Thursday, 19 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Thirteenth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pontiff and Leader of the Universal Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the story of the conversion of an Ethiopian official or envoy by St. Philip as he was on his way back to his Ethiopian homeland. St. Philip explained the meaning of the Scripture passage which the official was reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, that foretold the suffering of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus crucified.

St. Philip revealed the truth to the official, and his explanation awakened the faith in the heart of the Ethiopian official, who came to believe in the Lord Jesus and in the salvation that He brought into the world. Thus, he opened his heart and mind, and bared his soul before the Lord, requesting the Apostle to baptise him right there and then at a spring along the way. Later on, he would bring the faith to his homeland, and probably, made more converts there.

Thus, that was how God did His marvellous works, calling on people from various nations and from different backgrounds, to become His disciples and followers. The Apostles themselves were called from different origins and backgrounds, as some were sinners, some were fishermen, and still there were tax collector and delinquents counted among them. God called them from their past lives and occupations and made them His servants.

In the Gospel passage today, all of us heard about the Lord Jesus revealing Himself as the Living Bread Who has come down from heaven, sent from God Our Lord, to reveal unto us the truth about Himself. God Himself had sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and as the source of all our hope. Once we have been dejected and without hope, but now because of Christ and all that He had done for us, He has given us a new hope and light to follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on these words which we have heard and received from the Scriptures. How have we, as Christians, been faithful to God? Have we been like the Apostles and the disciples, who braved suffering, prison, torture, rejection, ridicule, and even death for the sake of the Lord. They remained strong in their conviction and faith despite all that they had to face for His sake.

It was their exemplary faith which had inspired many more people to turn towards the Christian faith, to believe in God Who has guided His disciples and Apostles to preach in His Name and deliver the truth to all mankind. The Holy Spirit guided their actions and helped in their words, that many were turned to the Lord and repented from their sins. They have received the truth from God Himself, and received the Body and Blood which the Lord had given them willingly from the altar of His cross.

Therefore, they were filled with courage and strength, to carry out the mission entrusted to them, to bring the salvation of God to all the peoples, of all the races and all of the nations. Now, all of us Christians are entrusted with the same mission, to continue the good works of the Apostles and the holy saints and martyrs who had gone before us. But, are we able to commit the same commitment as the Apostles had done before?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to a renewed faith and a new life, that if once we have been unfaithful and lacking in our faith, then now, we can renew our commitment to live in accordance to the Lord’s will. Let us all seek to be ever more faithful and be closer to the Lord, day after day. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the story of the works of the Apostles, who went about from places to places, as exemplified by St. Philip, who went to the northern region of Samaria to preach to the people living there about the Lord Jesus Christ and His truth. The Church was still growing rapidly at that time, and more and more people came to believe in God, despite, at the same time, a vigorous persecution was launched against them by Saul, a fanatical Pharisee who was zealously and firmly against Jesus and His teachings.

The Apostles and the disciples of the Lord faced a great persecution and opposition from many of the Pharisees, and from many members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council, many of whose members had once also opposed the Lord Jesus. Nonetheless, despite the challenges they encountered, and all the obstacles they had to go through, if we read on throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we will realise just how devoted they were to the mission entrusted to them.

But why, brothers and sisters in Christ? Why did the followers of the Lord as described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters that St. Paul and the other Apostles wrote had been so brave and courageous in their faith, and in how they stood up for their faith? What gave them such a great encouragement and energy, the strength and power to carry out such a mission?

The answer can be found in our Gospel passage today, in the truth which the Lord Jesus revealed to the people in one of His teachings. He said that He is the Bread of Life Who has come down from heaven, and not like any earthly bread or even the bread of manna with which the Lord fed the Israelites in the past, but the true Food and sustenance for all of us, God’s beloved people.

He gave all of those who believe in Him, His own Body and His own Blood, to be our sustenance, that all of those who share in His Body and Blood will never be in want ever again, and they will be truly satisfied and joyful, for the Lord Himself dwells in them and is with them. The Lord has given us everything, and He has given us all His love, poured down from the cross, a perfect and selfless love by which He cared for each and every one of us.

And as He said, those who eat and drink of the Body and Blood He gave, worthily and with faith, He will save and they will not perish. This is a good reminder for us all, especially when it is at a time when we realise what will happen to us should we choose to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, just as the Apostles and the followers of the Lord had done. The challenges and the tribulations they had to face were numerous, and so will ours be.

