Wednesday, 29 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scripture passages beginning from the exchanges between king David and the prophet Nathan in our first reading regarding the plan that David had in wanting to build a great House for God, what would eventually be built by David’s son, Solomon and known as the Temple of Solomon or the Temple of Jerusalem. And then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the famous parable of Jesus, our Lord, namely the parable of the sower.

In our first reading today, as we heard of the desire of king David in building the house of God in Jerusalem because he thought that it was not fitting that he resided in a newly built and comfortable palace while the Ark of God or the Ark of the Covenant remained outside in the Holy Tent. Thus, he wanted to build a proper and worthy Temple for the Lord as a powerful sign of His presence among His people and as the epicentre of the divine worship for the people of Israel.

Thus he asked the prophet Nathan for his advice and what the Lord thought of his plans for the building of a great Temple to be the House of the Ark of the Covenant and thus to be the House of God among His people. But God had a different plan, and He revealed His plan to David, as He said that rather it was Solomon, David’s son and successor as king of Israel who would build the great Temple for God, and at the same time God also renewed His promise to David to make the reign of his house secure.

David obeyed God and did whatever He has led him to do. He reign righteously and justly, ushering a great era of prosperity and happiness among the Israelites. The reign of king David and his son, king Solomon is featured prominently in the Scriptures and have always been looked upon many centuries and even millennia later as the golden age of the Israelites. Many people continued to be nostalgic of the greatness and the prosperity that Israel enjoyed during those years.

And while David was not the one who built the Temple of Jerusalem, but if we read from the Book of Chronicles supplementing the information we have, we will know of how David did a great preparation for the building of the Temple, investing and setting aside massive amounts of gold, silver, other precious metals and materials. He also made preparations with his friends like Hiram, the king of Lebanon who would later on supply Solomon with plenty of Lebanon cedars and timber for the building of the Temple.

We can see from all these how David sowed the seeds for the building of the great House of God. And David has been faithful for all the years that he reigned as king, allowing all of his efforts and good works to pay dividends and bear much fruits when the Temple of God later on was built by his son, his reign secure and Israel prosperous under God’s grace and blessings. And this is related to how in our Gospel passage today we heard of the famous parable of the sower.

David is like the seeds that the sower spread on the rich and fertile soil, which bore much fruits, thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and even hundred-fold of what had been sowed. That is because David loved God and he allowed God to work wonders through him, through his reign and through his life by which he inspired his people to be faithful and to obey God. And as a result, many people were saved and remained faithful, and God’s people had great peace and prosperity then.

On the contrary, those seeds that fell on the rocky grounds or those that fell on the roadside and were picked up by the birds, and those that were choked by the thorns and brambles are those who received God’s love and had faith in Him, and yet they succumbed to the many temptations of this world, the temptations by which the devil tried to keep us away from God and to trick us into taking the wrong path in life.

That was what happened to king Solomon, David’s son, towards the end of his reign. As Solomon got older and became influenced by his many wives and concubines who began to sway and tempt him away from the true faith in God, the faith of Solomon had become weak and the wickedness and evil of pagan worship and disobedience against God returned. Sin has returned to Israel, and because the king has sinned, the rest of the people naturally followed as well.

As a result, the prosperity and glory that Israel enjoyed during much of the reigns of Solomon and his father came to an end after his reign, and the kingdom of Israel were divided into two, and eventually many centuries later, both were to be destroyed because the people failed to be faithful to God and continued on their path of disobedience and wickedness. This is a reminder for us all that faith in God leads to true joy and happiness in Him, while disobedience only leads to eventual destruction and harm.

Let us all discern, brothers and sisters in Christ, our path going forward in our respective lives. Do we want to follow the examples of David, in being open to allowing God to lead and guide us in our lives and to do what is good and righteous in God’s sight that we may reap eventually the good fruits of our faith and actions? Or do we rather follow what Solomon and many others had done in allowing the devil instead to take away our faith from us by means of many temptations that he has placed in our path? Are we able to resist those temptations and seek instead God’s truth?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on all these and strive to become ever better Christians in our life, in our work and actions. Let us all be exemplary and good in our life that we may inspire each other to live our lives ever more faithfully from now. May the Lord also continue to be with us all and bless us in everything we do. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are told of the matter of faith and obedience to God. We are presented with two stories, one from our first reading, the second Book of the prophet Samuel, on the account of the moment when king David brought the Ark of God, also known as the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, the new capital of the kingdom of Israel.

