Thursday, 26 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded yet again as our current liturgical year cycle is coming to an end, that we have to put our trust and faith in God. We must not lose faith in the Lord just because of the persecutions, trials and troubles we face and will encounter in our respective journeys in life. We have to keep faith because the Lord is always ever faithful to His Covenant and promises to us, and He will lead us into the final and ultimate victory.

In our first reading today we heard the account from the Book of Revelations on the declaration of the Angel of God at the end of all the trumpets of the world’s end and the plagues, of the final defeat of the devil and all the forces of the wicked, by the declaration of the fall of ‘Babylon’ that shall never rise again, for it has been handed the final and ultimate defeat. God has triumphed and has won the complete and total victory for His faithful ones.

In our Gospel passage today we heard then of the account that the Lord had made, the premonition and prophecy on what would happen to the great and holy city of Jerusalem, that would be besieged and then destroyed. This would come to pass as the Romans would put down the Jewish rebellion in Judea and Galilee just less than four decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, causing many deaths and the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple.

Through all of these, the Lord wants us to remember that despite the difficulties and trials that we may have to endure as those in the past had endured and suffered, but we must not allow ourselves to be overcome by fear and by despair, for the Lord will always stand by our side and will not allow us to be thoroughly defeated and destroyed. He spoke of the suffering and trials that all the faithful and the devout will have to endure for their constant dedication and obedience to God.

Babylon is symbolic of the forces of evil that has once destroyed the city of Jerusalem earlier on, during the time of the end of the kingdom of Israel and Judah, when the Temple of God built by King Solomon was ransacked and destroyed, the whole city destroyed and the entire kingdom and population of Judah laid to waste. The destruction of Jerusalem and Judah was truly a terrible event for the people of God, much as the later destruction by the Romans would be as well. Hence, the symbolic representation of Babylon was used to refer to the forces of the enemy of God and His people.

And through that, the Lord wanted to show all of us that just as He humbled king Nebuchadnezzar and his mighty Babylonian kingdom, for all of his hubris, ego and ambition, the Lord will also bring low the forces of Satan and his mighty forces. The forces of evil and darkness may seem fearsome and terrible for us, but we must not forget that all those who are opposed to God, will be defeated and the Lord and His people will triumph in the end. That is why and how the Church and our faith still perseveres and going strong yet to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all not be easily tempted and swayed by the falsehoods and the lies of the devil, all the efforts that he and his allies are trying to put in order to make us fear them and to lose hope in God. When things go bad and sour for us, we must remain firm and faithful in our dedication to the Lord, for the Lord alone is our firm foundation and in Him alone we have true hope for the future. We must not be swayed by the false leads and persuasions that the devil have put in our path as obstacles.

Let us all renew our faith and commitment to the Lord from now on, and strengthen our faith and be more courageous in living our lives with faith and with real action of faith. Let us all help one another to persevere through the challenges and trials of life, and remind one another that we must never lose hope in God, but instead must be ever more true to our faith in Him, with each and every passing moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us the challenges and trials that are part of our journey as Christians and how we should keep up faith and not be afraid. This is because the Lord will always be with us and by our side no matter what, and with His guidance and strength, we shall persevere through all the challenges and trials.

In our first reading today we heard of the words from the Book of Revelations of St. John regarding the happenings of the end times as the time of reckoning and judgment is coming up on the world, and the Angels of God bearing the seven great plagues that will befall the nations and the people who refused to believe in God. At that time, the righteous and those who are still faithful in God will be persecuted and oppressed by those unbelievers, and the plagues and other signs are reminders that God is by the side of His faithful.

The Lord will not abandon His people to darkness and destruction, and He, as the Lamb of God seen in the vision of St. John, has triumphed by His Passion and Resurrection from the dead, and not even death and evil can overcome Him. For He has defeated the ultimate enemy of all, that is death, and showing to all of us that there is light and hope beyond death, and death no longer has the final say for all of us. It used to be something that we were all scared of as death is a separation from our lives in this world.

The Lord reassured us all that death that we experience is only a temporary experience and is just a mark of the new beginning of a new life with Him, when we will be reunited completely with Him and enter into the eternal glory and the eternal life that have been prepared for all of us. However, unless we believe in Him and are faithful in HIm, dedicating ourselves to Him, there will be no place for us in His eternal kingdom and glory.

