Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we truly know of the greatness of the divine love and mercy of our Lord. He is truly our Father and God, because He truly loves us all unconditionally, like that of a father to a son. The parable of the prodigal son, the well-known story of the wayward son and the forgiving, loving father illustrates this nature of our God’s love for us very vividly.

Yes, the Lord our God is a loving God, whose heart is full of tenderness of love and compassion, especially for all of us, the most beloved of all His creations. He is merciful and readily forgives His children, that is all of us, if we come to Him with contrite and sorry heart, seeking for His forgiveness and love. That love and mercy He had given freely to all of us without exception.

He cares for us the way the father of the two sons cared for them. He showered them with abundance and love, and they lacked nothing. Similarly, we have been provided by the Lord with many things, some of us less, some of us more, that shows the depth of His love and care for us. When we go astray, in the same way as the wayward younger son, He seeks for us with love and commitment.

Yet, brethren, we cannot constantly live with sin, be tempted by sin, and showing sin and wickedness, as the Lord God, as loving and merciful He is, He is also a jealous and avenging God. He would not have sin tolerated in His presence. The temptation of doing these things abhorring to God, and Satan always ramp-up their success in corrupting the hearts of men, that we fall and fail, just like the second son of the father, whom left his father to wander to a foreign nation.

God wants us to be His, and that we will return to His embrace, and He longs for that day when we all can be reunited in perfection with Him, and no longer be separated from Him by sin and our stubbornness. In the same way as the father awaited for the return of the prodigal son from his sojourn in the foreign country, day after day, month after month, until the prodigal son returned to his presence, and he rejoiced because of that.

Yet, we are reluctant to return to our loving God, because of various reasons that become serious obstacles in our path towards God, towards returning to His loving embrace. We can easily observe this in the story of the prodigal son, where the younger son feared going home to his father, although if he returned, he would have lived once again in plenty.

One such obstacle is the pull and temptation of worldly pleasures, which prevents us from going back to the Lord, and instead we immerse ourselves in such pleasures excessively, shutting the Lord out of our hearts and our minds. The other obstacle is fear, that is the fear of the wrath of God, the fear of His anger and retribution for our mistakes and our betrayal.

Such fear prevents us from drawing near to the throne of mercy, and also opening our hearts to the love of God. Yes, the Lord who hates sin and evil will certainly be angry on the sins we have committed, but He is not someone who will get angry without any good reason. The anger of the Lord does not always mean a bad thing to us, as He is indeed like a father to us, a loving Father who cares for His children.

And therefore, just like a father, He chastises us whenever we do something wrong, that we will not repeat doing that again in the future. He is angry with us and punishes us as the way that He showed His care, that we will not fall again as our ancestors had fallen into damnation. He punished us not because He wanted us to suffer, but indeed to avoid eternal suffering that awaits us if He did not ‘discipline’ us.

Hence, brethren, let us look into ourselves and reflect on the things that we had done, which had not been what the Lord taught us to do, that brought us into sin, following the example of the prodigal son, who realised the mistakes he had committed, and to the point of being embarrassed of having to go back to his father when he had no other option.

But it is important to note and follow his examples, that despite his initial fear and hesitation, he gathered his courage and returned to his father, who welcomed him and embraced him with love and joy. Then, brethren, we too should follow his example, to be meek and humble before the Lord who is merciful and loving.

Then, finally, let us reflect on the behaviour of the elder son, who became angry at his father for what he perceived to be unequal and unfair treatment by his father. This is a common  behaviour in mankind, which I am sure that we had witnessed quite often in our lives, how people feel that they deserve something more than what they had received and become jealous when they perceive tht others had been treated better when to them, these people deserved it less than them.

The elder son represents those people whom the Lord had chosen and saved since early on in their lives, and therefore remain in God’s love always, unlike the younger son who went astray along the way, and then returns to the fold. It is natural for us humans, relying on our emotions and instinct to resent those whom we deemed to have been treated better than they should have been.

We ought not to be judgmental on others, and indeed, with God, we should rejoice whenever one of the lost ones returned to the Lord and to us. Remember, that even great saints were once great sinners too. In fact, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen had said, the greater the sins one had committed, the closer one should have been towards realising the depth of their faults and iniquities, and thus, be more ready to embrace the mercy and love offered by God.

Therefore, we should help one another, assisting and supporting one another in our lives, that we will ensure that all of us will be saved and freed from sin. Give help and our love to those who are trapped in the seduction of in and the devil, praying to the Lord to open their hearts to His love. We too, brethren, though we have been saved, must be ever vigilant, that we too do not falter and fall to the traps of Satan that he had cleverly and carefully laid down for us.

