Sunday, 24 October 2021 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us mark the occasion of the World Mission Sunday, reminding all of us that all of us as Christians are called to be missionaries of our faith, of the truth and love of God. All of us through our baptism have received this mission from the Lord, the same mission that all of us share in our Christian faith, and we must never have the thinking that only those who are called as missionaries or those who are members of the ordained or the religious brothers and sisters who are called to a life of mission for God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, the words of the Lord proclaiming His care and love for His people, in gathering all of them, scattered from among the nations and lost, humiliated and without a leader, as He would become their Lord and guide once again, and reunite them into the land that He would lead them into. And this was the promise and reassurance that the Lord made to His people, who at that time were in the midst of the lowest points of their fortunes, surrounded and oppressed by their neighbouring nations.

At that time, the prophet Jeremiah ministered to the people of God in Judah, at the last years of its existence, after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians for over a century previously, and its people exiled and scattered among the nations. Judah would also follow suit shortly as it was attacked, its capital Jerusalem besieged and destroyed by the Babylonians, and most of the populations brought off into exile in Babylon and other placed, while some sought refuge in Egypt. All these happened during the lifetime and ministry of prophet Jeremiah.

Therefore, at that time, Jeremiah spoke the word of God in consoling and reassuring His people at the time of their great misfortune and misery. The Lord wanted all of them to know that He did not leave them alone, and He was always with them even through their darkest moments, and He sent to them Jeremiah to be the one to reveal to them His will, His intention and love. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Jeremiah was sent as not just a prophet but also as a missionary to reveal God’s truth and love to His people.

Then, in our psalm today this is reiterated again, as the song of joy speaks of how God brought back the exiles and all those people that had been scattered, and how they went in sorrow and God reunited them and returned them to their homeland in great joy. God had done great things for His people, and He came to them, seeking them, sending prophets, messengers as missionaries to find them and to reach out to them, and to touch their hearts and minds, to put in them once again the love and faith for God.

In our second reading today, we heard of the passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which, as repeatedly mentioned throughout that Epistle, the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of all mankind and the whole world was presented as the High Priest of all, in presenting His offering on behalf of all of us, which is worthy for the atonement of all of our innumerable sins. That is because Christ acted as the High Priest of all, by offering the perfect and worthy offering, of Himself as the Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, put to death and slain on the Cross, which is His Altar.

Through this Epistle, the author of the Epistle, which was directed to the Jewish converts and other Jews among the people, both in Judea and around the world, wanted to tell all of them the same message that God has given their ancestors through the prophet Jeremiah. God loved all of them and wanted to be reunited with them, and as all of us had been separated from Him through sin, He sent us all the deliverance through His Saviour, Who is none other than His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, born into this world, the Divine Word Incarnate that became our Light and Salvation.

This is the same Christ Who in our Gospel passage today heard the cries of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, who was blind for a long time. He cried out for the Lord to have mercy on Him and to heal him from his affliction. And when the people around him scolded him and tried to silence him, he cried out all the louder, calling on the Lord, Who heard him perfectly and came to him. The Lord wanted to heal him and restore his sight, and asked the blind man if that was what he desired, and then healed his eyes, by the power of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, all of us are reminded through today’s Scripture passages of our mission as Christians, as those who have answered God’s call and received baptism to be members of His Church. All of us share this calling to be evangelistic and missionary in our lives, which is not just limited to those who have given themselves to the sacred orders or the consecrated life as religious brothers and sisters. The Lord calls on each and every one of us to play our part in the mission of the Church.

And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is why we have to recall what we have just heard in our Scripture passages today, as well as what we have just discussed and reflected just now. The Lord is calling us to do whatever we can, in our respective capacities and abilities, in whatever opportunities we have, in reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters, to show them the truth and love of God and to be exemplary and as inspirations in how each one of us ought to live out our lives as good and dedicated Christians.

That is the essence of the Lord’s Great Commission to all of us, His Church, as He proclaimed to His disciples just before He was about to ascend to Heaven, that they all are to go forth to the peoples of all the nations, and to make disciples of them, and to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the mission which the Lord has entrusted to all of us, for us to be His missionaries in this world, through our everyday living and our actions that lead many others to God and His salvation.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this World Mission Sunday today, all of us must not be idle in living our Christian lives with true and genuine faith. We cannot be hypocrites who profess to believe in God and yet our actions show otherwise. Not only that it does not lead others towards God, but worse still, if our lives cause scandal to our faith, we can end up leading more people to leave the Church and to turn away from God’s truth and salvation. And with that, the responsibility for such event will hang heavily upon us.