But those who place their trust in the Lord will not be disappointed, and those who worthily welcomed the Lord into their lives will have God on their side at all times. He will never abandon them, and they can be assured of His continued support. Those who put their trust in the world and in worldly things are those who are unable to look further beyond their immediate concerns and desires, and hence, they chose poorly for the wrong decision in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, shall we all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, that we do our very best, to spend more and more time with the Lord, and to draw closer to Him? Let us all reorientate our lives, our focus and our attention, that while once we might have been lukewarm in our faith, now we live a renewed existence in God, with a new zeal and with a new conviction, to stand up for our faith just as the Apostles had once done.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen in us our faith, that we may always persevere despite the challenges we may encounter in life, and regardless of the temptations to abandon the Lord, Our loving God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the continuation of the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who died defending his faith in the Lord. He pointed out just how stubborn the people of God had been throughout time, having disobeyed the Lord and refused to listen to the words and reminders He had given them through His messengers and prophets.

In the same manner, therefore, they had also refused to believe in the Lord Jesus, even though the Lord and Saviour of the world had done all that He could to persuade them to believe, including performing numerous wonders and works among them, casting out demons and healing the sick, feats and works that are impossible in the hands of men, but perfectly possible for God.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told the people yet another blatant truth about Himself, which they refused to believe, even though that was what the Lord truly had done for them. In that, we are reminded of the centre tenet of our faith and Christian belief, that we believe in God, Who has willingly given us His own Body and Blood, given to us freely as food and sustenance, just as much as He has fed His people Israel for forty years during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Yet, the people of Israel refused to believe in God, and even though He had shown them much love, by providing all that they needed along the way, and protecting them from their enemies, they still became wayward and rebelled against Him, even to the point of worshipping the pagan idols and false gods abhorrent to Him. God has been so kind to them, and yet, they abused His love and rejected Him.

That was what they had done to the Lord Jesus and to His Apostles as well. And what had happened to St. Stephen, had also happened to numerous other followers of the Lord. They have been persecuted, facing arrest and also torture in order to stand up to their faith, defending what they held to be right against all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth. And all of these were due to the stubbornness in the hearts of men, who refused to submit to God.

Now, are we going to go the same way as those rebellious generations who have disobeyed God and His commandments? Are we going to follow in their footsteps? We have to realise that all of these disobediences are caused by our own inability to resist the temptation to follow our desires, our greedy nature and our pride. We refuse to believe in God because we think that we know it better and we want things to go according to our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on our lives. Thus far, have we been disobedient and deliquent in our ways? Have we been wayward in our dealings and interactions with one another? These are some of the important questions that we need to ask our lives. However, we must also realise that there is a need for us to take action with our lives, by doing our very best to live in accordance to the Lord’s ways, even if that end up meaning that we have to go against the world.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that this world offers us many tempting and pleasurable things, that are indeed very tempting for us to follow through. However, we have to be farsighted, looking beyond what is immediately ahead of us. The path that the Lord offers us is more difficult and challenging, and certainly it is not a most enticing and encouraging one. And we must always be mindful that Satan is always out there, actively trying to sway us from finding our path towards God’s salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep this in mind as we carry on with our respective lives. Let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly, devoting our time, effort and attention in order to stand up to our faith, just as St. Stephen and all the other holy saints and martyrs of God had done, all those who had gone before us and showed us how to be truly faithful to God.

Let us all therefore, persevere in our faith, that whatever it is that the devil is trying to do, in order to confuse us and to lure us away from God’s salvation, we will be able to resist them, as we look forward to our true inheritance, which God alone can give, that is the true joy and happiness, glorious together with Him. May God be with us all, and may He guide us all in our journey, that we will be able to overcome the world, and turning back on our sins, we may be made worthy of eternal glory in Him Who loves us all. Amen.

Monday, 16 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from our first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, about what had happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons to be chosen by the Apostles, who was also the very first martyr of the Church. As he performed his works among the people and teaching about the Lord Jesus and His salvation, those who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings came after St. Stephen and harassed him.

Nonetheless, even though they brought false witnesses against Him, just as much as they have also done against the Lord, St. Stephen spoke with great wisdom and clarity, defending the Lord with zeal and devotion. He pointed out how God had done so many great things and good deeds for His people throughout the ages, right from the beginning of time, towards the time of Abraham, and then Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, and then to the time of the prophets, but the people refused to turn away from their sins and repent.