And all of these relate well to what we heard from our Gospel passage today. In our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord proclaiming the revelation of what His disciples and followers as Christians would encounter soon enough, after He established His Church and they preached His Good News to the nations. They would be persecuted, oppressed, rejected and ridiculed by many of those who refused to believe in the Lord and in His message, as well as those who saw the faithful as threats to their own power and influence.

Hence, that was why Christians especially in its early centuries faced so many persecutions, initially from the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His followers. And in addition, the Roman authorities and the state governments, as well as the Greeks and other pagan peoples who refused to believe in God also persecuted the faithful and made things difficult to them.

Yet, amidst all of that, many of our holy predecessors, the innumerable martyrs and saints of the Church remained firm in their faith and conviction to serve the Lord, dedicating their lives and all their efforts to follow the Lord to the very end. They endured those sufferings, trials, persecutions and challenges since they had faith that God would be with them and journeyed together with them even through the greatest sufferings and the deepest darkness and despair.

One of those saints is St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the most famous and inspirational saints of the early Church. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a noble, born of a powerful family as her father was the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, a very important position in the Roman Empire at that time. St. Catherine was persuaded to become a Christian after receiving visions of the Lord and was convinced to embrace the Christian faith fully. And all these happened amidst one of the most bitter and brutal persecution against Christians.

It was told that St. Catherine was arrested and tortured for her Christian faith. And in the attempt to make her abandon her faith and to publicly denounce the Christian faith and truth, the Emperor made her to debate as many as fifty or more pagan philosophers, who were all unable to outsmart or debate her, unable to match her wisdom, the wisdom of God as passed on and revealed through the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Catherine’s wisdom was such that even the Emperor’s own wife was touched, inspired and converted to the true faith.

And when all methods and ways had failed to persuade St. Catherine to abandon her faith, the desperate Emperor tried to turn her by offering her his hand in marriage. Normally, the temptation to abandon the faith to embrace marriage with the most powerful and influential person in the land would be so great. But St. Catherine resisted the offer and temptation, declaring publicly that she maintained her virginity and dedicated it to the Lord, refusing to stain her purity in any way, and neither would she abandon her faith. And thus, afterwards, she was martyred for remaining true to her faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the inspiring examples set by St. Catherine of Alexandria, as well as the many other examples made by the other holy men and women of God, who had chosen to walk with God and refused to abandon Him, let us all be inspired to follow their examples and walk in their footsteps even as challenges and trials are facing us and become great obstacles in our own respective journeys of faith. Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, that we may grow ever closer to God and in faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all in our journey of faith. May He strengthen us and our resolve that we may persevere and be more courageous in our pursuit of faith, and be ourselves inspiring examples of faith to one another. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scriptures firstly of the account of the reaping of the Earth by the Angel of God as recounted in the Book of Revelations of St. John, and then in the Gospel the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple would come soon and also elaborated of the signs of the end times. Just as that destruction really came about as the Lord had spoken, it proved that whatever else He said about His coming will definitely come true.

In all of those readings, we heard of the coming of the time of reckoning and judgment of the world, typical of the readings at the end of the liturgical year cycle. This serves to remind us that we have to always be vigilant and not be complacent in living our lives that we do not end up falling into the path of sin and stray from the path that the Lord has shown us. It is very easy for us to be tempted and to be swayed away from the path of God.

In our first reading today, St. John recounted his vision of the Apocalypse or the end times, when the Lord commanded His Angels to go to the world and reap the harvest of the Earth. This is related to the parable of the Lord which was the harvest of the wheat and the weeds in which they were harvested when they were mature at the time of the harvest, and while the wheat were gathered and kept, the weeds were thrown into the fire and perished.

This means that the time will come when the time of reckoning is at hand for all of us, be it the living and the dead, when the Lord at His appointed time shall come again to judge the whole creation just as He has revealed and promised to us. And all those who have been faithful and righteous will be blessed while those who have been defiant and refused to believe in God will be condemned by their sins and wickedness.

That is why at the time of the judgment of the world in the vision of St. John, the same parable was repeated yet again to highlight just how the time of the harvest shall eventually come, the time of the world’s judgment, our judgment shall also come for us. And why does it say that the grapes were thrown into the winepress of the anger of the Lord? That is because likely there are just so much wickedness and evil in the world to bring about God’s anger against all those evils and evildoers.

