Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord speaks to us through our Scripture passages on the matter of being called and chosen by God, as we heard from the first reading passage taken from the Book of Judges on the calling of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel and also from the Gospel passage where we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples on following Him and how they have all followed Him and served Him.

In our first reading today, God called Gideon to become His instrument in becoming the Judge over Israel, to be the one through whom God would act on behalf of His people. At that time, as mentioned in the passage, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Midianites who invaded the land of Israel and imposed their power and dominion over them, causing suffering and trials for God’s people.

But all of that were also caused by the failure of the people to be faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator. They preferred to follow their own paths and their own desires rather than to follow the laws and the precepts of God. Yet, this did not make the love that God has for them become any lesser or weaker. Instead, He continued to love them and cared for them regardless, and that was why He called the Judges to bring about reprieve and liberation for His beloved ones.

And today, as we heard about the calling of Gideon the Judge, we see how God called not the greatest and the mightiest in this world to become His servant and instrument by which He performed His wonderful works. Gideon himself admitted that his family and tribe were among the lowliest and humblest in terms of prestige, social strata and ranking among the whole nation of Israel, and yet, God called His servant from among his family.

Now, as we move on to our Gospel passage today, we can see the clear comparison between the calling of Gideon the Judge with that of the calling of the Apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord had called His disciples and the twelve of them in particular He had chosen to be His Apostles, the leaders and the inner circle of His confidants and servants, whom He called from their various backgrounds and origins, much like how Gideon had been called.

God did not choose or call those who were powerful and mighty, those who were influential or beloved by many, those who were skilled and intellectual by the standards of the world to be His instruments. In this world, the norm would have been for us to seek those who are of good qualities as I have just mentioned to be our friends and followers, but God works by a different way and standard. He calls the ordinary people and makes them extraordinary by His power, providence and grace.

And God reassured all those whom He had called, when His disciples asked that of Him, that those who have dedicated themselves to Him, He will provide and protect, and they will not be disappointed for God is always ever faithful. Indeed, in that same reassurance, God also made it clear how in following Him, those whom He had chosen would have to endure sufferings, challenges and trials, and would also have to make many sacrifices, but as long as God is by their side, they truly have nothing to fear.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to God’s call in our own respective lives? As those whom God had chosen and called as Christians, as those who have professed our faith in Him, all of us are called to walk in His way and to proclaim His truth among the nations of this world. Are we able to commit ourselves as Gideon had committed his life and how the Apostles and those who followed the Lord, the innumerable saints and martyrs had done all these while?

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned saint and abbot of the religious order later known as the Cistercians. He was the one who helped to reform the monastic practices at the time, and founded the Cistercian order based on his reforms and works. He was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, and for his many writings and works, which still inspired and influenced many even many centuries after his passing to this day.

St. Bernard’s great faith and love for God ought to be our compass and guide in how each and every one of us should also love God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to His cause from now on. And having heard from all these examples we have from our holy predecessors, let us all be driven by our passion and strong desire to love and serve the Lord to the best of our abilities from this moment forth. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our resolve and commitment to serve Him faithfully from now on, that we will always glorify Him in our daily actions and deeds. Amen.

Monday, 19 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Scripture speaking to us on the matter of following God and obeying His will despite the challenges and temptations that we may face throughout our lives. We heard from the Book of Judges as our first reading passage today how God’s people Israel had disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him after their leaders had passed on, forgetting all that God had done for their sake.

They worshipped and served other gods, the pagan gods whom their forefathers have crushed and destroyed when they came to occupy the land God had given to them. They were swayed by all those false gods and idols, and were not faithful to the promises which their ancestors had made to the Lord as part of their Covenant. The people chose to follow their own desires and embracing the temptations present in this world rather than being faithful to God.

As a result, the Lord allowed their enemies and those who still stayed in the land with them, the pagans around them to rule over them and dominate them, bringing about hardships and challenges for the Israelites. It was not that God did not love His people by doing what He had done, but rather He loved them so much that He wanted to remind them and bring them into line, just like a father disciplining his children who went wayward.

In the same passage then, God sent many of His servants to the midst of His people, those whom He called to be the leaders and guides for the whole nation as He called them to repent from their sins and disobedience. Those were the Judges of Israel, who helped the people of God to rediscover their faith and to lead them back from the path of sin, freeing them at the same time from all those who persecuted them as a sign of God’s providence and faithfulness to His Covenant.

