Sunday, 7 December 2014 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue through the second Sunday of the Advent season, and we go deeper into the preparation we are carrying out this Advent, to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s readings serve as a further reminder of the eventual coming of our Lord in triumph, just as He had once come into the world as one of us, as Jesus Christ the Son of Man.

Today’s readings spoke about the servant and messenger of God’s will, John the Baptist, the one who was sent by God ahead of Himself, to prepare the way for His coming and to prepare the people so that when He Himself came, they would be ready and more prepared to listen to His message and be called to salvation. This in itself, also carries the same meaning of ‘preparation’ which Advent is truly about, the preparation for the coming of Christ.

We can see that the Lord had planned everything well in advance, and indeed, the coming of John the Baptist had been prophesied long earlier by the prophet Isaiah and the other prophets, who spoke of him as the second coming of the prophet Elijah into this world, and as God’s messenger to open up His path. Indeed, John the Baptist had been prepared for this mission from the very beginning, just as his conception and birth was special.

The prophet Elijah, if we read the Old Testament in the Book of Kings, was the faithful servant of God and prophet, who strived to bring the people of God who had erred in their ways and rebelled against the Lord, to return to the way of the Lord and be reconciled to Him. The authorities, the kings of Israel and their servants often made his works difficult, and it was often that he was hounded and pursued for his faith to God.

Yet, the prophet Elijah never gave up nor did he abandon his calling. He ministered faithfully to the people of God, and he endured all the difficulties, calling on the people of God to repent and change their ways, and many responded to his call, although equally many of them rejected his call and continued in their sinful ways. He was then, at the end of his mission, brought up to heaven on flaming chariots, and was hidden from the view of men ever since, until his coming again into the world as John.

John was born with the spirit of Elijah on him, and thus he was prepared to continue the same ministry which God had entrusted to Elijah. Even many centuries after the first coming of Elijah, and after the terrible experiences of the Babylonian exile, the people of God was still filled with sin, and they were still following the wicked ways of their ancestors. Thus, what Elijah had once done to bring the people of God back, needed to be done again.

The Lord had, for a long time, promised his people that He will come to save them and bring them back to Himself. He had promised His salvation through the Messiah that He would send into the world. But in a world still filled with so much sin and wickedness, especially even among the people of God, the people of Israel and Judea, the coming of the Messiah would have been made much more difficult if it had not been well prepared beforehand.

Thus, God sent his servant John, the second coming of Elijah, into the world so that he might straighten the path for the Messiah, or the Christ when He came. And that was what St. John the Baptist did, he laboured in thankless works, reviled and rejected by the Pharisees, who criticised him and questioned and doubted the authority and authenticity of his actions.

Yes, just as the people and the kings of Israel rejected Elijah and persisted in their sins, the same too occurred to John the Baptist. The Pharisees and the elders refused to see their sinfulness and refused to repent, thus later on they would prove to be great enemies and stumbling blocks for our Lord as well. Nevertheless, many people responded to John’s call, giving themselves to be baptised in the Jordan and repented from their sins.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of a saint, whose life and ministry would closely resemble what St. John the Baptist had gone through. St. Ambrosius or St. Ambrose, known better as St. Ambrose of Milan, through his position as the Bishop of Milan, was a great saint, a great pillar of the Church, a holy servant of God, one of the original Doctors of the Church, and ultimately, a fierce and fearless defender of the true Faith.

St. Ambrose was born during the late era of the Roman Empire, and he lived during a time when the Faith had been accepted as part of the Empire, and was being followed by more and more of the people of the Empire. However, many of the faithful at that time were misled by the numerous heresies and perversions of the Faith, leading them into wicked sins, which St. Ambrose would help to counter.

Despite being known as the Bishop of Milan, one of the most influential posts at the time in the Church, St. Ambrose was not originally meant for a life in the episcopate or even priesthood. St. Ambrose was a very influential and intelligent person, and his great intellect helped him to master many learnings and he was soon appointed as the Imperial Governor of the region of Aemilia-Liguria, and he was a very popular governor, as he was truly very competent and dedicated.

There was a great division in the Church at Milan at the time, the capital of Ambrose’s governorate, and after the bishop of Milan at the time, who was one of the heretics, died, the succession was filled with great bitterness and feud. St. Ambrose went to the church where the election was held, to prevent fighting and chaos from breaking out.

There, he was acclaimed by all present to be the new Bishop of Milan, regarding to his piety and popularity among the people, his righteousness and upright nature. He was immediately then ordained as a priest and the episcopate. Immediately, as the Bishop, he forbade all the teachings of heresies in his domains, and he strived hard to spread the true teachings of the Faith to the people entrusted under his care.

