Monday, 4 July 2016 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard firstly the prophecy of the prophet Hosea, who came to pronounce the words and the will of God at a time of great turbulence. At that time, the kingdom of Israel had been divided into the northern kingdom also called Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah. And the people of the northern kingdom, to whom the prophet Hosea had been sent to, had become corrupt and wicked, revelling in the pleasures and the goods of the world, as they lived in prosperity and wealth.

The prophet Hosea often rebuked the people for their debauchery and wicked ways, but at the same time, as what we have heard in today’s first reading, he also spoke of the coming of the time of God’s forgiveness and redemption of His people, as a hope for those who chose to keep their faith in their one and only true Lord and Master. Those who would abandon their past obstinate attitude and embrace fully God’s love and mercy would receive the rich fruits of God’s mercy and love.

And this has been proven in what we have heard in the Gospel today, the well known story of how Jesus healed the woman with bleeding issues, and how He raised the daughter of the synagogue official from death and back into life. We saw through these examples, that if we have faith in God, everything will be made possible for us. And God will not abandon all of His faithful ones to despair and hopelessness.

Because the woman had faith in Jesus, and she dared to seek Him to heal her from her afflictions, God saw her faith and praised her for the faith which she had, and healed her from the sickness that had troubled her for so many years. And because the synagogue official believed in Him, and sought for Him when his daughter was in trouble, and in fact had died, because of this Jesus healed the daughter and returned her to life.

From all these, we heard that faith in God is what saves us all. If we do not have faith in Him, then there is no way that we would achieve salvation. After all, Jesus Himself had said that only through Him that salvation can be achieved, and beyond Him there is no hope for salvation, for He is the Bridge, the Way to the Lord our God, the One Who linked us between ourselves and God our Father.

Let us then look at the example of the holy and faithful St. Elizabeth of Portugal, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Elizabeth of Portugal was once a Spanish princess who married the King of Portugal and hence became the Queen of Portugal. As Queen, she was devoted to her people, and committed many charitable works that made the people’s livelihood better.

She was a pious person, and she devoted her life to God. She was a great servant of God and tried her best to show the people how they ought to live as the people of God, by having true faith in Him, by loving one another. And she was indeed leading by example, doing as much charity as she was able to. And after her husband, the King of Portugal passed away, she left behind her life as queen, and devoted herself to God by entering the religious life.

And yet, even so, she still committed herself to many good works, including to broker peace among the kingdoms at the time which were rife with rivalry and warfare. She made peace among the fighters and warmongers, and won for the people of God the peace and harmony through which more good works of God’s salvation could be done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Elizabeth of Portugal had great faith in God, and for that great faith she was rewarded with the glory of heaven. And even after she passed away, her examples and works in life still continued to inspire many others, and indeed, became a source of courage for many of those who were unsure and uncertain about following God.

Shall we too do the same as those people had done? Shall we also follow in the footsteps of the holy saints of God, the woman whose faith healed her from her bleeding affliction, and the synagogue official whose faith restored her daughter back to life, even from death? It is our choice now, brothers and sisters, and we must now choose, whether we are going to be faithful to God, or whether we are going to abandon Him for some other things.

Just as at the time of the prophet Hosea, there are many temptations in this world. And as we progress on, there are going to just be more and more temptations along our path, be it wealth, possessions, fame, human glory and praise, as well as many others.let us ask ourselves, are we able to resist these temptations? Are we able to be truly faithful to our God without being overly attached to all the things I had just mentioned?

May God strengthen our faith for Him, and enkindle in our hearts the fire of His love, that through them, we may draw ever closer to Him and find salvation and succour in His presence, and be worthy to receive the promise of eternal glory and praise He had promised to all those who believe in Him and keep their faith in Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 4 June 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on thus say we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. If yesterday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the loving heart of our God, then today, we celebrate the loving and tender heart of His mother Mary. Jesus and His mother Mary were inseparable and were very close, and thus, her heart is a reflection of her Son’s own Most Sacred Heart.

And in this we see how Mary was loving and kind, compassionate and filled with God’s love just as her Son showed us His everlasting love. She has shown great care and love for her Son, and the same love now she is showing to us as well. It was in that love that she endured great pain and suffering, to see with her own eyes how her Son Jesus suffered tremendously at the hands of His persecutors, as He went to save mankind through His crucifixion.

All these were foretold by the prophet Simeon, when Jesus was circumcised in the Temple eight days after His birth into the world. He said to Mary, that her Son would be a force of great change, through Whom the world and all mankind would come to see their salvation and hope. And at the same time, Simeon gave Mary a warning and premonition of what was to come. A sword would pierce her own heart.