Yet, it was mentioned how every time the Judges passed on, the Israelites fell back again into their old ways, disobeying God and worshipping the pagan idols, disregarding the laws and commandments that God had put in place for them. They were not able to commit themselves to the Lord and His Covenant, and as a result, God had to sent many Judges, again and again to keep them in line, just as how He would also send prophets after prophets later on to remind His people to be faithful.

What we have heard in this first reading passage today is actually linked to what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, when a man came to approach the Lord Jesus asking how he could receive the grace of eternal life. He said to the Lord how he has obeyed all the commandments and rules in accordance to the laws of Moses. The Lord praised him for what he has done, but then when He asked him to leave everything he had and give them to the poor and the needy, he could not do it and left in sorrow.

What the Lord wanted to show us all through this encounter is not that all of us have to abandon all worldly things and goods as what He has told the man to do, but rather, if we want to be truly faithful to God, then we must not let all those things to distract us and to prevent us from loving Him and dedicating ourselves to Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. The people of Israel as described in our first reading today continued to fall into their sinful ways because they did not truly love God with all of their hearts, and they kept on being distracted and tempted as a result.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. John Eudes, a famous and pious saint whose life can be inspiration for us to follow in how we should live our lives with faith that we will not end up falling again and again into sin. St. John Eudes was a French priest who was remembered for his great love and particular devotion to the Lord, especially to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. He performed numerous good works among the people, ministering to them and preaching in their midst, inspiring many to embrace God’s love and holiness.

He established religious orders and congregations for the benefit of the faithful, and in one particular case having seen how many prostitutes had difficulties when they wanted to escape such a destitute condition, and hence St. John Eudes founded a religious order as a refuge for those prostitutes who escaped their previous wicked lives and turned to God. He dedicated his life to serve the people of God and by being faithful and exemplary in all the things he did in his life with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John Eudes? As Christians, all of us are called to live up to our calling as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen from this world, to be His own. Let us all grow in faith and love the Lord ever more wholeheartedly from now on, embracing the most generous love and compassion which He has constantly shown us all these while.

May the Lord continue to guide us all, and may He continue to empower us all to live ever more worthily in His presence from now on, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit God has given us, may all of us be more committed to the Covenant which God had made with us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 18 August 2019 : Twentieth 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 Scriptures through which God wants us to remember that being followers of His, as Christians, as those who have faith in Him will inevitably lead us to face difficulties, challenges and sufferings in life, in whatever form that we may encounter these. We must be prepared to face the trials and opposition throughout our lives as faithful Christians and we cannot expect to have an easy and comfortable life.

There are those among us who think that becoming Christians mean for us to have good, blessed life, as after all, does God not love all of us and does He not provide for all of our needs? And because God loves each and every one of us, then how can we not be happy and good in everything, blessed and be abundant with all kinds of riches and good things in this world? This is what some are thinking wrongly, as what some label as the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ among other labels.

First and foremost, we have to understand that yes, God does love each and every one of us very much, and He has blessed us all wonderfully, first and foremost with the precious gift of life. If God has not loved us, then we would have not existed in the very first instance, and He would not have patiently cared for us, because all of us are sinners, disobedient and rebellious in our ways. And yet, because of His love, God constantly forgives us and wants us to be reconciled to Him.

But just as God has given us so much love, so many blessings and wonders in this world, we mankind inherently allow ourselves again and again to fall into the temptations to sin, to disobey God and to follow instead the path of evil and wickedness. We have listened to the words of Satan and his false lies instead of the truth and the love of God. And that is why there are so much suffering and challenges in this world, especially those facing us Christians.

We all know how Satan hates seeing us being saved from destruction, for ever since the beginning of time, he had plotted for our downfall, right up from the time when he struck against our first forefathers, tempting them to sin and therefore fall from the grace of God. It was him who tempted Cain to kill his own brother Abel when the former became jealous of the latter, and it was him who tempted the people to be proud and build the tower of Babel.

It was him who moved the hearts of the people to sin, to cause the brothers of Joseph to send him into slavery because of the same jealousy they had, it was him who tempted the Israelites throughout the ages and through many years, as they fell again and again into sin, succumbing to the temptations of worldly desire, pride and greed, opposing the good works of those prophets whom God had sent among His people to keep them in the right path.