Now the question is, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we want to be counted among those who are wicked? Or do we rather be counted among the righteous and the worthy ones? God has given each and every one of us the free will and the choice to choose whether we want to be faithful to Him or whether we prefer instead to follow our own path and forge our own ways and actions. If we had chosen to walk away from God, then know it that it is by our own choice that we shall be judged into eternal darkness.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives in the light of the certainty of the Lord’s return and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been good and faithful to the teachings of the Lord that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church? Have we dedicated our live to Him as we should have done? If we have not done so, then it is not yet too late for us to change our ways and make a difference.

Let us today look up upon the examples of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions, all holy martyrs of the persecution of the faithful in Vietnam, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. St. Andrew Dung-Lac himself was one of the first local Vietnamese to be ordained as a priest amidst the very hostile environment in Vietnam at that time as the Vietnamese Emperor and his government were deeply suspicious of the Christian faith and its missionaries.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, the Christian missionaries and all the Vietnamese faithful faced bitter persecution and trials, and many of them were forced to choose between suffering and abandoning their faith. Many remained firm in their faith and conviction, choosing rather to suffer and even die rather than abandoning their faith and devotion to God. And the most difficult and challenging fate faced those priests and missionaries who laboured to serve the people and spread the message of the Gospel even through these difficult times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be more faithful to the Lord following the examples of our faithful predecessors, especially that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in holy martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. Let us be inspired by their great courage and dedication to the Lord, their wholehearted service of God that we too shall be counted among the righteous, the holy saints and martyrs of God.

Let us all walk in their footsteps and love of God ever more faithfully from now on. May the Lord be with us in our journey of faith always, that we may persevere through all the challenges and trials we face. May God bless us now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 23 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the word of God through the Scriptures by which we are all reminded of our obligation as Christians to follow the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him through love, to be wholehearted in our faith and devotion at all times. In our first reading we heard from the Book of Revelations on a great multitude of saints in Heaven, glorifying God and worshipping Him while in our Gospel we heard of the offering of the poor widow at the Temple of Jerusalem.

Let us then begin with that account of the poor widow’s offering. The Lord and His disciples were at the Temple when the widow came to worship and offer her small offerings to the Temple treasury, a small gift of two coins, a very small sum, and yet, considering her poverty, it was likely a relatively very big sum of money for her. As she was already widowed as well, it was likely that she had difficulties making ends meet too.

Nonetheless, she still gave out of her poverty because of her faith in God, her genuine faith and belief in Him, as well as her sincere desire to love the Lord and her fellow brothers and sisters alike. Therefore, the Lord praised the poor widow’s actions before all of His disciples, showing that her faith and offering were greater than all the rich people who offered much more than her.

What matters here is the widow’s determination and love for God which is so great that she willingly gave even from her poverty and lack of things. Her love for God was greater than her love for herself and her possessions. Correspondingly, God Who knows everything inside our hearts and minds rejoice at her great faith, and her rewards in Heaven shall indeed be great.

In our first reading today as we heard from the Book of the Revelations of St. John, of the vision of the great multitude of saints in Heaven, numbering a hundred and forty-four thousand with many other innumerable holy ones who have been chosen and called, and answered to that call. Those saints and many among them being martyrs, had given their lives in the service of God, committing themselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, and suffered persecutions and trials for their steadfastness in faith.

They had also given their offerings to God, a pure offering of love and dedication, which the Lord desired more than sacrifices and other offerings of worldly nature. And hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the examples of the poor widow and in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs, in how they dedicated themselves to God and loved Him with all their heart.

Today we also recall the memory of two great saints, namely Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them can truly inspire us on how to be faithful to God in all things, as we follow their good examples and experiences. Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter the Apostle who was renowned for his great hard work and efforts to establish and strengthen the Church, and steer the faithful through difficult and challenging times. Meanwhile St. Columban was an Irish missionary who established many monasteries and communities in what is today France and Northern Italy.

Pope St. Clement I was essential in his role in continuing the expansion of the Church that had begun from the time of the Apostles, as he also wrote extensively to the various communities throughout the Church, helping to enforce the orthodox and true faith against false heresies and other corruptions of the faith. He helped to steer the Church through intermittent persecutions of the Church particularly the harsh persecutions under the Roman Emperor Domitian. Eventually he was also martyred for his faith, and gave his life willingly for the glory of God.

St. Columban the Abbot was remembered for his establishment of numerous monasteries and monastic communities in Western Europe, and many flocked to join those communities. He also helped to maintain a rigorous discipline of the faith, known later as the Rule of St. Columban. He did not have it easy though, as he met oppositions and challenges from rulers and those who were wary and suspicious of his efforts. He also had his share of enemies, but all these did not stop him from his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on the lives of these two saints and discern how we can move forward in life with ever greater devotion and be more willing and able to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May God help us all in this journey of faith, and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the very last Sunday in our current liturgical year cycle, and therefore we celebrate together the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, the King of the Universe. Today we glorify our Lord and God, Who is the King of Kings and Lord of all. He alone is the Master of all creation and hence the entire Universe as its King.