We have to live our lives with faith, to reach out to the marginalised and those who are without hope and are downtrodden. Just like the Lord reassuring His people, gathering the lost and scattered ones back and calling on them to return to Him, and just as He has shown mercy and love on the blind man, healing Bartimaeus from his blindness, so all of us have also been called to follow Our Lord’s examples in love, in sharing this love He has for us, through us, with one another.

How do we do this? By genuinely loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and all those whom we encounter in life. We have to show our love for our loved ones, for our neighbours, friends and others, and even to acquaintances and strangers, and also, our enemies and those who hate us, that through our love and patience with them, we may even make them realise the errors of their ways, and be reconciled with them, just as the Lord had sought to be reconciled with us. It has to begin with us and our attitudes towards each other. As long as we are genuine in living our faith, then we are already good missionaries.

On this World Mission Sunday therefore, let us pray for one another, that we may be ever more effective and sincere missionaries of our Christian faith, that we may ever be more genuine in how we live up to our faith that we may always inspire more and more people to follow the Lord, and to touch the lives of more people, especially those who have not known or have distanced themselves from God. We should then also pray for those who have dedicated themselves especially to missionary work all over the world, all those who dedicated themselves to proclaim and teach the faith to diverse groups of peoples, both within and outside our Church communities.

May the Lord continue to be with us and guide us in our journey of faith and help us all to be good and dedicated missionaries that are committed to serve the Lord and His people daily, at all times. May God bless all of our good works, efforts and endeavours from now on, all for His greater glory, the holy mission of His Church for the salvation of souls. Amen.

Sunday, 17 October 2021 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are all called to remember the salvation that God has revealed to us and which He has also fulfilled through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus has brought the salvation to our midst by coming into this world and as we all know, He took upon Himself all of our sins and iniquities, bearing our heavy burdens on His Cross, and therefore, suffered and died for our sake on the across for the salvation of the whole world.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of the Lord spoken through Isaiah, detailing on a prophecy of the coming Messiah or Saviour from God. This prophecy of the Messiah, detailing about a Servant of God Who would be made to suffer for the sake of all the people must have sounded strange to the people, considering that at that time and afterwards, the people hoped and thought that the Messiah would be a great and mighty conquering King from the line and house of David who would unite the descendants of the Israelites.

Common understanding at that time was that the Messiah that God would send to His people would restore the greatness of the old united Kingdom of David and Solomon, when Israel was preeminent, mighty and powerful among the nations. At the time of the ministry and work of Isaiah, it was during the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel while the southern kingdom of Judah also faced great troubles with the Assyrians almost conquering and besieging the city of Jerusalem itself, under King Sennacherib, and only God’s intervention stopped it from happening.

Thus, it was not surprising that as the people of God encountered calamities and humiliations one after another, and forced into exile in many parts of the world, so they hoped that the Lord would deliver them and return their inheritance and glory to them, through the Messiah that He has promised to them through His prophets. Isaiah in particular spoke a lot regarding the prophesied Messiah, and some of what he had revealed in his prophecy spoke of a suffering Messiah, Who would be crushed, broken and suffering for the sake of all of God’s people.

And Jesus was the One Who fulfilled all these prophecies, as He came into this world bringing God’s healing and salvation, healing the sick and casting out demons, making the blind to see once again, the deaf and mute to be able to hear and speak once again, and even raised the dead back to life. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed that His coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, and He would then predict His own end, how He would be rejected and condemned to die, made to bear the Cross and die on it in Calvary.

In our second reading today, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in explaining the role of Jesus, the Messiah or Saviour of the world to the Jewish converts to the Christian faith and also to other Jews, focused on the role that the Lord took on as the High Priest offering the sacrifice to God, on behalf of all the people of God. This is something that the Jewish people could well relate to, as they regularly took part in the sacrifices offered at the Temple for their sins to be forgiven by God, offered by the priests on behalf of the people.

