Saturday, 13 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and St. Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 19 : 13-15

At that time, little children were brought to Jesus that He might lay His hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them.

Jesus then said, “Let them be! Do not stop the children from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to people such as these children.” So Jesus laid His hands on them and went His way.

Saturday, 4 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of the famous and renowned saint of our Church, that is St. Francis of Assisi, the epitome and model of our faith, and the faithful servant of God, through whose works and legacies, he had brought countless souls into salvation in God, and through whose dedications and works he had become an example for countless more who followed and walked in his path.

He was the founder of the Franciscan order, or the Order of the Friars Minor, renowned for their brown coloured habit and dedication to simple life and poverty, entrusting everything to the Lord, giving it all to the Lord and abandoning all worldly possessions. He was also contributed to the founding of several other religious orders, and his works and dedications had truly profound effect on the Church and the faith as a whole, even until today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Francis of Assisi was himself once like us all, an ordinary man, the son of a wealthy and influential merchant, named Pietro di Bernardone at his birth, as the heir of his father’s fortune and business. He was educated and prepared for a life of glory and happiness, being well versed in the ways of the world and in all matters of finances.

However, St. Francis of Assisi, then known as Pietro, always had that emptiness in his heart, which he could not satisfy with what he had gained in the happy life he had, and in the privileged life he had been given by his father. And therefore, there began the new life journey of who would eventually become the holy man of Assisi, one of the greatest saints of the Universal Church.

He was praying in a rather dilapidated church building, when he heard a voice, from the Lord, saying to him to repair and rebuild His Church. The young Pietro Bernardone mistook this for the order to rebuild the dilapidated church building where he was praying in, and where he had heard the voice of God. As his father was a wealthy merchant dealing in precious goods such as silk trading, he took some of his father’s stock of silk, sold it and used the proceeds to pay for the repair work of the church.

The word of this action came to the knowledge of Pietro’s father, the rich merchant, who then confronted him on his actions. At this time, Pietro, having heard the call of the Lord had decided that the path of his life was not through what he had always been prepared to be, and he sought refuge at the local bishop’s residence at his cathedral.

The father of Pietro, the future St. Francis of Assisi, confronted the bishop and his son, contending and made noises over the amount of money and preparation he had given to his son and heir, and the supposedly humiliating action of his son, stealing and selling his goods and donating them to the Church. In response, St. Francis of Assisi took off all his clothes and possessions, and stood naked in front of the bishop, who then immediately covered him and protected him with his voluminous cope.

In that way therefore, Pietro Bernardone rejected the temptations of wealth and the world, giving up everything to follow the Lord, and began his journey of faith and suffering, to be who we know now as the holy St. Francis of Assisi, the great servant of God, and went to truly rebuild and strengthen the Church of God as God had once called him. He went from place to place, preaching about the Lord and growing ever stronger in faith, and in various occasions, he experienced various experiences of faith that further strengthened his devotion to the Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi also championed the faithful living of abandoning all forms of worldly attachments, and living in joyful poverty, in a life where everything he has belongs to the Lord, and where there is no need for worry, as everything will be taken care of by the Lord. St. Francis of Assisi thus established a new religious orders, now known famously as the Franciscans, after their founder, as a body to accommodate those who also desired to follow the Lord after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.

Like St. Pius of Pietrelcina, another famous Franciscan monk and priest, who had received the five wounds of Jesus, called the stigmata, St. Francis also received the holy wounds of Christ through the moment of euphoria and holy vision, where he received the honour to bear the five wounds that were also once on the feet and hands of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. These wounds would bring him great suffering but also great joy until the end of his life just a few years later.

St. Francis of Assisi was known to be a holy and pious servant of God, and he was also exemplary in his life, loving all the people of God and he held great sincerity seeking to find a way to help bring the salvation of souls to as many souls as possible. St. Francis of Assisi was renowned for his prayer for peace, also known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, where he extolled the values blessed by the Lord in the Beatitudes, on those who championed peace and who are devoted to the Lord with all of their hearts.

