Final document of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family

(Update : The official final Synod document is still in processing and will be released soon. Below document is the summary by the Synod Fathers)

The 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family had been concluded, and we give thanks to God for helping His Church to defend the true Faith, and that He did not allow those who wished to see our Faith compromised and destroyed to have their way. May the Lord continue to watch over His Church as we await the second part of the Synod of the Family in 2015.

The Church is the guardian of the Tradition of the Faith and the Deposit of the Faith, and no one may alter the teachings of the Church which came down to us from the Apostles and thus from Jesus Christ our Lord. We can help sinners to return to the Faith but not to offer false mercy. The sanctity of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is inviolable, and marriage is between one man and one woman, made one by the Lord and no man should divide. Remember that Jesus had said that those who divorce and remarry commit adultery and thus live in a state of grave sin.

The same state of sin also apply to all others in unnatural order outside of Christian marriage, and until they repent from their sins and make their penance, they should indeed abstain from receiving the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ, lest they sin against the Holy Spirit. Let us help them by welcoming them back and guiding them to repentance, that one day they may once again receive the Lord with full faith.

I also recommend all of you to read the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Theology of the Body by Pope St. John Paul II, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The text of the final summary document of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family can be found below.

http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/18/0768/03043.html

 

III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY

OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

 

MESSAGE

            We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.

We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.

We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.

Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

***

There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

 

This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.

This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.

The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.

We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:

            Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.

            Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.

            Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

            Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

            Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callistus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Holy Scriptures and the Gospel about the nature of the Law of God, and how we ought to keep it in faith, and how important it is to understand what the Law is all about, and how to best apply it in our lives. It also highlighted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who kept a superficial vigil and observance over the Law, but not understanding the true intent and meaning of the Law.

As is with any forms of laws, the Law of God is often bound to be misinterpreted and misused, especially when its meaning and purpose are not fully understood by those who enforce these laws. It is imperative that the people of God understand what the Law is all about, that is about love, and not just any forms of love, but the love which comes from the source of all love itself, that is God.

The Law is meant as the symbol and representation of love of God for us mankind, by giving us this set of guidance and pointers to help us to orientate ourselves in this world filled with temptations, darkness, evils, and impurities. The ultimate aim of the Law is indeed ultimately to keep us in God’s grace, and to bring us back to His love all of us who have sinned and walked away from Him.

But when those who were tasked to safeguard and apply the Law erred in their judgments and refused to listen to what the Lord had to say about them, then the Law lost its purpose, and ended up becoming a chore and a tedious thing for the people of God to maintain and keep. As a result, that was why Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were obsessed with the external applications of the Law rather than the holistic applications of the Law.

Being too engrossed in the external and superficial application of the Law is dangerous, as this ended up in the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law adopting an excessively strict and burdensome interpretation of the Law, which brought a great burden on the people of God, and sadly that this is done not in the spirit of true understanding of the purpose of the Law, ending in the observance of the Law just for the sake of observing it, which will bring no benefit but instead condemnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we are all urged to turn deep into the Law of God, all the rules and observances which we have known in the Church, and begin to appreciate them in complete fullness and find the true meaning and purpose of the Law, that is the love of God for us, and His great desire to reunite us with Himself, so that we may be free from sin and unworthiness, and gain the eternal inheritance He had planned for us.

Today we celebrate together as the Church, the feast of Pope St. Callistus I, also known as Pope St. Callixtus I, the leader of the early Church and a martyr of the faith under the persecution of the Roman authorities at the time. Pope St. Callistus I was once a slave, who managed to escape his slavery and eventually became a servant of the Lord and His Church. He suffered many times for his Christian faith, and he was sent to many punishments by the authorities for that.

Nevertheless, eventually when Pope St. Callistus I was chosen as the Bishop of Rome and the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and as the Vicar of Christ, he extended a new outreached hand towards those sinners and those who had erred in their path, committing adultery and fornication, allowing them to return to the Church to seek God’s mercy.