And it was in seeing her own Son enduring His sufferings and carrying His cross to Calvary, even though He was blameless, innocent but charged with false charges, and mocked and rejected by the very people to whom He had been sent to, that her heart endured such a great pain, as mentioned by Simeon at the time of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple of God.

And in the Gospel today, which tells us about Jesus when He was only twelve years old, and went to the Temple of God in Jerusalem, surely we all know the story, how Jesus were left behind in the Temple, or rather, purposely staying behind at the Temple, the House and dwelling-place of His Father. And when Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem and found Him among the teachers and elders, she heard Him telling her about how He had to be in His Father’s house.

Anyone else who heard such things would have been scared, or become unsure and doubtful, or dismiss all these things as nonsense. But it was not so for Mary, for she kept everything in her heart, even things which she did not really understand. And just as at the time when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her in Nazareth, even though she did not understand everything, but she kept everything in her heart and put her complete trust in God and His plan.

How many of us have done what she had done, brothers and sisters in Christ? Certainly, very few among us would have done what Mary did. And it is not surprising considering that we mankind are creatures who often find it difficult to trust another, and we often trust and believe in only ourselves, and we act in ways that preserve ourselves and achieve our own wants and desires.

And that is why we often find it difficult to go forward in our journey towards the Lord, because we are by our nature tend to be distracted by many things, including all the temptations of this world that are hard for us to resist. We tend to sway and to be doubtful whenever we are presented with challenges that are against our faith in God.

This is where we should imitate the examples of Mary, the mother of our Lord. She was faithful despite all the things and experiences which she had encountered throughout her life. She placed all her trust in God, even though at times there were many things which she was unsure of. And she gave it all in the mission which God had entrusted her with, namely to be the mother and bearer of the Saviour of the world.

She loved her Son with all her might, even following Him wherever He went to. And when the disciples and the Apostles were scattered after Jesus was arrested by the Jewish authorities, it was Mary His mother who remained faithful and steady, watching by closely how the people rejected her Son and tortured Him, and condemned Him to death.

And for that faith and that love, indeed, Mary is truly worthy as the Mother of God, and as what we all believe in, as the Co-Redemptrix of mankind, through whose works and actions, the redemption of us all by Jesus our Lord was made perfect and complete. And He gave us the greatest form of help, by granting to us the gift of His own mother Mary.

He did this when He was hung between the heavens and the earth on the cross. He entrusted Mary to His disciple St. John the Apostle, and entrusted him to Mary as well. Through this act, He had entrusted His mother to us all mankind, and all of us to her care vice versa. And therefore, from then on, we have Mary as our guide to find the way to Jesus our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask Mary our mother to pray for our sake, that as she has loved her Son, she too may love us and care for us sinners in danger of death and eternal damnation. Let us all through her help and guidance, find our way to the Lord and to the eternal life and salvation He has promised all those who keep their faith in Him. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 3 June 2016 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we all celebrate the great Solemnity and Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the moment when we celebrate the great and infinite love which God has for all of us which He had made apparent and true through His own Son, Jesus Christ, Whom He had sent into the world to become our Saviour.

Today’s chosen Scripture readings therefore match perfectly the theme we mentioned, as they all spoke about the Lord as our Shepherd, and all of us as God’s beloved sheep. And all the sheep of God ought to belong to the same flock tended to by the Shepherd of all mankind, our God Himself. None of the sheep should have been lost, but in reality, some sheep did get lost and wandered off into the foreign lands.

God in many occasions used the example of a shepherd to show the love which He has for us all, as the society of the people of God at that time were composed of mainly agricultural farmers and shepherds, tending the farmlands and the flock of sheep and goats. Thus, by relating to them through parables related to farming and to shepherding the sheep, God hoped to bring the message to His people in a clearer manner.

They would be able to relate to the fact how true and good shepherds would not abandon his sheep, but protect them and care for them with genuine love. He does not abandon the sheep when danger comes to the flock, but instead he would try to protect the flock as best as he could, even to the point of laying down his life and to suffer for the sake of the safety of the sheep.

And when a sheep is lost and wandered off on its own, the shepherd would go out all of his way to find the lost sheep and return it to the flock, as what Jesus had told the people. And in the same manner, God Who loves us all like a shepherd loves his sheep, will go forth and try to find us out in the darkness and in the wilderness where we are currently lost in.

And if shepherds know that one or more of their sheep are missing, then the Lord also definitely knows if we have erred and wandered off on our own, losing our way in this uncertain world. And He will definitely try to bring us back to His grace but ultimately, it is up to us whether we want to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness. The sheep can choose whether it wants to embrace the shepherd or to run away from him.

