Sunday, 5 April 2015 : Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, and we are glad. All creation rejoices because our Lord has triumphed. Satan He had conquered, sin He had cast down, and death He had destroyed forever by the power of His glory and majesty. In His rising from the dead we find hope of our salvation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the greatest feast of our faith, the culmination of our long wait for this moment, which we began with Ash Wednesday forty days ago, and now finally we come to this moment when we celebrate our Lord’s triumph. For today is the culmination of all God’s hard work, both in heaven and on earth. It was at this moment that God declared to all men, the fullness of His intention, and the goodness that He has planned for them.

Easter is a very important moment for all of us, for without Easter, and without our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, our faith would mean nothing, and we will have no hope in our own lives. We can have hope for the future because our Lord had risen and conquered death, proving to all of us that death and sin do not have the final say over all of us. It was once dreadful, yes, but through what Jesus had gone through for us, He had set us free.

Without Easter, without the resurrection of our Lord, there is no meaning to Good Friday, for then Jesus would just be a mere Man condemned to death, and die a humiliating death on the cross, the end of a rather successful career and work as a popular preacher and prophet. And there would be little meaning to our celebration of the Palm Sunday too, for then Jesus would just be someone who aspired to be the King over the Jews and failed, betrayed by His own people.

And our observance of Lent, Christmas and other important feasts would be for nothing, and our faith would be empty, since we are believing in a person who would seem to be no different than any other person. But Jesus is different, and we know that and we believe that He is not just like any other men, but He is God, who has made Himself to assume the flesh of man, so that He becomes fully God and fully Man at the same time, in the person of Jesus Christ.

And by His own power, Jesus had descended down into hell, after His death, which happened on Good Friday, and when He went down into hell, not because by any sins but because of what He wanted to do for all of us, He brought the souls of the faithful who have been lying in wait for timeless ages, and brought them into the salvation and new life which God had promised them all.

This is the essence of Easter, that is the final victory which had been inflicted on Satan, on sin and death. This is the moment of victory and triumph, of celebration, the new and true Passover, made through the new Covenant which God had sealed by His own Blood shed on the cross. Like the first Passover, a people in suffering under the slavery of the Egyptians had been freed from their torment by their God, who did not forget His love for them, and who had opened even the Red Sea for them to cross to safety from their oppressors.

The Scripture readings today are a series of reminders for all of us, of God’s continuing work and presence in our midst from the very moment when He created this world and all of us, that He never abandoned us mankind even after we have fallen into sin. We were created perfect and all good, as our first reading from the Book of Genesis had mentioned, and we were not meant to suffer death and tribulations in this world, if not because of our disobedience that led us to sin.

God easily could have crushed us and destroyed us if He wanted to. He was certainly perfectly capable of such feat. And yet, He went to all the trouble of coming down personally Himself to sort out the issue, and the rest of the story, we know all about it. It was the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He assumed our humanity so that as the new Adam, the new Man, He might show the way for us to break free from our chains of sin and become righteous and true disciples and children of our God.

Yes, that is exactly what the significance of Easter is also to us. We have to remember that every Easter, we renew our baptismal promises, and our brethren who have decided to accept our Lord and God as their Lord and Saviour are traditionally baptised on this day, at either the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday, as this is the moment that signifies new birth, new life and liberation from all the vices and evils of old, of our old lives and of our old habits.

Do we realise how important our baptism is to us? Through baptism we have been made free from all the sins and defects of our past, and we are reborn anew in the Lord. Jesus mentioned to the faithful Pharisee, Nicodemus, how a man must be reborn again if he or she wants to attain the fullness of God’s grace and salvation. And while the Great Flood of Noah’s time destroyed all those who were impure in the world and the righteous ones were saved, so therefore through the waters of baptism, we have died to our old selves of sin, to our old selfishness and wickedness, and reborn into a new life of grace.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this greatest feast of our faith, and as we begin our season of great celebration this Easter, can we ask ourselves as we look deep within our hearts, whether we have already done what God had asked us to do as His disciples and as His children? God had made us His adopted children through baptism, when we are made the members of His Church, and by sharing in the glory of Christ, we became His brethren, the members of His Body.

And therefore, naturally, as His children, we should behave all children are. Children should emulate their fathers and follow what their parents had taught them. If we truly belong to the Lord, then we would not continue whatever wickedness and evils which we had once committed in our lives. Indeed, if we do so, we do not just mock the goodness of God, but we also bring doom upon ourselves.