Previously, the Ark has always been in the field, originally carried and brought with the Israelites as they journeyed in the desert during their Exodus from Egypt and a Holy Tent was built to house this Ark of the Covenant, which was a very sacred and important part of the community of the Israelites at that time. The people made their dwellings around the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Tent, and when they have reached the Promised Land, the Ark and the Holy Tent were prominently placed in the heart of the land of the Israelites.

For the Ark of the Covenant is not just the symbolic representation of the Covenant between God and His people, but is also the real focus and emphasis of the bond between God and the Israelites, for the stones on which the Ten Commandments were written were placed in the Ark, and more importantly, God’s very presence and holiness descended upon the Ark when the Holy Tent was dedicated and consecrated to God. The Ark of God was the place where God Himself dwelled, inside the Holy Tent built over it.

David wanted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem, that it may then visibly dwell in the heart of the land, in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. And when he did so, he honoured the Lord and humbled himself before Him as we heard in our first reading passage today, dancing and rejoicing before the Lord with great joy. David obeyed the Lord and did everything he could to follow His commandments, and gave his all to Him. What we have heard in our first reading today was how he put God first before all else, even his pride and honour.

And not just in this matter, but king David has also been a good and faithful king and steward of God’s people, leading the people on the right path and guiding them with right conduct and devotion. Of course David was not perfect, as he did sin and make mistakes sometimes, but in the end, his love and commitment to God prevailed, and he remained mostly true to his calling and ministry as king. He did what was right in the sight of God and brought God’s people closer to Him, and for this, God blessed David and made an assurance to him that his house would reign as king forever.

This is then linked to our Gospel passage today, when the family of Jesus came to Him to meet Him while He was teaching to the people gathered before Him. In that occasion, the Lord told the people that His brothers, sisters, mother and family are those who do the will of God and obey Him. When we heard what the Lord Jesus said, without understanding the context and purpose of what He said, we may think that the Lord was being rude to His family and to His mother Mary. But the truth is actually different.

The Lord had no intention to be rude or condescending to His family and His mother. Rather, He wanted to make a good example and also to make it clear to the people, and all of us, that if we obey God and do His will, are faithful and devoted to Him, God will surely be with us and will bless us bountifully as He had done with David, His faithful servant. And of course, Mary, the mother of God is herself the most faithful one of all, and she is indeed one called the most blessed of all women and of all people.

Today, we also remember the memory of a great saint, whose life, works and dedication to God can be a great source of inspiration to all of us as Christians, just as king David and Mary had done. St. Thomas Aquinas is a great Doctor of the Church and a master theologian known well by his nickname Doctor Angelicus or the Angelic Doctor. St. Thomas Aquinas was well-known for his many contributions to theology and philosophy, sparking a great renewal in the intellectual dimension of the Church and the faithful.

Summa Theologica, the great masterful work of St. Thomas Aquinas still continues to influence the Church, the priests and the leaders of the Church for many centuries right up to this day, and is acknowledged as one of the most brilliant works that man has ever made. The impact of St. Thomas Aquinas, his works and contributions cannot be underrated, and we should be inspired by his commitment and love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is it that we should do then? We should be more faithful and committed to God ourselves from now on, imitating the examples of king David, of Mary, God’s own mother, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor and many other saints and holy predecessors we have, that we can look up to for inspiration. Let us all be inspired by them and strive to do our best to love God with ever more effort and commitment, putting Him ever at the centre of our lives and existence.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, that we may ever be courageous and strong to live up to our faith and be good servants of His truth, in proclaiming His truth and His salvation to all the peoples by our faith and obedience. Amen.

Monday, 27 January 2020 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures the beginning of David’s reign over the whole kingdom of Israel as described in the first reading today and how he managed to conquer the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites who lived there and made it the capital of Israel. And then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the tension and conflict that happened between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees who criticised Him and His works.

In our first reading today, the context of what happened was that David was finally accepted as king over all the people of Israel after for seven years, he was only the king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron. The other eleven tribes of Israel chose to side with the family of Saul after Saul was killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. Ishboshet or Ishbaal, one of the surviving sons of Saul was made king over the eleven tribes and for years, division and conflict occurred between the two opposing kings.

