(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Psalm after Fourth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 29 : 2, 4-6, 11-13

I extol You, o Lord, for You have rescued me; my enemies will not gloat over me.

O Lord, You have brought me up from the grave, You gave me life when I was going to the pit. Sing to the Lord, o you His saints, give thanks and praise to His Holy Name.

For His anger lasts but a little while, and His kindness all through life. Weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes with the dawn.

Hear, o Lord, and have mercy on me; o Lord, be my protector. But now, You have turned my mourning into rejoicing; You have taken off my sackcloth and wrapped me in the garments of gladness.

And so, my soul, no longer silent, now sings praise without ceasing, o Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.

Saturday, 23 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbot and Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the fact on the lack of faith that mankind has in the Lord. Mankind has grown feeble in the faith that they have in God, preferring their own reasoning, their own ideas and their own wisdom rather than putting their trust and faith in the One and True God. They refused to believe and hardened their hearts against God.

Yes, that was what the Sadducees had done, when they opposed Jesus and tried to test and challenge Him with questions about the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees are the moral and theological opposite of the zealous Pharisees, being influential Jews that in our modern terms can be equated as being secular in nature, even to the point of atheism, that is disbelief in the presence of the divine God.

They refused to believe in anything spiritual and otherworldly, preferring to trust in their own human senses and judgment. They did not believe in angels, in saints, and in the resurrection of the dead, and believe indeed that their lives in this world is to be savoured in its entirety, that they ought not to worry about the life that is to come. They thought of death as the end of our lives, a definitive end.

But to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, we know and believe that death is not the end of all things. Indeed, death marks the beginning of a new and eternal life in God. That is proven by none other than Jesus Himself, the One who rose from the dead in glory, and in the process, gaining mankind to Himself, and releasing them from the slavery of sin, providing them with an exit from death’s grasp.

For death is the fate of us all mankind, who had disobeyed the Lord and went astray from His laws and His precepts. Beginning from Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, mankind had been trapped in the cycle of death. Death is the punishment for disobedience, for our waywardness have led us away from God and His love. But the Lord loves us so much, that He would not let death have the final word.

He sent deliverance into this world, pretty much as what He had done as witnessed in our first reading, from the Book of the Maccabees, which retells the story of how a people was saved from the hands of evil. The forces of the world struck against the faithful ones of the Lord, through the hands of the Greek king, Antiochus Epiphanes. And yet, the Lord raised up the Maccabees family, beginning with Judas, who led the people in a sort of holy war, in order to preserve their purity and sanctity against the forces of evil arrayed against them.

They rose up, cast out the forces of the Greeks, and regained their righteous freedom. And in the same way therefore, the Lord has come as the source of deliverance for all, through Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. He led the salvation of all and dealt the forces of evil a final defeat, and gained a final victory for all creations. And this, most importantly will not happen, without resurrection.

For resurrection is the Lord’s answer to death, and therefore, is His answer to sin, and to evil that had engulfed our world, and all of us, that through the resurrection of Jesus, which happened on the Easter Sunday, three days after His death on the cross, the sovereignty and power that death has over us is cast down. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for all of us. With it, and the with the Risen Christ, we have a new hope, that at the end of our journeys in this world, if we keep faith in God and attach ourselves to His ways, we will be saved.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the early and direct successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the leader of the entire Universal Church. He was also a holy martyr and a dedicated leader of the faithful, who dedicated his life in the complete service to the Lord. And in him today, we rejoice. That is because, if not Pope St. Clement I’s death in holy martyrdom would have been in vain, if there is no life after death.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the great early leaders of the Church, leading the faithful through difficult times, both against external oppositions and challenges, as well as internal disputes and rivalries. Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively many letters to the Universal Church, giving them encouragement and directions to keep strong and true the faith in God. And the core of that faith in God is the faith in the resurrection, for it is from the resurrection that our Faith is born.

Pope St. Clement I faithfully served the people of God, and he followed them even into custody, prison, and persecution. He was tortured by the Roman authorities who persecuted Christians, sent him into exile, and finally he was executed by drowning. Pope St. Clement I did not back down, and he kept his faith to the end, the faith in the Risen Lord. For he knew that there is hope in the Risen Christ, and through his hard works he had been rewarded with life eternal in the fullness of the glory of God.

St. Columban is another saint whom we commemorate today. He was an abbot and a pious worker of the faith who travelled across different areas and territories for many years, spreading the Good News and the teachings about the faith in those areas. St. Columban is a great missionary, who went around many areas of Western Europe, converting many to the cause of Christ, and bringing people closer to the salvation in the Risen Lord.

St. Columban worked hard and laboured for the faith, across the modern day France, and went on to many parts of Celtic Europe in the British islands. St. Columban worked in the islands and spread zealously the word of God as far as Ireland, where he spent significant amount of time in. He led the example for many to follow a dedicated religious life to God, giving of oneself in prayerful service to God and the fellow men.

Both the saints we celebrate today, in their own ways, proclaim the greatness of the Lord and testify for His glorious resurrection, through which the salvation of this world came about, delivering many souls from their intended path towards doom and eternal death. Through the hard works of these two saints therefore, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore brought even closer to us, as Pope St. Clement I himself showed through his martyrdom, how he did not fear the suffering at the hands of men nor death, because he knew that, as St. Columban and all the other saints and holy men and women knew, that the glory of God and all the rewards are awaiting us at the other end of the tough road, if they remain faithful to the end.

