Wednesday, 10 September 2014 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Gospel reading, of the content of the sermon of Jesus on a mount, also known as the Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes, a series of blessings for those who walk righteously in the way of the Lord and lived according to what God had asked them to, namely to bring peace and love where there is hatred and violence, and those who focused on the Lord rather than on the things of this world.

And in that also lie the curses and warnings for those who do not walk in the path of the Lord, who oppress others and those who practice wickedness in life, preferring the path of Satan and the pleasures of the world to the way of God, which for them seem to be a more difficult and less promising path, and yet that is the only path towards salvation.

St. Paul in the first reading today, in his letter addressed to the faithful and the Church in Corinth spoke about how the faithful should be maintaining whatever good things and virtues that they committed, and avoid any misfortunes, impurities and the darkness of the world that could be brought through certain actions.

No one knows the plan of the Lord and the will of God fully except the Lord Himself and to those whom He had revealed His will and plans to. And what we know of the end times when Jesus will come again in His glory, we know it from what He Himself had told the disciples, and the more detailed explanations as we heard it from the Book of the Revelations which was written by St. John the Evangelist as he received a vision of what was to come.

No one knew when and at what moment the Lord would come again. Remember that Jesus Himself mentioned that He will come again when people least expect it, like a thief entering into the house, no one knows when and how it will happen. Thus, He urged all of His disciples and all of us to be ever vigilant and to be always prepared for all eventualities.

Therefore, this was why St. Paul wrote in the way he did in his letter, as it was truly not known when the Lord would come again, and it was frequently assumed at that time, that the second coming of Jesus would be soon and immediate. Therefore, it was really not that St. Paul was opposed to marriage, or to the people walking and acting in the ways of the world, but he was truly concerned for the salvation of their souls.

All the priests and many other servants of God are also greatly concerned with the salvation of our souls, all of those who had been entrusted to them, like sheep entrusted to the care of their shepherds. But we ourselves should be concerned with our own salvation, the salvation of our souls. For if we do not do something, then when the time comes suddenly, we will be found wanting, and will not have any part in God’s kingdom, condemned for eternity.

How do we do this then? How do we live our lives so that we can ensure our safety and protection from the danger of eternal damnation? None other than by following the teachings of the Lord, some examples of which are what in the Beatitudes, the blessings which Jesus pronounced for those who had committed those good deeds.

And this is not impossible for us to do. And if we do them, we are truly going to be found as worthy when the Lord comes again, and He will bless us with His grace. But if we fail to do as He said, and instead if we follow the ways of this world and immerse ourselves in corruption, then His curse will be upon us, and in the end, only suffering will await us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the message of the Beatitudes, not just to be awed by them, but that we truly listen to that message, and then practice it in our lives. We should not worry if things are not perfect as we are bound to make mistakes, but what is important is that we should do better every time, and thus we should begin from now before it is too late.

Never wait, brethren, and be ready at all times. Do not wait until it is too late for us and we regret our mistakes. May Almighty God and Lord guide us in this life, that we may find our way to Him through what He had revealed to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014 : Ash Wednesday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the very beginning of the sacred season of Lent, the season of penitence and repentance, and the season of fasting and mercy. Today is the Ash Wednesday, the day when we have ashes placed on our forehead or head, to mark that on this day, we begin our journey of repentance and towards mercy and forgiveness.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are all sinners, and we all have fault before God. The ashes reminds us that we are all unworthy of God, because of sin which had corrupted us from the time when we first fall into sin, in our ancestors. Ash Wednesday also reminds us of our own mortality, that we are all mortals and we are all weak.

We are all created from dust, and so from dust we came and to dust we shall return. Our physical bodies will crumble like dust, and yet our spirits, the Spirit of God, shall remain. This season of Lent aimed at bringing to our realisation that we are sinners and mortals, and our lives depend on God and on His love and kindness. And He has indeed shown us great mercy.