However, God was not with Ishbaal despite him having the support of the much larger portion of Israel, as God has earlier on chosen David as His rightful king and as the rightful successor of king Saul. This is something that Saul himself had tacitly accepted and acknowledged towards the end of his reign, but the supporters of Saul probably pushed on to prevent the ascension of David as king and thus placed Ishbaal on the throne.

As God was with David, it was recounted in the passage of the Scripture that David became more powerful and beloved over time, while the support towards the house of Saul gradually declined. Eventually Ishbaal was killed by two of his own captains, and the whole community of Israel eventually agreed to overcome their disagreements and chose David to be the rightful king and ruler over all of them.

This part here will be very important as we should then link it to what we have heard in our Gospel passage just now, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus publicly as they deemed that His miraculous powers and works were nothing else but the works of the evil spirits, done in collaboration with Beelzebul, one of the chief princes of demons.

The Lord then spoke up strongly against what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had said and thought that He has done everything by the power and in collusion with the prince of demons. He spoke of how a kingdom and nation that is divided will be destroyed and will not be able to stand, alluding to how first of all, that if the Pharisees had been right, then Beelzebul was himself divided against the other demons and evil spirits. Had that been the case, they would have all been too busy arguing, bickering and fighting among themselves to be able to threaten us.

That is as far as it was from the truth. The devil and all of his wicked forces are in fact more united than ever in trying to bring about our downfall, and that is why his favourite tactic is in fact to sow the seeds of dissension, disagreement, anger, jealousy, and all sorts of things that cause us to strike at another person. And when we are divided among ourselves, it will be easy for the devil and his fellow fallen angels and wicked spirits to come in for the kill.

Like the supporters of the house of Saul who were divided among themselves, culminating in the two trusted captains of Ishbaal who killed their own lord and king, those who are divided among themselves will be weakened and will be truly vulnerable. And unless we realise this, then the devil is really going to have a very good time at bringing about the downfall of many, many souls in this world, all those who are vulnerable to his lies and coercions.

The Lord also spoke up so strongly against those who criticised Him falsely because they have doubted the work of God among His people, which clearly and definitively could not have been the act of the forces of evil. What the Lord had done was genuinely for the good of His people, and even though the devil and his forces were very good at deceiving us with many lies and tricks, but he cannot hide his true nature, and he will not be able to show true love, compassion and genuine care for us, like what the Lord Himself had done for us.

When the Lord spoke of the ‘sin against the Holy Spirit’ as sin that cannot be forgiven, that is because although God is indeed loving and merciful, but to doubt and to disregard, to belittle and to blatantly make a lie against the obvious works of the Lord through His Holy Spirit, by which the Lord Jesus has performed His works and miracles, is a great sin that is borne out of voluntary and stubborn rejection of God’s constant offer of love, mercy and compassion.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were jealous and fearful of Jesus, Whom they saw as a great threat to their status, privileges and honour within the community of the people of God. They were afraid that everyone would flock to Him instead of listening to them and they then would lose everything they had gained thus far, all the honour, respect, privileges and authority they had. That was how the devil worked through them, through their words and actions, causing divisions and disagreements to enter the hearts of the people of God.

Having heard all of these, let us now then reflect on our own lives and how we have lived up to our faith thus far. Have we acted in the way those Pharisees had been, in sowing dissension, distrust and preventing God’s good works from being done for whatever reasons we have? Have we been telling lies, making gossips and doing things to create division and disagreement within our communities? Have we been doing things for our own selfish gain and desires, causing others to suffer in the process?

I am sure that all of us, in one way or another, in one part of our life or another, have erred before and fell into this trap of the devil, causing us to be divided against each other, being angry and jealous that led us into actions that cause us to be hurt, to hate and to make others suffer. And because of that, we need to heed what we have just discussed earlier on, how the devil is using this as an opportunity to bring us down. How do we then get out of this situation?

It is by putting our focus in life once again on God, meaning that in everything that we say and do, God should be at the heart of everything. If God is the focus of our life, the likelihood for us to be tempted or misled by the devil will be less, and through God, if we allow Him to help us and transform our lives, our strong relationship will keep us firmly rooted in Him no matter what obstacles the devil and his allies are always trying to put in our path forward in life.

