Friday, 22 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if last week we celebrated an important feast and part of our faith, that is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary, brought body and soul into the glory of heaven, then today, exactly a week after that day, after the completion of the Octave of the Assumption, today we celebrate the great honours given to Mary herself, as a Queen, by the virtue of her being the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore as the Mother of God or Theotokos.

Yes, Mary is a Queen, and she has been blessed with many titles that many had attributed to her over the ages. Indeed, she is truly blessed as the greatest among all that God had created, as the most beautiful jewel amongst God’s creation, conceived and born without the taint of sin, prepared special for the accommodation of the coming of the Saviour of the world, to be the very Mother of God herself, by virtue of herself as the mother of the living Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Through her, what had been prophesied by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading today came true, that a people in darkness has truly seen a great light, and this light brought new hope to countless peoples who had long lived in the darkness of sin and evil. Through the actions of Mary, this salvation of God came to mankind, a liberation that many had long sought for.

Mary is Queen, not by the virtue of her birth or her status in life. She was born to St. Joachim and St. Anne, her parents who were simple people, not having status or wealth, but they had faith and devotion to the Lord. It was under their care that Mary grew both in body and spirit, and she eventually came to be the one, the young virgin whom the Archangel Gabriel, God’s messenger, came to visit on that one day in the quiet village of Nazareth.

Mary’s faith in God was truly remarkable, because even though the Archangel revealed to her something too great for her understanding and too good to be true, she entrusted herself completely to the will of God, and allowed herself to be used for the works of the Lord, through which God exercised His greatest work ever, that is the accomplishment of the long awaited salvation of mankind, God’s most beloved creation.

Any other woman or person would have doubted such message and plan that the Lord has for them. But not Mary, and she was truly suited for her role, and the Lord had groomed her since her very conception to be the one who would bear the Christ within her, to be the physical vessel of our Lord Himself, to bring the Saviour into this world.

And as I had mentioned during the Assumption celebration, this is why death has no power over her, as she was truly without sin, and as the Mother of God, the one who bore Christ within her, she was truly the new Ark of the new Covenant in Christ, and therefore, the Lord raised her body and soul into heaven, as it is not fitting for someone as pure and great as her to suffer the consequence of sin that is death.

Mary is the greatest and the foremost of all the saints, because in all of her ways in life, she was exemplary, pure and immaculate in all things. She represented all the things that are expected by God from us in life, and she is our role model in faith, as when we follow how she lived her faith, we will certainly realise how truly faithful she was to her mission and calling to live her life in fully attuned manner to the will of God.

Mary is the greatest of all mankind, and according to the tradition of our faith, by virtue of her faith and devotion to God, which was so complete, the Lord rewarded her not just by bringing her body and soul into heaven, but also, as the Mother of God or Theotokos, she was crowned by the angels in heaven as the Queen of heaven, because indeed, her Son, Jesus our Lord is King of all kings. As such, that is why we celebrate Mary’s queenship on this day, in honour of this holy woman and virgin who had dedicated it all to the Lord.

Mary is known by many titles, some of which include Queen of All Saints, Queen of Angels, Queen of Peace, and many others, as in her role both when she still walked on this world and in the heavenly glory of her queenship, she is our greatest help and intercessor before her own Son, our Lord. Yes, Mary is the closest person to Jesus, as she is His mother after all. In her position as the Queen of heaven, she helps and advises her Son in many things, and certainly she prays for us sinners who still roam this world.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, the Mother of our God, let us all reflect on our own lives, and strive to be able to follow in the footsteps of Mary, whose faith and total devotion was plain for all to see, and for whose part to play in the plan of salvation, God had brought His salvation to all through Jesus.

Let us all ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, our Queen and our role model. Let us ask her to beseech on our behalf before the throne of her Son in heaven, that He may take pity on us sinners, and provided that we change our ways and seek Him, may we all be reunited with Him and His mother Mary, in the glory of heaven promised to all of us. Mary, our Mother, bring us to your beloved Son, our Lord! Amen.

Friday, 22 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”

“Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

Friday, 22 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of the Lord, praise the Name of the Lord! Blessed be the Name of the Lord now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of the Lord be praised! The Lord is exalted over the nations, His glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who sits enthroned on high, but also bends down to see on earth as in heaven?

