(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Psalm after Fourth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 29 : 2, 4-6, 11-13

I extol You, o Lord, for You have rescued me; my enemies will not gloat over me.

O Lord, You have brought me up from the grave, You gave me life when I was going to the pit. Sing to the Lord, o you His saints, give thanks and praise to His Holy Name.

For His anger lasts but a little while, and His kindness all through life. Weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes with the dawn.

Hear, o Lord, and have mercy on me; o Lord, be my protector. But now, You have turned my mourning into rejoicing; You have taken off my sackcloth and wrapped me in the garments of gladness.

And so, my soul, no longer silent, now sings praise without ceasing, o Lord, my God, forever will I give You thanks.

Friday, 17 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together as we heard in the Scriptures being read this day, the love and mercy of our Lord and God, who had delivered us from the power of death, so that we may be freed from the bondage and slavery of sin which leads eventually to death. Through Christ and what He had done in this world in full obedience to the Lord, He had brought us safety and reassurance against the power of death.

That is because by His suffering and death, He willingly took upon Himself the scourge of death, and all the consequences of our sins, so that those who trust in Him and believe in the words of truth and the Good News He brought, may gain the fullness of salvation and new life just as He had promised to the people of God. Christ had broken the power of death and freed mankind from the tyranny of sin by the act of His ultimate love and obedience to God the Father.

As mentioned ll by Jesus, that we have nothing to fear from sin and death if we are faithful to the Lord through our devotion and faith in Jesus, the Lord and Messiah sent by the Father to be our beacon of hope in this darkened world. As long as we keep ourselves strongly attached and faithful to the teachings of God, we will be safe from all evils and difficulties related to sin and death. Yes, Satan will do all in his power to try and wrest us back from the Lord, and bring us back into damnation, but if we are vigilant, we will not easily fall again for his lies and tricks.

That was why Jesus warned the people to be vigilant and careful against the yeast of the Pharisees. What is this yeast of the Pharisees? It is namely the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the human soul and heart, which infect us all mankind, as the tools and leverages of Satan in trying to subvert us and turn us against the Lord our loving God and Father. It is pride, jealousy, hatred, lack of faith, and many other vulnerabilities that exist in our hearts.

The Pharisees were a group of social elites in the society of the people of God at the time, and they commanded great respect from the people and wielded great teaching authority in teaching the matters of the faith. They took great pride in their position and authority, and were jealous in guarding them against anyone they saw as threats and potential rivals to their power and authority, as well as prestige.

This is what brought them into direct conflict with the group of the Sadducees, the rational thinkers and the powerful nobilities in the society of the people of God, as the Pharisees acted as the extremely orthodox and zealous defenders of the laws of Moses, to the point that they pointed out the extremities in the application of those laws through their own actions, leading the people away from the true intention and meaning of those laws.

They violently rejected Christ, who they saw as a revolutionary preacher and a great threat to their teaching authority and influence. To this end, they always tried to disrupt His teachings and also to test Him wherever He went, asking many questions designed to trap Him, in which they failed, for the Lord knew all that were in their hearts and minds, and their evil desire to bring about His downfall.

This was why Jesus was so adamant in His warning to the people, that they need to guard themselves against the yeast of the Pharisees. Indeed, as I have mentioned, that through His own actions and act of supreme and ultimate love on the cross, Jesus had given us all new hope through our liberation from the tyranny of our sins and from the enslavement of evil, but this does not mean that we can just get this easily without effort.

In order for us to be saved, then in all of our actions we have to guard ourselves from the yeast of the Pharisees, that is hatred, jealousy, prejudice, greed and desire, violence, anger and wrath, pride and arrogance, and many other things which are indeed the main cause for all of us mankind in our committing of sins and evils. The many sins and evils of this world can be traced to these evils, the evils of our hearts, which we should indeed excise and remove from ourselves.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter who was the first Bishop of Antioch. He was a martyr of the faith, who was martyred in the defense of the Faith which he held so dearly. St. Ignatius of Antioch was a convert to the Faith in his youth, and he was also told to be among the children whom the Lord had called to His embrace as told in the Gospels.

St. Ignatius of Antioch succeeded St. Peter in the leadership of the faithful in the major city of Antioch, one of the first dioceses in the world, and the place where the faithful were first called by the appelation ‘Christianos’, which eventually became the name we are now known for, the Christians. St. Ignatius of Antioch led the faithful with love, and he devoted himself to them completely, leading them to live their faith truthfully and with zeal.

He wrote extensively, and in his many letters both to the other bishops and to his own faithful, he affirmed the many central teachings of the Faith, and urged all of his people and peers to adhere closely to the teachings of the Lord as revealed in the Good News the Apostles and disciples of Christ preached. And to the end, St. Ignatius of Antioch remained true to his faith, and even in suffering after he was arrested, he continued to attach himself strongly in faith to the Lord.

He suffered martyrdom in the Colosseum, being thrown to lions and other wild beasts, the fate which also awaited many other of his successors and contemporaries in faith, but indeed, he did not fear death nor he had any need to fear death. Why so? That is because he had been faithful in his life, and was completely devoted to the Lord, and in his righteousness, he was justified and made true in faith, and death no longer has any power over him and all the other faithful who kept their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all also reaffirm our faith in God, following in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Antioch and the other faithful saints and martyrs. Let us all not just have faith in mere words, but with real and true actions as well, so that our faith may be alive and living well, and so that we may be truly devoted and our Lord who sees our living and genuine faith, will justify us and bring us to His promised eternal life and reward, and free us forever from the threat of death. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 17 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 12 : 1-7

Meanwhile, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered, or hidden that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you whom to fear : Fear the one who after killing you is able to throw you into hell. This one you must fear.”

“Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”

Friday, 17 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 12-13

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

Friday, 17 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 1 : 11-14

By a decree of Him who disposes all things according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

You, on hearing the word of truth, the Gospel that saves you, have believed in Him. And, as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the first pledge of what we shall receive, on the way to our deliverance as a people of God, for the praise of His glory.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Virgins)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today heard about the salvation which God had brought upon mankind through the means of Christ our Lord, who is His own Son and also the Messiah, our Saviour. And how Jesus had secured this for all of us, through His obedient act on the cross, that is to suffer for our sins and so that we may be free from the consequences of our sins, that is death.

By the shedding and outpouring of His Blood, He who is the Lamb of God, completely perfect and unblemished, not just by appearance but also by the complete purity and perfection of His heart, without any traces of sin, obtained for us the grace of redemption from sins, which God had also granted to all those who offered sin and burnt offerings of animals, sheep, goats and doves.

However, the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ was different, because through that singular act of ultimate love, and by the offering of the perfect sacrifice, the only One worthy of all of our sins at once, He obtained for us all, salvation for all those who believe in Him and those who indeed willingly take part in His salvation, namely those who with faith and love for Him, accept and receive His Body and Blood into themselves, which He freely shed and offered for our salvation.

And this was in essence what God had in mind for all of His beloved people, when He sent them His messengers, that is the prophets and servants during the time of the old covenant of God, and to the Apostles, who were also His messengers and bearers of the truth of God at the time of the new covenant of God. Through them God wanted to reveal to mankind the fullness of His mercy and love, which He conveyed through Jesus and His works in this world.

And yet, the hearts of mankind were too heavily saddled and corrupted with the burdens of sin. And this burden of sin prevented them from understanding and realising the love of God, which He had for them. Instead, they embraced those sins and succumbed to their own temptations, the temptations of their flesh, so that they turned a deaf ear to the words and callings of the prophets and the Apostles of God, and they became proud and haughty, torturing and persecuting those messengers of God’s Good News because they considered them a nuisance to their way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we tell indeed how many times had the people of God disobeyed Him throughout time? In the Bible we witnessed yet again and again of this disobedience, beginning from the disobedience of our ancestors, who listened to Satan rather than to the words of the divine Wisdom of God, and then with the countless generations of mankind who continued to live in debauchery and sin, disregarding His laws and precepts.

And we knew of how the people of Israel did not have their full heart’s attention to the Lord. They complained against Moses and always made demands after demands to the Lord, even after He had done so much for them, so much that everyone who saw them would have proclaimed how fortunate and blessed they were, having been given the grace of God.

The disobedience of the people of God, who preferred to languish in sin and under the chains of slavery of the aforementioned sin, therefore became the greatest obstacle for mankind to reach out back to the Lord, their God and loving Father. But all this changed when the Lord exercised His might and power, and through a single stroke, changed everything through Christ, giving new hope to mankind and liberating them from the slavery of sin.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded of the need for us all to constantly shun sin and impurities before the Lord, and we need to be always vigilant in all things, and be aware how the evil one may try to turn us away from the Lord. His attacks are always relentless and unforgiving, but we have no need to fear him, as long as we stay steadfastly faithful to His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Today we also celebrate the feast day of two great and faithful saints, whose life I am certain will be a great example to all of us, and what I am going to share with all of you about them will certainly benefit our faith, and our salvation in God. They are St. Hedwig of Silesia, the once Duchess of Poland turned into a holy religious devoted to God, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a holy virgin devoted to God who began the popular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Hedwig of Silesia was married off to a Polish duke at a very young age, and in age of warfare at the time, time was chaotic and destructive. And she lost her husband after she had born him many children. After the death of her husband, she moved to a monastery established by her daughter, Gertrude, and she devoted her life to God fully from then on. St. Hedwig and her husband were both renowned for their very pious lifestyle and very great devotion to helping the poor.

They devoted themselves to give their love and service to the poor, and amidst difficulties, they never gave up but continued with their works with great passion. St. Hedwig donated all of her riches and fortune after her widowhood and as she enters the Church as a religious. She was renowned for her great piety and humility as well, often walking barefoot even in snow.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a young woman who devoted herself since early in her life to the Lord, to live a completely devoted life to the Lord. She lived frugally and with full faith in God. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque experienced many visions of the Lord and His mother Mary during her life, and in those visions, she experienced in particular the love emanating from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Thus from her began the promotion of the now popular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which reminds us of the love of God which He showed us all through His Son, Jesus our Lord, whose loving sacrifice on the cross purchased for us the freedom from all of our sins and iniquities, and opened for us the path towards His love and His salvation, the offer of eternal life which He freely gives to all those who believe in Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the examples of these two saints, let us all be on our way to seek the Lord and to be faithful to Him in all of our actions. Let us all shun all forms of sins and fornications, holding tightly and strongly to the centre tenets of our faith. May Almighty God grant us the gift of faith, empower us and help us on our way to reach Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Virgins)

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the Wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and this people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.”

As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.