Instead, they doubled down on their sins, and they rejected the Saviour Whom God had sent into their midst, Jesus Christ, Whose life and works St. Stephen was testifying on at that time before the Sanhedrin. And we saw later on, how these words further angered St. Stephen and made them to seize the holy servant of God, and stoned him to death. Thus, St. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church.

St. Stephen showed us that there will be challenges facing those who keep their faith firmly in God, as he himself had done. St. Stephen reminded us that if we want to follow the Lord and be His true disciples and servants, then we must first of all, believe in God and in all of His teachings, in all of our ways, in all of the words we utter, in all the actions we take and which we do in our daily lives, in how we interact with one another.

And if we truly believe in Him, and not just merely having a superficial faith, then all of us should be ready to defend our faith just as St. Stephen has done. No, it does not mean that we should all purposefully and intentionally seek martyrdom and death in God, but rather, we must be firm in our conviction and desire to live our lives faithfully and in full obedience to God’s will, regardless of what persuasions and temptations we meet in our lives may convince, persuade or even force us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how many of us truly believe in God with all of our heart, our mind and our strength? How many of us are truly convinced that God’s ways are the way forward for us, and not that of our own? If we are true Christians, then we should indeed put God as the clear priority of our lives, turning towards Him in all of our ways and dealings, and turning away from sin.

But, the sad reality is that, many of us are so busy and so preoccupied with worldly concerns, for our needs, wants and desires in this world that we end up being distracted from God. Our priority in life is not God, but instead, the desire and pursuit for money, for success, for worldly prestige and honour, for sexual pleasures and for satisfaction of our ego and greed.

That is why so many of us have distanced ourselves from God, and unless we do something concrete in our lives, now and not delaying any further, we will end up falling into damnation in hell, when it is too late for us to turn back and regret all that we have done wrongly in our lives. Let us all therefore, spend time and effort to be more faithful to God, that each and every one of us, by our words, actions and deeds can be inspiration for one another, and also for all those who have yet to receive God’s salvation, that they too may be saved.

May the Lord bless us all and all of our endeavours, our good works and commitment to Him. May He strengthen us day after day, that we will always be faithful to the commandments and laws of God, and that we will always put God as our first and foremost priority before everything else just as St. Stephen, holy deacon and martyr had done. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 15 April 2018 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter, we recall God’s great deeds by which He has brought us from the brink of destruction, into a new life where we are in safe condition under good hands, as God Himself took care of us, His people, and would not let harm to come upon our way.

The Apostle St. Paul, as he visited the faithful in the city of Antioch in Pisidia during his apostolic ministry, encouraged the faithful and the Jewish community living in that city, by relating to them how God had done great deeds for them, beginning with the time of the Exodus, a time when the people of Israel was oppressed and made to suffer great humiliation in the land of Egypt, and God brought them out by His great power, guiding them through the desert, and finally made them to dwell in the Promised Land given to them and promised to their ancestors.

St. Paul preached about the salvation of God, which came into this world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. He is God’s only begotten Son, Who has willingly taken up our human existence, that He has dwelled among us and walked among us, entering the history of man. In the Gospel passage today, we heard again of the tale of the resurrected Christ, Who after His resurrection has appeared to His disciples.

In that same Gospel passage, the Lord mentioned that everything that the Laws and the Prophets have mentioned, the promises God had made and everything He had uttered from the beginning of time have to be fulfilled, and indeed, He has fulfilled them all to perfection in Jesus Christ, by His works, and most importantly, by His Passion on the cross, His suffering and death, and His glorious resurrection into life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what all of us as Christians need to do today, is that we need to remember how God has done so much in order to save us, and to bring good to all of us. He has bore all of our sins, and all the punishments due for our sins, and all the consequences and the sufferings intended for the shortcomings and mistakes we have committed. He has willingly taken up all these upon Himself, so that, all of us may live and not perish.

Yet, many of us do not realise or appreciate this great love which He has for us. And in reality, many Christians are not aware or appreciative of this great boon which they have all received. For many of us Christians, our faith can even be said as merely a formality, as merely on paper alone, and not one that is truly built upon the solid foundation of love and zeal for God.

For example, how many of us say or think that we believe in God, and yet, in our words, we cause harm to others, or even profane God and His Name? How many of us, by our words and by our actions, we scandalise our Christian faith, and ultimately, the good Name of God? How many of us, because of our words and actions, we make people to shun our Christian faith and refuse to be saved?

