Tuesday, 1 July 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Amos 3 : 1-8 and Amos 4 : 11-12

Hear this word which YHVH speaks against you, people of Israel, against the whole family which He brought up from the land of Egypt. “Only you have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will call you to account for all your wrongdoings.”

Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion growl in its den unless it has seized something?

Does a bird get caught in a snare if the snare has not been baited? Does a tiger spring up from the ground unless it has caught something? If a trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If disaster strikes a city, has not YHVH caused it?

Yet YHVH does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets. If the lion roars, who will not be afraid? If YHVH speaks, who will not prophesy?

“I overthrew you, a divine punishment, as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand snatched from the blaze, yet you never returned to Me,” says YHVH. “Therefore I will deal with you in My own way, Israel, and since I will do this to you, prepare, Israel, to meet your God!”

Saturday, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 37 : 21-28

You will then say to them : Thus says YHVH : I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations, I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel and one king is to be king of them all. They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they defile themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins.

I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them and they will be for Me a people and I shall be God for them. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all. They will live according to My laws and follow and practice My decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to My servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David My servant will be their prince forever.

I shall establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I shall settle them and they will increase and I shall put My sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make My home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am YHVH who makes Israel holy, having My sanctuary among them forever.

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the fifth and last Sunday of Lent, we come ever closer to the holy season of Easter and to the Week when we will celebrate the most important mysteries and features of our faith, when Jesus Christ our Lord gave Himself for us and died for us. And today that is why if we notice the readings, they all drew the same conclusion, that deliverance is upon us, and God has prepared deliverance for all of us without exception.

Yes, we are all God’s beloved children and people, and therefore it is just natural that God would intend good things for us. He did not intend us any harm or let destruction be our fate, because He created us in His love, and He wanted only good things and blessings for us. It was we ourselves, mankind, who cursed ourselves and turned our back on the love of God, that we were headed into doom and eternal destruction.

Yet, we are truly special in the sight of the Lord, for unlike Satan and his fellow fallen angels who rebelled against God, we were all given a second chance of eternal life and salvation, because God loved us so much, so much so that He gave us that love in the form of Himself, in Jesus His Son, the Word made flesh and born into this world through the Virgin that He might save us all.

That is why Jesus our Lord is the hope for all lives, for all of us in this world, past, present and the future. That is because through Him, mankind were given hope once again, a light which pierced through the darkness of our souls and the darkness of the world around us. He breathed new life into us, and through His teachings, He showed us how to love God and be in His eternal grace.

Today we heard the very well-known story on the Resurrection of Lazarus, who was brought back into life by Jesus after he had died of an illness for a few days. Through this wondrous miracle, we were shown that Jesus is Lord and He is all powerful, being God, having absolute and complete power over life and death. And as He is the Master of life, life is His to bestow, and on Lazarus, man among whom He loved, He gave that life so that all who saw it may also believe in Him and therefore themselves gained life for themselves.

Yet it is also important that today we make a clear distinction so that we will not be confused later on. Lazarus was resurrected and was returned to life, but not by His own power or will, but by the grace and power of God through Jesus. The same also happened during the time of the prophet Elijah, who returned the life to the son of a suffering widow whom he was staying with.

Jesus, on the other hand, who is God and who was with God as His Word, rose from the dead by the power of His own will and might, as the Lord over life and death. That was the key difference between Christ and Lazarus in their respective resurrections. And this is also to show that Christ is the Saviour, the new hope for all mankind, that all who believe in Him and in the Father who sent Him, He will raise up to new life like that of Lazarus, and even more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have often forgotten about Christ in our own busy schedule in life, and in all our occupations and works, that we have turned away from the Lord and in the life and salvation that He offered us all. That is why, we have to constantly remind ourselves of the fact of our frailty and weakness, that we are predisposed to sin and vulnerable to committing trespasses to God.

It is why this Lent is the perfect time and opportunity for all of us to repent and commit ourselves to change our ways. This Lenten season is the time for renewal and rejuvenation of our souls, in which we can reorientate ourselves that we may forsake what is evil and harmful for our salvation and seek the love and mercy of God.

