Tuesday, 31 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded yet again of the trials, challenges, difficulties and hardships that we may have to face as faithful people of God, as proven by our many predecessors and all the saints and martyrs who had shed their blood and suffered in the midst of their lives and in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Yet, at the same time we are reminded of the assurances that the Lord has provided us His faithful ones, that He will always be by the side of all those who have faith in Him, and He will heal and strengthen them once again, all those who have suffered for His sake and entrusting themselves to Him, just as we have heard in our passages of the day.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard of the words from the author of this Epistle, speaking about the examples of the innumerable witnesses that had existed all around us and at the same time, also looking upon the good examples that the Lord Jesus had brought into our midst, the sufferings, hardships, trials, persecutions and humiliations that He Himself has suffered for our sake. Each and every one of us are reminded that whatever hardship we face in this world, and whatever tough things we have had to endure, all of these had been shared with us by the Lord, Who has taken upon Himself willingly, the entire burden of our many punishments and sins, which He took upon His own shoulders as He bore the heavy burden of His Cross. He carried them all to Calvary, all for the sake of the salvation of our souls.

Then as we heard from our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the moment when the Lord performed His miraculous healing and restoration of two individuals, one of the woman who had been suffering from haemorrhage problems for many years, while the other case was that of the daughter of the local synagogue official, who was very sick and eventually died before the Lord made it to her, but He healed her nonetheless and restored her back to life. Through all these that we have heard in our Gospel passage today and others, we are hence reminded of the providence that God will provide for all those who trust in Him, and that in His own good time, He will raise us all up again from the depth of our darkness and despair, leading us away from the darkness and into the light of salvation.

The woman who had haemorrhage problem had been suffering from her condition for many years, and she had no other recourse but to seek the Lord, as no matter what she had done, as mentioned in the Gospel today, and even with the help of many doctors, they only managed to make her condition worse. She therefore sought the Lord and had such a faith in Him that if only she could touch the fringe of His cloak, she would be healed and her troubles would cease, especially as she likely must have heard how many other miracles had been performed by the Lord. What matters is that she believed in the Lord thoroughly and completely, and entrusted herself to Him. Yet, at the same time, she also did not dare to seek the Lord openly, as her condition according to the Jewish Law and customs would have made her unclean, and she likely did not want to get attention on herself, or be shunned because of that.

We heard how this woman was healed by her faith, as she sought the Lord with faith, and her haemorrhage or bleeding stopped completely. The Lord praised her for her faith, and made an example of how her commitment and faith was so great, and it was by that same faith that she had been healed and saved. The same happened to the daughter of the synagogue official, Jairus as well. Jairus’ faith in the Lord allowed the Lord to come and bring His love and healing upon his daughter, and as we heard, he still believed in the Lord even though those gathered at his place mocked the Lord for saying that his daughter was merely sleeping and not dead. Jairus had faith in the Lord that He could save her, no matter how He would do it, and thus, by that faith, she was rescued.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the messages of these Scripture passages, let us all hence remind ourselves that while challenges, trials, hardships, difficulties may be aplenty in our lives and in our paths, but if we have faith in the Lord and keep our sight upon Him, entrusting ourselves to Him, then we have hope and assurance with us that no matter what, we shall have that promise of true happiness, joy and eternal life through our Lord, through the salvation that He has offered each and every one of us freely. And while we suffer, we are suffering with Him and together with Him, just as He has also borne His Cross, all wounded and pained by the many rejections, humiliations, betrayals and the other wicked things that we had done to Him, despite of His love for us.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is right and just for us to follow the Lord once again more wholeheartedly, and learn to commit ourselves to Him once again, to the best of our abilities. Today, we can model ourselves based on the great examples which our holy predecessor, St. John Bosco, a great priest of the Lord and holy man of God, whose feast we celebrate today, have done. St. John Bosco was remembered greatly for his great piety, love and dedication to God, as well as for his great love and compassionate care for those whom he encountered in the midst of his missions and works, as a priest and most well-known in his role as one who initiated and was in charge of an outreach to the underprivileged youth, those juveniles and teenagers who had none to lead and guide them to the right path.

St. John Bosco helped to get them proper education and place to stay for those who were orphaned and homeless, and cared for their spiritual, mental and material needs. He dedicated much of his time to touch the lives of the underprivileged, and inspired many others to begin similar initiatives, resulting in the blooming of many institutions of Christian education that benefitted especially the underprivileged youths, and in particular underprivileged girls. The faith, dedication and commitment which St. John Bosco has shown us should inspire us all as well in our lives so that hopefully we may also become good sources of inspiration and hope for many others whom we encounter and all those who have witnessed our actions and works.

May the Lord continue to guide us all and bless our many good works and efforts, and may He continue to strengthen and empower us all to be the beacons of His light and truth, and to be the fearless and most faithful ambassadors of His love and grace in our world today. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 30 January 2023 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today, we are all reminded that God gave strength to His people, His servants and followers, granting them the courage and power to endure challenges, trials and tribulations in their paths, and enabling them to follow Him with faith and commitment. God has given them all His strength, wisdom and guidance, and empowered them to serve Him and His people in great and mighty ways, in various means throughout history, by using the examples that is contained within the Scriptures to remind us of how He has blessed us and our predecessors so much, and how He has also sent His own Beloved Son, into our midst, to be our Saviour and as the One to deliver us from the hands of Satan and his evil forces.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in which the author spoke of the examples of the Judges and Kings, the faithful servants of God who had served the Lord in the past, including the famous King David himself, and pointed out to his targeted audience, the Jewish people or the Hebrews living in Judea, Galilee and elsewhere, that the Lord had called ordinary people, who were from unassuming, unknown background, as shown by where those Judges and King David himself were called from, and the circumstances in which they were called, in which they were empowered by God to carry out magnificent deeds for the glory of His Name and for the good of His people. The Lord had called on the ordinary to do extraordinary deeds on His behalf in this world.