At the end of this current liturgical year we are all reminded of the Kingship of our Lord and how each and every one of us are truly subject to His authority and power, for each and every one of us have been created by the Lord as His creatures. But many of us have not understood, appreciated or acknowledged Him as our King as well as the nature of His Kingship.

Yes, the Lord is King, but He is not like any kings of the world that we know of. He was not born into the world in riches and glory like the other kings and rulers of the world’s nations, in wealth and wonders, but in poverty and in the filthy stable of Bethlehem, not fit even for human habitation, and even less so for a king. He did not live in palaces and great houses, but in the wilderness as He Himself said that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.

And before Pontius Pilate, during the moment of His Passion, when He was arrested and condemned to die by the Sanhedrin and brought before the Roman governor for final judgment, the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as a King, and answering to Pilate’s questions of His kingship, He again said that He is truly a King, but His kingship is not of this world, referring to the fact that He is indeed unlike any other kings.

The Lord is the one and only true King, from Whom all authority, power and kingship came from. All the rulers and kings of this world gained their authority from the Lord, as the stewards entrusted with the care of God’s people, just in the same way that in spiritual matters, the Lord also entrusted the faithful to His Church, under the leadership of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and the bishops.

Yet, many of the rulers of this world abused their entrusted power and authority, and like the parables which the Lord had used to teach the people, particularly those regarding stewards who had been unfaithful and lazy in the dealings of their works, many of these kings and rulers of the world did not do as they had been called and entrusted to do by the Lord, but instead, sought to gain for themselves for wealth, power and glory.

This was why many ended up becoming corrupt and tyrannical in their actions, causing suffering and harm on many people to satisfy their own selfish and greedy desires. Many had gone to conflict and wars in order to satisfy these desires, their pride and ego, just as our past century’s many deadly wars can show us. The two World Wars that the world had bled from, all had stemmed from those leaders who abused the power and authority entrusted to them.

Against all these, the Lord showed us all true leadership and kingship, one not founded upon pride, ego, greed, desire, and ambition, but rather love, compassion, care, selflessness and righteousness. The Lord shows us all that He is a King Who is always loving and caring towards all of His people, likened to that of a shepherd who loves and cares for each and every one of his sheep.

Shepherds at that time, as it is still today, are those who spent a lot of time taking care of their herd of sheep and other animals, and they knew their sheep well. This is why the Scripture readings today touch on the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as the Shepherd of the faithful, as we are the flock led by our Lord, the one and true Shepherd of all. And as the Good Shepherd, He knows us all well in and out, by each of our names and He knows all about us.

The Lord is showing all of us what true Christian leadership is all about, that as Christians, especially those in the positions of leadership, they all have to look upon the Lord’s own examples, in how He wielded His power and authority with justice, with care and love, concern and compassion on all those who have been put under His power, while dealing justly with others who have misbehaved and did wrong.

And this brings us to our Gospel passage today in which we heard of the account of the Last Judgment as the Lord foretold it Himself. At the Last Judgment, when all of creation shall be judged by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, as He returns into this world as a triumphant King, to finally claim all for Himself and to gather everything to Him, He shall be the Great Judge judging all of us mankind by our actions, deeds and by our faith.

The Lord said how the righteous will be separated from the wicked, and their deeds revealed before all. The righteous are those who have extended their love, care and affection for the needy, the poor and those who need for the attention and help from others, and the Lord shall bless and thank them for whatever they had done, saying that what they had done for those, they had done unto Himself.

In parallel, those who have been deemed as wicked and unjust had been judged because of their refusal to reach out and help, to show their love for those who need that love most, when they were perfectly in the position and were capable to do so. They were judged by their refusal to follow the example of the Lord in love, in care and in compassion towards one another. Instead, they have chosen to keep everything to themselves and in being selfish and greedy.

This is a warning and reminder that we should not forget that our Christian calling is to follow the Lord and His examples, and first and foremost, to obey the Lord’s commandments of love, that we are first and foremost to love the Lord, our God and King with all of our strength, and then to show the same love to one another, to our brethren, especially those who need that love, even more than we love ourselves. We should not allow our ego, desire and ambition to make us forget of our Christian calling and faith.

