Sunday, 12 October 2014 : 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the readings of this Sunday refers very, very clearly to the loving nature of our Lord, God and Father, who created all of us at the beginning of time, to be the most beloved of all His creations. He is truly like a father to us all, giving us life and all that we need, and He paved the path for us in our lives, guiding us in all the things that we do, that even though we often do not realise what He had done, but He is indeed there, watching over us and leading us towards Himself.

God who loves us has prepared all goodness for us, and He has blessed us with great riches, all the inheritance which are promised to us. This is shown by Jesus, when He told the people and His disciples, of the parable of the king and the banquet, where He told them of a king who prepared a great feast and invited many people to come to His banquet.

The banquet represented the promise of good life and eternal joy with God, and just as the king intended to celebrate and be merry with all those who had been invited to the feast, God intended for all of us, His beloved creations, to enjoy the fullness of happiness with Him. That was exactly also what He intended for us at the beginning. But like the guests who refused to come and listen to the king, our ancestors beginning from Adam also refused to listen to God and His will.

The guests might have a variety of reasons for not coming to the banquet prepared for them, and we may not know them, since it was never mentioned by Jesus. But certainly, by observing our own human behaviours and reactions, surely we are able to easily predict them. The guests might have had other businesses and commitments to handle, but then we can ask, has the king not given them the notice for the banquet in advance? And what is so important that they should skip the banquet of the king for something else?

Thus the same often happens to us, as we live our lives in this world. How often is it that when God calls us and guides us to His ways, that we said no to them and quickly go about worrying about our own selves? How often is it that we prefer to follow our own hearts’ desires and wants, rather than to listen to God and follow His will for us? We often complained that God interferes in our lives on one hand, saying that we prefer to do things on our own, but on the other hand, when we are in trouble, we are also quick to blame God for not helping us when we are in need.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, men are not easy to satisfy, and our hearts continue to lead us to listen to our own desires and wants. It is within our human nature to succumb to the temptations of our flesh, and as a result, like the guests, we tend to regard our own concerns as priority, thinking about ourselves first and how to please ourselves first before that of others.

And the other possible ‘reason’ for their disobedience is indeed their laziness and sloth, preferring to remain idle in the comfort of their houses rather than to travel to the king’s palace to attend the banquet. And this we can indeed relate to ourselves, on how we tend to be slothful in this life, refusing the apparently more difficult path which the Lord offered us, and prefer the ‘easy’ and happy life which this world apparently gives.

Thus I would also like to share with you what St. Faustina Kowalska, the one who introduced the devotion to the Divine Mercy, had seen in one of her visions. She saw two paths and men who walked along these two paths. One path is a path that is filled with flowers and wonderful things, wide and pleasant to walk on, while the other path is a path filled with thorns, obstacles, and both narrow and difficult to walk on.

But then, she saw that the easy and pleasant path hide a terrible secret, that at the end, the many people who walked on that path, fell into an endless chasm that suddenly arose on the path of the road, and many were unaware of the chasm, and fell into the chasm as they walked. Meanwhile, on the narrow and difficult road, much fewer people travelled through it, but even as those who persevered on continued, when they reached the end, they found a very beautiful garden filled with goodness, where they lived on ever after.

Thus, the vision presented us yet again, that the Lord offers us goodness and the promise of eternal happiness in Him, and He will not renege on the promise which He had made and renewed over the many generations again and again. It is our choice whether we follow Him and trust in Him, or instead trust in Satan who ought not to be trusted. He leads us into damnation with him, but he is very clever indeed, and as we know in how he tried to tempt even Jesus, he offered all the goodness which he can offer us, be it food, power, wealth or glory, or other things that fulfill and satisfy our desires.

Thus we must be vigilant, and we cannot let go our our guard against the possible assaults by Satan, who awaits at every corner hoping to deceive us and lead us into harm. And that was why Jesus continued His story, by saying that after the king in his anger had destroyed all those who had disobeyed and spurned his invitation, he invited many others who were brought to his banquet instead of the first invited.

This is to highlight first the fate that all those who refused to listen to God, and prefer to follow their own paths and desires is death and destruction, just as those who walked the easy path fell into the chasm of infinite suffering in the vision of St. Faustina Kowalska. The path which the Lord offers may not seem easy, and indeed that obstacles will be plenty, but if we remain faithful to the end, we will be richly rewarded.

And then, when Jesus mentioned about the man who came to the banquet not wearing the proper banquet garment, He was in fact referring to how we lead our faith life. In being faithful to the Lord, we cannot be half-hearted, and in our effort to seek the Lord our God we cannot be divided between Him and something else. Thus, when we come to the banquet of the Lord, we too cannot be divided in our hearts, our minds and our souls.

