Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the reality of the persecution that has faced the Church and the faithful before, and what is indeed facing us this very moment. The first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth spoke of his early experiences among the faithful, after having converted from his old ways and embracing the Christian faith.

Even then, the reality of the persecutions and difficulties facing the Church was brought clearly before all of us, as St. Paul mentioned how some of the faithful disciples of Christ were no longer in their midst. These disciples were likely to have been martyred for their faith, under the persecutions by the Jewish authorities and the Roman governors alike.

And there was no better witness to all of those persecutions other than St. Paul himself, who as Saul was at the forefront of the persecution of the persecution of Christians under the Jewish authorities. St. Paul himself related to the Corinthians how he once persecuted the followers of Christ with great zeal and fanaticism, only to discover that whatever he had done, was against God’s will.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when a sinful woman, likely a prostitute, came towards Jesus while He was having a meal in the house of a Pharisee, among many Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The woman took an expensive jar of alabaster, filled with equally precious and expensive perfume, and used it to anoint the feet of the Lord Jesus.

Through this symbolic action, the woman did not just anoint the Lord, a custom often related to the death of a person, but she also showed the people gathered, how the Lord would go on to suffer and die, persecuted by His enemies, and yet, eventually, He would triumph over them all, over Satan, sin and death, and gain eternal victory. And that act by the sinful woman, who humbled herself so much, so as to bow down before the Lord and even weeping and drying the tears-wet feet of the Lord with her hairs, showed her sincere desire to be forgiven by God and to follow Him.

And all of these, happened regardless of the surely scathing and hostile comments and actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were gathered there. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were very particular about themselves and their piety, their appearances before people, there could not have been someone more unworthy and unclean than the woman who came to anoint the Lord’s feet.

That was why they lobbed all sorts of criticism against the woman, as well as against the Lord, through their thoughts and probably even their gestures. But the Lord stood by His faithful follower and servant, who sought Him with all of her heart, and dedicated herself so thoroughly that she was willing to humble herself before Him and in the view of many others as such.

All of these are reminders for us, that, even though challenges and difficulties may follow us, wherever we go, if we are followers of Christ, but should we remain faithful in Him, then He will bless us and protect us, and our rewards in Him will truly be rich indeed. And not the rewards of worldly riches and wealth, but instead, the promise of everlasting glory and life with Him.

This is what the holy saints and martyrs hold fast onto, whose life and courage in faith we celebrate today as well. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Korean Martyrs, in which we remember the memory of the many martyrs of the Church, who has given their lives defending their faith as they were persecuted through many difficult years in the then Kingdom of Joseon or Korea.

Many of the missionaries who worked in Korea also faced great persecution, as the government then was fiercely hostile against the Church and the truth of Christianity. St. Laurent Imbert was one of them, a French missionary who became the first Vicar Apostolic of Korea. He was remembered for his great care for the flock entrusted to him, and for his courageous sacrifice for their sake.

St. Laurent Imbert gave himself up to the authorities and told another two priests to do the same, as the authorities were threatening to persecute even more of the faithful should the leaders of the Church community remained in hiding. He hoped that by doing so, he might be able to spare the Christian faithful from further suffering and persecution, and thus led the example of true Christian love and selflessness.

He followed in the example of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Himself, and laying down his life for his sheep. He and many other saints of the Korean martyrs have truly exhibited true Christian spirit and dedication. These are good examples that all of us should follow as well, in how we carry on living our lives. We have been called to give our best to serve the Lord in our daily living, and thus, we should give our best as well, as how the Holy Korean Martyrs have shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and love, and let us all devote ourselves from now on, filled with faith and commitment to live our lives in accordance with what the Lord had taught us. May all of us grow ever stronger in our love and in our desire to be with God, following the footsteps of the saints and martyrs. Holy Korean Martyrs, pray for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are called to reflect on the nature of our life, and how we should go about in living our lives. Our life is not just about us, or about our preoccupations in this world, all the temptations and things we possess. Rather, our lives must be based on the foundation of faith, hope and love, the three greatest virtues of our Christian lives.

In this world, we are always subjected to ever changing expectations and demands, as well as diverging customs and ways, and that was why, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord showed His dissatisfaction at the people, whose lack of the Christian virtues troubled Him, in how they treated Him and the prophets, including that of St. John the Baptist. They refused to listen to the word of God and the truth delivered to them, and instead made biased judgments on those whom the Lord had sent to save them.