Today, as we all rejoice in our Lord, the King of Kings and King of the whole Universe and of all things, we are all called and indeed challenged, called to reflect on whether He is our King in all things, or whether our Christian faith is merely just a formality and the Lord is not truly the King of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. If the Lord is truly our King, then all of us as His people, His beloved sheep and flock should all follow Him and His examples just as the sheep follow their shepherd faithfully.

Many of us have wandered off into the wrong paths like the lost sheep, and yet the Lord had patiently waited for us to return, and even went out all the way to look for us, wanting each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. And therefore, let us all as Christians in our every deeds and actions, in everything we say and do, always be exemplary and good, always be just and righteous following the examples of our Lord and King.

Let us all be inspiration of faith for one another, and help each other to remain firm in our faith, and to keep steady in our path in our journey of faith. Let us all not be distracted or be dissuaded by false promises of desire, power, glory and all other things that can lead us astray. Let us put the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and King at the centre of our hearts and whole existence, that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and praise Him at all times.

Let us also pray for all of our leaders, all those in the Church and in the secular leadership positions, that they may imitate the examples of the Lord in His humility and genuine care for all those under His care, that they too may be responsible, just and ultimately good rulers and stewards, protecting and caring for all those who have been put under their care and that they may resist against whatever temptations that try to lead them down the path of selfishness, greed and tyranny.

May the Lord, our loving and most wonderful King continue to bless each and every one of us, and help us in our respective journey, that we may grow ever stronger in our love and devotion to Him, just as He Himself has loved us all first with such great intensity and sincerity despite our sins and rebelliousness. May God bless us all and be with us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 21 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which celebrates the moment when Mary, the Mother of God was presented at the Temple of God, as prescribed by the Law, as her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne offering their firstborn child to the Lord. Mary, the one who would become the Mother of God and Saviour, the Ark of the New Covenant of God.

On this day we rejoice and recall the faith of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God as we remember her piety and dedication, her virtues and humble commitment to serve the Lord with her whole life. Mary has always been a great example and inspiration for all of us, not just because she is the Mother of God but also because she is such a paragon of faith and virtue by her obedience to God and her genuine love for Him.

Mary has dedicated herself to the Lord and symbolised by her presentation to Him, and her whole life is a life of prayer and love, as she accepted her role to be the Mother of God, caring for the Lord from the moment when He was still in her womb, when He was still a baby and young, and followed Him through life and through His ministry until He endured His Passion and sufferings, and was there when He died on the Cross, faithfully standing by His Cross to the very end.

In our Gospel today we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people, when someone who told Him that His mother and family were there waiting for Him. And the Lord said to the people that all those who obey the Lord and follow Him are His mother, brothers and sisters, essentially His family members and those who are close to Him and beloved by Him.

On the surface it might have seemed rude for the Lord to dismiss His family members, His own mother Mary in particular. However, we have to understand and appreciate the intention of the Lord and the context of what He had said. He wanted to show that His familial relations are not definitive and does not exclude all the others, the faithful children of God. The Lord considers all to be His family members.

That is why through the Church, by our baptism, all of us have been made to be the adopted children of God. Through the Church the Lord unified us to Himself, in a family of the faithful, united through love. And by showing us all Mary, His own mother, as the perfect example of faith and the exemplary child of God, He Himself concluded it by saying, that all those who follow the Lord’s path, are all members of this beloved family.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why today we are all called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived through them thus far. And we are called to consider the path that we ought to walk forward in life. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to lives that are just like Mary’s, that is to be obedient to God, ever listening and adhering to His will, and virtuous and just?

Today, as we rejoice in the memory of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, let us all be inspired by the examples that she had set before us, that we shall also be righteous, virtuous and good in faith as she has shown us. Blessed Mother Mary, our loving mother, pray for us all sinners, and lead us all towards your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, 20 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded through the Scriptures of our calling as Christians, how each and every one of us have been called to proclaim the word of God faithfully at all times. Through our first reading today from the Book of the Revelations of St. John we heard of the Lord’s revelation through His Angel of his mission to evangelise to the world and what it entailed. And in our Gospel passage today we heard the moment when the Lord Jesus came to the Temple of Jerusalem not long before His Passion, and cleared the Temple grounds from all the wicked merchants dealing dishonestly there.