What is this banquet of the Lord which God had prepared for all of us? That is none other than the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we celebrate in unity with the singular act of God’s greatest act of love for us all, that is His sacrifice, suffering and death on the cross, where He bared Himself to all those whom He loved, offering Himself as the perfect offering for the reparation and the redemption of all of us from our sins.

And just as the king prepared lavish food and drinks in the banquet, so thus the Lord also gave the best of all food and drink to all of us, who comes to His banquet, that is His own Precious Body and Precious Blood. Remember when Jesus said that those who eat of His Body and drink of His Blood will not die but live eternally with God? And that is the case indeed. If we are to come to attend the banquet, that is the Holy Mass, should we not then be properly ‘attired’?

This attire does not mean just that we should be properly attired with proper clothing and wear when we come for the Mass. Certainly we do not come to the banquet of the Lord wearing clothes as if we are about to go for a picnic or a leisure walk. Instead we should wear our very best and look our very best to honour the Lord our God. However, if this is as far as we go, then it is not enough.

How many of us attend the Holy Mass and yet our minds are not in the Mass at all? How many of us prefer to talk among ourselves and with our friends, and also to pay attention to our phones and other communication devices, contacting persons even outside the Holy Mass, and not to focus our heart, mind and soul to the Lord, who should be at the centre of the celebration? Ought the king not be given his proper place in his own banquet? And thus, should we not indeed give the Lord the proper adoration and respect He deserve in the Mass?

Think about these, brothers and sisters in Christ. There are two key messages which our Lord Jesus Christ and His revelations through the Scriptures want to tell us all today. First is that, we have a choice, either to follow the easier way out, that is to follow what we want and disregard the Lord, or to follow Him, and walk in His ways, even though that path might indeed be difficult and challenging. But the reward is clear, while the first path leads to destruction in the end, the path of the Lord never disappoints.

And then second, that if we choose to follow the Lord, He who loves us so much that He gave us everything, and held back not even His own Son, to bear our sins and die for our sake, that we may have life in Him, we cannot be half-hearted or be divided in our hearts, in our souls, and in our minds’ desires to follow Him. We cannot serve both God and our own heart’s desire, that is the temptations of the flesh.

And thus, as I have mentioned, we have to give it all, at the banquet of the Lord where He had given His own Body and Blood to us, in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, that we have to be fully prepared and properly attired in our body, in our mind, in our soul, and in our hearts. Our focus should be completely on the Lord. Look at Him who is in the Eucharist, and focus our entire being to Him! If we do so, then He, who is the King of all, will approve of us and our actions, and justify us in our faith.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go on with our lives from today onwards, let us all dedicate ourselves anew and renew our commitment to the Lord. Let us from now on attend and fully participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, giving our Lord all of our love and devotion, just as He had loved us first to the fullness of His heart, that He even gave us His life.

May Almighty God be with us all, and may He guide us to Himself, that amidst all the difficulties and challenges which we may and will indeed encounter, we may remain faithful, and with our gaze fixed at Him, may we gain the promise of eternal life, which God gives freely to all who are true to Him in faith and love. Amen.

Thursday, 9 October 2014 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Denis, Bishop and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. John Leonardi, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are both reminded of the fact that temptations are always around us and they will always threaten to sever us from the connection of love which is between us and our God. St. Paul in his letter to the faithful and the Church in Galatia rebuked the people severely, after their unfaithfulness and submission to their human desire and the pleasures of the flesh, abandoning what is good for what is wicked and evil.

And the rest of the readings, including the Gospel as written by St. Luke mentioned how God is like our Father, who cared for us and loved us so much, that He would indeed give us all many things that we need, and we have nothing to worry about or fear, for our God will be with us and guide us. What we need is to have faith in Him, and put our trust completely in Him, rather than in the worldly things which the evil one is trying very hard to impose upon us.

But many of us do not know how to ask God our Father for what we need. Instead, as we grow, we become more and more affected by the world and all its corruptions, resulting in us becoming like a spoilt child, crying and causing wreckage all around us whenever what we want is not fulfilled. Thus is the same with our attitude in life, and how we live our faith life.

Just like the faithful in Galatia at the time of St. Paul, we often let go of our restraint and faith, taking pleasure in indulging ourselves with the goods of the world, with the pleasures of the flesh, so that we who were once good and faithful, had been defiled by the darkness of the evils we had committed. This resulted in us being separated from the grace and love of God, and if nothing is done, we will indeed come under great threat of damnation before us.