The Lord however showed that the way forward for us, is not to depend on the ever changing and therefore unreliable judgments and ways of this world. To the world, there is never a satisfactory standard, as different people judge based on their own individual expectations and personal standards, and that was why, what was good for someone might be bad for another, and vice versa.

Instead, the Lord wants us to have this firm foundation of faith, of hope, and of love, as the core tenets of our lives. Faith refers to our commitment to God, and our belief in Him, in His salvation and in His saving help. Meanwhile, hope refers to the hope which we have in God’s love, in His coming deliverance and in the promise which He has made, to all of us who has kept our faith in Him, that He will grant us eternal life and glory with Him.

But all of these, as mentioned in the first reading today, in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, are nothing if not based upon the foundation of the most important virtue of all, that is love. For love is the very reason for the faith and hope which we have in God. We believe in God’s love, and that is our faith, and correspondingly, we also hope for His love. The love of God is at the centre and the focus of our lives.

And from God, love has come into our lives, and we know love because God has given us His love. And love is truly the only constant in our lives, which is universal. It does not matter where we are, in whichever communities or places, love, and that is, true love, is always the same, the selfless giving of oneself and the genuine, compassionate care which one shows to another person.

Without love, then all the things we do in life are empty, meaningless. For first of all, as man, all of us exist fo the greater glory of God, to praise and worship Him Who has created us and loved us. Without God’s love, none of us would have existed. Without His love, we would have fallen into the eternal damnation because of our sins and wickedness. It was because of His love, that God sent us our Saviour, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom, He has released us from our bondage to our sins.

And it is love that makes the world move again, despite all the challenges and difficulties we mankind have encountered for countless millennia and ages. Through all the bitter trials and years of wars, conflicts, all sorts of destructions, it was love that eventually overcame all the bitterness, pain, hatred and sufferings. Indeed, there were many moments when vengeance, hatred, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions have threatened to overcome us, but eventually love triumphed, again and again.

Without love, there can therefore be no faith, and no hope, and mankind would have always remained bitter forever. It is the warmth of love in our hearts that transformed us mankind from the people of darkness and wickedness that we were, into the people of light, and God’s beloved children. This is what each and every one of us as Christians have been called to, to be like God in all things, especially in love.

Because God is Love, and all of us who belong to God should therefore have love in our lives, in every actions we take and in everything we say and do. And today, we should follow the example of one of His saints, whose life and works were epitome of practicing love in our actions and life. And that saint is St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento during the time of the Roman persecutions.

St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was remembered for his great piety and dedication to his flock, and his commitment to the Lord became a great source of inspiration even long after he has passed away. His courageous defence of his faith and love for God allowed him to endure the sufferings and the bitterness of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, infamous for its brutality and cruelty.

It was love that allowed St. Januarius to continue to be faithful despite all the challenges he had to encounter, the love for God and for his flock. He chose to endure the bitter sufferings of persecution, rather than to betray the Lord he loved, or to scandalise the faith which would end up in causing his flock to be lost to the faith and fall into hell.

To that extent, God glorified St. Januarius with the gift of His grace, that by his martyrdom and courageous display of faith, he was made saint of the Church, and with a very tangible and visible sample of holiness, by the means of the relic of his blood, which miraculously liquifies during the day of his feast, which is today.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courage and faith, and foremost of all, the love which St. Januarius showed us all, let us all as Christians therefore turn ourselves towards God with a renewed faith, hope and love in Him. Let us all devote our time, attention and love for Him, each and every days of our life, and not to forget our fellow brethren, in caring for the needs of those who need our love and attention, and more.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us. May He continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our life. Let us all be renewed and become, from now on, true disciples and followers of God, the One Who is Love and perfect in love. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the Scripture passages chosen bring us to reflect upon the nature of the Church, its significance and our role as members and partakers of God’s Church and its numerous works and ministries among the people of God in this world.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of all of us, God’s people, who believe in Him and who have received baptism, the Sacrament through which we have been liberated from our taints of sin, have been made into One Body, the One Body of Christ, the Church.

By baptism, we have been made members of this Church, and have been united to one another, by our Communion with Christ. That is because by our common Baptism, and by our worthy reception of the Lord’s own Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we have become One Body and One Spirit in Christ.