Today, we can also heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Angela Merici, a holy virgin who dedicated her life to God and who had a difficult life in her youth, being orphaned at the age of fifteen and having to lose her sister who passed away in her teenage years. She was noted to be very beautiful, and many men wanted to suit her, so St. Angela Merici purposefully dyed her hair with soot to detract her suitors as she wanted to devote herself to God completely.

She gathered like-minded women who then called themselves as the Company of St. Ursula, which eventually would become the modern religious order of the Ursulines. St. Angela Merici inspired the growing group to consecrate themselves to God and to serve Him by devoting their time and attention to the needs of those in the community, particularly in the area of education of girls. St. Angela Merici kept her faith and dedication to God and did not allow herself to be tempted by worldly desires, as we heard earlier how she voluntarily give up her physical attractiveness to devote herself totally to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in God and put Him once again at the very centre of our existence and trust Him with all of our heart as St. Angela Merici and also king David had done. Let us not be distracted and be divided anymore by the machinations of the evil one, and resist him and all of his lies from now on. May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Angela Merici, give us the strength and courage to be ever more faithful to God, at all times. Amen.

Sunday, 26 January 2020 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time beginning from this year onwards, our Holy Father and Vicar of Christ Pope Francis has declared the institution of the Sunday of the Word of God, to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time every year. The purpose of this celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God is a very important reminder to all of us as Christians that the Scriptures are very important and integral in the development of our faith.

The Scriptures are none other than the Word of God, as God spoke to us through them, and those who had contributed and written the books in the Scripture were divinely inspired by God and the Holy Spirit to pass down the message of God’s truth to us. The Church has also authoritatively decided the books that are to be kept as part of the official canon of the Scripture, and from then on, we have the Bible as what we now have today.

And this emphasis on the Word of God today on this Sunday is very important to all of us the faithful people of God as the Word of God is our daily sustenance and the source of our strength and faith. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, the devil wanted to tempt the Lord Who was hungry that He should turn the stones into bread for Him to eat. The Lord rebuked Satan sternly saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’.

But the Word of God in this case does not just refer to the Scriptures, as the Word of God as we know it, also refers to the Christ Himself, because Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is also known as the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who assumed the flesh and nature of Man for our salvation. While the Father is the Creator in the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit passes through all creation, the Son is the Word by which God created the world.

And this same Word of God has become incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour. This makes the Scriptures even more significant, as the Scriptures become the manifestation of the truth of God, as we all know that the Bible consist of two main parts namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Word of God was revealed through the elders and the prophets who passed on parts of the revelation of God’s truth. And then in the New Testament, all that had been revealed and spoken in the Old Testament were confirmed in the truth of Christ.

In the New Testament, we heard the word of God from the Son Himself, the authentic and true Word revealing the truth of God’s will and plan for us. And those who wrote the Holy Gospels and the letters of the Apostles were divinely inspired through the Holy Spirit and by the experiences they encountered, to bring to us this sustenance in the Word of God, the sustenance of our soul, our mind, our heart and indeed of our whole being. Without this sustenance, our spiritual life will be empty and dead, and it will be easy for us to lose our faith.

That is why it is absolutely necessary for us to appreciate this great gift and blessing we have received in the Word of God, through the Sacred Scriptures easily and readily accessible and available for us. In the Second Vatican Council, through the Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, which means ‘Word of God’, the importance of the Sacred Scriptures was once again highlighted with the emphasis placed on the propagation of the Word of God among the people and the regular reading and exposure to the Scriptures by all segments of the Universal Church.

But in the same Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, the importance of Sacred Tradition as an inseparable part of the Church teachings and Christian truth together with the Sacred Scriptures is also highlighted and emphasised. This means that the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God cannot be studied, read or used independently of the Sacred Traditions and the magisterium authority of the Church. This is a firm rejection of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ position of those who argued that the Bible alone is the foundation of our faith.

Rather, the Bible and the words of the Lord in it must be appreciated and understood in the context of Church teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our predecessors, passed down and preserved for us from the time of the Lord and His Apostles themselves. It is this treasure of the faith that we have been blessed with and which is now highlighted in importance by our Holy Father Pope Francis as a way to stop the rapidly declining quality of our faith and relationship with God as what we can clearly see in our Church today.