The author of this Epistle also wanted to remind the people of God, mainly the Jewish people, whether converts to the faith or not, and even those who were Gentiles that became believers in the Lord, that each and every one of them had been called to the same mission and path in life as their holy and great predecessors, not withstanding and regardless of their background and origins. What matters is not how great they were or how powerful and influential they were in this life, but rather, how faithful, committed and trusting they are in God’s power and providence, and how faithful they are to His commandments, His Law and teachings. Without all of these and without God to guide and lead us, we are nothing, and we will easily fall prey into the assaults of those who seek to destroy us, Satan and all of his fellow fallen angels and evil spirits, all seeking our downfall and doom.

Each and every one of us as Christians are called to the same mission and calling as those whom the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had mentioned, to serve the Lord and to follow His path faithfully in our own lives, allowing God to lead us and to guide us to wherever and whatever He wants us to do with our lives in each and every possible moments. He wants each one of us as Christians to be good and righteous, worthy and dedicated to Him, as role models and inspirations to each other in how we live our lives so that we may help one another to remain firm in our faith, and we cannot be idle in living our lives with true, genuine and strong Christian faith, with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with us always ever caring about the needs of others, our fellow brethren all around us.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the famous parable of the Lord driving the evil spirits out of a man possessed by many evil spirits in the region of the Gerasenes. He has been living in the wilderness for a long time because of his possession by those same evil spirits, and the people feared him because of that. He could not return to the community because of his condition, shunned and cast out from the rest of the community. But the Lord willingly came to him and approached him, wanting this man to be healed from his affliction, and authoritatively ordered those evil spirits to get out of him, and sending them to the flock of pigs that were there, grazing for food. The man was therefore healed from his troubles, and could return to his community. But the herders were afraid of him, and with the local populace, begged Him to depart from their lands.

The significance of this account of the exorcism of the possessed man and the casting out of the demons into the pigs are plenty, but first of all, it highlighted the love that God has for each and every one of us, in reaching out even to the most abandoned, ostracised and rejected ones among us, and showing us that even the most ordinary and seemingly unworthy ones among us, like that of the possessed man, is worthy of God’s salvation and grace. We must not give up or thinking that leading a good and holy life is impossible simply because we think that we are not good enough for God, or that others are doing way better than us, and that we are less worthy than they are. God does not judge us based on all that. What is important is our love and desire for ourselves to return to Him, and to love Him, and this is a process that each one of us are going through right now in our lives, together with the Lord by our side.

Then, the symbolism of the evil spirits being cast out into the herd of pigs is also significant in that, in the end, our human lives and existence, even just a single one, is far more worth than any other worldly and material things. Those pig herders and others rightfully feared the Lord and begged Him to leave their lands because He had just caused them a lot of monetary losses. However, all these happened so that the man, who had been cast out, abandoned, rejected and feared by everyone else in that area, could be saved, and could be returned to his community, and not wander off in the wilderness, treated way less than even those animals and herds. It is a reminder that our human existence and lives, each and every one of us are important and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

That moment was also a symbolism that in the end, Satan and all of his wicked forces, the evil spirits and demons, all will face their downfall and ultimate defeat just as the pigs were all running down the cliff and perished. It is a reminder for all of us that no matter how challenging and tough our lives may be, and how difficult it may be for us to remain faithful to the Lord, in the end, if we remain truly faithful to Him and remain committed in Him, we shall be triumphant with Him in the end, and we should not worry about the persecution, trials and challenges from the world, and from all those wicked forces and evil spirits. Again, that is because all of us are truly precious to the Lord, and each one of us are important to Him. We must never underestimate ourselves and our capacity and the opportunities we have been given for conversion and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now what matters in the end is our desire to live our lives worthily of the Lord and the drive in our hearts and minds to obey the words of the Lord and to walk in His path at all times. We are reminded that all of us are truly precious in the eyes of the Lord, and all of us will be strengthened and guided by God if we continue to put our trust in Him, and if we allow Him to lead the way for us, and if we steadfastly continue to follow Him despite the many pressures, temptations and challenges that try to keep and distract us from following the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly. Let us all assist each other and help one another in doing our best to keep us all aligned and rooted in the path that God has led us through, and may all of us continue to strive to do our best in living our lives faithfully, in each and every moments of our lives.

May God be with us always and may He continue to bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. May He help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and devotion, in our righteousness and virtues, and in all of our qualities as good and faithful Christians, at all times. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 29 January 2023 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us as Christians we are all reminded to be ever more righteous and committed to the path which the Lord has shown and taught us all, and each one of us are called to embody what the Lord taught His disciples and hence all of us, as He laid out for us in the Eight Beatitudes that we heard in our Gospel passage today. Each one of us as Christians are expected to be exemplary in our lives and we are all reminded that our actions and way of life do affect others and can either be an inspiration to one another to follow or can instead be a source of scandal for the Lord and His Church.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard of the about the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Zephaniah, a prophet who lived and ministered during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of that kingdom and in the last decades of Judah as an independent entity. Zephaniah called on the people of the Lord to be meek, humble and just, as well as to seek refuge in the Lord so that on the Day of Judgment, they may truly find rest and consolation in God, their Hope and their Strength. Zephaniah spoke of these in the context of how the people of God in the past centuries before that time had often refused to obey the Lord and His words, and had acted proudly and with ambition, seeking worldly glory and satisfaction, all of which led them down the path of sin.

And due to their sins, they had been sundered from God’s grace and love, and suffered the consequences of their sins. They had been defeated, crushed and conquered by their enemies, their cities and towns destroyed and burnt, their houses and dwelling places turned upside down and occupied by the others brought in to dwell in their lands. Many of the people of God themselves were also brought into exile as what happened when the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes of the people of God, were destroyed by the Assyrians, and many of its people were brought away to distant lands by the victorious Assyrians. This happened just a few decades before the time of the prophet Zephaniah and his ministry.

