Tuesday, 10 March 2020 : 2nd Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Sunday, 8 February 2015 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sexagesima Sunday and Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to progress on towards the celebration of the most important parts of our Faith, that is the suffering, Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is Sexagesima Sunday, or literally meaning ‘sixty’ as a reminder for us that we are within about sixty days from the coming of Easter.

And on this day we heard about the nature of our lives, of our dwelling in this world, and the answer to all of our difficulties, plight and sorrows. As the first reading, taken from the Book of Job had mentioned, the suffering of this world, the pain and sorrow we all experienced, are like what Job had once experienced when Satan tested and tempted him against the Lord.

If we read the entirety of the Book of Job from the beginning to the end, we would realise that the suffering of mankind was never, ever the intention of our Lord. Suffering is in fact the result of the works of Satan and all of his allies, the forces of darkness in this world, and also more importantly, because of our disobedience against the will of God, that is sin.

Job’s friends accused Job of having sinned and committed wickedness before God. But meanwhile Job continued to complain and lamented for his sufferings, part of which we heard in our readings today, he continued to remain faithful to the Lord and never did once he cursed the Lord or blamed Him for what had happened to him. God showed Job that there are much that he did not understand, and He gave His answer to all of Job’s complaints, and for his continued faith despite his ramblings, he received great rewards surpassing what he had lost and what he had suffered from.

Thus, God wants to succour us and help us, and that was what God intends with us. The psalm today speaks of the healing which we can find in God, and it is this healing which our Lord Jesus Christ had brought with Him as He entered into our world to save it and to save all of us, His beloved people and children. The Gospel today reinforced this, by showing how Christ is concerned with all of His people, from the greatest to the least, and was concerned about spreading the truth He brought into the world to all the peoples.

He worked to heal the people of their afflictions, of the diseases that scourged their bodies, just as Job once was covered with boils and scabs that itched, and far above all these, was the healing which our Lord wrought upon our souls. What is this sickness of our souls? It is none other than sin. Sin is the scourge upon all of us, and it is a great barrier that prevents us from reuniting and being in complete unity and reconciliation with our Lord.

But we truly have no need for fear, as the Lord Himself had spared nothing else but Himself, and incarnate through His own Son, He made Himself the salvation and deliverance for us all mankind. For He is the Word of God, the Divine Word who is God and always is with God since before the beginning of time, and who was incarnate in the flesh to become like one of us, born a Man.

And through Jesus therefore, the word of God became real and concrete in this world, and instead of speaking through messengers and prophets, by the coming of Jesus into the world, God Himself speaks directly to us all, by what Jesus had taught us, and which His Apostles and disciples, and through them the Church, had preserved and passed down upon us.

In the readings for the Sexagesima Sunday, we hear of the parable of Jesus, that is the teaching of Jesus using stories and real experiences to make it easier for people to understand, the translation of the word of God into the words of men. Through what Jesus taught the people, what we know as the parable of the sower, the word of God has the power to bring us from the darkness of this world and from the suffering of the world into eternal happiness and joy with God.

However, as the parable shows us, that the word of God is like seeds planted by the Lord, who is the Sower, and the fate of those seeds depend on what kind of treatment or soil that they land on. This means that from our side, we must put in effort and work to ensure that the word of God can fall on fertile soil, and hence grow to bear rich fruits, that will lead us to our eternal reward, just as God once rewarded Job for his faith.

There will be many obstacles, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the parable shows us, and surely as our own experiences should have told us, that to be truly faithful and devoted to the Lord, and to follow Him in all of our ways is not going to be easy. Temptations of the world, the pressure from our peers and friends, and from the world itself to conform to the ways of the world or be rejected will be great, and it is on our part that we need to put in our effort to resist those challenges and temptations.

Today we celebrate the feast of two saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, two people who had very different life stories, and yet their experiences and examples will show us that what God had done unto us, by His coming into the world to offer us His generous mercy and love, is truly unmatched and unprecedented in the history of this world.

St. Jerome Emiliani was once a civil servant who worked in the government sector a few hundred years ago in what is today Italy. He eventually left behind everything to join the sacred priesthood and dedicated himself completely to the Lord and to his fellow men. St. Jerome Emiliani was renowned especially for his great love and care for orphans and all the children who were destitute and filled with problems in their lives.

St. Jerome Emiliani therefore helped to establish institutions and places where orphans and many other people who had been ostracised and rejected could stay as their new homes, and he himself with other priests and servants of God ministered to them and cared for them. He also established houses to accommodate former prostitutes who had repented from their sins.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was born in what is now Sudan just a century and half ago, and when she was young, she had to taste the bitter pill of war and violence, as well as the experience of slavery and subjugation by others, forced to accept the religion of heathens by her captors. She was sold as a slave and she was treated very badly, often tortured and not given proper food and place to live in.

By the grace of God, she was freed from her slavery when she was purchased from her previous owners by a Christian diplomat who came into the region and then entrusted St. Josephine Bakhita with the care of his family and children. A court thereafter ruled that St. Josephine Bakhita had not been legally a slave as where she was at, the state had ruled out slavery since before her birth, and thus she was then a freedman.

