Wednesday, 8 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the coming of God’s salvation and liberation because of His love for each and every one of us, and He has been calling on us to return towards Him, seeking His mercy and forgiveness, that we will not end up in destruction due to our sinfulness and rebelliousness. For the path of sin leads only to damnation, and all of us must be fully aware of that.

In our first reading today, all of us heard about the words of the prophet Hosea in which continuing from our previous weekdays’ discourse, we heard of the Lord reminding the people of Israel of just how they had sinned against Him, and how they had committed sin by their refusal to obey God’s laws, and by following the lead of their kings who disobeyed God and did not act in the way that God had wanted them to act.

For those kings ruled over Israel in truth only as regent for the one true King, that is the Lord Himself. Yet, their greed and ego, their pride and worldly desires led them to crave for power and glory, and it all ended up with them following the desires of their own hearts rather than obedience towards God and His will. Instead of following God and leading the people towards Him, the kings instituted pagan idols and worship, committed sins like that of king Ahab in murdering the innocent Naboth the vineyard owner, among many others, and in their constant refusal to accept the words of the prophets.

That was why, the Lord sent the prophet Hosea, right about at the end of the kingdom of the north in Israel, just approximately a mere twenty years or so before its destruction, to remind the people of all the sins they had committed, telling them of their impending suffering and destruction for all those sins they had done, and yet, at the same time, God also still showed His most amazing patience and love for His people, that despite all the wickedness and sorrow they had brought Him, He was still yet faithful to the Covenant that He had made with them and their ancestors.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus called His Twelve Apostles from among His many disciples, and together all of them were sent out to evangelise and to proclaim the words of the Lord, first of all to the descendants of the Israelites, again as a sign that God was indeed still faithful to the same Covenant which He had established with their ancestors so long ago. And He sent them their salvation through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the concrete example and evidence of His love for them.

But just like the prophets of old, the Lord and His disciples encountered many difficulties and obstacles, their paths faced with opposition and stubbornness from the people. There were many of those who were willing to listen to the truth and be converted, but there were equally many of those who insisted with their own paths and refused to convert. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in particular made the Lord’s work difficult and arduous.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore first of all each and every one of us are reminded to open ourselves, our hearts and minds to the Lord, listening to Him and His words of truth that we should not harden them against Him. Are we willing to do this, brethren? Are we willing to turn away from sin and make God once again the true Lord and King over our lives? This requires commitment and dedication from our side, and as we have been called and chosen, then we must also realise just how we have a lot of things to be done.

We have been called like the Twelve Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord. And to us have been given the grace and blessings of many talents and abilities, and the Lord has provided us with ample opportunities in which we are able to make good use of those talents and abilities for good use. Are we open and ready to become God’s own wonderful instruments and to show His love and truth in the midst of our own communities? Are capable of being genuine witnesses for the Lord?

Let us all show by our words, faith and action, in our every living moments so that through us, many more will come to believe in God and be saved through the same Christ, our Lord, King and Saviour. May all of us be wonderful instruments of God’s love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness in our world today. And particularly, amidst the difficult challenges we may be encountering during these dark and challenging times, as the whole world is still reeling from the terrible effects of a great pandemic, economic chaos and collapse, conflicts between nations among others.

May the Lord be our guide and may He inspire us to do ever more diligently, to be more committed to following Him in each and every moments of our lives, that we may indeed become shining beacons of God’s hope and light in this darkened world, calling more and more people to trust and have more faith in the Lord, through us. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are being reminded by the Scripture passages we heard, to be truly dedicated to God and not just paying lip service and empty, meaningless gesture to the Lord, as those whom He has called to be His followers. Each and every one of us share in this responsibility that we have received from God, to be genuine in our faith and to be fully committed to Him at all times, offering our heart, mind and our entire being to Him.

In our first reading today we heard the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Hosea in which the Lord condemned the actions of those who have disobeyed Him and led the whole people into sin, in retrospective from the founding days of the northern kingdom of Israel. At that time, during the time of the prophet Hosea’s ministry, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah had been divided from each other for almost two centuries, and the people of Israel had been led away to sin, by the decision of its first king, Jeroboam, who established a parallel and separate worship in Bethel.