Therefore, what Jesus wanted to tell His disciples, and as well as what He wants to tell us through them, is that we ought to follow the Lord, not just with empty lip-service or superficial faith, but also through real and concrete devotion, filled with the acts of faith. And in that faith, we ought to listen to God, and know what our Lord and loving Father wants from us. He cares for us, and He will love us and bless us if we devote ourselves completely and entirely to Him, turning away from our ways of sin and evil.

Today we celebrate the lives of two great saints, whose life may indeed inspire us on how we ought to live out our faith. They are St. Denis, whose name is the patronymic for the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris, France today. St. Denis and his companions in faith were martyred approximately at the time of the reign of the Emperor Decian of the Roman Empire in the middle of the third century after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, St. John Leonardi, also known as St. Giovanni Leonardi is an Italian priest who lived during the Counter Reformation era in Italy, where he was a crucial member of the efforts of the Church to reclaim countless souls from the heretical and misguided lead of the so-called ‘reformation’ by the Protestant heretics and schismatics. He also founded a community of the faithful, in which he led the effort to strengthen the foundations of their faith, by living in good devotion to the Lord and to His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. John Leonardi devoted himself to the education and guidance of youths and many others, so that they might find their way towards the Lord, through sincere and devout commitment to prayerful life and loving acts to others, so that by such cultivation of good deeds and efforts, those whom St. John Leonardi had touched may find the salvation of their souls in God.

Meanwhile, St. Denis was the evangeliser sent by the Pope in Rome to the faithful and the community of the people in Gaul, the Roman province now known as France, where he was sent with several other priests and preachers to bring many souls to the Faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. During his ministry there, the Roman Emperor at the time, Emperor Decius, carried out an Empire-wide persecution of the faithful, in what was later known as the Decian persecution, where many martyrs of the Faith were born.

St. Denis and his companions were arrested, rounded up and imprisoned, before they were brought for execution for their faith and for their evangelising works. St. Denis was beheaded, but even so, even after he was beheaded, he was able to walk holding up his own separated head on his hands, and continued to walk, speak and preach the word of God until a few kilometres away from his execution place. This miracle of the speaking head after beheading, or cephalophore was widely witnessed and reported by contemporaries.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in their examples, the love and devotion which God has for all those who put their trust and faith in Him, that these people who depended on Him will not be disappointed. They will be blessed and bountiful will be their reward, just as St. Denis received through his perseverance and martyrdom, a just reward of heavenly glory and eternal life, as well as St. John Leonardi, through his works and devotion towards the salvation of souls.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep always in mind that we need to preserve this faith which we received from God, and follow the Lord in all things, casting away all of the pride within our hearts, all of the wicked and unworthy desires for the pleasures of the flesh, so that we, as the children of God, may find our way to the Lord, our Father, and gain salvation in Him, He who loves us all and wants us reunited with Him.

May Almighty God, our Father, continue to watch closely over us, protect us from the assaults of Satan and his angels, and guide us through towards eternal life in Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 14 September 2014 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is truly a great feast day of the Church, of such a great importance for us, as in it lie one of the greatest aspect of our faith itself. And this is none other than the exaltation and the glorification of the Holy Cross, on which our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ had hung upon as He went on His mission of salvation to save us all from death because of our sins.

The Holy Cross is not just any cross, but it has been made holy and sacred because it was on that wooden cross, made from a tree, that Jesus had emptied Himself completely from His divinity, and suffered a grievous and horrendous pain as He laid dying, hanging from that cross. The Holy Cross is a reminder for all of us, of He who once hung there out of His love for us, so that we may have new hope in this life, and that we may look beyond death that is once our fate.

The cross was the favourite punishment method by the Romans, the conqueror of the known world at the time, where they used it to punish rebels against the Roman authority, as one of the most severe methods of punishment, reserved only for those who brought about great harm and threat to the Roman state. The victims of crucifixions were left to hang on the cross, made from a tree and carved to form a cruciform plank, so that the victims were left to hung between the heaven and the earth.

This punishment was both designed to bring the greatest amount of suffering to the victim, by denying the victim a quick death, giving them a slow and increasingly painful suffering, and also to give the greatest humiliation possible, as the victims were stripped to mere loincloth or even naked, stretched wide on that cross, often on the roadsides and high places like hills, so that many would be able to see the humiliation and suffering of those who dared to test the might of Rome.

Thus, the cross was a symbol of ultimate humiliation and suffering for all who see them at the time of Jesus, during the peak of the Roman Empire. But yet, many centuries prior to the time of the Romans, the prophets have foretold of the suffering Messiah, namely through the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied how the Messiah would come and bear the suffering for all of mankind. It was also mentioned how He would suffer, even long before the time when the punishment was common.