If we do not expose ourselves to the truth of God in His words, how can we know more about Him? And if we are ignorant of His truth and the meaning of His words, how can we then understand and appreciate His love? As long as we do not know Him, are ignorant of His love and blind to His truth, we cannot be truly God’s disciples and our hearts and minds will always be far away from Him. In time this will lead us further and further down the path of sin and darkness.

That is why today, on this Sunday of the Word of God, we are challenged first of all to be more active in making use of the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures which we have received from the bounties of the Church, and be regular in our reading, study and appreciation of God’s words contained within the pages of the Scriptures. We should spend more time trying to deepen our knowledge of our faith, reading from the wisdom of the Lord contained within both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And as we do this, we also have to keep the reference to the official teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official Church documents and proclamations, all the guidelines and officially approved teachings of the faith as maintained by the magisterium of the Church and the deposit of the faith. By deepening our faith through closer interaction with the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and by keeping ourselves within the bounds of our Sacred Tradition, we will grow closer to God and be more faithful with each passing moments.

And among the best way to do that, is by paying close attention during the homily of the Holy Mass, when the priests explain the meaning and context of the proclaimed Word of God to us. Our priests have been prepared for many years in the seminaries and even many more years of experience during their priesthood to explain the truth in the Word of God according to the teachings of the Church. And this is why we also need to pray for all of them too, that they may remain faithful and true to their ministry.

It is important that we pay attention during the homily because if we do not understand, appreciate and adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, we will end up being like what happened in the early Church, divisions and struggles that appeared between the segments of the Christian faithful which threatened to tear the Church apart. It was so bad that St. Paul had to intervene through his letter, rebuking all those who put their own self interests first before serving the interest and purposes of God.

That was why we heard of the conflicts between those who declared themselves the followers of Paul and others who claimed that they followed Apollos. Both Paul and Apollos were great leaders of the early Church and they performed many good works for the evangelisation of more people. However, as their followers began to grow rapidly, those followers ended up beginning to seek their own individual agenda and interpret the Scriptures for their own benefits and selfish desires. And that was how, unfortunately, so many so-called denominations of Christianity exist because each person is free to interpret the Word of God as he or she wishes it.

That is why today, the second important thing that we need to take note of is besides deepening our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God, we must also continue to put our trust and faith in God through His Church, the one and only Church He has established in this world. As what He Himself said that if we are separated from Him, the True Vine, we who are His branches will perish because we have no life from Him and through Him if we separate ourselves from this unity with Him that exists in the Church.

And then, lastly, we are also called today to live and embody the Word of God in our daily living and in our faith. God has called us just as how He has called His disciples to follow Him as described in our Gospel passage today. We are all the successors to the works of the Apostles in continuing the mission which God has entrusted to them, that is the evangelisation of the whole world. But in order to do so, we have to first of all, be attuned to the Word of God, be faithful to the teachings of the Church and be willing to venture forth and be good witnesses of our faith to others.

And how do we become good witnesses of Our Lord? How do we proclaim the Word of God in a good way? It is not by preaching in public places or quoting phrases and words from the Scripture, but first of all, we must first live out what we truly believe in. This means that our every actions and deeds, our words, every words that come out from our mouths and our thoughts must be aligned with God’s truth as contained within His words in the Scriptures.

If we do not live in the manner compatible with what we speak, how can people believe in us? We are nothing better than hypocrites who say one thing but do and act in a different or even contradictory manner. That is why, our challenge today is for us to truly allow God’s words to enter into our lives and that we do not just read His words at a surface level or just through our brains. Instead, we must go deeper, in allowing those words to penetrate the depths of our hearts and souls.

And then, are we willing to allow God to change and transform us by the power of His words and truth? If we are willing, then surely we will, in time, be good examples of our faith and others who see us, hear us and witness our every actions will believe in God because of us. That is how we become the true disciples and followers of Christ, by being the beacons of Christ’s light in this world filled with the darkness of sin.