The united kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon was torn apart after Solomon’s death by his disobedience and sins at the end of his life, and Jeroboam was chosen by God to be the king over the ten northern tribes of the Israelites, and Jeroboam was of course expected to reign responsibly and with faith. However, that was not the case, as soon after he was made king, feeling insecure of his own position and fearing that he could lose all that he had gained, he committed a great sin before God.

That was because despite the division of the kingdom, the people of Israel were still one people, and although they were administratively divided into the northern and southern courts in Ephraim and Judah, but they were still the people of God, and they ought to worship the one and only True God, and that was why they were still obliged to come to Jerusalem, to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him in Jerusalem, in the Temple that king Solomon had built for the Lord.

Instead, king Jeroboam, without consulting God or His prophets, and fearing that the people’s loyalty would return to the House of David if they were to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship God, decided to establish his own separate worship in Bethel, in his own kingdom, making a golden calf idol and altar, stating that all of his people ought from then on worship only in the places approved by the king, no longer to Jerusalem. He also established his own priesthood in contravention to the Law.

By his own pride and ego, his own fears and insecurities, his lack of genuine faith, Jeroboam had led the people to sin, and in time, pagan worship and idols were to be common throughout Israel. Jeroboam and many if not most of his successors were unfaithful to God, and as described in the Scriptures, committed what were wicked in the eyes of God and men alike. All their illegal and unworthy priests offered sacrifices on the altars in Bethel and other places, but their offerings and sacrifices were meaningless as they were not made with faith.

Are we then willing to take note just how it is important for us to love God with all of our hearts, to give our all to serve Him and to follow Him, and not to be distracted by the many worldly concerns and matters we may encounter in life. In our Gospel today, we heard of the Pharisees criticising and opposing the Lord Jesus and His works, because they accused Him of colluding with the prince of demons in His miraculous casting out of demons, and they accused Him of blasphemy and fraud, refusing to accept His teachings and works, or believe in His words.

All of these were caused by the jealousy and fear in their hearts and minds, as they saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat to their own power, privileged existence and position in the community, and they did what they could to try to stop the Lord, plotting against Him and making false accusations against Him. In this regard, they committed great sins against God, and they did nothing differently from king Jeroboam who led the people to sin by his fear that his kingdom would be snatched away from him.

That is why, for all of their pious actions and many shows of faith in public, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often subjects of the Lord’s rebuke, as they offered their prayers and made their sacrifices for meaningless purpose, as their attention was not on God, and they were distracted, serving their own selfish desires and wants, rather than to obey the Lord wholeheartedly as they should have done. And they led the people into sin by their own lack of faith and true, genuine love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be truly faithful to God and to be genuine in our faith and devotion to Him. We are called to be His genuine followers, giving our whole heart in following Him, working for His greater glory and to devote our time, effort and attention to serve Him. He Himself had said, that the ‘harvest are plentiful, but the labourers are few’ and how there are great need for more workers and labourers to work in the gathering of the harvest of the Lord.

This means that all of us are expected to give our best in serving the Lord, in following Him and in walking in His path, to be good inspiration of faith, and to be righteous and just, obedient and genuine in our actions to one another. Are we able to do these, brothers and sisters? Are we able and willing to give ourselves to Him as many of our holy and dedicated predecessors had done? Let us not be distracted any longer by the various temptations that we may have, and let us renew our focus and faith, our commitment to God from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are brought to pay attention and place our focus on God’s loving mercy, His generous forgiveness and the compassion with which He has taken great care over each and every one of us. And we are reminded that each and every one of us are truly blessed to have the opportunity to embrace God’s loving grace and rich mercy. But have we been appreciative of His love for us all these while?

In our first reading today all of us heard from the words of the prophet Hosea, the proclamation of God’s love and upcoming salvation for His people, a very significant promise made at that time when the people of God were already on the verge of destruction and defeat, as the prophet Hosea performed his ministry among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel just within twenty years or so from the downfall of Samaria and the kingdom under the conquest of the Assyrians.