We should not waste this perfect opportunity, and make best use of it, so that we will be able to reach out for the Lord and His salvation, and we should humbly ask the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness rather than hardening our hearts as what the people of God had once done, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. God is rich with His mercy and love and He will not forsake us, providing that we ourselves are open to accepting His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the life, and the bringer of the new life in salvation that He freely offers us all. We should all take the time from now on to make concrete our love and devotion for the Lord, that we may commit to changing our ways for the better and dedicate ourselves to God without reservations. We should be like the two sisters Mary and Martha, who loved the Lord, who had faith in Him and believed in Him.

Let us all now resolve to seek God and to have Him always in our heart, committing ourselves to total change of self, abandoning all things that are evil in the sight of God, washing ourselves clean from these taints, and commit to doing good from now on. May the Lord our God and Father, see always the good that is in us, and our desire to be reunited with Him, and thus forgive us our trespasses and welcome us back into the grace and blessings He had prepared for all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Samuel 18 : 9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30 – 2 Samuel 19 : 3

Absalom was riding a mule and happened to meet the guards of David. As the mule passed under the thick branches of a big oak tree, his head was caught in the oak tree and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule he was riding went its way.

Someone reported to Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the oak tree.

David was sitting between the two gates. The watchman posted at the roof of the gate, on the wall, saw a man running alone. So he called out and reported to the king.

So the king said, “Move away and stand there.” He moved aside and stayed there. The Cushite arrived and said, “Good news for my lord the king! YHVH has done you justice today and saved you from all those who rebelled against you.”

The king asked the Cushite, “How is the young Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you end up like that young man.”

The king was greatly disturbed and, going up to the room over the gate, he wept and said, “O, my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, o Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was reported to Joab, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day turned into mourning for all the people, when they heard that the king was grieving over his son.

Saturday, 18 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

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

Today brethren, we heard about how God had chosen Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, to be the king over His people Israel, and how He instructed Samuel, His prophet and servant, to deliver His will to Saul and later on, to let it be known to the people.

He anointed Saul through His servant Samuel, that Saul be filled with His own Spirit bearing power and authority, that He be granted wisdom and power, which came from God, to lead the people of God through righteous life and obedience to the Lord, and make sure that the people of God faithfully keep the laws and commandments of God without turning from them or abandoning them.

But sadly, Saul, and many other kings of Israel did not remain faithful to God, and followed their own ways and desires, in ruling the people, misusing the power given to them and the authority entrusted to them. They became tyrants and abusers of power, serving their own needs and desires instead of serving the people of God.

The people of Israel were eventually lost and were scattered all over the world, after their kingdoms of Israel and Judah were destroyed by their enemies. They went into exile, and only a portion would eventually return to their Promised Land, and began anew, trying to once again obey the will of God and not walk the path of sinfulness as their ancestors had under the rule of the corrupt kings.

God resolved to show His infinite love for His people and for all mankind, the most beloved of all His creations, by sending to us His ultimate form of love, that is, Jesus Christ, His own Son, the Logos, the Word of God, who was made man, by the power of God, and born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus, as Lord, is the true King of all, for God is the true King over all creations, the Lord and King over all the universe. From God all authority and power comes.

But Jesus showed all of us, that true kingship is not one based on the abuse of power or tyranny. Even though He was Lord of all and King of all kings, and have all the power and authority He needed, He never showed them off or used them to push things to His advantage. The kingship of Jesus is one of true service for His people, to care and love them very, very much, so much that He even was willing to lay down His own life for them.

He also came to seek the lost and the ones without hope. He came to bring light to those who live in the darkness, especially those who were deeper and even deeper in darkness. That was why, when He came, He sought those who were sinful and considered the troubles of the society, the hated enemies of the people. Yes, people such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and those possessed by illnesses and the evil spirits.

Jesus came to bring them to the comfort of the light of God, and to show that they too deserve redemption, even more so because they were so deep in the risk of damnation. He also made the point that these people were truly capable of great deeds and great piety, even more than those who outwardly showed brilliant faith, but inside were not as brilliant as they seemed to be.

That was why, He as the King who has authority over us, and who is like a father to all of us, came to correct things as well as perceptions of the society, that we should not judge others based on their appearance or their deeds in the past. Yes, the likes of Saul, who was very tall and handsome, who seemed like the perfect choice for a regal king, and yet failed miserably, and the likes of the Pharisees, who outwardly showed faith in God but in their hearts there were no love for God, but only for themselves.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called by our King, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the beacons of light shining the way for those who have been lost in the darkness of this world. Let us imitate Jesus and seek out those who have been condemned and villified by the society, those ostracised and hated. Let us not hate or be prejudiced against them, but instead embracing them, that we show to them the love of God, that they too may believe and therefore be saved together with us.

