Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are reminded to be ever faithful and committed to God, in our daily living, even if we are beset by various troubles and trials, challenges and obstacles. We should not be afraid or be deterred by the opposition and the hardships which we may encounter in our journey of faith through life. We must remain resolute in our faith and dedication to God, believing wholeheartedly in His path and not be easily swayed and tempted by all the traps and the other things that the devil and his wicked allies and forces had placed before us all. We must hold on to that faith which we should have in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk in which the Lord spoke and interacted with Habakkuk, a prophet who was active in the land of Judah during its final years, and whose life and ministry revolved around the sufferings and oppressions endured by the followers of the Lord at the land where the people refused to believe in God, where the prophets were persecuted. And not only that, Habakkuk was also referring to the sufferings of the people themselves, who at that time were brought under the dominion of the Babylonians and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet Habakkuk pleaded before God for His intervention and help, saying that he and the people have suffered, and were in need of God and His help. But God reassured Habakkuk and also the people, by saying that, whatever He would reveal through Habakkuk himself, everything would come in due time, just as whatever He had spoken through His earlier prophets like Amos and Isaiah, among others. Everything will happen as God wills it, and eventually, all those who remain faithful in God will be redeemed and will enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. God will not forget or abandon those who seek Him, even if they themselves had abandoned or forgotten about Him before.

In our Psalm today, we heard the exhortation for us all, God’s beloved people to rejoice in Him, in His faithfulness and love. We are all reminded to focus our attention to Him, to serve and glorify Him, and to praise and worship Him at all times. We are also reminded not to be like those who rebelled against God as at Massah and Meribah. At Massah and Meribah, the very ungrateful Israelites rebelled against God and complained against Him, because they refused to obey Him and follow Him, and complaining that they were deprived of what they wanted to have, when God had taken care of them day after day, month after month, and year after year, feeding them all and guiding them to the Promised Land.

We are all reminded through these that often times, we are ourselves our own greatest opponent and obstacle, especially in our pride, ego and desires. It is our pride and ego which prevented us from seeing how faulty our lives can be, and led us to stubbornness and rebellious attitudes, as we often did not want to admit that we could have been wrong in our ways. We ended up refusing God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy, hardening our hearts against Him as what the Israelites had done in the past, at Massah and Meribah and during the time of the prophets like Habakkuk. Their refusal to abandon their pride and ego led to their downfall.

While their attachments to their desires, to the many pleasures and allures of this world misled them down the wrong path, as they preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of power, knowledge, glory, wealth, affluence and fame, status and many others. They gave themselves to the worship of false idols and false gods to satisfy their own desires and wants, and refused to follow the Law and precepts that God had set before all of them. This is what has happened to us as well, and will continue to happen to us if we are not vigilant in living our lives in our present day world. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the many concerns and attachments, ambitions and desires we have, we will likely end up being lost from God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples when they asked of Him to increase their faith. The Lord reminded them all that if they truly had genuine faith, even no matter how small it may seem to be, everything will be possible. Again, the Lord was actually reminding all of His disciples that they should not treat faith as a tool for their own self-benefit and ambition. For at that time, the disciples had followed the Lord for various reasons, and likely many of them were also spurred by the desires they had for power, influence and glory, as is common for any groups and movements, just as the history of the world and our Church have shown us.

As the Lord told His disciples that after everything that the servants had done, they were after all just servants of the Master. Any glory they have done and any great things they had performed, all these were due to the Master and not themselves. The Lord reminded His disciples and all of us through this parable, that all of us as the servants and followers of God ultimately live our lives at the command and charge of the Lord, and everything we say and do, all of our achievements and greatness are ultimately not due to ourselves, but due to God, attributed to Him and should have been offered to Him, rather than to make ourselves bloated with pride and ego.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, pride and ego are often obstacles and barriers that kept us away from God. Due to those, we often enclose ourselves in our own cocoon, in our own comfort zones, seeking to attain our own personal comfort and satisfaction rather than to do the will of God. The Lord reminded His disciples to be wary of these temptations that they do not seek for glory and acclaim in life, and whenever they do His will, they should do it because they want to do it for the glory of God and for the good of their fellow brothers and sisters, and not for their own selfish desires and ambitions instead. St. Paul his Epistle to St. Timothy, in our second reading today, also echoed the same thought, that we ought to follow the Lord and His ways, and not to give in to worldly ways and desires.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we are now then called to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how each and every one of us should proceed forward in our respective lives. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and we should answer His call with faith and commitment. We should do whatever we can in life, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant things so that our lives, our every actions, our words and interactions with one another bear within them the light and truth of God, His hope, His love and His way. Through us, the Lord can touch so many more other people in this world, and this is our calling as Christians, to do God’s will and to live our lives faithfully in the way that He has shown and taught us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church and in our respective involvements, in our Church ministries and organisations, there should be no quarrel, infighting and power-playing that unfortunately often happen because we as fellow Christians, instead of dedicating our works and efforts to serve the Lord and focusing our attention on Him, we focus our attention on ourselves instead, and seeking to satisfy our own personal ambitions and desires. That is why we end up having so many issues and conflicts, factionalism and infighting even among the members of the Church and its various communities and bodies.

