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

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 14 : 15 – Exodus 15 : 1

YHVH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!”

The Angel of God who had gone ahead of the Israelites now placed Himself behind them. The pillar of cloud changed its position from the front to the rear, between the camps of the Israelites and the Egyptians. For one army the cloud provided light, for the other darkness so that throughout the night the armies drew no closer to each other. Moses stretched his hand over the sea and YHVH made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea.

The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea.

It happened that in the morning watch, YHVH in the pillar of cloud and fire, looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly move. Then the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites for YHVH is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Stretch your hand over the sea and let the waters come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.

At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant.

Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : I will sing to YHVH, the glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.

Monday, 13 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scriptures made a reference to the two sons of Abraham, who was each born of a different mother. Ishmael, the elder son, was born from the union between Abraham and her slave, Hagar, at the insistence of Sarah, his wife, who insisted to Abraham to bear a son with Hagar the slave, who will then legally be known as her own son.

It was common in the past, and even still until today, that a surrogate mother, usually a slave, to produce an heir to a wealthy and influential person, and whose heir will be adopted by the wife of the person, when the wife is unable to bear a child on her own. But in the case of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar the slave, Sarah was taking a shortcut to her problem of not being able to bear a child. God had promised Abraham that He would give him a son through Sarah, for it is nothing impossible for God, even for someone to bear a child at old age.

The younger son, Isaac, born from Abraham and Sarah was the child promised by God, and the blessings which God had given to Abraham in His covenant, was passed on to Isaac and his descendants. Meanwhile, Ishmael, while still blessed by Abraham, he had no part in his inheritance, and both him and his mother Hagar the slave was sent away by Abraham from his house.

The idea here is to separate two occasions in our own lives, the children of God, the children of our father in faith, that is Abraham, the faithful servant of God. The elder son, Ishmael, born of Hagar the slave represented our old lives, the lives of slavery, when we are enslaved by the power of sin and Satan’s works, that we are chained to this world and all of its darkness.

If we think that we are not chained or enslaved, then think about this, how our ancestors were cast out of Eden, the gardens of God filled with all wonderful things and perfections, because they disobeyed the Lord and preferred to follow Satan and their own desires than to listen to God, who had told them and taught them what they need to follow and obey, as well as what they need to avoid.

God did not create us to enslave us, or to make us like His slaves. Rather, we were created in love, for love and for our own good. God who is perfect and complete in everything truly had no need for anyone or anything to satisfy Him, and He did not need anything to be happy or to be joyful, as He is perfect and self-sufficient in everything, in love and joy.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, He created all things, and last and greatest of all, mankind, so that He may share that love He has with all of us. And we were created in perfection, meant to enjoy all the things God had created. He even entrusted all creations on earth to us, that we were meant to be the stewards of all creations, to live our lives in bliss, joy and perfect harmony with God.

But alas, we choose our lot with the evil one, who tempted us, and by accepting his temptations and lies, from our ancestors on, until the coming of the Saviour, all mankind had been enslaved, that is enslaved and chained by sin, the sins of our actions which corrupted us and brought us away from the promise of eternal life and happiness which God freely gave us and intended for us.

And that brought us under the slavery of our sins, that we are no longer free but bound under the consequences of sin, which ultimately is death. Death is the punishment and consequence of disobedience, and that is why mankind suffered from death, which was once without hope, and we feared death. But all was not lost, for God gave His help to us all, through Jesus Christ His Son, who is our Lord and Saviour.

That through Christ, we may be made anew, and transformed from the child of the first generation, represented by Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, to be like the other child, that is Isaac, the son promised by God to Abraham, the son of the free woman, and hence is free. This represents how we mankind had been made free, and through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, this was made true by God.

But this freedom is given only to those who want to believe in Christ, and not to those who continue to stubbornly refuse His offers of freedom. Yes, there are many indeed today who continues to refuse to follow the Lord and listen to Him, and they prefer to continue to live under the slavery of sin, and keep their chains of sin, which continue to chain them to death and destruction.

This was exactly the same kind of attitude which Jesus encountered as He taught the people, who were stubborn and persistent in their rebelliousness. They doubted Jesus, even after seeing what He had done, and asking for even more signs and miracles. They were not able to look beyond the veil of their doubt and unfaithfulness, and instead, they languished in sin, refusing to see the light until the day when the judgment comes upon them.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as today we also celebrate the anniversary of the last of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, let us all look at the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, and chief of all, that of our Lady of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And let us look at the examples of Abraham our father in faith, and finally the examples and the actions of our Lord Jesus Himself.