Today therefore, as we all celebrate this great solemnity of our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart, we all want to give thanks to our loving God, and glorify Him, as He has been so kind and compassionate to us, so gracious and so loving that even though we have committed sin and wickedness before Him and spurned His love, He was willing to forgive us and to welcome us back as long as we ourselves want to be forgiven and want to change our ways.

And not only that, God Himself has appointed His servants to be shepherds like Him, the Good Shepherd, modelled after Himself, to care for us all and to guide us all back to Him. And these are our devoted priests, all the men who had given themselves totally to serve the Lord and His people. The priests are those whom God had anointed to be His shepherds to lead the people whom He loves and cares for, so that they may find their path to Him.

So today is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life, when we all devote our prayer to our priests, that God may keep them holy and stay devoted to Him and to the mission to which they have been called to serve with zeal. It is not easy to become a priest and remain faithful as one these days, even as it was difficult in the past, as challenges and new obstacles arose to hamper the works of our priests.

And we all certainly know that not all priests had remained faithful as the good and just shepherds of God’s people. Some of them gave up along the way, abandoning the call and the vocation to which they have devoted themselves. They left the service and their calling because they were unable to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the mission entrusted to them, or that they had a change of heart and mind.

And worst of all, some even perverted and abused the purpose of their office, and betrayed the trust which those who have been entrusted to them had accorded to them. As a result, the faith and the Church were scandalised by them, and in the end, it was the good Name of our God which has been tainted and ruined by their actions.

I am speaking about those priests and servants of the Lord who had committed grievous sins by improper conduct and improper relationships even as they made their vow of chastity and purity, as well as improper desires and corrupt actions when they have already made the same vow to be pure and good role models. And this is the reality of our Church, how few of those who had been appointed as shepherds had erred and became bad shepherds and led the people into the wrong paths.

And because of these and other wicked and scandalous things that some of them did, it made the life and the work of the faithful priests and servants of God to be very difficult, and challenges continued to form in many varieties against our faithful and good shepherds. They are mocked, rejected and they were seen as those who had no future, and we can see even parents of those young men willing to join the priesthood actively discouraging them from entering the seminaries.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today pray for our priests, and let us all devote our prayers to them, asking God to bless them and keep them in His grace, and may He empower them and give them courage in order to persevere against all the challenges stacked against them. Let us all not be discouraged when we see our priests encounter many difficulties, but instead, let us be inspired by their examples, and those among us who have been called, let us consider carefully God’s calling.

May God bless us and our priests, that all of us, especially our priests may follow the example of Him Who is our Good Shepherd, showing love in all of our actions and devoting ourselves to the works of love, caring for all the flocks of the Lord, that all may be saved. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, 2 June 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyr)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the exchanges between Jesus and a teacher of the Law who asked Him about the most important commandment in the Law. And Jesus gave him the perfect answer, a summary of what the commandments and Law of God is truly about, that is love. For the Law of God is about love, and the love of God has been given to us.

The teachers of the Law, the Pharisees and the scribes at the time of Jesus were renowned for their very strict interpretation and imposition of the Law and the commandments of God, where they punished those who did not obey the laws and ostracised them from the society. They harshly ensured that the people obeyed the laws and ensured that they observed the strict sabbath law.

But Jesus pointed out to them a reality and a fact, how in this pursuit to fulfil the needs of the Law, they have ended up forgetting the true purpose of the Law. They ended up making the laws as mere formality and procedure, and less of understanding its true intent, that is love, and love which is ought to be present in our relationship with one another, and ultimately between us and our God.

God gave us the Law, the commandments and His precepts so that we may learn to love one another, and to love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul. He did not give us the laws and the commandments to unnecessarily burden us with the yoke of laws and rules. Yet, we mankind have often misused and misrepresented God’s good laws and rules to serve our own purposes.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced those rules and laws, because they liked themselves to be seen doing all those rules and obeying the set of laws they have set for themselves, for the purpose of being praised and adored for their deeds. They were serving not God or the people of God, but instead only themselves.

Thus, Jesus often rebuked them and showed His anger on them. It is because not only that they had placed such a burden on the people who had been entrusted under their care, but they also misled the people into believing that God is a fearsome and angry God Who will punish all those who did not fulfil the obligations which had been placed on them. In the end, they followed God not because they loved Him, but because they feared Him.

Therefore, all of us are reminded by St. Paul in his letter to St. Timothy, that we as Christians who believe in God should get rid of all things that have been keeping us away from God and His ways. All of us should find ways to devote ourselves to God through understanding more of the measures which He has taken in order to bring us closer to Him and to save us from certain destruction.