Not only that, but even outside the Church, and within our own respective circles of friends and families, we should be the ones to bear forth the goodness of God’s love and truth rather than being the source of division or suffering for others. Too often we have heard how people were being scandalised and turned off by the actions of Christians who did not live their lives as how Christians should, and instead they lived their lives in the manner of the world, and often even worse than how non-Christians behave themselves. This is why, each and every one of us, whenever and wherever we are, we have to do our best to live our lives righteously and worthily in the manner that God has shown us.

May the Lord our most loving God and Master continue to watch over each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us all with the courage and resolve to follow Him and to walk ever always in His path and presence, resisting the many temptations present all around us that we do not end up falling into the traps that the evil ones had intentionally set before us to bring about our downfall. Let us all seek the Lord ever more fervently and spend more of our time and effort to do His will, and to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. May God bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Habakkuk 1 : 2-3 and Habakkuk 2 : 2-4

YHVH, how long will I cry for help while You pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and You do not save. Why do You make me see injustice? Are You pleased to look on tyranny? All I see is outrage, violence and quarrels.

Then YHVH answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deterred. Look : I do not look with favour on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

Saturday, 1 October 2022 : Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us gather together to listen to the words of the Lord and to celebrate together as one whole Church, the Feast of the great saint and Patroness of Missions, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. On this day we heard of the words from the Scriptures reminding us all to entrust ourselves to the Lord and to follow Him faithfully, to follow Him with all of our hearts and might, and to be like little children in our faith, pure and sincere, and genuine in our desire to love God and to walk in His path, unfettered by the many temptations of the world often present all around us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, as He told them to have faith in Him and trust in Him, as He would restore peace, glory and happiness to Jerusalem, to His people and nation, and that they would no longer have to suffer or be in agony, as the Lord would be by their side and they would be His people. This was made in the context of how difficult the situation of the people of God at the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, and God wanted His people to remain firmly faithful to Him and to entrust themselves to Him, calling on them to turn away from their past, sinful ways.

For back then, many of the people of God had ended up being cast out and exiled from their own lands because of their own sins and disobedience as they allowed themselves to be swayed by their desires and attachments to the world. Those who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed on much of the ten tribes that rose in rebellion against the House of David, had been brought into exile by the Assyrians, the mighty empire that came and conquered the lands of Israel and destroyed the cities and towns of Israel, humiliating and crushing them. And all these happened because the Israelites there had not listened to God and His frequent reminders and calls on all of them to repent from their sinful ways. God had sent His many prophets, servants and messengers to call on them to repent, but they refused to pay attention and even persecuted those prophets.

In the southern kingdom of Judah, where the prophet Isaiah ministered in, the people of God had also not always been faithful to God and had from time to time falling again and again into sinful paths. They had not always listened to the words of the Lord, and rebelled against Him. They too have suffered at the hands of their neighbours and enemies, and back then, they were also under threat from the growing might of the Assyrians. But the Lord reassured them and told them that if they were to put their faith in Him, they truly had nothing to fear. God would restore the glory of Jerusalem and His kingdom to the people who were faithful to Him, and they would once again rejoice in His presence.

The main reason why the people had not been faithful and continued to fall into sin, again and again was because they were too attached to the worldly matters and concerns, desires and other things that kept them chained to the path of sin and disobedience against God. They were all too busy with their many attachments to worldly matters to attend to God and they ignored His calls because they were all too busy and preoccupied in seeking more worldly things, of wealth and glory, of fame and status, of many other satisfactions and pleasures in life. Due to all these, they kept on growing further and further away from God and His righteous path.

And that is exactly why we should heed what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that unless we follow the Lord in the manner that the little children were following Him, then we all can have no place in God’s kingdom. At that time, as mentioned, the disciples were then arguing amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and they were competing and arguing that each one of them had better merits and worth to be the ones trusted by the Lord, to be part of His inner circle. But in doing that, they essentially opened themselves to the temptations of Satan and the other evil spirits, who always tried to seek our downfall.

That was how we mankind often fell into sin, because we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, happiness and satisfactions, the desire for money and material wealth, for pleasures of the flesh and the comfort of the world, in various forms, and in indulging upon our many desires and wants in this world. Through these things, the devil and all of his wicked allies were trying hard always to snatch us from the path towards God and His salvation and grace. And unless we make the conscious efforts to resist the temptations to sin, then we may likely fall deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the life and examples set by one of our holy predecessors whose feast we celebrate today as just mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, namely St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. This holy servant of God was also often known as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’ and was remembered for her intense devotion to God and for her faith and holy life, as well as for her propagation of her ‘Little Way’ which were what she was mostly remembered and commemorated for. Even up to this day, the impact from her life and contributions are still enormous and can still be easily felt.

St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who had strong devotion to the Lord since her early youth, and who was inspired to join the religious convent at the very young age of fifteen. She grew up in a very devout and religious family, and her parents, who later on became saints themselves. St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, inspired their children to live a life of virtue and dedication to God, and all of their children became religious and dedicated their lives to God, including that of St. Therese of Lisieux herself. And when her mother passed away in her life, St. Therese was drawn closer to God, finding her refuge in Him.

Despite suffering from ill health throughout her life, St. Therese of Lisieux remained firm in her commitment to God and in her desire to be a religious devoted completely to God. St. Therese also began to experience visions and other mystical experiences from early in in her life. St. Therese was well-known for her night of ‘complete conversion’ experience, in which she experienced a great mystical vision and the liberating and comforting presence of God, solidifying her desire to commit herself to the Lord. Eventually, after a period of discernment and after some arrangements, St. Therese joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery.