In that first reading passage we heard St. John seeing a vision of an Angel of God coming to him bearing a book, commanding him to eat that book. And when St. John ate the book, it tasted sweet in his mouth, but after a while he felt bitter in the stomach. Although it may seem weird to us to hear someone eating a book, but this is in fact a figurative language used by St. John to describe the meaning and importance of his vision and what he has been told by the Lord, that we too may understand this same truth.

As St. John described his vision and experience, the book was in fact a figurative representation and explanation of the gift of the Word of God to the Apostles, the disciples and the Church, the revelation of truth of God which we have all received. But why does the Word taste sweet in the mouth and yet bitter in the stomach? Again this is yet another figurative language used to describe how wonderful the truth of God is to us, as we revel and are happy in His love and care for us. And yet, it is bitter for us to stomach the fullness of truth.

Why is that so? That is because just as we know that God has loved us so much and each and every one of us are indeed so privileged to have received this great love from God, then we all also know what will happen to all those who have consciously chosen to reject this love of God, as St. John himself had seen in his apocalyptic vision of the world’s end times. There will be those who have chosen to abandon God and side with the devil while others remain faithful to God.

And those who reject God, His love and His mercy, by their rejection and by their sins are judged into the eternal suffering, not because God did not love them. Rather, they themselves had rejected God’s love and mercy, and by that rejection, they will have no part in God, and therefore, are bound to suffer with the devil and all those who have rebelled and disobeyed against God, for all eternity. It was they themselves who have chosen to walk down this path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has entrusted His truth and His words to us through His Church, and it is in fact a great responsibility that brings both great joy in seeing the salvation of so many souls, but also the bitterness, sorrow and even pain in seeing the suffering of those who have rejected God and chose to walk down the path of evil and sin. This is the burden and the joy that we both carry as Christians.

Therefore, reminded of all these, let us all then also reflect on what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, of the moment when the Lord Jesus, not long before His Passion and death, chased out all the dishonest merchants who sought profits and wealth, and made lots of selfish and greedy gains on the suffering and the cheating pf the faithful pilgrims coming to the Temple to worship God.

The Lord was truly angry that the House of God has been corrupted and misused for wicked purposes and that had been allowed to continue by the Temple authorities, the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. And by clearing the Temple, the Lord has also in fact urged us all to clear our own spiritual Temple, that is our body, mind, heart and soul, in which God resides.

We have to rid ourselves off these corruptions, that is sin and all sorts of wickedness, all our pride, ego, greed, wrath and all other sorts of evils within us. We have to resist these temptations and strive to inspire and help one another to keep our faith in God strong. We have heard and discussed of what will happen to those who refuse to believe in God, and therefore, we should try our best to live up to our Christian calling and expectations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith in God and strengthen our convictions to walk with zeal and commitment in the path of the Lord. May all of us seek the Lord with ever greater faith and love for Him. May He bless us all in our every endeavours and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 19 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all heard from the Scriptures the glory of the Lord in Heaven as described in the Book of the Revelations of St. John, as well as the lamentations of the Lord over the holy city of Jerusalem as He predicted the coming of its end as what would indeed happen in a few decades after, its destruction at the hand of the Romans.

In our first reading today as we approach the end of this current liturgical year we are reminded as always of the apocalyptic end times with the readings from the Book of Revelations or Apocalypse of St. John, in which we heard of the vision received by the Apostle on the coming of the Lord, and we heard today of his vision of the great scroll with seven seals being opened by the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ Himself, seated on the Throne of God.

And he saw how the Lamb on the Throne is surrounded by the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures, the highest of the Angels of God, unceasingly praising and glorifying Him, worshipping Him, the Lord and Master of all creation. The Lamb of God has triumphed over evil and being slain as the Sacrifice on the Cross, He has been glorified and has purchased for us all our eternal salvation and life.

This is a reminder for all of us that despite the challenges and trials that we have to face, we have the Lamb of God, triumphant and victorious by our side. The Angels of God and His saints had proclaimed His glory and victory before all of us, and even though tribulations will come our way, as represented by the doom and destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of that holy city and its Temple, but in God we shall be triumphant in the end.

This is a constant reminder for all of us that as Christians we must always glorify the Lord by our lives just as the commands at the end of each Holy Mass command us to, to glorify the Lord by our lives and to proclaim the words of the Gospel. And we do this not by loud proclamations or preaching, but rather through our lives and how we live it. If we speak of the word of God and yet our lives contradict what we have spoken and preached, does it not make us all hypocrites then? Who then will believe in God through us?

