Saturday, 25 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Scripture passages reminds us of the love which God had given us generously and willingly, that He has blessed us beyond all other beings in creations, far surpassing even the Angels and other creatures. We are all reminded of the kindness of our Lord, Who treated us not as slaves and servants, but instead as children, and as He is our Father, He blesses us and treats us in the best way that is possible for us.

He has created us in His own image and blessed us so abundantly, that no one else could have hoped to compare with us. For we mankind have been made to be God’s very own children, to partake in His inheritance and in His glory, and to enjoy forever the blessed fruits of the glorious kingdom of God. That was what God intended for us mankind, certainly not to see us suffer and perish in the darkness and sin, but instead to have us enjoy the fullness of His love for us.

Yet, we all know that we have spurned the love of God and rejected the grace which He had offered us. We have disobeyed Him as those who have lost their way and chose to follow their own paths, and although God had revealed His glory and might in various occasions throughout history, we mankind often always tried to find reasons and excuses for not following Him and fall deep into the wickedness of our sins.

This is when all of us should heed what the Lord Jesus said to His disciples in today’s Gospel reading, that all of His people ought to welcome the children and allow them to come to the Lord, and embrace Him, and follow the examples of these children in their own faith. And there is indeed a very good reason in this, and this requires us to understand what the faith of a child is like.

A child is a very innocent person, whose heart and mind is still pure and unburdened by the many concerns of the world. Unlike many of us, a child is still pure at heart, and the faith of a child is a pure faith. The children look towards the Lord and desire to be with Him, because that is our true human nature, who have been created out of love by God, and in that love, we receive the grace and the desire to love Him back.

Unfortunately, we have often been distracted by the many worldly concerns and temptations. Yes, all the things that have distracted us and kept us away from being able to truly be able to love the Lord with all our hearts. We have been burdened by monetary concerns, by the temptations of worldly pleasures, the sinful pleasures of the flesh, the temptation of desire, lust, the pull of pride, ambition and human greed. These are all the things that have kept us away from God.

We need to spend some time to think about this, brothers and sisters in Christ. Have we been so occupied and distracted by our worldly living and concerns that we have failed to see the real purpose and aim of our life, that is our God, and to love Him with all of our heart and with all of our strength just as He Himself had loved us first? This is what we all need to do, and we need to begin from now if we have not done so yet.

Let us all seek to purify ourselves from all forms of sins and wickedness, that all of us will be like children in our faith, genuine and true, unmasked by all the ugliness of our sins, desires, human greed and all the other things that have kept us away from God. Let us show the Lord our God, that we are truly worthy of being the ones to receive the inheritance which He had intended for us when He created us. Let us prove that we want to be with Him, and desire to be reconciled and be reunited with Him.

May the Lord continue to love us, and may He continue to be merciful towards us, that in all of our daily lives and daily works, we may gradually be more and more attuned to His ways and learn to be more like Him in all our ways, actions, words and deeds. May the Lord help us on this journey to return to Him, that all of us may be filled with joy. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 25 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Mark 10 : 13-16

At that time, people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Saturday, 25 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Psalm 102 : 13-14, 15-16, 17-18a

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

The days of mortals are like grass; they bloom like a flower of the field; but the wind passes over it, and it is gone, his field will not see him again.

But the Lord’s kindness is forever with those who fear Him; so is His justice, for their children’s children, for those who keep His covenant and remember His commands.

Saturday, 25 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Sirach 17 : 1-13

The Lord created man from the earth and let him return to earth. He settled a fixed time for them and a set number of days, giving them power over everything on earth. He endowed them with a strength like His own, making them in His own image.

He put fear of them in all living things, thus they had mastery over the animals and birds. He endowed them with knowledge; He gave them tongue and eyes, ears and a mind to think with. He filled them with wisdom and knowledge; He taught them good and evil. He put His own eye in their hearts so they would understand the greatness of His works. They will praise His holy Name and relate the magnificence of His creation.

He gave them revealed knowledge as well and handed over to them the Law of life. He established an everlasting covenant with them and let them know His judgments. Human eyes saw the splendour of the Glory of God; their ears heard the grandeur of His voice.

Friday, 24 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures which have a profound impact on our lives, especially those with regards to the very fabric of our Christian families, that is the matter of marriage or holy matrimony. We have to realise that in this day and time, in our world today, the institution of marriage often comes under attack from many directions, from all those who were trying to destroy and desecrate its sanctity.