She was remembered for her constant care for others, and for her prayers for sinners, such as for one convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, whom she prayed for daily for his conversion before he was due to be executed for his crimes. She was also remembered for her great sanctity and her adherence to what is now known as St. Therese’s ‘Little Way’. This ‘Little Way’ constitutes the need for all of us as Christians to commit ourselves to God even in the smallest and the littlest things we can do on each days and in every moments of our lives. St. Therese said that it is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we gradually build up our approach towards the eternal kingdom of God.

The faith and dedication which was shown by St. Therese of Lisieux should remind all of us that as Christians, we have the calling and responsibility to reach out to our fellow men and to be the genuine witnesses of our Christian faith and truth. We are all called and in fact, challenged to do whatever we can to glorify God and to proclaim His Holy Name, His truth and love to the world, by the simplest things we do in life. We do not have to think of great and ambitious things, as in fact, many of those who seek for great things to do, end up disappointed, and not just that, but many ended up doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to serve their own pride and vainglory, their own desires and ambitions rather than to fulfil their role as servants and followers of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that each one of us as Christians have that important responsibility, for all of us to contribute in whichever ways we can, in our respective areas and missions entrusted to us, in our own daily living and activities. All of us are indeed missionaries, and we have to realise that mission entails even things as simple as us proclaiming the Lord through our own exemplary and virtuous lives. That is why St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions, reminding us not to have the misconception that missions can only take place in faraway and distant lands, or in great missionary efforts, but in fact, mission happens in each and every moments of our lives.

Let us all therefore do our best to proclaim the Lord as His missionaries of faith, hope and charity, and do our best, inspired by the good examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and the innumerable other saints, holy men and women of God, that we may always be virtuous and worthy in our actions, words and deeds, even in the smallest things. Let us all strive to be holy and inspirational to others, leading a most Christian living in our daily lives to the best of our abilities. May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in our efforts and endeavours, and may St. Therese of Lisieux, of the Child Jesus continue to pray for us and intercede for us sinners, always. Amen.

Friday, 30 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord contained within the Scriptures, let us all be reminded of the need for each and every one of us to believe in the Lord and His words, and entrust ourselves to Him, with ever greater fidelity and commitment each day. All of us are reminded through what we have heard today, of the limitations of our human selves and existences, and how we have to open ourselves and listen to the Lord speaking to us and revealing His truth to us. We have to believe in Him and entrust ourselves in His hands.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job of what God spoke to Job towards the end of his tale, after he had gone through great sufferings and troubles, humiliations and attacks against him by even those who were close to him, because he was attacked by Satan, who took away all of his possessions, material wealth and even those who were dear to him like his own children. In the end, Job himself had to suffer from painful and itchy boils when Satan continued to strike against him in trying to make him to betray and abandon God. Yet, Job remained faithful to God and did not leave the Lord. Not even his sufferings and trials could dissuade him or tempt him away from the path towards God.

Job believed in God wholeheartedly even as he despaired. He trusted in Him even when he languished in the terrible state of health, and also derided and abandoned by even those closest to him, cursed and attacked because they thought that Job must have committed a great sin and disobeyed God to have suffered such a great calamity to himself and his family and possessions. Thus, Job and his so-called friends and companions ended up in great debate in which Job himself despaired and blamed himself for what had happened to him, and saying that God should just end his life there and then because of his unworthiness and lack of virtue.

It was there then we heard the Lord kindly rebuking His own servant Job as we listened to our first reading passage today. The Lord told Job that he should not have despaired and thought that he could comprehend the greatness of God, His thought and ways. Whatever happened to Job, God said that everything happened according to His will, and that it was by God’s will that everything came to be a reality, including what God Himself would do for Job at the end of all of his great misery and suffering. God granted Job double and more of all the things that he had lost earlier due to the calamities caused by Satan, and he regained all the joy and wonders of the world because of his unwavering faith in Him.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Jesus cursing several of the cities of Galilee such as Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin, all of these because those cities and their people had not believed in the Lord despite everything that He had done before them all. Unlike Job who had believed and trusted in the Lord, remaining faithful to Him even when he was surrounded by the various calamities and not able to see the Lord and His great deeds, the people of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin all had seen the many miracles and wonders of the Lord, and yet they had not believed in Him.

Instead, some among them doubted Him and questioned His authority and the veracity of His works and wonders. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among them in particularly kept on hounding Him and His disciples in trying to find way to discredit Him and putting many obstacles in His path. That is part of the reason why the Lord, in His righteous anger, rebuked those cities and all those within them who had hardened their hearts and minds against Him, and refused to listen to Him and His truth, despite all the things and wonderful signs which He had performed before their own eyes, and which they had witnessed on their own.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall these words of the Scriptures, we are also reminded therefore of our calling as Christians to trust in the Lord despite our trials and challenges, because the Lord alone is the source of all our hopes and salvation. And today, we should be inspired by the examples shown by our holy predecessor in faith, one great saint and servant of God, namely St. Jerome, who was remembered most for his great contribution in the translation of the Bible from its Greek Septuagint and Hebrew origins to the Latin Vulgate version, which allowed the faithful people of God in many places to have greater access to the truth contained within the Word of God in the Scriptures.