St. Ambrose did not have it easy, as there were many oppositions and challenges which he had to endure and counter against throughout his ministry. In particular, the Dowager Empress and the young Emperor under her care were heretics and influenced by the teachings of heresy. St. Ambrose tried hard to bring them and many others to see the Light of the true Faith, and many repented, but not the Empress and many others.

St. Ambrose publicly denounced even the Emperor, the Dowager Empress and the other heretical accomplices they had. This indeed reminds us of what St. John the Baptist had done, brothers and sisters? He who opposed and denounced the Pharisees publicly as brood of vipers and evil. And also Elijah, who condemned kings who caused the people to turn against the Lord their God.

And St. Ambrose did not even fear to excommunicate a powerful and mighty Emperor of the mightiest Empire in the world. The famous Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great, who vanquished his enemies and gained supreme power over the whole of the Empire, even though he was pious and true to the orthodox faith, but he was implicated in his part in the great massacre of the civilians and innocents in the great city of Thessalonica.

St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor and condemned him greatly in public for his involvement in the massacre. Only after the Emperor repented and in great humility, taking off his Imperial garments, wearing sackcloth and making public confession for his sins and reaffirmation of his faith in God, then St. Ambrose forgave his sins, and welcomed him back into the Church of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what are the significance of what I have shared with you, on this Sunday’s readings, on the lives of Elijah, St. John the Baptist and St. Ambrose of Milan? All of them are about that all of us ought to make ample and sufficient preparation to prepare for the coming of our Lord. We cannot be complacent and unprepared, for remember, in the second reading today, St. Peter in his letter reminded us yet again, that the coming of the Lord will be like a flash, fast and unpredictable. If we do not prepare thoroughly, then we will be caught unaware and unprepared, and grim is our fate if that is the case.

How do we then prepare ourselves? We have to follow the examples of the holy and devoted servants of God, which we have already just heard. We have to stand up for our faith and truly practice it in our own lives. And then, we should not be afraid to point out the truth of Christ to others. After all, through our baptism, we have been called to be the witnesses of the Lord in this world, and as witnesses, it is only fitting that all of us do our part to evangelise the Good News, through our actions, so that all who see us may know the Lord through us and come to believe in Him.

It is important that all of us are prepared thoroughly for the coming of Christ, and thus it is also fitting that we should help one another in our preparations. We mist safeguard each other and keep one another in the faith in Christ, and in order to do so, we too should be prepared ourselves. Therefore, learn about the Faith we have in God, strengthen our devotion for the Lord and read always the Holy Scriptures with understanding.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may this Advent be a great opportunity for us to renew ourselves, in our commitment to serve the Lord, and in our commitment to live our faith faithfully and genuinely, with love both for Him and for our fellow men. Let us follow the examples of the prophet Elijah, St. John the Baptist and St. Ambrose of Milan in their great courage to be witnesses of the faith. We too can be like them, and it is important that when the Lord comes again, as He had promised, He finds us ready, prepared, alert and awake!

May all of us become like the holy servants of God, and preparing the way for our Lord, just as those holy servants had done in the past. Let us bring the Good News of God and become witnesses of His to all the world by our actions, filled with faith and love, so that we may bring more souls to salvation, and make ready this world for the future coming of our Lord in glory, and He will reward us on the last day. God bless us all. Amen.


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Sunday, 19 October 2014 : 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mission Sunday and Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs; and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 22 : 15-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out and considered how they could trap Jesus by His own words. They then sent out their disciples, with members of Herod’s party, for this purpose.

They said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are an honest Man and truly teach God’s way. You are not influenced by others nor are You afraid of anyone. So tell us what You think : is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus understood their bad intentions, and said to them, “Hypocrites, why are you testing Me? Show Me the coin with which you pay the taxes.” They showed Him a silver coin, and Jesus said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose name?”

They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus replied, “So give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

(Usus Antiquior) Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Memorial of St. Placidus and Companions, Martyrs (II Classis) – Sunday, 5 October 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today Jesus our Lord highlighted to us on how the Lord is love, and Jesus Himself is love, as He is Son of God and therefore, is God. He at the same time is also the Son of David, as his legal descendant through Joseph, His foster-father, and therefore is the heir and indeed the one true and only King of the kingdom given to His ancestor David, as God had promised to David himself His servant, that his heir and descendant would sit forever on his throne.