Let us all also keep in mind the examples of the two holy servants of God, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, whose feast we are commemorating on this day, that we may imitate their examples and follow them in their footsteps to become better disciples of our Lord. They were faithful and committed to God, and they endured suffering and martyrdom for the sake of their faith in God.

St. Marcellinus and St. Peter lived during the early years of the fourth century after the birth of Christ our Lord. They were told to be a priest and an exorcist living during the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly intense persecution of Christians throughout the Empire. They were martyred for their faith, as they refused to stop preaching the faith in God, and they also refused to abandon their faith for the comfort of the pagan gods.

They served the people of God with devotion and zeal, and they cared for the poor and the sick among the faithful, and casting out demons and evil spirits. They loved the people of God in the manner which God had taught us all to do, and they loved others and especially God, their Lord and Master, with all of their hearts, minds and soul, even unto death, refusing to let go of their Lord.

In all these, we should all learn from the examples of these holy saints and servants of God who have given their all to love the Lord their God and to love their fellow men. Let us all devote ourselves anew to God, and renew the faith which all of us have for Him, and do our best in order to serve Him and obey Him with love, and not with just mere formality or for the sake of doing it, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

May God see the love which we have for Him, and may our ways, actions and deeds be found to be worthy and good for our salvation. May God bless us all and strengthen our resolve to be ever more faithful to Him day after day. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the exchanges between Jesus and the Sadducees, an influential and powerful group in the Jewish society at the time, namely those who practiced and believed in pragmatism and rejecting spirituality and matters beyond what can be deduced with human reasoning, one of the greatest of which is the matter of the resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees did not believe in spirits, in Angels, in all things that are beyond this world. That is why they were particularly unhappy and angry at what Jesus had been telling the people about the matters of the life after death, the afterlife, and the promise of the eternal life after the death of the physical body. That is why they confronted Him and tried to discredit Him and brought Him into trouble by asking Him a difficult question to trap Him in His own words.

But Jesus gave them a perfect answer and rebuke, when they asked about whose wife would the woman attached to seven brothers be in heaven. Jesus rebuked them for their naivety and failure to look beyond matters of this world. These thought of things that are not important, thinking of woman as mere property and marriage as a mere formality.

They could not comprehend all these because they were thinking in worldly terms. They thought of living at the moment, living for the world that is now, and they even tend to fear of what is to come when people die. That is because firstly they did not believe in life after death, and death is feared as the end of everything. But they were very wrong indeed.

Indeed, all of us Christians have that core faith and belief in God, that we believe in the life of the world to come. That is placed prominently at the very end of our Creed, the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creed, which we recite with faith at every celebrations of the Holy Mass on Sundays. And we also believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered, died on the cross and rose again gloriously at the Resurrection.

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the hope for all of us Christians, and indeed, for all mankind, for through His own resurrection, all of us have been given an undeniable and solid proof of life beyond death, of our eventual triumph over death, and that death does not have the final say over us. We feared death because we saw it as an end, but in fact, death is not the end, rather the beginning of something new.

Today therefore, as in our first reading, as what St. Paul had written to St. Timothy, all of us are urged to stand up for our faith and live with devotion to our God. We must not fear and be afraid just because our faith and beliefs are against that of the world, or if the world persecutes us because we believe in God and His ways. This is how it is supposed to be, and what we must do as those who follow the Lord and His ways.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Justin the Martyr, a renowned servant of God whose life can indeed be inspiration for all of us. St. Justin was known especially for his many writings and works, particularly regarding the nature of God, on the nature of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Divine Word of God, Who became Man for our sake, Jesus Christ.

St. Justin explained many of the tenets and aspects of the faith through his many works, and thanks to him, many people grew firmer in their faith and many others were converted from their pagan ways. St. Justin did not fear the opposition of the world and openly preached his faith among the many communities of the faithful at that time. But the world did not remain quiet, and in the end, they persecuted the faithful, including St. Justin, who endured martyrdom for his faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Justin was courageous in his faith and devoted his whole life to serve the Lord, even amidst persecution and challenges laid in his path by the world and the Roman authorities. But, because of his hard works and his devotion to the faith, he has led many others into salvation, by his inspiring examples, which helped to call many more people to remain faithful to God and His ways.

Shall we all therefore also follow his examples and live our faith and our lives with zeal and devotion? We should not be afraid of the world’s rejection, but rather, we should grow ever bolder and stronger in standing up for our faith and our beliefs, against the ways of this world that are against the Lord’s ways.