There were indeed serious oppositions to this policy, and some including the Saint Hippolytus were firmly opposed to the policies of Pope St. Callistus I who was seen as being too lenient against the sinners. St. Hippolytus was thus elected as a rival Bishop of Rome and Pope, in opposition to Pope St. Callistus I. But despite the differences and the rivalry between them, God continued to exercise His good intentions upon the world through them, as they continued to minister to the people of God in faith. Eventually both of them would also meet their end in martrydom, in the defense of their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the saints and the messages from the Holy Scriptures which we heard today, all call for us to reassess our own lives as well as our own actions and deeds. We have to remember that first, God is loving and merciful, and through the Law and rules which He had given us, He wants to bring us back to Him and be renewed in love, so that our sins may be cleansed, and we renewed and purified, may find justification and salvation in God.

However, at the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye on our sins and defects indeed. We cannot ignore them or to bypass them in our attempts to seek the Lord and find His mercy. For God hates and rejects sin and evil just as much as He loves and be merciful to all of us. Welcoming sinners is indeed important, and we should make it a priority to help sinners to come back to the Lord through Faith. However, this cannot be done at the expense of condoning sin or to reduce our contempt of sin.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, from today onwards, if we have not done so before, let us all help one another so that we may remind ourselves of the sins we have committed, that we may repent from them and find our way to the Lord, seeking His mercy and forgiveness. Let us also from now on seek to understand the true meaning, purpose and intention of the Law of God, so that by obeying the Law in all its full meaning, we may gain the favour and the blessings of the Lord.

May Almighty God guide us always in life, and help us so that we may become ever better disciples and followers, rooted in love and abundant in charity and faith. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 10 July 2014 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the words of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures today, both in the reading from the Old Testament and from the Holy Gospels are the true revelation that God is concerned with us, and He is truly not angry with us, or despise us in any way. On the contrary, He was concerned so much that He gave us none other than Jesus, to be our Hope and to be our Saviour from our certain destruction.

Yet in a way, it was also a lamentation by our God, on how mankind turned away and did not listen to the words of God, and spurned the love He had shown them, and did not care about the attention He had given them so much over the ages past. The words of Jesus in the Gospel also highlighted this fact. He taught His disciples to expect rejection, just as much as they should expect to be accepted by those whom they preach the word of God to.

Yes, brethren, our Lord seeks for us and He wants to be with us, accompany us, and talk with us, all the days of our lives. So much and so great is His love, that He truly does not want to be separated from us. But, what did we do to Him then? We often shut the door in front of Him, and we like to cast Him out of our lives. We rejected Him in favour of following the ways of the world.

Therefore, we cannot think that those who rejected the words of the Lord as mentioned in the Gospel, as well as the errant children of God in Israel, in the time of the Old Testament, are people separate from us, or that we are immune to the same errors and possibilities of falling into sin. As long as we remain in this world, we are always susceptible to the works of Satan and evil in corrupting our hearts to his purpose. We are always susceptible to sin, and we may also end up like those who were mentioned, unless if we take active steps to prevent it.

Let us today reflect on our lives, on the actions, words and everything we do, and see and think if all of them had been done in accordance to what the Lord taught us, and what He wanted us to do. Have we walked faithfully in His path, or do we prefer to follow our own path in life, following everything as we desired and as we wanted?

This is important for us, and indeed, it is crucial that we maintain a very healthy and active reflective lifestyle, thinking through our life actions, on whether they reflect ourselves as children of God, or as the children of this world, of Satan. It is easier for us to walk in the path of darkness compared to the path of light, and it is indeed tempting for us to be lax in our actions and deeds, so that we end up being like the people of Israel who disobeyed the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we seek the Lord anew? Shall we truly renew our efforts in finding Him, and following Him in our lives? It is indeed not an easy path, but it is truly manageable. Shall we continue our rejection of the Lord’s free offer of love, which He extended to all of us? Or shall we rather ignore Him and close the doors of our hearts to Him? The choice is ours, and we have been given free will to choose our path.

Let us therefore discern well, and use this opportunity to think well, of our actions and deeds. Let us no longer follow the rebelliousness of Satan and his fellow fallen accomplices, but let us all show and profess our undying and eternal devotion to our Lord. Remember always, brethren, that He died for us, so that we may live. There is no greater love than this, and there is no care greater than the care shown by God to us.

May Almighty God be with us all, keep us safe, and bless us with His grace forever. Amen.

Saturday, 11 January 2014 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

We may be confused at first, when we listened to the first reading today, how that there are two kinds of sin, one that does not lead to death and one that leads to death. But indeed, there are indeed two kinds of sin that we know of in the Church, one being the venial sins, the lesser sins that are not very serious, and the other being the mortal sins, sins that are both heavy and serious in consequences.