Our Lord told us that what He wants from us is a heart full of regret and repentance. This heart of ours should not be filled with pride and reluctance, but instead with the eagerness of welcoming the Lord into our own lives. And this Lenten season serves to remind us of this reality. That God loves us and He wants to be reunited with us in love.

Many of us today are no longer aware of the love that God has for us, as well as the sinfulness and wickedness of our souls. We are also no longer aware of the need for us to be constantly in touch with our Lord and God, that is through prayer. We are often distracted by many things, some of which include pride, fear, reluctance, and stubbornness, which prevent us from listening to God and His will.

And it is these same obstacles that have afflicted the people of God at the time of Jesus, and even today. When we say that we have faith in God, that is not truly because we truly love God and devote ourselves to Him. Instead, our faith is often a faith based on fear of the Lord, fear of punishment, and the lack of understanding about what our faith is about.

Some of us love prestige and human acceptance, and that is why we pray loudly and hope that people will see us praying and praise us, or we pray because we look for something in that prayer, that is asking God to fulfill our wants, wishes and desires. It is this which further hinder our way towards the Lord and keep us away from salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin the season of Lent today, let us all reflect even as we receive the sign of the ashes on our forehead. Many people were reluctant or downright embarrassed of wearing the ash sign on the forehead, because they were concerned about what others will think about them, if they mar their own beauty and appearance.

That is why, brethren, today, let us receive the ash on our forehead with deep understanding, that first we are mortals, and all that have been given to us, our appearance and possessions, are all gifts and grants from the Lord, and we owe Him thanks for all of them. Let us all bear our sign of the ashes with pride, that we show true repentance on our sins and actions, humbly seeking the forgiveness of the Lord.

I hope that this year’s season of Lent will be a very fruitful season, both for us to make pure ourselves from the corruption of sin, as well as coming to a greater understanding of our sinfulness, and ask the Lord for His mercy, grace and love. May the love of God be with us, strengthen us, and be our defender against all the forces of evil.

Let us all go and seek the divine mercy, that He may forgive us from all the sins we have committed, and God be with us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 6, 7

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom the Lord sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no doubt.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To the Lord I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin, You removed my guilt.

So let the faithful ones pray to You in time of distress; the overflowing waters will not reach them.

You are my refuge; You protect me from distress and surround me with the songs of deliverance.

Friday, 31 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White (Priests)

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight I have done. You are right when You pass sentence and blameless in Your judgment. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth, a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offenses.

Monday, 11 November 2013 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 1-6

Jesus said to His disciples, “Scandals will necessarily come and cause people to fall; but woe to the one who brings them about. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. Truly, this would be better for that person, than to cause one of these little ones to fall.”

“Listen carefully : If your brother offends you, tell him, and if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he offends you seven times in one day, but seven times he says to you, ‘I am sorry.’ Forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord said, “If you have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted, and plant yourself in the sea!’ And it will obey you.”

Saturday, 21 September 2013 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, that is of St. Matthew the Evangelist, one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels. St. Matthew was once the tax collector, known also as Levi, whom the Lord called out of his previous life as money collector for the Roman overlords, to be the collector of souls, to take part in the salvation of mankind.

Brethren, today the Lord wants us to know that firstly, He loves us all without condition, with all of His heart. Then, He also cares for all of us His children, whom He loves best over all of His other creations, particularly the lost sheep, the ones who had been lost to darkness. That was why He mentioned the need for these lost ones for His love, and He made Himself available for them, calling them up from the depth of darkness into the light.

The Lord Himself called His Apostles and disciples from the rank of sinners, those who were sinful in various ways, from various backgrounds, and all of them, in one way or another, repented from their sinful past, and open themselves to God’s love, and eventually become great tools of salvation through which Christ our Lord made manifest His saving power. And St. Matthew, once sinner and tax collector, became the writer of the Holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation.

However, being the followers of Christ were not an easy thing, just as it is not easy in our world today. There will always be opposition and even persecution against us, just as the world had hated Christ, they too will hate us, His followers and disciples. Many sneered at us, as they had done so for the Apostles and disciples of Christ through the generations. They mocked us for the sins we have, although they themselves were sinners and did not repent.