Our faith cannot be passive or stagnant, and neither can we believe that because we have been baptised and as members of God’s Church, then we are automatically saved. Our faith requires us to continue living day after day in fulfillment of what our faith had taught us. That means, our actions, our words and our every deeds must show that we truly are Christians, people who have been chosen by God and who believes in Christ and His resurrection from the dead. Otherwise, our actions and deeds will only betray our faith, that to show that we are not worthy of God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice greatly in this great joy of Easter, let us all renew our commitment, as we renew our baptismal promises, and let us mean them with every single words we utter from our mouth. Let us reject Satan, all the devices of evil and all forms of sin with finality, knowing that if we sin any more, we are betraying Jesus yet again and disrespect the love which He had shown us. Let us all grow stronger in our faith and in our dedication to the Lord, and help one another to seek the Lord and become closer to Him.

May Almighty God be with all of us, forgive us all our sins, awaken in us all the love and passion which we ought to have for Him, and by remembering our own baptism, let us all share the joy of Easter with one another. The Lord has risen, and He has conquered death! The glory of our Lord is upon us! Allelluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the tone and the meaning of the readings of today are not that different from the readings of yesterday, as they all talked about the understanding of the Law, and what is the true meaning of the Law, that is truly about the love of God. For the Law was meant not to oppress us mankind or to purposely make our lives difficult, but it was meant to lead the people of God and to help them to find their ways to Him.

And in the first reading we read about the Man named Melchizedek, who was written in the Book of Genesis as the King of Salem, or also known as the King of Peace, as the King of justice, which are indeed curiously, the titles which our Lord Jesus also holds, namely the King of Peace, and the Lord God of all, the Great Judge of all creation, who would judge all of creation.

This is to show once again, as often reiterated throughout the entire Epistle to the Hebrews, of the nature of Jesus Christ our Lord as the High Priest of all creation, of us all mankind, just as Melchizedek was the High Priest of God of old, at the time of Abraham. We do not have much info on who exactly Melchizedek was, based on what we know from the Book of Genesis, but in the Epistle to the Hebrews, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it was made clearer, that Melchizedek was probably another manifestation of God in the world, just like Jesus.

But Jesus was beyond even Melchizedek in deeds, for He did not just offer an offering of the tenth of the wealth of the world, as Abraham had given to Melchizedek, but He offered none other than Himself, the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, the one and only perfect sacrifice who through that sacrifice justified the entire human race.

And indeed, as I have mentioned at the beginning of today’s discourse, that the Lord had done this out of a single and clear purpose, that is out of His great and everlasting love for us all, that He does not want even a single one of us to be lost to Him. The Lamb of God offered Himself as the perfect and sweet sacrifice for our liberation, the liberation from the clutches of sin. Because of what He has done, all of us have been offered the freedom from the hands of Satan.

He is the High Priest who gathers all of us to Himself, and by His offering cleanses all of us from all of our sins with the singular act of His death on the cross. And this is our faith, what we believe in fully in our hearts. He died for us so that we may have life in us, and this is what the entire revelations God had made through the prophets, and all His laws are truly about, that is about the love of God made real by His sacrifice on the cross for us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes, the holy martyr of the Faith and one of the holy virgins, who maintained the purity of their bodies in defense of their faith and courageously defending the Faith against the corruption of the world. St. Agnes, also known as St. Agnes of Rome, lived during the most difficult years for the Church and the faithful, that is during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocleatian, infamous for his great persecution of the Church and the faithful, where St. Agnes also met her end in a holy martyrdom in the defense of her faith.

St. Agnes was a young Christian maiden born to a noble family, who died at a very young age in her early teenager years during the aforementioned persecution by Emperor Diocletian, as she openly declared that she was a Christian to the authorities. St. Agnes went through many sufferings and different forms of torture meant to force her and persuade her to abandon her faith, none of which succeeded to do so.

Miracles happened even while she was tortured, and her persecutors grew ever more desperate and grew even more vicious in their persecution of her as the miracles continued to happen. Eventually she was martyred for her faith as such a young age, a defiant symbol to the Emperor who had persecuted the faithful so much, that whatever he had done to harm their bodies, they did not fear at all, for they put their trust in the Lord in whom they received great rewards for their faith.

One of the symbol often used on St. Agnes is the lamb, for her name very closely resembled the word lamb in Latin, that is ‘Agnus’, and this should be a reminder to all of us, of the suffering that St. Agnes had undergone in defending her faith, and even more importantly, the sacrifice which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, had done to save us from the hands of death and bring us into life, as I have mentioned earlier in today’s discourse.