Let us all hold firm in our beliefs, in what Jesus had taught us all through His Church, that we may not be swayed by the falsehoods of the world. In the Risen Lord, His resurrection has given us the sure hope and the certainty of the future for us if we believe in Him and keep our faith in Him alive. May God help us to remain firmly faithful to Him at all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the moment when Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, came to visit her cousin, Elizabeth in the mountain counties of Judea. It was the sixth month since Elizabeth has become pregnant by the grace of God, with the herald of the Messiah, John the Baptist in her womb, while Mary herself carried Jesus, the Lord and Messiah in her womb.

Today is a day of joy, since the same joy experienced by John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth his mother is also the same joy which all of us should experience. After all, we are all mortal and sinful men, all of whom have sinned and did not deserve the kindness, mercy, love and forgiveness from our Lord, and yet He generously extended His love, which He had shown us through none other than Jesus, His only Son.

Today we remember that God has loved us all mankind so much, and indeed so great is His love that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour and Redeemer so that all of us who believe in Him may be saved and may receive eternal life through Him. He has willingly come down into this world so that through Him the world of men may have hope and light in the midst of all the darkness.

And in all these, Mary played a very central role indeed, as the one through whom the Saviour was to be born. Mary fulfilled perfectly the role to which she had been appointed to by the Lord, by obeying the commands which God had given her, faithfully carrying out the mission and believing and trusting in the providence of God, that whatever God’s will is for her, it shall be done.

Elizabeth too believed in the Lord, and she obeyed Him in all things, and God rewarded her with the very important role, to be the mother of the herald of the Messiah, the one to usher in the coming of the Lord Himself, even though she was already very old and long past child bearing age. Through her, and ultimately through Mary, God showed this world, that His divine protection, grace and blessings are with those who obey Him.

The song of Mary, the Magnificat which Mary sang, filled with the Holy Spirit is the great song of thanksgiving for all the great things which God had done for her, and ultimately, also for all those who have been faithful to God. And in that song, we too have the same hope, the same joy and the same gladness, knowing that God is also with us, and will also bless us in the same manner if we are faithful to Him.

Therefore today, it is imperative that all of us find a moment to reflect on the great occasion of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. The Lord has come upon us and showed us His mercy, and He is willing to forgive us, but are we all willing and ready to forgive ourselves? Are we all ready to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as the Lord has committed Himself to us?

Let us all change ourselves, our ways and everything that we do, so that in all things, we may draw ever closer to God, and become ever more devoted servants and followers of our God. Let us become truly worthy of God, so that when He comes again in His glory, we may be welcomed into His eternal kingdom, and receive the glory of eternal life with Him. Amen.

Sunday, 29 May 2016 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we commemorate the great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi or Corpus Domini. On this great solemnity, which is traditionally also celebrated on the previous week Thursday, we celebrate the very centre of the mysteries of our faith, namely the fact that our Lord and God, had given Himself to us, through the offering of bread and wine which He transformed into the very essence and matter of His own Body and Blood.

And this perfectly summarises our faith in the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist, which we believe to be the complete and real transformation of those elements of bread and wine into God Himself, and not just some mere symbolic representations or memorial of what the Lord had done at the Last Supper. At every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest did what Jesus Himself had done at that moment, when He gave His own Body and Blood for the salvation of all those who share in them.

But lest we misunderstand or think wrongly of it, we should look on the common misconception about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Firstly, indeed the bread and wine which the priests offer in the same manner as the High Priest of God, Melchizedek had offered them, had been transformed completely in matter and substance to that of God Himself, and yet at the same time, visually they remain as bread and wine, and by taste, they still taste like that of bread and wine.

We tend to link and relate what our senses have received and felt with our understanding and comprehension on things that are around us. And that is why, indeed, it is not easy for us to understand and accept that the mere bread and wine is the very same as the Lord, Master and King of all the universe, including that all of us, and how the wholeness of that great Divine being is contained in His entirety, within that small piece of bread or within that small volume of wine.

But it is the same, with how the same Lord and God has become a humble and mere Man, the Lord and Master of all the universe becomes like one of His own creations. It is part of the great mysteries that is our faith, and requires all of us to overcome our doubts and our reluctance to believe in what our Lord has taught us, the truth which He brings us all.

If we read the Gospel today, what Jesus had done there, the famous miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish, where Jesus multiplied them to fill the stomachs of five thousand men and countless thousands other women and children, and yet still managing to gather twelve basketful of leftover bread, all of these are beyond our normal human comprehension, and yet it shows once again the reality of God, Who He is, and what He is going to do to us and show to us through His love.