All of them followed the Lord, obeyed the Lord and listened to His will, as contrasted to Adam and Eve, our ancestors, and the people whom Jesus confronted in the Gospel today. We have a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ. We can choose to follow the Lord and obey all of His commands and will, and walk righteously in His path, or to choose to instead listen to Satan and his lies, and obey our own whim and our own desires. It is up to us to make a difference in our own lives.

Thus, do we all want to choose life or death? Do we all want to be free from sin and its slavery, or do we want to remain bound to sin and be enslaved? Thus, let us all take conscious actions, to show that we want to be indeed free from all forms of the bondage of sin, and rebuke Satan who had enslaved us with them. Let us say courageously to him, that we do not want to have any more part in this slavery of our body and soul, but rather that we may be free in the Lord.

May Almighty God be with us, guide us and bring us into the freedom from our slavery, the slavery of our body and soul to sin, so that we may truly be righteous and just, and be found worthy of His grace and inheritance. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 27 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the reality of how we are insignificant before the Lord our God, and how limited our minds and intellect are before the Lord, whose will and plans are often not what we want in our lives. Thus, this was why the Apostles and the disciples of Christ did not comprehend the reason why Jesus spoke of His death and His suffering at the hands of the Pharisees and the elders of the people.

Our minds and thoughts are limited, and we are often not aware of what we are doing in our actions. In fact, we often act before thinking. We often jump into action not knowing that we should first carefully consider them, or else we risk consequences for our actions, which are more often than not, negative and harmful rather than positive.

And thus if we dwell always in our pride and our desires, then we are bound to worry, and worry and worry even more, because it is in our nature to worry and to care for our own well-being, to the point that we are deep in our own selfishness and self-preserving attitude, that we even are capable of deeds that cause discomfort and pain to others, so that we may preserve our own benefits and supposedly our happiness.

The disciples themselves still thought in the same way, and worked in the same way. They followed Jesus because they saw first in Him, a great Prophet and miracle worker of God, through whom many people were healed and made whole, had their demons exorcised and cast out of them, and even the feeding of a numerous multitude of four and five thousand men, and many more women and children. And in the end, they even witnessed how Jesus raised dead people back to life.

And in the Transfiguration, we knew how St. Peter, with St. James and St. John were brought by Jesus to the peak of the Mount Tabor, where they witnessed the glory and the true nature of Christ’s divinity, and how they were so joyful and buoyed by the happiness there, that they wanted to remain there forever, asking even Jesus that they ought to pitch tents there to stay on.

That is how mankind are like, as we always prefer the easy path and easy ways, and as much as possible, we tend to prefer to avoid ways of difficulties and challenges. And that was why the three Apostles pleaded with Jesus that they might stay in that place, in the glory of the Lord. But Jesus reminded them with a rebuke, that the reality and the plan of the Lord for us all, is not always a rosy one. He went down the mountain, away from His glory, and eventually, to strip Himself voluntarily from all of His glory and majesty, to suffer and die like a common prisoner and slave on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also the reality about our faith and our lives as the children of God and part of His Church. At times we will encounter challenges and difficulties, and then we will truly be tested on our faith, on whether we ought to keep our own beings first before others and thus succumb to the temptations of our flesh and being, or to listen to the will of God, and do things as He had once done.

And perhaps, the life of the saint whose life we commemorate today will inspire us to do more in our faith, and this saint is in particular, known for his charitable works and even until today is still the patron saints of charitable actions and organisations. He is St. Vincent de Paul, a priest who lived in the late Renaissance era Europe and were renowned as the Great Apostle of Charity.

St. Vincent de Paul was once caught and enslaved by the infamous Berber Muslim pirates, who forced him to work as a slave on rowing ships and eventually was sold from one master to another. One of his master was a lapsed Christian who had converted into the religion of the heretics and apostates, and it was through the patience and hard works of St. Vincent de Paul, that he and his family was converted back into the true faith, and at the same time, St. Vincent de Paul gained his freedom.

St. Vincent de Paul worked hard throughout his life, dedicating himself to the poorest and the weakest in the society. Challenges and persecutions, opposition and hardships were common part of his life, but just as he had suffered even slavery and hardships earlier, he did not give up, and through his works, he became renowned for his great faith and charity, becoming a great source of inspiration to many who followed in his example.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we reflect on the readings of the Holy Scriptures and the Gospels, let us all also take note of the examples and perseverance of St. Vincent de Paul. And we too ought to follow in his footsteps, exercising charity and love in all of our actions, casting away all of the pride and selfishness in us. Instead, let us all follow the way which our Lord Jesus Christ had set up before us, that is to love one another just as He had once loved us first.