However, what was unique in this one particular sacrifice, was that the High Priest Who offered it, was Himself the Offering and Sacrifice, as He offered His own Precious Body and Blood, the Lamb of God, sacrificed and slain on the Altar of the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, that day two millennia ago, which we celebrate yearly on Good Friday. It was the moment of the revelation of God’s supreme act of love and ultimate selfless act in reaching out to us sinners, in order to offer us His most generous mercy and compassionate love.

But in doing so, Christ had to suffer a lot, enduring the burden of rejection, humiliation and the most painful sufferings that were caused by our many, innumerable sins. Yet, He bore them all patiently and faithfully, fully obedient to the will of His heavenly Father, enduring and drinking from the cup of suffering that He mentioned both in today’s Gospel passage and during the time of His great agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before He was about to begin the moments of His Passion and suffering.

He did all of these out of His enduring and infinite love for each and every one of us, out of the desire to be reconciled with us and not to allow us to be lost from Him, He Who is also our Good Shepherd, Who knew each and every one of us, and had done whatever He could, just as He shared the story of the Good Shepherd to His disciples, to reach out to us, His lost sheep, and to find us and gather us back into His presence, to be part of His flock in the Church of God. He showed us His love through real action and not just through words.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard how two of the Lord’s disciples came to Him and asked Him for special favours to be given to them. These two were the sons of Zebedee, the brothers St. James the Apostle also known as St. James the Greater, as well as St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. Both of them were among the closest disciples of the Lord, and together with St. Peter the Apostle, who was the leader of the disciples, were often brought by the Lord to various events only exclusive to them, such as the Transfiguration, the moment when He raised the daughter of Jairus back to life, as well as the aforementioned Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane itself.

As such, as it was probably common and expected at that time, as it is still today, they were tempted to seek for special favours and position as the closest confidants of the Lord, to gain power, prestige and influence, among other things. This is showing us in fact, as I mentioned earlier, the prevalent attitude and understanding of the people at that time, who viewed the Messiah as the One Who would conquer the enemies of the people of God, reunite the Israelites and all the descendants of Jacob, and restore the Kingdom of Israel as it was during David and Solomon’s time.

Therefore, when St. James and St. John together came to the Lord, it was made with this context in mind, in seeking the special favours for them, that when Christ restored Israel and rule as the new King of Israel, they would become His most trusted advisors and important persona in the new realm. However, this was a misunderstanding and failure to appreciate the true nature of Christ’s mission in this world. That was why the Lord told them and the other disciples gathered that in truth, to be His followers, they had to share in His sufferings, and that they indeed would suffer, as they all later on would suffer a martyr’s death, with the sole exception of St. John the Apostle himself, who nonetheless suffered for many years in prison and exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, where do all these then lead us? In truth, all of these things which we have just discussed and reflected on, are reminders for all of us to remember the love which God has constantly showed to us, and every time we look upon the Cross, with His Body laid suffering and dying on it, the Crucifix, we are reminded of this act of supreme love and ultimate selflessness, in Him giving us His life, so that by all of us sharing in His death on the Cross, we may receive new life and the Resurrection through Him.

And as Christians, we must always be ready to face suffering and persecution, rejection and challenges in life just as Our Lord Himself has suffered. This is because the world, its norms and ways that had rejected the Lord and His salvation, will also reject all of us who believe in the Lord and His truth, and suffering may come our way if we remain faithful to Him. Yet, we must never be disheartened or discouraged by these. Instead, we have to be ever more steady in following the Lord, wholeheartedly and with real and genuine love for Him.

What we heard today from the Scriptures, especially from the Gospel in particular is a reminder for us that being Christians is not about ourselves or our own search for personal glory or ambition, or personal satisfaction and happiness. Rather, it is to seek the Lord and to follow Him, picking up our crosses with Him, just as He has called us, and dedicate our entire lives in loving service to Him. This is the attitude that all of us must cultivate as Christians, to be genuine in faith and action, and to give our best to the Lord.