Hence, what Zephaniah delivered before the people is a reminder to the people that each one of them ought to return once again to the path that God has shown them, to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide and lead them down the right path instead of insisting on walking down the path of rebelliousness, pride, greed and ambition that many of their ancestors had taken. Zephaniah assured them of the Lord’s guidance and that if they remained faithful in God, then the Lord would provide for them and that they would be preserved and protected. They would once again be God’s people and they would be restored once again to their honourable state and position. Unfortunately, the people of God lapsed again into sinful ways after King Josiah passed on, rebelling against God and hardening their hearts against Him, eventually leading to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians, much like how the Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel earlier on.

In our second reading passage today, we heard of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth, in which he told them how God chose the seemingly weak and unimportant people to receive His grace and salvation, and how God will strengthen and give His grace, wisdom and strength to the weak and the humble, all so that they can indeed gain glory through the Lord, and be saved, as opposed to the proud and the haughty, all those who trusted in their own power and greatness more than they trust in the Lord and His providence. The Apostle hence reminded the people of God not to follow the path of worldliness, greed, pride and ambition, which the world advocates, but to follow the Lord and the path He has shown us all and taught to us.

That brings us now to the Eight Beatitudes itself, which the Lord pointed out in His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as detailed in our Gospel passage today. The Eight Beatitudes highlighted to us some of the great virtues that all of us as God’s faithful and righteous people ought to have in our lives. Unless we live our lives according to the Beatitudes, we cannot truly call ourselves as true and genuine Christians, as if we profess to have faith in God and yet, our actions are otherwise, and in opposition to what He has presented in the Beatitudes, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. Through His presentation of the Beatitudes, the Lord is exhorting and reminding us all to model our lives based on the Beatitudes, to be good and righteous just as He is good and righteous.

As we heard from the Beatitudes, the virtues of being a Christian is essentially to be able to put God as the focus and centre of our lives and existence, and removing from ourselves the taint of pride and ego, to put the need of others and our fellow brothers and sisters around us ahead of our own selfish desires, ambition and greed. A good Christian and a good follower of the Lord is someone who seeks the Lord with all of his or her heart and strength, who loves Him and who desires to obey Him and His will, and who wants to walk with Him in the path of righteousness, justice and peace. That is what is meant by being poor in spirit, as it refers to our internal desire to let God come into our lives and transform us to be His righteous and good servants, realising the limitations of our own human power and ability.

And allowing God to lead us, all of us ought then to seek for a good and holy life, one that is filled with the same love that God has for each one of us, in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, in seeking peace and harmony between all the peoples, and in doing what is right and just in every opportunities available to us, and in enduring the persecutions, challenges and trials that may come our way in the midst of our journey as Christians wandering through this world filled with sin, evil and darkness. We should be good examples and role models for one another, living our lives faithfully and commit ourselves each day with faith, so that all others who witness our actions and hear our words, see our way of life, may all come to believe in God and know Him as well through us.

The Lord Himself has said and reassured us that if we live in the way that He has taught and shown us, in the way of the Beatitudes, then we truly will be blessed and be filled with His grace, and on the Day of Judgment, mercy and love shall be shown us, as the gates of Heaven and eternal life will surely be opened to us. However, if we continue to persist in our state of sin, in our disobedience and rebellion against God, then we will end up falling deeper and deeper into the path towards damnation and destruction, as what had happened to many among our predecessors. And if we recall what we have just discussed earlier on, all these were caused by their failure to adhere to the values and virtues espoused in the Beatitudes. As good Christians, we truly need to live our lives according to the Beatitudes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best (if we have not done so yet) to live our lives according to the Beatitudes. Let us all be that examples of virtue and love, of righteousness and justice in our daily actions and living, so that by our faith and dedication to God, we may continue to inspire one another in living our Christian lives faithfully, and we may also remain humble and committed to the Lord, and not be easily swayed by the many worldly temptations all around us, which can indeed mislead us down the wrong path in life. Let us all resist those many temptations and attachments we may have to worldly vices and evils, and get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly matters and desires, so that we may indeed grow ever closer to the Lord and be ever more worthy of Him and His grace and salvation.

May God be with us all and may He empower all of us with the strength and courage, the virtues and the goodness in us so that we may truly walk in the path of His Beatitudes, ever reminding ourselves to be good and righteous in all things and at all opportunities available to us. May He show us His love always and may all of us continue to live worthily in His Presence, loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may all inspire one another to get ever closer to the Lord, our Saviour and loving Father. May God bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all of our actions and dealings, interactions and more. Amen.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to have faith, a genuine and strong faith in the Lord, to trust in Him wholeheartedly and not to be easily swayed by fear and indecision in our trust in the Lord. Just as the examples from the Scripture passages today should have highlighted to us, all of us should remember the past examples of how God has provided for His people and how many among them have received liberation and rescue from their trials and troubles. And even when the people of God apparently did not receive any help from the Lord, that is actually more because the Lord operates in His own time and in His will. But no matter what, the Lord will always love us and show His care for us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of that Epistle spoke of the past examples of how people in the past have had faith in God even through their darkest moments, and even when they did falter, the Lord had always helped them out of their predicament. The Lord never abandoned them or left them all alone. Even when they were suffering, the reality is that God has always been with them all the way, and sent to them His deliverance, help and assistance through various means, either directly or indirectly. The Lord has always reached our to His faithful ones, granting them His help and strength, as He had done to Abraham and Sarah in the past, Isaac, Jacob and all the other members of His beloved people and flock.

When Abraham and Sarah were already desperate for a child after having many years of failed attempts to have one, the Lord reassured them and reminded all of them that His promises and Covenant will always hold true no matter what. God made a solemn Covenant between Himself and Abraham. He promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and peoples, and that his descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. All these indeed came true, as Abraham trusted in the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to. The Lord guided Abraham and protected him, and gave him a son, Isaac, whom He had promised to him from the beginning. Even when the Lord tested Abraham for his faith by asking him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, while Abraham might have had moments of pain and doubt, he remained faithful nonetheless.