Let us all therefore renew our commitments to the Lord, so that all of us will grow ever closer to our Lord. Reject and resist all forms of temptations by Satan and let us strive to keep ourselves holy and pure, that when the Lord comes again, or when we see Him in heaven, He will praise us for our way of following Him, just as St. Agnes had done. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 1 November 2014 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a great feast day of the entire Universal Church, and not just of the Church which is in this world, but also together with the entire Church of the heavenly realm, as we celebrate today the feast and solemnity of All Saints, rejoicing with all creation, for the gift of the saints, who were once of mankind, but have been raised to the glory of the Altar and had been deemed by the Church as worthy of heaven by the virtue of their life and works.

This day marks the very important concept in our Faith, that is of the belief in saints and also to that extent, the blesseds or the Beati, who were also deemed worthy of praise and veneration, due to their actions in life, and in how they have faithfully lived their life in accordance with the ways and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in how they have dedicated their lives in service both to God and to their fellow men.

Then, in order to start, we have to understand who are saints in the first place and why they were so special, and how they can inspire us all in our own lives and drive towards salvation in God. Saints were also once living and walking in this world just like us, and they were also once sinners like us. Some saints were even once great sinners, who committed even abominable acts in the sight of God, when they were still alive.

Some saints were once murderers, and some were heretics and rebels against the orthodox teachings of the faith, and yet some were also fornicators and those who gave in to the pleasures of the flesh and the temptations of the world. St. Augustine of Hippo, the renowned Doctor of the Church and great saint is a traditional example of this, as well as St. Paul the Apostle, the great Apostle to the Gentiles and the one who wrote the many letters that today form the majority of our New Testament in the Scripture.

St. Augustine of Hippo was the son of another well-known saint, St. Monica, who was a devout Christian and had hoped that her son would be one too. She brought him up in the Faith with zeal and love, only to be greatly disappointed when he grew up to be a fornicator and a heretic, following the heresy of Manichaeanism, and indulging in various pleasures of the flesh and the world with his friends and companies.

Meanwhile, we know that St. Paul the Apostle was once Saul, the great scourge and enemy of the Church and the faithful, who hunted down many of the faithful, persecuted many of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, destroyed many of the communities of the faithful, and were once a bitter and zealous enemy of Christ. He went to Damascus with the evil intent of bringing the faithful who lived and hid there to the justice of the Pharisees and the chief priests.

And yet, what differentiated them from those who sin and was lost to us into eternal damnation? It is because they did not remain forever in their sins and in their sinful state, and instead, they sought complete change and turnaround in their own lives. They abandoned what were wicked and evil in their lives, casting out wickedness from their actions and deeds, and they embraced the mercy and love of God, taking up instead the armour of God, that is faith, hope, love and justice.

St. Augustine of Hippo was converted to the truth through both the endless intercession and prayer by his mother, St. Monica, who ceaselessly prayed for him and his soul, and he changed his ways, finding eventually the Lord his God, abandoning all of his past wickedness and since then, walked faithfully in the Lord, becoming among the greatest of the saints of Christendom, through his acts and works.

Saul as we know, was changed since he encountered our Lord Jesus personally, on that fateful day, on the way to the city of Damascus. He was blinded and was helpless, but the Lord through Ananias, His servant, he was healed and made wholesome once again. He was baptised and regained his old strength, but instead of resuming his old ways of hunting and persecuting the faithful, he made a turnaround and indeed, he from then on preached the Good News of God.

Thus, as we can see from their examples, saints does not have to be perfect people. Indeed, they were just as imperfect as we are, and they were sinners as we are. What matters is however that, they did not remain in their sinfulness and neither did they remain steadfast in their rebellion against the will of God. They changed their ways and had a turnaround in their lives, and therefore, they are converted to the cause of the Lord, and through their new lives, they gained justification in their faith and actions.

Some saints and blesseds were indeed already holy for most of their lives, and they were exemplary throughout the life they led, and in all of their actions. Some of these saints even died young, at a teenage or young adult age. This is in fact God’s way to preserve their saintliness and holiness, and to prevent them from falling into sin as they progressed further in life.

St. John Bosco or John de Bosco, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Bernadette Soubirous and many other saints who died young, because of sickness and other reasons, showed great holiness and piety since youth, and because of that, as the Lord Himself had said through His prophets and messengers, that He would rather that they be brought to His presence early and in their youth, rather than to allow the corruptions of the world and the temptations of Satan to get into them.

