Saturday, 13 December 2014 : Second Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue again to hear about the prophet Elijah and John the Baptist in our Scripture readings. Why is this so, brothers and sisters? That is because in this Advent season, it is particularly appropriate for us to heed their actions and their words, the proclamations of these faithful servants of God, who were sent to the people in order to turn their hearts back to the Lord.

They were sent to a people who had long lived in darkness and sin, and therefore, through their works, God hoped to bring back a people whom He loved to Himself so that they would be lost no more. Yes, He is the Good Shepherd who looks actively for His lost sheep, and desires greatly that all of us be reunited with Him. He wants us all to be freed from our bondage to the darkness of sin, and to this extent, He did the unbelievable, yes, indeed, for all those who did not have faith indeed, it was unbelievable, for He gave Himself, as the One through whom mankind would be saved.

Which other gods or entities who claimed divinity do this? None, and none beside our Lord and God, the One and only True God, who loves all that He created, and loves us in particular so much that He sent us Jesus, the incarnation of the Divine Word of God, to be our salvation. But so that the works of Jesus may come to a full completion and perfection, therefore, before His coming, God sent His servants to prepare the way for Him.

That was the purpose of the prophets and the messengers of God, great and chief among whom were St. John the Baptist and Elijah, who were in fact the one and same person, called to the service of God at two different times and eras, but nevertheless, they were called to the same mission, to call the people to repentance and for them to seek the mercy of God, and to change their ways and sin no more.

This is in perfect resonance to the very purpose and reason of this season of Advent, which means literally ‘coming’ or the coming of Christ our Lord at the end of time, when He will come again in glory to judge all the living and the dead, and it is for that coming of Christ that we should prepare ourselves thoroughly and completely. And in this, we should heed the examples of the prophets and the messengers of God.

All of us who have been baptised in the Name of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit had been made children of God, and also therefore as the members of His Body and His Church, the unity of all the faithful ones in the Lord. But at the same time, through our baptism, we have been given a mission, the same mission which Christ had given His Apostles and disciples before He left this world for heaven at the Ascension.

That mission was to proclaim the Good News and the salvation in Jesus Christ to all the nations, to all the peoples of the world, without exception, and to baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a call for all of us to walk in the same path as the prophet Elijah, who called for the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to repent from their sins, and also St. John the Baptist, who cried out in the wilderness for the people to repent and change their ways, to prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom, and who baptised them with the baptism of water.

We have the faith in us, and we have been granted God’s grace through baptism. Therefore, it is only fitting that we help one another, especially those who are still lost and in the darkness of the world, to find their way to God, so that at the end of the day, God may see in all of us, the same faithfulness shown by Elijah and John the Baptist.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of a martyr and holy virgin, St. Lucy, whose actions may also inspire us further to live according to the will of God, and according to what we have just discussed. St. Lucy was a young Christian maiden, who lived in Syracuse in the island of Sicily. St. Lucy or St. Lucia was a martyr of the Faith during the last great persecution of the faithful by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and according to tradition, she was executed for being faithful and refusing to recant her faith to the Lord.

St. Lucy devoted herself totally to the Lord, and like many of her contemporaries, she committed herself to a life of sanctity and chastity, vowing to remain in holy virginity for the sake of the Lord. But her mother, not knowing of this and sickened with disease, betrothed her to a rich young man from a pagan family. Nonetheless, through the intercession of St. Agatha, St. Lucy’s mother was healed and St. Lucy managed to persuade her to donate in charitable acts, her riches and wealth to help the poor of the society.

St. Lucy thus showed her genuine and real faith through her loving actions to her brethren in need, and thus stand as a witness of the Lord and of the faith in Him by her concrete actions. Her betrothed complained against her actions to the local governor, who demanded that she offered sacrifices to the Emperor, which she refused immediately and firmly.

St. Lucy was therefore tortured and punished severely, and the authorities tried to kill her by various means, but they always failed. The wood would not burn when they tried to burn her at a stake. She eventually was martyred by the sword. Nevertheless, through her witness and defense of the faith, she became a great inspiration to many of the later generations, and many were saved by her intercession and examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, here we have seen what the faithful, that is all of us, have to do. The examples of St. Lucy and what we have discussed earlier showed that all of us have a responsibility to be witnesses of the faith, just as Elijah and St. John the Baptist had once done, to call the people who have lived in sin and darkness to return to the light of Christ, our Lord.