She was then baptised as a Christian and accepted into the Church by the future Pope St. Pius X, who was then the Patriarch of Venice, as she lived in the region where he had jurisdiction in. St. Josephine Bakhita thereafter joined the Canossian sisters, where she had lived for a while prior to her freedom, and from then on she lived a life of holy contemplation and filled with prayers and dedication to God. Great is her reward at the end of her earthly life.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter, as well as we prepare for the season of Lent that precedes the former, which is soon to come, let us all take all these lessons and words into our hearts. St. Jerome Emiliani cared for the least of the people, the orphans and the rejected, just as Christ Himself gave Himself to the service of all those who have not been loved and those persecuted by others.

Let us all allow God to come into our lives, and through the planting of His words in our hearts, let us all be changed and transformed to become true and faithful children of our Lord, in all our words and deeds. Like St. Josephine Bakhita, the slaves turned freedman and then into a faithful servant and devoted woman, by allowing God to come into our lives, we allow ourselves to be freed from the slavery of sin and detaching ourselves from the things of this world.

May Almighty God bless us all, guide us all back to Him and in Him may we find satisfaction, succour and enlightenment, that we may all rejoice in Him in His everlasting glory, as we receive the great rewards for our faith, and may all of us be healed from the earthly and worldly afflictions. Amen.

Thursday, 17 April 2014 : Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Easter Triduum (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

It was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist.

Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing. When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.”

Peter replied, “You shall never wash My feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.” Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash, except the feet, for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Monday, 10 March 2014 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 25 : 31-46

When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His angels, He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be brought before Him, and as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will He do with them, placing the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.

The King will say to those on His right, “Come, blessed of My Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your house. I was naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came to see Me.”

Then the good people will ask Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and give You food; thirsty, and give You something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome You; or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and go to see You?”

The King will answer, “Truly I say to you : whenever you did this to these little ones who are My brothers and sisters, you did it to Me.”

Then He will say to those on His left, “Go, cursed people, out of My sight into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.”

They, too, will ask, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help You?”

The King will answer them, “Truly I say to you : Whatever you did not do for one of these little ones, you did not do it for Me.”

“And these will go into eternal punishment, but the just to eternal life.”

Sunday, 9 February 2014 : 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

We are light of the world and salt of the earth. That is what our Lord had made us all to be, all those who believe in Him and has been welcomed and are now part of His Body, that is His Church. We are all called to be light and salt for all the nations, and to proclaim the kingdom of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the nations, to all the peoples, especially those who live in darkness and those who have no flavour in their lives.

Yes, we are called to bring light to those who had fallen into the darkness and to bring flavour to the blandness of people’s lives in this world. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear in the first reading, from the book of the prophet Isaiah, of the examples of the things we can do, in order to accomplish this in accordance with God’s will.

In all of us, God has given seeds of faith, hope, and love, and many gifts of various types, which we can use to help one another, and bring indeed the light and flavour to the livelihood of many. Each one of us have different set of skills and abilities, granted to us by God, awaiting for us to use them for the good of our fellow men, our fellow brothers and sisters.

Yet, many of us did not use these gifts God had given us, and let them to be dormant. There are various reasons attributed to this lack of action, but the most important and common of which include, fear of failure and embarrassment, laziness and sloth, and finally, greed and desire for self-aggrandisement and glorification. All of these prevent us from utilising fully God’s gifts for each one of us.

And when this happened, the light that is in us becomes hidden, and the salt that is in us becomes tasteless and bland, and therefore the gifts in us become dormant and useless. We fear failure and embarrassment in the eyes of men, because we are concerned of how others view us and our actions, as we practice our faith in this world. We also have our own desires and temptations, that we use our gifts instead for the benefit of others, but for our own good and our own glory, often at the expense of many others.

We are often to take the first step, and have the initiative to embark on the mission of good works as the Lord had told us to do, because we are often uncertain, what will our actions do to ourselves. We often ask ourselves first many times, whether what we are doing or going to do will impact us in a way that disadvantages us, by making us look embarrassed or less preferable by our society and our friends in any way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this world has its set of values, many of which do not necessarily agree or correspond to the values which our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord in the Holy Scriptures had taught us. The world therefore will not necessarily see our actions based on our faith in good light, but our Lord who sees all, will see that whatever we are doing, to be good.

If we continue to be concerned about our image or standing in the society, as well as our friendships and relationships, then it may be difficult for us to be truly the light and salt of the world. To be light of the world, we have to throw far, far away our prejudices, our fears, and our uncertainties. Instead we should put our trust in God, and believe in Him only, trusting that He will guide our way to the truth.

We should also throw far away our desire and our greed, for power, for affluence, for pleasure, and for many other things of the world. If we are to become the true light of the world and salt of the earth, then we have to be truly selfless, that our beings be transformed to be conduits of God’s love and grace, that through us, the world will see the Light of our Lord and the beauty that He brings into this world, which brings flavour to all things.

We should not be worry or fearful, but yet we too should not be showy or seeking attention in any way. We have to make use of what God has given us, in faith, hope and love, and show them through concrete actions, out of pure and unadulterated and unconditional love for our brethren, just as the prophet Isaiah had said.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards, resolve to seek out those in need, whether they are in need of material goods, basic survival items, or even as simple as needing love. Let us be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, showing this world that there is much good in God and in following God, that all mankind may be saved in the Lord. God be with us all. Amen.