And the commandments and the Laws which God had given to His people, which they knew as the Ten Commandments, together with all the accompanying laws and customs are all actually about love, and love that we need to express both to God, as well as to our fellow men, to our parents, our brothers and sisters around us. For the commandments were given to us, not to burden us unnecessarily with laws and customs, but to help us on our way to reach the Lord.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law favoured and imposed a very puritanical, fanatical and punitive approach of applying the Law to the people entrusted to them. In total, there were in fact up to six hundred and thirteen laws, customs and its various applications. Those numerous laws and customs strained the people and made life difficult for them, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were quick to condemn all those who committed the slightest act of disobedience.

And they were very quick to praise themselves and seek human approval, when they did what they had done in life. They thought highly of themselves and sought to advance their own cause, and their own standing among men, thinking that in their piety, they have earned the right to boast and to be proud on their ways, and that they had fulfilled the way and the will of the Lord.

No, Jesus made it very clear to them, that they would not be justified by what they had done. On the other hand, they would indeed be condemned, for their failure to guide the people of God entrusted to them on the right path. They have not led the people to grow stronger and deeper in love, but instead they oppressed the people for their own benefits, and they were concerned only about themselves.

If they themselves were not faithful to the commandments of the Lord, then it is definitely also impossible for the people of God to follow their examples to be faithful as well. Their faith was empty and meaningless, and their ego was their undoing. They were unable to control themselves and allowed themselves to be controlled by their emotions and desires. As such, they refused to listen to Jesus and refused to believe in Him and in His works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn from what we had heard today, that we may all grow better and stronger in our own faith. That we will not follow the examples of the Pharisees and the elders of Israel, but instead listen to God, through Christ who had made all things clear to us. We have to obey the commandments of God, but not just to obey them for the sake of obeying. On the other hand, we should understand the real meaning and purpose of the Law, that is for us to know and to learn about love.

Our faith without love is empty and meaningless, and indeed, if we do not play our part in living our faith with real devotion, to love God with all of our strength, and with all of our heart, and if we do not love our brethren and our neighbours in the same manner, then we cannot find justification in the Lord, and we will have no part in His grace and blessing.

Today we celebrate together as the Church, the feast of St. Placidus and his thirty companions, who were martyred together for their faith in God, at the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the architect and mastermind behind the last and greatest of the persecutions of the faithful by the Roman Empire. St. Placidus and his companions, the fellow martyrs of the faith, refused to compromise their faith and devotion to God, just for the sake of preserving their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this we can see the real contrast between the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who compromised the purity and the truth about their faith, and what they ought to do to teach the faithful, for the sake of temporary and worldly pleasures and to satisfy their own wants and ego. Meanwhile, the holy martyrs, led by St. Placidus became an example to all others who looked upon their actions. Their staunch and strong faith in the Lord did not give way to the world and to their own desires. Instead, through their obedience and their shedding of their blood for the Lord, they helped many others to stay faithful to the Lord.

Therefore, let us today renew our commitment to the Lord, inspired by the example of St. Placidus and his companions in holy martyrdom, so that in all the things we do, in all the things we say, we may be truly loving in all things, that our ways may be made of love, and we will be worthy of being called the children of God, who is Love Himself. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how Jesus healed the son of a widow from Naim, bringing him back from death into life, in which He showed to the people, the loving and merciful aspects of God, who truly loved and cared for all of us. He had pity on the mother who was sorrowful for having been left alone by her son, and brought them back into true joy and happiness in God.

And in the first reading, in the letter written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, about the nature of the Church of God, and how in the Church, which is in fact comprised of all of us who believe in Christ the Lord, there exist a certain hierarchy of its members, which allow the Church to function as a body, just as in our body we have various organs and parts that have distinct functions working together in order to achieve certain goals and actions.

St. Paul mentioned how each members and each people in the Church have their own distinct gifts from the Lord, also known as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostles and disciples themselves had received during the occasion of the Pentecost day. Everyone had been called by the Lord for a specific purpose and task, and one ought not to think proudly of himself or herself so as to assume that they can gain for themselves the entirety of the goodness and the gifts of the Lord.

Thus, the Church of God, which is centred on our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and we as the members of His Body, has a specific task in order to carry out and continue the good works which Jesus had initiated in this world, that is the works of love and mercy, as He showed through the rising of the son of the widow of Naim from the dead.

The Church of God comprised of many different people, and indeed, different groups of people, from the laity to the ordained ministers, that is the sacred priesthood and those who dedicated their lives in the service of God, and everyone else, including those of us who belong to the group of those who serve the Lord and yet also still live in this world.

