Sunday, 21 October 2018 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Scripture with regards to our calling as Christians, through our belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to follow the examples shown by the Lord, and to listen to Him, in what He has revealed and taught to us. And the essence of Christian discipleship is that of humility and the total giving of oneself to the will of God, and not to give in to our selfish, human desires.

Today, in the first reading we heard from the passage taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, which spoke of the prophecy of the suffering Messiah, foretelling what would happen to the faithful and true servant of God, the Messiah, Whom the Lord has promised to send to His people as the source of their deliverance. But through that suffering and selfless offering of Himself, God has willed to save all of His people, that by His sacrifice, He justified many through His death.

This prophecy was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into the world, sent by the Father, to be the Saviour of the world. He is the Messiah long awaited by the people of Israel, and the One Whom all mankind had been waiting for, since the time of their downfall into the tyranny of sin. However, He was deeply misunderstood by His own people, many of them who refused to believe that He is the Messiah of God.

To the Jews, who were looking forward to salvation through the Messiah, many of them were expecting a mighty and powerful King to come and lead them against their oppressors and the Romans, who were the masters of most of the known world at the time. The Jewish people did not expect at all that their Messiah would be One Who was totally without worldly ambitions, or the One Who would bear suffering and humiliation to such an extent that He became even the lowliest and the most humiliated of all beings.

This is a reality which many of the Jews during the time of Jesus’ ministry failed to understand, as they had different expectation of what the Messiah would be like and what He would do for their sake. They were expecting an immediate liberation from all worldly woes, the restoration of the glorious and earthly kingdom of Israel as how it was during the time of King David and Solomon. But that was not how God had desired it, for His kingdom was truly one that surpasses this world.

The second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, is the revelation of the truth of God to the Jewish people, especially to those Jews who have willingly accepted the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. St. Paul reiterated in his Epistle that the Lord Jesus is the One and True Eternal High Priest of all mankind, by the virtue of His sacrificial and perfect selfless love offering on the Altar of the Cross.

St. Paul reiterated the truth about what the Messiah of God came into this world to do, dispelling the misconceptions that He would be a powerful and conquering King, and instead, He came as a King in all humility, to serve His people, and to show the Lord’s mercy to His people. And He did all of these through His perfect obedience to the will of His Father in heaven, offering Himself as the perfect and only offering that is worthy of the salvation of all mankind, and Him as the High Priest, offering His own Body and Blood as the means of the absolution of our sins.

In doing this, He fulfilled the prophecy which Isaiah spoke about, and which was our first reading today. The prophet Isaiah spoke of an obedient and suffering servant, and by Christ’s perfect obedience and love for His Father, He willingly gathered to Himself all of our sins and the bonds and chains of our disobedience, and suffering the effects of our punishment. He patiently bore His cross on the way to Calvary, and offered Himself thoroughly as the means by which we may be freed from our sins.

Today, we also listened to the reading from the Holy Gospel written by St. Mark, in which we heard of the moment when the two disciples, St. James and St. John, brothers and sons of Zebedee, came up to the Lord Jesus and made a special request before Him. In another Gospel account, their mother also went with them before the Lord, and made the same request, that each one of them would be able to sit on the left and on the right hand of the Lord when He enters to His kingdom.

The significance of this is that, it precisely highlighted the attitude of the Jewish people in how they viewed the Messiah. The disciples wanted to gain favour with the Lord, and to gain even advantage over one another, a position more favourable, more prestigious and better in the sight of others. That is unfortunately, the reality of how things worked initially among the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. That was why the Lord in other occasions as written in the Gospels, had to rebuke them for their grumbling and disagreements over who was the most esteemed and best among them.

Many of the people who followed the Lord Jesus also followed Him because of what they have seen, in His miraculous deeds and healings, in His wonderful teachings and popularity, and they hoped to gain from all of these, to gain benefit for themselves and perhaps to satisfy their own desires for worldly power, for honour, for worldly glory and honour, and for position in God’s promised kingdom to come.