While Sarah also doubted the Lord and even laughed at the suggestion that she would have a child within the year from the Lord Himself Who came to visit Abraham, eventually she remained firm in her faith and trust in the Lord, believing that the Lord will always be faithful and will never abandon His faithful ones. The Lord gave Abraham who was willing to give even his own beloved son as a sign of his faith and trust in the Lord, the assurance of His blessings and faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established with him, sparing Isaac and reminded him and all of us yet again of just how loving, gracious and committed the Lord is to love all of us. Throughout history, this has been repeated and renewed again and again, as the Lord continued to reveal His faithfulness and love to us. The author of this Epistle was also trying to reveal more about the Lord Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people as this author had intended.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the the disciples of the Lord Jesus travelling through the lake, during which time a great storm and huge waves came to batter the boat that they were in. In that occasion, the Lord was sleeping while the disciples were panicking and worried that those waves would crush and destroy their boat, which would have likely caused them to drown to their deaths in the middle of the stormy seas. They desperately begged the Lord for help and asked Him to help them, and the Lord rebuked them for their lack of faith and trust in Him. The Lord Jesus then showed His power and authority by commanding the wind and the waves to be still, and immediately the entire storm vanished miraculously to the total astonishment of all the disciples who witnessed it.

Through what we have heard in that Gospel passage we can see how the boat represented the Church of God, while the disciples all represented all the faithful people of God, all of us who are part of God’s Church. The Lord Himself is at the Head of the Church, guiding the boat to its safe destination, just as He has always led us through the many difficulties and challenges facing us in our journey throughout life. Those storms and waves represented the many challenges, trials and obstacles that we will have to face as members and parts of God’s Church, which may indeed tempt us to abandon everything and the Church, seeking for other sources of help rather than to trust in the Lord. That is exactly what happened if someone in that boat were to try to abandon the boat and jump into the water instead of trusting in the Lord.

This is a reminder for each one of us that no matter how tough or difficult our battles and challenges may be, we must not be easily swayed, dissuaded or forced to abandon our path walking with faith in God. We must entrust ourselves in God’s love and guidance, which He has always faithfully given to us all these while, from the examples that we have heard from our Scripture passages today. The Lord has done so much for us that He has not held back from even giving us His only beloved Son, much as Abraham had done earlier in offering Isaac to God. But unlike that offering of Isaac which was just a test by God for Abraham’s faith, God truly sent us His only Son, to suffer and die for us, as the Lamb of God, as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice offered for the salvation of all mankind, of all creation.

Can we still not trust in God after He has done so much for our sake, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has done so much for us to the point of giving His best and the most perfect gift that He can give us, to have His own Son to carry the huge burdens of our many sins, so that by His coming into this world, He may save us all from our certain impending destruction, death and damnation. His love for us is so great that this Love even overcame the entire combined might of all the sins and the forces of evil arrayed against us. The Lord has shown us His most generous and powerful Love through His Cross, and we are hence reminded again and again to put our trust and faith in Him, and doubt Him no longer. We should not doubt what He has done for our sake, and we should continue to have full faith in Him, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all also follow the good examples of one saint whose life and works can inspire us to deepen our faith and trust in God ever further. I am quite sure that many of us have heard the name St. Thomas Aquinas, a great and holy Priest and servant of God, and also an esteemed Doctor of the Church after his passing from this world. The Universal Church celebrates his feast on this day. He was known for his great devotion to God and great theological masterpieces, particularly his magnum opus, the ‘Summa Theologiae’. As a great theologian and servant of God, St. Thomas Aquinas spent a lot of time and effort to help the people of God to know better about Him and the truth about His love and compassionate mercy towards us. St. Thomas Aquinas did a lot of great works together with his other contemporaries like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi, who in their own ways help to bring God’s people to be ever closer to Him.

Let us all hence strive to do our best to get to know more about the Lord God, our Saviour and loving Father. Let us all return to Him once again with love and devotion, by following the zeal and the examples showed by the holy lives of the saints, particularly that of St. Thomas Aquinas in today’s Feast celebration, and let us be good role models and examples so that in all the things we say and do, we will always glorify the Lord and commit ourselves wholeheartedly, to walk in the path of His grace. May the Lord continue to help and guide us through the many trials and tribulations, the challenges that we may have to face and overcome, in each and every moments of our Christian living. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Thursday, 26 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of two of the earliest bishops and leaders of the Church, as the successors of the Apostles and in this case, as the protege of St. Paul the Apostle. St. Timothy and St. Titus were two of the Lord’s disciples who collaborated closely with St. Paul during his missionary works and journeys, and they were addressed by St. Paul each with an Epistle, as he wrote to both of them exhorting them to remain faithful to God and to do the will and the works of God to the best of their ability. St. Paul reminded them all of the role of the oversees or elders, also later known as bishops in the community of the people of God, as the exemplary role model that become the foundation and pillars of the Church and the Christian community.

According to tradition, St. Timothy was born in Lycaonia in Asia Minor, to a mixed parentage of a Greek father and a Jewish Christian convert mother. He likely had become a Christian believer as well and met St. Paul during his second missionary journey throughout the Mediterranean region. He was a respected member of the local Christian community, and his maternal family was also noted for their faith, with his maternal grandmother and mother were also noted for their piety and faith. St. Timothy dedicated his life henceforth as a great shepherd for the flock entrusted to him, as St. Paul placed him in Ephesus to care for the faithful there, and for many years, he accompanied St. Paul and then, afterwards, served the Church faithfully for many decades. In the end, it was told that when he was already eighty years old, he tried to stop a procession of pagan idols all around the city. He was arrested, harassed and finally stoned to death, dying as a martyr.

