Thursday, 6 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to heed the Lord’s truth and His teachings, and ask Him for help whenever we are needing any assistance and help. We cannot struggle alone in this journey of faith, or else we will quickly realise that we will falter and be easily tempted, falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin, from which we may realise that there is no path out from. Unless we conscientiously follow the path of the Lord and remain firmly faithful to this path, striving to walk as good and devoted Christians, we may realise that we will be drawn into the ways of the world, and be tempted by sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Galatia, the words of the Apostle chiding and the rebuking the people of God there for their erroneous ways and wicked living, for having followed the ways and the teachings proposed and preached to them by the false prophets and by all those who did not adhere to the true deposit of the faith and the truth as preserved by the Apostles. Back then, there existed many variations of the teachings of Christ, with some people likely making use of those teachings as excuses to establish their own school of thought and ideologies, or by syncretising them with the pagan beliefs and customs.

As such, St. Paul reminded the people of God not to be easily swayed by those worldly temptations, and to adhere closely to what they have received, the pure truth as what St. Paul and the other authentic witnesses and missionaries had proclaimed to them. St. Paul reminded the faithful not to allow their desires and the weakness of their flesh to sway them to the wrong paths. Otherwise, they would end up losing their way and might even fell off away from the path towards God and His salvation. That is why, St. Paul told them not to listen to those who proclaimed different messages from what he and the other faithful servants of God had preached.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples about the matter of someone who asked a friend for a favour, and how a father would care for his children in the same way that a friend would have cared for his or her friend’s requests or pleas for assistance. The Lord used that as an example to highlight to His disciples and therefore to all of us that, often times we do not realise that we have such a great opportunity to ask the Lord for help at any moment in time, but for various reasons, we chose not to seek for His help, and preferred to do things our own way, which in the end led to us doing the wrong things and choosing the wrong paths.

And why is it that we did not seek God’s help? First of all, the most often reason was that we allow our pride and ego to get in the way. We let ourselves be swayed by our ego that we refused to allow the Lord to speak to us, and we refused to listen to Him and we chose rather to do things our own way rather than to admit that we can be wrong or mistaken in our ways, or that we want to preserve that semblance of face and strength, and we chose to press on in our erroneous ways of life rather than to submit to God’s will or to look for help from Him. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, our human pride and ego are such dangerous things that we must be ever vigilant against.

Then, another reason is that we are reluctant to ask, because we are afraid that God will punish us if we ask, and that He will chide and refuse to listen to us for our pleas and prayers. That, brothers and sisters in Christ is yet another reason why so many ended up getting further and further away from God. They rather chose to hide rather than to face the Lord, their loving God and Father. They did not have enough faith in God and in His mercy, that they chose to rather run away from Him and avoid Him, instead of entrusting themselves to His love and care. And this is what we must remind ourselves, that our Lord is our Father, and like all fathers, they will indeed chastise their children when they err, but they do so with love, and not hatred.

Which one should we rather choose, brethren? To be chastised by God and to be reminded to atone for our many sins and wickedness, for an eternity of joy and true happiness, filled with God’s love and grace because we have been reconciled to Him, or to run and hide away, to keep our pride and ego and then suffer an eternity of suffering and regret, because we keep on rejecting God’s ever generous mercy and love? Let us all not forget that all those countless souls in hell, all suffer because they have consciously rejected God’s offer of mercy and love, and chose to remain in the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and discern carefully our paths going forward. Today, we have one saint whose feast we are celebrating, namely that of St. Bruno, whose life and devotion to God hopefully can inspire us to lead a better, more holy and committed life to God. St. Bruno, also known as St. Bruno of Cologne, was the founder of the Carthusian religious order. He was a devout priest and servant of God, whose tenure as the Chancellor of the Diocese of Reims in what is today France was well-known for his upright attitude and holiness, and despite facing challenges and trials from those who opposed him.

Not only that, but St. Bruno was also remembered for his conscious rejection of fame and public office, at the time when everyone would have wanted them. When he was offered and had a very likely chance to become a bishop, St. Bruno instead renounced all of that and all forms of worldly glory, and withdrew from the world, preferring to dedicate himself to the Lord, inspiring some others to follow his examples, which eventually led to the foundation of the Carthusians. Despite repeated efforts to make him an Archbishop afterwards, St. Bruno deferred to other candidates and those whom he recommended instead of himself. He remained committed to God, living simply and humbly to the end of his earthly life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in St. Bruno a genuine Christian faith and dedication, a great humility and passion to serve the Lord. At a time when many people, and even those within the Church, were tempted with worldly glory and power, St. Bruno showed them all, as well as all of us today, what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ, to be committed fully to God and to serve Him wholeheartedly, and not to be swayed and distracted by the temptations of worldly glory, power, fame, ambition, desire and especially by our pride and ego. We have discussed about it earlier, how our own ego and pride can easily lead to our downfall.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to God, and strive to be ever better and more committed disciples and followers of Christ. Let us all draw ever closer to God and to His love and mercy, entrusting ourselves ever more to Him, and learning to humble ourselves and to be more willing to listen to Him, and ridding ourselves of the excesses of our desires, ego and pride. May the Lord be our guide and with the intercession of St. Bruno, may all of us remain firmly faithful to our Hope and salvation in God, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of our Christian obligations to seek the Lord and to remain faithful to Him, and to follow the good examples of faith set by the Lord Himself and His many saints. Each and every one of us are called to devote our time and attention to God, and we are all encouraged to proclaim the word of God in our lives courageously, through our words and actions, and to be genuine in our interactions with one another, so that our lives may become good examples for many others who witness our works and interact with us.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and faithful in Galatia, we heard the Apostle recounting his past experiences, as he grew in the faith and followed what the Lord asked him to do. We heard of the deeds of the Apostles, of St. Paul himself and his companions like St. Barnabas the Apostle and others, as well as with Cephas, that is St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Church and all the Apostles. St. Paul recounted his works and his interactions with the other Apostles, and how the Lord worked through their interactions, as they helped and assisted each other, and St. Paul himself reminded St. Peter in the spirit of fraternal correction, that he should not give in to those who advocated for the imposition of un-Christian rules and regulations on the Gentiles.

Back then, we have to understand that during the time of the early Church, there existed great tensions and divisions among the members of the faithful as they were still maintaining their past distinctions in terms of their race and origin, their prior identities and beliefs, their status and ideologies, among others. The Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, in particular, were often divided in their opinion and ways in the early Church, with some among the Jewish Christian converts advocating the imposition of Jewish laws and customs in their entirety on the entire body of the Christian faithful.