But they failed to understand that the Lord’s ways are not like man’s ways. They thought that by following the Lord, they would gain favour and advantage for themselves, but unfortunately, the truth and reality is that, as the Lord Himself revealed to His people, that following Him would mean that they must suffer just as He has suffered, and they will experience rejection, pain and discomfort, just as He Himself had endured all of those.

The Lord foretold to them in the same Gospel passage that He would suffer, by referring to the cup that He was to drink. This is the same cup that the Lord Jesus mentioned to His Father, at the time of His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking Him if it is possible, to let this cup of suffering pass Him by. In that we can see just how painful, heavy and terrible the burdens which Our Lord had willingly taken up on Himself, that He agonised it so in His humanity.

But the Lord obeyed His Father’s will, and surrendered Himself so completely to His Father that He willingly bore down the weight and burden of the cross, despite its pains and sufferings. He completed the task which the Father entrusted Him, and because of that, all of us have a new hope, through the loving and selfless sacrifice that Our Lord made on the cross, as the High Priest Who offered Himself for our salvation.

And He mentioned how the world will also hate His disciples just as they had hated Him. This is because of their inability to comprehend this mission which the Lord revealed unto His people. In addition, the ways of the world are also corresponding to the ways of sin and disobedience against God, and therefore, the Lord and His truth bring about opposition, challenges and difficulties to those who believe in them, because the devil is indeed actively at work trying to subvert God’s effort to save us mankind.

The reality of such suffering and trials have been evident throughout the history of the Church, during the many persecutions and troubles that Christians have suffered from all these centuries. But we should also then look at the examples of those many good and devout Christians, our predecessors in faith, who have withstood all these challenges and defended their faith even amidst the most vicious and harshest persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, for all of us, what we need to take note of from today’s Scripture passages is that first of all, we must not let our desire and greed, our selfishness and the weaknesses of our body to be stumbling blocks in the way of our faith. In our various groups and ministries serving the Church and the faithful, we often have bickering and disagreements, and sometimes even infighting and anger, which resulted from our own clashing desires and our inability to resist the many temptations of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are challenged by the Lord Who calls each and every one of us to be His followers. And in order for us to be able to follow Him, then we must have love for God, and must centre ourselves upon Him and the truth which He has revealed and taught us. Only then that we will be able to become Christ’s true disciples. We must overcome our desires in life, and all sorts of obstacles that prevented us from carrying out what we are supposed to do as Christians.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important for us to follow Christ’s examples, His obedience to the will of His Father, and His love for each and every one of us, which allowed Him to bear His Cross of suffering for our sake. Had Christ not suffered or died for us, then there would have been no salvation, and all of us would still have existed under the tyranny and bondage of our sins.

Let us all be converted, and turn ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, by showing more love in our every moment’s actions and deeds, wherever we are, that we can be as selfless and as loving as Christ had been, in forgiving one another our sins and faults to each other, just as Christ has forgiven us from our sins, despite having to bear those sins and all of their punishments and consequences. Let us remember the great love which He has shown us from the cross, and show that same love in our every action from now on.

As Christians, let us be humble and not proud, be loving and not be filled with hatred, be gentle and not be easily provoked with anger, be filled with hope and not be despairing, be ready to serve others and to love them rather than to expect to be loved and served by others. Let us all be filled with Christ’s love in all things, so that in everything we say, act and do, we will always be loving just as our Lord is loving, and forgive just as we have been forgiven. This is our calling as Christians.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He continue to love us as He has always done, that each and every one of us may imitate the same love that He has shown us. Let us all live our lives from now on with a renewed faith and zeal, and do our best in order to love and serve the Lord, and love our fellow brothers and sisters, despite the persecutions, challenges and obstacles we may encounter on our journey. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 20 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord Jesus reassured His disciples that He would be with them whenever they stood by Him and defended their faith. He would not abandon them, and would send His Holy Spirit to guide them and to inspire them in their words and their actions. Essentially, God was saying that, as long as His people remain faithful and true to Him, He would always be by their side.

This is important because there may just be moments when there would be times when the faithful had to endure rejection, persecution and oppression from worldly powers, governments, earthly forces, states, groups and others who disagreed and refused to believe in the Lord and in the Christian faith. And in such cases, there would indeed be so much persecution, pain and suffering, that the people of God might be tempted and pressured to give up their faith.