Meanwhile, St. Titus was a Greek who became a follower of St. Paul and was likely converted by the latter, as he accompanied St. Paul during his missions as a companion and interpreter. St. Titus went with St. Paul to many places including Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Macedonia and more places, gaining more experiences and wisdom along the journey. St. Titus was then left at Crete and entrusted by St. Paul to be the bishop and overseer of all the faithful in that island, because St. Paul held St. Titus in high esteem, entrusting him with the important mission of caring for the needs of the faithful in Crete, who back then had no shepherd to look after them. St. Titus henceforth became that leader and guide of many among the faithful people of God, and while the latter details about him are more scant than that of St. Timothy, it was likely that St. Titus also died in martyrdom as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all heard from the Scriptures and the lives of these two glorious saints of God, St. Timothy and St. Titus, each one of us are reminded to be more like them in our own faith and way of life. We should do our best in order to live our lives in a more Christian way, following the examples of the Apostles and the saints, as the dedication showed by St. Timothy and St. Titus in their respective lives should have shown us. Their commitment to God, their zeal in serving the faithful entrusted to them as their bishops, the time and effort that they must have given to glorify the Lord and to help His people are truly what we should be doing in our own lives as well. St. Timothy and St. Titus showed us all as Christians that we cannot be idle in our lives and that our actions and way of life should be exemplary and worthy as far as possible so that we will not end up causing scandal and distancing people away from the salvation through the Church of God.

That was what St. Paul himself exhorted his two protege, St. Timothy and St. Titus, that the role of bishops were truly very important one for the Church. St. Paul highlighted how the bishops must be selected and elected from among those whose lives were truly good and worthy of God, filled with holiness and righteousness, devotion and commitment to God. Those who were to be chosen as bishops ought not to have been living immorally or against the teachings of the Christian faith, but they must be good role models through their lives and actions, and they have to be filled with the love both for God and for their fellow men and women, fulfilling what the Lord has told His disciples to do, to be faithful to His Law and commandments of Love.

How about us? The same parameters and expectations can be expected of us as well. All of us should live our lives worthily of the Lord and dedicate ourselves at every opportunities provided to us in order to obey the Lord and His commandments faithfully. We should not cause our lives to be a source of embarrassment and scandal for the Lord and His Church, and we have also been constantly called and reminded to adhere ever more closely to the path that God has shown us. All of us should spend more time to deepen our relationship with the Lord and also make the conscious effort to be ever more attuned to Him and His path. Each and every one of us should draw ever closer to God and become ever more filled with Christian grace and commitment, with each and every passing moments in our lives each day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called and reminded to be more like St. Timothy and St. Titus in serving the Lord, in loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters more and more. Let us ask ourselves if we have been faithful and true to our faith in God, or whether we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the many temptations of worldly desires and pleasures that we end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin and evil. We are called to be better examples and role models of our Christian faith, and the best way for this to happen, is for each one of us to strive to be righteous, just and committed at all times, and not be lukewarm and ignorant in our faith. How can we convince others to believe in God if our own actions do not reflect this strong and profound love that we should have in the Lord?

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in each and every moments throughout our lives. May He empower each one of us that we will always be ever more courageous and committed to live our lives with ever greater faith and love for God and for our fellow men. May God bless our every actions, good efforts, works and endeavours, and may St. Timothy and St. Titus, holy servants of God, intercede for us all sinners. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, in which we remember the moment when St. Paul the Apostle, then known as Saul, turned away from his path of persecuting the followers of Christ in the earliest days of the Church, and then became one of the Lord’s greatest champions and defenders instead. This Feast marks that moment when even such a great sinner and enemy of the Lord and His people could turn away from his wrong path and walk in the path of God’s righteousness. The example of St. Paul the Apostle and his conversion is a classic and very good example that no sinner is truly beyond God’s help and grace, as long as the sinner is willing to make amends and listen to the Lord calling on him or her, and turn back towards Him.

As Saul, in his earlier life, St. Paul was a young and overzealous Pharisee who was convinced to try to eradicate the Christian faith and all Christians throughout Judea and beyond. He was the leader of the efforts to persecute and destroy Christian believers, arresting and torturing them, and striking at them in conjunction with the Pharisees and the chief priests. Saul caused great harm to many among the faithful and he probably led to the suffering and death of many earliest Christians. He was present at and approved the martyrdom of St. Stephen, one of the Church’s seven original Deacons and the first of the martyrs of the Church. No one therefore could have believed that it was possible for one like Saul to embrace the Christian faith, less still to become one of the Lord’s chief defenders and servants.

Yet, that was what happened. The Lord called Saul on his way to Damascus to arrest and eradicate the Christians living there. He was called by the Lord in a miraculous and dramatic encounter between the two of them, as he saw and witnessed the Lord appearing to him, and revealing to him the truth, of the mistake he has committed in persecuting and arresting the Lord’s followers. Saul experienced for himself the encounter with the Lord and ever since then, through his baptism and miraculous healing via the assistance of Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, Saul’s life was completely changed and made anew, as he embarked on a new life that was faithful to the Lord, giving his best, all of his efforts and hard work to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, becoming one of the Lord’s greatest disciples and champions.

That was how Saul turned to eventually become St. Paul the Apostle, from a great enemy of Christians and the Lord Himself, to a great disciple and a most faithful servant of God, one of the Apostles and a great missionary who devoted his whole life, a lot of time and effort for the sake of proclaiming the Lord and His truth to more and more people all throughout the world. St. Paul’s example, faith and dedication ought to inspire all of us that even if we have sinned against God, or think that our sins made us to be unworthy of Him and His love, we have the hope of salvation and eternal life all the same. God’s love for us is far greater than all of our sins and wickedness, and in St. Paul’s own words, in one of his Epistles, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Undoubtedly, St. Paul was referring to his own example as the great example of how even great sinners can become great servants of God and saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle all of us are reminded that we are all also called by the Lord for the same purpose and mission in our own lives. Each and every one of us as members of the Church are parts of the Church’s works and missions in proclaiming the truth of God and evangelising the whole world. All of us are successors of the works entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, the missions that the Lord entrusted to His Church. The works of St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord are still aplenty and ongoing, as there are ever more people out there who have not yet known the Lord and His truth. St. Paul the Apostle showed us the way forward in life, in how we should commit ourselves to God’s mission and works.