For in crucifixions, the victim would either be tied to the cross or in especially serious and severe occasions, the victims would be nailed upon the cross. The latter method would be more grievous and painful, and even more humiliating, and was indeed reserved only for the worst enemies and the greatest of punishments for the enemies of Rome.

And the prophet Isaiah mentioned that the Messiah would be pierced, and that piercing indeed represented how Jesus, the Lord and Messiah would be nailed on the cross. He would also be lifted up high, like when Moses lifted high up the bronze serpent in the desert. This too is a premonition of what was to come when the Lord came to save His people from destruction and death.

When the people of God, the Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt, they went through a long Exodus and journey through the desert in their progress to reach the land promised to them through their ancestors. In that journey, which was not an easy one, God was with them along the way, and He blessed His people, giving them great providence and food along the way.

Yes, if we read through the Book of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we should all realise how blessed this people had been. God destroyed their enemies and all those who went on to fight against them were crushed and have their forces utterly beaten, and God gave them into the hands of His people. And we all should be aware that God Himself freed them from the chains of the Egyptians with great might, with ten plagues, each of which were of terrible ferocity.

God even sent His people the bread from heaven to eat, in the form of manna, and large birds for them to catch and eat as well. He gave them clear and sweet water to drink, and we have to imagine that, having crystal clear and good water to drink in the middle of the desert is no mere small feat. Nothing is of course impossible for the Lord, and He loves us beyond anything else.

And it is that love that prevented Him from totally and completely annihilating that people which had risen up against Him, despite all He had given them and blessed them with. Having been given and endowed with so much graces, the people of God made complaints after complaints of their supposedly ‘miserable’ existence and life in the desert, and even longed for the ‘good’ life in Egypt where they once lived in slavery.

They spurned His love and kindness, complaining even against what they have been given to eat, bread from heaven itself. This was why, eventually, God took action against them, to remind them that He is Lord over all, and that those who constantly defy Him and oppose Him will meet their end in eternal suffering and destruction. He sent them therefore, fiery and poisonous serpents that attacked them, struck them and killed many of them.

But we have to always remember and take note that it is not God who desired our destruction, as it had happened with the Israelites. In fact, it was the people’s own stubbornness and refusal to return to the light of God which had caused their own destruction. The serpents represented the suffering and the punishment that the people must endure for their sins, and the ultimate effect is indeed none other than death.

Ever since mankind had first disobeyed against the Lord, they have sinned against the Lord in their hearts and in their bodies, such that they were no longer worthy of the Lord. The consequence of sin is death, as sin separates one from the Lord. The Lord who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the imperfections caused by evil to be in His presence, and therefore, naturally, sin led mankind to death, and if nothing had been done, then all mankind would have faced death eternal, and eternal separation from the love of God.

And that is hell. Hell is the total separation of a creation of God from the very love of the Creator and Lord of all. And this total separation is final and unchangeable. Thus, this is what hell is truly about, not the fires and the images of hell that we are commonly exposed to, but the suffering in hell is far greater than we can ever imagine, since it means that the total separation from God’s love, that should be unimaginable to us all, because it was God’s love that is everything to us, how we live and why we live in the first place, and we are able to walk and enjoy this life on earth because of God’s love that is with us and in us.

Hell is what is due to mankind as the punishment for our sins, and in hell, it is the despair and the state of total hopelessness which is the greatest suffering, as all the souls in hell know that there is absolutely no hope of escaping that state, eternally damned and separated from God’s love, and it is this eternal and constantly repeating despair, hopelessness and guilt of having betrayed the Lord which brought about the greatest suffering for the souls in hell.

But is this what God intends for us? Is this what He intended for the people He loved and which He had created in His own image, as the pinnacle and the greatest of all His creations? No! This is exactly why He wants to save us, and so great was His desire, that the very truth was laid bare for all to see and hear, as we often heard in the famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3 verse 16, namely that God loved the world and His people so much, that He sent His only Son into the world, so that all those who believe in Him would not be lost and perish, but gain eternal life.

This is the very essence of what we are celebrating on this day, that is the glory and the mystery of the Holy Cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Lord Himself had sent, a part of Himself, His own Word made incarnate into flesh as one of us, and to walk among men, so that He might exercise His power and bring salvation to all those who believe in Him. And the way how He did that, was through the cross of suffering, which He transformed into the cross of glory and triumph.

As I had mentioned much earlier on in this homily and reflection, that the use of crucifixion and the punishment of the cross was indeed to punish and to bring the greatest suffering on the sufferer, and also to humiliate the sufferer, and in this case, this suffering One is Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of all. Even though He was guiltless, blameless and without sin, He offered Himself freely as part of God’s long planned salvation for His people, so that through His death, He might open a new path for them, into salvation and eternal grace.