The devil is at work, through the power and dominion he had over the world, through sin, in order to bring mankind to ruin and into damnation. He is always ever busy trying to drag mankind’s souls into hell with him, by tempting us with the many offer of respite, pleasure, happiness, and freedom from pain and suffering, by showing us the alternative path he offered to us, which seems to be easier, less painful and less challenging.

But we all must realise that the path that the devil is leading us into, is one that leads into an eternity of suffering, pain and despair. If we follow in his path of rebellion and disobedience against God, then we may end up in hell, in the place prepared for the devil and for his fellow rebel angels, the evil spirits. The devil has done everything within his ability and power to bring about this fate to us, and he would even show us all sorts of lies and tempting offers just in order to achieve this.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to reflect on our lives thus far, and see how we have reacted thus far in the face of difficulties, challenges and all the troubled that we have faced. Have we easily given up faith and our beliefs in the face of trouble? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be easily swayed by the demands of the world when we encounter those troubles in life?

That was exactly why many of us Christians fell into the dangerous trap of relativism in how we lived our lives. What does this mean? It means that we allow ourselves to be swayed by the forces of those temptations and pressures in living our lives, and we have no standing in our faith, no anchor in which we may remain firm despite the attacks and the challenges being made against us each day after another.

We are often worried because there would be times when we despair, and think that siding with the Lord gains us nothing or that we will lose many of the things that we are concerned about. But this is when we really need to have faith in God, and believe that He is there, watching over us and guiding us, and that He will eventually triumph, against all those who are trying to bring about our ruination and destruction. We must have this hope in God, Our Lord and Our King.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all trust in the Lord, and deepen our relationship with Him, that we may come to know more of what it is that He wills of us, in His plans for us, going forth in our lives, and that we may become more reassured and firm in our faith, knowing that God has triumphed against Satan and all the forces of evil, who have been condemned for eternity in hell, and there is nothing that they can do to us, as long as we remain firmly rooted in God and in His truth.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to empower us and give us the courage to live our lives with faith, from now on, that we will be able to stand up for our faith and be beacons of truth to all those who see us and our actions, so that they too may come to believe in God by what we have done in our lives, in obedience to God’s will. May the Lord bless us all and protect us from all harm. Amen.

Friday, 19 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to God’s reassurance and promise to His people, through His Apostle St. Paul, who in our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, mentioned how those who have accepted the truth of Christ, have been chosen from among the nations and all the people, to be God’s own people.

And because they have been chosen, God would be with them, despite the challenges and difficulties they might face in their lives, and despite the pains and sufferings that they had to endure. This was reiterated by the Lord when He told them what is on our Gospel passage today. He told them that they should not fear or worry about the one who could only harm them in the body but has no power over the soul.

What the Lord meant was that, even though the difficulties and challenges might be great and seemingly insurmountable, but in the end, despite the challenges and pain, the hardships that the world was piling up upon them, but they must not stumble on the way or fall into the trap of temptation of the devil. The evil one does not desire the salvation of us mankind, and therefore, he is always trying his best to lure us away from God’s path by all means.

Many of the disciples and followers of Christ during the years of the early Church, during the time of the persecution by the Jewish and Roman authorities chose to give up their faith in place of safety and good treatment by the world. They chose to leave behind the sufferings that they endured when they adhered to the Christian faith, because of various reasons, either because they could not leave their family behind, or because of the same family that pressured them to abandon their faith, or the community which ostracised and persecuted all those who believed in God.

It was truly not an easy time to be a Christian, unlike many of us in the present day who are taking our faith for granted, living in the comfort and security of our own, often flourishing Christian communities. Thus, we have to understand the circumstances in which those Christians in the early Church, and in fact, even in our present day, where there are still our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution and difficulties just because they believe in the Lord.

But we must not give up our faith, for to give up in order to gain the temporary respite of the world, the pleasures of life and the comfort of the lack of persecution, oppression and rejection, and worldly acceptance, is for us to abandon for eternity the salvation and eternal life that God offers only to those who remain true to Him and keep their faith in Him alive even in the midst of the darkest times and moments.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, let us all look upon the examples of some of our holy predecessors, first of all, the Holy Canadian Martyrs, the Jesuit priests and missionaries who strove through the harsh conditions of the then wild lands of Canada, where winters were very cold, the wildlife vicious and living conditions harsh, on top of the opposition from the pagan tribesmen especially those who refused to accept the truth of the Scriptures.