Now the question is, are we willing to do our best to follow the Lord in the way that St. Paul himself had done? Are we willing to embrace the Lord and His mercy and forgiveness once again, as He continued to reach out to us, calling us to turn away from our sinful and wicked ways? Are we willing to embrace God’s love and grace in showing us His mercy even when we have often disappointed Him? All of us should appreciate the things that God has done in patiently embracing us despite of our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness. He has always loved us and wanted us to be reconciled with Him, and gave us the means to do so through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. By His suffering, death on the Cross and by His Resurrection, the Lord has opened for us the gates of Heaven and shown us the path towards Him.

Now, what each one of us need to do is to reflect on how St. Paul embraced the Lord wholeheartedly and humbly accepted that he was mistaken and wrong in his youth, and allowing the Lord and His other Apostles, as well as the Holy Spirit to help and guide him down the wrong path. Too often many of us continue to sin and disobey God because we are too proud to admit our mistakes and faults, and we are unwilling to let the Lord to correct us. For all that St. Paul had done in his youth as Saul to persecute Christians, he was humble enough to accept the truth of the Lord and embrace His mercy and compassionate love. Are we also willing to embrace God’s truth and love with humility and faith? The choice is ours alone to make. If we continue to walk with pride and refusing to accept our errors and mistakes in life, we will likely end up continuing down the wrong path.

Let us all therefore strive to renew our faith and lives by our humble obedience to the Lord and the willingness to change ourselves by listening to God’s will and words. Let us all be growing ever stronger in our faith and relationship with the Lord in the way that St. Paul had done himself. Let us be converted in life and draw ever closer to the Lord, and be good role models in our lives and actions, that we may inspire many others to live worthily of the Lord. Let us trust in God’s love that is so great that not even the greatest of sinners are beyond God’s mercy and forgiveness. May God continue to strengthen our faith and may He bless us in our everyday lives and actions. May God bless us in our every endeavours, efforts and good works for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Scriptures, all of us are called to remember that what is important for us all as Christians, is to obey the Lord, our God, and to do whatever it is that He has revealed and taught to us. The Law and the commandments which He has shown and revealed to us through His Son, and which has been passed down through His Church, are all that we are expected to follow and obey, as the basic and fundamental part of being a follower of Christ and as the servants and the people of God’s Light and Truth. If we claim to be Christians and yet totally contrary in how we live our lives and in how we act, then we are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers, who do not truly believe in what the Lord had taught and revealed to us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle to the Hebrews, of the author telling his intended audience, that is the Jewish converts to the Christian faith, as well as to the rest of the Jewish community, that the Lord Jesus as the Messiah or the Saviour of the whole world has redeemed all of them, all of mankind, by His suffering and death on the Cross. By the Lord’s offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on His Cross, the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Himself has given us all the most perfect gift of love from God, and by acting as our High Priest, He delivered us all from the destruction that we should have suffered and deserved because of our disobedience and sins against God. Through His offering, once and for all He had liberated all of mankind from the tyranny of sin and assured for them the reward of eternal life, should they remain true and faithful to Him.

The author also pointed out that the regular and constant offerings and sacrifices carried out at the Temple in Jerusalem were therefore no longer needed or relevant, as the Lord’s sacrifice has assured and won for everyone the forgiveness and absolutions for all of their innumerable sins, from the most distant past to the present, and to the distant future and to the end of time. His offering of Himself as the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb is sufficient and worthy to redeem all of us from our many sins and reconcile us to our most loving God and Father. There was (and is) therefore no further need to have the regular and constant sacrifices offered by the priests and the High Priests as the Lord Himself has redeemed us by His one and only singular sacrifice on His Cross that transcends all time and boundaries, reaching out to all of us.

Then some of those who did not understand our practices and faith might then accuse us, as it had happened and is happening even now, that our Catholic and Christian faith is not following the Law and commandments of God because in the celebration of the Holy Mass is described as a sacrifice, that is the ‘Holy Sacrifice of the Mass’. But that is exactly what the Holy Mass is, it is the very same sacrifice of the Lord, the Bloody sacrifice that He performed at Calvary, transcending time and space, which is then commemorated, marked and remembered again and again at every single celebration of the Holy Mass. However, contrary to the mistaken beliefs of those who misunderstood our faith, each celebration of the Holy Mass does not constitute a new sacrifice that the priest performs again and again.

This is therefore unlike that of the priests and the High Priests performing the sacrifices using the Law of God according to Moses, following the rituals and practices that came before the Lord and His revelations, and especially before His great sacrifice on His Cross. Those priests in the past needed to continue offering sacrifices back then because the offering of the blood of animals and the animals themselves, although physically supposed to be unblemished, but those offerings pale in comparison to the offering that the Lord Himself had made on our behalf, as He offered no less than Himself, His whole Being, His Most Precious Body and Blood, being broken for us and being poured upon us, from His Cross, for the salvation of all mankind, all without exception.

Our priests and bishops all acted ‘in persona Christi’ as they entered into the most solemn moments of the Consecration and the Eucharist during the Holy Mass, turning the bread and wine that were brought to the Altar into the reality, essence, and true nature of the Most Precious Body and the Most Precious Blood of the Lord. This means that while physically in appearance it seems that nothing has changed to the bread and wine consecrated to be the Most Holy Eucharist, but the truth is that in all levels of reality, in physical nature, essence, spiritual nature and more, the bread has been turned into the Lord’s own Most Precious Body, while the wine has been turned into the Lord’s own Most Precious Blood. And this belief exists at the very core and foundation of our Christian faith, without which we truly cannot call ourselves as Christians, or as the believers of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we are reminded of this core tenet of our faith today, we are also reminded through the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews and from the Lord Himself in our Gospel passage today that, what the Lord truly wants from each and every one of us is obedience, for us to listen to the Lord and to follow His will, to follow where He has been calling and leading us towards, and to be humble in all time and opportunities so that we may truly be able to appreciate just how blessed and fortunate we have been that our Lord and most loving God has continuously reached out to us and patiently endured our often stubborn attitudes and refusal to listen to Him. He still patiently called out to us and reached out to us regardless, giving us time and opportunities, again and again, just so that we may find our way back to Him.