In the first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Sirach, we heard a very good advice regarding friendships and relationships between us and one another. In that passage, we heard about the importance of building up good and healthy relationship, to make real and faithful friends, and not just acquaintances, or worse still, friends for benefits. What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ?

It means that we must not be hasty to make relationships based on worldly qualifications alone. We must not be quick to establish relationships based on worldly pleasures and matters such as money and temptations of the flesh, lust and human desires. This is exactly the same in the matter of relationships and even marriage. People judged and made decisions based on appearances and on superficial matters, rather than truly understanding what a true relationship is about.

That is why, in many relationships, the foundations were weak and they were easily shaken. In many occasions, these relationships endured only through the good times, and when bad things and troubles come, the relationships foundered and broke apart. That is why in recent times, we had so much troubles with divorces and broken families, unfaithful husbands and wives, who committed adulterous relationships.

There were many people who build their lives and relationships on unsteady foundations of money, possessions, worldly things, lust, pleasure, earthly beauty and many others. As such once the worldly things that do not last forever disappear or are used up, it leads to a collapse in the marriage life and in the family structure. This is what had plagued many of our families in recent times, and which also troubled the Church as a whole.

For truly, families are the basic units of the Church and our faith, for it is through the instructions of our parents that we have first received our faith, listened to the teachings of the Church, which they themselves had received from their own parents. If this familial structure breaks down, then the faith of whole generations will also stumble and become shaky, and the whole Church will be affected.

It is a reality that in many of our families today, there is no place for God. God does not take a centre place in our families. That is why we have divorces and adulterous relationships. We put our trust in things of this world, and they are not good enough, and we in our greed seek for more worldly pleasures and this led us all into sin. That was what Jesus condemned in the Gospel today.

Jesus was very clear in His message in the Gospel today, that all those who have consciously without a valid reason, such as those written in the laws of the Church, broke the sanctity of the Sacrament of the Holy Matrimony, have committed great sin before God. And all the more, if the person remarries another person, or have any form of relationships with another person, then the sin committed is even greater.

Jesus was very clear in His words, that the union which God had made and blessed, cannot be undone by mankind, and no person has the authority and freedom to undo what God had decreed, the union between man and woman in the Holy Matrimony. But this is where instead of we just blaming the families and the people involved, we need to look deeper at the root cause of it all, as I have just mentioned earlier.

Is God in our daily lives? Do we allow Him to take charge of our lives? In our families, do we put God in a place of honour, and look up to Him at all times? Or have we rather allowed ourselves to be carried away by money, by lust, by our greed, and by all sorts of other things that have prevented us from truly having a functional, loving and holy family?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today pray for all couples of the faithful people of God, that they will keep solemnly and faithfully the vows they have made before God on the day of their Holy Matrimony. Let us all pray that they will be able to keep their promises before God, and build up together holy, functional and loving families, through which faith can be transmitted and passed on, ensuring that our Church remains strong, vibrant and living.

May the Lord empower us and our families, so that He may always be at the centre of our lives, and we may be able to resist the temptations of worldliness, and all the other things that have caused us to sin and broke apart our families. May the Lord give us His strength so that we may persevere in faith, and remain true to Him, all of us and our families together as one. Amen.

Friday, 24 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Mark 10 : 1-12

At that time, Jesus then left that place and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more crowds gathered around Him and once more He taught them as He always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put Him to the test with this question, “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?”

He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.” Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you are stubborn. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female, and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So they are no longer two but one body. Therefore let no one separate what God has joined.”

When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked Him about this, and He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against his wife, and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another also commits adultery.”

Friday, 24 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 118 : 12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35

Praise to You, o Lord; instruct me in Your statutes, that with my lips I may declare all Your spoken decrees.

In Your laws I will rejoice and will not neglect Your words.

Open my eyes that I may see the marvellous truths in Your law.

Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law with all my heart.

Guide me in obeying Your instructions, for my pleasure lies in them.

Friday, 24 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Sirach 6 : 5-17

A gentle word makes many friends, an agreeable tongue calls forth gracious replies. Let your friends be many; but your counsellors, one in a thousand! If you would gain a friend, begin by testing him and do not put your confidence in him too quickly. For there is the friend who is such when it suits him but he does not remain faithful in the time of your adversity.

There is the friend who becomes an enemy and, to your confusion, makes known why you quarrelled. There is the friend who shares your table but does not remain faithful when things go against you. In times of prosperity he will be like your shadow and he will speak freely to those of your household. But if you are humiliated, he will turn against you and will avoid meeting you.