There were those of the natives who were willing to listen to the Lord’s words and truth. They converted to the faith and became among the first Christians in that wild and harsh land. They established parishes and mission stations among the native peoples, and more and more came to believe in God despite the challenging times and circumstances. But they were attacked by those natives who opposed the missionaries’ efforts to evangelise to them.

That was where the Holy Canadian Martyrs, St. John Brebeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and their companions suffered martyrdom for their faith. They suffered greatly before they died, and they defended their faith to the end, even protecting those natives who have believed in the Lord and became the followers of Christ. They refused to abandon those sheep whom the Lord had entrusted to be their flock, to be under their care.

Meanwhile, today we also mark the feast of St. Paul of the Cross, who was a holy priest of God, who was the founder of the Passionists, a religious order of those who would want to dedicate themselves in a life of prayer and love towards God, by means of prayer and by charitable works among the community. St. Paul of the Cross emulated the good example for his brethren, in his generous works of mercy, his tireless efforts at evangelisation and in delivering the truth to the people.

St. Paul of the Cross showed us all how we ought to live our lives, filled with love for God and His people, just as the Holy Canadian Martyrs had also done, in their selfless and courage love for their flock, for those whom the Lord had called through them. These holy men of God have shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians, to be men for God and men for others. And we should put our trust in God in all things, that as long as we are faithful, God will always bless us and protect us in our journey of faith.

Let us ask the Lord for His guidance, and for strength and courage, that we may continue to live in faith, devoting ourselves from now on for the sake of God’s greater glory. Let us draw ever closer to the Lord and seek to love Him with ever greater devotion, day after day from now on. And may God continue to bless us all in our deeds and in all that we do. Amen.

Thursday, 18 October 2018 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast day of one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, or also known as the Evangelists. St. Luke was a renowned physician and a disciple who followed St. Paul during part of his journeys and missions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean area. He was also the one who was regarded as the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, documenting the works of the Apostles in the evangelising of the Gentiles, especially that of St. Paul the Apostle.

In the first reading today, we are presented with the reality of such a dedication to the Lord as an Apostle, or as an Evangelist like St. Luke. St. Paul wrote to one of his fellow elders of the Church, his protege, St. Timothy, about how he was troubled and in difficult times, having been abandoned even by those who had been with him during his missionary journeys. Those have abandoned him for various reasons, and only St. Luke remained with him.

In order to appreciate the full nature of the challenges and the difficulties that St. Paul faced at that time, we must understand the historical background of what happened during the time when St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy. St. Paul had to endure many difficult moments, in various places, when the people refused to listen to him and his fellow disciples. The Jews and the Gentiles alike in those various places chased them out, and even stoned them in one occasion, leaving St. Paul and St. Barnabas, another of St. Paul’s fellow missionary, almost dead.

At that time, the Jewish authorities, consisting of the Jewish High Priest, the priests and the Pharisees, were against the Christian faith and the works of the disciples. The Jews in the various places across the diaspora were also influenced to a certain extent by the Jewish authorities, and some among these stirred trouble among the disciples and opposed the work of the Christian elders.

And they also incited trouble for the Christians with the Roman authorities, by spreading lies and untruths about them to the authorities. As a result, the Romans also made it difficult for the Apostles to work in their various places. Meanwhile, among the Gentiles, while the disciples managed to gain many followings, but there were also many of those who refused to believe in them and misunderstood their teachings, causing more difficulties for the Christians.

This was already mentioned clearly by the Lord Himself before His disciples, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. As He sent them out before Him to prepare His way, He has already mentioned how there would be rejections and difficulties, and He told them of what to expect and what to do in those cases when the people they were sent to, refused to believe in the message of the Lord.