The Jewish people made up a significant proportion of the early Christians as the disciples of the Lord preached first to the Jews and the people in Judea and Galilee before they began their outreach to the Gentiles both in the lands of Judea and Galilee and in distant lands. The Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord were themselves Jewish, and that naturally made many of the early Christians to hold certain ideas and viewpoints, with some among them desiring to impose their will on others. The non-Jewish people however would find adopting such practices and customs to be very difficult, as many of them were difficult to enforce even among the Jews themselves, and some of those customs were also seen as abhorrent by the non-Jewish communities.

As such, St. Paul, who had often reached out to the Gentiles and worked among them, spending many years in ministering to the Gentile converts to Christianity and more, he stood by the Christian Gentiles, that the Church ought to understand their position and difficulties, and also understand better the true wishes of the Lord, Who called on everyone to follow Him, Jews and Gentiles alike. There should be no prejudice or bias in the path of following God, and all the faithful people of God should have been treated equally without certain preferences to a particular race, culture, customs and ways of living.

What is important is for all Christians to embrace the true core of our faith and belief in the Lord, that all of us ought to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength and abilities, and then to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we have loved the Lord and ourselves. What some of the Jewish converts back then tried to impose on the whole Church especially on the Gentile Christians were excessive and unnecessary, and could have even turned many people away from the Lord, and worsen the instances of elitism and self-righteousness among the Christian people, just as what had happened among the Pharisees and the Jewish elites.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray, through the prayer that I am sure all of us know very well, that is the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster. As we listened to the words of this prayer that I am sure we have often prayed for, we are once again reminded of our purpose and obligation as Christians, that is as those whom God had called and chosen, and having responded to His call, each one of us have been made the children of God. And because of this, each and every one of us should do our best to live our lives in the way that the Lord had taught and shown us to do. All of us should not behave in ways that will bring disgrace and dishonour to the Name of the Lord and to His Church.

We should also deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer, just as the Lord Himself had taught us. And praying is one of these ways, as we are reminded to keep in contact with the Lord our God. As in any relationships we have in this world, we have to maintain them through constant contact and interactions, and we cannot be close to the Lord unless we really make the conscious efforts to do so, and to bring ourselves nearer to Him, through prayers and by following His will, obeying His Law and commandments. The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and it is really up to us to renew our relationship with Him and commit ourselves to Him, through our efforts at each and every moments.

Then, we should also be inspired by the examples and good things done by our holy predecessors, just as on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish religious sister who was the visionary and the inspiration for the very popular Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God. St. Faustina Kowalska joined religious life at an early age and began receiving visions of the Lord, especially that of the suffering Jesus, calling upon the people of God to return to Him and to embrace His mercy and love. St. Faustina Kowalska recorded her experiences and mystical visions, especially when the Lord appeared to her in the now famous Divine Mercy form, with rays of red and white light emanating from His Most Sacred Heart.

St. Faustina Kowalska spent a lot of time in prayer and devoted herself in humble submission to the will of God. She also related her visions and told them to her superiors and others, as per instructed by the Lord Himself in her visions. Despite the challenges and oppositions that she encountered throughout her life, and in her work of spreading the message and truth of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God, St. Faustina continued to persevere nonetheless, and eventually, this Devotion gained tract and popularity among Christians worldwide, especially after her passing not long after she received those visions of the Divine Mercy. This Devotion is now among the most popular among Christians all over the world. St. Faustina Kowalska might have lived just a short life, and yet, in that short moment, she had touched the life of so many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all emulate the good faith and examples as shown by St. Faustina Kowalska and many other saints, our holy predecessors, holy men and women of God. Let us all live up to our faith and do whatever we can to fulfil our obligation and calling as Christians, living our lives to the fullest as role models and the good examples of Christian discipleship, loving God and loving one another with all of our strength and might. Let us all inspire one another and be the good examples to help more and more people to find their way to God, to embrace the Divine Mercy and His love for us, that we may be forgiven from our multitudes of sins.

May God be with us always and may He continue to empower us all, that we may always persevere with faith. May God be glorified through our lives, our actions and deeds, and may our every interactions help to proclaim His truth and love to others, and bring more souls ever closer to God and His loving embrace. In the words of the prayers to the Divine Mercy, ‘Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’ Amen.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder that each one of us are called to change our ways of life, and to embrace God and His path once again if we have once erred and not adhering to the way of the Lord. Each one of us are reminded that God has kindly reached out to us, calling on us all to embrace His love and mercy, and for us to walk once again in His path. As long as we are willing to listen to the Lord calling on us, then we are likely to be on the right path, and as long as we are willing to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him, we are likely going to find the Lord in the end, waiting for us to return to Him.

In our first reading today we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Galatia in which the Apostle spoke about his experiences and conversion from being one of the greatest enemies of the Lord, His Church and the faithful people of God, the great scourge of Christians, to be one of the Lord’s and His Church’s greatest champions and defenders, in his amazing conversion experience and in being called and chosen by God. God Himself had called St. Paul on his way to Damascus, supposedly to crush the Church and persecute the Christians there, but he himself emerged as a Christian in the aftermath, and from then henceforth, this renewed man of God embarked on a faithful mission in obedience to God’s will.

What we have heard in our first reading today through the experiences which St. Paul shared with all of us, we are all reminded that God is calling on us all to follow Him, and He is the One Who is making us worthy and changed us, led us and guided us to the right path. We are reminded that there is hope for everyone, even for the worst sinners and the greatest offenders as long as they are willing to allow God to lead them once again down the right path. Just as St. Paul has shown us, that he listened to the Lord’s call and embraced Him wholeheartedly, learning about the errors of his past ways, and then henceforth, labouring for the glory of God ever after.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the exchanges between the Lord Jesus and His friends, the sisters Mary and Martha, both of whom welcomed Him as He came to visit their house. Martha was busy preparing for the welcome, presumably preparing the meals and other things to properly and hospitably welcome Him. Meanwhile Mary was focused wholly on listening to the Lord as He spoke and taught her of His truth. We know of this story surely where Martha told the Lord to ask her sister to help her out, as she was busy preparing everything by herself, only for the Lord to remind her that what her sister was doing, was right, because she welcomed Him into her heart, and did what she could to welcome Him by focusing her attention on Him and not otherwise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard of the story of Martha and Mary, we are all reminded of the need for all of us to return our focus onto the Lord our God, and for us to refocus our lives upon Him. Each one of us are reminded that we should not end up being so preoccupied and even distracted by our many attachments and by the many temptations all around us that we fail to focus our attention on the Lord, and instead, we may end up intentionally or unintentionally getting further and further, and more distant from the Lord and His path. Martha for example had good intentions, but unfortunately in her desire to satisfy her own desire in serving the Lord, she got lost into it so much that she forgot to welcome the Lord into her own heart.