Then, how many of us said that we are God’s people, and yet, we barely even have the time to think about Him, and less still, spending quality time with Him? Surely, there are even many among us Christians, who think that coming for the Mass on Sundays, or even for many others, on Christmas and, or Easter alone is enough. And still, for many of us, when we come to the Mass, we cannot wait for the Mass to end, as we cannot wait to continue whatever business we have outside of the church, and go back to our daily habits.

And, even in our churches, in our parishes and in our Christian communities, many of us call ourselves as Christians, and yet, we do not behave as what Christians ought to be. We are jealous when others get something that we do not have, and we squabble over positions in the Church, or for things to go according to our way. When someone else does things in ways different from our own, or not meeting our expectation, we become angry or displeased at that person.

The worst of all, is how we often behave as Christians, in our gossiping and in our slanders, and this is not limited to the laity alone, but even towards our priests. We bicker among ourselves for the most trivial of things, but in all of these, are we not forgetting what we are truly supposed to be doing as Christians? Have we forgotten what it means for us to be followers and disciples of Christ?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at our baptism, we have made the solemn promise to reject Satan and all of his evil teachings and ways, and we renew this promise every year at Easter. But are we truly meaning what we are saying, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or are we only making empty promises and meaningless words? Our actions and words, our deeds and interaction with one another are often filled with the works of the devil, and sometimes not just that we do not shun them, but in fact we even embrace them.

Hence, from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves anew to the Lord? Are we able to really mean what we say, when we promise Him that we are faithful to Him and that we reject Satan and all of his false promises and persuasions? Therefore, let us all seek to be more devoted to the Lord in all of our ways, in all of our words, actions and deeds.

Let us all lead a new life, no longer filled with arrogance, jealousy, slanderous attitudes and hatred, but instead, be filled with love, with compassion and tenderness that God has shown us. If we are Christians, then we are truly obliged to replicate and follow the examples that Christ has set for us. He Himself has loved us when we hated Him, He forgave us when we sinned against Him and wronged Him, He showed us compassion and mercy when we are suffering.

And because God has shown us so much love and been so kind to us, then we, as His people, should be doing the same as well with our lives. Remember, brethren, that the works of the Apostles, in preaching the Good News and testifying their faith in the Lord are still work in progress, and now it is our obligation to continue their works. And the best way that we can take part in these works, is by living a true and genuine Christian life for each and every one of us.

Why is that so? That is because if we ourselves do not act in the way that God has taught us to do, then would that not make us hypocrites? Then, who will believe in hypocrites? No one will. So, if we want others to follow us and be saved, as is our obligation, then we must first be good and faithful Christians in the first place. Let this be our Easter resolution, that from now on, we will try our best to do what God has commanded us to do.

May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may He bless all of our endeavours and works. May He continue to guide us in our path, that we will always be faithful to Him, throughout our whole lives. May all of us do our very best to serve Him, and to dedicate ourselves to Him, from now and unto forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to follow through the story of the Apostles and the first years of the Church, as we heard from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, about the time when it was decided that seven men would be chosen as deacons, to serve the growing needs of the then rapidly growing numbers of Christians, as more and more people chose to turn towards the Lord.

The deacons were instituted as an order of consecrated men within the Church, with the intention of assisting the Apostles and their successors in the administration of the Church, taking care of the worldly affairs such as the distribution of goods and taking care of the poor and the needy, so that the Apostles and their successors, the priests and the bishops can focus on their primary mission to care for the souls of the faithful and for the salvation of all peoples.

And the deacons did not have it easy, and challenges immediately faced them right away. Most prominently, in the later part of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we saw how the most well-known of the seven deacons, St. Stephen, was assaulted by the enemies of the Lord, and as he stood by his faith with a very eloquent defence of God by the courage and wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit, he was martyred by stoning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us then look at our Gospel passage today, in which we heard about the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, who were in the middle of the lake of Galilee, stranded in a boat battered by heavy winds and storms. The disciples were afraid as the waters were rough and they were concerned that their boat would sink and then they would all perish.

But the Lord Jesus appeared before them on the waters, and the disciples were again afraid, as they thought that they had seen a ghost. He calmed them down and reassured them that He was their Lord and their Master. In another account from the other Gospels, the Lord calmed the seas before them, and the waves and the wind died down, and everything was calm once again.