For a people and kingdom who had deviated from the Lord’s path for so long, many decades and centuries, it might have sounded so amazing that even after everything that they had done, the Lord was still so patient with them that He was willing to welcome them back, to love them and to show them His care despite every kind of sorrow and sadness that they had given to Him by their persistent disobedience and sins, their betrayal of the Lord for the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Hosea brought forth the prophecy that God would once again restore His people, gather them once again and allow them to live in peace and harmony together with Him, and they would no longer worship the pagan idols and Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, but instead, they would only worship the Lord, the one and only true God. The Lord desired for the reconciliation with His people and He was willing to forgive them their sins, but provided that they were willing to turn away from their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard yet another amazing story, of the healing of a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding for twelve long years. The woman was hesitant and afraid to come to the Lord, as bleeding such as what she had suffered from was something considered unclean according to the Law, and she must have tried her best to hide her condition for all those years. There was certainly a mixture of shame and uncertainty in her mind that day.

But she gathered her courage and whatever strength she had to come towards the Lord, with faith that if she could even just touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak, then she would be healed from her bleeding troubles. And sure enough, the very moment she touched the Lord’s cloak, her troubles were ended, and her body was made whole again. In all of these, and linking to what we have heard earlier on in our first reading, we heard the amazing story of God’s mercy, love and compassion for each and every one of us.

For the woman was actually a representative of us sinners, also much like the people of Israel of old, those who have disobeyed God and committed sins against Him. Her bleeding was just like how the people had sinned and disobeyed God therefore became defiled and unworthy of God. And by God’s power and grace, He will heal all of us just as He has healed the woman from all of her troubles. But all these, as we have heard, required faith, and strong, genuine faith.

Are we able to seek God with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow the examples of the woman, who although fearful and uncertain, but her faith helped her to overcome those fears and she stepped forward, seeking the Lord with that faith? And that is what we need, brothers and sisters in Christ, that faith with the genuine desire to seek the Lord, to love Him and to turn away from all of our evil and sins, and embrace God’s ever great and bountiful forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we also celebrate the memory of the renowned saint, St. Maria Goretti, whose faith and devotion to God, her commitment and love for God, her love and patience, her forgiveness even for someone who had caused her so much hurt can be a great inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives with faith. St. Maria Goretti was still a young girl and in her early teenage years, from a poor but loving family, as her parent worked and lived with another family.

The son of that family with whom St. Maria Goretti stayed with, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to commit what was sinful in the eyes of God. St. Maria Goretti resisted his advances when he made it during one opportune moment as she did not want to do what was against God’s will and Law, and her, being a pious and God-fearing person, also did not want Alessandro to fall into evil. In his moment of anger of being rejected by St. Maria Goretti, Alessandro stabbed the girl many times.

On her deathbed, St. Maria Goretti forgave her assailant and murderer, and prayed for him, and asked for clemency for Alessandro. And with that, this young girl who chose death rather than to blemish herself with the taint of sin, entered into heavenly glory through martyrdom. And through the testimony of Alessandro himself, when he was in prison, he saw St. Maria Goretti coming to him and told him how she had forgiven him and that she prayed for his conversion of heart.

That was how Alessandro was converted and turned away from his earlier, sinful in his youthful years. When he was released from prison, he begged for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, who promptly forgave him, saying that how she ought to have forgiven him if her own daughter herself had forgiven him and prayed for him so much from heaven. Alessandro spent his remaining years doing his best in penance and also living righteously in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we can see just how wonderful and amazing God’s healing and reconciliation can be for us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and seek His forgiveness just as Alessandro had? And are we willing to commit ourselves to God and reject sin and the temptation to sin just as St. Maria Goretti had done? Let us all be righteous and good, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He show us all His mercy, lovingly embracing us and taking good care of us, and help us in our journey towards righteousness, guiding us in repentance and giving us the necessary strength and patience to overcome all the temptations and sins present in our lives, that we may be healed from all these sickness of sin, and be purified by God’s ever wonderful mercy and love. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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