And even among the priesthood, we have various roles, such as the bishops and then the priests themselves. Bishops are those who have been given a greater role in the Church, as overseers of a group of priests and the laity, and they are entrusted with the sheep of the Lord’s flock, as the shepherds, who are then led by the chief shepherds on earth, that is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ in this world, the representation of the Chief Shepherd of all, Jesus Christ.

The bishops therefore lead the Church in the works of love and mercy, and are also entrusted with the supervision duty of the body of the faithful in the Church, and they are also entrusted with the management of the Church. That said, there are also many others who are also involved in the management of the Church, both among the laity, as well as those in the priesthood and the ordained ministry.

The priests serve the people of God in various means, that is by providing them a spiritual guidance and protection against the harms of the devil, and in some cases also by providing alms and charity works for them. Then, the deacons, as we heard in the New Testament, were appointed as those who would serve the people of God directly, aid in the works of charity of the Church, to aid the priests and the bishops, so that they can channel to the people of God, particularly the poorest and the weakest, the love of God through His Church.

Yet, it is sad indeed, that many today in the Church aspire to have everything in their greed and lack of faith. Many began to question their roles in the Church and some even fought in the name of what they described as equality. Therefore we have those who proposed such outrageous ideas such as the abolition of the sacred priesthood and the ordained ministry, as well as the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Those who proposed and supported such proposals failed to understand that each of us in the Church have our own unique roles which help to supplement each other and therefore, it makes the Church stronger. To go against this natural law of order would in fact mean to destroy the unity and strength of the holy Church of God and undermine its authority in this world. Every one has been given a specific and particular gift which enables us to have our own roles in the Church to carry out what the Lord had planned for us.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate together as the Church the feast day of two great saints, whose life will inspire us to appreciate the beauty of the order and hierarchy in the Church, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, both holy martyrs of the faith, at the time of the persecutions of the Roman Empire.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Pope and the Vicar of Christ in the middle of the third century after the birth of Christ, during the reign of the Emperor Decius, the great persecutor of the faithful. Then St. Cyprian was his contemporary, as the Bishop of Carthage and the supporter of Pope St. Cornelius’ view regarding the faithful.

The two saints lived in a difficult time, when Christians and all who believed in the Lord were persecuted heavily and when their very lives were threatened by the Roman authorities. And amidst those persecutions, there were those among the faithful who submitted to the will of the state and the Emperor, and gave offering to the pagan idols, essentially an act of apostasy, or leaving the Church of God, who should be thereafter be treated the same as the pagans.

However, some of them repented their sins and returned to the embrace of the Holy Mother Church, and were received back among the faithful as long as they were sincere in their repentance. But, there were those in the Church who were opposed to the return of these so called traitors and apostates and demanded much stricter regulations to even allow them to be readmitted into the Church.

St. Cyprian and Pope St. Cornelius were the champions of those in the Church who would allow the faithful who had gone astray to return to the Church as long as their repentance was sincere. They worked hard among the faithful and among those who had gone astray to bring them back towards the Lord and to heal them from the afflictions of their souls. The laity themselves also played their own parts and supported the works of their shepherds, while they also kept their faith alive and strong despite even great persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, who were both eventually martyred for their faith, had showed us the model of their faith, which showed love and mercy for the least of the society, those who were rejected because of the stigma of their status as apostates and betrayer of their faith. They showed that while in the Church itself there were already many different groups of people, there would always be a space for those who realised their errors and repented for their sins.

Let us all therefore reflect on the Scripture readings of this day, and grow to find in our hearts, the role that we can play as part of the Church of God. Let us all work together to continue the good works of Christ, to bring God’s love to all the peoples, and to heal many from their afflictions, both physical, and even more importantly, to heal the spiritual aspects of many people.

May Almighty God, together with the intercession of the holy saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, bless us this day and guide us, so that we may also follow in their footsteps, to serve the people of God and love one another in the Lord. God bless us all and bring us into His light. Amen.

Sunday, 7 September 2014 : 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to be with the Lord on this holy day of His, we are called together as the members of the Church of God to be responsible, loving and caring for one another, so that each one of us may help one another in our effort to seek our Lord and God, and so that all of us may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings of this day called us to ponder and reflect on the attitude we adopt in this life, and in how we live our faith in this life. Mankind are by nature a social creature, and we often need others around us as we live and as we face the daily challenges and opportunities presented before us, and how we behave would certainly be greatly affected by who we interacted with and what we did together with others around us.