And He reminded them that while there were probably many of those who refused to see the truth in God’s ways, but there were also many of those who were willing and wanting to listen to the truth. This is the rich harvest that the Lord mentioned to His disciples, waiting for labourers and workers to collect them all. Otherwise, as all the farmers then should know, without sufficient number of labourers and harvesters, the harvest crops will rot and be destroyed.

Therefore, without the work of the labourers of the Lord, then the rich harvests of the Lord, all of His people who are desiring and wishing to know of Him would not be able to hear of the Lord’s truth, and therefore, be lost to the Lord. The Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done their part, in their ceaseless works and labours amongst the people of God, Jews and Gentiles alike amidst the difficult times and persecutions that they had to face.

St. Luke also contributed in his own way, by the power of his pen, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaking the truth to the people of God, through the Gospel he wrote, which contained the essence of God’s truth, in the life of the Lord, His teachings, His many works, and all that He has revealed to the world, to all of us. Together, the Apostles, the Evangelists and the disciples of the Lord have shown us all what being a true labourer of the world entails.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of these faithful and courageous servants of the Lord, that we, through our own actions and interactions with those whom we encounter in our daily lives, be the same bearers of God’s truth. There are many ways in which this can be done, and we can begin from as simple as within our families and within our immediate communities.

What we need to do is for us to take concrete steps in living our lives with faith, that we truly embody that faith we believe in, and others who see us will come to believe in the same truth and faith which we possess. And we also need to realise the reality of suffering, rejection and even persecution at times when we stand up for our faith and really practicing what we believe in our lives. But we must trust in the Lord and remember that He will always be with us, regardless of all the things we encounter.

May the Lord help us all, to be able to devote ourselves and to serve Him just as St. Luke the Evangelist has given his effort to spread the Good News and the truth which God has revealed to him through the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that God will send us His Holy Spirit as well, that we will grow ever more courageous in our respective lives, to live in accordance with our faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures through which we first heard of the contrasting fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the flesh were that of fornication, evil, wickedness, greed, desires for worldly pleasures and the corruption of the body, heart, mind and soul. While the fruits of the Spirit were those of love, hope, kindness, fidelity and more good fruits that came from the Lord.

And then we heard from the Gospel of the rebuke which the Lord Jesus made upon the Pharisees, in harsh terms, with regards to their attitude and way of living their faith, which were hypocritical in nature, when they showed their external acts of piety, their devotions and prayers, not for the love which they had for God, but rather because of their self-serving attitude and desire to gain human praise and worldly glory.

The Lord also criticised the way they handled certain matters of the faith, and in how they enforced and carried out the laws of the Lord as according to Moses. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were supposed to be the guardians of the Law and those who were entrusted with the judgment and the leadership of the people, as those who showed the way for the people to live in accordance with God’s will.

However, in reality, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were corrupt in their judgment and in their faith. They were arbitrary in their judgment, and bent to human desires and worldly concerns in the way they enforce their version of the Law of God. They were bent by the sway of money, just as in how they gave in to the temptation of receiving monetary benefits from having many merchants selling their wares and goods in the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem.

What is the reason for all these unbecoming and wicked attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? As mentioned in the first reading today, they are actually due to the evil and wicked fruits of the flesh, caused by the temptations of wealth, of worldly pleasures, of glory, of fame, of influence and prestige, of ambition and other forms of worldly indulgences. When these things came into the equation of one’s faith, it ends up causing the corruption of one’s own mind, heart and soul.

That is why, today we are called to discern carefully our path in life, that we should not fall into the same traps into which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had fallen. We should not let these temptations to corrupt us and to turn us away from the path of the Lord. Instead, we should seek to purify our faith, and follow in the examples shown to us by God’s holy servants, especially that of St. Ignatius of Antioch, holy men and holy servant of God, the second bishop of Antioch.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the disciples of Jesus, who was among the earliest of the Church fathers. He helped to establish the Church in the community of the faithful in the city of Antioch, where it was known that the first community of Christians outside of Judea was formed. He helped to steer the Church, both in Antioch and beyond, during difficult times of persecution and troubles, when they were persecuted by both the Jewish authorities and later on, the Romans.