By feeding the people, Jesus is showing Himself as a Shepherd, as a loving Father and Lover of us all, that He intends to give us good things and bless us, and through the same love, He established a new and everlasting covenant with us all, not with the blood of animals, goats, lambs or doves, but with the very Blood and essence of His own, the Precious Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, offered and given for us all for our salvation.

In the past, God has established His covenant with mankind many times, and renewed them many times, by the sealing of the covenant with the offering of the fats and blood of lambs and goats on the holy and blessed altars, just as what He had established with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham, Moses and all the other figures we knew from the history of our faith, but all these were imperfect offerings and serve only temporarily.

Indeed, as the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the other sources mentioned, when the priests offered the sin offerings of goats and lambs on the altar, they were offering these for themselves, as well as for the sins of the people who had been entrusted to their care. And no amount of animal blood offering and sacrifices can erase the great entirety of the sins and wickedness of all mankind. Only One can do so.

And that one source from where salvation came, was the Lord, and is the Lord our God Himself, Who by His own will and power, came to share in our own humanity, taking up the form of our own flesh and blood, so that by uniting us to Himself in spirit and in the essence of our creation, He may gather us all and bring us to share with Him the glory of His salvation, and the eternal life He brought with Him.

After all, what is more precious than the very Blood of the Lamb of God, Who is flawless and perfect, without blame and holy? It is the only one that can heal us all and free us all from our sins, from all of our faults and iniquities for all eternity. The saints and martyrs as represented in the vision of St. John in the Book of Revelations wore white robes that has been cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb, because they worthily share in the Body and Blood of our Lord, and have been tested, and their faith has been found true and worthy of God.

Thus, it is a reminder to all of us as well. Have we been faithful to God, and have we shared worthily in the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord? When we welcome the Lord Himself through the Eucharist into ourselves, in reality, the Lord Himself has come to dwell in us, and we become the Temple and House of our God. And if God dwells in us, certainly, we should make sure that this Temple, that is our body, our mind, heart and soul are clear from filth and fornication.

Henceforth, shall we all reevaluate our lives, all of our actions and deeds? Shall we all remember the things which we have done all these while? Have we kept our Temple of the Lord’s Presence that is our body, mind, heart and soul worthy and in good condition? If we truly believe that Jesus our Lord is truly present in the bread and wine which have been transformed into the very substance and essence of our Lord, should we not think many times before we even contemplate sinning before God?

And if any of us are to doubt Him because we think that in every sacrifice of the Mass, Christ is being made to repeat again and again the sacrifice for the salvation of our souls, as some of those who refused to believe has accused the Church of God, then we ought to know and understand that, the priests, whom God had called and chosen from among us, are all His representatives, who lead all the faithful to offer their prayers and offerings to God, and to unite it with the sacrifice made by our Lord at the Altar of Calvary.

This means that the Holy Mass and the Eucharist we celebrate there is the same sacrifice which Jesus our Lord made at Calvary, when on that day, He laid Himself to be hung on the cross between the heavens and the earth, that by that singular and ultimate offering, God may deliver us all from our sins and from our fate of damnation and annihilation into eternal life.

Therefore, from now on, let us all rejuvenate our devotion to our Lord in the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Eucharist. Let us redouble our efforts in committing ourselves to He Who has given His all, even shedding His Blood for our sake. He has not even hesitated to lay down His life for us, so that we may live.

Let us all devote ourselves to Him and His cause, and from now on, do only things that are in accordance with His will and His ways, that our bodies and hearts, minds and souls may be free from sin and be a worthy House and dwelling place for our God, that we may find place in His salvation. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today St. Jude in his Epistle in our first reading reminds us all that as Christians, all of us have to hold fast and strong to the laws and the precepts that the Lord has passed down to us through His Church, doing all that is righteous and just, acceptable to the Lord our God, so that in all the things that we do, we may be ever faithful and be worthy of our God.

It means that we should not give in to fornication of the flesh and the soul, and neither should we do things that bring about harm and darkness upon each other. We must remain firm in our commitment and our faith to God, even though the world and all of the enemies of the Lord are trying actively to hinder us on our journey onward towards the salvation and eternal life in God.

In the Gospel today, we heard about how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were openly doubting the authority of Jesus, even went as far as asking Him directly in front of the people, under what authority He has been acting and doing all that He has done. That is as far as someone can go in trying to discredit or undermine another’s authority by openly showing doubt in front of so many people.