And therefore, St. Francis of Assisi is truly a great role model which we can follow in this life, that in all of his actions and deeds, we hope that we may also follow in his footsteps and therefore, we may also share in the justification which he had attained. And we should also follow in the loving ways of St. Francis, whose love for all the creations of God, mankind and animals alike, that we truly can become epitome of love as he had indeed become.

And referring to the readings of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels today, it is quite clear that God will reward all those who had believed in Him and remained true to Him in faith. To Job who remained faithful in his humility and obedience, He granted him great graces and blessings which He had bestowed once before, and then gave him even greater things, to the point that what Job had after his suffering was far greater than what he once had.

And Jesus also gave thanks to the Lord His Father for the faith and the good works which His disciples had on Him and which they had done in His Name. And He revealed the truth about Himself, and how blessed they were indeed, for the righteous and the faithful had indeed seen the Lord Himself in action. And thus, all of us here who are also faithful and true to our faith will be blessed with greatness and riches beyond all things.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi and the other holy saints of God, let us all from now on excise from ourselves, from our hearts, our minds and our souls, the darkness and evils of this world, committing ourselves in the same manner as St. Francis of Assisi had done. It is not necessary that we ought to all abandon everything of possession and goodness as he had done, but what is important is that we try to imitate him in his actions and deeds, which reflected his standing as a pious servant of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith in the Lord, not just through empty words or superficial application of faith, but through a dedicated and real devotion reflected in our actions and deeds, so that we may indeed be generous with our love, be caring for one another, especially those who are poor, sick and weak. Let us be peacemakers in this world, abandoning the ways of violence and hatred, and instead follow the path of love and justice.

May Almighty God help and guide us in this endeavour, that in all the things we do we may become ever more and more faithful and devoted to the ways of the Lord in the same way as St. Francis of Assisi had done. May He guide us all, that we may become justified through our loving actions, filled with faith, hope and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady or Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the well-known story of the faith of the centurion, or the army captain, who in his great faith, declared it clearly to the people, how he trusted in the Lord and in His power and authority to heal his sick servant. And it was also from here that the response we have in the Mass came from.

When the priest says, ‘This is the Lamb of God’ or ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’, just before we are to receive Him in the Holy Communion, we respond with ‘Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ Do you all recognise these words? I am sure you do. We have been saying it all over and over again every time we celebrate the Mass. But do we truly understand what it means?

What we say is almost exactly the same as what the centurion said to Jesus when he asked for His help to heal his servant. He fully believed and in full faith that Christ who is Lord and God has all authority on heaven and earth, and therefore He would be able to command and do anything asked of Him, just as the centurion had asked. Yet at the same time, knowing all that, more than all he also realised the depth of his sinfulness and unworthiness before the Lord because of that sin, and hence he said those words.

Do you also remember what St. John the Baptist had said to his disciples and to the people when they asked whether he was the Messiah? He said that the Messiah is so much greater than he was, such that he would not even be worthy to untie the straps of His sandals. As holy and great St. John the Baptist was, he was still a man, and therefore a sinner. He knew the extent of mankind’s sins and unworthiness, and that is why he and the centurion showed this feeling of unworthiness before the Lord and before His people.

But remember, this feeling and its expression is not to the point where we fear God and we do not want to approach or seek Him because He is someone of great power, distant and far beyond our reach. On the contrary, God has made Himself available for us, and truly approachable to us, as great and mighty as He is, through none other than Jesus Christ His only Son, whom He sent into the world to be our guide and our Saviour.

Through Jesus God has made Himself available for us, and He did not hesitate to come and heal us from our afflictions. All that He needed was that the people accepted His offer of salvation and healing, and believed in God through Him. The same is also asked of us this day, that we have faith in the Lord and put our trust in Him, just as the centurion had done.

The reality is that in this world today, there are many distractions that keep us away from the Lord, and there are many factors that prevent us from truly be faithful to the Lord. One was what I have already mentioned, in the fear that we often have to God, not knowing or realising that God seeks us always, and He is fully willing to welcome us back into His embrace, if only we are willing to repent and change our ways.