And that is what we have heard in our first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the plots against the prophet Jeremiah were mentioned, and how those enemies of Jeremiah almost in fact managed to kill him by their plotting. The prophet Jeremiah was among the last prophets to work in the kingdom of Judah, the last of the successor kingdoms of Israel, just before the kingdom and the city of Jerusalem fell to the hands of the Babylonians and were destroyed.

The prophet Jeremiah had many enemies, even though he had faithfully served the Lord and spoke His truth among the people. Many of the people, including those powerful nobles were angry with him because they saw him as a troublemaker and as a doomsayer. But Jeremiah was merely conveying the Lord’s warnings and truthful words, rebuking the wicked behaviours of the people of Judah at that time, who had fallen deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

Thus, we heard how the prophet was thrown into a dark cistern totally unfit for human dwelling, where his enemies hoped to condemn this faithful prophet to death. Many earlier prophets had suffered that fate, being tortured, persecuted and killed for their faith and dedication to God. There were also many false prophets who spoke the words of falsehoods, the agents of Satan who opposed the good works of God and misled the people.

But amidst all of that, we also heard in the same first reading passage today of the actions of some of those who were still upright and faithful, who counted Jeremiah as a friend. They tried to protect him and to save his life, by pleading with the king to intervene and prevent the enemies of Jeremiah from having their way with the prophet and killing him. And they managed to get the prophet out of his predicament and protected him from further danger.

All of these things serve to highlight exactly what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, and also to dispel some of our own misconceptions and the false ‘Prosperity Gospel’ I have mentioned earlier. The Lord Jesus clearly stated in His discourse in the Gospel passage that His coming into this world would bring about divisions and struggles, conflicts and troubles for all those who believe in Him.

For the context of what the Lord had said, we have to understand that most of the Jews if not all of them believed at that time that the Messiah’s coming would lead them into an eternal new era of joy and happiness, of the restoration of the glorious kingdom of Israel as how it was at the time of king David and king Solomon, when the people would once again be powerful and be free from all of their troubles.

The Lord pointed out clearly that this was not to be the case. And very importantly, we must understand that this is not because of the Lord’s own doing or intention. It is very easy for us to misunderstand what the Lord said in today’s Gospel, becoming confused and even disillusioned at what He had said about bringing conflict and division, struggles and persecutions into our midst. Rather, it was by the works of the same Satan that caused all these things to happen.

The Lord has come into this world, revealing His salvation to all the nations, through none other than Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour of all. And Satan worked hard to undermine His works, by trying to tempt Him, by trying to dissuade Him through His Apostles and disciples, speaking through them at times to weaken His resolve, and tempting Him in the Gardens of Gethsemane during the time of His agony.

But when all these failed, Satan struck through those who condemned Jesus to death, death on the Cross, thinking that by killing the Messiah of God just as he had managed to make the people to persecute and kill the prophets in the earlier days, he could finally bring mankind to ruination and destruction as he has always intended. Yet, it was through that same Cross that Satan was handed the ultimate and greatest defeat, for Christ triumphed with His Cross, delivering the salvation of God by His act of ultimate sacrifice.

Satan has indeed been defeated, but he is still always ever desperate, for he knows that even though salvation has been delivered to us, but as long as temptation is around us, he can still strike at us through those same temptations by which he has seduced our race for time immemorial. Many had fallen into his allure and temptations, and through all of the means in his disposal, he strikes especially at those whom the Lord had gathered from the nations, that is all of us Christians.

And that is why Christians throughout the history of the Church has been persecuted in various circumstances and conditions, facing difficulties and oppressions, rejections and ridicule, having to endure humiliation and difficult trials and even unto martyrdom. Many Christians have paid dearly for their faith with their lives, as the lives of the many martyrs of the Church can tell us. Many of these are those who were mentioned in our second reading by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

In that passage, we heard the encouragement spoken by the author of the Epistle, of the innumerable witnesses of the faith which have been present and who have shown their undying faith, even in the face of the toughest persecutions and difficulties. Many of them have been rejected and persecuted even by those who were closest to them, and yet, they persevered and showed love instead of hatred towards their enemies.

And first and foremost among all of them was the Lord Himself, Who showed us what the true meaning of suffering is. The Lord suffered all the painful punishments intended for us because of our sins, but He bore them all willingly because He loves each and every one of us, and that love allowed Him to endure through the many bitterness and sufferings, and how He can also forgive even those who have condemned Him to such suffering and death.