In all these, we see a very meaningful symbolism linking what we have heard from our Acts of the Apostles passage and the Gospel passage. The boat and the disciples represent the Church of God as together we embark through this journey of life in this world. The storms and the waves represent the challenges and troubles, the oppositions and difficulties we will encounter as those who are faithful to Christ’s ways.

But we should not be fearful or be paralysed by fear, as each and every one of us have also received the Holy Spirit by the virtue of our baptism, and then by the laying of the hands when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, just as the Apostles laid their hands on the seven men chosen as deacons. And therefore, just as these holy men received strength and encouragement from God, we too share the same gift that they had.

Now, what we all need to do is that we need to continue their hard work and persevere in the challenges we are likely to face as those who are faithful to God. Let us all seek to be wholeheartedly committed to God, and let us all strive to do our very best day after day. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us and continue to guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the discussion among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council, at the time when the Apostles began their ministry, speaking about the Lord Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, as told to us by the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The members of the Sanhedrin could not agree on what to do with the Apostles.

Why is that so? That is because, many of the chief priests and the elders who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings, were hard bent to oppose the works of the Apostles as well, regardless of whatever they were preaching to the people. They have closed their ears, their senses, their minds and their hearts from receiving God’s Good News. As a result, that is why they constantly demanded for the severe punishment and even death of the Apostles.

However, there were also quite a few of those who were still open to reason, and some of them in fact were sympathetic to the teachings of the Lord, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were in fact secret followers of Jesus. These members of the Sanhedrin genuinely considered the miracles performed by the Apostles as the truth, and as signs of God. They accepted their teachings as God’s truth brought unto them by the Apostles.

Then Gamaliel, a respected teacher and elder, and member of the Sanhedrin managed to calm down the situation by explaining how those who were blindly opposing the works of God were unreasonable and unwise, as he related to them the various examples of all those who had claimed to be the Messiah prior to Jesus. All of those false Messiahs failed because ultimately, they were not the true Messiah, and they did not derive their authority from God.

Gamaliel mentioned how if the Apostles have been acting on the base of human authority, they would have eventually failed and they would fade into obscurity and nothingness as all those who followed the false Messiahs had proven in the past. Gamaliel said to the rest of the Sanhedrin that should the Lord Jesus and His Apostles’ teachings truly came from God, and was the truth, then the Sanhedrin would have acted against God and His will.

And ultimately, the works of the Apostles were truly fruitful and blessed, exactly because God was with them, and God was working through them. In the Gospel passage today, again we heard about the miracle that Jesus performed before His disciples and before all the people. He fed a great multitude of five thousand people and more, not counting the women and the children among them.

And He did all these with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is indeed impossible in the minds and intellects of man, and no one could have believed that all these could have happened. But what is impossible for man, is perfectly possible for God. And Jesus Himself, is God, and as Son of God, is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and by that power, He made the food to multiply according to His will, to satisfy everyone gathered at that time.

Because God was with them, and because God was their leader, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Apostles were successful and triumphant, and despite the difficulties they faced and encountered along the way, eventually they would be triumphant and glorious with God, Who promised all those who are faithful to Him, a eternity of true happiness and glory with Him.

Today, we mark the commemoration of a holy martyr and successor of the Apostle, Pope St. Martin, who succeeded the successors of St. Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted His Church. Pope St. Martin was a faithful servant of God and he devoted himself to the care of the flock and the Church entrusted to him. Yet, he was torn between his commitment to the works of the Church and the secular leaders of the Roman Empire at the time, who had fallen into the false teachings of heretics who were opposed to God’s truth.

Pope St. Martin stood firmly in his conviction and in his zealous attempts to oppose the heretics, including against the Emperor and his courtiers and nobles, who tried to pervert the truth. In the end, he was arrested and endured sufferings in prison, and died a martyr of the Church and his faith in God became a great inspiration for many Christians in the numerous generations after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are therefore called to reflect on these things we have just discussed. Are we truly devoted and faithful to the Lord, in all of our ways, and in all of our dealings? Are we able to live faithfully as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done, and as Pope St. Martin I and many other holy saints and martyrs had done?

Let us all devote ourselves, and let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May all of our actions and deeds, all the things we say and do, we always do them for the sake of the Lord and for His greater glory. Let us all seek to love the Lord at all times, ever more day after day. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.