Today therefore we have been reminded and called to go the extra mile in the service of God, as His followers and faithful ones. We have to transform our lives and dedicate them to the Lord, that in each and every one of our actions in life, in how we interact with each other we shall always be filled with the love of God, obedience to His will and laws, commandments and ordinances, and exemplary in all things and deeds.

If our lives shine with the light of Christ, then Christ’s light will illuminate us and be with us even through our darkest hours and moments. And our Lord will lead us to the final victory that has been assured for us. Are we willing to commit to this path, brothers and sisters in Christ? There are many temptations and distractions in this world trying to mislead us and bring us down the wrong path. Let us not be misled by these and remain firm in our faith.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, the triumphant Lamb of God, continue to be with us, guide us in our journey of faith. May the Lord bless us in all of our endeavours and efforts to continue to journey faithfully with Him through this life we have received and the opportunities we have been given. May God bless us all, now and every moments. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the anniversary of two great Major Papal Basilica in Rome, second only in importance to the Cathedral of Rome itself, the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. These two great Basilicas, the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside Walls, have been dedicated to the Lord in the name of two of his great Apostles, St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, as well as St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican was built over the exact site where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero at the time of the first great persecution of Christians. The site was once known as the Vatican Hills, and was the place of a great racing course. It was there that St. Peter was brought in chains, and crucified upside-down at the end of his earthly life. It was the place where the glorious life of this first Pope, Leader of the Church and faithful Apostle ended, where he entered into heavenly glory.

This was at the end of a long life of service of this Apostle who was once called from the shores of the lake of Galilee by the Lord alongside is brother St. Andrew, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, fellow Apostles. He was a brash, illiterate and poor fisherman, a man without pedigree and power, without glory or fame, and yet the Lord chose him and called him to be His Apostle, and made him to be the leader of all of the Apostles and disciples and His Vicar over all the whole world.

It was this same St. Peter whom we heard in our Gospel passage today, coming towards the Lord walking on the water, just after he and the other disciples saw Jesus walking in the storm on the water towards them. St. Peter was the one who spoke up and asked the Lord that if that was really Him, and not a ghost, he would be able to walk on the water towards Him. But he had doubts and began to sink into the water and cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord reached out to him and saved him from the water.

Through this, and many other occasions such as St. Peter’s thrice denial of the Lord at the moment of His arrest and Passion, showed how this man was indeed imperfect and flawed as all of us are, and was a sinner and unworthy just like all of us, all the same. Yet, deep inside his heart, the Lord knew that St. Peter had great and wonderful faith in Him, a love that is truly deep and genuine above all else. And that was why the Lord chose him to be the leader of His whole Church.

St. Peter went on to lead the whole Church, by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, guiding the Church on many pivotal occasions as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles as well as in the Apostolic traditions, eventually establishing many important Sees like in Antioch and Rome. He went on to Rome as its first Bishop and that is why, the See of Rome is the Apostolic See, the Seat of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the Heart of all Christendom until this very day.

Meanwhile, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built at the place and house where St. Paul spent his two years or so in Rome at the end of his last missionary journey and travel to Rome as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in our first reading today. St. Paul went to Rome as part of his appeal over his conviction by the tribunal of the Sanhedrin in Judea, to appeal to Roman Emperor for his case.

St. Paul ministered to the people in Rome, both the Jews and Gentiles alike, helping the Church there to grow and establish firm foundation. He strengthened the faith of many in that city and preached the Good News to many more people, in tandem with the efforts of St. Peter and the other disciples. And St. Paul also fell victim to the same great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero, who used the Great Fire of Rome as a pretext to put the blame on Christians for what history had attributed to the Emperor himself.

St. Paul was beheaded and martyred in Rome, a faithful defender of the Christian faith. However, much like St. Peter, St. Paul was also imperfect and a sinner, being once a great enemy of Christ and His faithful in his youth. As Saul he had brought a lot of suffering and misery on the faithful in Jerusalem, Judea and other places as a zealous young Pharisee in his misguided efforts to eradicate and destroy the Church and all of Christ’s believers.

It was their respective conversions that transformed them into great champions of the Christian faith, their repentance from their faults and their acknowledgement of their love for God became bright light of inspiration for many who followed in their footsteps. They truly embody what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do, that is to be holy and to glorify our bodies and existences, which are indeed the Temple of God’s Holy Presence.