Are we then able to have the same faith and commitment to God, even knowing that we will encounter difficulties and challenges in our path, even from those who are close and dear to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Being Christians truly mean for us to embrace Christ fully in our lives as Our Lord and Saviour, and we can only do so by truly and wholeheartedly believing in Him through words, deeds and actions. And often, to stand by our faith in Christ means going against the norms and ways of this world.

The Lord wants us all to realise this, and how He has also done so much for us, out of His so great love for us, that He was willing to shoulder the burden of His Cross, suffer and die for us sinners. If He has suffered in such a way, then it is just right that we will likely to suffer as well, for Satan strikes at all those who are faithful and good, and all these persecutions and trials come about because of him and his wicked allies. But we must not lose hope and we must be courageous and strong in faith, for God is truly always by our side.

And let us all also follow the examples of those who have helped Jeremiah to escape his terrible predicament, realising that as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, all of us as Christians should take good care of one another and be concerned with each other, showing care and concern for those among us who are less fortunate and are in difficulty. Let us all journey together as one family of believers, as the members of God’s one Church, that we may truly find our way to God, our loving Father and Creator.

May the Lord continue to guide us and may He strengthen in us the faith which we should have for Him. May He continue to empower us to persevere through the difficulties and obstacles we may face on our way. Let us all look forward instead to the eternal glory and true happiness that God promised all of those who remain true and faithful to Him to the very end. Amen.

Saturday, 17 August 2019 : 19th 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 through the Scriptures we heard the words of the Lord speaking to us about the matter of loving and serving God as part of the Covenant which He has made with each and every one of us, reminding us of the wonders of His love and caring heart, His kindness and faithfulness to us, despite our countless and endless rebellion and disobedience against Him.

In the first reading passage taken from the Book of Joshua, we heard how the people of Israel made promises before the Lord, renewing their commitment to the Covenant that God had made with them in the presence of Joshua, the appointed leader of the entire nation and with everyone as witness, at the moment when Joshua was about to depart from this earthly existence due to his old age.

Joshua was concerned that the people of Israel would fall again into the same temptations and the same pitfalls of desire, greed and all sorts of things that had caused their forefathers to fall into sin. Joshua had seen how many of the Israelites who went out of Egypt disobeyed God and His commandments, broke the Covenant which He had just made with them by making for themselves a golden calf idol as a false god over them, and for their many other wicked actions.

Thus, Joshua reminded them of God’s wonderful love for the people He cherished and whom He had chosen from among all the nations. And he also reminded them that should they be disobedient and refused to obey the will of God, or to follow His laws, then they would receive the same fate as their forefathers, as they would suffer and would receive nothing other than destruction and damnation.

But if they were faithful, they would receive the fullness of God’s providence and the fullness of His promised inheritance and glory. The people promised to obey the Lord and renewed the Covenant they had made with God. However, as time would prove, the people would end up falling again and again into temptations and abandoned God many times, only for the Lord to guide them yet again by sending His Judges to be the leaders of His people during those times.

Such indeed was God’s great love for His people, for all of us who have sinned against Him. His love for us is truly boundless and His mercy and compassion is always ever generous and good. No one can hide from His loving gaze and merciful heart. But many of us still resist His love and mercy, and refuse to listen to Him or to embrace His ways. We still attach ourselves to the many desires we have in this world, that led us astray from God.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard then the Lord Jesus Who spoke to His disciples, when they tried to prevent the people from bringing little children to Him. He rebuked them and their behaviour, saying that in fact, they had to be like those little children in their faith, and not to turn them away, instead welcoming them just as they ought to welcome their Master, Lord and Saviour.

And the Lord wanted to show us all through this that we must have true and genuine faith, like those of the little children’s. Little children has that pure faith and ability to believe in something totally, completely and wholeheartedly due to their innocence, and not being clouded, distracted or compounded by the desires and the corruptions or temptations within the heart and the mind.

Are we able to devote ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord in the manner that He has first loved us all so tenderly and graciously? Let us all turn towards the Lord with love and let us dedicate ourselves to Him with a renewed zeal and strength from now on. May the Lord continue to love us and guide us throughout this journey of life from now on. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the wonderful love which God has given to His people, as the leader of Israel that time, Joshua, the successor of Moses, gathered the whole nation before him and before the Lord just before he was about to pass away in old age. Joshua recounted before the people of the wonderful things that God had done for their ancestors, in His faithfulness and providence.