To those who observed His death and especially among those who followed Him during His ministry would indeed question, why would such a holy Man and the Messiah no less, suffer such a humiliation and suffering so great if He was indeed chosen by the Lord. And we know that even throughout history and until today, there are still many those who refused to believe in the crucifixion of Christ because they deemed it impossible and unreasonable for such a great One to suffer such a humiliating death.

Yet we know that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah and Lord of all, chose this way because indeed, He loves us all very dearly, and He would not want us to be sundered forever from His love, that is hell. He does not desire for us to inhabit hell, simply because, that was not His intention for us. His intention is for us to live happily with Him in love and harmony. And that was why He chose to come into this world, that is to bring all peoples to Himself.

But sin lays between God and us, as a great and seemingly insurmountable barrier that prevent us from returning to God our Lord. Therefore, if we read the Book of Leviticus, we know that there is such a thing as sin and burnt offering, where animals such as lamb were slaughtered and then burnt on the altar, and the blood together with the animal constituted a worthy offering to God, who then accepted it as the partial reparation and remission for the sins committed by God’s people.

But the people of God remained in sin, and also they inherited the original sin of their forefathers, ever since they rebelled against the will of God and followed Satan into his rebellion instead. This original sin and other sins that mankind committed kept them separated from the love of God, and due to the immensity of the sins of mankind combined together, no amount of sacrifice would be able to redeem mankind from their sins, save for one.

Yes, the one sacrifice and the only one, when the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself offered His own Body and Blood as the only worthy sacrifice for the immensity of the combination of our sins together. Only He who is perfect, perfectly unblemished and pure, without any taints of sin, and He who is Lord of all, had the worthy offering to make in order to save us from our sins.

And thus He suffered, all the sufferings and humiliations He endured, all the spittle and the mockery from the people He endured, and the cross of suffering He carried on His back, enduring lashes after lashes and mockery after mockery as He made His journey towards Calvary. Yet He did not give up. We cannot even comprehend the kind of suffering which Jesus endured for our sake.

Why so? This is because the suffering He endured was much more than just the apparent physical suffering, even as great as that suffering was. He endured the weight and the consequences of our sins, and all of this bore down on Him as a great weight beyond any other weight. He was blameless, and yet He was crushed for our sins. This was also yet another fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophets.

But Jesus endured all of them with perfect obedience and perfect love for us. He is truly the new Adam, as St. Paul had said, as the One who went to correct all the wrongs that began with Adam, the old Adam, our forefather who sinned against God. Just as Mary His mother is the new Eve, whose obedience and faith, rebuking Satan and his lies, Jesus is the new Adam through which God renewed mankind.

Jesus therefore changed that symbol of ultimate shame, the cross, designed as such by the Romans, into a symbol of hope and glory. He turned the cross from a symbol of death and destruction into a symbol of salvation and liberation from sin, from the slavery of the forces of evil, and the guarantee of life eternal as promised by the Lord. Thus, the essence of the cross and the crucifix we have today signify this important turning point, which Christ had made the cross into our hope, through His death on the cross for our salvation.

Sadly indeed, despite all that the Lord had done for us, many of us mankind still acted like the people of Israel of old, disregarding the love of God and even ignoring Him altogether. How many of us actually realised the love that God had for us? Every single step He took on His passion journey towards His death, He did it out of His love for us. He did not want us to perish, but it is many of us who chose perishing in the world rather than embracing God’s love.

Remember, that in Jesus we have been saved, out of God’s love. He wants to forgive us our sins, but this is only possible if we too play our part, and believe in Him. We can start this through our own actions and our own daily lives. Have we acted in accordance what our Lord had taught us? Have we practiced our faith and what we believe in our lives? Have we loved our brothers and sisters as much as we love ourselves?

We have much work to do in front of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our lives will indeed be difficult, if we choose to follow the Lord and walk in His path. But our Lord had made His cross a sign of victory and triumph, the Holy Cross, that even Satan and his forces will tremble and flee from. Satan knows that the cross was his ultimate undoing. His defeat lay at the cross that had liberated mankind from the burden of their sins. He knows that his doom is coming, and he cannot avoid that final defeat.

However, Satan will grow desperate and he will do all he can to stall as many souls as possible on his way to doom. Remember that he has all the power in this world to tempt and persuade us to divert our path from the path of salvation into the path of doom. Temptations of the evil one is plenty in this world saturated with materialism, consumerism and love of the self. Selfishness and violence is on the rise, brethren, and if we do not guard ourselves against Satan’s advances, we will fall.