Today all of us Christians are reminded to change our ways and our hearts and minds, in the manner of St. Paul and how he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. And there is yet another example that we can follow, in the person of the great and renowned saint, St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans and the one who inspired the name of our current reigning Pope, Pope Francis. St. Francis is well known and remembered for his dedication to the Lord, his unique commitment to the service of God and in living humbly in poverty, poor in the eyes of the world and yet rich in the sight of God. His examples and life can very well serve as good inspirations for each one of us.

St. Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone as the son of a rich textile merchant in what is today’s Italy, and as the heir of the rich merchant, he was prepared since his early youth with education and the expectation that he would be carrying on his father’s business and legacy. But God had a different plan for the young St. Francis, as He called him to follow Him much as how He had called St. Paul the Apostle. This rich merchant’s son might have been an unlikely candidate for a servant of God living in poverty and in the barest of conditions, and yet that was what St. Francis of Assisi eventually chose to do, abandoning all material and worldly wealth, his status and inheritance.

It was told that the young St. Francis heard God’s call as he passed by a dilapidated chapel, which is today well known as the San Damiano chapel with its distinctive crucifix. St. Francis heard the Lord’s call to restore his Church, and he interpreted it back then that he should help to restore the chapel which was already torn down in condition back then. St. Francis resolved to take part of his father’s precious textile stock to fund the reconstruction and repair of the chapel, which then earned his father’s wrath. It was told then that the young St. Francis fled to a local priest, who then helped him to seek shelter with the bishop. When St. Francis’ father sought to reclaim the property and wealth he lost, and wanted to sue his own son for that, it was told that St. Francis stripped everything he had and renounced both his father, inheritance and everything before everyone assembled.

St. Francis of Assisi henceforth dedicated himself to a life of dedication and ministry for the glory of God, gathering like-minded people over time, and laid the foundation of the Franciscan order, which by today has encompassed countless thousands and more religious, priests and many holy men and women dedicated to the service of the Lord and to the various ministries entrusted to them throughout history, in bringing God’s truth and love ever closer to His people. St. Francis of Assisi has inspired all of these people to seek the Lord with all their heart, refocusing their lives on Him and also to live humbly and simply, and not be swayed or burdened by worldly temptations and attachments.

And to all of us living in this world today, St. Francis of Assisi and his examples remind us not to be easily swayed by those same worldly temptations, and not to have excessive attachments and entanglements with worldly matters and desires. Money, wealth, material possessions and other worldly things themselves are not evil per se, as those can very well be used for good and worthy purposes as well. It is rather our unhealthy attachments and obsessions with them that we must avoid at all costs. That is why we need to reexamine our conscience and our focus in life so that we do not end up walking down the wrong path like so many others had done before us.

Let us all renew our faith and commitment to God, by reorienting ourselves towards the Lord, and refocusing our attention towards Him. Let us all ask St. Francis of Assisi, St. Paul and all the other holy saints of God to intercede for us at all times. May God be with us always and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence always, like those faithful saints who have shown us the true Christian virtues and values, putting God as the centre and focus of our lives, and distancing ourselves from wickedness and evil. Amen.

Monday, 3 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today each and every one of us as Christians are reminded to be full of love for the Lord and for our fellow brothers and sisters, as we are called to obey the word of God and His commandments, and are reminded to do what He has taught us to do, and even what He Himself had done for our sake. We are reminded of what it truly means for us to be Christians, not just in name only, but also in real deeds and actions. Otherwise, if we do not do as we are supposed to, then we are no better than hypocrites, and our empty and dead faith will avail us not on the day of Judgment.

In our first reading today we heard from the words of the Apostle St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Galatia. The Apostle was reminding the people of God that there was the need for them to adhere closely to the truth and the message of the Gospels and whatever that he and the other missionaries of the Lord had delivered to them. At that time, the people were easily swayed by the teachings of the false prophets and messengers, all those who came up with their own interpretations and ideas not inspired by the truth of God and the Holy Spirit, by those who sought to subvert the truth and the message of the Gospels for their own selfish desires and purposes.

That is exactly what would happen to the various communities of the Lord’s faithful across the many centuries afterwards, as the history of the Church can testify to us, how there were various false teachings and heretical thoughts and ideas that sprung forth and not founded upon the truth and the traditions handed down through the Church from the Lord and His Apostles. Those false teachers and preachers spoke of values and teachings contrary to the way of the Lord, and instead following their own worldly and mistaken ways. And thus we heard one of the Lord’s true teachings being highlighted in our Gospel passage today, in the story of the parable of the Good Samaritan, which I am sure many of us are well aware of.

In that parable of the Good Samaritan, we heard of how a man from Jericho, a Jew was beset by bandits and was left to die. A priest and a Levite passed by and ignored the man’s plight while a Samaritan was eventually the one who took care of the man but not only that, as the Samaritan went the extra mile in trying to help the man, and helped the man in his hour of greatest need, caring for him and told the innkeeper to provide extra care as much as needed, and that he would return for him no matter what. This is what I meant by the true Christian values and teachings that each one of us have been called to uphold and proclaim, and to practice and do in our respective lives.

At that time, the priests and the Levites were the elites and the most well-respected within the Jewish community, while on the other hand the Samaritans were greatly despised and hated, and no Jew of good standing at that time would want anything to do with a Samaritan. All of these happened because of the historical enmity and misunderstandings between both the Jewish people and the Samaritans, as each one of them claimed to be the authentic and true heirs of the people of God of old, of the old kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the past. The Jews of course claimed that they were the rightful descendants of Israel, having been descended from the exiles of Israel and Judah, while the Samaritans claimed that they had lived in their lands since the days of the Israelites of old.

These struggles and misunderstandings meant that the Samaritans were deeply mistrusted, prejudiced against and despised as mentioned. And yet, it was the Samaritan man who actually went out of his way to help the Jewish man, in loving and caring for him even when he was not obliged to do so. He went beyond and cared for the man anyway. That is what Christian charity and love is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ, and what we are all called and expected to do as followers and disciples of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. For the Lord Himself did that as well, extending His love to us when He was not obliged to, and cared for us deeply.