St. Jerome translated the Scriptures as part of his many other works and writings, which he carried out for the good of the Church and the people of God. And in his role in assisting the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who entrusted to him many matters including the translation of the Scriptures itself, and the reforms of the Church, many considered St. Jerome as a precursor of the Cardinals in the Church, as one of the closest confidants and collaborators of the Roman Pontiff. St. Jerome also encouraged greater holiness and sanctity among the people he was working and interacting with, encouraging them to be ever closer to God in their ways of life. He had to face many challenges and trials, oppositions and troubles, and yet, St. Jerome remained firm in his faith and trusted God in all things.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the good examples set by our holy predecessors, particularly that of St. Jerome whose memory we venerate today, as well as Job, the holy, devout and committed man of God. Let us all glorify God by our lives and let us entrust ourselves ever more to the Lord so that in all things, we may always be great and faithful witnesses of His truth, glory and resurrection. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every endeavours and good works, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 30 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Job 38 : 1, 12-21 and Job 40 : 3-5

Then YHVH answered Job out of the storm : “Have you ever commanded the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might grasp the earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it, when it takes a clay colour and changes its tint like a garment; when the wicked are denied their own light, and their proud arm is shattered?”

“Have you journeyed to where the sea begins or walked in its deepest recesses? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of Shadow? Have you an idea of the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the home of light, and where does darkness dwell? Can you take them to their own regions, and set them on their homeward paths? You know, for you were born before them, and great is the number of your years!”

Job said : “How can I reply, unworthy as I am! All I can do is put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, now I will not answer; oh, yes, twice, but I will do no further.”

Thursday, 29 September 2022 : Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this day we are celebrating the great Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. The three great Archangels were three of the seven Holy Archangels mentioned to be serving before the Holy Presence of God, the chiefs of the Angelic Host and heavenly forces. In other traditions such as Eastern Orthodoxy, the other Archangels were also named, but according to the Roman Catholic tradition and Scriptural canon, only three Archangels were named, namely St. Michael the Archangel, named in the Book of Joshua and also in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, and then St. Gabriel the Archangel, named in the Gospels as the one bearing the Good News to Mary, and lastly St. Raphael the Archangel, mentioned in the Book of Tobit as the Archangel who came to help Tobit and his son, Tobias. Hence today we celebrate these three Archangels of God whose names are known to us definitively through the Scriptures and through Church traditions and teachings.

St. Michael the Archangel is the chief of all the Heavenly Host, the leader of the Archangels and the Angels of God. He is the leader of the forces of God in the great struggle and battle against the evil ones, the champion of the Lord and the one who smites the devil, the great enemy of all the faithful and the living. His name, Michael, means ‘Who is like God?’ that resounds with the battle cry which he uttered in the great War in Heaven that we heard in one of our first reading passages today from the Book of Revelations. That was the battle cry which St. Michael the Archangel uttered against the forces of Satan, the great enemy, who rose in rebellion against God.

At that time, the greatest and most brilliant among all the Angels of God, named Lucifer, the Angel of Light came to bear prideful ambition and the desire to surpass his own Creator, Lord and Master. He desired to sit upon the Throne of God and become the Master of all Creation, and therefore, rose in rebellion against God. One tradition stated that when God was away from His Throne, Lucifer, deluded by his own vanity, vainglory and pride, sat upon the Throne of God and claimed the rulership of all the Universe, only to be challenged and rebuked by St. Michael the Archangel, who rebuked Lucifer and cast him out from the Throne of God and Heaven, because he, thereafter known as Satan, the devil and great enemy, dared to rebel against God.

Unlike Lucifer, who was mighty and brilliant in all things, which led to his downfall through pride, St. Michael the Archangel was humble before God, and it was told according to another tradition that he trembled before the Presence of God, fully aware of the infinite glory and greatness of God, and fully devoted to his Lord and Master. But before the enemies of the Lord, this mighty Archangel stands tall as the greatest among all the champions and defenders of the Lord, leading the Heavenly Host and fearlessly crushing the forces of Satan and his allies, those fallen angels and spirits who have chosen to put their lot and trust in Satan instead of siding with God.

St. Michael has often been considered as a great protector of the people of God, as he led the forces of the Lord against all those seeking for the ruination of many souls of mankind. From the ancient days, St. Michael had appeared to Joshua at the time when the Israelites were about to enter into the Promised Land, reassuring the Lord’s chosen leader of God’s ever-present guidance, and how the Lord’s Angels, led by none other than St. Michael himself, would always march before the Lord’s faithful ones, guiding them and protecting them. St. Michael’s name has always been invoked to protect the people of God in their hour and time of distress.

Meanwhile, St. Gabriel the Archangel was known for his role in proclaiming the Good News of God to Mary, the one whom God had chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God Most High, the Mother of the Saviour of the world, and hence to be the Mother of God herself. St. Gabriel the Archangel in the Annunciation proclaimed with great joy the long awaited proclamation of the coming of God’s salvation, which He has promised and renewed the same promise to His people through His many prophets and messengers throughout time. The words of St. Gabriel the Archangel was the very first moment when the Lord’s salvation was definitively revealed to the people of God.

The name Gabriel means ‘the strength of God’ referring to the strength and encouragement that the words that St. Gabriel had spoken before Mary, a simple and humble young maiden in the little village of Nazareth, that she would be the one through whom the salvation of the whole world would come. And while he was not named, the Angel who appeared before Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist at the Temple of God was also often considered to be the Archangel Gabriel. In the same way, St. Gabriel proclaimed another encouraging news to Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, on the upcoming birth of their long-awaited son. That brought hope and strength back to the elderly couple once again.