Most of the people of Israel at that time were those born after the whole nation had been brought into the land of Canaan and settled there, many of them have not experienced or known the wonderful love of God, His many miracles and providence which their parents and grandparents would have seen and remembered as they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt and journeyed through the desert for forty years.

That was why Joshua gathered the whole people to remind them that it was God Who had made them prosper and grow in the land they then have called their own, given to them by God Who cleared their path before them, Who provided and cared for them and their needs, and Who watched them through their every steps and ways. Based on experience and history, the people of God, the Israelites were quick to forget all that God had done for them.

We all knew how they rebelled against God and disobeyed Him, so far as to make for themselves a false idol and god, a golden calf which they claimed to be the god who had saved them from their enslavement in Egypt. They refused to follow the Lord’s commandments and ways, and they preferred to follow their own thoughts and ideas, their own prejudices and preferences, their own desires and the many temptations of the world.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard about the discussion between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the matter of marriage and divorce, as the latter wanted to test the Lord with the question asking why the Law allowed the people of Israel to do divorce with certain conditions. And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the people that God did not in fact condone such a practice and reminded them all of the sanctity that is inherent in marriage.

But it was because of God’s great love for His people, so great and wonderful that He has been so patient and so compassionate towards them, that He was willing to accommodate them and to guide them towards the right path despite all the rejections, doubts, waywardness and rebelliousness they have shown against Him. When the laws as prescribed and recorded by Moses allowed for the provision of divorce, it was not meant to be taken for granted, and yet the people took it as an excuse to live loosely without regard for holiness and sanctity in life.

God wanted to accommodate His people so as to lead them to Him and allow them to grow more faithful in each and every days of their lives. The Lord has all good intentions and desire for His people and yet, they misused His love and providence, and took for granted what He has lovingly done for their sake. God has continued to love His people regardless, caring for them patiently and revealing to them what He truly wants for them.

Now, all of us ought to reflect on our own lives therefore, on whether we have loved God as we should have, or whether we have been like the people of Israel in the ancient times, in how they constantly disobeyed the Lord and fell into temptations and sin. Have we lived our lives in the way that we should have lived, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we truly loved God wholeheartedly as the holy saints have done?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, a holy king and servant of God, the first to be crowned as the King of Hungary by the crown sent to him by the Pope. St. Stephen was remembered for his great many contributions to the Church and to his people, as he strengthened his country and ruled wisely for many years, and also establishing the strong foundations of the Church in the whole of his realm of Hungary.

St. Stephen truly loved God as shown by his great piety, his commitment to the works of God, his personal holiness and faith. And we can see how he also loved Him by loving those whom God has entrusted to be under his care, as those who were in his kingdom prospered under his just and well-managed rule, and his genuine care and generosity towards all of them, especially those who were poor, weak and needy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to emulate the examples of this holy and devoted servant of God, our holy predecessor who have shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians? Let us all not take the love of God for granted any longer, but instead, appreciating everything that He has done for us, and be thankful of the generous love, compassion and mercy which He has given for us.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Stephen of Hungary, grant us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on, dedicating our whole lives to His service for the greater glory of His Name. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 15 August 2019 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as a whole universal Church, the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most holy Mother of God. On this day we commemorate the moment when Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, in body and soul, by the grace of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Solemnity of the Assumption has its parallel in our Eastern Christian brethren in the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin.

This Assumption of Mary into heaven refers therefore to the taking up of Mary, God’s own beloved mother, into heaven directly in the whole of her being, body and soul. There are those who according to the various traditions ascribed Mary having gone to ‘sleep’ and was reunited with her Son in the heavenly glory He has prepared for her, and also those who ascribed her disappearing from this world for she has been taken up body and soul into heaven.

But the key message and consideration in this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is the fact that Mary has been saved from death, unlike other men and women, all of us who have to face death at the appointed time, time which we will never know, a time of God’s choosing and will, the moment when we end our worldly existence and move on into the life that is to come and give an account of our life before God.