Indeed, it does not meant that we have to follow St. Lucy into martyrdom for this, but what is necessary is that we must realise that our faith cannot be a lukewarm one. We cannot sit on the fence and wait for things to happen. It is essential that we are proactive in our faith and actively spreading the Good News of our Lord, not just by words, but also through our concrete actions and love towards one another.

May St. Lucy intercede for us, that God may strengthen our faith and affirm us all in His love. May day by day we all grow stronger and more devoted in our lives. God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.


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Saturday, 22 November 2014 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr of the Faith. St. Cecilia was also well known as the patron saint of Church music and hymns, and as the patron of choirs. She was a Roman noblewoman who lived a pious Christian life, and was martyred for her faith together with her husband, and other Christians, who were also counted the holy martyrs.

St. Cecilia is one of the most renowned and prominent saints of the Church, as she is the patron of musicians and songs made to glorify God. St. Cecilia married her husband, whose name was Valerian, and during the wedding it was said that St. Cecilia sang in her heart full of joy and praise to God, which then became the reason why she is associated with musicians and all those involved in Church music.

When the time came for her to consummate her marriage to her husband, an angel of the Lord appeared to her and proclaimed to her that the wrath of the Lord would come upon whoever it was that tried to violate the virginity of St. Cecilia. When her husband inquired about the angel, St. Cecilia pointed out where he could witness the sign of God, and as a result, her husband became a believer of Christ and was baptised.

St. Cecilia was martyred and her memory was preserved by veneration of the faithful. Her former residence became the site of the Church of St. Cecilia, to where many people thronged to, even until this day. St. Cecilia became a long time patron of music, and in particular the beautiful Church music and symphonies of praise to God, and numerous musical establishments and choirs were named in her honour.

Today, as we come together to celebrate the feast of this great saint and martyr, we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture, in the Gospel we heard how the Lord rebuked the Sadducees, the faction of the people of Judea who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, angels, or any other supernatural phenomena, beyond what they could prove with their senses.

The Sadducees thought that resurrection of the dead was meaningless and a nonsense, using the example of a woman who was betrothed to seven brothers as a justification. But their view and opinion on the laws of Moses was twisted and false. They thought not in terms of the divine, but in terms of the flawed senses of men. They trusted their own judgments and wishes rather than to trust in the Lord.

They thought in terms of human lust and desires, and they thought that this life in this world ought to be given to hedonistic pleasures and desires. But they failed to realise that in the world that is to come, all will have no more need for worldly things and desires, for the faithful will be made perfect and united in full perfection with the Lord. And what matters is the purity and sanctity of one’s soul. Being united with God makes us all perfect and all our needs are satisfied. And thus it is shown as if we are like angels before God, praising and singing hymns to God at all times.

Do you know, brothers and sisters in Christ, that singing with devotion is worth twice the prayer? Thus, on this feast day of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music and hymns, let us all seek to bear witness to the Lord through sacred music. Just as in the first reading today, it was told of the witnesses of God who would come at the end of time to preach the truth of God, we too should be witnesses of the Lord, and there is indeed no better way to do so, than to sing hymns of praise to God with the full devotion and focus of our hearts.

The songs of our heart should be song of joy and rejoicing, mimicking the song of the glory of the Lord sung by the angels. That is because we know that we have hope through the Lord who had forgiven us our sins, and to those of us who remain faithful to Him, as St. Cecilia had been, our victory and triumph against evil and darkness is already assured.

St. Cecilia was resolute and firm in defending her faith, and she was also firm in maintaining the purity of her soul, by maintaining her sacred virginity as ordained by God. Through that grace, she had saved not just herself, but also her husband and all those whom she had met and encountered, and many more people inspired by her examples also received the same grace of God.

This is the proof of what Jesus had told to the Pharisees, that in this world, life is more than just enjoyment and pursuit of worldly desires, but indeed, our lives should be filled with meaning and purpose, just as St. Cecilia offered herself to the full and total service to God, singing the hymn of her faith and joy, knowing that she has been found worthy of the Lord and be made pure just as our Lord is pure and good.