And yet, Jesus rebuked them and countered them excellently, pointing out to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that His authority is indeed from God, even more so if St. John the Baptist himself had come from God. He put them the question that prevented them from trying to undermine His authority any longer, as they were not able to disclaim whatever St. John the Baptist had done as a mere human action, but indeed divine instead.

And if you are wondering why were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law so adamantly set in their opposition against Jesus, then we should just take note and understand more of the situation at that time, where the Jewish society were dominated by the powerful elders and the masters of the laws and customs of the Jewish society, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests.

In those days, where many cultures and customs were competing against each other, and when multicultural societies were the norm, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were self-appointed guardians of the Jewish society and culture, and they took a particularly strict and often unreasonable approach in enforcing the laws of Moses to the people.

And thus they looked at anyone who did not belong to them, and performing miracles, teaching about the faith to the people as rivals, especially those who did not subscribe to the same view as theirs. They enjoyed the adulation and praise from the people, and the fame and glory that accompanied their position. And naturally, as is our human nature, they feared the moment when any of these were to be taken away from them. And thus, they were willing to even oppose God just so that they could preserve themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not the way that we should behave, even as St. Jude in his Epistle had reminded us all the faithful ones. We have to let go of all these and we must not allow ourselves to be controlled by our desire, our wants, our needs and all that make us hunger for more, either wealth, or possessions, or any other forms of worldly attachments, that are bound to keep us away from the Lord.

Let us all instead commit ourselves to works of charity, caring for one another, and bringing the true faith to them, by first practicing it in our own lives. May our words, actions and deeds speak loudly of our faith in God, and while remaining humble and true to our devotion to God, He Who has come into the world, Jesus our Lord, so that all of us may be saved. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 27 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, listening at the passage which we heard from the Gospel today, surely many of us would feel kind of unsettled and fearful at what Jesus has said and done. After all, we heard how Jesus our Lord cursed the fig tree without fruits, and made it to dry up and die. And then, Jesus also showed His wrath on the merchants and money changers who set up stalls in the Temple grounds, chasing them out with whip and lashes.

In this passage therefore, we see the side of our Lord which we tend to forget or ignore, and an aspect which we tend to overlook when we think about God. We always tend to see God as a loving, kind, merciful and compassionate God, but then they forget that He is also a vengeful and angry God against those who have been unfaithful. He exacts judgment against those who disobeyed Him and refused to listen to Him.

We live in a world where many have forgotten about the consequences of sin, and therefore, as a result, we tend to become desensitised to sin, and we often ignore the consequences of our sins, to the point that we may just sin without even being worried about it, or being affected by it. And the main reason for this, is the lack of that understanding and the seriousness which we ought to have when we refer to sin and all the fruits of wickedness in our actions.

Indeed, it is just like the barren fig tree. We are the fig trees, and if we are without fruits, barren and dry, then we have truly not deserved the good graces and blessings of God. Instead, curses and destruction is our only share. And if we think that Jesus was being unreasonable because it was not the fig season, then we should understand how this is related to what Jesus spoke in another parable.

Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is coming to us in the manner like that of a thief, unexpected and sudden, without prior warning and without any signs to let us know that it is coming. It is just as Jesus came by suddenly to the fig tree, outside the fig season, and finding the tree to be barren and without any fruits. And thus it received only curses and not blessings, and it perished.

Thus, the same fate awaits all of us, if we do not learn from what the Scriptures are trying to tell us. And that is if we live like the merchants and the sellers, the money changers and all who filled up the sacred Temple grounds with their unholy transactions and dirty money. And as a result, they earned the wrath of God, Who whipped them and lashed at them, chasing them out of the Temple of God, the Holy residence of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must really devote ourselves to the Lord, in all things and commit ourselves to His ways, through our sincere devotion, and by all the loving acts which we should show to one another, caring for our brethren in need, and giving them the love which they ought to receive and which we ought to give. And in this manner, perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of the saint whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Augustine of Canterbury.

St. Augustine of Canterbury was one of the first bishops of the region known as England. His works there was instrumental in reestablishing the Christian faith and the Church in England. He was a religious monk from Rome, who was tasked by the then reigning Pope, Pope St. Gregory the Great to be the evangeliser of England and all of its neighbouring countries.

England had been Christianised by the preceding Roman era, when the Roman Empire still controlled the region. But with the invasion by the barbarian Saxons and Jutes, the Angles and others, Christian faith has largely died out in that country. As a result, there was a great need to reinvigorate the Church and reestablish the Church structure and hierarchy in England.