Jesus was mocked by the Pharisees and the scribes very often, for eating and gathering together with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, whom they considered to be the lowest tier in the society, and whom they considered damned and cursed to hell. That was why, they distanced themselves from these sinners, trying to keep their own purity, disassociating themselves from all these ‘impurities’.

Yet, in doing so, they had instead incurred the wrath of the Lord. Not only that they praised themselves for their own achievements and deeds, but also that they had put down in contempt, the people of God whom they were supposed to lead. They had not reached out to them, and instead distanced themselves from the most needy of God’s people and condemned them for their sinfulness while they themselves were equally sinful as well, if not even more sinful.

The Lord brought His disciples from the depth of their sinfulness, lifting them up, and bringing them, including St. Matthew, from their fate in hell, to the new heavenly glory, with Him in heaven. Yet, the process is not a simple one, brethren, as the path was truly difficult, filled with the traps and devices of the evil one, attempting to bring them from God. All but Judas Iscariot survived those tests victorious, rebuking the devil and his temptations.

They were sorely tempted, and fear crept into their hearts when the Lord was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, after His Last Supper with them. They were scattered and broken, as if sheep without a shepherd. Even St. Peter, the leader of all the apostles and disciples of Christ, fell, and denied Christ three times, out of fear for his own life and safety.

But, brethren, this is where they were different from Judas the traitor, as they persevered while Judas gave in fully to Satan’s advances, and in the end, chose to take the quick way out by suicide, instead of seeking for the Lord’s mercy and reaffirmed his faith and love for Him, as the other Apostles had done.

The Lord had prepared His apostles through trials and difficulties, as St. Paul had mentioned, and they passed, not because they were righteous, but because they had risen up from their sinful ways towards righteousness, towards their love and dedication, for the Lord their Master and our God, and towards all of God’s children, whom they spilled their blood and shed their life for, following the very example Christ had set Himself.

They feared no human authority nor persecutions, for the Lord was always with them throughout their mission journey, to bring all God’s people and gather them to Himself, that they may be saved. St. Matthew was a part of this, and through the Gospel he wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he saved many souls from damnation.

He was himself once a sinner, a tax collector shunned by many of his own people, branded as traitors, since they were seen as the collaborators of the Romans, and yet, he became a great fisher of men, bringing many towards the Lord their God. What then, about the Pharisees? What is their fate? It is possible to deduce that indeed, their lack of true faith and love for God, had doomed them to hell for eternity, for they care nothing about their brethren or God, and all they ever cared about was themselves.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate this great feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Evangelist, let us follow in his footsteps, in his readiness to leave all that he had once had, and abandon his old, sinful life, to start anew in Christ, that the Lord who loves all, will put His Spirit within us, empowering us to be like the Apostles of old. May the Lord continue to bless us and embrace us with His love, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we truly know of the greatness of the divine love and mercy of our Lord. He is truly our Father and God, because He truly loves us all unconditionally, like that of a father to a son. The parable of the prodigal son, the well-known story of the wayward son and the forgiving, loving father illustrates this nature of our God’s love for us very vividly.

Yes, the Lord our God is a loving God, whose heart is full of tenderness of love and compassion, especially for all of us, the most beloved of all His creations. He is merciful and readily forgives His children, that is all of us, if we come to Him with contrite and sorry heart, seeking for His forgiveness and love. That love and mercy He had given freely to all of us without exception.

He cares for us the way the father of the two sons cared for them. He showered them with abundance and love, and they lacked nothing. Similarly, we have been provided by the Lord with many things, some of us less, some of us more, that shows the depth of His love and care for us. When we go astray, in the same way as the wayward younger son, He seeks for us with love and commitment.

