(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.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honours Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Sunday, 28 July 2013 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God who is our Father is kind, and He is loving, because He is love, and true love personified, in all its perfection. The Lord cannot deny Himself, and He loves everyone without exception. This love He had poured down upon the world through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Messiah, our Saviour. And to add to that, the numerous reminders He had sent us and His people, Israel, through the prophets and their prophecies and the visions and revelations He had given them.

He loves us all and He will surely listen to our needs, and He truly knows all that we need. That is why we should never worry, and instead we all should put our full trust in Him, for He is a loving God, who is just and righteous in all the things He does. But remember, brothers and sisters, that He is also an avenging God, just as He is loving, because He hates sin first of all things, and all things evil and abhorring in His eyes. If we sin and do not repent, we will face the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were wiped out from the face of the earth for their sins.

But our Father in heaven does not just want empty worship and prayers either, as many of us would certainly had done in the past, paying lip service to the Lord who loves us. He wants from us our hearts, our full attention and dedication, just as He Himself had paid full attention to all of us sinners, all these while. We are like lost sheep to Him, whom He cannot ignore, and He would use all in His power to bring us back, like a shepherd going all out to find even one lost sheep.

So that we would not be lost, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were lost in their debauchery and their sinful lives, where sin had blinded and deafened them to the Lord their God, He had sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be a new light, a new hope for all of us. And one of the things that He had done to make sure that we will not be lost forever was that to teach us how to pray, how to pray to the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our full attention, that our prayer is indeed truly a prayer, pure and beautiful in the eyes and ears of the Lord.

To pray is to communicate with our Lord, and that is the key essence of what a prayer truly is. To pray is not to bring in endless litanies of requests and wishes, or bugging our Lord for His help whenever we are in dire straits. To pray is not to turn to the Lord only when we are in difficulties and in need of great help, or in the state of danger. Indeed, as the Lord has told us, and Christ His Son has taught us through His disciples, that prayer must be done, at all times, with a sincere and pure heart.

That was why Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, the very prayer that came out of the mouth of the Word of God, Christ Himself. This prayer is a perfect prayer, the most sincere and purest of all prayers that are ever be in this world, be it on earth or in heaven. The Lord’s Prayer, which we recite and pray every Mass and most likely pray every day, is the model prayer for all of us. It is a simple yet a clear-cut prayer, straight to the point in its meaning, and pure in its intentions.

Yes, a prayer must always begin with glorifying the Lord our God and praising His Name, and all His love and kindness that He had shown us, all His beloved children. A prayer must never be a litany of requests and petitions, but indeed, it must be a humble prayer, showing our sincerity and humility before the throne of God, for we are nothing and full of sin, and yet He rescued us and made us whole and pure once again, with none other than the Blood of His own Son’s sacrifice on the cross.

In a prayer, we have to listen to God just as God listens to us. A prayer is a two-way communication between God and man, the link between our Creator and us His creations. He speaks to us in mysterious ways and in the depth and the silence of our hearts. If we keep our hearts closed to Him, we will not be able to listen to Him. It is often that we have to cast away our pride and sinfulness, and the deafening noise of the world, so that we will be able to listen to our Lord, and communicate sincerely with Him through prayer.

That is why brothers and sisters, whenever we pray, we should close ourselves from the world, and take away any form of distractions which may distract us and disturb our precious link with the Lord our God. Do it in silence and in the privacy of our rooms, and it is also important that we make use of every opportunity we have to be silent, even at a workplace, to listen to the Lord speaking to us. Even that is prayer, brothers and sisters in Christ!

That is also why in the Mass, it is important to have silent moments, after the readings, during the time after we receive the Lord in the Holy Communion, and even at times before the Mass starts or after the Mass has finished. These are precious moments we can use to communicate with our God, especially if we are busy with our work in any other times. It is important, brothers and sisters, that we respond to the Lord’s calls and know what He wants us to do with our lives. Be like the prophet Samuel, who in his youth was called by the Lord and he answered to it, and listened to the word of God.