But then, it does not end there, brothers and sisters in Christ. The story of our Christian life and our salvation by God does not end just by our baptism, or by our membership in the Church, or by our faith in God. Rather, it is by our continuing faith and fulfilment of that faith through our concrete and good works that we live a good and exemplary life in God.

Many of us have this misconception, both within and outside the Church, that we are saved by faith alone. No, this is not completely true, as yes, faith is what saved us, but our faith cannot be an empty faith that is meaningless and useless for us. Instead, our faith must be substantiated and proven by our actions, our words and our deeds, through the good works we do, in accordance and guided by our faith.

That is why, as members of the one Body of Christ, the Church, we are called to follow the commandments which God has given us, and the mission which He has entrusted to His Church through His Apostles. As Christians we are called to show true Christian love and compassion to one another, especially to those who are suffering, in pain or those who are experiencing great sorrows.

We are called to be beacons of hope and light for one another, that we may guide each other in our respective journey of life. And we have to do this through our actions, which we do in accordance with God’s will and with how God has taught us to do. But we must also remember that we cannot do everything on our own. We must be able to work together with the other members of the Church, our fellow brethren in faith.

That is because to each one of us, God has given different gifts and talents, each according to our abilities and to how God has intended us to live, and how He created us. St. Paul mentioned this in the same passage taken from the Epistle to the Corinthians, when he told the people, that not everyone can be Apostles, or speak with tongues, or perform miracles and wonders. To each and every one of the disciples were given various and diverse gifts.

This means that in the Church, we cannot exist by ourselves or do everything on our own. Instead, we must learn to work together, making good use of each others’ strengths and learn to help one another in overcoming our respective weaknesses and shortcomings. It is only by good and concerted effort from each of us, members of God’s Church, that many wonderful good works will come to fruition, for the benefit of all those who seek God’s salvation.

Are we able then to strive to work together with our fellow brothers and sisters in faith? Especially for all of us in the Church ministries, we must be able to work together, overcoming whatever grievances, prejudices, misunderstandings, conflicts, gossips, lies, and other obstacles that often appear within our Church groups and establishments. Otherwise, if we allow all of these things to be in the way of our efforts to build a vibrant and evangelising Christian communities, then it will cause much setback for the good works of the Church, many souls can be lost, and the blame will squarely be on us.

This is why, from now on, let us all come to realise the contributions that each one of us can give, for the common good of the Church and all the faithful, in all the talents and gifts that God has given us. Let us all work together, and coming together as a community that prays for each other, that is concerned for the well-being of one another, and that wants to see each and every one of its members to be spiritually filled by God’s love. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed zeal and courage.

May God bless us all, and may He continue to be our Guide, that each and every one of us may be filled with the strong desire to love Him and to love our fellow brethren, through our actions and deeds, and be truly committed and living our lives in accordance with our living and vibrant faith. Amen.

Monday, 17 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture passages we heard about the moment when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, as recounted by St. Paul to the faithful in the city of Corinth. And then in the Gospel today, we heard of the Lord healing the servant of a Roman army centurion, by the great faith which he showed before all.

At that occasion, the Roman centurion, which was quite a senior leader within the structure of the Roman army, came to Jesus and begged Him to make his servant better and recover from the illness that affected the servant. He had a great faith in the Lord, as well as astute understanding of the socio-political landscape at the time.

Why is that so? That is because of what the Roman centurion told Jesus when He was about to go to his house in order to heal the centurion’s servant. The centurion spoke the words which each and every one of us now regularly recite during the celebration of the Holy Mass. “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”

These words showed to us that the centurion understood well the possible negative implications and repercussions should the Lord Jesus came to his house. The Jewish customs and traditions of that time prescribed against entry or visit into the house of a pagan. If one was to enter the house of a pagan, then he or she would be considered as unclean.

As such, the centurion simply asked the Lord to say the words, and he believed that his servant would be healed within an instant. And this ought be contrasted with what we heard of the attitude of many of the people to whom the Lord had come for. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, many of the people and even Our Lord’s own hometown neighbours rejected Him, despite having seen directly with their own eyes the Lord’s wonders and miracles.

The centurion believed with all of his heart, and for his faith, his prayers were listened to by God, and were fulfilled. The Lord praised him for his faith, which not many people in Israel at that time possessed, as we have just discussed. Now, let us ask ourselves, do we have the same faith as what the Roman centurion had?