The holy witnesses from the Book of revelations were also resolute and firm in their faith, and amidst opposition and threats to them, they remained fully faithful and devoted. And through their witnessing of the faith, they had shown to us, that there is indeed nothing to fear from the power of evil and death, for if we are faithful and truly devoted to God, we have absolutely nothing to fear. The beast might have been able to destroy the body, but it cannot harm our soul. The souls of the faithful are pure and holy, and they are under protection of the Lord, our loving God.

Therefore, be not afraid, brethren! But sing the song of our joy and adulation for the Lord, who alone is worthy of all praise, and be brave in defending our faith and the purity of our hearts. Let us not be like the Sadducees and those others who put their trust in themselves and in the things of this world. Be courageous and faithful in living our faith life, and let us all, inspired by the examples of St. Cecilia, raise the song of our Lord’s praise from our hearts, that through our joyful and triumphant song, we may bring more souls to salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

May Almighty God bring us into His eternal kingdom, which He had prepared for those who had laid down their lives for Him, and also for those who had remained faithful despite the temptations of the world. Let us all be like angels in our honour and praise to God, that our song will echo throughout the heavens and the earth, proclaiming His glory and majesty for all eternity. God bless us all. Amen.


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the readings of the Holy Scriptures we are all shown the virtues of obedience and proper behaviours according to the teachings and the ways of the Lord. In the first reading, in continuation of the letter which he sent to Titus while he was in captivity in Rome, St. Paul exhorted the faithful ones of God to follow the rules and expectations for each members of the Church, be it man or woman, old or young.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel reading, Jesus told a parable to His disciples, about a servant and his master, and the relationship between them, which ought to be proper, as how a master should be, and the servant should also act and do things as is expected of him. In this, we also see a clear link with the exhortations of St. Paul, on how the Church consists of many members, made up of many different kinds of peoples, all of whom should behave as they are expected to behave.

Mankind had the nature to rebel and disobeying others. It is often difficult for us to listen to others and follow what they want us to do. Ever since the beginning, we have rebelled against our Divine Master, the Lord God, who was so generous with His love and care for us, His servants, and yet we still chose to walk on our own path, disregarding the commandments of God, and rather, we listened to our own hearts’ desires.

Just look at the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, who for generations continued to rebel against the Lord’s will, and even after the Lord had given them His Law, from time to time, they continued to follow their own paths, worshipping pagan gods and idols, sacrificing to these idols, and also committing other forms of debauchery and wickedness in their lives.

And they wanted a king to rule over them, and God gave His permission for them to do that, and they had kings, some of whom were good, but many were wicked and disobedient to God, acting not as they should. The kings of Israel were the vicars and regents for the Lord’s true reign over His people, Israel, and yet they misappropriated and abused their powers and authority, serving their own purposes, leading the people even deeper into sin and rebellion against the Master of all.

And even in the world today, we still see such rebellious attitudes running rampant among us. It is difficult for many of us to know who we are and what we are expected to do, as a member of God’s Church. That is why, if we look at the various issues at hand, we can see that there are many dissenting voices trying to disturb and in fact destroy the order of things, as God had ordained.

Each of us has our role to play in the Church of God, as the presbyterate, the members of the ordained priesthood, or as the laity, the people of God who live on their daily lives as normal. And the men and women, each of whom had their own unique and complementary roles in the Church, as the members of God’s people. Yet, many people who did not understand how the order of things is like, are trying to disrupt the harmonious way of things is working.

Therefore, we ought to stand up against those who cry out for gender equality in the Church in any of its forms, and the subversion of the roles of the priest and the laity, by the blurring of the differences in their roles. Those who called for such horrendous changes are not educated and ignorant in the truths of our Faith, and as St. Paul had said in his letter, we should help them to learn the truth, find their roles in the Church and act accordingly according to those roles.

The truth is that, each members and parts of the Church have unique roles and expectations, and their roles are distinct and complementary to each other. One cannot usurp the function and role of another without disrupting the proper and good order in the Church.

The priests are the ones who celebrate the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, and also are the ones authorised to give the Holy Sacraments to the people of God. Meanwhile, the laity are not allowed these roles, but instead, what are their roles? Their roles are to help the priests in their ministry and works, and in living their daily lives, they ought to be exemplary and faithful, and in building up their families, they should lead a true Christian way of life, creating good and faithful Christian families.

None of them can function without the other, as they support each other and becoming pillars, strong pillars of the Church and the Faith. And then, with regards to the roles of men and women in the Church, each of them have their own complementary roles, that support each other and perfect each other in the running of the Church.