But this does not mean that we should not take all sins seriously. Indeed, every kind of sins are serious and deadly, no matter how light or small they are. We cannot treat sinfulness lightly or we may end up in death. What is this death? As we all know, that the Lord is the Lord of life, and in Him, we have hope of eternal life, and liberation from the power of sin and death.

If we sin, that we are no longer worthy of the Lord, who is perfect in goodness. Yes, goodness that is not marred by sin. Sin, no matter how small, prevents us from truly reuniting ourselves with the love of God. And you all know that even if you build a building slowly, brick by brick, it will eventually become a large building. So it is the same as our sins then.

That is why as the Church had taught us, it is important for us to go to confession frequently, and not just that, but resolve to live a life without sin, as best as we can, every single day of our life. Confession should not be taken lightly, nor should we fear it. That is because the priests who hear our confession has been given with the authority from on high to forgive sins, just as with Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is Lord over all and had the authority to forgive sins, which He imparted to His disciples and from them, to our priests.

Do not fear, for the priests are also charged with the maintenance of the seal of confession, that is nothing that is shared by us to the priests should ever be made known to anyone else other than the priest. We should not fear to confess even our most secret sin. After all, the Lord is a loving and forgiving God, who will see that we are sorry for having sinned against Him and if we truly repented our sinfulness.

Sin is serious, brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should be conscious of our own sins, and understand the malice of sin above all else. Venial sins or small sins may not be a big hinder to our relationship with God, but they do make up to a big mountain of sin if we continue to do them without considering our state of sin.

We should indeed adopt the example of St. John the Baptist, who in great humility proclaimed the greatness of God, how great He was as compared to himself who is just mere servant of God. He readily said to his own disciples how he should decrease in importance while the Lord rose in importance. He did not let His human pride to get in the way, unlike many of us.

We often let fear and our human pride in the way of forgiveness. We do not let the Lord to come and absolve us from our sinfulness. We stood by our pride and let the devil to urge us to continue with our rebellion against God. No, this is not the way we should follow. Instead, cast aside our pride and fear, and instead put in a complete trust in the Lord and in His love and forgiveness.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, follow the steps of St. John the Baptist, lowering ourselves humbly before God, and asking for His forgiveness from our sins, that we will be made righteous once again through our. Lord Jesus Christ, who sanctified and made holy all those who believe in Him. Let us be thrall of sin and evil no more, and let us from this day henceforth, be free and liberated!

Go often to confession and confess our wrongs to God, for our loving Father will surely hear us, forgive us, and embrace us with His love. God forgive our sins and be with us all always. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together and listen to the words of Jesus, and that of St. Paul, heeding us to live righteously and in the spirit of true faith in God, and not in the belief of any human power or pride, that is what is very common for many of us to do.

Jesus warns us that we should not be hypocrites as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were, and we must truly practice what we preach, and practice what we believe in. And that our righteousness comes truly from the inside and not just the purity of the outside that makes us all righteous in the eyes of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law or the Scribes were entirely preoccupied in their own set of laws, rules, and regulations that were very strict and restrictive at the same time. They have rules regulating everything in the daily life of peoples, even to the most minute details regarding the washing of the hands before meals and how it is supposed to be done.

The washing of the hands before meals according to the laws of the Pharisees involve the thorough rinsing of both hands with water all the way to the elbow. While the intention was indeed good, that is for hygiene purposes, in its application, such rules and laws made by men often caused us to lose sight on what is truly important, that is to love and serve the Lord our God, and obey His commandments of love.

That is because the people become so preoccupied with the procedures and the rules, that they obey them for the sake of obeying the rules, instead of understanding the true meaning and purpose of those laws. The Lord did not have His Laws to punish or make the lives of the people to be difficult, as what He intended out of His commandments is that the people can remain in His righteous path and remain in His love, loving one another and loving Him as their Father and Lord.

Yes, brethren, for the commandments of God is the commandments of love, as Christ had aptly summarised it as the commandments to love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strengths, and doing the same to love our brothers and sisters, and our neighbours around us, all our fellow mankind.