As we see in our first reading today, the Lord instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper He had with His disciples, just before He was about to suffer and die and fulfil completely the mission He was sent into this world. And it was also to fulfil what He Himself had said earlier on to the people, that He is the Bread of Life, and all who eat of the Flesh and drink of the Blood that He gives, will have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord are the very focus and centres of our Christian faith. Yet, unfortunately, the reality is that there are still so many of us Christians who have not taken this seriously, or even acted in ways that scandalised this essential Christian truth.

This is evident from how we lack the respect and reverence for the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, treating the Eucharist not as the Lord Himself present in His full and complete Presence, in the Body, Soul and Divinity. Our core Christian faith is that we believe that even though the bread and wine remains as such in appearance, but in reality, in substance and in truth, they have been transformed into the very Presence and Reality of Our Lord Himself.

Then, we cannot do what we have done so far any longer, all of our irreverent attitudes, our lukewarm faith and attitude towards the Holy Mass, our refusal to put our whole heart and indeed, our whole being to be with God, and our failures to put God to be at the centre of our lives.

Let us today follow the example of the Roman centurion, as well as that of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, devoted servant of God and dedicated reformer of the Church. All of them have shown us what it means to be true disciples and followers of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine was a great intellectual and theologian remembered for his many beautiful works and writings, through which he helped to rejuvenate the Church battered and assailed both from inside and outside by divisions, heresies and external threats. He drove the reform of the governance of the Church, taking issue with the bishops and ordinaries who did not commit themselves or reside with their flock.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the many other saints of his era, and past and present holy men and women have shown us that we must have that strong faith in God, and dedication in order to be worthy of God. Indeed, as the army centurion said, ‘I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof’, for he and all of us are sinners. Our sins have made us to be unworthy of God. But are we willing to allow God to exercise His wonderful work of mercy in us?

Remember that the army centurion also asked the Lord to heal his servant, and let us link it with what we always utter during the Mass, ‘but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed’. This is a calling for us all to put our trust in God and turn towards Him, looking forward for His mercy and love. We have to remember that ultimately, each and every one of us are God’s beloved ones.

May the Lord be with us, and continue to shower us with His love. May He empower each and every one of us, that we may continue to grow in faith, modelled after St. Robert Bellarmine, the faithful Roman centurion and the many other holy men and women who have gone before us. May God bless us and all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 16 September 2018 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listen to the readings taken from the Scriptures, surely we will realise that being Christians does not seem as easy as it seems to be. Being Christians require us to be committed and to be ready to face challenges, difficulties and even persecutions for what we believe in, and often times, we will encounter these challenges from even those who are close and dear to us.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened to the prophecy which Isaiah spoke on the suffering of the Servant of God, which would later on be interpreted as the prophecy which he made on the coming and the future works of the Messiah, the One Whom the Lord sent into the world in order to bring the long promised salvation to His people.

The Messiah of God would suffer greatly, suffering rejection and even physical blows and being spat on, being humiliated to such a degree that not even His humanity was preserved. This is what the prophet Isaiah prophesied regarding what the Lord Jesus would face during His ministry, all the pain and rejection He would receive from His people. The Lord was rejected by His own hometown neighbours in Nazareth, hounded on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His journeys.

And in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the Lord Jesus speaking about His own impending suffering and tribulation at the hands of His enemies. It is essentially an affirmation of what the prophet Isaiah had mentioned in his Book. The Lord would suffer persecution, and then death at the hands of all of His enemies, those who rejected Him and wanted Him to be killed. That was the stark reality which the Lord Jesus presented before His disciples, in fact, not just once, but a few times.

But then we heard of how the Apostle, St. Peter pulled the Lord aside and rebuked Him for saying such ominous and bad things. The Lord rebuked St. Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!”, implying that it was under the influence of Satan and his temptations that St. Peter had made such a remark. The Lord also mentioned that he was thinking not as God does, but as man does. This is representing us the nature of human and worldly temptations that often get in the way of our true devotion and dedication to God.

The same temptations had been presented before the Lord by Satan himself, just after the Lord was baptised by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. In the desert, Satan came to Jesus and tempted Him three things, firstly with the temptation of hunger and food, and then with the temptation of pride and worldly glory, when he asked Jesus to jump from the top of the Temple of Jerusalem, and lastly, the temptation of desire and greed, when he presented the whole world’s wealth and glory, if only Jesus would worship Satan.