May the Lord put in our hearts, the courage to embrace the least of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are looked down upon by the society, and those who are unloved and rejected. May God be with all of us, that together, we may help one another to find a way to seek the light, our King, the One and only True King, Jesus Christ our Lord and God! Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Saints Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord our God is a loving and merciful God, who is quick to forgive and slow to anger. He cares deeply for all of His children that is all of us. He gave His all to save His lost ones, likened by Christ Himself as the shepherd who went out to seek for the one lost sheep. Yes, brethren, so great is God’s love for all of us, that He was willing to come down to us, as a man, to be one of us, that He may save us all through His great sacrifice, a sacrifice for all our sins and our unworthiness.

The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep and is willing to die in exchange for the life of his sheep. That was exactly what Christ had done for the sake of us all, that is to die on the cross for us, to give up His life, that we may have life in us, through Him and through His action in His saving Passion. In order to look for us, the lost sheep, He was willing to go through painful suffering and rejection, so that He may find us, and not just find us, but also gather all of us, and return us into His most loving embrace.

We have been lost ever since our ancestors disobeyed the will of God and forsook His love, preferring the devil and the pleasures of this world instead of the love of our God. If our God does not love us or care for us, then He could have easily blasted us into oblivion, erasing us from existence. Remember, He is the Almighty God, who is all-powerful and almighty, and He is the God who created the universe. Just as easily as He created us, He can as easily erase us from creation, and therefore eliminate the evils present within us.

Yes, we have been dirtied by the evils within us, and the evils of this world, that we are unworthy for the Lord who is all good and perfect. Yet, He troubled Himself and went all the way, even to incarnate Himself as one of us, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, that He became one of us, sharing our sufferings, sharing our troubles and pains, even though He certainly was not obliged to do that. He was truly like a shepherd who shared the sufferings and experiences of his sheep, be it in the sun or in the rain, in safe times or in times of danger, when wolves are threatening to eat the sheep the shepherd is guarding.

Our loving God protects us from harm and shield us from pitfalls and from our enemies. That was evident in His great providence to His people, Israel. He blessed them, smote their enemies, and gave them food to eat and drinks to satiate their thirst. He brought them through the desert into the land He promised all of them. In His love and kindness, He had poured His love to His people, and protected them as He always had. Yet, the people lacked gratitude, and they made complaints after complaints against the Lord, chiding that He had not done enough good for them.

God kept His patience and continued without end to provide help to His people, by sending them His prophets and messengers. The people hardened their hearts and they rejected God’s messengers, casting them out of their cities and even killed them in cold blood. The Lord thundered His wrath on the rebellious ones and casted them out of His presence, but He kept on hoping in us mankind, that we will find our way back to Him our Father and our Good Shepherd.

To this end He sent us a great new hope, in Jesus Christ, part of the Most Holy Trinity, who became our connector to the Lord our Father, as the bridge that bridged the uncrossable and infinite chasm created as a result of our rebellion against God and His love. Christ is that shepherd who went out of his way to look for the lost sheep, and when the lost ones are found, great rejoicing happens, to the shepherd and the whole flock of the sheep, because the lost ones are no longer lost, but reunited as one once again, with the saved ones.

We have been saved, brothers and sisters in Christ, because we have believed in Jesus our Lord and Saviour, and accepting His offer to salvation, which He granted freely to all who trust in Him and all who put their faith in Him. We have been saved because we have been joined to that One Body of Christ that is the Church, the One and only Church that God had established, to be the united body of His faithful ones, that is the flock of the Lord’s sheep. We have been baptised in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, and we have been taken away from this world and its evils, and brought together with other faithful ones, into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, out of which there is no salvation.

Today, brethren, we commemorate the feast of two great saints and martyrs of the early Church, namely Pope St. Pontian or St. Ponziano, Bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ, and St. Hippolytus, a priest of the Church of God, also known as St. Hippolytus of Rome. Pope St. Pontian lived through the turbulent times of the third century Rome, when the Roman Empire went through a series of military and political upheavals. Pope St. Pontian initially led the Church in a relatively peaceful state, but soon faced a tough persecution of the faithful when a new Emperor came into power and began to persecute Christians once again.

