant, threw him into slavery with all of his belongings and family, but when the servant frantically begged to be given a second chance before the master, the master had pity on him and forgave him from all of his debts, his entire huge debt of ten thousand gold pieces and more.

Yet, we heard then that the same servant, upon being released from the bondage and the great burden he had, turned onto another servant who owed him money, a sum far smaller than what the servant owed the master. The servant refused to listen to the pleas made by the servant who owed him small amount of money, and put the latter into prison.

This upset the other servants who reported the case to the master, who was angry at the servant whom he had forgiven from his debts. The master then sent the servant to be punished even more and demanded from him to be punished according to his original debts, where he would remain in prison and suffered whatever fate that was originally intended for him.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, while the servants represent each and every one of us, God’s people. And indeed, all of us have great debts that we owe to the Lord, and this debt is none other than the multitudes of our sins, all the wickedness we have committed in life. And as the master had had mercy on the servant, forgiving him the entirety of his huge debt, so has our Lord forgiven us the great burden of the multitudes of our sins, because He loves each and every one of us.

Yet, if we refuse to forgive others, and choose instead to be obstinate and succumbing to our ego, placing ourselves ahead of the others, trying to satisfy our desires and wants, keeping anger and hatred stoked against our brethren, then we will end up being the same as the servant who had been forgiven and yet refused to forgive his fellow servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to reflect on this, even as we remember how we have treated each other all these while. Let us think about all the times we have been angry against our brothers and sisters over various matters, be it over money, over other forms of worldly possessions, over fame, influence, glory and many other things that we consider to be precious. Yet, despite all of our anger, hatred, jealousy and bitterness, do we realise that all the things that made us to be angry, to be filled with hatred, jealousy and bitterness, are nothing to the extent of our sins against the Lord?

Do we realise that our faults against each other are but like a pinch of sand amidst the entire huge desert, or like a small cup of water against the entirety of the world’s oceans, representing all the faults, mistakes, all of our shortcomings and the debts of disobedience that we owe the Lord our God? And yet, He forgave us our sins, while He could have just willed us to be destroyed and annihilated for our sins.

And at the same time, He forgave us through the most loving and selfless acts of all time, by His assumption of the human flesh, becoming one like us, so that through the Divine Word made Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, He died on the cross for us, bearing the heavy burdens of our sins and trespasses upon Himself, so that we may not perish because of those sins, but live in the renewed grace of God, which He willingly bestows on those who repent from their sins and desire to be reconciled with Him.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, the cross is the ultimate price which the Lord had paid for our sake, out of His everlasting love for us, His mercy and compassion for us sinners. If He had forgiven our sins, so great and so terrible they were, then should we not have done the same as well to our fellow brothers and sisters? Shall we not forgive those who have wronged us, because ultimately we ourselves may have wronged them?

Let us all, as Christians, truly mean it whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and not just utter the words without truly understanding, appreciating and meaning them. Do we mean it when we pray to the Lord, asking Him to ‘forgive us our trespasses, just as we forgive those who trespassed against us?’ We often focus too much on the first half, expecting to be forgiven from our sins, and yet, we forget to do what is necessary in the first place.

In that prayer of supplication to God, it is clear that we ourselves must first forgive those who have slighted and wronged us, before we are even worthy to be forgiven from our own sins. Let us all not walk in the same path as the servant who refused to forgive the other servant while he himself had been forgiven. Let us all instead take up the challenge to become true Christians in spirit and in deed, by being forgiving, merciful and compassionate towards one another in all things.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our lives, that we may be ever like Him, loving, compassionate and ever ready to forgive those who desire to change their ways and repent from their sins. May God be with us all in our endeavours. Amen.