Today as we rejoice in the remembrance of the Dedication of the two great Houses of God, the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls we are reminded that we have to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles in their faith and dedication in serving the Lord. That is how we glorify our own Temple, the House of God’s Holy Presence in which the Lord Himself dwells. If we do not bring glory to God through our lives and instead bring scandal and wickedness, then we shall be judged by those and thrown into hell.

Are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the other Holy Apostles and saints, all the holy men and women of God in dedicating ourselves to the Lord each and every moments of our lives? Let us all make holy our Holy Temple of God, our body, mind, heart and soul, so that we shall be worthy dwelling place of our God. May our actions and deeds be filled with faith and may we grow ever more in our dedication to the Lord, and be ever closer to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the Scripture passages, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us as Christians to be genuine in our faith and dedication to God. We should not be inactive, lukewarm or dormant any longer in our faith. It is only through real love and faith that we can follow the Lord truthfully and wholeheartedly. Otherwise our faith will be found wanting and empty.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Revelations of St. John, the vision that St. John received regarding the messages of the Lord sent through His Angels to each of the seven Churches of Asia, the seven most important centres of early Christianity at that time. And in those messages we heard how there were those who have kept the faith fully, not ‘soiling their white robes’ and this means that they had kept themselves pure.

This was contrasted with some others who had been lukewarm and had not been as dedicated in the living of their faith. The Lord reminded how the lukewarmness in faith and lack of effort and dedication in living that same faith has no bearing and meaning. As Christians we cannot be idle and lukewarm, in disregarding the Lord’s teachings and ways in order to pursue our own selfish worldly goals among other things.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus, a short man who was also a renowned and rich tax collector at that time. Zaccheus was very excited to see the Lord and tried his best, despite his physical shortcomings and other barriers, climbing up a tree just so that he could catch a glimpse of the Lord. The Lord knew Zaccheus and his thoughts, his faith and desire to seek Him.

Thus, He called Zaccheus and told him that He would grace his house with His presence. Zaccheus publicly declared his faith courageously and with proper dedication to the Lord. This was remarkable as he was a tax collector and was also seemingly a particularly notorious one at that, and tax collector being reviled and hated by most of the people for their actions and greed.

Yet, Zaccheus publicly showed his repentance and committed himself to the path of truth. He did not only disavow his path of evil and greed, but he also promised to undo the damages he had incurred, paying back four times as much to those that he had cheated. Regardless of the amount, it was truly remarkable for Zaccheus to commit publicly to his repentance and showed his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen in today’s Scripture readings what it means for us to be faithful to the Lord as Christians. We should not be lukewarm and passive in our faith like what the Pharisees and many of the people of the Lord’s time, who were outwardly pious but had no real faith or love for God.

All of us should be like Zaccheus, a sinner and yet a sinner who loves God. His desire to seek the Lord, His sincere repentance and commitment to change his life is what each and every one of us should also aspire to as Christians, as God’s chosen and beloved people. And we should also seek inspiration from our holy predecessors on the path going forward in our lives.

Today we commemorate St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess of Hungary turned into religious icon and persona, who has been renowned for her great piety throughout her whole life. St. Elizabeth of Hungary grew up in a good and pious Christian environment, and this helped her to be pious and truly faithful as she became one of Christendom’s great persona, in her generosity and charity towards the poor and in her efforts to advance the cause of the Church throughout the kingdom.

In one of the most famous traditions about her, the ‘Miracle of the Roses’, St. Elizabeth, during one of her trip to bring food and sustenance to the poor, which had to be done in secret, happened to encounter her husband and his hunting party. She would not have wanted her secret to be known, as it might have brought opposition and difficulty for her, but miraculously, when she was asked to show what she was carrying in her basket, miraculously red and white roses filled her basket. This story convinced her husband in God’s protection of her, and apparently, led him to support her cause as well.

However, she did encounter trials and challenges through her life, as she lost her husband who went to the Crusade to the Holy Land and passed away along the way. She had difficulties but she remained firmly dedicated to her faith, committing herself to a vow of celibacy and holiness after her husband’s death even as this went against her family’s wishes. Despite their efforts to force her to remarry for political purposes, St. Elizabeth remained firm and strong in her convictions to the end.

The holiness of St. Elizabeth is an inspiration and model for all of us Christians to follow, that we may also be holy like her, and be courageous in living our faith just as Zaccheus and others had done, no longer being lukewarm or inactive in our Christian faith. Let us all discern carefully all of these and strive to commit our efforts and dedicate our lives to serve God from now on with greater zeal and generosity of love. May God bless us all and be with us through this journey of faith. Amen.