Only men can become priests, as chosen by the Lord, and it is an unchangeable and unalterable Law of the Lord, given that the Apostles were men. But this does not mean that women are sidelined or discriminated against in the Church. Instead, women also occupy very special role in the Church, as the guardians of the Faith in the family, by her faith and dedication to God, she became role model for her family.

And we also know that there are many female religious, as nuns and others, who dedicated themselves fully to the Lord in prayer and loving service. These religious support the good works of the priests, by assisting in their missionary and loving works, and through dedicated service to mankind, showing a great example of faith to be followed by others. There had been many saints who were holy women, both religious and the laity who had dedicated themselves to the way of the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a renowned saint and Bishop of Tours during the late Roman Empire. St. Martin of Tours was once a Roman soldier, who was pious and devoted to the Lord. He was born of a pagan family, but he attended Christian services since youth and became a believer against the wishes of his father.

The qualities of St. Martin of Tours had been evident even since his youth. When he was still a centurion in the Roman Army, he met a poor beggar in a town, who was freezing to death on the cold road. St. Martin of Tours was moved with love and pity, cutting his own centurion’s army cloak in half, and giving that half of a cloak to cover the body of the poor beggar.

At night, St. Martin of Tours had a vision of the poor beggar, who brought the half cloak to him, and revealing himself to be none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. He rewarded St. Martin for his actions, and this vision and event simply pushed St. Martin further in his zeal, and it also brought him into the faith completely, for he was still a catechumen at that time.

As a member of the Roman Army, he was often intrigued by the need for him to shed the blood of others, of his enemies, which he felt was against his conscience as a Christian and follower of the Lord. Therefore, eventually he renounced his part in the Army and became a full time follower and servant of the Lord, by becoming disciple of another famous saint, St. Hilary of Poitiers.

As the bishop of Tours, this holy man carried out numerous good works for his flock, building up churches and places of worship, setting numerous standards to be followed by the followers of Christ, and establishing strong foundations of the faith in his diocese. Through his various works as bishop and shepherd to the people of God in Tours, he brought many blessings and goodness to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this holy day of St. Martin of Tours, let us all take home two messages, and two important things which we need to heed in this life. First, is that all of us should play our roles actively in the Church, not by trying to be what we are not supposed to be, but to be faithful to the Lord and His will, just as He had said in the Gospel today, that we fulfill the will and wishes of our Lord and Master, without succumbing to our desires and pride.

And then second, we have to emulate the example of St. Martin of Tours in how he had lived his life. We have to show mercy and charity to others, helping those who are in need of help, so that our faith in the Lord will not be just merely empty faith, but will instead be alive and vibrant, filled with the love of God. And after we have done all these, remember that we have done it not for ourselves, but as the actions of the loving servants of our God.

Let us all say to the Lord, that we have all done our duties faithfully and as a servant of God should have done. Let us grow richer and stronger in our humility, so that we may learn how to live according to the role which God had given us, and not to seek to gain more for our own purposes. And we hope that He who sees all and knows all that we do, will reward us with His everlasting grace and love. God bless us all. Amen.


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 17 : 7-10

At that time, Jesus said, “Who among you would say to your servant, coming in from the fields after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Go ahead and have your dinner?’ No, you tell him, ‘Prepare my dinner. Put on your apron, and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink afterwards.'”

“Do you thank this servant for doing what you told him to do? I do not think so. And therefore, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you should say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty.'”


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 18 and 23, 27 and 29

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

The Lord watches over the lives of the upright; forever will their inheritance abide. The Lord is the One who makes people stand, He gives firmness to those He likes.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. The righteous will possess the land; they will make it their home forever.


Homily and Reflection :

Tuesday, 11 November 2014 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Titus 2 : 1-8, 11-14

Let your words strengthen sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be sober, serious, wise, sound in faith, love and perseverance.

The older women in like manner must behave as befits holy women, not given to gossiping or drinking wine, but as good counsellors, able to teach younger women to love their husbands and children, to be judicious and chaste, to take care of their households, to be kind and submissive to their husbands, lest our faith be attacked.

Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. Set them an example by your own way of doing. Let your teaching be earnest and sincere, and your preaching beyond reproach. Then your opponents will feel ashamed and will have nothing to criticise.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teachings us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus.

He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.