He shouldered the burdens of our sins willingly, the punishments and humiliations, the scourges and tortures, and all of that and more, so that through all of them, we may receive the sure guarantee of eternal life and salvation through Him. Christ bore the punishment of sins for us, was beaten, humiliated and scourged for us, so that by His suffering and death, we who believe in Him and put our faith in Him will be freed from our fated eternal damnation because of our sins and disobedience against God. We should have perished as the Jewish man from Jericho should have perished, and yet, our Lord, like the Good Samaritan, came to us, brought us back to new life through Him, and gave us hope and strength.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we listened to these readings from the Scriptures and remembering the great love by which God cared for us and loved us, let us all hence strive to be ever better and more committed disciples and followers of our Lord in all things. Let us all strive to love Him all the more, distancing ourselves from wicked and sinful ways. And most importantly, let us all heed His own examples in loving us, and the story of the Good Samaritan, for us to love one another in the same way, to love without boundaries and prejudices, and to love generously and sincerely without considerations for our backgrounds, origins, status or other things that often shaped our way of interacting with each other.

Let us all be genuine Christians in all things, so that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God through our lives and examples. May all of us remain faithful to our mission and calling in life, and to be ever dedicated and faithful to God and His ways. May God bless us always, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are reminded to be ever faithful and committed to God, in our daily living, even if we are beset by various troubles and trials, challenges and obstacles. We should not be afraid or be deterred by the opposition and the hardships which we may encounter in our journey of faith through life. We must remain resolute in our faith and dedication to God, believing wholeheartedly in His path and not be easily swayed and tempted by all the traps and the other things that the devil and his wicked allies and forces had placed before us all. We must hold on to that faith which we should have in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk in which the Lord spoke and interacted with Habakkuk, a prophet who was active in the land of Judah during its final years, and whose life and ministry revolved around the sufferings and oppressions endured by the followers of the Lord at the land where the people refused to believe in God, where the prophets were persecuted. And not only that, Habakkuk was also referring to the sufferings of the people themselves, who at that time were brought under the dominion of the Babylonians and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet Habakkuk pleaded before God for His intervention and help, saying that he and the people have suffered, and were in need of God and His help. But God reassured Habakkuk and also the people, by saying that, whatever He would reveal through Habakkuk himself, everything would come in due time, just as whatever He had spoken through His earlier prophets like Amos and Isaiah, among others. Everything will happen as God wills it, and eventually, all those who remain faithful in God will be redeemed and will enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. God will not forget or abandon those who seek Him, even if they themselves had abandoned or forgotten about Him before.

In our Psalm today, we heard the exhortation for us all, God’s beloved people to rejoice in Him, in His faithfulness and love. We are all reminded to focus our attention to Him, to serve and glorify Him, and to praise and worship Him at all times. We are also reminded not to be like those who rebelled against God as at Massah and Meribah. At Massah and Meribah, the very ungrateful Israelites rebelled against God and complained against Him, because they refused to obey Him and follow Him, and complaining that they were deprived of what they wanted to have, when God had taken care of them day after day, month after month, and year after year, feeding them all and guiding them to the Promised Land.

We are all reminded through these that often times, we are ourselves our own greatest opponent and obstacle, especially in our pride, ego and desires. It is our pride and ego which prevented us from seeing how faulty our lives can be, and led us to stubbornness and rebellious attitudes, as we often did not want to admit that we could have been wrong in our ways. We ended up refusing God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy, hardening our hearts against Him as what the Israelites had done in the past, at Massah and Meribah and during the time of the prophets like Habakkuk. Their refusal to abandon their pride and ego led to their downfall.

While their attachments to their desires, to the many pleasures and allures of this world misled them down the wrong path, as they preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of power, knowledge, glory, wealth, affluence and fame, status and many others. They gave themselves to the worship of false idols and false gods to satisfy their own desires and wants, and refused to follow the Law and precepts that God had set before all of them. This is what has happened to us as well, and will continue to happen to us if we are not vigilant in living our lives in our present day world. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the many concerns and attachments, ambitions and desires we have, we will likely end up being lost from God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples when they asked of Him to increase their faith. The Lord reminded them all that if they truly had genuine faith, even no matter how small it may seem to be, everything will be possible. Again, the Lord was actually reminding all of His disciples that they should not treat faith as a tool for their own self-benefit and ambition. For at that time, the disciples had followed the Lord for various reasons, and likely many of them were also spurred by the desires they had for power, influence and glory, as is common for any groups and movements, just as the history of the world and our Church have shown us.

As the Lord told His disciples that after everything that the servants had done, they were after all just servants of the Master. Any glory they have done and any great things they had performed, all these were due to the Master and not themselves. The Lord reminded His disciples and all of us through this parable, that all of us as the servants and followers of God ultimately live our lives at the command and charge of the Lord, and everything we say and do, all of our achievements and greatness are ultimately not due to ourselves, but due to God, attributed to Him and should have been offered to Him, rather than to make ourselves bloated with pride and ego.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, pride and ego are often obstacles and barriers that kept us away from God. Due to those, we often enclose ourselves in our own cocoon, in our own comfort zones, seeking to attain our own personal comfort and satisfaction rather than to do the will of God. The Lord reminded His disciples to be wary of these temptations that they do not seek for glory and acclaim in life, and whenever they do His will, they should do it because they want to do it for the glory of God and for the good of their fellow brothers and sisters, and not for their own selfish desires and ambitions instead. St. Paul his Epistle to St. Timothy, in our second reading today, also echoed the same thought, that we ought to follow the Lord and His ways, and not to give in to worldly ways and desires.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we are now then called to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how each and every one of us should proceed forward in our respective lives. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and we should answer His call with faith and commitment. We should do whatever we can in life, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant things so that our lives, our every actions, our words and interactions with one another bear within them the light and truth of God, His hope, His love and His way. Through us, the Lord can touch so many more other people in this world, and this is our calling as Christians, to do God’s will and to live our lives faithfully in the way that He has shown and taught us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church and in our respective involvements, in our Church ministries and organisations, there should be no quarrel, infighting and power-playing that unfortunately often happen because we as fellow Christians, instead of dedicating our works and efforts to serve the Lord and focusing our attention on Him, we focus our attention on ourselves instead, and seeking to satisfy our own personal ambitions and desires. That is why we end up having so many issues and conflicts, factionalism and infighting even among the members of the Church and its various communities and bodies.