May the Lord who has shown His love and mercy for us, continue to shower us with His blessings and graces, and continue to care for us like a father loves his children. May we too realise the depth of our sins, and the depth of His tenderness and love, that we will not be hesitant or fearful to approach Him, full of remorse and sorrow, that the Lord who loves us will embrace us, forgive us, and give us a place beside Him in eternal glory. Love one another and love the Lord God our Father. Amen.

Sunday, 15 September 2013 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 15 : 1-32

Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!'”

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Jesus continued, “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said, ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

Luke 15 : 1-10

Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, “This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable :

“Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!'”

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

“What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbours, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

Saturday, 31 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the parable of the talents, the silver talents entrusted by the master of the house to his servants, his properties to be taken care of by them while he was away doing his business away from the house. The hardworking and industrious servants were rewarded, while the lazy and wicked servant was punished, and what he had was taken away from him and given to the trustworthy servant.

Yes, brethren, this parable precisely applies to all of us, to each and every one of us. We also have ‘silver talents’ within us, all gifts from God, in different ways and different colours, each with his and her own gifts. Some do receive more and some received less, but all are being equally gifted by the Lord our God who trusted us with these gifts, not to be left idle, but to be used, for the cause of good.

What are then these ‘silver talents’ we have within each and every one of us? These ‘talents’ are in fact the skills, abilities, and knowledge that we have within us, that makes every one of us special, all special and unique children of the same, one God. Some of us has certain abilities and skills that can be useful if we use them properly and efficiently. These, just like the silver talents in the parable, can ‘grow’ when we utilise them and invest on them.

We are urged to be like the faithful and industrious servants, the ones who made good use of the money and invest them that when the master returned, not only that the original silver talents had remained, but even it had grown and multiplied twofold. Therefore, the master’s investment in his servants had not been wasted, that after all the time, the money made a worthwhile return.

Yet, brethren, many of us tend to be more like the lazy and unproductive servant, who dug a hole and hid the silver talent there in the hole, from the day that the master left it with him to the day when he returned and expected a return from his servant. In the similar way, we tend to remain within our comfort zone and remain idle, and hence, the buried silver talent, just as buried as our talents and skills, the gifts God had given to us to use for our own good, and for the good of people around us.

There are many reasons for such failure to invest the gifts God had granted us, and they are not limited to things such as sheer laziness, fear of failure, and the temptations and allures of the pleasures of the world. We tend to prefer our comfort zone and do nothing, and even if we are to do something, many of us tend to be selfish, and do it for our own good, for our own benefits, often at the expense of others. The last servant’s fear is precisely also caused by this, by his own selfishness, that is fearing for his own safety and therefore succumb to his fear of losing the money if he invested it, and therefore did nothing to the silver talent he had been given with.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us rediscover our true purpose in life, especially if all these while we had not done anything yet to utilise the gifts we have within us, for the good of others, for the good of everyone around us. Let us be proactive in our faith and in our lives, not to fear loss or discomfort for our works and for our actions, and not to be idle and lazy in using the good and the gift God had placed in us, in purposeful ways that will bring happiness, fulfillment, and contentment to all of us.

Be active, brothers and sisters, be loving and show mercy in all our words, actions, and all the things we do, to our fellow men, that we can care for one another, and when the Divine Master comes, what we sow in love, through our actions, we will reap in heaps, in heaps of reward that is eternal life. The Divine Master, that is our Lord Jesus would reward us according to what we had done in our lives, whether we had been like his faithful and hardworking servants, or rather be like the ungrateful and lazy servant.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the parable of the talents and the servants, let us be reminded of our mission in this life, that is to be true disciples of the Lord, ones that do not merely say, “Lord, Lord!” but do nothing, and instead take concrete actions, no matter how small or large it is, to make a difference for the better, for our fellow brothers and sisters, the children of the same, one God.

May the Lord our Master and our God be our guide, to lead us through the difficulties and challenges of this world, that we may work hand in hand, with one another, embracing one another with care, that all of us will reap together the fruits, the interests, and the benefits of our loving actions in this world. God bless us all forever. Amen.

Friday, 30 August 2013 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 25 : 1-13

This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven : Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were careless, and the others were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were and did not bring extra oil. But those who were sensible, brought with their lamps flasks of oil. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.