The other one was that if we are so occupied with worldly things and matters that we become insensitive and blind towards the love of God. In this manner we walk ever further and further away from the Lord and the guarantee of salvation that is in Him alone. That is why, brothers and sisters, today we are called to reflect on our lives. Are we truly good and faithful disciples of the Lord? Or are we easily swayed by the temptations of worldly glory and pleasures?

Today we celebrate the feast of a saint, St. Irenaeus, whose life and works will be an inspiration to us all in leading a more upright life dedicated to God. St. Irenaeus is one of the early Church fathers who helped to build up the faith that we know of today. St. Irenaeus was well known with his extensive writings and works that touched on the many central tenets and aspects of our faith.

St. Irenaeus was especially well known for his opposition against heresies and unorthodox and heterodox teachings of the faith, which was made famous through his book, Adversus haereses, or literally ‘against heresies’. In that book, St. Irenaeus affirmed many of the central aspects of our faith and he addressed many issues pertaining to the numerous heresies present at that time.

One of the many heresies of that day, and the most well-known one was Gnosticism, the heresy of syncretism between the true faith and the many ideas and philosophical opinions of the Greco-Roman world at the time, together with the influences of pleasure-seeking behaviours and hedonistic attitudes towards life, which created the heresy we know as Gnosticism, which was really famous and widespread, luring many away from the true faith and salvation in God.

This is exactly what we should avoid at all costs, brothers and sisters, that we must not be like those who sought pleasure in life and false happiness of worldly kinds above all other things. We have to keep in mind always the teachings of our faith, and put our foundations in faith strongly in the Lord that we will not fall into temptation and therefore damnation.

St. Irenaeus stressed the importance of faith in God and staying true to that faith, and to love tenderly and generously as the Lord had taught us, not just to love ourselves, but even more importantly, to love one another and to love the Lord Himself with all of our strengths and with all of our hearts. It is an easy thing to love oneself and to enjoy oneself in pleasures, but what does all that mean if we lose everything in the end in damnation?

Let us all work together, brothers and sisters, that we may help each other on our way to the Lord, that as one people we may be justified and be saved in Christ. Let us ask for the help and intercession of St. Irenaeus and other holy saints. God bless us all, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how God made a wonderful choice in the one whom He has blessing for, in the one whom the Lord is Himself pleased with, that is David, to be His vicar in the world, to govern His people as their king and ruler, and therefore lead them in the worship of Himself.

David was chosen, not because of his strength, abilities, or wonderful appearance. As the Lord made it clear to Samuel, that He did not see just with the eyes, but He sees also the hearts inside mankind. He chose David because He saw in him the true heart of devotion, which had great love for God and His ways.

As we all should well know, that good appearance does not equate good hearts inside. Appearance can often be deceiving, and it is important for us to be able to see what is inside and what truly makes up a person. And therefore, we should also not be quick to judge on others, especially if they do not behave in the same way as we do things, as the Pharisees had done.

Continuing from my theme on the true meaning of the Law of God from yesterday’s Scripture readings, it is important for us to note that superficial obedience of the law is no good, compared to the true understanding of the purpose of God’s laws that is to bring mankind closer to God, instead of giving them a great burden.

God wished that through His laws, mankind can be turned, and changed, and transformed to be more like Him. Yes, for all mankind to follow God’s laws in good faith and understanding means to be profoundly changed in our way of life and behaviour, that we become truly children of God. God wants from us our love, and sincere dedication, as well as full attention. He does not want from us blind obedience or self-praise.

God sees the heart and He knows everything, just as He saw into the hearts of the people of Israel and the sons of Jesse, discovering David, in whom He found true faith and dedication, one worthy to be the shepherd of His people. Therefore God also sees into our hearts, inside each one of us, that He sees whether we are truly faithful to Him or just paying lip service to Him, or worse, to self-glorify oneself that their ‘piety’ may be praised by those who see them.