As I had mentioned, God is merciful and loving just as He is just and a punishing God. If we ask and knock at His door, He will surely listen to us and consider our repentance. You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord does not take pleasure in seeing the punishment and suffering of His children, and He certainly does not enjoy punishing us for our sins. Indeed, it caused Him great pain to punish mankind for their sins and their rebellions, and it is especially hard for the Lord to punish His own chosen people of Israel, when they erred and preferred the pagan gods and idols, and their constant rebellions during the journey from Egypt and after they had had the Promised Land as their own.

That is why, in our prayer, what is important is for us to recognise our own weaknesses, our own sinfulness, and our own unworthiness, that we lay them all bare before the Lord our God, that the Lord who sees all, will see our sincerity and the sincerity of our repentance, our contrite hearts, the true offering from us that He desires. Open the doors of our heart to Him, just as He opened His doors for us to enter. That we may be in Him just as He is in us.

Do not fear God and His punishment, but be courageous and approach the throne of God, the throne of mercy. For the Lord is the Divine Mercy who will embrace sinners and those who sincerely acknowledge their faults and seek to be healed. For Christ had come to save sinners and those who are sick from sin, and bring them back to health once again, that is a life of grace in God. However, He cannot do much help to us, if we ourselves did not open the doors of our heart for Him to come in.

He knocks at our doors too, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we knock at His doors in heaven, to give Him our prayers and petitions. In the same way, the Lord too longs to speak to us all in our hearts. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, harden not our hearts the way the Pharaoh and the people of Israel had once hardened their hearts, but open it, for the Lord who wants to come in and dwell within us. Listen to Him and do what He wants us to do, and our lives will be blessed.

May the Lord who saved us from death deliver us from evil and his corruptions, that we may not suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous ones could be found. May He protect us from harm and bring us to the life eternal that He had promised us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord who speaks to us in silence helps us to gain greater understanding in the importance of prayer in our lives, so that we will always be attuned to Him, in line with His will, and always ever be in His grace. God bless us all. Amen!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the parable of the sower, the well-known parable in the Gospel Reading, and also the rebelliousness of Israel during their journey in the desert, in the First Reading today, complaining to the Lord that they had a much better and fulflling life in Egypt in slavery compared to their freedom in the desert.

The parable of the sower tells us that while the Word of God is truly available for all people to witness, to see, and to listen, but ultimately, it is how we as a person take in that Word of God and nurture it, that the Word of God, that is our faith, likened to the seed spread by the sower, can find good soil in our hearts and grow.

As all of you would have guessed, yes, the sower is none other than the Lord Himself, who gave His light to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, and from Him, the teachings came down upon us through His Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, who are also sowers and labourers in the fields of the Lord. We are the soil, the ground on which the seeds land on, and where the seeds will be able to grow, if the conditions are met and suitable, or perish if the conditions are unfavourable for the growth of the seeds.

The seeds that fall on the path, and then eaten by the birds are likened to those of us, whose faith and devotion to the Lord are weak, and therefore, the devil came and took away the seeds of faith from our hearts. He and his angels come like the birds, eating away the seeds of faith God has planted in us, because the seeds did not take root, and therefore, the faith easily became lost. This is what happened if we keep the Lord out of our hearts and the devil may therefore enter and occupy our hearts, corrupting us to do his purpose, that is sin and evil.

The seeds that fall on the rocky ground did not manage to grow long enough before they withered because of the scorching sun, their faith grew quickly like the seeds, because the soil is shallow, just as their faith is shallow, without deep roots to sustain their faith, and their growth. When difficulties and challenges of the world present themselves, with all the temptations of the world, those whose faith is likened to the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, will quickly lose their faith, just as the seeds’ plants withered.

This one particularly most closely represent the situation portrayed in the First Reading today, and the general attitude of the people of Israel during the duration of the Exodus from Egypt. The people of Israel were easily awed and made astonished by the display of the power of God, especially by the plagues and miracles made by Moses in the power of the Lord, against the Egyptians, and during the sojourn of Israel in the desert. Yet, just like the seeds on the rocky ground, which do not manage to have deep roots on the shallow soil, the faith of Israel was indeed shallow and weak.

They were terrified and amazed by miracles and shows of power of God, but their faith did not have strong roots, and when difficulties and trials came, with hunger and the suffering in the desert, they abandoned their faith in God and even tested God, whether He could help them and deliver them from the sufferings they faced. They became angry at the Lord and His servant, Moses, and they made complaints after complaints, even after the Lord had repeatedly made visible His power and authority to the people of Israel.