St. Ignatius of Antioch suffered from the same persecution, and it was told that he was brought to Rome as part of the persecution. He wrote many letters to the faithful during that period, and these letters inspired the faithful, and became central part of the teachings of the Church as preserved by the Church fathers. He was martyred in Rome, but not before becoming beacon of faith and hope, an example for many Christians of his time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can see in St. Ignatius of Antioch, the flame of passion and love for the Lord, the genuine commitment which he showed before all of the people, including his tormentors and executioners. He put the Lord before all things, including that of his own desires and wishes. And in doing so, he did not allow the temptations of the evil one to enter into his heart, unlike that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Now, are we able to follow the Lord in the same manner as that of St. Ignatius of Antioch? Surely, we can do so, if we put our heart and mind into it. Let us therefore turn ourselves thoroughly and completely to the Lord, from now on, that in all things, we may, glorify the Lord by our words, actions and deeds. May the Lord be our Guide, and may He help us to find our way to Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Scriptures, telling us about being truly faithful to God, in all of our words, deeds and actions, as exemplified by the Lord and His words to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law before the people who followed and heard His teachings. In that exhortation, the Lord rebuked those mentioned for their uptight and unreasonable attitude with regards to the observance and the fulfilment of the commandments of God’s Law.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord rebuked the Pharisee who invited Him to a meal, and wondering in his heart why was it that the Lord and His disciples did not wash their hands in the way prescribed in the laws and customs of the Jewish people at the time, as handed down the generations from the time of Moses. The Lord knew what was in the heart and mind of the Pharisee, and voiced out His anger at the warped and unreasonable way of thinking as shown by the Pharisee and the others.

To them, external cleanliness and good appearances are important, but yet, they paid little to no attention on their internal disposition and preparedness, in terms of how they lived their lives, that ended up making them unworthy because of their wicked and unholy deeds, by desiring the many temptations of life. They did all their outward manifestations of faith, all the prayers and devotions, not because they truly loved God, but because they wanted to be praised and gain prestige among the people.

That is what the Lord wanted to highlight when He said that those who clean the outside but not the inside of a cup has been foolish in their deeds. He was against all those who treated their faith as a mere outward expression of piety and devotion, and yet, has nothing inside their hearts, no love of the Lord, and no true understanding and appreciation of what they were doing for the sake of the Lord.

It is sad that truly, it is possible to act in piety and in what seemingly pleases the Lord, but yet not having faith in someone’s mind and heart. And it was not just the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who did so, but even us as Christians. How many of us lived through our lives as Christians, doing what we are supposed to do as Christians, in our piety and our devotions to God, in our prayers and in what we have done all these while, and yet, in our hearts and minds, God was not truly present?

That means we are just going through the motion in living our faith life. How many of us coming for the Mass every Sunday without realising its importance for the salvation of our souls? How many of us goes through our prayers and other forms of expressions of our faith not because of our love for God, but instead for our own selfish desires, for either power, glory, recognition and all those other similar sorts of typical human greed and ego.

Today, we are called as Christians, to emulate the good examples set by our faithful predecessors in faith, namely St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose faith and whose lives have been exemplary and good, and which we should also follow in our own expression of faith. They have shown us how it is that we should live, in turning ourselves towards God with complete sincerity and desire to love Him.

St. Hedwig was a noblewoman who became the wife of the powerful Duke of Silesia in what is now present day Poland. She was a devout and committed Christian, who has not let her position of power and glory to distract her from her faith, obedience and commitment to God. She lived a good life, caring for the needs of her people, and after her husband passed away, she entered a monastery in which she spent the rest of her life.

Throughout her life, St. Hedwig led a prayerful life centred on God, and her many charitable works for the poor, the sick and the less privileged in her society showed just how her heart and mind is attuned and centred on the Lord, which therefore influenced her every actions and deeds, which she did out of love for God and for her fellow men, and not for herself or for satisfying her selfish human desires.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a mystic, visionary and member of the religious order of the Visitation nuns. She received many visions of the Lord and His Blessed Mother, in which she saw the vision of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, and through the conversations between Him and St. Margaret, she received what is now known as the Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In that vision, she received the revelation of just how God loved us mankind, pouring out from His bleeding Heart.