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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.

Friday, 19 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about the followers of Jesus, and in particular, the women who followed Jesus through His ministry, some of them, who were once sinners such as Mary Magdalene, healed from her affliction of seven demons, and the wife of Herod’s steward. There were of course other women that also accompanied Jesus which were not included in what we heard today in the Gospel.

Then in the first reading today, in the letter which St. Paul wrote to the faithful and the Church in Corinth, in which he highlighted the belief in the resurrection of Jesus and why those who believe in it will not be disappointed, but will indeed receive their rich rewards at the end, when the Lord comes again in glory to save His people and bring them into the eternal glory of heaven.

Our Lord had shown us the way to escape the trap and the dangers of death, through His own glorious resurrection from the dead. He who had given up His life through suffering, bearing the weight of our sins and our original sins, had opened up a new hope and a new path for us by His rising from the dead. If Christ had indeed remained dead as other men do, then there is no hope for us. But as the facts showed it, that Christ is truly risen, and the proof is none other than in the Church.

For our Church and our faith was founded on Christ Himself, and on the truth of His resurrection from the dead, such that He had triumphed against death and evil forevermore. And upon this solid foundation the Church had remained strong even against numerous assaults and attacks the evil one had marshalled against it through the world.

The holy women who followed Jesus had forsaken their old lives of sin, and they embraced the faith in Jesus, that they placed their trust in the Saviour of all. They followed Him as they knew that He is the One who would save them from their fate that was death and brought them into a new life in God. And that was what Jesus exactly had done unto them, as He brought them from the depths of their sins into new life filled with the joy and love of Christ.

And those who placed their trust in Jesus will not be disappointed indeed, for He had promised all His faithful ones, that He will raise all of us up on the last day, when He will judge us among the righteous ones and receive our due reward. God never disappoints, brethren, because it is in fact we are the ones who always disappoint our Lord, through our rebelliousness and disobedience, and through our unwillingness to listen to Him.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Januarius, a bishop and martyr of the faith, whose life and examples would truly inspire us to put our trust in the Lord and believe in Him totally and completely without any doubt. St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was the Bishop of the Diocese of Naples, which covers the modern day city of Naples, and the famous devotion to his miraculous event takes place there every year.

At the Cathedral of Naples, there exists a holy relic of St. Januarius, which consists of a vial filled with his blood, which has congealed and hardened throughout the long time since his death over seventeen centuries ago. This vial of blood liquefies exactly at every celebration of the saint’s feast day, that is this day, the nineteenth day of September.

St. Januarius himself lived during the late era Roman Empire, at the time when being a faithful is difficult, as challenges and persecutions against them were rampant. Nevertheless, St. Januarius continued to faithfully serve His beloved people, and guided them as their shepherd on their way towards their loving Lord and God. He lived on through the worst years of what is to be known as the Diocletian persecutions, after the Emperor who had persecuted the people of God at that time.

St. Januarius continued to minister to the people of God, even those who had been imprisoned, despite the obvious dangers to himself. He did them out of his great love for God and for His sheep, who had been entrusted to his care as the Bishop. He was indeed eventually captured and imprisoned, and then martyred for his faith. Indeed, though, the Lord never abandons those who are faithful to Him, as He granted this holy and devoted man a place in heaven, and miracles abounded after his death through his holy relics.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of St. Januarius remind us to keep our faith strongly in the Lord and make sure that we practice them in our lives, despite whatever the world is plotting against us. St. Januarius showed us that as the faithful ones of God, we should be courageous in proclaiming our faith in the Lord Jesus, the One and True God, who had died for us and through whose resurrection He had made us whole once again.

May Almighty God therefore continue to bless us this day, and strengthen our faith, so that we may walk in the footsteps of St. Januarius and the other holy saints, in following Jesus our Lord and Saviour, bringing the Good News of salvation to many, so that they too can be saved and together, with all the saints and angels of heaven, praise our Lord together as one people, and one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 14 September 2014 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is truly a great feast day of the Church, of such a great importance for us, as in it lie one of the greatest aspect of our faith itself. And this is none other than the exaltation and the glorification of the Holy Cross, on which our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ had hung upon as He went on His mission of salvation to save us all from death because of our sins.