Let us all today renew our conviction and desire to love and serve the Lord, by deepening our relationship with Him through deeper and better understanding of the Word of God in the Scriptures, that we may proclaim God’s truth by our lives and actions, and bring more and more people to God’s saving grace. May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, continue to strengthen us in faith by His encouragement and love. Amen.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast in the Church as we recall the important moment when the Lord called St. Paul, then known as Saul, a young and zealous Pharisee who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the faithful. Saul was very adamant on hunting all the followers of Christ and strove to put them all into prison, and approved even their killing as what has happened to St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.

Saul was in the midst of this zealous pursuit when he went to Damascus in trying to eradicate all the faithful people of God who had taken refuge and lived there. The fact that Saul was even willing to venture far outside the land of Judah and even Galilee, was a testament to just how persistent he was in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian faith. Or so he thought, as in the end, he never managed to fulfil what he had planned and wanted.

As we heard in our first reading today, when Saul was still on his way to Damascus, God appeared to him in a great vision in which He revealed Himself to Saul as the One Whom he has been persecuting all the while when he was on a misguided rampage and attack against those who followed the Lord. Saul must have certainly been struck by that experience, and he was also struck blind by that vision.

We heard how Saul had to be helped and assisted, as his whole world turned into darkness for three days without being able to do anything at all. But God then sent Ananias to heal Saul, and after Ananias prayed over him, Saul was healed and received baptism in the Name of the Lord. This was a very significant moment in the history of the Church as the one who used to be a great enemy and persecutor of the Church had in a short moment become its greatest defender instead.

Saul had been called by God and had a moment of great revelation which entirely changed his life and direction. What he had once firmly believed in and championed in defending the purity of the Jewish customs, tradition and faith against the then thought to be ‘heretical’ teachings of Jesus Christ, had instead been overturned completely and the truth was revealed to him that in fact Jesus was the One Who had been right all along.

In the end, Saul became a Christian and as we can see throughout most of the Acts of the Apostles, he became a great champion of the Christian faith. He was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, through his tireless and extensive missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and in his visits to the many communities of the faithful at that time. He also wrote and communicated extensively with those communities by letters, many of which are preserved in our New Testament.

Saul took up the name Paul eventually as a very symbolic act of total conversion as he left behind completely his past life as an enemy of Christ and His followers and embarked on a journey of total devotion to God, suffering so many trials and tribulations, rejected by many and were almost stoned to death and killed on more than one occasion, because he served the Lord and did nothing else than to glorify God.

We have heard and known of how remarkable this conversion that had happened to Saul, becoming St. Paul and had a complete turnover in his life, called to serve God from being a great sinner and enemy of the Lord’s faithful. But what is the real significance for us? How does this real life story of the conversion of St. Paul has to do with us? And the answer is that all of us are just like St. Paul in one way or another.

We must all understand that every single one of us are sinners, and God sees us all equally and we are all the same and equal before Him. He is not prejudiced at all with us, regardless whether we have the greater or lesser sins. In the end, sins, no matter how great or small, significant or insignificant, are still sins that we need to be forgiven from by God. And because we are all sinners, we all need God’s healing and mercy, which He will readily extend and give to us.

If God Himself has called Saul, a great sinner and someone who had caused so much suffering and misery in the lives of many of the early Christians, it means that He must have forgiven him completely and did not take his many sins into account after he had had a change of heart and mind. Through baptism, Saul had been reborn into new life that God has called him into, the new Christian life that he dedicated himself, as Paul from then on. Then, all of us too have been called by God to follow the example of St. Paul.

We must not despise or judge anyone just because we think that we are better than them in any way, especially with regards to sin. If a very terrible sinner like Saul could change and be converted, then so can the worst of sinners as long as they are willing to open their hearts and minds to allow God to enter into their lives and transform them as He once did with Saul. And before we judge or be prejudiced against anyone, we should first look at ourselves.

In this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, all of us are also called by God to reflect on the conversion of this great saint so as to emulate it in our own respective lives. If we have not been faithful to God, if we have forgotten about Him in the midst of our very busy life schedules and works, if we have abandoned Him and preferred something else to Him, not being thankful to Him for all the love and care that He has shown us, and if we have been being angry at Him just because we thought that He did not listen to our prayers, then I am sure that we need this time to contemplate.