Not only that, but even outside the Church, and within our own respective circles of friends and families, we should be the ones to bear forth the goodness of God’s love and truth rather than being the source of division or suffering for others. Too often we have heard how people were being scandalised and turned off by the actions of Christians who did not live their lives as how Christians should, and instead they lived their lives in the manner of the world, and often even worse than how non-Christians behave themselves. This is why, each and every one of us, whenever and wherever we are, we have to do our best to live our lives righteously and worthily in the manner that God has shown us.

May the Lord our most loving God and Master continue to watch over each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us all with the courage and resolve to follow Him and to walk ever always in His path and presence, resisting the many temptations present all around us that we do not end up falling into the traps that the evil ones had intentionally set before us to bring about our downfall. Let us all seek the Lord ever more fervently and spend more of our time and effort to do His will, and to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. May God bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us gather together to listen to the words of the Lord and to celebrate together as one whole Church, the Feast of the great saint and Patroness of Missions, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. On this day we heard of the words from the Scriptures reminding us all to entrust ourselves to the Lord and to follow Him faithfully, to follow Him with all of our hearts and might, and to be like little children in our faith, pure and sincere, and genuine in our desire to love God and to walk in His path, unfettered by the many temptations of the world often present all around us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, as He told them to have faith in Him and trust in Him, as He would restore peace, glory and happiness to Jerusalem, to His people and nation, and that they would no longer have to suffer or be in agony, as the Lord would be by their side and they would be His people. This was made in the context of how difficult the situation of the people of God at the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, and God wanted His people to remain firmly faithful to Him and to entrust themselves to Him, calling on them to turn away from their past, sinful ways.

For back then, many of the people of God had ended up being cast out and exiled from their own lands because of their own sins and disobedience as they allowed themselves to be swayed by their desires and attachments to the world. Those who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed on much of the ten tribes that rose in rebellion against the House of David, had been brought into exile by the Assyrians, the mighty empire that came and conquered the lands of Israel and destroyed the cities and towns of Israel, humiliating and crushing them. And all these happened because the Israelites there had not listened to God and His frequent reminders and calls on all of them to repent from their sinful ways. God had sent His many prophets, servants and messengers to call on them to repent, but they refused to pay attention and even persecuted those prophets.

In the southern kingdom of Judah, where the prophet Isaiah ministered in, the people of God had also not always been faithful to God and had from time to time falling again and again into sinful paths. They had not always listened to the words of the Lord, and rebelled against Him. They too have suffered at the hands of their neighbours and enemies, and back then, they were also under threat from the growing might of the Assyrians. But the Lord reassured them and told them that if they were to put their faith in Him, they truly had nothing to fear. God would restore the glory of Jerusalem and His kingdom to the people who were faithful to Him, and they would once again rejoice in His presence.

The main reason why the people had not been faithful and continued to fall into sin, again and again was because they were too attached to the worldly matters and concerns, desires and other things that kept them chained to the path of sin and disobedience against God. They were all too busy with their many attachments to worldly matters to attend to God and they ignored His calls because they were all too busy and preoccupied in seeking more worldly things, of wealth and glory, of fame and status, of many other satisfactions and pleasures in life. Due to all these, they kept on growing further and further away from God and His righteous path.

And that is exactly why we should heed what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that unless we follow the Lord in the manner that the little children were following Him, then we all can have no place in God’s kingdom. At that time, as mentioned, the disciples were then arguing amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and they were competing and arguing that each one of them had better merits and worth to be the ones trusted by the Lord, to be part of His inner circle. But in doing that, they essentially opened themselves to the temptations of Satan and the other evil spirits, who always tried to seek our downfall.

That was how we mankind often fell into sin, because we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, happiness and satisfactions, the desire for money and material wealth, for pleasures of the flesh and the comfort of the world, in various forms, and in indulging upon our many desires and wants in this world. Through these things, the devil and all of his wicked allies were trying hard always to snatch us from the path towards God and His salvation and grace. And unless we make the conscious efforts to resist the temptations to sin, then we may likely fall deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the life and examples set by one of our holy predecessors whose feast we celebrate today as just mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, namely St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. This holy servant of God was also often known as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’ and was remembered for her intense devotion to God and for her faith and holy life, as well as for her propagation of her ‘Little Way’ which were what she was mostly remembered and commemorated for. Even up to this day, the impact from her life and contributions are still enormous and can still be easily felt.

St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who had strong devotion to the Lord since her early youth, and who was inspired to join the religious convent at the very young age of fifteen. She grew up in a very devout and religious family, and her parents, who later on became saints themselves. St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, inspired their children to live a life of virtue and dedication to God, and all of their children became religious and dedicated their lives to God, including that of St. Therese of Lisieux herself. And when her mother passed away in her life, St. Therese was drawn closer to God, finding her refuge in Him.

Despite suffering from ill health throughout her life, St. Therese of Lisieux remained firm in her commitment to God and in her desire to be a religious devoted completely to God. St. Therese also began to experience visions and other mystical experiences from early in in her life. St. Therese was well-known for her night of ‘complete conversion’ experience, in which she experienced a great mystical vision and the liberating and comforting presence of God, solidifying her desire to commit herself to the Lord. Eventually, after a period of discernment and after some arrangements, St. Therese joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery.

She was remembered for her constant care for others, and for her prayers for sinners, such as for one convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, whom she prayed for daily for his conversion before he was due to be executed for his crimes. She was also remembered for her great sanctity and her adherence to what is now known as St. Therese’s ‘Little Way’. This ‘Little Way’ constitutes the need for all of us as Christians to commit ourselves to God even in the smallest and the littlest things we can do on each days and in every moments of our lives. St. Therese said that it is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we gradually build up our approach towards the eternal kingdom of God.

The faith and dedication which was shown by St. Therese of Lisieux should remind all of us that as Christians, we have the calling and responsibility to reach out to our fellow men and to be the genuine witnesses of our Christian faith and truth. We are all called and in fact, challenged to do whatever we can to glorify God and to proclaim His Holy Name, His truth and love to the world, by the simplest things we do in life. We do not have to think of great and ambitious things, as in fact, many of those who seek for great things to do, end up disappointed, and not just that, but many ended up doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to serve their own pride and vainglory, their own desires and ambitions rather than to fulfil their role as servants and followers of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that each one of us as Christians have that important responsibility, for all of us to contribute in whichever ways we can, in our respective areas and missions entrusted to us, in our own daily living and activities. All of us are indeed missionaries, and we have to realise that mission entails even things as simple as us proclaiming the Lord through our own exemplary and virtuous lives. That is why St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions, reminding us not to have the misconception that missions can only take place in faraway and distant lands, or in great missionary efforts, but in fact, mission happens in each and every moments of our lives.