May Almighty God thus also awaken the spirit of love and charity inside each one of us, that we may do something to help our brethren in need, especially those who are weak and poor, that the Lord who sees all and knows all, will approve of our actions and justify us in our faith and in our actions. God be with us all, brethren in Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the nature of today’s readings are very clear to us. This is because first we must have realised that it talked about the calling of the chief disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord, namely the twelve men selected as the Twelve Apostles, with their names highlighted and explained to us. It seems that this selection brought great honour to the Apostles, who were chosen among many to be the chief among the disciples of the Lord, but as the rest of the readings would tell us, with great honour comes great responsibility.

We heard in the first reading, where St. Paul chastised the faithful in Corinth for their inability to work and live together in faith. He also chastised them for their unruly behaviour, disputes and infighting within the community of the believers, and their apparent inability to settle their own issues and problems, and the mention of the term arbiter, or the one who decides matters much like a judge.

And then in the Gospel again, after Jesus had chosen the Twelve Apostles to be under His care, then it was shown to us how people brought their sick ones and afflicted ones to Jesus and asked Him to heal them. People came from far-off places just to listen to the teachings of Jesus and to be healed by Him, even from areas, if we noticed, that include places where non-Jewish populations were likely those who also came to visit Jesus and listen to Him.

Then the Gospel highlighted yet another aspect of today’s readings, that is on authority, the authority to heal and to judge, as it mentioned how the people tried to touch Jesus, even just the fringe of His cloak, as through these, the people were healed by the very authority that flowed out from Jesus, the Lord and God. Thus, Jesus as Lord and Master of all is the font of power and authority, from whom all authority in this world came from, and there can be no true power or authority if the Lord had not granted them to those whom He deemed worthy.

And how is this related to the calling and the choice of the Twelve Apostles? That is because as I have mentioned before, that the calling to be an Apostle of Jesus, and in fact, even to follow the Lord as a disciple was not an easy one. Neither did it bring honour and glory, for the world had hated Jesus and thus would also hate all those who follow Him. Neither would it be easy, because the world and the forces of darkness would be arrayed against all those who walk in the path of righteousness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why as the chosen Apostles and disciples of the Lord, the Twelve Apostles and their successors, our Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and the priests, as well as those in the religious and priestly orders had great privileges, but also equally if not greater burdens and responsibilities. They serve the people of God, the arbiters of justice as mentioned, the bearers of the teachings and the Good News of the Lord, and the bearers of the Lord’s authority in healing.

It was not an easy task, and challenges await them along and throughout their respective ministries in the Lord. How can we help them then? It is by our contribution and the part we can play in this world, as part of the Church, giving both our time, resources and other form of contributions to help the Lord’s trusted servants. In that we do our part as the children of God and as the members of the Church.

Today we celebrate the feast of a saint, a priest and servant of God whose life is truly exemplary of those who were called by the Lord to be His instrument of love in this world. St. Peter Claver was his name, a Spanish Jesuit priest who was born in Spain during the era of Counter Reformation at about more than four centuries ago, and who joined religious life to dedicate himself to the Lord.

St. Peter Claver was particularly noted for his great piety and dedication as well as having a mind of great intellectual quality, and he dedicated this in his works, as he embarked on the mission to evangelise and preach the Good News in the New World, in what is today Latin America, then known as Spanish America, the colony of the Spanish Empire in the New World.

In those colonies and territories, there are four groups of people, namely first the administrators and Spanish lords who came from the Old World, from Spain and they were the greatest and the most influential in the society, then the colonists from Spain and the Old World, who had settled in the land and bore children there. Then below them we have the native indigenous populations of the Aztecs, Mayans, and the American Indians, who had lived in the land before the arrival of the Europeans.

And at the bottom of all in the society were the slaves, who were mostly of African origin, captured and brought to the New World to be used as slaves in various menial works that treated them as things less than human. And it was to this group in particular that St. Peter Claver dedicated himself. And St. Peter Claver was against slavery, which is an abomination among men, the practice of making others subservient to certain people, which is unacceptable to our faith.

Therefore, St. Peter Claver followed the footsteps of the Apostles and faithfully carried out his duties as the Lord had appointed him to, that is to serve the people of God humbly and courageously, especially the least among them, those who were oppressed and disadvantaged against, and lead them into a new and better life, founded on the teachings of the faith, through his ardent opposition against slavery of any kind.