In all of these temptations, Satan was speaking through himself and through some others, including that of the Apostles, as recorded in today’s passage, and in another, when during the Transfiguration, St. Peter asked the Lord that they remained on the Mount Tabor and not to go down away from the Lord’s Transfigured glory. But the Lord again spoke to His disciples, by means of a voice from the Father, “This is My Son, My Beloved. Listen to Him.”

And Jesus therefore mentioned it again and again to His disciples, that He needed to suffer, to endure pain and trials, to be rejected and to be humiliated, to be crushed with the burden of our sins, and gathering them all on the Cross which He was about to bear. Of course that burden of the Cross was so great, and so unbearable, that in His humanity, the Lord Jesus endured a final temptation at the hour of His agony, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to His Father, even asking Him to take away the cup of suffering away from Him.

But in the end, the Lord Jesus was perfectly and completely obedient to the will of His Father. He was tempted through the flesh of His humanity, the vulnerabilities of His human existence and nature, but He did not sin because He completely trusted His Father’s will, and He surrendered everything to Him. That was why the Lord Jesus took up His Cross willingly, bearing it all the way to Calvary, being nailed on it and died on it.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what Christ has done, His actions and commitment to the will of His Father. And let us all remember what St. James mentioned in His Epistle, which is our second reading today. Faith, according to St. James, without works, is dead. Faith without the evidence of good works, done according to that faith, is meaningless and empty, and is useless for us.

What does this mean? It means that we may have faith in God, but we will not be saved and will not be worthy in God, unless our faith is truly real and genuine. There are those who have wrongly thought that we mankind are saved by faith alone, that our works have no part to play in our salvation, but they are wrong. For the Church has taught that, by the teachings of the Apostles, including that of St. James, good works must accompany our faith.

The Lord Himself showed us by the perfect example of His crucifixion and death. He has such great and deep love for us, such devotion and dedication to the will of His Father, that He willingly took up His Cross and did all that was necessary, in order to save us from the impending destruction caused by our sins, through His own death on the cross. He showed us that His love for us is not just empty and meaningless words, but also real and true.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also what the Lord meant, when He said that for all those who want to follow Him, they must take up their crosses and follow Him. If we truly are faithful to God, then we must substantiate that faith through our actions, deeds and words, in everything we say and do. How can we say that we are faithful to God and yet, our actions show otherwise?

If we have done so, then we have in fact scandalised our faith and scandalised God Himself. And that is a great sin which we have committed against God. Is this what we want to be with our life? Have we been truly faithful or are we still ensnared by the many temptations of this life, that we have failed to show our true obedience to God? This is when we need to make the firm stand and put the effort, for each and every one of us to be true Christians from now on.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore from now on, have a new resolve in ourselves, that we want to bear our crosses in life, by doing what we can in living up to our faith, its expectation and obligations. Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and courage, to live our lives daily with conviction, to show love and Christian way of compassion to all those who have need of them.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of life, and may He empower each and every one of us to live faithfully, that we may become true disciples of His, and be worthy of the eternal life and glory He promised to all of those who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 15 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the day after we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation and the Triumph of the Holy Cross, we commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. On this day we remember the sorrow, anguish and pain which Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ experienced, when she saw her beloved Son suffering the pain of the crucifixion.

We can just imagine the greatness of the sorrow and anguish she experienced as a mother, who had to see her own Son suffering, and dying on the Cross. This is especially coming from a mother who is exceptionally loving towards her Son, having been the one who raised Him up and protected Him throughout life, and who journeyed with Him throughout the years of His ministry among the people of God.

She saw how her Son obediently followed the will of God, His Father, in taking up humbly, all the sins of mankind, as what He has been sent into the world for, and by taking all of those sins upon Himself, He let Himself be humbled, be humiliated and stripped off completely of any glory, privileges, and even basic human dignity, as He was tortured and spat upon by the people and those who have condemned Him to death.

This is what the prophet Simeon had spoken, in one of our two possible Gospel passages today, when he spoke to Mary, about the heart of Mary that would be pierced by a sword, to show the extent of pain and anguish she would suffer, in seeing her own Son suffering to such an extent. The sorrow which Mary felt must indeed have been very great. And yet, she remained true to her commitment to God, and in her love for her Son.