Then, lastly, St. Raphael the Archangel appeared to Tobias, and assisted both him and his father Tobit, saving the new wife of Tobias, Sara from the attacks by the evil spirit Asmodeus, as well as healing Tobit from his blindness. St. Raphael brought God’s healing and consolation to the ones who were suffering and in pain, enduring hardships and difficulties, trials and obstacles in life. The name Raphael means the ‘healing of God’ which fits the works by which St. Raphael the Archangel was sent by God to this world, to heal and strengthen, to encourage and patch up those who had been afflicted by suffering, pain, grief and sorrow, among other things.

As we heard from our Scripture passages and as we have discussed just earlier on, the Holy Archangels of God were those powerful spirits whom God had entrusted with the specific mission in guiding and protecting us mankind from the attacks and efforts of the evil ones, the devil himself and the other fallen angels and wicked spirits. St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael in each of their capacities and missions are our great allies in the ever continuing constant and daily struggles for the fate of our souls. Ever since the beginning of creation, Satan, the fallen Lucifer had always despised God’s beloved creations, and especially that apply to us all mankind, and just as he brought our ancestors down, he is always ever plotting and trying to bring us all down as well.

That is why today as we celebrate the great Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, all of us are reminded of the great love that God has for each one of us, that He sent us His mighty servants, the three Chiefs and Princes of the Angelic Host, particularly the leader of them all, St. Michael the Archangel, to be by our side, and to lead the forces of Heaven, in the constant and daily struggle and battle for our souls. And we have to have faith in God, believing wholeheartedly that the Lord will always protect us and provide for us, and His mighty Archangels and the Heavenly forces will guard us against Satan and all of his fellow wicked spirits’ futile attacks on us.

Today, as we rejoice in the hope that the Holy and Mighty Archangels of God had brought us, let us all pray the special prayer, Prayer to St. Michael, which Pope Leo XIII had commissioned, entrusting ourselves to the guardianship of St. Michael the Archangel and the other Holy Archangels and Angels of God that through their intercession and help, we may always remain faithful and steady in our lives and faith. Let us all pray, ‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.’ Amen.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not be easily swayed by sins and disobediences. Each one of us should not be ignorant of our calling and mission to be good and dedicated disciples and followers of our God. To all of us, we have been entrusted with the mission and calling to serve the Lord in whichever opportunities and chances that He has presented us with, and all of us as Christians have been called to do the will of God at all times, to be His faithful followers and disciples, becoming the beacons of His light and truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our first reading today we heard from the Book of Job the words of Job, a suffering man of God who was struck by many unfortunate losses and calamities because Satan was testing him before God to see if Job would abandon his faith in God and betray the Lord. But Job remained firmly faithful to God and refused to be swayed or coerced by Satan’s efforts, and even when his own wife and friends blamed him and told him to abandon the Lord, he also refused to do so. Nonetheless, he did suffer and despaired, thinking of just how insignificant he and his human nature was before God.

What Job spoke of in our first reading today essentially pointed out the limitations of our humanity and our mortal existence. He spoke of the greatness and the glory of God, and how everything happened in this world by God’s will, and nothing can happen in all unless it has been willed by God and unless God had deemed it right to happen. God had dominion over all things and over all of our lives, and we must realise just how small and insignificant we are in truth as compared to the greatness and the vast majesty of God, Who rules over all the whole entire Universe and over all existence.

In essence, Job reminded us all that God Who is our Lord and Master has control over all things, and truly, if we are able to put our trust in Him, there is nothing that we have to worry about. God will provide as long as we do our best to live our lives in accordance with His will, and He will help and guide us in our journey through life. We have to follow Him and entrust ourselves to His cause, and allow Him to guide us down the way. We all have to commit ourselves wholeheartedly and not be distracted by the many other attachments and temptations of the world. Otherwise, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, we may not be truly worthy for the kingdom of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples regarding their calling and mission, and responsibilities as one of His disciples and followers. He laid it clearly to them how being His followers will often mean that they had to leave behind the comforts of the world, the attachments to their many worldly matters, just as He Himself, the Son of Man, did not even have any place or home to lay His head on. What the Lord told those whom He called to be His disciples, is that in following Him, they have to put their whole attention and focus on Him, and not to let the distractions of the world to be obstacles in the path of their journey towards God and His salvation.

Often times, we allow our preoccupations and attachments to the world to put God aside, ignoring Him and His call for us to follow Him. We often put our many worldly matters, preoccupations, considerations and other things as excuses why we cannot follow the Lord with all of our commitment and heart. When we always make excuses like this, then it is little wonder if we can be easily swayed or tempted, persuaded or coerced to abandon the path that the Lord has shown us in exchange of the path which we may find to be more agreeable or more convenient to us. It is always about us, about our selfish desires and wants, and not about what we should do as a follower of God.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the saints, St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, a great servant of God and martyr of the faith, as well as the Holy Martyrs in Japan, St. Lorenzo Ruiz or St. Lawrence Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, as well as his companions in martyrdom who perished during the intense persecution against Christians in Japan back then. Hopefully the examples shown by these saints and martyrs can become inspiration and good examples for all of us in how each and every one of us ought to live our lives as Christians from now on, in doing God’s will and in obeying His commandments, and in staying true to our faith, and our respective mission and calling in life as Christians.