St. Peter Claver also ministered to them, healing them body and soul, listening to their problems and assisting with those who were sick. And in this, his actions are exemplary for us all, not just for the priests and the ordained ministers, but also for all those in the laity. In following his examples and works, we truly can become better Christians, by embodying and practicing what we believe in our actions and deeds in life.

May Almighty God thus bless us this day, that we may grow stronger in faith, hope and love, so that we may walk in the footsteps of the saints, the disciples and the Apostles, people You have chosen from among the people and made holy so that we who witnessed their works may also be inspired to seek holiness in You. God be with us all, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 22 June 2014 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 8 : 2-3, 14b-16a

Remember how YHVH, your God, brought you through the desert for forty years. He humbled you, to test you and know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

He made you experience want, He made you experience hunger, but He gave you manna to eat which neither you nor your fathers had known, to show you that man lives not on bread alone, but that all that proceeds from the mouth of God is life for man.

Do not forget YHVH, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery. It is He who has led you across this great and terrible desert, full of fiery serpents and scorpions, an arid land where there is no water. But for you He made water gush forth from the hardest rock. And He fed you in the desert with manna which your fathers did not know.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the first Mass ever celebrated, that is when Jesus gave Himself in the form of His own Precious Body and Blood in the bread and wine to His disciples during the last supper He had with them before His Passion and death.

Today we celebrate that moment when Christ laid bare the love He has for all of us, and gave Himself completely for us through the gift of Himself. This gift He made freely to all of us providing we accept this gift and therefore accept the Lord as our God and Saviour. This Holy or Maundy Thursday is the birth of the Mass and the Church, because it is at this moment we celebrate that Jesus instituted the centre of our faith, the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Today’s celebration centres on the loving nature of our God, in how great is His love and dedication for us, that He is willing to come down and stoop to be our servant, giving His all to liberate us from the snare of death and return us to the embrace of the Father. That was why He also showed His loving nature, by showing it through real action and service.

He lowered Himself to take the role of a servant, and even like that of a slave, by washing the feet of His own disciples and dry them with a towel wrapped about His waist. This is a job only done by servants and slaves, the lowest and the meanest job in the society, and one that is looked down upon by the people. He did this to show that, while He is the all-powerful Lord and Master of all, but He also cared for all of us so much, that He showed the love not by mere words, but also through action.

And how is the action of the washing of the feet significant in this? That is because, mankind had long been swallowed by their sins and lived in great darkness. Mankind had forgotten what is meant by love, not just any love, but the great love of God. That is why men end up being individualistic and grew to care only about themselves and whatever it is that benefits them.

And as you all know, brethren, the greatest of sins is pride, the same that had brought down Lucifer, now known as the devil into sin and rebellion against God. Mankind had grow to love themselves and care only for their well-being, that the self, the ego is growing greater and greater. As a result, mankind also grew less and less capable to love and care for one another and this results in mankind progressing deeper and deeper in their sinfulness.

The Lord Jesus showed by example, that power and greatness do not have to come together with greed, self-centredness and ego. Indeed, He showed that the greater a person is, the more humble he or she should become. And that the essence of leadership is service, that service is when someone uses His abilities and powers to help others to achieve the same thing as that someone could achieve on his own.

On this moment that we commemorate, the Last Supper, Jesus showed His disciples how they should treat one another, by sharing with each other the love God had given them, and hence by doing so, they themselves will grow greater and greater in love and in the grace of God, while being examples for others to follow.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today is truly a great day for all of us, because not only just that the Lord gave concrete proofs of His love for us by giving us none other than His own Precious Body and Blood to have, so that we may have life in Him, but He also showed us through His disciples, how to live our lives that it will be meaningful and filled with grace.

As Christians we have to live up to the examples of Christ, and indeed listen to what Jesus told His disciples, that they ought to do what He had done to one another. We cannot be apathetic as Christians, for the moment that we fail to show care and love for one another, we should indeed no longer be referred to as Christians or as the followers of Christ.

On this day, Jesus gave Himself completely to us, and He surrendered even His life so that we may live. This is the essence and the heart of Christian love and Christian life. Therefore, as we keep vigil tonight with the Lord, let us be reminded of God’s gift to us and also His call for us that we may be true Christians, putting into practice our faith and what Christ had taught us.

May the Lord continue to bless us, and through the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist, may the Lord continue to nourish us with His own flesh and blood that we may always be strong, always be faithful and always be true to our Lord and His words. God be with us all and His blessing be with us all. Amen.

Friday, 21 March 2014 : 2nd Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then God sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land : He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.