Today, all of us should follow the examples of one great saint whose faith and dedication to the Lord can become a great source of inspiration for us to be more faithful ourselves in living our lives as Christians. St. Francis de Sales was the famous inspiration behind the later foundation of the Salesian order, and he was also a pious and devoted man of God, as a bishop and shepherd to his flock. He was always referring to God as ‘God is Love’ and was convinced that God’s Love for us was so great, which drove him to continue carrying out more missions and works for the sake of the people of God. He became a priest and missionary in opposition to his family’s insistence that he took up secular role, having been born into privileged, rich and powerful family at that time. He chose to serve the Lord rather than indulging in his or his family’s own desires.

St. Francis de Sales dedicated himself to his mission, ministering even to the hard-heartened and stubborn heretics who initially refused to listen to him and even accused him to be a sorcerer. When he was appointed as bishop, he continued to serve the people entrusted to his care with great humility, devotion and love both for the Lord and for the people. He preached with great zeal and sincerity, and with great love and compassion, which touched quite a lot among the people, who were either led closer to conversion and reconciliation with God, or drawn away from heretical teachings or being strengthened and affirmed in their faith thanks to the hard work and dedication of St. Francis de Sales. The commitment and love which St. Francis de Sales had for the Lord is something that should inspire us all to do the same as well in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek to be more faithful to God just as St. Francis de Sales and many other saints, holy men and women of God had done before us. Let us all do our best in our daily lives and at every moments to listen to the Lord’s call and His will, and be humble in obeying all that He had told and asked us to do. May all of us be ever more obedient and committed in our faith, and draw ever closer to the Lord and His path. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to remain united in Christ, in our belief that the Lord Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant between us and God. Each and every one of us should not be distracted by falsehoods and lies by which the devil and all of his allies would try to sow the seeds of dissension and divisions amongst us. That is why we have to understand better what the Lord Jesus had done for our sake, in His offering of Himself as the perfect and worthy offering and sacrifice for the sake of our salvation, for the forgiveness of our many and innumerable sins. If we can understand these things better, then surely we will be better able to appreciate what the Lord had done to us and grow in our faith in Him. Sadly, these days, many among us Christians do not even understand well what the Lord had done for our salvation.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we continue again with the discourse from the author of this Epistle, who spent a lot of time throughout this Epistle to highlight the important role which Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, to the Jewish people, both those converts and those who have not yet believed in Him, in how this Holy Man of God, the Son of Man, has acted as our true and Eternal High Priest, representing all of us before the Lord, offering on our behalf the most perfect sacrifice, one that does not need repeated offerings and sacrifices unlike the animals that were slaughtered and sacrificed by the priests as sin offerings in the past. Instead, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews mentioned, the Lord Jesus, our true and Eternal High Priest offered on our behalf the one and only sacrifice needed for the salvation of our souls, that is the sacrifice which He had made at Calvary, at the Altar of His Cross.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews highlighted how unlike the other priests and High Priests in the past, the Lord did not need to offer the sacrifice first for the atonement of their own sins, as the Lord Himself was already without any sin, and He also offered the most perfect and worthy sacrifice of all, that is of Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Blood. Unlike the offering of the blood of lambs and bulls, and other sacrifices, the Lord offered His own perfect offering, the Incarnate Son of God in the flesh, breaking His own Body and pouring His own Blood down unto us, from the Altar of His Cross. Through all of that, He has shown us the path out of the darkness of our sins, and the sure liberation and freedom from the evils and the sins that had kept us chained and oppressed all these while.

However, despite everything that the Lord had done for our sake, many of us had not been thankful and appreciative of what He had done for us. The Lord has loved us so much that He was willing to offer Himself, to trade His life for ours, that by His suffering, His most painful death and most humiliating expiration, He might break the chains of sin and death, and lead us to freedom and eternal life, through His glorious Resurrection from the dead. He was so patient that He had forgiven us yet again and again despite our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness, as we continue to choose to disobey Him and falling again and again into sin. He was so patient to endure all of our betrayals and ignorance, and all that we had done to spite Him, and still chose willingly to suffer and die for us. Every wounds that were inflicted on Him were indeed caused by our many sins and transgressions.