I am certain that each and every one of us, being sinner and imperfect, need God’s healing grace and mercy. But we often closed our hearts and minds against Him that we ended up acting as how Saul once acted in the years of his youth, zealous and very energetic but completely misguided and misled by blind faith and blind obedience. In the same manner, we have often acted out of disobedience and we fell into sin because we prefer to follow our own ways and disregard God’s will.

All of that led us to be lost and separated from God. We must realise that there are still lots of temptations and forces out there trying to keep us away from God and His salvation. Are we then able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as St. Paul has committed his? He has shown us what it truly means by a genuine conversion, that his whole life was changed for the greater glory of God as he lived for the sole purpose of glorifying God from the moment of his conversion.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to allow God to transform us as well? Are we able to go through a genuine and wholehearted conversion in life, changing our attitude from now on? If we have been lukewarm in our faith, may we be more faithful from now on and love God more. And if we have been distant from God, let us all strive to be closer to Him and to renew our relationships with Him. If we have been sinful all these while, let us all sin no more and seek to live our lives from now with faith.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His Apostle St. Paul, continue to bless us all and guide us in our respective journeys in life. May He strengthen us all and empower each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully in His presence. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the great story of the moment when David, chosen to be the king of Israel by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, refused to take the excellent chance and opportunity to strike at Saul, his predecessor who have fallen from grace and yet, as David rightfully mentioned, Saul was still the anointed king of Israel.

Although all the men who were accompanying David persuaded, begged and kept asking David to strike at Saul when he was at his most vulnerable in that cave when Saul came into the cave and rested, not knowing that David and his men were also inside, but David firmly refused to do so. Although those who accompanied David even persuaded him by saying that God had brought Saul into his hands and gave him the opportunity to kill Saul there and then, but David still firmly refused to lay a finger on Saul.

Saul had indeed been affected and tempted by the evil spirits and the devil himself as he felt insecure, angry and jealous at David, plotting to have him killed and destroyed to avoid this upstart to threaten his own authority and kingship. But David would not allow himself to be affected in the same manner, the same trick by which the devil definitely tried to bring down David as well.

David did not allow his pride and his desire to overcome his faith in God, his righteousness and commitment to do what God has shown him to do. He remained steadfast although it must have indeed been hard to resist such a powerful temptation right there and then with so many pressing and persuading him to kill Saul and be freed from everything that he has been suffering from that time.

Yes, we must not forget that it was because of Saul that David had to become a fugitive, running from place to place and living in the wilderness, even having to resort to flee to the territory of the Philistines with some of his followers just that he might escape from Saul and his wrath against him. He was also a rightfully anointed king as Saul was, and had he killed Saul then, he would have no issue in getting the legitimate claim over the kingship of Israel. But then, if he had done so, he would have sinned and stained his life with Saul’s blood.

David gave us a very good example of what we should do as a follower of Christ. As a follower of the Lord, we have been called as Christ called and chosen His Apostles in our Gospel passage today. And we should put God above all else, obeying Him and listening to Him, doing His good works and whatever it is that He has entrusted to us to do. David has done this well, resisting the temptations to fulfil his desires and satisfy his own personal vendetta and agenda.

It is something that we will likely encounter in our lives as well, the moments when we will be tempted to follow our own desires rather than to obey the Lord. Are we able to resist those temptations and do what king David had once done? Let us also not forget how the Apostles of the Lord were surely faced the same temptations, that eventually they fell too into those temptations, one of them betraying the Lord for money, that is Judas Iscariot, while others abandoned Him in the hour of His greatest agony and misery.

Yet, in the end, except for Judas Iscariot, all the rest remained true to their faith and almost all of them gave their lives to the Lord in martyrdom during their many years of ministry in establishing the Church of God. They put God and His greater glory ahead of their own desires and pride, as King David did. And today, we have yet another one of our holy predecessors whose memory we venerate, that is St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and a Doctor of the Church.

St. Francis de Sales was renowned for his role as the Bishop of Geneva in what is now present day Switzerland, at the height of the Protestant reformation, when many of the people left the Church for various heretical and dissident leaders who persuaded them to follow their ideas instead of the truth in the Church. St. Francis de Sales was a great preacher and teacher, and he ministered in that area with great patience and love, facing lots of trials and difficulties as most of the people were not initially interested in what he came to offer.