But at midnight, a cry rang out, “The bridegroom is here, come out and meet him!” All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the careless ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.”

The sensible ones answered, “There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.”

They were out buying oil when the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But he answered, “Truly I do not know you.”

So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Monday, 22 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of one of the greatest saints of Christendom, that is of St. Mary Magdalene, the faithful and close disciple of Christ. St. Mary Magdalene had gone through a lot in her life, and the story of her journey of faith and return to the Lord ought to touch many of us indeed, and many of her life examples can still be practiced even today.

St. Mary Magdalene was a great sinner, who lived in sin, earning her living by selling her own body to others through prostitution. She was occupied by many, some say seven evil spirits, who corrupted her and kept her away from following the path of the Lord. She seduced many men into sin and became the tool of the devil to destroy mankind.

Yet, the Lord who had come to heal the sick and forgive sinners, had also come to St. Mary Magdalene, in the depth of her sinfulness, and rescued her from both the darkness and the evil spirits that resided within her. He casted them out of her, and made her once again the proud daughter of the Lord, returned her to the path of salvation to God.

Nevertheless, her previous occupation as a prostitute did leave a significant social stigma on her, and on many occasions, she was prejudiced against, even by Christ’s own disciple, most evidently Judas Iscariot. St. Mary Magdalene was the one who anointed the feet of Jesus with a jar full of precious nard perfume, and dried His feet with her own hair, as an anointing before the death of Christ, which was lambasted by Judas as being wasteful. The Lord rebuked him, because He saw the true good and sincerity in St. Mary Magdalene’s heart in loving the Lord and in her commitment, and the devil that dwelled within Judas, waiting for his betrayal of Jesus.

She followed Christ through His Passion and suffering, walking through the Way of the Cross to Calvary, accompanying Mary, the mother of Christ. She accompanied Christ through the darkest hours unto His death. Her faith in God had become so strong, that although her faith was shaken by the death of Jesus, she remained a strong and faithful servant of the Lord.

Such is her devotion to the Lord that when the Lord was Risen and His earthly Body disappeared, she was in great sorrow, because she thought that someone could have stolen the body of Christ. She searched for the Lord and could not find Him, and her anguish can be illustrated as what the first reading today from the book of Song of Songs had mentioned, like a maiden searching for the love of her heart and could not find him.

The Lord granted her His grace by showing Himself to her first among all the disciples, and revealed to her all of His Resurrected glory. He showed her a new hope, that is salvation, that through Christ, who has died and risen from the dead, all mankind should have hope of transcending our fate that is death, and into a new and everlasting life with Christ at the end of time.

St. Mary Magdalene is a great role model for all of us, all of us sinners who are still awaiting and searching for God’s mercy and forgiveness. She had gone through much suffering and rejection, as what we will certainly also face, if we turn ourselves from our life of sin into a new life filled with the Holy Spirit and walking on the path of Christ, the only way to salvation.

And even today, many would try to discredit St. Mary Magdalene by spreading lies about her and also Christ. I am sure that all of you would have known the ‘acclaimed’ story by Dan Brown on the supposed story between St. Mary Magdalene and Christ in his bestseller ‘The Da Vinci Code’, how they secretly were married and St. Mary Magdalene bearing the child of Christ. Not only that this insulted the memory and the goodness of St. Mary Magdalene, but it also insulted the very person of Christ, our Lord.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is very important for all of us, not to be fooled by the devil into believing these stories made to confuse us and steer us away from the path of Christ, that is the only path to salvation. Remember brethren, that the devil has many tools in his pocket, and this is just yet another way he used to deceive mankind that they will remain in the state of sin and impurity so that we will fall to hell to be tortured with Satan for eternity.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us strengthen our faith and affirm our dedication and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of St. Mary Magdalene, whose great conversion would have inspired many of us to do the same in our own lives. Let us repent brothers and sisters, and present a humble, contrite heart from each of us sinners, on the feet of our Lord Jesus, as the true offering of ourselves, that He will heal us and bring us up from the trap of sin and the depth of the sea of darkness, into a new life in the light of Christ, a new life worth living because we have Christ. God bless us all, and may St. Mary Magdalene continue to pray for us for our own redemption. Amen.

Saturday, 29 June 2013 : Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Great Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the great pillars of the Church, particularly the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom and the Universal Church. Saints Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith in Rome, and that is why they formed the pillars of the Church there, just as a saying correctly said that, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”.