Their disobedience led to great sins, and the people worshipped pagan gods, beginning from the golden calf that the people had forced Aaron to make when Moses stayed with God on His mountain for forty days and forty nights. They did not give their trust and love for God, and instead believing more in their own power, the power of men. They did not love God but love His miracles. They did not love Him but love the food He provided them. This is a lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not become like them, to dwell in superficial things and the things of this world, satisfying our own desires, but lacking love for God. We have to love God as the first priority in our lives.

Then, let us also be wary of the worries of the world, because like the seeds that fell on thistles, the thistles grew around the plants and killed them. They are those of us who failed to keep up our faith, because they have been bombarded by countless worries and evils of the world, which brought much stress and worry to them, so that they have ended up forgetting the Lord their God. They have been blinded by their worry that they became blind to the Lord, and choked by those worries.

Those worries of the world, of what we are to eat today, of what we are to wear today, to our work or to party, or even what are we going to do today, and where are we going today, should not be our priorities in life. Indeed, that is because these worries will tend to divert our attention, which should be given to the Lord and doing good for the people of God, into thinking solely for our own sake, which breeds strong sense of selfishness. We must be selfless, brothers and sisters, and give ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters in need of love, in need of help.

We must strive to be like the seeds that fall on rich soil, on deep ground, well watered and filled with ample nutrition, that allows the plants to grow to great heights and remain healthy. The same too should happen to us and our faith and love to the Lord. We must nurture our faith at all times, as we journey through this life, and nurture it with good works, with a healthy prayer life, and devotion to the Lord and through the intercession of His saints. If we do so, we will grow stronger in our faith, and the love that is in us will blossom, and many will feel the love of God through us.

Today, we commemorate the feast day of St. Charbel Makhluf, a Maronite monk who passed away just over a century ago. He was a devout and very pious Maronite, who joined the religious order of monkhood, to dedicate himself fully to the Lord in prayer and love. Despite a relatively uneventful life, after his death, he became a source of many miracles, both through his intercessions and his uncorrupted body.

St. Charbel Makhluf is an example for all of us Christians, the children of God, to follow, so that we too can follow his example of holy life dedicated to God and the love that he expressed in his life through his actions, that we nurture the faith that is in us through strong devotion to God and constant prayers, so that we will always keep ourselves attuned to the will of God. That we may bear much fruits, hundredfold and manyfold of what has been planted, what has been given to all of us.

May God bless us, and may He strengthen us in our faith and our love, for Him and our fellow brethren, and inspired by the example and holiness of St. Charbel Makhluf, may we bear fruits, fruits of love and compassion, the blessed fruits of the Holy Spirit, for the good of everyone, and for our salvation. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Romuald, Abbot (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how we should love God and do things for the sake of the Lord, but we must do it because we truly love Him, with the full sincerity of the heart, and not with any hidden intentions or desires. It is natural for us to have those kind of desires, to be glorified and praised ourselves, as it is part of our human nature. We are naturally attracted to glory and power, and that is why, even in the things that we do, we would certainly want to be praised and glorified for the successes we achieved.

When we pray, when we fast, and when we do things that the Lord told us to do, do it in secret and in our own private space, although it is not wrong indeed to do it in the open. That is because when we do things in secret, we are safe from the presence of others who can look at what we are doing. In doing that, it will remove that obstacle of pride from our hearts, because when someone is with us, we no longer focus on ourselves when we pray, and because we subconsciously know that someone is looking at us, and we are certainly tempted to exaggerate things so that people would praise us.

When we closed off ourselves from the world, in our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving, we can then focus solely on the Lord, and to whom we give the alms to. So that we will not be led astray and instead believe in our own personal human glory instead of bringing glory to God. Remember that prayer is a conversation between ourselves and the Lord, not a means through which we should glorify ourselves by showing our piety to others.

It does not mean then we should never pray in public or do something pious in view of others. Indeed, doing it at the right moment, and especially with the right intentions and understandings would enable us to be tools of evangelisation, as these also may bring light and understanding to others who had no understanding about the faith in the Lord. Through our prayers, our actions, which we share to them, we will be able to bring a new light to them, and may even bring them to salvation through their acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Yes, whenever we pray, fast, or do something according to our faith, be it in public, or in private, do it for the right intentions, and for the right state of our heart and mind. That we do these all for the glory of God, and God alone, and for the sanctification and purification of our sinful self and the salvation of our soul, and not to accumulate and gather human glories and human praises.