And closer to our era, we also know of the deeds of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the simple Albanian woman who dedicated herself to the service of the Lord and of her fellow men, by becoming, in her own words, as the ‘pencil in the hand of God’, and she became a beacon of faith and hope in many of those who suffered at the hands of the world, the dejected, the ostracised, the poorest and the weakest in the society.

We also know of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the saint of the Holocaust, who gave up his own life in exchange for another prisoner, who was condemned to death while trying to escape from the persecution of NAZI Germany. And we know of several Popes who are also saints, namely, Pope St. Pius X, the holy and devout Pope of the Eucharist, who reformed the faith and allowed more people to come closer to the Lord in the Eucharist.

And just recently this year we have two new Popes who were declared saints by Pope Francis, our current Pope. They are Pope St. John XXIII, the Pope of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope of peace and the one who worked hard to bring about peace between nations in the height of superpower conflict, and also to usher unity among the quarrelling bodies of the faithful in God. Pope St. John Paul II is the one whom we are often know a lot about, as the Pope who helped to bring down the tyranny of Communism, and who helped the Church to stand up strongly against the evils of this world.

Now one may ask yet again, who are the saints? And how do they play a part in helping us to achieve our salvation in God? And no doubt there are those who misunderstood and having been led by the lies of the devil, thinking that we in the Church of God pray to the saints and worship them as if they are gods. These are among the many things we surely will encounter in our lives, the common opinion of the world around us, the lies of Satan!

So, it is important that we are thoroughly capable of understanding the role that the holy saints play in our faith life, and as I have mentioned the various examples of saints, their actions and their justifications in faith, we can already see that these saints were once also men like us, walking down the same paths we take in this world, but they all share one thing in common, that they truly love the Lord their God, as well as their fellow men, and allow their faith to grow and flourish through their actions which bring grace not just to themselves but also to all those they have interacted with.

Sainthood is a state of someone who had been found worthy by the Church, after a process of formal scrutiny, or through widespread public testimony, that the aforementioned is indeed worthy of heaven, by the virtue of his or her actions, and by the piety of his or her faith, living and substantiated by the actions, which made the person as someone who is assured of heaven at the moment of death.

Is there a precedent for this? Yes, there is, exactly, and none other than, as done by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when He was on the cross at Golgotha. If now the Pope, as the supreme leader and the Vicar of Christ invested with authority, proclaimed that a person is worthy of sainthood, then the first ever saint, was the humble sinner, the criminal who was on the right side of Jesus, who was crucified together with Him.

There were two criminals who were crucified together with Jesus, and the one on the left of Him cursed Jesus and mocked Him, even daring to ask Him to bring Himself down from the cross, so that he too could escape from the suffering and the death that was to come. And what did he get in the end? Nothing, and he went straight into hell, for his pride, arrogance, lack of faith and most importantly, for his lack of repentance.

Both of them were sinners, but what differentiated the criminal on the left, who was condemned, and the one on the right, who was made just and righteous? It was because the criminal on the right fully acknowledged his sins and misconducts in life, humbly seeking the forgiveness of God, and declaring his faith and love in Jesus, knowing that He who is the Master of all, has the power to save all, providing that he was willing to accept the salvation. And indeed, he accepted it, and Jesus praised his faith and humility, and his genuine repentance, saying to him, that he would be with Him that very day in paradise.

Thus, that criminal too, was made a saint, St. Dismas according to tradition, as he was assured of his place in heaven. And thus, following in the same manner, as a tradition, the Church also declares worthy individuals as saints, and many of these were once sinners, who changed their ways and embraced the love and faith in God. And now that they are assured of their places in heaven, and being in heaven, they lie close to the throne of our Lord.

Therefore, now we come to the matter whether we worship the saints as if they are gods. No, and this is absolutely not true, the lies of Satan, the prince of evil, which he spread to misguide many from the truth and bring many away from salvation in the Church. We do not worship the saints, but we ask them for their prayers and intercession instead, asking them sincerely for their support for us, as they are close to the throne of God, and hopefully, through their prayers, the Lord will be moved to have mercy on us.

But this eventually does not mean that we should be idle, and pretending to think that the saints can help us in everything, while we sit back and relax, enjoying ourselves in this world. The saints implore for us and pray for us, but if we ourselves are not proactive in our faith, and if we ourselves embrace wickedness and darkness in this life, then we have no hope for salvation ourselves. Indeed, unless if we follow in the path of the saints, those who have turned away from the darkness into the light and follow their examples.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means, even today, as we celebrate together the great feast of all the holy saints of God, we too should realise that in each and every one of us lie the potential to become saints and holy before God, just as the saints who have gone before us had done. What matters is whether we make that potential a reality, by following the examples of the saints, embracing the goodness of God and rejecting all the falsehood, the lies and the temptations of the devil.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us ask the multitudes of the saints, the people who have been righteous and worthy in life, and were chosen and marked as belonging to God, for them to pray for us sinners who still live and roam in this world. Let us ask them for their intercession before the throne of our Lord’s mercy, so that God may be moved in His love, to help us to overcome our own sinfulness and vulnerabilities to sin, that we too may become worthy as His saints had been.

