Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us celebrate together the great Solemnity of All Saints, all the holy men and women who have gone before us, and whom the Church has officially recognised as those who have deserved and are worthy of the glory of heaven, by the virtue of their lives on earth, their exemplary and inspiring life examples, and their commitments to the Church, to God and His people.

And all of us have to realise that, the saints and all the martyrs of God who have left this earthly existence before us are still as much as part of the entire Universal Church with us, together with the holy souls that are now in Purgatory. Therefore, the Church does not consist just of the physical Church that we see now in this world, but also the spiritual Church that is in heaven and in Purgatory, constantly praying for one another.

We are all parts of the Church in this world, the Church Militant, all those who are still struggling daily to remain true and faithful to the Lord, sinners who are called to conversion and change of life, to be true disciples of the Lord. Meanwhile, the holy souls in Purgatory, those who were deemed to be worthy of the Lord, not counted among the wicked, but not yet worthy of the fullness of God’s glory because of the venial or minor sins they still had, belong to the Church Suffering.

Therefore, tomorrow, on All Souls’ Day, we will remember these holy souls who are suffering in Purgatory, to atone for the remainders of their sins. But today, we rejoice together celebrating with the Church Triumphant, the holy saints of God, those deemed worthy by the Church to merit immediately the glory of heaven. Thus, we believe that they are now in heaven, in the presence of God, praying and interceding for our sake.

There are still many who misunderstand the practice of the veneration of the saints in the Church, including those who have fallen into certain heresies and rejected this venerable practice. The veneration of saints begun as a practice beginning from the days of the saints and martyrs of the early Church, when those who were martyred for their faith were remembered for their staunch and steadfast faith in God.

In fact, the practice of celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar in which the relics of saints and martyrs had been deposited, began from those years, when Christians had to gather and meet in secret, celebrating the Holy Mass in catacombs or graveyards underground, where the tombs of the saints and martyrs were located. The Holy Mass would be celebrated above those tombs, linking to what we practice now.

And through this, we also can see the clear link between the life of those saints and martyrs, with the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, which is celebrated during every single celebration of the Holy Mass. The life, virtues and holiness of the saints cannot be separated from the One from Whom the saints drew the source of their strength, and from Whom came the holiness that was reflected on their lives.

Contrary to what some accused wrongly of the Church and our faith, we do not worship the saints in any way, or give them the adoration that is reserved to God alone. However, we venerate them and honour them because of their exemplary life, which the Church deems that each and every one of us can also follow in our own daily lives. Through the veneration of the saints, it is hoped that we too can be touched in our hearts by their holiness, and become holy ourselves.

The saints intercede for our sake, praying for us before God, that their prayers, being close to God, will be heard more by the Lord our God. We do not pray to the saints asking them to do what we want, or perform wondrous and miraculous deeds, as this is a common misconception of what we Christians believe about the saints and holy men and women we venerate. Rather, we ask them to pray for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, we also have to remember that no one was born a saint, except for Mary, the mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, because of her special role in our salvation, to be the new Ark of the Covenant, bearing God Himself in her. And therefore, God made her to be special, conceived without the taints of original sin, and remaining Immaculate through her life. I will discuss her in a moment, but now let us turn our focus back to the saints.

The saints themselves were sinners, and some were indeed great sinners. Some were murderers, like St. Vladimir of Russia, prince of Kiev, who was a pagan before his conversion, leading a very immoral lifestyle, and killing many people during his reign, including his own father and children. But, the Lord called him to the light, and by embracing the Christian faith, St. Vladimir had a total change of heart, dismissing his old pagan and immoral life, and became a great Christian ruler from then on.

Some others were unrepentant sinners for many years, like St. Augustine of Hippo, now known as a great Doctor of the Church and well-known for his many works and writings that still heavily influences the Church up to this day. Yet, at that time, early in his life, he practiced many immoral behaviour, having a child outside of marriage with his mistress, as well as many other sins he committed. But through the ceaseless efforts and prayers from his mother, St. Monica, St. Augustine eventually repented and changed his life from a life of sin into a life of holiness devoted to God.

What does this tell us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not see the saints and the holy men and women of God, the Blesseds and the Venerables, the Servants of God, and many more people who have led virtuous and righteous lives as people who were impeccable and unblemished. Indeed, now they have been made clean by the Lord, as St. John saw in the Book of Revelations, in his vision of the multitudes of holy men and women in pure white garment, washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

The Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ our Lord has purified us all from our sins, from His loving sacrifice at Calvary. Thus the same Blood has purified all the saints, by either the virtue of their lives, or by their courageous defence of their faith to the point of martyrdom, and many other ways by which these saints have glorified the Lord.

I like to compare the saints to the stained glasses in our churches. Indeed, this comparison is good because we use stained glasses in the churches in order to show to the people first of all, the life of our God, His mission on earth and the important events that occurred throughout the Old and New Testaments. Yet, there are also many others that depict the life of God’s saints.