That is why today in the readings, the main theme that we heard is in fact on the nature of the Church, and on how the Church should work together to ensure the salvation of all of its members, that means all of us gathered here this day, and also many others who have fallen along the way. The Church here does not refer to just the buildings and the institution of the Church as we know it. The Church of God as a whole, is the assembly and the gathering of all the faithful ones in Christ, united to His Body, as a member of the same Body by which we are made one, and made righteous in the Blood of the Lamb of God.

That is why in the Church, the whole Church refers to the entire body of the faithful, all over the world, from the greatest to the least, from the Pope to the common layman, from the ordained ministers and the religious brothers and sisters to all common faithful ones like us, and from the youngest ones to the oldest, and both the newly baptised and those who had been long counted among the faithful.

Following the tradition and teachings established by Jesus as we read in the Gospel today, the Church indeed rightly should be concerned on the fate of the faithful and the salvation of their souls. Why is this so? This is because mankind are by nature disobedient, restless and easily manipulated, and we are also easily tempted by our own personal ego, pride and other emotions, which in many cases likely resulted in us drifting away further and further from God and into damnation.

That was why over the course of the past two millenia, since the establishment of the Church and the faith, countless peoples have tried to subvert the faith and to corrupt it to suit their own purposes. And worse still, they did so not just for themselves, but they also spread their false ideas and teachings to many others around them and thus condemning and risking not just themselves, but also many others who are around them and even those entrusted to their care.

Among these could be counted the ranks of princes, kings, lords, even priests, bishops and the top hierarchy of the Church at times, and also among the laity, the educated, the rich and the poor. What they have thought about, spoke about and taught about were incompatible to the faith and what Jesus had taught to His disciples. In time, the Church came up with varieties of words to describe their actions, that is anathema, heresy and many others.

Those who studied the history of the Church and the faith must have been surprised by the staggering number of times the punishment and measure known best as excommunication, had been used. And in fact, excommunication remains to be used this day to correct the behaviour and awaken the spirit of repentance of those whose ideas and teachings are in direct or indirect contradiction to the faith and to the teachings of the Church.

Many detractors of this measure had argued and even became violently opposed to the actions of the Church both in the past and in the present, so that they criticised the use of excommunications as a tool to remove opposition to the Church and to gain more influence for itself. And some even alleged that the Church used them to silence the voice of those who wanted for reform or change in the Church.

Yes, it is true indeed that sometimes, excommunication had been used inappropriately, but in most cases, they have been intended not to punish, but to awaken the spirit of repentance and genuine desire to seek forgiveness from the Lord, which is that desire to admit their errors and return to the full embrace of the loving God through His Church.

We have to first understand the history of how excommunication come about, using what we know from the Scriptures and from what we heard today in the readings, especially from what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. In the past, during the time of the people of Israel, after the Exodus, God gave them His laws, commandments and precepts through Moses.

In that Law, some dealt with how certain people should be treated. Those who were found to have the disease of leprosy were obliged to leave their houses and the community of the faithful, and they have to wander outside the community, in the barrens and the desert until they are healed or cured. And when this was so, they had to show themselves to the priests who would certify them to return once more to the society.

Indeed, it was inevitable that those who contracted leprosy at that time to be ostracised and intimidated against by the rest of the society. They were considered to be uncleaned and as leprosy can spread from one person to another, this helped the exclusion and the bad treatment of the leprosy patients, even after they had been cured from their afflictions. But God did not intend for this to happen.

And in a similar spirit, the Lord Jesus told us through His disciples precisely how to deal with those among us in the Church who had contracted the same ‘leprosy’. This leprosy no longer refers to the physical disease that affects the body, but in fact refers to the leprosy of the soul, that is the degeneration of the state of our faith and soul to the point that we become defiant and unwilling to listen and to obey the teachings of the Church and the fundamentals of our faith.

We have many peoples such as these, and what I am going to mention to you are not the only ones there are out there. The Gnostics of the second century after the birth of Christ mixed the teachings of the faith with the contemporary pagan religions, idols and philosophical pursuits that ended up as a syncretic movement and faith totally incompatible with our true faith.

Then came the Arians, the Donatists, the Monophysites and others who taught doctrines incompatible against the faith, and who tried to subvert the faithful to their cause, telling them lies and inaccurate statements about the faith, on the nature of Jesus our Lord Himself, so that the people who were confused were easy to lure into their corrupting hold. As such, many were led away from salvation in God and into damnation, despite the best efforts by those in the Church to resist and fight back against their corrupting influences.