St. Augustine of Canterbury thus went forth to a region of unknown challenges, where he laboured hard for the sake of the faith, and he had to endure persecutions from the pagans and rejection from those who refused to accept the truth of God. But he persevered on, and showed them care, concern and love. And in teaching the people about the truths and wonders of God, St. Augustine showed them the path to God, and his actions bore many wonderful fruits, including the conversion of the king of the place where he ministered in, and many people who came to be baptised afterwards.

By his works, many people have been saved from the certainty of damnation and death, and these are truly the rich fruits of faith which St. Augustine had produced, and by which he was made justified and right in the presence of God. And that is why he is now counted among the holy saints of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can follow in his footsteps and be like him.

Let us all therefore renew our efforts to live our lives faithfully and renew our commitment to God, that we may give our all to the Lord and glorify Him through our actions. May He continue to bless us and keep us forever in His grace. Amen.

Thursday, 26 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of our Lord spoken to us through His Apostle Peter, whom in our first reading today spoke about all of us as the people of God, children and followers of our God, and how we ought to act as truly a child of God, as the possession of our Lord. St. Peter has shown us in his Epistle how grateful and thankful all of us should be, for having been chosen by God to be His people.

And in the Gospel today we heard about how Jesus healed the blind man because of his faith, as he showed the commitment and devotion that had saved him, as God saw in him a genuine faith, and a genuine desire to love Him, to turn back away from the darkness of the world, and by his faith thus he had been healed and made whole once again.

But in this, there is a danger, brothers and sisters in Christ, as some among us would certainly be led to think that once we have faith, then we do not need to do anything, as our faith have saved us after all. And even, there are those, who think that believing in salvation through good deeds and works is false and against God. Yet, the reality is that this is the truth, and faith alone is not sufficient for us to guarantee our salvation in God.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that while we may have faith in God, but faith alone is meaningless if our lives do not show the faith which we profess or claim to have in God. In fact, if we say that we have faith in God, and yet our actions and deeds prove to be otherwise, then it is not just that it is not faith, but also that it will scandalise our faith.

How will people believe in us, and in what we are teaching them about our Lord if we ourselves did not practice what we have preached and spoken to them? And worse still if our actions directly contradicted what we have preached to them. Then we become no better than the hypocrites, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of old, who preached about the Law of God and yet did not practice them on their own.

Our faith grows and develops through active and frequent cultivation of the good deeds which we did in the Name of God, obeying His will and commandments. It is not a dead and stagnant faith, but instead a living and evolving one, where our love for the Lord is constantly tested and growing, as we live our lives and as we commit ourselves each and every day to God and His ways.

The blind man did not give up even though he was ridiculed and scolded when he called upon the Lord Jesus to heal him. In fact, the more they tried to prevent him to speak, the more and the louder he shouted. In the same way, all of us should do the same as what the blind man had done. We need to put in effort to live faithfully as God’s people, and we cannot be complacent or be inactive, lest the second coming of our Lord catch us red-handed without genuine love and faith for our God.

Perhaps, we should heed the examples of St. Philip Neri, the holy saint and servant of God whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Philip Neri was a renowned priest and preacher, who for his works and dedications to the people of God were remembered for many generations, and he was also known as the Apostle of Rome because of his works in Rome, at the heart of Christendom.

He was the son of a noble and rich merchant family, who was educated in in a Dominican monastery, intended to inherit the great wealth of his family. However, God’s will was that St. Philip Neri should lead a different path in life, abandoning all the luxuries and possessions accredited to him, and instead choosing the path of service and devotion, as God’s calling grew strong in his heart.

He entered the religious life and devoted his life to serving the poor and the less fortunate ones in the society, particularly those who have erred and sinned in their path towards the Lord. He was particularly concerned about those who have fallen into sin, and tried his best to help and rescue them. He worked among prostitutes and others rejected by the society, and helped them to correct their ways.

He also established the Confraternity of the Oratory, as well as other religious organisations, through which he devoted his life and time, and inspired many others, even unto the current generation, to follow in his footsteps. By looking and understanding about the examples of St. Philip Neri, we ourselves can also be inspired to do more for the sake of the less fortunate around us, and give our love to those who are unloved and ostracised.

In all these, linking back to what we have discussed just earlier, we can see that the faith shown by St. Philip Neri is truly real and genuine, as shown through his works and commitments, and not just through empty proclamations and claims to faith. Thus, we too should show our faith through devotion and commitment. We should learn to obey the Lord through action and through good works obeying what Jesus our Lord had told us all to do.

May God bless us and keep us, and may He strengthen us, and give us the courage to lead a life true and devoted to God, amidst all the temptations of this world. Let us all dedicate ourselves to God and follow His ways in all things we do and say. God be with us all. Amen.