In the past, many people were uneducated and illiterate, and they were not even able to read the Bible as we are today. It is often that we take our literacy and the easy availability of the Bible for granted. But at that time, the people could not read the Bible because they could not read at all, and in the even earlier days, before the Bible was codified by the Church, and at times of great persecution, it was through drawings and sketches on the walls of the catacombs and the churches.

And this practice continued with the stained glasses. What is beautiful about stained glasses is that, in the old times, the interior of the church building would be dark without any source of light. Candles are used to provide these lights at night, but natural light from the outside during daytime are allowed to enter the church building, through the stained glasses.

The stained glasses on their own shine no light, and stained glasses in the darkness cannot be seen. In truth, they seem so beautiful because of the light that passes through them. And we can see the light made more beautiful through the scenes depicted on the stained glasses. It is the same with God and His saints. The saints have no merit on their own except through the Lord. They are holy and honoured because God’s light can be found in them, shining through them.

Therefore, just as the stained glasses make the light passing through them more beautiful, God is glorified through the deeds of His saints, and all of us can also learn from their good examples, by following their footsteps and practicing what they have done and apply these in our own respective lives. We are called to be saints just as those who have gone before us received the crown of heavenly glory.

We may be apprehensive and think that through our sins, we have not been worthy of God, but as we have discussed just earlier, saints themselves were born not as saints, and all of them have been sinners before. What matters is the conversion of the heart, mind, body and indeed our entire being, that we turn our backs to our sinful past and all the wickedness we have committed in life. What matters is that we change our ways, following the examples of the saints, our role models.

And the greatest role model we can have is Mary, the mother of our God, the greatest among all saints. For she is indeed in heaven, closest to the throne of her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. She is always praying for us, her adopted children, because by entrusting her to us, God has made her to be our mother as well. Let us model ourselves based on the model of Mary, in her faith and dedication to God, and remind ourselves each and every day that all of us have the potential for holiness.

Let us all therefore today be encouraged by the examples of the saints, shedding from ourselves all the darkness and the dirty sins and wickedness covering our beings, that through God’s light in us, realised through our faith and actions, we may shine brightly with the light of God in our lives. Let us be the beautiful stained glasses of the Lord, shining with God’s light and showing forth God’s glory through our actions.

May the Lord be with us always, and may through the intercession of His saints, each and every one of us will be brought ever closer to our loving God, and we hope that one day we will share the eternal joy of heaven with them. O holy saints of God in heaven, pray for us always, and pray for our brethren who are now suffering in Purgatory as well. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 5 : 1-12a

At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the mountain. He sat down and His disciples gathered around Him. Then He spoke and began to teach them :

“Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land.”

“Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God.”

“Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

“Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are My followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God.”

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-3

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is. All who have such a hope, try to be pure, as He is pure.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to YHVH, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of YHVH? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from YHVH, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017 : Solemnity of All Saints (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 7 : 2-4, 9-14

I saw another Angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four Angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.”

Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal : a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel. After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the Throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, Who sits on the Throne, and the Lamb?”

All the Angels were around the Throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the Throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, “Amen, Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honour, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

At that moment, one of the elders spoke up, and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution, they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Monday, 2 November 2015 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate All Souls’ Day, when we commemorate and pray for the souls of all our brethren who have departed from this world ahead of us. We pray for the sake of their souls so that by the grace and the mercy of God, they may be found worthy of God’s everlasting kingdom. We pray that the souls in purgatory may be rid of their sins, and gain entry soon to the kingdom of heaven.

Today is not a day of sorrow and gloom, but a day of hope. For on this day, although we are reminded ever of our humanity and mortality, that all of us, without exception will succumb to death, but this death is not an everlasting death. It is because one Man had shown us the way, that death does not have the final say, for God has given us Jesus our Lord, to bring us from death into eternal life by His resurrection from the dead.

That means death is not an eternal separation, but a temporary one, where now we cannot see those who have departed physically in this world, but in the world to come, we shall see each other again and live a life filled with true joy in the presence of God for eternity. This is the hope brought about by our Lord’s resurrection, through which He has dealt death an ultimate defeat.

If yesterday, on the feast of All Saints, I spoke of a Universal Church that does not consist just of us all the faithful still living on earth, the Church Militant, but also consisting of the hole men and women deemed worthy of heaven, the saints of God, who are the Church Triumphant, and then also the souls of the faithful dead who are the Church Suffering, the souls in holy purgatory.

If you wonder, brethren, why ‘suffering’? This is because when someone reaches the end of his or her earthly and mortal life, there are three possible paths for them to go to from there. The first one, is the most difficult one to achieve, that is the path of the saints. This path is taken by those who lives have been filled with much piety, good deeds, faith and genuine love for God and for their fellow men. As a result, although they too are sinners, God deems that their venial sins have been completely overcome and absolved by their good deeds.