May Almighty God be with us always, and may the glory and joy of His saints remind us always of the everlasting promise of happiness and goodness which He gave all those who keep their faith in Him, and who lived according to what He had wanted us to live, so that we too may one day be found worthy of the glorious sainthood, and be holy people, one people united in our praise to God, forever and ever more. Amen.

 

First Reading :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/10/30/saturday-1-november-2014-solemnity-of-all-saints-first-reading/

Psalm :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/10/30/saturday-1-november-2014-solemnity-of-all-saints-psalm/

Second Reading :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/10/30/saturday-1-november-2014-solemnity-of-all-saints-second-reading/

Gospel Reading :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/10/30/saturday-1-november-2014-solemnity-of-all-saints-gospel-reading/

Thursday, 25 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the wisdom and power of God, which transcends far beyond even the greatest of human intellect, wisdom and understanding. There is none like God, and no matter what we try to understand and find out about God, it is truly futile if we do not first understand what He had done to us through Jesus His Son, the embodiment of God’s perfect love for all mankind.

For we are creations of the Lord, whom God made out of simple dust and soil, unto which He breathed His life-giving Spirit. Therefore, we are bound to the Lord who created us, and our lives are in His hands. He is the Lord of life, and One who has authority over life and death. Thus, whatever is His will for us, it will definitely happen to us, without any exceptions.

The problem with us and our world today is exactly that mankind are often too concerned and too worried about themselves, to the point that they are unable to look beyond their inherent selfishness and thus fall prey into the machinations of the evil one, who always prod us with more and more selfishness and temptations which would end up turning us further and further away from the way to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have often been too fixated on our prosperity and well-being, and in this modern day world, our lives have revolved around the concepts of material goods and material possessions, and if we look at the kind and the amount of the advertisements and promotions we see in our media, we can easily see that it is so easy for many of us to be devoured into the streams of greed and desire in the world.

Many of us try to look for more things in the world to satisfy ourselves, be it our desire, our curiosity or our sense of belonging, and our desire for love. But many of us failed to understand that we have to first seek the Lord before anything else. If we put God aside and instead seek the numerous things that satisfy our desires and pleasures in the world, then we lose our focus and our true purpose in this world.

We often occupy ourselves with thoughts and matters such as the desire to know more about God, and in our world today, we can see that there are increasingly more and more hostile groups of people who are adamantly opposed to the idea of God, and who contended that God does not exist, because they could not prove His existence and whether He truly is present with us and among us, and if He is as what our Faith had taught us.

This is all in fact because, as mankind grew to know more about the things around them, and as their curiosity accordingly grew, they became more and more revelling in their own sense of superiority and greatness, which was further helped by the culture and habit of competition in the society, where only the best can persist and prosper amid the increasingly more and more demanding world.

As such, men grew to care more and more about themselves and less about others, and they grew more and more detached from the Lord, thinking that it is their own efforts and achievements that had brought them to where they are now. People are fighting and toiling over possessions and prestige, and they strived to gain more and more fame and honour, that their names may be glorified among the people.

However, as the Scriptures tried to remind us, that all these pursuits are eventually futile, if we leave God behind in pursuit of all these. Ultimately, it is the salvation of our souls that matter, and as Jesus said that, it is meaningless indeed if someone is to gain the whole world just to lose his or her soul. Rather, indeed, it is better for someone to lose what he has in the share of the world, so that he may receive the salvation of the soul.

Therefore, brethren, let us all seek the Lord from now on with all of our hearts, and with all of our devotions and our dedications, that with all the strengths of our beings, we may bring glory to God and draw ever closer to His presence and love. May we learn to let go of the things that keep us away from Him, namely the excessive attachments to the things and pleasures of this world.

May Almighty God sharpen the edge of our humility and of our desire to seek Him with all sincerity and love, and dull the edge of our ego, our pride, our greed and our desire, so that we may learn to love Him unconditionally, just as He had once done unto us. Let us also love one another tenderly and with grace. That eventually we may let go of all things that keep our pride held high, and realise the love which God our Lord and Creator had given us through this life. God bless us all. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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