Therefore, let us all work together, brothers and sisters in Christ! We who have been saved by the suffering and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ must be strong in our faith and in our dedication to God, so that Satan will not stand against us. Remember the Holy Cross and Jesus our Lord whenever temptations of Satan come to prevent us from seeking the Lord. Proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus and staunchly rebuke Satan for his attempts to tempt us.

Jesus has indeed been given the Name which is above every other names, for first He is God made flesh, and thus, it is the Name of God Himself, Master of all the universe and over all creations. Then, through His perfect love and obedience, He had become an example for all mankind and for all creation, and no one in creation can do anything other than to obey this Lord and Master who had given His all to save His beloved ones. And even Satan had to obey the Lord, with fear and great trembling on his knees. Such is the power of the Name of Jesus Christ. Do not use His Name in vain!

And even in the Roman Empire, which was pagan and idol worshipping, the Lord also gained a final victory. Many Emperors of Rome persecuted the Christians, the faithful ones in the Lord, but their prayers and the blood of the martyrs eventually triumphed, the triumph of the Holy Cross, when the Lord made them strong and grow in might, so that more and more people would come to listen to the words of salvation in the Gospels and the Scriptures.

Ultimately, the famed Emperor Constantine saw a bright sign of the Lord, Christ Himself in His insignia, as the victorious and conquering King, and went on to win a great victory that eventually led to the repentance and conversion of the Roman Empire into a great, Christian Empire belonging to God. Thus, the Cross had triumphed against the enemies of the Lord, led by Satan and his fallen angels.

Therefore, let us all take an opportunity, every day in our lives to look at the cross, at the crucifix on which lie the Body of Jesus our Lord, as a reminder that He died out of His infinite and enduring love for us, so that we who have seen Him and believed, will not die but live a new life everlasting, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent and all who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent did not die but live.

We have been bitten by the serpent, Satan, and his poison is threatening to destroy us, that is sin. But if we trust in the Lord Jesus, and look at the victorious cross, the Holy Cross of Christ, we will not die but live too! Let us carry together our crosses in life with Christ, so that just as He told His disciples, that we may have a share in His resurrection, and therefore be granted new life eternal, freed from all vestiges of sin and evil, and rejoice for eternity with our loving God. May Almighty God bless us this day and every day of our lives, that we will always be faithful and dedicated to the Cross of Christ! Amen.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the love of God for us mankind, which He had shown by giving us Jesus, His own Son to bring this world and all mankind into salvation and eternal life with Him in heaven. And today we heard how Jesus performed His miracles, casting out demons and healing the sick as He ministered to the people of God, doing many good works.

Jesus showed us hope and strength by showing that evil and death has no power over us, and over all those who had put their trust in the Lord. Those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed, for God will care for them and protect them, all the days of their lives. And through Jesus we have been given the Spirit of God, that is the Holy Spirit, who passed through the Son from the Father, and who revealed to us the truth about our Lord and God.

Those who belong to the spiritual world, that is the Spirit of God and the holy angels who serve the Lord, all are beyond our ability and physical senses to be able to detect them and know them, and yet through the Spirit and the revelations given to us through the Church, we know that they are there, and they are around us, and within us, that is the Spirit of God which had been placed in us.

And even the evil spirits, the allies and the servants of Satan, which we witnessed in the men possessed at the time when Jesus was ministering in Capernaum, knew Jesus and understood His true nature fully, for they too, once belonged to the same order of angels that served the Lord. They followed Lucifer, the evil one who fell and be trapped in his own pride, and entered into a rebellion against God, and thus they were together cast away from heaven.

God is truly loving towards us, and we are truly the most beloved and the greatest among His creations, created in the very image of God and be awakened with the very Spirit that came from the breath of God. Do you notice this? The Lord Himself breathed life into us through His Spirit, that dwelled in us and made us whole. Yet, we too fell when our ancestors followed Satan into his rebellion by listening to Satan and disobeying the will of God.

But the Lord gave us such a grace, that we are given another opportunity through life to redeem ourselves, and through the sending of many prophets and messengers that carried on the will and word of God to us, which all are aimed at our salvation and redemption from destruction and eternal damnation that is our fate. Yes, the fate of all who had defied the will of God and rebelled against His love is death, and yet, the Lord wanted us to know that we have no need for fear, as long as we put our complete trust in Him.

Satan and his angels, the evil spirits, were not given a second chance, and indeed, they remained in their rebellion and hatred of the Lord and all of His creations, that they are truly beyond any form of redemption. It is not the same for us humans, for God had made us special and to be the greatest and most beloved of all of His creatures.