The Sabbath is the holy day in the faith of the Israelites, according to the laws of Moses, where God ordered the people to keep the day holy, and to honour Him on that day. Yet, over time, until the time of Jesus, the true meaning of the Sabbath had been subverted by the people, and in the Pharisees, the Sabbath become a dreadful day, where nobody may work or do anything, violation of which was condemned by the rabbis of Israel.

But Jesus made it clear to them, as well as to His disciples and to the people of God, what the purpose of the law, that it was made to serve mankind, that is to help them on their way to reach the Lord. Yes, it is to help and serve them, rather than to punish them or burden them unnecessarily. The sabbath is made for mankind and not mankind for the Sabbath. To do otherwise would mean the idolisation of the sabbath, which was meant for mankind to spend precious time with their beloved God.

The purpose of the Sabbath was so that, mankind, ever vulnerable to the temptations of evil and the corruptions of the world, would find time to spend with their God. A day of rest indeed, dedicated to prayers and communications between oneself and their Lord, not unlike what we have today with Sundays, on which day we go for Mass, and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

On the holy day, we spend our time with God, and we listen to Him. We should not rush it to return to our worldly dealings and businesses, but instead patiently and lovingly spend that time with God, that He may speak to us in the silence of our hearts, and we may get to learn what is His will for us, a way for us to follow. On that day, we do things for the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him.

And in order to do this, it does not always mean through prayer and inaction. Doing good and doing things in accordance with the Lord’s will is also something that should be done on that day. Remember that Christ stressed the importance of doing good for our brethren and loving them. He stressed that doing good things is not forbidden on Sabbath, because doing good is tantamount to serving the Lord and glorifying Him, which is precisely what the Lord wants from each of His beloved people.

The Lord sees the truth in the hearts of all mankind. Again, blind obedience and lip-service does not do one good, and instead they bring mankind to condemnation. The Pharisees purposely tried during many Sabbath days to trap Jesus in His works, and did everything in their power to protest, complain, and resist the good works of Jesus, which was done for the greater glory of God. Their sins were truly great and numerous, despite their outward piety and actions, which supposedly done to draw praise and glorification from mankind.

Will we follow their path? Or will we do as Jesus had done? Jesus taught us that what the Lord wants from us is our love, and to show that love in our words, actions, and deeds. God has given us much love, and indeed had given us great capacity to love. It is now our chance to prove our love and dedication to Him, by showing it in what we do everyday. Let us no longer just see our faith, particularly that of the Mass, as something empty, and that we should also no longer just go for Mass because we are obliged to do so.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes, a well known virgin and martyr who lived at the time of the Roman Empire. She came from Rome, the heart of the Empire and therefore was also known as St. Agnes of Rome. St. Agnes was a secret Christian who was hiding from the persecutions of the pagan Roman Empire.

She was courted by a pagan centurion who tried many times without success to get her, and there were also many other suitors who did not succeed to get her attention. St. Agnes had devoted her life to a life of virginity and total devotion to the Lord. Thus, she refused to give in to the temptations of the centurion, who then reported her Christianity to the authorities, and had her imprisoned because of that. She was tortured and asked to renounce her faith by her prison masters.

St. Agnes suffered tremendously in prison, and reputedly she was even tortured greatly by the painful torture she had to go through, and even was dragged across the street naked without any clothing. She was then martyred for her faith, but unto the end, she would not recant her faith in God, and she remained faithful to the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Agnes showed us a way to follow the Lord, that is through total dedication and devotion of oneself. She loved God so much, that she did not hesitate to give up even her life to maintain her purity and faith in God. Some followed her way, and they became as we know, our priests, brothers and sisters, the nuns and monks, the friars, those who dedicated their lives wholly to God. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot do the same too.

St. Agnes showed us that our faith cannot be an empty or dead one, or one of mere lip-service. Such faith would waver at times of great persecutions, one which our Faith is increasingly facing these days. We have to show our faith through concrete action, but one based on love. We do not have to go through martyrdom as St. Agnes had, but we certainly have to be ready to defend our faith, not by violence, but through love.