Most importantly, Mary has seen the suffering that her Son suffered, the sufferings that were intended for each one of us sinners. And this is why, we have seen many Marian apparitions throughout many centuries, especially at times when we mankind are undergoing periods of troubles, wickedness and evil. Mary appeared to us, as a loving mother who is concerned with our actions and our sins, our lack of faith and our apparent path towards damnation.

Why is that so? That is because, as we heard in the Gospel passage today taken from the account of the crucifixion by St. John, we heard how the Lord Jesus entrusted His mother Mary to the disciple He loved, that is St. John himself, and then also entrusted St. John to Mary, His mother, that she might be his mother and that he might be like her own son. In this way, the Lord has actually entrusted her to all of us mankind, to be our mother, and vice versa, that all of us have been entrusted to her as her own children.

You can imagine the kind of sorrow that Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows has experienced, when she saw all the sins that we continue to commit in our lives, all the actions lacking in faith and in all the vile deeds and wicked words we uttered, even among us all who have been considered as members of God’s Church, as baptised Christians. Many of us have not lived in accordance with what God has called us all to be, and our attention, heart and mind have not yet been centred on God.

Unless something is done, many of us, through our sins, are on our way to eternal damnation, because of all the good things and deeds which we have been told to do, and which are indeed our obligations as Christians, and yet which we have failed to do. Many of us have sought not true satisfaction in God, but rather the entertainment and the merrymaking ways of the world, seeking to satisfy the pleasures and desires of our flesh and bodies, and in how we ignore the plight of those who are crying out for justice and for our help.

In this context, how can Mary then stay silent in the midst of all these things that happened? How we mankind treated one another with contempt, with hatred, with jealousy, with ignorance of the sanctity of human life, when we cause suffering upon others, and even loss of life, just so that we might get what we wanted and satisfy our greed and pride? That was why Mary made her appearance at Fatima in Portugal, during the height of the First World War, calling for the conversion of mankind, and for them to turn away from their sinful ways.

She knows that if nothing was done for them, and they continued to walk down the path of sin, then what lies in the end will surely be the pain and eternal suffering in hell, when because of their sins, there would be those who encounter downfall into that state of eternal despair and rejection by God. As a mother, she cannot bear to see us suffer in the same manner as that of her Son, and therefore, she continues to pray for us, to guide us to the right path, to follow her Son, and find our way to salvation in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as those whom the Mother of God herself has considered as her own children, are we then so insolent and ungrateful, so as to make our dear mother even more saddened by our actions and wicked deeds? If we truly love God, we will also love His mother, and vice versa, and how do we love God and His mother Mary? It is by genuine conversion of heart and renewed commitment to live and serve the Lord at all times.

Let us all repent from all of our wicked ways and turn away from all the sins which we have committed in life thus far. Let us all have faith in God, and let us all grow to love Him more and more, and draw ever closer to Him, with each and every passing moments. May the Lord bless us all, and may He continue to guide us all through life. O Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us sinners always, that we will no longer add more sorrows to your grieving heart, through our conversion of hearts. Amen.

Friday, 14 September 2018 : Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering that Holy Cross through which we have received our salvation, by none other than the suffering, crucifixion and death of Our Lord on that same Holy Cross, at Calvary, as the Altar of His offering and perfect love for us.

The cross is the first and most visible symbol of our Christian faith, the mark which has been given to us, not as a symbol of shame and punishment, as how it was intended to be, but rather as a symbol of triumph and victory against sin and death, the final victory which God has won for us all, against the tyranny of the sins that have bound us for time immemorial ever since the first time we disobeyed God and fell into the temptation of Satan.

And let us keep this key tenet of the importance of the Cross to our faith, as we continue along our today’s discourse. First of all, let us begin by looking at the passage from the Book of Numbers, in which we heard about the moment when the people of Israel rebelled against God, so much so that despite all that God had done for their sake, liberating them from the Egyptians, protecting them from their enemies and providing for their needs along the way even while in the middle of the desert.

But they continued to grumble and to complain, even rising up against Moses, wanting to kill him and replace him, and providing for themselves an alternative ‘god’ and idol, in the golden calf and in the pagan gods and idols of the neighbouring people. This disobedience and rebelliousness is the same kind of disobedience that Adam and Eve have once shown the Lord, and therefore, brought sin into the hearts of those people.