And death, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, is the sting of sin. It means that because of sin, which is itself caused by disobedience against the will of God and against His laws and commandments, have caused us to suffer the consequence that is death, the ending of our mortal and worldly existence in this world. That is just also because life is a gift from God to us, and sin makes us to be separated from God.

Thus, because of our sins, death is a natural consequence of our disobedience against God, and hence all of us are mortal, will eventually face death in the face. However, what if someone is so virtuous and great, and so pure and immaculate so as to be worthy of God and to escape death altogether? Is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Scripture provides us with an answer, in several individuals known to have been brought up to God without going through death.

First of all from the Book of Genesis we have Enoch, one of the early descendants of Adam who was described as a very virtuous and righteous person who is a friend of God, and after spending three hundred and sixty-five years in this world, was taken up to God’s side, and no longer walked on earth among men. And then we also heard of the prophet Elijah whom God took up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the Book of Kings.

And last and greatest of all, was Mary herself, who by Apostolic tradition of the Church, passed into the realm of eternal glory in the same manner, for among all men and women, surpassing all others, save that of her Son alone, she has been prepared and made worthy to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world and the Master of all the universe in her. And that is why Mary was assumed into heaven and celebrated today in this most Solemn feast of the Assumption.

For we heard in the Scripture reading for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption that the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem led by king David, the king of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object and the centre focus of all the whole nation of Israel, because in the Ark of the Covenant was contained the two tablets of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron used by Moses during the Exodus and the manna, bread from heaven that God has given to His people during that time.

And God’s presence came down frequently on the Ark of the Covenant as mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the subsequent books mentioning about the moments when the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant occupied the centre place in the entire community at the centre of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as the symbolic representation of God being present in the midst of His people.

That was why the Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, from gold and most precious wood and best of earthly matters available, to be the throne of God Himself on earth among His people. And in one incident just before the Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark during its transfer was struck dead because of the misdeed. All of these served to show just how sacred and great that Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God’s Holy Presence is.

Now, then, let us all compare that old Ark of the Covenant, made by human hands using the best materials that the world can provide, and containing the old Covenant and Law of God as revealed through Moses, with the New Covenant that Christ has brought with Himself into this world, the fullness of the truth of God as He Himself revealed, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophecies of the Lord.

And Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant just as Jesus Christ her Son, our Lord is the New Covenant between us and God. That is why the Church from the time of the Apostles has held and taught the core belief that Mary has always been pure and free from the state of original sin, by the grace of God. She is called the Immaculate Conception because she alone has received the grace to be free entirely from the corruption of sin, and she remained pure throughout her life.

As mentioned earlier, God has made her to be special because she is truly the New Ark of the Covenant which far surpassed the old Ark of the Covenant. Through her, the Lord and Saviour of this world Himself came into this world, Who spent nine months in her womb. If the old Ark contained the tablets of stone of the Law and the bread of manna, then in Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, was the Law Himself, the complete fullness of the Law and the Bread of Life.

As such, Mary has to be pure and spotless, without the corruption of sin and immaculate, to be the bearer of God Himself in her. For Jesus Christ her Son is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, having in Him the two natures of God and Man. If the old Ark of the Covenant was so sacred, then Mary must indeed be special and sacred as well. And thus, it has implication in what we are celebrating today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

That is because at the start of today’s discourse, we mention about death being the sting of sin, meaning that it is because of sin that we have to endure and experience death. But then, Mary is immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. How can she then suffer the consequence for sin when she herself was free from the taint of sin throughout her life?

And how can the mother of the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin and death be subjected to the same suffering and the pain of death that her own Son has conquered and triumphed against by His victory on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead? That is why, we all believe firmly and fervently that Mary truly has been granted the grace by God to pass over death itself and hence was assumed body and soul directly into heaven without experiencing death.

Today, all of us ought to look upon Mary, and see in her the perfect example of who we all as Christians should be in our own lives. Mary has been the faithful servant all her life, not just because she has been set aside by God to be pure and immaculate, free from sin, but even throughout her life, she has loved the Lord so much, and loved her Son with all of her strength, that she continued to live in a state of grace throughout to the moment of the end of her earthly presence at the Assumption.

We see in Mary a reflection of our own glorified persons, as the sure promise of the Lord to us when we are faithful to Him that He will do with us as what He has done with His mother. He has promised us all that all of us who are faithful and worthy will be with Him for eternity, to enjoy forever the true happiness and joy in His presence, and Mary is showing us the way forward to reach this state of grace with her Son.