St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia was the Duke of Bohemia during the Middle Ages, who was renowned for his great faith in God, his dedication for his people and hard work, committing himself for the betterment of his realm and people. He helped the development and expansion of the Church, which flourished greatly during his reign. He also encountered opposition particularly from the ones who still subscribed and followed the pagan faith of their ancestors, and who plotted with the Duke’s brother, Boleslav. That culminated with the assassination and murder of this holy and devout man of God, out of jealousy, rivalry and politics.

Meanwhile, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions were persecuted greatly by the Tokugawa Shogunate government in Japan, who severely persecuted the Christian missionaries and local Christian converts at that time. Thousands were arrested, tortured and martyred, and many others were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain firm in their faith and perish in great suffering. St. Lorenzo Ruiz himself was not in Japan then intentionally, as he was on the run from those who accused him wrongly of murdering someone. He was on the refuge on a Spanish ship loaded with missionaries bound for Japan, which was then closed to all foreigners and missionaries.

As he ended up in the midst of the intense persecutions of the Christian faithful at that time, St. Lorenzo Ruiz did not give up his faith, even when he was forced to do so, amidst the most painful torture and treatment that he was made to go through. Many other of his fellow Christians also endured the same kind of fate, and many among them all including St. Lorenzo Ruiz chose to suffer and die rather than to betray and abandon the Lord. And in their courageous life and dedication to God, each and every one of them, just as St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia had shown us, have inspired us all to live our lives ever more worthily and with ever greater commitment as Christians.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to live our lives faithfully from now on, so that in our every actions, words and deeds, we will be good witnesses of the Lord and the bright, wonderful beacons of His light and truth. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless us in our every efforts and good endeavours for His greater glory, now and always. St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and companions, holy men and women of God, martyrs of the Church, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Lord contained in the Scripture passages we heard today, we are all reminded that we must always have that faith in God, and not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly sentiments and temptations. Unless we put our effort to resist the temptations against us, then we may find ourselves easily swayed and falling into those same temptations again and again, and therefore fall into the trap of sin. We must always be persistent in living our lives to the best of our abilities, in serving God with all of our hearts and might, at all times.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Job we heard of the lamentations of Job who suffered greatly after having been struck by Satan, who was testing him if Job would abandon his faith in God when he faced such adversities and losses. Job lost most if not all of his vast worldly possessions, his many properties and vast herds of animals and livestock, and he also lost his beloved children to the calamities put forth by the devil. Not only that, but Satan himself even struck at Job’s own body, making him covered with terrible and painful boils and lesions which must have been so unbearable.

Yet, Job remained firm in his faith in God, and he did not allow all those things to deter him or distract him from his obedience to God. Job lamented as we heard in our first reading today, but he did not blame his predicaments on God. Rather, he blamed it on himself and his unworthiness. And in his despair that we heard, he wished that he would rather perish and die, rather than to exist anymore in this world. Certainly we can feel the anguish and the sufferings which Job encountered back then, all that he had lost and all that he was suffering from, the pain and the indignity, the troubles and trials that he faced.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Who was travelling on His way to Jerusalem, and was rejected entry into a Samaritan village because the people in that village came to know that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem in Judea. Back then, the ethnic and religious tensions between the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee, and the Samaritans in the region of Samaria had been happening for many years. Both sides accused each other of having been unfaithful to the teachings of the Lord and they treated each other with disdain and contempt.

That was why, because they knew that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem, they closed their doors and gates against Him. They hardened their hearts and minds, and allowed their worldly desires, considerations, sentiments and attachments to guide their way instead of being able to listen to God. That was exactly why they wandered and become lost from God. But yet God did not punish or strike them down as we heard in that Gospel passage story we heard today, and that is because God’s love and compassionate mercy towards us is so great that He wants us to be reconciled with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it means that we are truly fortunate to have God Who has always looked after us and protect us, providing for us and guiding us all the time with great patience and love. Unfortunately, we did not have strong love for Him and faith in Him, and when the time of trials and troubles come, it was just a matter of time before we give up and abandon the Lord, for comfort in worldly things and desires. In this regard, we should heed the faith and dedication which Job had, in remaining steadfastly faithful to God despite his many sufferings and struggles.

Today, the Church also celebrates the feast of a great and renowned saint whose exemplary life and dedication to God and to his fellow brothers and sisters may become our great source of inspiration and a worthy role model in living our lives as good and committed Christians. St. Vincent de Paul was renowned for his great dedication for the poor and for all those who were suffering. He likely drew his passion and strength from his own experiences, which was also hard and bitter, especially when he had to experience being a slave during his younger years. Back then, he was a young man studying to be a priest when he was abducted and enslaved by the infamous Barbary pirates, who sold him to several masters before finally he managed to convince his last master to return to the Church and to Christendom.