St. Hippolytus lived in the same era, a contemporary of Pope St. Pontian, and in fact they clashed over certain issues during the time prior to their martyrdom. They were bitter rivals, and their rivalry even threatened to split the Church under factions led by each of them respectively. However, over time, they reconciled their differences, and worked together to bring back the lost sheep of the Lord caused by the divisions in the Church and among the faithful. Both St. Hippolytus and Pope St. Pontian were captured and exiled together by the Emperor who persecuted Christians harshly.

Eventually both of them met their end in death, in sacred martyrdom, in the defense of their faith, and in their courageous and vibrant love, which they showed to their fellow men, the flock of the Lord that they have been appointed as shepherds for. They did not fear death, because the Lord who had conquered death through His own death on the cross, has been triumphant, and death will not have the last word. Through their actions and deeds, many of the lost sheep of the Lord, and those who have yet to hear the Lord’s word were inspired to seek the Lord and find His truth, bringing to them the salvation of our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, even though both Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus had died a long time ago, but the spirit of their hearts and their works are still evident even until today. They have inspired all of us to also be shepherds for one another, to take care for one another, dissolving the differences between us, and seeking for what unites rather than what divides.

Let us seek our God the Good Shepherd, and if we are lost, let us find He who looks for us day and night. Let us not to forget to ask the assistance and help from His faithful servants, the saints, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, all the other saints and martyrs, and the holy angels of the Lord. Last but not least, let us also seek the help of the greatest saint of all, the mother of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us continue to walk in the path of the Lord, and not to be led astray by the temptations of evil, that we will be reunited by the Lord our God in complete and eternal happiness. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Saints Xystus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs; and St. Cajetan, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Saints Xystus II and Companions); White (St. Cajetan)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the case of the Canaanite widow and her daughter, and how the daughter was healed by Christ our Lord because of her mother’s faith, should stir all of us, all of our hearts. That the woman had shown her great faith and trust in God, placing all of her heart and faith in the power and ability of our Lord, recognising Him as the heir of David, the awaited Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world.

Yes, brothers and sisters, the woman, the Canaanite woman, not of the chosen race and the chosen people of Israel, had recognised the Lord and put her entire heart and full faith in Him when so many other people of Israel had failed to do so. Not only that many of these people had failed to put their full attention and faith in the Lord, but they even complained against Him and grumbled against Him, when He had shown them so much love, compassion, care, and kindness.

So great is His love that He listened to their complaints, giving them food, the bread of heaven in the form of manna for them to eat in the morning, and quails for them to eat in the evening, as well as crystal-clear and sweet spring water from rocks for them to drink and satisfy themselves when they complained that they have not enough to eat or drink.

Yes, the Lord even promised them, as He had promised Abraham their forefather, the Promised Land of milk and honey, where the land is so rich that it will yield fruits manyfold and bring with them great riches for God’s people, that is Israel to enjoy for eternity. He fulfilled that promise and brought His people to the land that He had given to them and their descendants.

And yet, they still complained, and they did not truly love the Lord their God, nor did they give Him their full dedication and faith. When the explorers sent by Moses reached the Promised Land and saw the warlike peoples of Canaan living in the land, with giant men and powerful warlords, the people chose to follow their own human instincts and immersed themselves in their own human fear, that they again complained against the Lord for having brought them to that ‘dreaded’ Promised Land filled with enemies and prospects of death.

Despite all the good things that the Lord had given them and would have given them in perpetuity, for eternity, they rejected the kindness of the Lord, because they trusted themselves more, in human power and fear, and not in divine power of our God. And therefore, because of their rebelliousness, they deserved death. The Lord rejected them from His presence and denied them from entering the Land He promised them.

Then we can contrast this, to the widow, the widow who does not belong to the people of Israel, the Canaanite woman dismissed by many in Israel in Jesus’ time as pagans and people doomed to hell. Yet, she proclaimed the Lord and recognised in Him the salvation that is to come for her and the whole world. She asked humbly for His mercy and showed her faith to Him, even when Christ seemingly rebuked her and mentioned that He was only sent to the people of Israel. She answered well and proved her faith to God, and as a result, she received her due reward, the same reward promised to the people of Israel of old, but which they rejected because they trusted more in the power of man rather than in the power of the One and almighty God.