Distance yourself from your enemies and be careful about your friends. The faithful friend is a secure refuge; whoever has found one has found a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond all price; hold him as priceless. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, and those who fear the Lord will find one.

Whoever fears the Lord will make true friends for, as a man is, such will his friend be.

Thursday, 23 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard a very clear call through the Sacred Scripture passages, for us to repent from our sinfulness, reject our wayward path of life, and make a turnaround to follow the Lord our God with all our heart and strength, following Him with all sincerity and commitment. This is what the Lord had called us all to do, and we really should go and listen to what He had said.

Sin is something that had become a difficult and persistent stumbling block on our path, which is due to our disobedience and refusal to obey to the Lord and His ways. And all of these were born from our own human sense of pride, of arrogance and greed, as the prophet Sirach mentioned in our first reading today, as a series of warnings for us, not to be haughty and be overconfident, thinking that nothing can harm us.

Indeed, while God loves each and every one of us, but sin is one thing that God does not love from us. Truly, sin is an abomination in His sight, and it is because of our sins that we have suffered the consequences of those sins. We have been sundered from the grace of God, and because of that, we should have fallen into hell, and we should have faced the consequences for sin, that is death and eternal suffering, an eternity of suffering and despair out of which their is no hope for escape.

That is why the Lord sent His many messengers, prophets and servants to help guide His people, that is all of us, so that as many as possible among them might be saved. And we know just so much that God loves us to the point that He did the most extraordinary thing of all, that is to give His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Divine Word of God, to us as our Saviour and our Hope.

Through Jesus His Son, God had revealed to us the importance for us to reject sin, as we heard it in the Gospel passage today. Jesus was speaking about maintaining the purity of our beings, our hearts, minds and all things, also in our physical bodies and flesh alike. But we must be careful not to misunderstand and misinterpret what He had said, as we cannot take things literally as He had said.

Why is that so? That is because certainly each and every one of us have been tempted through our various senses and parts of our bodies, and if we really literally follow through what Jesus had said, then just imagine how many people out there would be blinded or with just one eye, disabled and debilitated, with no arms or with no legs, just because we misunderstood the true intention of the Lord.

What the Lord wanted from us is for us to resist the temptations to sin, to restrain ourselves and not to give in to the pressure either from the outside or from the inside to sin. It is part of our nature to experience that desire and the temptation to sin and commit things that are not in accordance with what the Lord had taught us, but we ourselves are also able to consciously reject the advances of those temptations, and rebuke Satan and all of his attempts to subvert us to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where we really need to be prepared and we cannot be lax in our spiritual discipline. We cannot be like those who think that they have all the time in the world, and that they are free to enjoy the world and all of its goodness in whatever ways they like, even if in the process they fall into debauchery and wickedness.

We need to prepare ourselves, as when the Lord comes to seek the reckoning for each one of us, at the timing that He alone knows, then we must be prepared. Certainly, I am sure that we do not want to regret when the time of reckoning comes, and we end up among those whom God will condemn and reject, as sinners and wicked people.

Perhaps, it would be good for us to follow in the footsteps of St. Polycarp, the holy saint whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Polycarp was one of the disciples of the Apostles St. John who was one of the bishops of the early Church, whose contributions was crucial for the foundation and the strengthening of the early Church and the early Christian communities.

It was told that he was a convert to the faith, and he devoted his whole life to the service of the Church and God’s people, even though there were many difficulties facing the faithful people of God, due to the opposition and persecution by the state against the Christian faith. Eventually he was arrested and tortured, given a choice between betraying his faith and living, and standing by his faith and dying in painful agony.

St. Polycarp was not deterred by that temptation to abandon the Lord and preserve himself. Rather, he proclaimed courageously his faith in God before all those who were present at his trial, and stood by his faith among all the other people who had been arrested with him for their faith. As the shepherd of the flock, he had shown good examples for his people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should emulate the good examples of St. Polycarp in our own daily life. Let us all commit ourselves to the Lord, reject all forms of sin and temptations, so that we may grow ever closer to God and find our way to Him. May all of us draw closer to God and be reconciled with Him, through our actions and deeds that show our faith to Him at all times. May God be with us all, and may St. Polycarp intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 23 February 2017 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Mark 9 : 41-50

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear His Name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”

“If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell.”

“And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.”

“Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”