We are shown how, death did not have the final say. For Jesus had made His appearance and through His own death, He had definitively proven to the entire creation, that the One with all the authority and power over life and death is God, and just as God did not intend us for death, for we have been made for perfection, so for those who remain true to His ways, God will grant everlasting life, if we will just believe, and keep on strongly to that faith. Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbot and Mass of our Lady)

Luke 20 : 27-40

Then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.'”

“Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact, all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare to ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 23 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbot and Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

The wicked are in power; the weak suffer harassment; the poor become victims of evil schemes. Exploiters boast in their power and greed; the covetous blasphemes and defies God.

In their pride the wicked say, “There is no God.” They see no further. All of them saying in their heart, “Nothing will trouble me. I am secure, powerful, and happy.”

The pagans have vanished from the lands of the Lord, let no human raise from earth and strike terror.

Saturday, 23 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbot and Mass of our Lady)

1 Maccabeus 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates, and weapons left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there but the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back, and he returned much embittered to Babylon.

While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard too that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem, and had rebuilt the temple walls to the same height as before, and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur.

When he received these news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned. So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt that he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me, and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Friday, 22 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Cast out evil! Purify ourselves! Throw out the devil that is in us! Draw closer to the Lord and make ourselves worthy of Him!

Brethren in Christ, that is the essence of what we had heard in the readings of the Holy Scripture today. At the centre of it all, drawing parallels between the purification of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Maccabeans, after it had been defiled by the pagan idols of the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes, and the purification of the Temple, by Jesus our Lord, from the crooked merchants and cheaters of the people, is the importance for us to keep the purity of our souls and our bodies, which are the Temples of the Divine Presence, from all sorts of corruptions and evils.

The Lord showed His righteous anger, which He poured without mercy against those who had defiled the holiness of God’s Temple on earth, the Temple of Jerusalem. He whipped them and refused them from His presence, shunning them to the place prepared to them, outside of His salvation. That was what He had shown in the Gospel today, and what the disciples rightly pointed out, that the love Jesus has for His Father, has brought Him into a great wrath against those who defiled the House of the Lord.

The profanation was removed, and holiness returned to the House of God, in the same way that the Temple was purified by the Maccabees. The merchants profaned the House of God by the vile practices and other vices, by their dishonest practices and blatant cheating against the genuinely faithful worshippers of the Lord.

The Greeks under the Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the temple with idols and pagan practices. These were cast out of the House of God and the House was in both instances, made worthy again to be the dwelling of the Lord Most High. Then, one may ask, how does this relate to all of us? Is not the Temple as a building cleansed of vices and made worthy once again for the Lord?

That is because, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have often not realised that in each one of us, who believes in Christ our Lord as our Saviour, we all are the House of God, the divine Temple where He resides and dwells. How so? Remember that we are all receiving the Lord regularly whenever we attend and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, the bread and the wine turned into our Lord’s own Precious Body and Blood.

The Lord who comes to us in His Most Holy and Real Presence in the Eucharist dwells within us, just as He takes us to dwell unto Him. And since the Lord has come upon us and dwell within each one of us who had received His Body and His Blood, we have been made to be just like the Temple of Jerusalem, because God dwells within us! Remember that Jesus is also known as Emmanuel, which means God is with us!

That is why, brothers and sisters, as we lived this life given to us by the Lord, we have to be always aware, that our actions have great implications. Remember always that the Lord dwells in us, and His Spirit is living inside of us. We are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Temples of the Holy Presence of God. Therefore, we cannot be complacent, and allow the influences of evil to corrupt our bodies, our minds, and our souls, since we are the places where the Lord Himself had dwelled in.

If we corrupt our bodies, our minds, and our souls with evil, that is by keeping our sinfulness without check, be assured that the Lord will cast us all out of His sight, just as what He had done with the corrupt merchants who had set their stalls on the holy grounds of the Temple of Jerusalem. He will not welcome us if we do not keep our body, mind, and soul to be always worthy of Him. He will cast us out in the same way He had cast out the merchants from the Temple of God.

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Cecilia, one of the greatest saints of the Church. And we all know her well, as the patron saint of music, of our choir and of all who dedicate themselves to the commitment of beautiful hymns aimed at praising the Lord our God. Yet, St. Cecilia is also a pious and a holy martyr, one who did not allow the corruption of this world to touch her, resolving to keep herself pure and immaculate, despite the temptations and good offers from the lord of this world, that is evil.

Instead, St. Cecilia, defending her true faith unto death, received in the Lord, the assurance of eternal life and eternal glory. This is our faith, brothers and sisters, and do not let it to be corrupted by the lies of the devil. St. Cecilia lived an upright and just life, dedicated to her faith in God. She staunchly resolved to maintain the purity of her soul in an era filled with wickedness, by holding up her chastity.

St. Cecilia devoted herself and her entire life to God and therefore maintained the purity of her Temple, and she did not give up her purity for the comfortable life, and instead give it up for the sake of the Lord. Her purity is truly exemplary to all of us. And this is the kind of attitude that we need to have towards our faith in the Lord. Maintain always the purity of our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our bodies, just as St. Cecilia had done.

St. Cecilia is a role model for all of us, and I hope that today, we all will be more empowered and strengthened, to follow the Lord our God without moving away to the left or right. Let us now then resolve, and say to the Lord, that we all will honour Him and keep holy our selves, our bodies and souls, that we will ever be worthy to be His dwelling, and that on the last day, through the intercession of St. Cecilia, we will join her in singing the hymn of praise to the Lord, for eternity.

May the Lord our God give us strength, perseverance, and willpower, in order to keep the Temple of the Lord, the House and residence of our Lord in us, pure and worthy, as the beloved children of God, to whom He has sent Jesus His Son. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 22 November 2013 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

Then Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.