He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap. He makes them sit with princes, with rulers of His people.

Friday, 22 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 9 : 1-6

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death.

You have enlarged the nation; you have increased their joy. They rejoice before You, as people rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice in dividing the spoil. For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, You have broken it as on the day of Midian.

Every warrior’s boot that tramped in war, every cloak rolled in blood, will be thrown out for burning, will serve as fuel for the fire. For a Child is born to us, a Son is given us; the royal ornament is laid upon His shoulder, and His Name is proclaimed : “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

To the increase of His powerful rule in peace, there will be no end. Vast will be His dominion, He will reign on David’s throne and over all His kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forever. The zealous love of YHVH Sabaoth will do this.

Thursday, 21 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of a great saint, the Pope of the Holy Eucharist as he is famously known, namely Pope St. Pius X, the first Pope to be elected in the twentieth century, and a great reformer of the faith who brought great rejuvenation both to the Church and to God’s people. Pope St. Pius X had done a great deal of goodness for the Lord and His people, and the effects of what He had done can still be clearly felt today.

Pope St. Pius X was the one who reformed much of the liturgy and the celebration of worship in the Church, and he made the Gregorian chant once again the predominant hymn and song used in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through his contributions, he made the liturgy of worship to God much richer and more beneficial for the growth of the faith and devotion among the faithful. Numerous other contributions he had made to the benefit of God’s people.

And his greatest contribution was the great improvement in the accessibility and focus on the Most Holy Eucharist, the very Precious Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who had given us these freely as He offered Himself humbly to the Lord as the sacrifice for the sake of our salvation, which we celebrate regularly in the Holy Mass. This is the centre of our faith, and the very foundation of what we believe in God.

In addition, if we today know the Holy Communion as something we always do every time we attend the Holy Mass, and if we can remember the time when we first received the Holy Communion in our early youth, then all of these could be attributed to the works of this holy Pope, Pope St. Pius X, and this is why he is also known famously as the Pope of the Eucharist. Why is this so? Let me elaborate further.

Pope St. Pius X encouraged frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist by the faithful, and he also lowered the minimum age required for the reception of the first Holy Communion, bringing the Lord closer to even young children. This reminds us clearly of what the Lord Jesus had said to His disciples and followers, that all of us ought to imitate the faith of children, and we should not prevent children from coming to the Lord.

With that consideration, what Pope St. Pius X had done was truly exemplary, allowing children, provided that they are at an age when they are already able to discern about the Lord, to receive the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, certainly at an age significantly younger than what was previously stipulated and practiced in the Church. This helps many of the youths and children to be close to the Lord for the important years when their faiths in God are developing and taking roots.

And ultimately, today we will focus on the role of this holy man and shepherd of the Church, in how he transformed and brought the Lord and His fullness of truth into the centre of the faithful’s attention, by emphasizing strongly on the importance of worship and the properness in worship of the Lord, in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which we also celebrate today, but which in many places had notably dropped in terms of our ability to appreciate how important it is to properly worship the Lord.

This relates precisely to the reading of today, in which Jesus told His disciples a parable, which described the wedding feast organised by a king for his son, and how the guests whom the king had invited to the feast refused to come to the feast prepared for them. Those guests were given what they had deserved, and they were cast down.

And when the king invited new groups of people who were then invited to the wedding banquet, he found someone who was not wearing the garments appropriate for the wedding feast, and consequently he was thrown out of the banquet and cast into the darkness to suffer the penalty of his actions and his ignorance.

How is this relevant to us and our faith? Precisely because the Holy Mass is the wedding banquet of the Lord, when the Lord comes to be one with us and to dwell among us, none other than through His Most Holy Presence in the Eucharist, bread and wine transformed completely into the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And our focus should indeed be on the action of the guest who had come into the banquet not wearing the appropriate wedding garment. This in fact reflects on those among us, and many of us indeed, who did not take the celebration of the sacrifice of our Lord seriously. It reflects clearly on our part when we are not serious about our part in the celebration of the Holy Mass. And in particular, in the recent years, more and more abuses of worship and of the celebration has occurred.