Let us all therefore do our best to proclaim the Lord as His missionaries of faith, hope and charity, and do our best, inspired by the good examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and the innumerable other saints, holy men and women of God, that we may always be virtuous and worthy in our actions, words and deeds, even in the smallest things. Let us all strive to be holy and inspirational to others, leading a most Christian living in our daily lives to the best of our abilities. May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in our efforts and endeavours, and may St. Therese of Lisieux, of the Child Jesus continue to pray for us and intercede for us sinners, always. Amen.

Friday, 30 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained within the Scriptures, let us all be reminded of the need for each and every one of us to believe in the Lord and His words, and entrust ourselves to Him, with ever greater fidelity and commitment each day. All of us are reminded through what we have heard today, of the limitations of our human selves and existences, and how we have to open ourselves and listen to the Lord speaking to us and revealing His truth to us. We have to believe in Him and entrust ourselves in His hands.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job of what God spoke to Job towards the end of his tale, after he had gone through great sufferings and troubles, humiliations and attacks against him by even those who were close to him, because he was attacked by Satan, who took away all of his possessions, material wealth and even those who were dear to him like his own children. In the end, Job himself had to suffer from painful and itchy boils when Satan continued to strike against him in trying to make him to betray and abandon God. Yet, Job remained faithful to God and did not leave the Lord. Not even his sufferings and trials could dissuade him or tempt him away from the path towards God.

Job believed in God wholeheartedly even as he despaired. He trusted in Him even when he languished in the terrible state of health, and also derided and abandoned by even those closest to him, cursed and attacked because they thought that Job must have committed a great sin and disobeyed God to have suffered such a great calamity to himself and his family and possessions. Thus, Job and his so-called friends and companions ended up in great debate in which Job himself despaired and blamed himself for what had happened to him, and saying that God should just end his life there and then because of his unworthiness and lack of virtue.

It was there then we heard the Lord kindly rebuking His own servant Job as we listened to our first reading passage today. The Lord told Job that he should not have despaired and thought that he could comprehend the greatness of God, His thought and ways. Whatever happened to Job, God said that everything happened according to His will, and that it was by God’s will that everything came to be a reality, including what God Himself would do for Job at the end of all of his great misery and suffering. God granted Job double and more of all the things that he had lost earlier due to the calamities caused by Satan, and he regained all the joy and wonders of the world because of his unwavering faith in Him.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Jesus cursing several of the cities of Galilee such as Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, all of these because those cities and their people had not believed in the Lord despite everything that He had done before them all. Unlike Job who had believed and trusted in the Lord, remaining faithful to Him even when he was surrounded by the various calamities and not able to see the Lord and His great deeds, the people of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin all had seen the many miracles and wonders of the Lord, and yet they had not believed in Him.

Instead, some among them doubted Him and questioned His authority and the veracity of His works and wonders. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them in particularly kept on hounding Him and His disciples in trying to find way to discredit Him and putting many obstacles in His path. That is part of the reason why the Lord, in His righteous anger, rebuked those cities and all those within them who had hardened their hearts and minds against Him, and refused to listen to Him and His truth, despite all the things and wonderful signs which He had performed before their own eyes, and which they had witnessed on their own.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall these words of the Scriptures, we are also reminded therefore of our calling as Christians to trust in the Lord despite our trials and challenges, because the Lord alone is the source of all our hopes and salvation. And today, we should be inspired by the examples shown by our holy predecessor in faith, one great saint and servant of God, namely St. Jerome, who was remembered most for his great contribution in the translation of the Bible from its Greek Septuagint and Hebrew origins to the Latin Vulgate version, which allowed the faithful people of God in many places to have greater access to the truth contained within the Word of God in the Scriptures.

St. Jerome translated the Scriptures as part of his many other works and writings, which he carried out for the good of the Church and the people of God. And in his role in assisting the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who entrusted to him many matters including the translation of the Scriptures itself, and the reforms of the Church, many considered St. Jerome as a precursor of the Cardinals in the Church, as one of the closest confidants and collaborators of the Roman Pontiff. St. Jerome also encouraged greater holiness and sanctity among the people he was working and interacting with, encouraging them to be ever closer to God in their ways of life. He had to face many challenges and trials, oppositions and troubles, and yet, St. Jerome remained firm in his faith and trusted God in all things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Jerome whose memory we venerate today, as well as Job, the holy, devout and committed man of God. Let us all glorify God by our lives and let us entrust ourselves ever more to the Lord so that in all things, we may always be great and faithful witnesses of His truth, glory and resurrection. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 29 September 2022 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this day we are celebrating the great Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. The three great Archangels were three of the seven Holy Archangels mentioned to be serving before the Holy Presence of God, the chiefs of the Angelic Host and heavenly forces. In other traditions such as Eastern Orthodoxy, the other Archangels were also named, but according to the Roman Catholic tradition and Scriptural canon, only three Archangels were named, namely St. Michael the Archangel, named in the Book of Joshua and also in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, and then St. Gabriel the Archangel, named in the Gospels as the one bearing the Good News to Mary, and lastly St. Raphael the Archangel, mentioned in the Book of Tobit as the Archangel who came to help Tobit and his son, Tobias. Hence today we celebrate these three Archangels of God whose names are known to us definitively through the Scriptures and through Church traditions and teachings.

St. Michael the Archangel is the chief of all the Heavenly Host, the leader of the Archangels and the Angels of God. He is the leader of the forces of God in the great struggle and battle against the evil ones, the champion of the Lord and the one who smites the devil, the great enemy of all the faithful and the living. His name, Michael, means ‘Who is like God?’ that resounds with the battle cry which he uttered in the great War in Heaven that we heard in one of our first reading passages today from the Book of Revelations. That was the battle cry which St. Michael the Archangel uttered against the forces of Satan, the great enemy, who rose in rebellion against God.

At that time, the greatest and most brilliant among all the Angels of God, named Lucifer, the Angel of Light came to bear prideful ambition and the desire to surpass his own Creator, Lord and Master. He desired to sit upon the Throne of God and become the Master of all Creation, and therefore, rose in rebellion against God. One tradition stated that when God was away from His Throne, Lucifer, deluded by his own vanity, vainglory and pride, sat upon the Throne of God and claimed the rulership of all the Universe, only to be challenged and rebuked by St. Michael the Archangel, who rebuked Lucifer and cast him out from the Throne of God and Heaven, because he, thereafter known as Satan, the devil and great enemy, dared to rebel against God.