And the just consequence and punishment for sin, is the separation from God, by our own deliberate and willing rejection of God’s love and grace. And when we are separated from God, Who is the source of all creation and life, what is left for us is death. That is why, in the first reading, this is symbolised dramatically with the moment when God sent the serpents to strike at the disobedient and sinful people of Israel, and many died as a result.

That represents the death that comes about because of sin and disobedience. The serpents represent the sting of sin, the poison of sin, that will bring about death, should nothing be done to try and save those who were bitten by its poison. But the people regretted their sinful attitudes and begged God through Moses to show mercy on them and save them. And God showed clearly how He truly did not wish for their destruction, but rather, for them to be reconciled and be saved.

In the first place, if God did not love us or has wished for us to be destroyed, He would not even have created us in the first place. God is all good and perfect, and He could not have created us just that we can be destroyed and annihilated. Instead, as mentioned, it was our own conscious and willing rejection of God’s love and grace that has caused us to fall into eternal damnation in hell. Hell is in reality, a state of total separation from God because of our own rejection of Him.

But again, linking back to what we have discussed at the start of this discourse, the Cross is the symbol of God’s perfect love for us, which He made evident, clear and real through none other than His beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we heard in the Gospel passage today, that God so loved the world that He gave us all His one and only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, that through Him, all who believe in Him may not perish but instead receive eternal life.

In the first reading, we heard how God asked Moses to craft a bronze serpent placed on a staff, where the bronze serpent was displayed and lifted up high before all. All those who have been bitten by the serpents would not die should they look upon the bronze serpent. And this is linked to what the Lord Jesus Himself did at the time of the fulfilment of His ministry and work, that is His crucifixion.

As the Lord Himself explained to Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, just as the bronze serpent was raised high in the desert at the time of Moses to be the sign of hope and deliverance for all those who have suffered from the fiery serpents, He too would be raised up for the salvation of all mankind, who have been ‘bitten’ by the sting of sin.

The Lord gathered willingly towards Himself, the sins of all mankind, from the beginning of time, to the present and to the end of time, that all of us have been, by the will of God and His grace, by His loving and most selfless sacrificial act on the Cross, the Man Who was without blame and sin, but made to suffer the consequences of everyone’s sins, on the Holy Cross on Calvary.

This is the proof of God’s ultimate love for us, that despite all that we have done, in our disobedience and refusal to listen to Him, God’s love for us is so great, that He was willing to do everything, even to suffer such great pain and suffering, of bearing the whole weight and burden of our sins, by dying on the Cross. The cross at that time was the symbol of ultimate shame and suffering, reserved by the Romans who ruled Judea, where the Lord Jesus was, to be the punishment for the worst of criminals.

But this symbol of ultimate shaming, disgrace and humiliation has been transformed completely by what the Lord has done, in taking the symbol of the Cross to be the sign of certain and sure victory in the battle between good and evil, and in the ultimate downfall of Satan and all those who have brought us all to sin. The Cross is the proof of God’s triumph over sin and death.

That is why, the Cross occupies such a central and important part in our faith. The sign of the Cross is the sign of our Christian faith, and is the profession of our faith and belief in the Lord’s saving grace and love. All of us who look upon the Cross, on our Crucified Messiah, have seen a new hope, and we who believe in Him and seek His merciful love, will be saved and will receive new life in God.

As St. Paul said, in his Epistle to the Romans, Jesus is the New Adam, Who is unlike the old Adam. While in old Adam, through the disobedience and sin committed, all of us have suffered the consequences of sin and therefore, all of us are bound to die, but through the New Adam, that is Christ, all of us are brought to share in His death, in dying to our old ways of sin, and embrace the new life He offers us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice together and exalting the glory of the Holy Cross, the triumph and victory which Our Lord has won over the dominion of sin and death, let us all therefore rediscover our love and genuine devotion to God, especially through the Cross by which He has shown us His perfect, selfless and ultimate love for each one of us, without exception.

Let us now therefore renew our commitment to live like true Christians, as we turn ourselves towards the Cross, and be people of the Cross, bearing proudly within ourselves, the symbol of our faith, this Holy Cross, by which we have been saved. Let us keep in mind always, God’s everlasting love for us all. Amen.