How many of us would come to the Church properly dressed and with a proper heart and mind? That means, how many of us actually prepare ourselves thoroughly to attend the Holy Mass and participate with the fullness of our hearts? Many of us often did not do so, and conveniently ignored these, and ended up physically and spiritually unprepared to be with the Lord in the Mass. In this, we are no different from the person who attended the king’s banquet without a proper clothing.

The Mass is truly great and holy, because in it we celebrate the very sacrifice that our Lord had made that day on the hill of Calvary, when He was hung on the cross between the heavens and earth, and for what? For our sake, brethren, that is for our salvation. He died so that He may break us free from the bonds of death and destruction that await us and bring us into life. And in that, He offered Himself through the Body and Blood He gave us, which through His priests, who transformed the bread and wine into that of our Lord’s Body and Blood for us to receive and eat, and drink.

If it is the Lord Himself who is present in the Holy Mass, then why did we not worship Him? Why did we not respect Him? Why did we blaspheme against Him by our words and actions? And why did we ignore Him and attend to our own needs and to our own human arrogance? I am talking about how many people increasingly lost their focus, and especially in the Mass, and they end up not worshipping God and His love, but instead praising themselves.

This is evident from the rise of unorthodox and heretical practices in the Holy Mass, which in many places, particularly in the West, but also widespread in other places, of inappropriate actions by both the laity and the priests, who did not give glory to God through their actions, but instead glorify and praise themselves. The practices of ‘liturgical dance’, speaking in tongues, use of inappropriate music in the celebration of the Mass and many other liturgical abuses of the Mass, unlike the attitude of the man without a proper garment in the banquet.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great occasion of the feast of Pope St. Pius X, let us ask for his kind intercession and help, so that the Lord may strengthen the faith in us, and hopefully we may learn to know how to properly prepare and place ourselves in the worship of our great Lord and God. Let us all redirect our attention away from ourselves back towards the Lord. Let us all restore the solemnity and holiness in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Let us all work together to make our celebration of the Mass be truly heaven on earth, and get rid of any forms of abuses that still mar our spirit of celebration of this great banquet of the Lord.

May Almighty God guide us on our efforts, strengthen our faith and renew in us the love that we have for Him. Let us strive to make our worship a true worship once again, gaining inspiration from what Pope St. Pius X had once done for the good of the souls of the faithful. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 21 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 22 : 1-14

Jesus went on speaking to them in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king celebrated the wedding of his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the wedding feast, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again he sent other servants, ordering them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their fields, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king became angry. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the crossroads, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out at once into the streets and gathered everyone they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see those who were at table, and he noticed a man not wearing the festal garment.”

“So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding garment?’ But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the dark, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

“Know that many are called, but few are chosen.”

Thursday, 21 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart, give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Thursday, 21 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 36 : 23-28

I will make known the holiness of My great Name, profaned among the nations because of you, and they will know that I am YHVH when I show them My holiness among you.

For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land. Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean – cleansed from the defilement of all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put My Spirit within you and move you to follow My decrees and keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be My people and I will be your God.

Monday, 15 July 2013 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we reflect on the readings, which began from the opening of the Book of Exodus from the Old Testament, which told us the story of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the chosen people, in Egypt, during their time of stay there. The people of Israel had been blessed by the Lord and grew exponentially in wealth and in their number, such that the Egyptians truly might have feared that the Israelites might overwhelm them in their own country.

Thus began the persecution of Israel, led by the Pharaoh, king and ruler of Egypt, who felt the threat created by the people of Israel in his lands. He oppressed them and tried to bring them under control, and therefore begun the slavery of Israel, the years of suffering in Egypt, when the people of Israel laboured under the yoke of the Pharaohs and many died. Yet, the Lord remained with His people, and He continued to bless them, and thence, they multiplied still even more.

But the Lord did not leave His people to suffer, because He cared for them and wished for their safety, and that was why He sent them a liberator, through Moses, the son of Israel lifted from the water of the River Nile by the daughter of the then reigning Pharaoh. Through Moses, the prayers of Israel were heard, and the Lord brought His people out of Egypt on eagle’s wings, with the ten plagues He sent to Egypt to punish them for mistreating the people of Israel and keeping them enslaved in suffering.