God blessed them and welcomed them into the glory of heaven. And the Church officially recognised some of them as saints, those who have been deemed worthy of heaven after their death. Then, there exists another path, which many had taken, that is the path of hell and eternal damnation. This is meant for all those who have been wicked in their lives, having committed mortal sins such as murder, disrespect for life and for the Lord, disrespecting the Church and its teachings, and other serious errors, from which they refused to repent.

These souls are lost from us and from the Lord forever, as these souls directly go into hell and without any hope for escape or redemption. They were unrepentant and therefore in His wrath, God also rejected them just as they have first rejected Him. Today, on this All Souls’ Day, these are not the souls whom we are praying for, for there is truly no benefit to pray for those who have been marked as eternally lost from us and condemned.

Of course, the fact is that we do not know who belong to this category, for it is only God, the true Judge of all, have the final decision of who is to receive eternal damnation and hell, and who to be given an opportunity or to receive the glory of eternal heaven. So we should not directly condemn so and so as evil, or deserving of hell, since all of us are sinners, and each and everyone of us are at the same risk.

Then, we come to the group in the middle, those who were not outrightly evil and wicked, so as to deserve hell and eternal damnation, and those who were also not sufficiently upright and holy so as to deserve eternal life and heaven right away, which ends up in the place called purgatory. It is in the teaching of the Church that the souls of the faithful dead, who have kept their lives mostly in line with the faith and in obedience to the Lord, but still having sufficient amount of venial sins have to spend some time in this place for the purification of their souls.

Why is this so, brethren? That is because we have to realise that while God loves us all and cares for all of us, but with us there still lies the obstacles of sin. Sin is an obstacle and a barrier that prevents us from our full and complete reconciliation with our Lord. It was because of sin, caused by disobedience, that had separated our ancestors from the grace and the blessings which God had intended to be ours for eternity.

God is good and perfect, and so good and holy such that no sin, even the smallest amount of sin should be ever present in His presence. A sinner that stands in the presence of God shall be subjected to the wrath of God and be destroyed immediately. Then, one may then ask, how about the saints then? Were they not once sinners too when they still walked on this earth?

Yes, indeed, they were once sinners too, but on the account of their great merits and their faith to God, their numerous good actions and deeds had been judged to be sufficient to atone completely for the sake of their sins. This means that all of the multitudes of their sins have been considered as being paid completely in full by their merits, as they placed their complete trust in the Lord Jesus.

What Jesus our Lord did when He gave up His life for us on the cross, was that He took up all of the original sins and the wickedness that had tainted all of us, and offering Himself as the perfect offering and sacrifice for our sins, He had liberated us all from the darkness and the sins that afflicted us all. He gave us all a new hope of salvation, for He conquered death, the ultimate consequence of sin.

This means that while once we looked at death and eternal death as our fate, and hell is our destination, but with our Lord’s intervention, He has lifted us all up and gave us a chance to enter the glorious heaven and be recipients of the original graces and blessings intended for us. But of course, as mentioned earlier, there are those who rejected this offer, and indeed, hell is their reward.

Today, on this Feast of All Souls’ Day, the ones whom we are concerned with are those souls in purgatory, who are spending their time separated temporarily from their Lord and delayed in their entry into the glorious heaven because of their residual sins. They are suffering the flames of suffering in purgatory, not because they are unworthy or wicked, but rather because they need to suffer for a while the consequences of the sins that they had remaining in them before they can enter into the presence of God, purified and cleansed.

Through our genuine and sincere prayers for these souls in purgatory, we are able to help them to reduce their time spent in purgatory, and by asking God for His mercy and for His love for these souls, we hope that the souls of our beloved brethren currently will be able to enjoy soon the glories and the joys of heaven, in the presence of our loving God, who is just and merciful.

And remember, just as we pray for them, they are also praying for us. The souls in purgatory still remember all of us, and just as they have lived their earthly lives committing good deeds and sins, they realised how their sins have made them to suffer temporarily, and those sins prevented them from directly enjoying the blessings of God in heaven. Thus, they are praying for us, that we will realise our own sins, and repent so that we will not suffer the same suffering they encountered in purgatory.

May Almighty God therefore hear our prayers, and together with the saints, and the souls in purgatory, let us all pray together as one whole Universal Church, that more and more people will be brought closer to salvation, that all of us may escape the threat of hell, and be brought ever closer to heaven, the destination that we are all looking forward to. May God receive the souls of the faithful departed and give them the everlasting joy of heaven. Amen.

Monday, 2 November 2015 : Feast of All Souls, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Black or Purple

Mark 15 : 33-39 and Mark 16 : 1-6

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?”

As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately the curtain that enclosed the Temple sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave, and He said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint the body. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb.

They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they looked up, they noticed that the stone had already been rolled away. It was a very big stone. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right, and they were amazed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified; He has been raised and is not here. This is, however, the place where they laid Him.”