Satan who tempted and made our ancestors to fall into sin certainly did not remain quiet and passive throughout this. In fact, he had marshalled all of his forces in the world and beyond, and he launched strikes after strikes at us mankind, so that more and more may fall with him and to suffer together in eternal damnation and separation from God. But the Lord who knows all and who created all had other plan for us.

He showed that He is truly in control, and He cast out the demons to show it clearly to them and to men, that in God, everything is possible, and that He is truly the One whom everyone ought to praise and worship. All honour belongs to God and to Him alone. And if He cares for us and loves us beyond everything else, then we are truly blessed, for we share in the Lord, the promise of salvation which He had made to us through Jesus.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all need to come to a greater realisation that God is with us, and that He has placed within us His Spirit, so that we may know the great works of Jesus, and by listening to the readings from the Holy Scriptures today, we are made aware of the assurances given to us by the Lord, who promised to protect us and guide us on our way, rebuking forever and rejecting forever the power and authority of Satan, the great enemy of all who are living.

Satan is afraid of the Lord, and he rightly did so, because he already knew his fate and the futility of his endeavour, for he goes up against none other than the Lord and Master of all the universe, and even Satan himself and all of his allies are bound and answerable to God and His authority. And he knew of his ultimate fate, that is destruction, eternal agony and suffering that await him, and thus, he and all of his angels feared the Lord greatly, for they knew that it is in Him that their doom will come. Jesus is the great Judge, the last Judge of all who would judge all creations at the end of time.

May our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen in our hearts, our desire to know more about Him, so that we may truly discern about His presence around us, and therefore bringing all of us to greater wisdom and understanding in the Holy Spirit of God. Let us reject Satan with all of our hearts, our strengths and our minds. If we have any trouble, let us all remember that, if we call on the Holy Name of Jesus with full faith, no evil may stand against us. May Almighty God instead bring you to triumph and victory in His Name. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 August 2014 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Dominic, or also known by his full name of St. Dominic de Guzman, the famous founder of the Dominican order, named after him, known officially as the Order of Preachers or O.P.. The Dominican order had been renowned as a religious order that was often at the forefront of evangelisation and the spreading of the Good News, in perfect accordance to their names as the Order of Preachers.

St. Dominic himself was born in Medieval Spain, a time of much changes and difficulties, and he was a truly devoted and faithful son of the Lord, who eventually joined a holy order and devoted himself fully to God and His people. St. Dominic became a beacon of light to many of those who remain in the darkness, as had been foretold even since before his birth.

His mother, Joan of Aza, received a vision which showed a dog that carried a lit torch that spread light brightly throughout a darkened place, and little that she knew, that this vision would become a reality in her son, St. Dominic de Guzman, who through his actions, and the actions of his compatriots and successors, became a great source of light for those who still dwelled in the darkness of the world.

St. Dominic is an example to all of us, and we all should be inspired by his actions and deeds. We too should follow his footsteps in bringing many more people, our brethren closer to the Lord, just as St. Dominic himself had done before. And that was exactly what the Lord wants from us, to be wholly and completely transformed in our lives that we may glorify and proclaim Him in our actions and deeds.

In the Gospel today, Jesus told His disciples that if they want to follow Him, they need to carry their crosses and follow Him. And that is the reality of life, in which we have to face difficulties in life, if we are to follow the Lord and adhere to His will. It will be different if we choose to conform to the ways of the world, where we will be welcomed by the forces of this world and face less persecution and opposition, but at what cost? Nothing less than the fate and salvation of our very souls.

God had mentioned it clearly at the passage we heard today taken from the Book of the prophet Nahum, who wrote how God would restore those who had been faithful to Him and bless them with greatness, but for those who did not obey Him and walked the path of evil, He would cast out from His path and into the greatest darkness, into an eternal suffering that is without end.

God is merciful and loving, but only to those who repent their ways of evil and abandon their sinfulness will receive grace and eternal rest from the Lord and be saved in eternal grace. He does not desire our destruction or for us to perish as a consequence of our sins, but He gave us a freedom of choice, of whether we want to reject Satan and together then reject sin or whether we embrace sin in our actions, submitting to the temptations of Satan.

What St. Dominic did was that by preaching courageously and strongly against any forms of debauchery and corruptions of sin, he brought many people away from their sinful ways and into the kingdom of God. Many people remained in the darkness because they did not have the opportunity to hear, to see and to feel the light, which St. Dominic and his order of preachers, the Dominicans rectified by bringing the word of God and His truth closer to mankind, especially those who are in darkness.

We too have our parts to play, brothers and sisters, and that is to also bring the word of God to those around us who had fallen along the way on their way towards God and His salvation. And also to those who had yet to listen and know the truth about God, let us all bring His light unto them. This is done not just by words alone, but also through actions and deeds, that in all the things we do, we should do it according to God and His ways, and show that we truly belong to the Lord, and not to Satan and his evil forces instead.