The Lord saved Israel from the slavery in Egypt, and He brought them through the Red Sea to the land of flowing milk and honey, the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord God brought the people through the desert to Canaan, so that they can enjoy the promise that the Lord had made to Abraham, their forefather, that they, as his descendants, will enjoy the fruits of God’s blessings which had been given to Abraham and his descendants for eternity.

But the journey was not easy, and was full of trial and suffering, just as the people of Israel had endured suffering during their time in Egypt. That is because to become the disciples of the Lord is not easy, and is not straightforward. Much sacrifices had to be made, and indeed, as Christ had told His disciples, we have to take up our crosses and follow Him, otherwise we would not be worthy of Him.

That is because there is much evil in the world, ever since the beginning of time, when the evil one came and corrupted mankind and creation, with the evils that did not belong to God. Terrible things such as hatred, jealousy, greed, lust, and many other evils that had marred the perfection of God’s creations and all of His works.

But Christ would not let us suffer alone in this darkness, and that was why He came, to be the Light that rescues all from the grip of darkness. Instead, He bear all our sufferings, caused by our disobedience, so that He would blamed instead of us, punched and received blows instead of us, and died instead of us, a death on the cross.

The cross was, at the time of Jesus, the Romans’ favourite way to deal with criminals, particularly those seen as great threat to the Romans and to the society itself. Death of the cross for Jesus was to be a sure condemnation of His memory and a completely humiliating death for the so called ‘Messiah’, according to the chief priests.

Yet, the Lord prevailed, through His death, and then, most importantly, His Resurrection, the first to be Risen from the dead by His own power. The Risen Lord turned the humiliating cross, a symbol of shame, into a glorious sign of victory and triumph. The cross reminds us always that we have been victorious against the devil, and have also been triumphant in the struggle against sin and evil, because through that cross on Calvary, we had been made whole once again, and be made worthy in the presence of God.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be proud to show that we are the people who belongs to God, a people of the Lord, marked by none other than by the sign of the victorious cross. Through even simple gestures like making the sign of the cross before meals would signify our pride and faith in the triumphant cross, the Lord who had brought us up from the mire of sin, and like the Israelites of old, brought with the power of God’s hands out of Egypt, thus we have been brought out of our slavery of sin, into a new, free life in Christ.

Do not be afraid to show that we are Christians, and we also should not attempt to hide it whenever we make the sign of the cross, before meals, before prayers, and in many other occasions. Behold the symbol of our salvation, our pride and faith in God, the cross, to remember our Lord who had died for us, endured suffering that should have befallen us, just so that all of us may live, and not just a life that is temporary, but eternal life in heaven.

Today we also commemorate the memorial of St. Bonaventure, who was a religious and a well-known theologian, preacher, and scholar who lived in the early part of the last millenium, living just after the time of St. Francis of Assisi. He and his works advanced the theology and teachings of the Franciscans, which he was a member of, and his great contribution made the Pope elevated him to the Cardinalate.

St. Bonaventure in his hard works, ensured that the Franciscans would be known for its depth in understanding God’s teachings and also excellent oratory skills. He had laboured hard for Christ and God’s people, and He upheld the cross that was his, and he did not shirk from the duty to carry that cross. Instead he embraced it, and carried his cross alongside Christ.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the zeal and devotion of St. Bonaventure and other great saints, holy men and women of God, let us renew our commitment and faith to the Lord, the One who saved us from certain death, death that awaits us sinners and evildoers, but which had been voided by the power of Christ, through the outpouring of His Blood on the cross.

Let us bear our own crosses, and help one another to bear one another’s cross, and walk our way through the path to salvation, to Christ. It will not be an easy journey, as often there will be temptations and oppositions, especially by the world, but if we remain strong, and carry our crosses faithfully, we will reach the end, and we will reach Christ, our Lord who loves us. It is up to us, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we end up in hell or in heaven. Let us be proactive in living out our faith, that our faith will not die, but blossom with love.

God bless us all, and let us ask St. Bonaventure for his intercession for us sinners. Pray for us St. Bonaventure. Amen.

Monday, 15 July 2013 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies those of one’s own family.

Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and come after Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and to proclaim His message in their towns.