Persecution, suffering, and martyrdom did not prevent the people from searching for salvation in the Church, and in the faith in Christ, but instead these actually propelled more and more people towards the Lord, and therefore, through the sufferings and deaths of martyrs, the Church grew and grew ever more, made fertile by the blood of martyrs, many of whom became incredible sources of inspiration for all of the Christians.

But do not think that these saints and martyrs are superhuman in nature. They are the same human just like all of us here, but they have been made great by the Lord, who saw the good that is in them, and their love and dedication for Him. They were normal, humble people made great by the power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Peter and St. Paul both had had their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they had succumbed to human temptations and evil once. St. Peter denied the Lord three times out of fear of his life, and St. Paul was a great persecutor of the faithful in God in the early part of his life, as Saul. But the Lord deemed them worthy, and therefore, they were chosen from among so many other people, and they were made great by the Lord our God.

St. Peter was chosen from among the Apostles to be the one to uphold the entire Church of the Lord, that is all the people of God, united as one Body, with Christ at its head, and Peter as His Vicar in this world, as His representatives, carrying out His will. Thus St. Peter became the first Pope, the first Vicar of Christ, the head of the Universal Church. St. Peter did much work to advance the cause of the Lord, establishing many Christian communities, such as in Antioch, of which Peter was also its first bishop.

Then St. Peter went on to Rome, to preach there and lead the growing Christian community in that capital of the Roman Empire. The Emperor of Rome at that time, Emperor Nero treated Christians harshly and persecuted them in false accusations on that they were the ones who caused the Great Fire of Rome, which was actually caused by Nero himself in order to clear land to build a new Palace to feed his own grandiose and megalomaniac ideas.

St. Peter fled from that great persecution with the other Christians, but along the way out of Rome, on the road, he met Christ, who appeared to him while carrying a cross on His back. St. Peter, recognising Christ, asked the Lord, “Quo vadis, Domine?” which means “Where to, Lord?” or “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus was carrying the cross in the direction of Rome, and He said to Peter, “Ad Romam iterum crucifigi” which roughly means, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”

Hearing this, St. Peter realised that suffering is truly part of being the Lord’s disciples, and persecution that awaits them should not be looked upon with fear, but instead with joy and courage, knowing that one had done the right thing in defending his or her faith in God. He gained strength, courage, and resolve, and he turned back and returned to Rome.

Eventually, St. Peter was martyred, by crucified on a cross. Yet again, St. Peter showed his great qualities, in that, in full knowledge of his unworthiness, he rejected that he should die in the same way as His Lord had died, that is to be crucified on the cross, and instead asked to be crucified upside-down, that in his unworthiness, he did not die the same way that Christ had died for all of us for the sake of our salvation.

There went the first Bishop of Rome, in his life and journey towards the Lord, the first Pope, whose successors went down the generations, keeping the faith faithfully, and remain as the keepers of the kingdoms of heaven as granted by Christ, and as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Indeed, no power on earth or hell may be able to stand against the Church of God, built on the solid rock foundation that is the faith of the apostle St. Peter.

St. Paul also went to Rome, and was beheaded during the height of the persecutions of Christians. He faced death willingly and openly, and his death, together with that of Peter, continued to seed the growing Christian populations in Rome and beyond. Today we are commemorating those two great saints, and we hope to be able to emulate their examples in our own daily lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards learn of the examples following the footsteps of the Apostles, especially that of Saints Peter and Pail the pillars of our faith. Do not be afraid, and do not need to be disheartened when we face trouble and persecution, for the Lord will be with us, and He will provide for those who love Him.

Do not be afraid and keep faith. The Lord provides for us and He guides all of us, just as He provided for Saints Peter and Paul during their times of tribulation, during their long years of ministry to the Lord’s people and Church. We too can follow their examples and follow in their footsteps, even in these modern day. We must be strong and faithful as Peter was, and be vocal and courageous as Paul was.

May the Lord be with us, and with the prayers of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, may all of us become better Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and strive to do more good for the sake of our brethren. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 9 May 2013 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (First Reading)

Acts 1 : 1-11

In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when He ascended to heaven. But first He had instructed through the Holy Spirit the apostles He had chosen. After His passion, He presented Himself to them, giving many signs that He was alive; over a period of forty days He appeared to them and taught them concerning the Kingdom of God.

Once when He had been eating with them, He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you : ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit within a few days.'”

When they had come together, they asked Him, “Is it now that You will restore the Kingdom of Israel?” And He answered, “It is not for you to know the time and the steps that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight. While they were still looking up to heaven where He went, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen Him go there.”