But this is where we all have to realise that this stubborn attitude has to come to an end. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were accusing the Lord of collusion with Beelzebul, one of the princes of demons, in the carrying out of His ministry and in His miracles. This accusation was truly a vile accusation because not only that it denied the authority of the Lord in performing His miracles, all done by His own mighty power, but it also doubted the power of God exercised through His Holy Spirit and through His direct intervention via His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It essentially doubted that God could have forgiven sins and performed those wonders, and assigning those to the work of the devils and demons instead. This is what the Lord meant by the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Sin against the Holy Spirit is a truly heinous form of sin, as unlike other form of sins that God has forgiven us from, the sin against the Holy Spirit is a rejection of God’s grace and love, His forgiveness and mercy, which at that time, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law made out of their pride and ego, their jealousy and greed, in refusing to believe in the Lord simply because they thought that they could not have been wrong in their way of observing the Law and commandments of God, and because they saw the Lord as a Rival to their own influence and power within the community of the people of God, the descendants of the Israelites. They hardened their hearts and closed their minds to the Lord because of their worldly desires and their attachment to worldliness, all of which kept them chained to sin, and not only that, but also hindered the good works of the Lord and misled many down the wrong paths.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard these passages from the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we should not be stubborn anymore in our ignorance of God’s love and compassionate mercy, and we should no longer allow ourselves to be easily swayed by the temptations to sin, no matter in whatever form that these temptations come to us. We should deepen our understanding of God’s actions and love for us, and remember everything that He had done, especially through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour in lifting us out of the darkness of sin and death, and ensuring that each one of us has a sure path towards redemption and eternal life through Him. We should grow ever more in our faith, trust and dedication to our Lord, remaining ever firm and committed in our path towards His righteousness and grace, at all times.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us so that we will remain filled with zeal and love for Him. May He strengthen us all with the courage and the desire to proclaim His truth and love among all the nations, by our own lives and actions. May God empower each one of us to walk in His light, that we may inspire many more people to follow our examples and to walk in our footsteps, for the salvation of many more souls. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 January 2023 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God which was instituted a few years ago by Pope Francis, our Supreme Pontiff with the purpose of rediscovering our love and zeal for the Lord through the deepening of our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. It is important that we have to spend some time and effort to get to know more about the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and hence, that is why this Sunday in particular, let us all delve into what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and focus our attention on the truth that the Lord Himself has brought into our midst.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the prophecy speaking of the coming of the Messiah, of the coming of the Light of salvation that dispels the darkness surrounding the region of Naphtali and Zebulun, which by the time of the Lord Jesus was known as the region of Galilee. It was in Galilee that the Lord’s family originated from, as St. Joseph and Mary stayed in the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, although St. Joseph at least initially hailed from the tribe of Judah in Bethlehem. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council later on said that no prophet were to be expected to come from the region and hence, Jesus must have been a false prophet and Messiah.

Yet, if only they had read the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies more carefully, just as we have heard ourselves in our first reading today, then they would have realised that the Saviour of the world would indeed come through the region of the north, the lands of Naphtali and Zebulun, the land of Galilee, where the Lord indeed stayed during the early years of His life, and also where He began His ministry after His Baptism at the Jordan. Contextually it is also significant to take note that back then, at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the land of Naphtali and Zebulun, as part of the northern kingdom of Israel, had become a foreign land, after the destruction of that kingdom by the Assyrians, as its people had been brought off into exile in far away lands, and foreigners were brought in to dwell in those lands.

By the time of the Lord Jesus, a few centuries after the time of the prophet Isaiah, the lands mentioned was known as Galilee, and that region was also still in the peripheries of the communities of the people of God, which was mainly centred in Jerusalem and Judea back then. That the Lord decided to come to those regions was also highly symbolic and meaningful, as it represents the Lord’s desire to gather back all of His scattered people, and to restore the honour of the people of God, and at the same time also calling upon the people from distant lands and from the pagan nations to embrace the truth and love of God. It means that God’s salvation was not only meant for the Jewish people only, but to all the children of mankind, to all the peoples of all races and origins, just as God has always intended.

And as we heard the Gospel passage today, again that same prophecy from the prophet Isaiah was repeated, proclaiming the coming of God’s salvation as made true and real by the actions that the Lord carried out in Galilee, as He called His first disciples and gathered them all, choosing the Twelve among them to be His Apostles, while also performing many miracles and wonders, healing many of the sick who came to Him and were brought to Him. He went from places to places, healing the sick, casting out demons, making those who were blind to be able to see again, and opening the ears and loosening the tongues of the mute, fulfilling the many other prophecies that Isaiah and the other prophets had been proclaiming about the Messiah.

And all of these had been proclaimed to us as well, the truth that God has shown us and delivered to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Through His Church, the Lord has revealed and taught to us His ways, and showed us the proof of His salvation. Like the Apostles we have received the same truth and Good News, and it was through them and their successors that we have received this truth, passed down successively down the generations through the Church of God. Without the hard work and efforts of the Apostles, the other disciples and their successors throughout the history of the Church, there would have not been any of these things happening. We would have remained ignorant of the truth of God, and separated from His salvation and grace.

This reminds us today as we commemorate this Sunday of the Word of God that each and every one of us have been called by God to our various ministries and callings in life, depending on the various gifts, talents and abilities that He had given us. All of us have been called to embrace the Lord’s calling of not only just knowing and appreciating the Word of God more in our lives, but also in proclaiming the Word of God and the truth of God in the midst of our respective various communities, in our schools and workplaces, amidst our families, relatives and circles of friends and acquaintances, and even to strangers whom we encounter daily in our respective lives. And we cannot be effective and faithful servants of the Lord and His Word, unless we have good knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, it is important that we commit some time to spend each day and each and every available moments to us, to read the Sacred Scriptures and deepen our knowledge and understanding of it. However, it is important that we also have to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the Church as well because if we read the Scriptures and interpret it based on our own understanding and comprehension, then as history had shown us, it can lead us into the path of error, as the many heresies and the false paths had done, and also those who believe that the Scriptures alone hold the sole authority of God’s truth, or ‘sola Scriptura’. Instead, the teachings of the Church, its Magisterium is important in ensuring that our understanding and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures remain rooted in Christ and His truth.

That is why, first of all we need to spend more time in reading the Scriptures, as if we do not even know the words contained within it, how can we even begin to discern if something we heard from elsewhere or others are true or false? Especially during this time of rapid information exchange and greater availability of informations from all sources, it is very easy for us to be swayed into falsehoods, just as misinformations and fake news had been making rounds all around the world in the past few years and decade. That is why, after we have spent the time to read more of the Scriptures, we also have to deepen our understanding of the Scriptures through knowing more of the teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as through careful listening and reflection of the words of the bishops and priests who are our teachers and guides, in guiding us together within the Church into the right path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why it is also important that we also help one another to stay in the path of truth, by sharing with one another whatever insight and understanding we have of the Scriptures, rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Church and the Apostles. Let us all be zealous and committed evangelisers and missionaries, in our daily living, in our every moments. Let us do our very best to be exemplary in faith and to be inspiration to each other in our faith and in our lives. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us as well, so that hopefully we may lead more others to the path of God’s salvation and grace. May God bless us in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.