The Holy Cross is not just any cross, but it has been made holy and sacred because it was on that wooden cross, made from a tree, that Jesus had emptied Himself completely from His divinity, and suffered a grievous and horrendous pain as He laid dying, hanging from that cross. The Holy Cross is a reminder for all of us, of He who once hung there out of His love for us, so that we may have new hope in this life, and that we may look beyond death that is once our fate.

The cross was the favourite punishment method by the Romans, the conqueror of the known world at the time, where they used it to punish rebels against the Roman authority, as one of the most severe methods of punishment, reserved only for those who brought about great harm and threat to the Roman state. The victims of crucifixions were left to hang on the cross, made from a tree and carved to form a cruciform plank, so that the victims were left to hung between the heaven and the earth.

This punishment was both designed to bring the greatest amount of suffering to the victim, by denying the victim a quick death, giving them a slow and increasingly painful suffering, and also to give the greatest humiliation possible, as the victims were stripped to mere loincloth or even naked, stretched wide on that cross, often on the roadsides and high places like hills, so that many would be able to see the humiliation and suffering of those who dared to test the might of Rome.

Thus, the cross was a symbol of ultimate humiliation and suffering for all who see them at the time of Jesus, during the peak of the Roman Empire. But yet, many centuries prior to the time of the Romans, the prophets have foretold of the suffering Messiah, namely through the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied how the Messiah would come and bear the suffering for all of mankind. It was also mentioned how He would suffer, even long before the time when the punishment was common.

For in crucifixions, the victim would either be tied to the cross or in especially serious and severe occasions, the victims would be nailed upon the cross. The latter method would be more grievous and painful, and even more humiliating, and was indeed reserved only for the worst enemies and the greatest of punishments for the enemies of Rome.

And the prophet Isaiah mentioned that the Messiah would be pierced, and that piercing indeed represented how Jesus, the Lord and Messiah would be nailed on the cross. He would also be lifted up high, like when Moses lifted high up the bronze serpent in the desert. This too is a premonition of what was to come when the Lord came to save His people from destruction and death.

When the people of God, the Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt, they went through a long Exodus and journey through the desert in their progress to reach the land promised to them through their ancestors. In that journey, which was not an easy one, God was with them along the way, and He blessed His people, giving them great providence and food along the way.

Yes, if we read through the Book of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we should all realise how blessed this people had been. God destroyed their enemies and all those who went on to fight against them were crushed and have their forces utterly beaten, and God gave them into the hands of His people. And we all should be aware that God Himself freed them from the chains of the Egyptians with great might, with ten plagues, each of which were of terrible ferocity.

God even sent His people the bread from heaven to eat, in the form of manna, and large birds for them to catch and eat as well. He gave them clear and sweet water to drink, and we have to imagine that, having crystal clear and good water to drink in the middle of the desert is no mere small feat. Nothing is of course impossible for the Lord, and He loves us beyond anything else.

And it is that love that prevented Him from totally and completely annihilating that people which had risen up against Him, despite all He had given them and blessed them with. Having been given and endowed with so much graces, the people of God made complaints after complaints of their supposedly ‘miserable’ existence and life in the desert, and even longed for the ‘good’ life in Egypt where they once lived in slavery.

They spurned His love and kindness, complaining even against what they have been given to eat, bread from heaven itself. This was why, eventually, God took action against them, to remind them that He is Lord over all, and that those who constantly defy Him and oppose Him will meet their end in eternal suffering and destruction. He sent them therefore, fiery and poisonous serpents that attacked them, struck them and killed many of them.

But we have to always remember and take note that it is not God who desired our destruction, as it had happened with the Israelites. In fact, it was the people’s own stubbornness and refusal to return to the light of God which had caused their own destruction. The serpents represented the suffering and the punishment that the people must endure for their sins, and the ultimate effect is indeed none other than death.

Ever since mankind had first disobeyed against the Lord, they have sinned against the Lord in their hearts and in their bodies, such that they were no longer worthy of the Lord. The consequence of sin is death, as sin separates one from the Lord. The Lord who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the imperfections caused by evil to be in His presence, and therefore, naturally, sin led mankind to death, and if nothing had been done, then all mankind would have faced death eternal, and eternal separation from the love of God.