Yes, love one another, our brethren, and even those who hate and persecute us for our faith. Let us show the love of God to everyone, and may God who sees our love then love us back with His infinite love, and grant us peace, grace, and rich blessings! God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 20 December 2013 : 3rd Week of Advent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Obedience to the Lord’s will and following His ways are the greatest virtues that mankind can have. And that is what we can take home from what we received today from the Holy Scriptures. And there is no greater obedience and its example, than what Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ had shown, in her acceptance of the role that she had been given in the grand plan of salvation.

Obedience entails listening to others of authority, those with rightful and legal authority over us, without doubting or disobedience to such authority with our words and actions. That was what King Ahaz of Judea had shown, when the prophet Isaiah spoke to him regarding the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour and Chosen One of God.

King Ahaz might appear to obey the Lord because he seemed to be humble and knowing of his place, refusing Isaiah’s request for the king to ask for a sign from God. But if we look deeper into the matter, the king did not do that out of true and clear faith in the Lord, and instead, out of fear, the fear of the power of God, repeatedly shown through the prophet Isaiah, and what that power could do to him.

King Ahaz said one thing, but in practice, did another thing. He did things wicked in the eyes of God, and worshipped the pagan gods and their idols, leading the people to sin against the Lord. He was not faithful to the laws and precepts of the Lord and instead followed the ways of the world. He made sacrifices to the idols, disgusting sight to God, and yet, he claimed to obey the Lord by saying that he would not put the Lord to the test.

In fact, his very actions had already repeatedly put the Lord to the test, exactly just as how the people of Israel put the Lord to the test during their long sojourn in the desert, on the way to the Promised Land. They were unfaithful, complaining constantly and worshipping the gods of the pagans around them, following their wicked practices and ways. And that was the kind of faith and ‘obedience’ that Ahaz, the king of Judea, had.

Compare that case with that of Mary, who received the Good News through the Archangel Gabriel, who announced to her, the coming of the Messiah, and the pivotal role that she would play in the coming of that Saviour. It is indeed an exceedingly rare honour for someone to be held in such high esteem by God, and Mary had indeed been prepared to be the one through whom the Saviour would come.

Mary did ask the Archangel Gabriel a question, on how that news which she received, would be possible, given that she was still a virgin and yet was to bear a Child. Mary made that statement, that inquiry, not because she doubted what the Lord could do to her, but because as a young woman given such an important role to play in the salvation of all mankind, she was uncertain. And yet, in her actions, our Blessed Virgin Mary was truly exemplary in all her deeds, showing clearly her faith and how much she treasured God in her heart.

It was also her sincere answer, which showed further the true quality and the brilliance of her faith. Mary simply said to the Archangel, that she as the handmaid of the Lord, as His servant, would obey the Lord and His will, whatever that will may be, and surrendered herself to whatever the Lord had designed for her. That complete surrender, the complete trust she had in God, and her virtuous actions, are what distinguished her from the actions of King Ahaz.

That is why we too should follow the example of the mother of our Lord. It was because of her obedience and her virtues, that many good things were to come into the world, foremost of which is our Lord Jesus Himself, who saved us all from sin and death, through His most noble sacrifice on the cross. It is the faith of Mary that we should emulate, follow, and replicate in our own lives, and not the faith as shown by King Ahaz.

It is the reality that many of us showed the faith of Ahaz, professing outwardly our faith in God through words, but not in our actions. That kind of faith is just lip-service to God, and not the kind of faith that God wants from us. It is the faith of Mary that we should emulate, follow, and replicate. Our faith cannot be limited with mere words or statements, as even though that kind of faith is necessary, it is simply not enough. Our faith must ever be like a living faith, vibrant and filled with life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, for this coming Christmas, let us show the birthday boy, Jesus Christ our Lord, that we truly rejoice in His coming, by showing it through our actions and dedications of love to our brethren, and to love one another without exception, and showing that we truly are children of God. Amen.

Saturday, 17 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Matthew 19 : 13-15

Then little children were brought to Jesus that He might lay His hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them.

Jesus then said, “Let them be! Do not stop the children from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to people such as these children.”

So Jesus laid His hands on them and went His way.