The Pharisees did not do these commandments, and neither did they ‘do’ them for the love of God, but instead for the praise of men. They loved to show their great piety, their supposed full obedience to the laws of the Lord, while in fact, they were great sinners within. They cleaned the exterior but cared nothing for the interior, that is their heart and soul.

That is why Jesus rebuked them, that they were only beautiful to behold from the outside, but inside, they were truly rotten and corrupt. Worse still is that they did not just do this to themselves, but also to the people of God whom they were entrusted with, and therefore made them to fall as well. The Lord’s wrath is therefore justly raised against them, these deceivers and hypocrites.

That is what the Lord really wants us to avoid, that is to avoid being trapped by the devil and his temptations of this world. We must say those prayers meaningfully and with great sincerity and not just for the sake of being considered ‘holy’, as what those Pharisees had once done. True holiness comes not from the outside, but from the inside.

If we are truly holy inside, that is if we truly love the Lord and dedicate ourselves to Him, then it will certainly show through, and the light that is within us, will shine brightly through, and the Lord will recognise us as His possession. On the other hand, if we are truly wicked on the inside and tried to maintain a facade of purity and ‘holiness’ on the outside, the darkness inside us will also show through, and the Lord will cast us away from His presence.

Today, brethren, we also commemorate the feast day of St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa of Avila was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She was made so, because of her own great piety and well-known faith in God, as well as through her numerous writings and works, many of which influence us even till today, and also played a significant role in addressing heresies and divisions among the faithful in her time and beyond.

St. Teresa of Avila received visions and experienced great joy in God through ecstatic experiences, through which the Lord especially revealed to her the nature and the result of sin, mortal sins, and how terrible they are. She went through much suffering and persecution throughout her life, with some even doubting her faith in God, as strong and great as it is. Nevertheless, with the strength of God, St. Teresa of Avila continued to march on, and persevered through those time of difficulties.

St. Teresa of Avila is our role model, that we ought to give ourselves in entirely to the Lord, and to open ourselves fully to His divine love and divine providence, that we will become truly the possession of Christ, and Christ becomes a possession of ourselves, that He will live in us, just as we live in His loving embrace. May St. Teresa of Avila intercede for us, asking the Lord to strengthen our faith, and deepen our commitment and conviction for His cause. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 September 2013 : 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the well-known parable on the story of Lazarus the poor beggar and his counterpart, the rich man. We listened to the perils of Lazarus in this life, and after the deaths of both him and the rich man, we again listened to the suffering the rich man endured for eternity in hell.

The story shows the considerable contrast in the reality in our society, both at the time of Jesus and even today in our modern world. The rich lived in great wealth and great comfort, and the poor lived in suffering and a life of deficiency. The rich tends to get richer while the poor tends to get poorer. That is the reality, brethren, even today.

However, it is important to note that, Jesus did not condemn the rich and neither did He condemn their wealth, their money, and their possessions. What He condemned is inaction, the failure of one, whether he is rich or poor, strong or weak, to act, with love, when someone or others around them face difficulties or challenges, which we can help overcome through our actions.

The Lord our God desired that through our actions, we can look at our brethren in suffering, and offer to them a helping hand, and also, our love. That is what He truly wants from us, that we can share the love that He had given us, with one another. This is what the rich man had failed to do in his life. He failed to notice the plight of Lazarus the beggar, the poor man, leaving him to die of hunger, while he feasted every day and every night on endless flow of food and drinks.

Lazarus received his compensation in heaven, for in his suffering, he had built much wealth in heaven, by persevering through life, and presumably, doing what is good in the eyes of the Lord. He was given rest and happiness, in the company of the saints and the angels. On the other hand, the rich man, who feasted without end, and cared nothing on others, received his due, that is eternal suffering in hell.

Therefore, brethren, we are really urged to do something for others, especially those whose suffering and plight can be lessened through the touch of our love, be it in our words or our actions. Let us not be like the rich man, who ignored the plight of the weak, the poor, and the ostracised, and instead let us love them and open our hearts for them.

Today’s readings in fact highlight another important facet of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. In line with the first reading, and the psalm, while we have been cast out of the heavenly glory of God, all because of our sins and faults, He came to give us a new hope, in His saving power, through Jesus His Son, suffering and crucified.