St. Margaret Mary therefore led a pious and devout life, centred on the devotion she had, a very fervent and true love for the Most Sacred Heart of the Lord. She directed many people both during and after her life, to turn themselves to God’s love and to entrust themselves to the love which God has shown to each one of us, despite our sins and disobedience against Him. And she showed us the way to go forward in our life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we follow the good examples set by St. Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, by turning ourselves towards God with our whole heart and with our whole being. Let us be true Christians from now on, that our interior, and not just exterior self, be truly attuned and centred on God, and that we may love Him from now on, till the end of our days. Amen.

Monday, 15 October 2018 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about first of all, what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in the city of Galatia, about the comparison between the two sons of Abraham, namely Ishmael and Isaac, who were born of two different women. The former was born of the slave woman Hagar, while the latter was born of Abraham’s rightful wife, Sarah.

The birth of Ishmael was caused by the impatience of Abraham, who gave in to the temptation of worldly fear and concern, of the lack of an heir, even though God has promised him many times that an heir would be born to him through his wife. Yet God did bless Ishmael and his descendants, for after all, he and his descendants are still the descendants of Abraham, although not the ones to whom God would give the fullness of His blessings.

St. Paul used this example, as he himself mentioned, in order to represent allegorically, the relationship which the people of God has with their Lord and Creator, in the context of the old Law as revealed imperfectly through Moses, and what He revealed perfectly in the new Law and Covenant of Jesus Christ, Son of God sent into the world to be its Saviour and Redeemer. The old Law was represented by Ishmael while the new Law was represented by Isaac.

In order to understand his intention and meaning fully, we also have to look at the earlier part of the Epistle to the Galatians, in which St. Paul mentioned that the old Law brought about bondage and the new Law brought about freedom. What he meant was that, while the people obeyed the Lord through the old laws of Moses, they were still bound to the chains of sin, for the coming of God’s salvation have not yet been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the coming of Christ brought about the fulfilment of God’s promise just as Isaac was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. Christ revealed the full truth of God’s love through the Law and the Covenant which He renewed through the loving sacrifice of His Son on the cross. And this was written by St. Paul in rebuking those in Galatia who wanted to impose the Jewish laws and customs, that is the ‘Old Law’ on the people of Christ, Who has received the fullness of God’s Law – the ‘New Law’.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus also rebuked the people in the same manner, in how they kept on asking for miracles and signs even though they have seen many miracles when they were with the Lord all those times. They failed to notice God working in their midst even though He had done so many, many times. And that was why the Lord rebuked those people who so hardened their hearts and minds against His truth.

Those who were obsessed with the fulfilment of the old laws and ways as prescribed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and refused to accept the truth of God, would be judged according to their refusal and stubbornness, and as long as they continued to refuse to accept God into their midst, they would have no part in the new Covenant and Law which He has brought upon the world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves as Christians are sometimes also suffering from the same condition as the Jews had been. We have not been truly faithful to the Lord as how we should have. We have only been faithful on the outside, like how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been, but inside our hearts, many of us do not have that faith and love which we should have for God.

Today, we ought to reflect on our lives, and our actions, and how they have or have not been good and faithful to God. And we should also follow the examples shown by the holy woman, St. Teresa of Jesus, also known by the name of St. Teresa of Avila, a great reformer and model of faith, and also a Doctor of the Church, for her many contributions and wonderful written works, which has inspired generations of the faithful.

St. Teresa of Avila was remembered for her great piety and love for God, dedicating herself into a life of deep and intimate prayerful relationship with Him. She was a great reformer of the Church, both for her contributions during the critical years of the Counter Reformation efforts against the heretics, as well as in her role in establishing the Discalced Carmelites order together with St. John of the Cross, in purifying the religious order from corrupting influences of worldliness.

For her role in the reforms of the Church and for her many other contributions, she was recognised as one of the great saints of the Church, and declared as Doctor of the Church. And her examples should also inspire each one of us, to live according to our faith, and to devote ourselves ever more closely to God and His ways from now on. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed zeal and with a new love, that we no longer live a life that is empty and devoid of love, but instead, have true love for God from now onwards. May God be with us always. St. Teresa of Jesus, pray for us. Amen.