It does not mean that the people of Israel are bad or that they are rejected by God. Remember that Jesus Himself is a Jew, and He belongs to the House of David, because He is His heir, and the widow rightly proclaimed that He is the Son of David, the One to whom God will give eternal kingship, glory, and power over not just Israel, but over all mankind, over all the world. Instead, the readings today highlight that, first, we must be always faithful and trusting in the Lord our God, and we should be fast to praise and slow to complain.

It is our nature to feel that we do not have enough when we actually already have more than enough. It is part of our natural greed and desire for things and material goods. And it is also our nature to first think about ourselves and our needs before that of others, and we are quick to praise ourselves in general, whenever we achieve something, but it is generally considerably more difficult for us to give due thanks and praise to others, when they have done something that had benefited us in one way or another.

This happened to the people of Israel in the desert, that despite the freedom God had given them from the backbreaking and hard labour under slavery in Egypt, despite that He had showed them His might and power in opening the sea, giving them His own Laws and commandments, making sweet and crystal-clear water to gush out from rocks and even giving them food from His own table in heaven in the manna, they did not feel that they have enough, and indeed, complained that their previous life in Egypt had been much better, and even brought the Lord to the test, in doubting whether God could provide for them in their journey in the desert.

Yes, brethren, the path of the Lord is not an easy one, and there will certainly be numerous obstacles lying in our path if we choose to follow the Lord. The evil one certainly does not stay idle and let us, the followers of God, His disciples to just go free without any difficulties. This is why, it is often much easier and much more pleasurable for us, to settle on things that seem to be easier and more relaxed, even though to do that means that we sin against the Lord our God.

We cannot have this mentality, brothers and sisters in Christ, because to settle for such a thing would mean that we prefer the slavery under sin and Satan, instead of the freedom God had offered all of us through His suffering and death on the cross. Do not follow the path of the Israelites who chose to rebel against God and complained against His love and kindness. Our Lord knows what we truly need, brethren, and He will not leave us without love or care, because He always watches over us, at all times.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feasts of Pope St. Xystus II or Sixtus II, as well as St. Cajetan. Both of them are holy and pious men dedicated to God in their own ways. Pope St. Xystus II lived in the middle era of the Roman Empire, and reigned as the leader of the Universal Church during the height of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in the middle of the third century. He reunited the divided factions of the people of God after healing the rifts that existed after heresies wrecked the faithful, and brought them back to God, once again as one people. He was martyred along with several of his companions following a brutal repression and persecution of the faithful by the Emperor Valerian.

St. Cajetan on the other hand was a priest who lived in the middle of the Renaissance Italy, during the sixteenth century. He helped much in the Church’s attempts to combat heresy of the Reformation which spread like wildfire during his lifetime. He dedicated much of his efforts and works to love and serve the poor, the lonely, and those without love, committing himself towards caring for all of them. He founded a religious order, the Theatines, which has a similar vision to him, that especially focus on the virtue of service and committing acts of love to others, as part of the faith.

Therefore brothers and sisters, today, let us be resolved to have the faith of the widow, to seek the Lord with great humility and persistence, and ask Him to show mercy and love upon us sinners. Let us not harden our hearts the way the people of Israel had done when they journeyed through the desert. Let us reflect on ourselves and our own weaknesses, and seek the Lord to enlist His aid, in helping us to overcome these weaknesses.

Let us also follow the example of Pope St. Xystus II in his commitment to the cause of the Lord, and the faith and love, as well as the dedication he had shown him, just as the widow had shown her faith to God, by her recognition of the good that the Lord had done for us. Let us also follow the example of St. Cajetan, in his own devotion to the Lord, which he showed through his love and service, and all the care he had given to all the children of God in need, in need for love, care, and compassion. In doing those things, St. Cajetan showed his love and faith in God. We too can do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ. Show Christ our love, just as He had shown us His love from the cross.

May the Lord bless us all with strength, faith, and perseverance to go on in our lives, no longer complaining but from now on putting our whole and complete trust in the Lord our God who loves us. May Pope St. Sixtus II and St. Cajetan, and all the company of saints and angels in heaven intercede on our behalf before the Lord who is loving and merciful, that He will forgive us our trespasses and deem us worthy of His presence and His kingdom once again. Amen.