Then we have many others like the the Albigensians or the Cathars, the Hussians, the Bogomils, Paulicians, Iconoclasts who taught numerous lies and confused theology to the faithful, ending up in corrupting the people in the same way, pulling them away from salvation in the Church into damnation and eternal suffering in hellfire. Those people were misguided by many who thought that their human wisdom were better than the teachings of the Lord preserved in the traditions of the Church and the faith.

Then lastly came the great heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many of the faithful came to take it on themselves to rebel against the authority of the Church and by willingly splitting themselves from the Church, a rebellion which continues even to this day. Yes, we have so many Protestant denominations, to the point that it may not be wrong to say that there are as many denominations, or splinter groups as there are heads.

People like King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many other prominent persona of the Protestant ‘reformations’ like many others before them, Arian, Jan Hus, and others were truly the one mentioned by Jesus as the brethren who refused to listen to reason and chose to break away from the Church. They walked their own path, in open rebellion against God and the Church, leading and guiding many people into their rebellion and thus condemned countless souls to damnation.

The effects of their actions can still be felt today. Many remained separate from the Church and thus from the grace of God, and the lies perpetuated by those leaders mentioned earlier and their successors continued to poison their thoughts and that is why many remained with great contempt to the Church and all it represented.

The Church excommunicated them as well as many of the earlier members of the Church, who even included high ranking nobles and clergymen, and even kings, as they have erred in their path. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the purpose of this move was not to punish those afflicted, but rather to make them realise of the gravity of their errors, so that they may come to understand how their actions had caused grief wounds on the fabric of the Church and the faithful.

And thus, many of those who had been excommunicated had returned to the Church in penitence and seeking God’s forgiveness. A famous example would be that of the excommunication of Emperor Theodosius I of the Roman Empire, who was cut off from the communion of the Church by the famous St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, for the Emperor’s implicit and direct role in a massacre of the city of Thessalonica, where thousands of the faithful were ruthlessly murdered and the city ransacked.

The meaning of excommunication itself was to exclude the person afflicted from the Communion of the Church, and if this word sounds familiar, that is indeed what we receive in the Holy Communion, which is none other than the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. All of us in the Church belongs to the Church, that is the Body of Christ precisely because all of us received the same Eucharist and thus are united to each other through our unity with the Lord.

And when a person is excommunicated, like that of the Emperor Theodosius and many others, they were severed from this unity and communion, and thus they were not able to receive the Eucharist, as they were also in a state of sin, and they were not able to exercise anything pertinent to the faith. Thus, that was why Jesus mentioned that those ought to be treated like a pagan or a publican, that means outside the Church, just like the lepers of old.

However, once again, the focus here is on mercy, and on the desire to see these people attaining forgiveness and justification, becoming once again a member of the Church and thus capable of attaining salvation once again. And to wrap up the story on the Emperor Theodosius, the Emperor went on to make a public display of humility and penance, wearing sackcloth to the Church and was once again welcomed into the Church by Bishop St. Ambrose.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the purpose and intention of excommunication. Not as a punishment, but as a means through which the wayward ones and the staunchly rebellious among us may find our way back to God through the Church, through sincere repentance and penitence. Sadly, of course, many of those names and groups mentioned earlier never repented their sins and continued in their rebellions, some of which continued even today.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings of today, let us recall the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, how the faithful are tasked with the guardianship of the faith of one another, which means that we should be ready to intervene whenever we see around us there are those who begin to veer away from the path of the Lord.

It is only then if the person persisted in their rebelliousness, then we should refer it to the Church as a whole, and if he or she continued to persist to disobey the Lord, only then they should be cast out of the assembly of the faithful, in what we know as the excommunication, hoping that the person may in that time that remains for him or her, found his or her way back to the Lord and repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore work together to maintain the unity and the faith in the Church. May Almighty God guide us in our endeavours and help us to keep this faith alive and well. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord and awaken in one another the love we truly should have for God, casting away all impurities and unworthiness. Let us all not reject and condemn those who have sinned and erred, and those who had been excommunicated, for indeed, many saints too were once sinners and excommunicants, who returned to the Lord and be reconciled with the Church. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded of God’s saving power, which He had made truly manifest, through the coming, the life, the ministry, and the death of Himself through Jesus crucified on the cross. That was truly the culmination of God’s long planned salvation for mankind, which He had promised to mankind even as they fell into sin, and even as they were enslaved by Satan through sin and death.