Yet, brethren, we cannot constantly live with sin, be tempted by sin, and showing sin and wickedness, as the Lord God, as loving and merciful He is, He is also a jealous and avenging God. He would not have sin tolerated in His presence. The temptation of doing these things abhorring to God, and Satan always ramp-up their success in corrupting the hearts of men, that we fall and fail, just like the second son of the father, whom left his father to wander to a foreign nation.

God wants us to be His, and that we will return to His embrace, and He longs for that day when we all can be reunited in perfection with Him, and no longer be separated from Him by sin and our stubbornness. In the same way as the father awaited for the return of the prodigal son from his sojourn in the foreign country, day after day, month after month, until the prodigal son returned to his presence, and he rejoiced because of that.

Yet, we are reluctant to return to our loving God, because of various reasons that become serious obstacles in our path towards God, towards returning to His loving embrace. We can easily observe this in the story of the prodigal son, where the younger son feared going home to his father, although if he returned, he would have lived once again in plenty.

One such obstacle is the pull and temptation of worldly pleasures, which prevents us from going back to the Lord, and instead we immerse ourselves in such pleasures excessively, shutting the Lord out of our hearts and our minds. The other obstacle is fear, that is the fear of the wrath of God, the fear of His anger and retribution for our mistakes and our betrayal.

Such fear prevents us from drawing near to the throne of mercy, and also opening our hearts to the love of God. Yes, the Lord who hates sin and evil will certainly be angry on the sins we have committed, but He is not someone who will get angry without any good reason. The anger of the Lord does not always mean a bad thing to us, as He is indeed like a father to us, a loving Father who cares for His children.

And therefore, just like a father, He chastises us whenever we do something wrong, that we will not repeat doing that again in the future. He is angry with us and punishes us as the way that He showed His care, that we will not fall again as our ancestors had fallen into damnation. He punished us not because He wanted us to suffer, but indeed to avoid eternal suffering that awaits us if He did not ‘discipline’ us.

Hence, brethren, let us look into ourselves and reflect on the things that we had done, which had not been what the Lord taught us to do, that brought us into sin, following the example of the prodigal son, who realised the mistakes he had committed, and to the point of being embarrassed of having to go back to his father when he had no other option.

But it is important to note and follow his examples, that despite his initial fear and hesitation, he gathered his courage and returned to his father, who welcomed him and embraced him with love and joy. Then, brethren, we too should follow his example, to be meek and humble before the Lord who is merciful and loving.

Then, finally, let us reflect on the behaviour of the elder son, who became angry at his father for what he perceived to be unequal and unfair treatment by his father. This is a common  behaviour in mankind, which I am sure that we had witnessed quite often in our lives, how people feel that they deserve something more than what they had received and become jealous when they perceive tht others had been treated better when to them, these people deserved it less than them.

The elder son represents those people whom the Lord had chosen and saved since early on in their lives, and therefore remain in God’s love always, unlike the younger son who went astray along the way, and then returns to the fold. It is natural for us humans, relying on our emotions and instinct to resent those whom we deemed to have been treated better than they should have been.

We ought not to be judgmental on others, and indeed, with God, we should rejoice whenever one of the lost ones returned to the Lord and to us. Remember, that even great saints were once great sinners too. In fact, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said, the greater the sins one had committed, the closer one should have been towards realising the depth of their faults and iniquities, and thus, be more ready to embrace the mercy and love offered by God.

Therefore, we should help one another, assisting and supporting one another in our lives, that we will ensure that all of us will be saved and freed from sin. Give help and our love to those who are trapped in the seduction of in and the devil, praying to the Lord to open their hearts to His love. We too, brethren, though we have been saved, must be ever vigilant, that we too do not falter and fall to the traps of Satan that he had cleverly and carefully laid down for us.

May the Lord who has shown His love and mercy for us, continue to shower us with His blessings and graces, and continue to care for us like a father loves his children. May we too realise the depth of our sins, and the depth of His tenderness and love, that we will not be hesitant or fearful to approach Him, full of remorse and sorrow, that the Lord who loves us will embrace us, forgive us, and give us a place beside Him in eternal glory. Love one another and love the Lord God our Father. Amen.