Ever since our ancestors sinned against God, disobeying Him and instead, obeying the words of Satan the deceiver, we have been cast out from the presence of God, because we are unworthy, and because we have hardened our heart against God and His love. His enduring love for us however, continues to burn, with the hope that we may repent our ways and return to Him.

An infinite and uncrossable chasm existed between us and the Lord, and no one could cross this chasm, and we thought that we were doomed to hell prepared for the devil and his fellow rebels, the fallen angels. But God did not intend the hell for us, nor for any of His beloved creations. Yet, many of us throughout the ages failed to escape the snares of hell, falling into temptations of the world and its pleasures, as the rich man had done.

The great suffering in hell is in fact not the flames and heat that torture for all time, as the rich man had endured. That heat is a consequence and a part of the unending suffering that one has to go through, if one does not repent for his or her sins. The main part of the suffering is actually the complete sundering and separation of one from God, of one from the divine love that God has for all of us. That love, which sustains all of us in this world, is no longer there for those who have rejected Him and consequently fall into hell.

Without God’s love and the eternal period of one has to suffer in hell, knowing fully that there is no hope at all to redo what they had done wrongly and what they had failed to do, when they still walked this world. This hopelessness and thus despair, combined with the total separation from God and His graces, are the things that make hell so painful, so unendurable, and so despicable. Brethren, our every breath, and every good things we have, come from the Lord and His love. Can you imagine a state where we are entirely and totally devoid of any form of God’s love, for eternity, and that is hell?

That is why God constantly tried to help us, by sending His messengers through the prophets, to remind mankind of the need for repentance and purification, from the evils and the impurities of the devil inside our hearts. And yet, many of us and our ancestors turned a deaf ear to these reminders, and even slaughtered the prophets of God, spilling innocent blood, and mankind still fell into damnation.

That is why, brethren, He sent Jesus His Son, to be the great deliverance of His beloved children, from the slavery of sin and death, and from their fate of eternal punishment in hell. Jesus is the bridge, the narrow bridge that bridged the infinite chasm existing between us and God, that through Him, we may cross that chasm towards the Lord, our most loving God.

The Lord Jesus Christ  made our crossing towards the Lord possible, but as I mentioned, as much as He is the only bridge, that is the only way to salvation in God, that bridge is also very, very narrow at the same time. As such, the way to the Lord is not an easy one. We tend to face difficulties and challenges along the way, that would make us to detour from our true path, and fall into damnation, if we are not careful. After all, that path is really narrow indeed.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, it must be reiterated that, God loves everyone and cares for everyone, be it that they are poor or rich, weak or strong, beggar or prince, all have a place in the Lord’s plan of salvation. God does not condemn the rich nor their wealth nor their privileges. What He condemns is the lack of charity, by anyone, even among the weak and the poor, for others.

It is these shortcomings, the lack of charity, the lack of love, and the lack of care for one another, which dooms us to failure, as we walk across the cross of salvation, that is the bridge Christ had made upon His death, to bridge the gap between mankind and their Father in heaven. In fact, as Christ had told His disciples, that to those who had been given much, much will also be expected from them. Therefore, as those who have more in terms of possessions and monetary well-being had been given a greater share of grace by the Lord, much is also expected from them, to share their joy with those who lack them, that in sharing, all the children of God will rejoice together as one.

We certainly do not want to suffer as the rich man had suffered in hell, for eternity. The way to the Lord is there, brethren, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but it is narrow. Let us resolve then to proceed on our way towards God without delay, and ensure that we stay on that path, by our faith in the crucified Christ and the Risen Christ, and that faith which is made alive through our love, reflected in our words and actions.

Let us therefore offer a helping hand to anyone around us who are in need of help, giving them the love, care, and attention, following the example of Christ Himself, who had given His complete and perfect love to everyone, to all of us sinners, to even His enemies who cried for His death and those who persecuted Him and the people of God.

May the Lord nurture in all of us, within our hearts, the enduring love and compassion, that from now on we will give our love to our brethren around us, sharing with them our joy and love. And the Lord who sees our obedience and faith, will reward us, with nothing else than eternal life in the presence of God, filled with joy, in the same way as Lazarus the poor beggar, had been treated. God bless us all and remain with us, within our hearts forever. Amen.

Monday, 29 July 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, whom Christ had risen from the dead. St. Martha and her sister Mary were faithful followers of Christ, who cared for Him as we have read in the Gospel today. Both of them faithfully took care of the Lord and listened to Him as He went on through His ministry.