And she is constantly helping us in reaching out to her Son, by her constant prayers and intercessions for our sake. Now that she is in the glory of heaven by the side of her Son’s Throne, Mary is truly the greatest of all saints, the one who is nearest to Our Lord and Saviour, being concerned all the time for us. For we must not forget that from His Cross, Our Lord has symbolically entrusted Mary to be our mother too through His Apostle St. John, and also vice versa, all of us as her children.

Let us all therefore pray together, brothers and sisters in Christ, and ask Mary, the glorious Mother of God assumed into heaven, to intercede for our sake always before her Son’s Throne, that we may always be persistent and courageous in living our lives with faith. Let us all also follow the examples of Mary’s obedience and faith in God, and be ever closer to her Son through her. May all of us be filled with God’s grace and be worthy of His inheritance. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints of our modern day era, one whom we may be quite familiar with, the saint of the World War II era and the NAZI Holocaust, namely St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and martyr, who gave his life for a very noble cause, imitating the very love which God has given to all of us His beloved ones.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a conventual Franciscan friar and priest who worked as a missionary for many years in the East, in Japan and other places such as India, where he was known for his zeal and piety, his contributions to the Church and its development in the mission regions, by the establishment of the Militia Immaculatae or the Army of the Immaculate One in his early years as a friar and then priest, through his personal strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to counter the many works of the devil and the opponents of the Church.

St. Maximilian Kolbe served the Lord faithfully for many years and dedicated his life to bring about the greater glory of God and the salvation of His people. He returned to Poland where he was born in, and continued to serve the Church afterwards in the years just immediately preceding the Second World War. He stayed on when the forces of NAZI Germany overran the entire nation of Poland and beyond.

Eventually, his opposition to the NAZI regime and constant passive resistance through the publications and works his monastery produced led to him being arrested and brought to the infamous concentration camp of Auschwitz. Even there, he continued to serve the people who were in despair and suffering in the worst conditions imaginable in the concentration camp. As a priest and servant of God, he inspired many of the inmates in the camp to remain strong in their faith and in their hope.

And St. Maximilian Kolbe was especially remembered for his courageous and most selfless love, when he offered himself in exchange for another inmate who was about to be executed when an attempt in escaping was foiled. The faithful saint offered himself because the man was in despair over his family that he was to leave behind if he was to be executed. And thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe in fact followed in the example of Christ, in offering himself to suffer for the sake of others.

And through all of these, the good examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the words of the Scripture we heard today, we are all reminded to be exemplary in our lives, living our lives with genuine and strong faith. In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses, the one whom God appointed to be the leader of His people Israel in order to rescue them from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt finally went to the end of his earthly life at Mount Nebo.

Moses was not able to enter the land promised by God to the children of Israel, although he was allowed to have a glance at the whole land before he died. It was because of the disobedience that Moses performed out of anger, when he did not do as the Lord commanded when the people pressed hard on him and complained against him and God. But regardless of that and besides that unfortunate occasion, Moses was truly a very faithful servant of God, much as St. Maximilian Kolbe had been.

Moses devoted his life to the Lord and tirelessly served God for many, many years, guiding and leading the people of Israel through to the right path, despite their constant bickering, disobedience and stubbornness in refusing to listen to God and His will. He persevered through all of the challenges and remained true to the very end, serving God with all of his heart and with all of his strength, and therefore, now counted as one of the great saints and elders of the faith.

All of us are reminded today therefore to walk in the footsteps of these holy predecessors of ours, Moses, the many other faithful and holy prophets, the holy Apostles, saints and martyrs of all the ages, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of our more recent times. We are called to be true Christians in how we live our lives from now on, that just as those saints and martyrs have been faithful in theirs, and reflect the glory and love of God, we too may do the same with our lives.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord also reminds us that we all have been given responsibilities as members of the Church, the Body of the faithful people of God. In that passage, the Lord exhorted His disciples to take care of one another and pay attention to those who have erred in the practices and beliefs of their faith, and to bring them back to the Lord and to reconcile them with Him in love.

Are we able to what the Lord has commanded us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to do what our holy predecessors had done? Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the holy saints of God, that through their prayers God may give us the strength and courage to live faithfully in His presence, from now on and till the end of time. Amen.