Unlike Lucifer, who was mighty and brilliant in all things, which led to his downfall through pride, St. Michael the Archangel was humble before God, and it was told according to another tradition that he trembled before the Presence of God, fully aware of the infinite glory and greatness of God, and fully devoted to his Lord and Master. But before the enemies of the Lord, this mighty Archangel stands tall as the greatest among all the champions and defenders of the Lord, leading the Heavenly Host and fearlessly crushing the forces of Satan and his allies, those fallen angels and spirits who have chosen to put their lot and trust in Satan instead of siding with God.

St. Michael has often been considered as a great protector of the people of God, as he led the forces of the Lord against all those seeking for the ruination of many souls of mankind. From the ancient days, St. Michael had appeared to Joshua at the time when the Israelites were about to enter into the Promised Land, reassuring the Lord’s chosen leader of God’s ever-present guidance, and how the Lord’s Angels, led by none other than St. Michael himself, would always march before the Lord’s faithful ones, guiding them and protecting them. St. Michael’s name has always been invoked to protect the people of God in their hour and time of distress.

Meanwhile, St. Gabriel the Archangel was known for his role in proclaiming the Good News of God to Mary, the one whom God had chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God Most High, the Mother of the Saviour of the world, and hence to be the Mother of God herself. St. Gabriel the Archangel in the Annunciation proclaimed with great joy the long awaited proclamation of the coming of God’s salvation, which He has promised and renewed the same promise to His people through His many prophets and messengers throughout time. The words of St. Gabriel the Archangel was the very first moment when the Lord’s salvation was definitively revealed to the people of God.

The name Gabriel means ‘the strength of God’ referring to the strength and encouragement that the words that St. Gabriel had spoken before Mary, a simple and humble young maiden in the little village of Nazareth, that she would be the one through whom the salvation of the whole world would come. And while he was not named, the Angel who appeared before Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist at the Temple of God was also often considered to be the Archangel Gabriel. In the same way, St. Gabriel proclaimed another encouraging news to Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, on the upcoming birth of their long-awaited son. That brought hope and strength back to the elderly couple once again.

Then, lastly, St. Raphael the Archangel appeared to Tobias, and assisted both him and his father Tobit, saving the new wife of Tobias, Sara from the attacks by the evil spirit Asmodeus, as well as healing Tobit from his blindness. St. Raphael brought God’s healing and consolation to the ones who were suffering and in pain, enduring hardships and difficulties, trials and obstacles in life. The name Raphael means the ‘healing of God’ which fits the works by which St. Raphael the Archangel was sent by God to this world, to heal and strengthen, to encourage and patch up those who had been afflicted by suffering, pain, grief and sorrow, among other things.

As we heard from our Scripture passages and as we have discussed just earlier on, the Holy Archangels of God were those powerful spirits whom God had entrusted with the specific mission in guiding and protecting us mankind from the attacks and efforts of the evil ones, the devil himself and the other fallen angels and wicked spirits. St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael in each of their capacities and missions are our great allies in the ever continuing constant and daily struggles for the fate of our souls. Ever since the beginning of creation, Satan, the fallen Lucifer had always despised God’s beloved creations, and especially that apply to us all mankind, and just as he brought our ancestors down, he is always ever plotting and trying to bring us all down as well.

That is why today as we celebrate the great Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, all of us are reminded of the great love that God has for each one of us, that He sent us His mighty servants, the three Chiefs and Princes of the Angelic Host, particularly the leader of them all, St. Michael the Archangel, to be by our side, and to lead the forces of Heaven, in the constant and daily struggle and battle for our souls. And we have to have faith in God, believing wholeheartedly that the Lord will always protect us and provide for us, and His mighty Archangels and the Heavenly forces will guard us against Satan and all of his fellow wicked spirits’ futile attacks on us.

Today, as we rejoice in the hope that the Holy and Mighty Archangels of God had brought us, let us all pray the special prayer, Prayer to St. Michael, which Pope Leo XIII had commissioned, entrusting ourselves to the guardianship of St. Michael the Archangel and the other Holy Archangels and Angels of God that through their intercession and help, we may always remain faithful and steady in our lives and faith. Let us all pray, ‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.’ Amen.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not be easily swayed by sins and disobediences. Each one of us should not be ignorant of our calling and mission to be good and dedicated disciples and followers of our God. To all of us, we have been entrusted with the mission and calling to serve the Lord in whichever opportunities and chances that He has presented us with, and all of us as Christians have been called to do the will of God at all times, to be His faithful followers and disciples, becoming the beacons of His light and truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job the words of Job, a suffering man of God who was struck by many unfortunate losses and calamities because Satan was testing him before God to see if Job would abandon his faith in God and betray the Lord. But Job remained firmly faithful to God and refused to be swayed or coerced by Satan’s efforts, and even when his own wife and friends blamed him and told him to abandon the Lord, he also refused to do so. Nonetheless, he did suffer and despaired, thinking of just how insignificant he and his human nature was before God.

What Job spoke of in our first reading today essentially pointed out the limitations of our humanity and our mortal existence. He spoke of the greatness and the glory of God, and how everything happened in this world by God’s will, and nothing can happen in all unless it has been willed by God and unless God had deemed it right to happen. God had dominion over all things and over all of our lives, and we must realise just how small and insignificant we are in truth as compared to the greatness and the vast majesty of God, Who rules over all the whole entire Universe and over all existence.

In essence, Job reminded us all that God Who is our Lord and Master has control over all things, and truly, if we are able to put our trust in Him, there is nothing that we have to worry about. God will provide as long as we do our best to live our lives in accordance with His will, and He will help and guide us in our journey through life. We have to follow Him and entrust ourselves to His cause, and allow Him to guide us down the way. We all have to commit ourselves wholeheartedly and not be distracted by the many other attachments and temptations of the world. Otherwise, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, we may not be truly worthy for the kingdom of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples regarding their calling and mission, and responsibilities as one of His disciples and followers. He laid it clearly to them how being His followers will often mean that they had to leave behind the comforts of the world, the attachments to their many worldly matters, just as He Himself, the Son of Man, did not even have any place or home to lay His head on. What the Lord told those whom He called to be His disciples, is that in following Him, they have to put their whole attention and focus on Him, and not to let the distractions of the world to be obstacles in the path of their journey towards God and His salvation.