If we know then how to pray sincerely with our heart, and use that chance to truly communicate with the Lord who loves us, and wants to speak with us, we will then find the true meaning of our faith in God, and we will be enriched in our own lives, by the love that God gives us and through His grace, that He grants to those who truly loves Him, and not merely loving themselves in the guise of loving God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be sincere in all our actions, and do not place ourselves before the Lord in all things. Do not place our desires and our greed to take over us and make us fall into sin, yes, into the sin of pride, because we glorify ourselves rather than God. Be truthful in all our actions, and do them because we truly love the Lord in all the things that we do. Do not seek personal glory, but glorify the Lord at all times.

For human glory is fleeting, and human achievements are temporary in nature. But great is the glory and the reward that await us in heaven, if we remain faithful, truthful, and steadfast in our faith in God, and remain in His love. Remain always in God’s grace, and He will grant us the eternal reward of glory in heaven. Seek not what will not last, but seek what will last forever.

Today, we also commemorate the feast of St. Romuald, a well known religious and abbot, whose life was truly exemplary to us. St. Romuald was once a sinful man, who indulged in all things evil in his youth, and led a debauched life. But after a life-changing experience and revelation of the faith, he changed his ways, and became a truly holy and dedicated person for the Lord. He founded many monasteries and established a strong monastic practice in the society at the time.

St. Romuald in particular placed a great importance on the understanding on the faith, and the serenity of oneself in prayer, that one can be truly be united with God, and truly focus themselves to the Lord their God, avoiding any kind of distractions that may lead them astray from the path of salvation. St. Romuald’s life also shows the kind of prayer that the Lord wants from us, a prayer made out of pure love and dedication for the Lord, in the silence of our hearts. It does not mean that all of us should become monks or join the religious orders in order to do so, but even a simple act of taking a time in silence, in the midst of the business of our lives, we can achieve this, that through a well-conceived prayer, our faith in God will grow ever stronger, and we will be ever closer to Him.

May God strengthen us, strengthen the edge of our humility, and remind us at all times to bring glory to Him, and not to strive for our own personal glory. May He bless us at all times in all the things that we do, that in all that we do, we bring life and love to all around us, that in whatever things that we do, God will be praised and glorified, forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, 20 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Prayer is very powerful, brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer gives us the important link between us and the Lord our God, because prayer is a form of communication that put us in a special link, all of us, each at once, with the Lord, in a two-way conversation, that we can speak to God, and God can also speak to us.

But too often, brethren, that when we pray, we focus too much on ourselves and our selfish ideas, that we bombard the Lord with our requests, our needs, and our wishes, that we fail to listen to God speaking to us in silence. It becomes then a one-way conversation, with our voices overpowering the Lord’s voice within our hearts.

The Lord does not speak to us in audible voice, brothers and sisters. Do not expect that the Lord will announce His speaking to us with trumpets of the angels and loud voices like thunder. Instead, the voice of the Lord is like the softest breeze of the wind, that can only be heard, when we took our time and remain in silence. In silence, and in retreat from the busy schedule of our world, even for a short time, will allow us to listen to God speaking within us, in His own subtle way, and we can then know what God wants for us.

But prayer is also important because it gives us power and strength in our daily struggle against the devil and his agents in this world, that always attempt to corrupt us and all mankind with the seductions of pleasure and temporary joy, that lead to evil and damnation. Prayer gives us advantage over the devil because with prayer, we anchor ourselves and keep our link with God our Father, who is the supreme sovereign over all creations, even over Satan and his angels, and therefore, with God at our back, no one, even the devil can harm us.

Prayer makes us into a fortress of faith that protects us from the devil, and yet, with the power and wisdom of God, prayer not only protects us from the power of the evil one, but it also can bring about healing and purification in others, helping others who also struggle against the power of Satan. Prayer can overpower the devil and force him out, replacing him with the presence of God that will stay and dwell, preventing the devil from coming in again, as long as that person remain faithful in the Lord.