From the earlier days of his ministry prior to his time in Geneva, St. Francis de Sales had seen how the deteriorating morale and faith among the rulers and the people contributed to the decline in the quality of faith and life, and subsequently leading to further divisions and misunderstandings within the Church. And this is why St. Francis de Sales worked so hard in trying to evangelise with love and compassion as he carried on his missions, first as priest and then as the Bishop of Geneva.

St. Francis de Sales faced much opposition, persecution, challenges and threats during the duration of his ministry, but all these did not dim his passion in reaching out to God’s people including all those who were opposing and rejected him. He preaches with love and care for all those whom he reached out to, as was his motto, ‘those who preach with love, preach effectively’. His care, understanding and mild-mannered behaviour were remembered by many who were touched by his dedication and passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Francis de Sales and his life example has shown us, it is indeed not going to be easy to be a faithful disciple and follower of Christ. But we must persevere and put our trust in God for He will definitely not abandon us and will always be with us no matter what. Let us follow then the good examples of king David and St. Francis de Sales, in serving the Lord with all of their hearts and strength and not allowing their pride and desire to interfere as they lived their lives with faith.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through our respective journeys of faith and life, and may through the intercessions of His servants, king David and St. Francis de Sales, all of us may be inspired to live ever more faithfully and be more dedicated in serving Him and in resisting the many temptations present in this world. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture, we are again reminded of God’s providence and love for each and every one of us that He would not let us to be destroyed by those who sought our ruin and destruction. As we heard in our first reading, God protected David, His chosen one from the plots and attacks from king Saul, while in the Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord healed all those who were afflicted especially those possessed by the evil spirits.

King Saul was the first king of Israel who was chosen from among the people. He was initially good, faithful and obedient to God, but he ended up disobeying God and following his own will and desires, pursuing his own agenda and leading the people into sin. As he was not repentant and insisted on doing things his own way, God withdrew His support from him and chose David to be his successor as the king over the people of Israel.

David became very famous among the people after he defeated the giant champion of the Philistines, Goliath in single combat. And as David became more and more prominent through his many victories in battle, as the Lord was with him, the people began to laud him more and more and king Saul became jealous and felt very insecure over his position as king, probably knowing that Samuel the prophet had anointed David as the new king of Israel succeeding him.

That was how the devil entered into king Saul, as specifically mentioned in the Book of the prophet Samuel. The devil manipulated Saul and made him even more angry, jealous and insecure, and thus wanted to have David killed and destroyed before he became a threat to his kingship and rule. But God was with David, and as we heard in our reading today, he had a great ally in one of Saul’s own sons, Jonathan, with whom David had a great friendship with.

Through Jonathan, God helped David to escape from his predicament, as Jonathan helped David to get away from Saul and his plots against him. Jonathan helped David on several occasions and God also led him through the challenges and trials that he had to go through for years in the run from Saul, even when he had to wander among the Philistines and in the wilderness. God provided for the needs of His servant and remained with him until the day when David succeeded as king, and continued to bless him and his house afterwards.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of God Whom through His Son was healing many of the people who came to Him for all their sick and those who were afflicted in all sorts of ways. Those who were possessed by evil spirits, whom none other could have helped, sought the Lord and the evil spirits were cast out by Him. All those demons and spirits knew Whom the Lord Jesus was, but He would not allow them to reveal the truth as that might jeopardise His works and efforts.

Through all of these we have seen how God constantly cared for us and showed His generous love towards us. He does not want any one of us to fall into the traps of the devil and his wicked allies, and like how He cared and provided for David, He also provides for each and every one of us in His own way too. But too often we do not realise this, and we tend to forget about God and ignore His constant show of love and kindness towards us.

We have allowed ourselves instead to be made busy by the many temptations of pleasure, glory, materialism and all sorts of these things in this world. And this in fact is yet another sinister tactic by the devil in trying to bring us down with him into damnation, as he tries very hard to keep us away from reaching out to God and embracing the fullness of His grace, love and mercy. We really need to wake up and realise how it is very important for us to overcome these many temptations and redirect our attention back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to love the Lord more and more, just as David loved the Lord and dedicated himself to Him. Let us be ever more faithful and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, being thankful and grateful for all that He has done for our sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us in everything we do. Amen.