The Lord hates sin and all things evil, and yet at the same time, He loves all, particularly all of us, who are the greatest and most beloved of all His creations. And also especially so because we had fallen away from Him and were cast away from His presence because of our rebellion and our sinfulness, our disobedience. In fact, brethren, if we feel the loss of our Lord and desire to return back to

His loving embrace, even greater is the feeling He has for us, and the greater is the desire that He has to see us reunited completely with Him once again.

The Lord our God desires noone to be lost from Him forever through death. He desires that we do not fall into hell, but arise to meet Him in heaven. Yet, it is often we ourselves who spurned His love and rejected His forgiveness, preferring the false promises of Satan and the pleasures of the world, to the true and everlasting happiness with God in heaven.

That is precisely what the ancestors of Israel of the time of Jesus had done, those ancestors whose stories were told to us through the prophets of the Old Testament. These are the people who slaughtered God’s prophets and messengers, because they turned deaf ears to their warnings, advices, and heeding, preferring to remain in their state of sin, and continue in their life of debauchery.

That is why the Lord punished them and scattered them all over the nations, to be an example to all, as what would happen to those who stray from the path of righteousness and venture into the path of sin and evil. The Lord did this, however, not because He hates them, but in fact because He truly loves them, and yet, as a just and righteous Lord, He cannot just overlook their sins and stubbornness. He is just to all, even to those whom He loves.

These people did not have God in their hearts, and they sold themselves and their souls to the pagan gods of their neighbours, that the worship of the Lord was replaced with the worship of Baal, Asherah, and other pagan gods and goddesses. They loved not God but silver and gold, and all the pleasures this world could give.

That is why Jesus rebuked the chief priests, the scribes and teachers of the Law, and the Pharisees, because of their hypocrisy. Outwardly, they look pious and perfect, and they seemed to have obeyed the Lord’s commandments even to its smallest details. And yet, the fact is that, despite all of those appearances, their hearts do not have the Lord in them. The Lord’s words did not take strong root in them, because the faith they have is an eventual faith, depending on the Lord and His words, which they forgot after their liberation from sin.

They put their own vanity above anything else, and rebuked those whom they considered to be inferior to them. They sought the glory of men, instead of praising the glory of God. They are bad shepherds who do not love those who had been entrusted to them, and led them into darkness instead of into the light.

In this way, they are even more sinful and irresponsible than before. They who had blocked the path to salvation for many, and even tried to prevent the very Messiah, from completing His missions in this world. That is why Christ cursed them, both for their sins, for their lack of repentance, and for their apathy towards the suffering of the people of God.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, one of the first bishops of Antioch, a great early Christian cities, as the place where Jews and Gentiles lived together, and where the faithful lived with the Jews and the Gentiles, and great evangelisation works were done.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was a faithful servant of the Lord, who devoutly helped to spread the words of the Lord and the works of salvation, converting many to the cause of the Lord. He lived during a time of difficulties and persecutions, when the Roman Emperor at the time was obsessed with the idea that he was divine, and ordered all the people and subjects of the Empire, including Christians, to worship him as a living god.

Obviously, St. Ignatius of Antioch and the faithful refused to do so, because to them, there is only one and only God, that is the Lord our Father, who had come upon this world as Jesus Christ, His Son. This is the only God that both St. Ignatius during his time and we today profess as the only one we will worship, and this brought about a great wrath of the Emperor, who arrested St. Ignatius and many Christians, bringing them to Rome to be martyred in the Colosseum.

Despite being captured and knowing of his fate of martyrdom in painful death, St. Ignatius continued to care for the sheep entrusted to his care, sending letters and encouragements to the people. St. Ignatius was brought to Rome, the capital of the Empire, and was tortured and then thrown into the arena of the Colosseum, to be fed to the lions and the beasts. Despite all the sufferings, St. Ignatius remained faithful and encourage all the fellow Christians being tortured to look towards God and keep their faith strong, even in the face of death.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, with the inspiration of the life of St. Ignatius of Antioch, let us commit ourselves to God with all of our hearts, that we will not go astray from the path He had prepared for all of us. That we will, like St. Ignatius of Antioch, be brave and courageous in standing up for his faith in God and be fully dedicated to the service of the Lord, never fearing any man nor any powers of the world, with God foremost in our heart. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 18 August 2013 : 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded on the mission that Christ had when He came upon this world. The mission that Christ had in saving this world, is not an easy mission, brethren, because even though He is God, it does not mean that He had an easy time. Yes, He had had much opposition and resistance during His time on earth, and during His ministry to the people of God.