Those early experiences and the own zeal and passion which St. Vincent de Paul had in serving the Lord and his fellow men likely encouraged him to become a priest and then involve himself in missionary work, and also in many outreach particularly towards the sick and the less privileged in the community. He founded and inspired the foundation of several religious congregations and organisations, like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and many others. He worked with the Daughters of Charity in the provision of care for the poor families and those who were suffering. He was also involved in the ministry to those who were forced to work in the galleys and ships as slaves, remembering his own not-so-good experiences as slaves during his younger days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard from the lives of St. Vincent de Paul, and also from many other saints and holy men and women of God, we have to remain steadfast in faith at all times, and we should not allow the sufferings, struggles, trials, temptations and other things present in our world from distracting us in our path towards God and His salvation. We have to be inspired by the perseverance and passion showed by those holy predecessors of ours, particularly that of St. Vincent de Paul whose memory and great life we recall today. May God be with us all in our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 26 September 2022 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminders for us to remain faithful to God and obedient to Him. Each one of us are expected to commit ourselves to His cause and to follow Him wholeheartedly, giving our whole lives and attention, focusing our hearts and minds on Him, and dedicating our time and efforts to His cause. All of us should be genuine in our faith and way of life so that we may be truly exemplary and worthy of the Lord, despite the many challenges and trials that we may have to face amidst that path of following the Lord.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of Job the beginning of a series of discourse from this servant of God named Job, who was well-known for being one struck down by Satan and afflicted with all sorts of maladies and unfortunate occurrences and events, and yet remained faithful to the Lord despite all of that. We heard how God and Satan had a conversation in which the latter made a bet that should he strike down at Job and his belongings, and eventually even at his own body and physical being, then Job would abandon the Lord and defy Him. But God knew Job well and He knew that Job would always be faithful.

Historically, there was little evidence that Job ever actually existed, and consensus amongst Biblical scholars and archaeologists are that Job was actually a figurative person probably based on some real stories and experiences, who was highlighted and told in order to show us the importance of perseverance in faith, and how God would not abandon His faithful ones even amidst the greatest of challenges and trials. God will always remember all of His people, and all the more so for those who have shown their faith to Him. It may be that we have to suffer for a time and for some moments, but in the end, we shall be triumphant together with God.

Regardless whether Job was actually historical, existent or not, we should heed the message of what we have heard from the Book of Job and based on what more we knew about Job and his story. God always loves all of His people, and He has always shown His love and care in ways that we may often even not be aware of. The Lord wants us to know that we always have Him by our side and despite the challenges that we have to face, we can always depend on Him and trust in Him. Unfortunately, often time it is we who abandon Him and ignore Him, and put our trust in everything else but the Lord.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples, which serve as a reminder that all of us ought to seek the Lord with genuine faith, like that of little children coming towards the Lord. Those little children came to the Lord with true and genuine faith, unadulterated and unaffected by worldly ambitions, desires and other things that often distracted us from our path towards God. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by those who seek our downfall and destruction, and we have to heed the Lord’s words, His calling and all that He had done for our sake.

The Lord called on all of us to be humble and to free ourselves from all sorts of worldly temptations and delusions, all the false treasures and corruptions often present all around us, and remaining faithful to God. Job was able to remain faithful to God despite the many calamities he had encountered, in the numerous material and personal losses that he had to endure, all because he trusted in the Lord much more than he trusted in the powers, wealth and might of the world. He trusted that God Who had given him everything, had the right to take everything back from him, and that God would take care of him and all that he needed. That is, brothers and sisters, the faith that all of us should have as well.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, holy martyrs of the Church, who were persecuted and tortured for their faith in God during the great persecution of the Church and Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. According to Church tradition and martyrology, St. Cosmas and St. Damian were twin brothers who were also physicians, and were renowned for their loving care for the poor and the sick, as they were known not to take any payment for those who were sick and yet were unable to pay for the medical fees and services. They were popular because of their skill as healers, and this eventually led them to be arrested by the authorities.

Despite their many efforts to try to persuade, coerce and force St. Cosmas and St. Damian from abandoning their faith in God, even with temptations and riches, the authorities were not able to sway the two physician brothers and they could not force them to recant their faith and reject God. And hence, after a period of torture and suffering, eventually each one of them were subjected to capital punishments and were martyred for their faith. The examples and inspiration shown by St. Cosmas and St. Damian truly still inspired many all around the world even to this day, for their faith and dedication to the Lord. We too should be inspired by their examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves ever more to the Lord from now on, dedicating our lives to serve Him and to walk in His path, becoming great beacons of His light and truth in our world today. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of the world, but instead do our best to strive and glorify God by our every actions, words and deeds, to be faithful to Him like what St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Job the faithful man of God, and many others of our holy predecessors. May more and more people come to know the Lord through us, and may more and more souls come to the salvation and eternal glory in God through our faithful witness and actions. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard from the words of the Scriptures reminding us all to be always vigilant that we do not end up falling into worldly temptations and excesses, and that we will strive to do what is right and just in the sight of the Lord and mankind alike. We have to be exemplary in all of our actions in life so that we will not end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path and then end up with an eternity of regret, as we may find out too late that we are at the wrong side of the afterlife, not with God and His glory, but on the other side, separated from Him and having to endure an eternity of despair and suffering.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Amos, a prophet whom God had sent from the land of Judah to the land of the northern kingdom of Israel during its last days. The prophet Amos called on the people of the northern kingdom to repent from their sins as almost all of their kings and leaders refused to follow the Lord’s path and led the people deeper and deeper into sin, persecuting and killing the prophets who were sent to them to remind them. The prophet Amos himself suffered persecution and rejection from the king of Israel and from the people who continued to live in their debauchery and wickedness, rejecting the Lord’s path and continuing to marvel at their wicked ways.

That was exactly what the prophet Amos warned about in our first reading today, that all those who feasted and celebrated without heed for the Lord’s ways and without listening to God’s calls made to them repeatedly, would therefore face their just punishment and consequences in the end. This would presage the coming of the end of the northern kingdom of Israel, which despite the efforts of the people of that kingdom and their king, was eventually overcome and swallowed by the mighty forces of the Assyrians, who came and destroyed Samaria, their capital and also their other cities, and then uprooted many of the people into exile in distant lands.