Often times, we allow our preoccupations and attachments to the world to put God aside, ignoring Him and His call for us to follow Him. We often put our many worldly matters, preoccupations, considerations and other things as excuses why we cannot follow the Lord with all of our commitment and heart. When we always make excuses like this, then it is little wonder if we can be easily swayed or tempted, persuaded or coerced to abandon the path that the Lord has shown us in exchange of the path which we may find to be more agreeable or more convenient to us. It is always about us, about our selfish desires and wants, and not about what we should do as a follower of God.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the saints, St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, a great servant of God and martyr of the faith, as well as the Holy Martyrs in Japan, St. Lorenzo Ruiz or St. Lawrence Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, as well as his companions in martyrdom who perished during the intense persecution against Christians in Japan back then. Hopefully the examples shown by these saints and martyrs can become inspiration and good examples for all of us in how each and every one of us ought to live our lives as Christians from now on, in doing God’s will and in obeying His commandments, and in staying true to our faith, and our respective mission and calling in life as Christians.

St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia was the Duke of Bohemia during the Middle Ages, who was renowned for his great faith in God, his dedication for his people and hard work, committing himself for the betterment of his realm and people. He helped the development and expansion of the Church, which flourished greatly during his reign. He also encountered opposition particularly from the ones who still subscribed and followed the pagan faith of their ancestors, and who plotted with the Duke’s brother, Boleslav. That culminated with the assassination and murder of this holy and devout man of God, out of jealousy, rivalry and politics.

Meanwhile, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions were persecuted greatly by the Tokugawa Shogunate government in Japan, who severely persecuted the Christian missionaries and local Christian converts at that time. Thousands were arrested, tortured and martyred, and many others were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain firm in their faith and perish in great suffering. St. Lorenzo Ruiz himself was not in Japan then intentionally, as he was on the run from those who accused him wrongly of murdering someone. He was on the refuge on a Spanish ship loaded with missionaries bound for Japan, which was then closed to all foreigners and missionaries.

As he ended up in the midst of the intense persecutions of the Christian faithful at that time, St. Lorenzo Ruiz did not give up his faith, even when he was forced to do so, amidst the most painful torture and treatment that he was made to go through. Many other of his fellow Christians also endured the same kind of fate, and many among them all including St. Lorenzo Ruiz chose to suffer and die rather than to betray and abandon the Lord. And in their courageous life and dedication to God, each and every one of them, just as St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia had shown us, have inspired us all to live our lives ever more worthily and with ever greater commitment as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to live our lives faithfully from now on, so that in our every actions, words and deeds, we will be good witnesses of the Lord and the bright, wonderful beacons of His light and truth. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless us in our every efforts and good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, holy men and women of God, martyrs of the Church, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Lord contained in the Scripture passages we heard today, we are all reminded that we must always have that faith in God, and not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly sentiments and temptations. Unless we put our effort to resist the temptations against us, then we may find ourselves easily swayed and falling into those same temptations again and again, and therefore fall into the trap of sin. We must always be persistent in living our lives to the best of our abilities, in serving God with all of our hearts and might, at all times.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Job we heard of the lamentations of Job who suffered greatly after having been struck by Satan, who was testing him if Job would abandon his faith in God when he faced such adversities and losses. Job lost most if not all of his vast worldly possessions, his many properties and vast herds of animals and livestock, and he also lost his beloved children to the calamities put forth by the devil. Not only that, but Satan himself even struck at Job’s own body, making him covered with terrible and painful boils and lesions which must have been so unbearable.

Yet, Job remained firm in his faith in God, and he did not allow all those things to deter him or distract him from his obedience to God. Job lamented as we heard in our first reading today, but he did not blame his predicaments on God. Rather, he blamed it on himself and his unworthiness. And in his despair that we heard, he wished that he would rather perish and die, rather than to exist anymore in this world. Certainly we can feel the anguish and the sufferings which Job encountered back then, all that he had lost and all that he was suffering from, the pain and the indignity, the troubles and trials that he faced.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Who was travelling on His way to Jerusalem, and was rejected entry into a Samaritan village because the people in that village came to know that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem in Judea. Back then, the ethnic and religious tensions between the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee, and the Samaritans in the region of Samaria had been happening for many years. Both sides accused each other of having been unfaithful to the teachings of the Lord and they treated each other with disdain and contempt.

That was why, because they knew that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem, they closed their doors and gates against Him. They hardened their hearts and minds, and allowed their worldly desires, considerations, sentiments and attachments to guide their way instead of being able to listen to God. That was exactly why they wandered and become lost from God. But yet God did not punish or strike them down as we heard in that Gospel passage story we heard today, and that is because God’s love and compassionate mercy towards us is so great that He wants us to be reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it means that we are truly fortunate to have God Who has always looked after us and protect us, providing for us and guiding us all the time with great patience and love. Unfortunately, we did not have strong love for Him and faith in Him, and when the time of trials and troubles come, it was just a matter of time before we give up and abandon the Lord, for comfort in worldly things and desires. In this regard, we should heed the faith and dedication which Job had, in remaining steadfastly faithful to God despite his many sufferings and struggles.

Today, the Church also celebrates the feast of a great and renowned saint whose exemplary life and dedication to God and to his fellow brothers and sisters may become our great source of inspiration and a worthy role model in living our lives as good and committed Christians. St. Vincent de Paul was renowned for his great dedication for the poor and for all those who were suffering. He likely drew his passion and strength from his own experiences, which was also hard and bitter, especially when he had to experience being a slave during his younger years. Back then, he was a young man studying to be a priest when he was abducted and enslaved by the infamous Barbary pirates, who sold him to several masters before finally he managed to convince his last master to return to the Church and to Christendom.

Those early experiences and the own zeal and passion which St. Vincent de Paul had in serving the Lord and his fellow men likely encouraged him to become a priest and then involve himself in missionary work, and also in many outreach particularly towards the sick and the less privileged in the community. He founded and inspired the foundation of several religious congregations and organisations, like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and many others. He worked with the Daughters of Charity in the provision of care for the poor families and those who were suffering. He was also involved in the ministry to those who were forced to work in the galleys and ships as slaves, remembering his own not-so-good experiences as slaves during his younger days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard from the lives of St. Vincent de Paul, and also from many other saints and holy men and women of God, we have to remain steadfast in faith at all times, and we should not allow the sufferings, struggles, trials, temptations and other things present in our world from distracting us in our path towards God and His salvation. We have to be inspired by the perseverance and passion showed by those holy predecessors of ours, particularly that of St. Vincent de Paul whose memory and great life we recall today. May God be with us all in our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.