Jesus too cared for them, and blessed them with His love. He loved them so much that when Lazarus died, He wept. He was touched by the sisters’ dedication and love for one another, and He Himself is a loving God. In His mercy and love, He had sent His Son Jesus, to be our Saviour, to bring us from the grip of death into a new life in Him, just as He had done with Lazarus, His beloved. Yes, so that we may live, brethren, a new life in God, and a final escape from death and hell that was our fate.

For our sins and faults, and the rebellion of our fathers against the will of God had angered God and made us unworthy of His Holy presence. We had been made dirty by sin and the evils of the world, corrupted by the trickery and temptations of Satan and his agents. For such evils against the holiness of God, there is only one fate for all of us, that is death and eternal punishment in hell, in the fires and darkness prepared for Satan and his angels for eternity, for their own rebellion against God.

But the Lord does not want to leave us to our fate, nor does he want to abandon us in darkness and corruption. He loves all of us, the most beloved and perfect of all His creations, so much that He gave the way to salvation, the escape path from that certain destruction which awaits all of us. He provided the straight way for all of us, the straight highway to salvation, towards reunion with Him in eternal bliss of heaven.

That was why He sent us Jesus, His own Son, the Word of God made flesh, that in His coming to this world, He made it possible for us to be reunited with God, for the Son of God had become one like us, albeit without sin. He had become one of us, of man, the Son of Man, born in the humble stable, but destined for eternal kingship. Yes, brethren, He is to be the King of Israel, the King of all creation, the King of the Universe. In Him all of God’s promises to mankind is fulfilled and perfectly completed. In Him lies all our hope and our future.

Christ is willing to help all of us, because of His love for us. A love so great that with that love He endured the cup of suffering He drank, to suffer on the way to Calvary, throughout His Passion, and to die on the cross in a slow, painful death, rejected by His own people and condemned by the priests and the people themselves, though He is without sin, and have been condemned for a false reason. He offers us this love, to all without exception, that everyone may be saved and have life.

He is our Lord and our Shepherd, our guide through life, that we, who have been lost, the lost sheep, may return towards Him, the Good Shepherd, who had given His all in order to find us and save us. He sought us the lost ones, in the darkest corners of the world, in places of sin, where we dwell. He knocks at the doors of our heart and seek to come in to us, that He may speak in the silence of our hearts.

Yet, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are often occupied with things of the world, with things that distract us from the Lord. We often enclosed ourselves in our space of comfort, that we turned a deaf ear to the urging and the knocking of the Lord on the doors of our hearts. These distractions also include our daily works and businesses, and also our daily concern for things such as food, money, and other things that distract us from the Lord.

That was what happened to St. Martha in what we read from the Gospel of Luke. She loved the Lord indeed and she tried her best to show her love to God by giving the best service available to the Lord in His visit to her house. But she became too preoccupied and engulfed by her works, that she had forgotten what is the most important thing that the Lord wants from her and from all of us, that is love and undivided attention, and total devotion to Him.

It is not wrong to do what St. Martha had done, and indeed she was also sincere in her love for God in doing what she thought was the way for her to serve the Lord. However, what is important is that we must not let our work and busy schedule to subvert our true intention, and especially if we begin to attack others who chose to serve the Lord in another way, as Mary, Martha’s sister had done. Brothers and sisters, do not let our pride to get in our way to the Lord. Pride is our downfall just as it had once brought Lucifer, the fallen angel, down from his glory.

Let us humbly seek the Lord and ask for His mercy, as we approach Him, the merciful and most loving God. Let us listen to Him with all our attention, the way that Mary had done, and give our best to serve the Lord as Martha had done. May the Lord guide us through this life, that we will always walk in His ways and follow Him to the end of that path, that is salvation, when we are once again reunited with the Lord our God who loves us.

St. Martha, pray for us sinners who are still in this world. With all the saints, the holy men and women of God, be with us and protect us, as we walk our path of life, that we will always remain focused on the Lord and do not become distracted by the world and the temptations that Satan and his forces have arrayed against us that we fall. May the Lord bless us all with faith, with hope, and with love, to remain His always, and be victorious in our struggles against the evil one. God bless us all. Amen.