All that the prophet Amos spoke of would come true, and despite the constant reminders from him and the many other earlier prophets, the people of the northern kingdom refused to heed them, and hence they were to suffer the consequences of their own actions. Those in the southern kingdom of Judah would also face the same fate as their kingdom and cities were destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people brought off into exile in Babylon and elsewhere. All these again happened, as the people continued to ignore the Lord’s repeated calls on them to return and be reconciled with Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of Lazarus and the rich man from the Lord Himself, as He told His disciples what happened to Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing, and lived his life as a beggar in front of the house of a rich man. Lazarus had nothing with him and barely had anything to eat, that he had to wait even for the mere scraps of what fell down from the rich man’s table. And that poor man Lazarus died in a most terrible way, with no one to remember him and no one to mourn him, passing away by the rich man’s house doors, forgotten and neglected, and not even treated as how human beings should have been treated.

The rich man on the other hand had always had a good life, full of parties and celebrations, and he had nothing lacking at all. We heard then he also died and ended up in hellfire while Lazarus, the poor man ended up in Heaven with Abraham, the father of the Israelites. We saw the contrast of what happened to the rich man versus what Lazarus experienced, both in life and in the afterlife. Lazarus had to suffer in life, rejected and cast aside, but he had his reprieve and enjoy the everlasting bliss with God and his forefathers, with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man who had enjoyed a lot during his life, was cast down into an eternity of suffering and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall this story again, let us all be clear first of all that God does not condemn the rich nor the riches and possessions that we have in this world, as some of us may think in that way after listening to this story of Lazarus and the rich man. Rather, what the Lord is warning us against, is the attachment that we can easily have for those worldly things like money, other forms of material possessions, and even things like fame and glory, human praise and adulation, influence and status among other things. Those things are not necessarily evil, as people can use money and their material goods to help others who are in need, but the tendency is that, if we allow our attachment and desires for those goods to mislead us in life, then we may end up going down the wrong path in life.

And it is also a kind reminder for us that we have been given a lot of opportunities and time throughout life for us to discern on this and consider the path to follow, and of whatever course of action that is necessary for us, that we may live our lives worthily for the Lord. Not only that, but we are also yet reminded that it is not just by what we have done that we can be judged, as yes, if we commit something against the Lord’s commandments and will, committing sin against Him, then it will be held against us, but we are also judged by what is known as the sin of omission. That was what the rich man was in particular, was to be blamed for, and why he also ended up in hellfire. He was in the right place and opportunity to help Lazarus and maybe others around him who are suffering, and yet, he chose to ignore them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, each one of us are called to live a holy and godly life as what St. Paul told St. Timothy in his Epistle to him, part of which is our second reading passage today. We are all called to live our lives worthily of the Lord, and to do what has been commanded by God, till the day of the Lord’s coming, the Final Judgment, when certainly we do not want to end up on the wrong side of the Judgment. We certainly do not want our wickedness and as well as our failures to act and to do the will of God to lead us to condemnation in the eternity of suffering and despair, as what the rich man in the story had experienced. We have been given the choice and the knowledge of the consequences of each of our actions and our failures to act all the same, and we should heed these carefully.

That is why this Sunday, as we reflect upon the words of the Lord contained in the Sacred Scriptures, let us all discern carefully our path in life so that we will not end up in the wrong path in life, and ending up in an eternity of regret and damnation out of which there is no more hope of escaping. Hell is real, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is this reminder of the existence of hell that should keep us on our toes, and being vigilant all the time that we do not end up in that situation. And we also should understand better what hell is all about. Hell is not so much a place than a state of mind and our souls. Hell has often been portrayed as a place that is very hot and full of fire, but in truth, the suffering of the souls in hell, which is eternal, is due to that knowledge and despair that come about because of one’s conscious decision to reject God, His grace, mercy and love.

Yes, that means, the souls of the condemned and the unworthy in hell are those who have consciously and consistently rejected God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that God’s mercy and love for us are so great that He has been willing to send us His own Begotten and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. He offered us His love in the most tangible form, in the flesh and Person of our Lord Jesus Himself. He has borne our sufferings and consequences for our sins through His Holy Cross, shedding His Precious Blood and breaking His Precious Body for our sake. Through His ultimate expression of love, He gave us all the sure path to eternal life.

Hence, it is not God Who has rejected us, as He has always looked upon us with His loving and merciful eyes. It is we who have been given opportunities, reminders one after another, for us to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and embrace His grace and love once again. But we often ignored Him and disregarded Him, and like the people of Israel and Judah of old, and like the people living at the time of the Lord Jesus, who have hardened their hearts and minds against God and His truth. The same can easily happen to us as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the devil and all of his tempting false promises and lies, to follow the path of worldliness and evil.

Therefore, let us all from now on strive to be faithful to God in all things, and make good use of every opportunities that God has granted us, so that we may always be ever more worthy disciples of the Lord in each and every opportunities in life. Let us all do our best to love God and to show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters, abandoning what is wicked and evil, and crushing our pride and ego. Let us all embrace God with renewed faith, hope and love so that in everything that we say and do, we will always do what is right and worthy for God, and that each one of us may become good inspirations and role models for one another. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.