We need God in our fight against the devil, and our strong faith must be supplemented with the strong connection that we have to the Lord. That was why the disciples of Jesus cannot remove the devil from that young boy, because they simply did not keep up their prayer life, to anchor themselves strongly in God’s power and authority that would have triumphed over the devil.

Today, brethren, we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena. St. Bernardine was a great Fransiscan monk who became a great evangeliser and preacher, in Italy, where many corruptions of the world had entered the Church and the society. He campaigned strongly for the purification of the faith, and the return to the true faith, and preached strongly against the corruptions and wicked practices in the society and the Church at the time.

That is what we should do too, brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though our Church now is not like that in the past, that of the time of St. Bernardine, the world still corrupts much of our world today. It is up to us, and to the many missionaries and champions of God’s Gospels, to bring God’s light into the world. St. Bernardine of Siena, pray for us, that God will continue to strengthen our faith and give us courage to stand up against the world and the devil.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters, all in our most beloved Jesus Christ, our Lord, God remains with us all the time in our lives, if we keep His commandments and His divine love alive within all of us, through our own words, actions, and deeds that reflect and show the greatness of God’s love to those who still live in the darkness of this world.

He feeds us with the food of life, and the drink of life, that is none other than His own Precious Body and Blood, that He gave freely on His sacrifice on the cross in Calvary. He gave us Himself that all of us will be with Him and will have Him within all of us, and be strong and courageous in our daily struggle against the evil one, who hates all that is good and all that belong to the Father.

The struggle against Satan, his fallen angels and all the powers in his employ in this world continues daily, even today, tomorrow, and beyond. If we do not keep a strong faith in God and a strong heart of love, filled with God’s presence, we will falter and go astray in our path and fail to achieve the ultimate goal of our life, that is salvation and reunion with God our Lord.

The flock will be scattered when the devil comes like wolves to attack the sheep, and they will target the shepherd in particular, that they will be destroyed and the sheep scattered, like those sheep without a shepherd to guide them. The wolves however, will also hide behind sheepskin and pretend to be false shepherds, that will try to guide the sheep into trap, into darkness, and into damnation, together with them, who have already been condemned.

For indeed, there are very many false teachings and false prophets in our world today, as well as false idols that mankind increasingly turn their hearts to. They no longer put the Lord as the centre of their life and their attention. They no longer worship God and give Him the thanksgiving and praise due to Him. Instead, they worship the false idols and praise them, in place of the true God.

And the evil one and his ‘wolves’ especially target those who work in the fields of the Lord, namely our priests, bishops, and all who labour in the Name of God. As all of you can easily find in our world today, that there are many attacks daily against all the ministers of God’s Gospels, and those attacks come even from those who believe in Christ, having been seduced into falsehood by the agents of Satan, falling into the temptation of the world.

No, I am not referring to those idols, made of gold or silver, or any imageries, but in fact, these false idols are even far more deadly and dangerous than those, because while those idols are dead and lifeless, but these false new idols are able to corrupt the hearts and soul of mankind, that they shut themselves off from God’s grace and providence.

Money, worldly lusts, and also other forms of temptations readily available in our world today, are major distractions and obstacles in our path. They easily tempted the weak and those who do not keep their faith strong, and ensure that their anchor in God is firm and solid. That is why, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that all of us keep a strong and healthy prayer life, that in prayer, we keep our line of communications with the Lord firm and undisturbed. Take some moments off our busy daily schedules, and listen to God speaking in our hearts, about His will, and about His truth.

For the truth of God will dispel the falsehoods of the evil one, and it will give us true joy and happiness that only God can give, and which the world cannot give. What God gives us is what can truly bring true joy within our hearts, and bring us into perfection. It is up to us, brothers and sisters, to help one another, and those who still walk in darkness, that all of us will be opened to God’s truth, God’s light, and His divine love.

May God guide us into Himself, and allow us to be reunited with Him in the bliss of heaven, away from the evil one and all the falsehoods he had sprung in this world, all of which have been condemned to eternal damnation. We also pray for our priests, and all those who work hard for the sake of the Lord and the salvation of all mankind, that God will protect them and grant them strength and courage in their ministry. May God grant us everlasting life, forever and ever. Amen.