And that is hell. Hell is the total separation of a creation of God from the very love of the Creator and Lord of all. And this total separation is final and unchangeable. Thus, this is what hell is truly about, not the fires and the images of hell that we are commonly exposed to, but the suffering in hell is far greater than we can ever imagine, since it means that the total separation from God’s love, that should be unimaginable to us all, because it was God’s love that is everything to us, how we live and why we live in the first place, and we are able to walk and enjoy this life on earth because of God’s love that is with us and in us.

Hell is what is due to mankind as the punishment for our sins, and in hell, it is the despair and the state of total hopelessness which is the greatest suffering, as all the souls in hell know that there is absolutely no hope of escaping that state, eternally damned and separated from God’s love, and it is this eternal and constantly repeating despair, hopelessness and guilt of having betrayed the Lord which brought about the greatest suffering for the souls in hell.

But is this what God intends for us? Is this what He intended for the people He loved and which He had created in His own image, as the pinnacle and the greatest of all His creations? No! This is exactly why He wants to save us, and so great was His desire, that the very truth was laid bare for all to see and hear, as we often heard in the famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3 verse 16, namely that God loved the world and His people so much, that He sent His only Son into the world, so that all those who believe in Him would not be lost and perish, but gain eternal life.

This is the very essence of what we are celebrating on this day, that is the glory and the mystery of the Holy Cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Lord Himself had sent, a part of Himself, His own Word made incarnate into flesh as one of us, and to walk among men, so that He might exercise His power and bring salvation to all those who believe in Him. And the way how He did that, was through the cross of suffering, which He transformed into the cross of glory and triumph.

As I had mentioned much earlier on in this homily and reflection, that the use of crucifixion and the punishment of the cross was indeed to punish and to bring the greatest suffering on the sufferer, and also to humiliate the sufferer, and in this case, this suffering One is Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of all. Even though He was guiltless, blameless and without sin, He offered Himself freely as part of God’s long planned salvation for His people, so that through His death, He might open a new path for them, into salvation and eternal grace.

To those who observed His death and especially among those who followed Him during His ministry would indeed question, why would such a holy Man and the Messiah no less, suffer such a humiliation and suffering so great if He was indeed chosen by the Lord. And we know that even throughout history and until today, there are still many those who refused to believe in the crucifixion of Christ because they deemed it impossible and unreasonable for such a great One to suffer such a humiliating death.

Yet we know that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah and Lord of all, chose this way because indeed, He loves us all very dearly, and He would not want us to be sundered forever from His love, that is hell. He does not desire for us to inhabit hell, simply because, that was not His intention for us. His intention is for us to live happily with Him in love and harmony. And that was why He chose to come into this world, that is to bring all peoples to Himself.

But sin lays between God and us, as a great and seemingly insurmountable barrier that prevent us from returning to God our Lord. Therefore, if we read the Book of Leviticus, we know that there is such a thing as sin and burnt offering, where animals such as lamb were slaughtered and then burnt on the altar, and the blood together with the animal constituted a worthy offering to God, who then accepted it as the partial reparation and remission for the sins committed by God’s people.

But the people of God remained in sin, and also they inherited the original sin of their forefathers, ever since they rebelled against the will of God and followed Satan into his rebellion instead. This original sin and other sins that mankind committed kept them separated from the love of God, and due to the immensity of the sins of mankind combined together, no amount of sacrifice would be able to redeem mankind from their sins, save for one.

Yes, the one sacrifice and the only one, when the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself offered His own Body and Blood as the only worthy sacrifice for the immensity of the combination of our sins together. Only He who is perfect, perfectly unblemished and pure, without any taints of sin, and He who is Lord of all, had the worthy offering to make in order to save us from our sins.

And thus He suffered, all the sufferings and humiliations He endured, all the spittle and the mockery from the people He endured, and the cross of suffering He carried on His back, enduring lashes after lashes and mockery after mockery as He made His journey towards Calvary. Yet He did not give up. We cannot even comprehend the kind of suffering which Jesus endured for our sake.

Why so? This is because the suffering He endured was much more than just the apparent physical suffering, even as great as that suffering was. He endured the weight and the consequences of our sins, and all of this bore down on Him as a great weight beyond any other weight. He was blameless, and yet He was crushed for our sins. This was also yet another fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophets.

But Jesus endured all of them with perfect obedience and perfect love for us. He is truly the new Adam, as St. Paul had said, as the One who went to correct all the wrongs that began with Adam, the old Adam, our forefather who sinned against God. Just as Mary His mother is the new Eve, whose obedience and faith, rebuking Satan and his lies, Jesus is the new Adam through which God renewed mankind.