Herod rejected Him, the innkeeper rejected Him and His family. The people rejected Him, and the priests and the Pharisees rejected Him, and together they even had condemned Him to die, to die a humiliating death on the cross. Basically, the path of the Lord is filled with obstacles and dangers, definitely not a walk in the park. That was why Christ said in the Gospel reading, in what some of us may feel a bit disturbed, that He came not to bring peace, but discord.

This discord come about exactly because of the divisions that the Lord, in His person and in His teachings, that divides the people, because some people will follow and obey the Lord, but there will always be some or many who will dissent and disagree with Him. They were those who had rejected Him in the first place. Those who mocked Him, His disciples, and even us, who believe in Him.

Many martyrs of the early Church faced suffering and martyrdom because their families and relatives rose up against them, either betraying them to the authorities or by dealing with the holy martyrs themselves. Discord existed between the people of God and those who still believed in the pagan gods. Even discord and persecution awaited God’s servants, the prophets like Jeremiah.

We tend to sway away from the path of the Lord, because just as the Lord Himself had been rejected, mocked, and treated badly, we too, who follow the Lord will face much opposition and discord in our lives, and in all our dealings. We will be rejected as well, and we will face discord even with our own families and relatives. This discord however, does bring about potential destruction and conflict that involve all of us. It is indeed much easier for us to follow the ways of the world, and give in to the temptations of this world, some of which include money, wealth, sexual pleasure, good life, and many other things.

The world offer us much goods, and much things that are indeed more enjoyable, pleasurable, and easier to be done than to follow the Lord, and that is exactly what caused the discord and friction that will surely exist within our families, within our circle of friends, and within our own societies, much like how it was during the early Church. In the early Church, being the followers of Christ means to be detached from the larger general population, and for those in the positions of privilege and power, following the Lord, or in short becoming Christian was a serious risk to them, both for their position and for their own lives.

Temptations are many, brethren, and even more so in this world of ours today. In this world, many things easily bring us astray from the true path towards the Lord. Money, wealth, world pleasures, and even good food can corrupt us and our hearts, subverting us from the purpose given to us. That is why, brethren, our churches are empty! Our seminaries are empty! Our new priests are getting fewer and older! All because of the challenges presented to us and the Church, especially important in this ever-changing times.

Yes, brethren, the need is greater than ever for us to support one another and pray for one another, that we remain faithful and dedicated to their faith in God. This is that we will not fall to the traps of the evil one, and therefore falter in our path towards salvation. We have to be strong and stand up against the temptations of evil and the pleasures of the flesh, and rebuke the devil and all that he offers us. But worry not, brothers and sisters, for our Lord is with us, and He will guide us and protect us, as long as we remain faithful and loving to Him.

God walks with us and remains with us if we are faithful to Him. He will not abandon us, just as He never abandoned Jeremiah in the sewers, and He lifted him up through king Zedekiah and his servants. The same happened to the disciples of Christ, the apostles, like St. Peter who was imprisoned by King Herod and intended to be executed, because of his faith in Christ, and was to be made an example to the other Christians. However, God rescued him through His angel, and He liberated him from his shackles in order to do many more good things for the sake of God, and God’s beloved people.

In our world today, there will be many challenges and persecutions, in many different forms, and do not be surprised that the devil may attack where we least expect, that is from within, from within ourselves, within our own families, within our own friend circles, and within our own societies. Indeed brethren, the one who caused divisions and discords among us is in fact not the Lord, but ultimately is the devil who sowed in us the seeds of his discord, his rebellion, and his disobedience against the will of God. Sin and our human weaknesses are the channels through which Satan nurture in us these seeds of evil. It is up to us whether we let divisions and discord rule over us, or that we give ourselves fully to the Lord and immerse ourselves in His love, that all of us may be reunited in harmony, as the one people of God, all of whom obey the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our beings.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding ourselves of the words of the readings today, of the teachings of the Lord revealed through Christ our Lord, let us resolve to continue our total love and devotion towards He who had come into this world to save it. He who has punished the enemies of the Lord and the enemies of those who believe in Him. He who had taken those He had chosen from this world, and protect them, that despite the oppositions of this world against them, they remain triumphant because of the power and glory of God given them through Christ, who had marked them as His own.

May the Risen Christ who is triumphant against evil, bless us and strengthen us with His love, that we will persevere in our worldly struggle and indeed, daily struggle against sin and against the forces of evil arrayed against us. May the holy saints and martyrs of God who had gone before us, intercede for our sake and pray for us sinners still living in this world. God bless us all. Amen.