May Almighty God therefore guide us on our ways, that we may be the bearers of the light and the truth, so that in all the things we do and we say, we may truly proclaim the Lord as our Lord and God, and rebuke Satan and his lies, designed to deter us and prevent us from ever reaching our loving God. Let us also ask for the intercession of St. Dominic, that we may be faithful and courageous in showing our faith to others just as he had once been faithful. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 7 August 2014 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Xystus II/Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear how the Lord renewed His covenant with His people, a covenant that was once broken through the disobedience of the people of God, now made anew and renewed through the offering and sacrifice of none other than the very Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom the Lord had sent into the world, so that the world may have hope again.

Yes, a hope that was once dashed, first when men first fell into sin, through the disobedience of our great ancestors, Adam and Eve, the first among mankind. Their disobedience brought men into sin, and as a result, they were cast out from the glory and joys of heaven into a world of suffering, trials and tribulations. And then, while God extended His hands to welcome them back, they refused many, many times, and in their wickedness, they suffered further.

And when He chose for Himself a people from His faithful servant Abraham, the people He had chosen and then delivered from the hands of their enemies broke their promises and devotions, even as early as when the Lord had just given them the set of Laws to be followed and to be obeyed. The people showed wickedness and acted as they liked, following their own desires rather than the way the Lord wanted them to follow.

They worshipped pagan gods, rejected God’s love, trampled on His laws, complained against His kindness, and acted all sorts of wickedness that were abhorred by God. They killed, murdered, blasphemed, fornicated themselves and sold themselves and their souls to the devil. And hence, they were scattered and crushed under the weight of their sins, suffering the consequences of their rebelliousness.

But our Lord is not such a heartless God, and in fact, so great was His mercy and love that He was willing to give mankind yet another hope and another chance. And Jesus is the One through whom God made this mercy and love evident for all to see, and in fact not just to be seen, but also to be followed. In the first reading today from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, God mentioned that He was going to make a new covenant with His people, and He did indeed.

And this covenant, unlike the previous covenants, is everlasting and will not end. Yes, it is a new and eternal covenant, which God had sealed with nothing else and nothing more precious than the offering of His own Body, and by the shedding and outpouring of His own Blood. Yes, this is the ultimate sacrifice which our Lord Jesus Christ went through during His Passion, and as He died on the cross at Calvary.

Satan definitely did not remain silent or inactive throughout all of these, as he did his best to undermine the Lord’s efforts to bring salvation to mankind by various means and yet without success. Satan tried to play and build up on men’s fears and uncertainties to carry out his devious plots and plans, and that was how he used Peter’s doubts and fears to strike at the Lord Jesus and attempted to stop His work of salvation.

But Jesus was not deterred by Satan’s works, and He rebuked this devil and cast him out of His presence. And this gave us all an example to follow, that in our lives we ought to be courageous and steadfast as well in our faith, that we would not be easily persuaded by the temptations of the evil one, and that we may faithfully walk in the way of the Lord, following the new covenant He had established with us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two saints of the Church, the first of which is the Pope of the early Church, Pope St. Xystus II or Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, a priest of the late Renaissance age Italy. Both of them were truly great and faithful servants of the Lord, who worked hard to advance the cause of the Lord in this world.

Pope St. Sixtus II lived during the reign of the Roman Emperor Valerian, who launched a particularly vicious opposition and persecution campaign against Christians in the Empire, and as part of that persecution, countless thousands of the faithful ones were captured and tortured, before they were martyred in the defense of their faith.

Pope St. Sixtus and other priests, deacons and many servants of the Lord were also captured and tortured for their faith, but they did not fret or be fearful. Instead, they faced suffering and death with gladness and joy, knowing that the Lord is waiting for them at the end of their suffering in order to give them the crown of everlasting glory and the reward of eternal life and salvation.

Meanwhile, St. Cajetan was an Italian priest who had a more normal life of sorts, but he had also experienced difficulties and challenges when he lost his father at a very young age of two. Nevertheless, he studied hard and eventually became a respectable priest and servant of God, well endowed with great intellect and hardworking attitude, which served him truly well during his service to the Church and God’s people.

St. Cajetan did numerous good works for the people of God, especially for those who were poor, sick and weak. He worked hard for them, and he also helped found several religious communities to bring the work of God even closer to mankind. In this, St. Cajetan showed us that, we should not fear or be worried to become a servant of the Lord, but rather we have to be courageous and defend our faith with our entire might.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, and ask the Lord to continue to guide us and bless us in this life. May Almighty God keep us forever in His love. Amen.