Jesus therefore changed that symbol of ultimate shame, the cross, designed as such by the Romans, into a symbol of hope and glory. He turned the cross from a symbol of death and destruction into a symbol of salvation and liberation from sin, from the slavery of the forces of evil, and the guarantee of life eternal as promised by the Lord. Thus, the essence of the cross and the crucifix we have today signify this important turning point, which Christ had made the cross into our hope, through His death on the cross for our salvation.

Sadly indeed, despite all that the Lord had done for us, many of us mankind still acted like the people of Israel of old, disregarding the love of God and even ignoring Him altogether. How many of us actually realised the love that God had for us? Every single step He took on His passion journey towards His death, He did it out of His love for us. He did not want us to perish, but it is many of us who chose perishing in the world rather than embracing God’s love.

Remember, that in Jesus we have been saved, out of God’s love. He wants to forgive us our sins, but this is only possible if we too play our part, and believe in Him. We can start this through our own actions and our own daily lives. Have we acted in accordance what our Lord had taught us? Have we practiced our faith and what we believe in our lives? Have we loved our brothers and sisters as much as we love ourselves?

We have much work to do in front of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our lives will indeed be difficult, if we choose to follow the Lord and walk in His path. But our Lord had made His cross a sign of victory and triumph, the Holy Cross, that even Satan and his forces will tremble and flee from. Satan knows that the cross was his ultimate undoing. His defeat lay at the cross that had liberated mankind from the burden of their sins. He knows that his doom is coming, and he cannot avoid that final defeat.

However, Satan will grow desperate and he will do all he can to stall as many souls as possible on his way to doom. Remember that he has all the power in this world to tempt and persuade us to divert our path from the path of salvation into the path of doom. Temptations of the evil one is plenty in this world saturated with materialism, consumerism and love of the self. Selfishness and violence is on the rise, brethren, and if we do not guard ourselves against Satan’s advances, we will fall.

Therefore, let us all work together, brothers and sisters in Christ! We who have been saved by the suffering and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ must be strong in our faith and in our dedication to God, so that Satan will not stand against us. Remember the Holy Cross and Jesus our Lord whenever temptations of Satan come to prevent us from seeking the Lord. Proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus and staunchly rebuke Satan for his attempts to tempt us.

Jesus has indeed been given the Name which is above every other names, for first He is God made flesh, and thus, it is the Name of God Himself, Master of all the universe and over all creations. Then, through His perfect love and obedience, He had become an example for all mankind and for all creation, and no one in creation can do anything other than to obey this Lord and Master who had given His all to save His beloved ones. And even Satan had to obey the Lord, with fear and great trembling on his knees. Such is the power of the Name of Jesus Christ. Do not use His Name in vain!

And even in the Roman Empire, which was pagan and idol worshipping, the Lord also gained a final victory. Many Emperors of Rome persecuted the Christians, the faithful ones in the Lord, but their prayers and the blood of the martyrs eventually triumphed, the triumph of the Holy Cross, when the Lord made them strong and grow in might, so that more and more people would come to listen to the words of salvation in the Gospels and the Scriptures.

Ultimately, the famed Emperor Constantine saw a bright sign of the Lord, Christ Himself in His insignia, as the victorious and conquering King, and went on to win a great victory that eventually led to the repentance and conversion of the Roman Empire into a great, Christian Empire belonging to God. Thus, the Cross had triumphed against the enemies of the Lord, led by Satan and his fallen angels.

Therefore, let us all take an opportunity, every day in our lives to look at the cross, at the crucifix on which lie the Body of Jesus our Lord, as a reminder that He died out of His infinite and enduring love for us, so that we who have seen Him and believed, will not die but live a new life everlasting, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent and all who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent did not die but live.

We have been bitten by the serpent, Satan, and his poison is threatening to destroy us, that is sin. But if we trust in the Lord Jesus, and look at the victorious cross, the Holy Cross of Christ, we will not die but live too! Let us carry together our crosses in life with Christ, so that just as He told His disciples, that we may have a share in His resurrection, and therefore be granted new life eternal, freed from all vestiges of sin and evil, and rejoice for eternity with our loving God. May Almighty God bless us this day and every day of our lives, that we will always be faithful and dedicated to the Cross of Christ! Amen.