Let us all therefore strive to follow the Lord ever more faithfully, and to be more worthy in how we live our lives from now on. Let us all embrace God’s love and most generous mercy and compassion, resisting the temptations to sin and allowing God to lead us down the right path, so that by our own exemplary lives, we may inspire many others to follow us, just as we ourselves have been inspired by the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors who have led most worthy lives before us. May God bless us always, in our every efforts and good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 10 October 2021 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all presented with the words of God’s truth and wisdom, and to all of us God has presented a very important question for us to consider and think about, to ponder and to reflect as we live our lives in this world. This question is, ‘What is the most important thing in our lives?’ And also, ‘Is God important for us in our lives?’ These are the two simple questions that we should spend time pondering and reflecting on even as we discuss the meaning of today’s readings.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we heard the words of the author who spoke of his prayer and desire for Wisdom, the Wisdom, knowledge and understanding from God. The author of the Book of Wisdom told everyone that there is essentially nothing more valuable, worthy or great other than the truth of God, the gift of Wisdom that God has given to us all. The Wisdom of the Holy Spirit has been granted to us, and if only we appreciate this great gift in its fullness then we can understand just how precious this gift that we have received, but often overlooked, ignored and squandered.

In our second reading today, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle spoke about the Word of God that revealed all things in all mankind, Who pierced and penetrated deep into our hearts and minds, the Word of truth that illuminated all and knew all in us, and through which we have also received the same truth and the revelation from God. By welcoming the Word of God into our hearts, into our beings, we have opened ourselves to welcome the Wisdom of God and received the truth, and because of that, we should rejoice at what we have received.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you find the message of these readings to be rather cryptic and hard to comprehend, that is perhaps because we have not yet appreciated the truth of God that we have received through none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Why is that so? Then we should recall how the Lord has given us Himself so completely for our sake, in emptying and humbling Himself, from all glory and power, and carrying His Cross, He endured all the wounds, sufferings and pains for our sake, that is to deliver us all from the torments of our sins.

God has revealed His love for us through His Son, that we who have once been destined to doom and damnation because of our sins and wickedness, have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life because of the enduring love that He has for us. His love for us is so great that He was willing to endure the most bitter and terrible punishments and pain just so that we may be freed from our enslavement by sin. He has not only sent His servants and messengers to remind us to turn back to the true path, but even came Himself into our midst to bring the truth to light and reveal them to us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers regarding the matter of what it means to follow Him and to dedicate themselves to Him. At that time, a man who had been dedicated and wholesome in his obedience to the Law of God asked the Lord what was it that he still needed to do in order to attain the kingdom of God. The Lord then responded by saying that what he needed to do was to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor, leaving everything behind and then follow Him as His disciple. The man left in great sorrow as for him it was impossible to part from his great wealth.

Actually, before we think that the Lord asked or even demanded us to surrender all of our wealth and worldly possessions, that was not what He intended and we should not interpret everything just based on literal understanding. Rather, what He wanted to emphasise to the man and also to all of His disciples and also therefore all of us is that, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, we must put Him first and foremost above all and every other things. We cannot allow our many attachments or even preoccupations with worldly matters, for fame, glory, wealth and influence to keep us away from God and His salvation.

In truth, the Lord is telling us that if we depend on worldly wisdom and power, on our own might and strength, then we shall falter and fall. It is only by trusting in His providence and entrusting ourselves to Him and His guidance that we shall find our way to true glory and happiness, which we cannot find through other means. This truth has been given to us, and the Lord Himself has revealed to us through His Church, and the Holy Spirit has also been sent to our midst to be our Advocate, our Helper and our Guide. He has given us Wisdom, and yet, are we willing to accept His Wisdom into our hearts and minds?

In the same way, have we let the Word to enter into our hearts? The Word of God, Christ Himself, Incarnate in the flesh, Who has given Himself, His Most Precious Body and Blood to us in the Eucharist? We may have accepted and received Him, but have we truly believed and have that faith we ought to have in Him? Have we committed ourselves to the Lord above all else, and resist the many temptations of worldly pleasures and glory, of fame and influence among other things that kept us away from truly being able to follow the Lord?

This Sunday, let us all spent some time to discern carefully, and to pray for the gift of Wisdom and for God to strengthen us all through the Holy Spirit, Whom He has sent to us to be our Guide and Helper. Let us all grow ever more in faith, and allow God to lead us down the path of righteousness, and no longer seeking just the temporary and impermanent pleasures of this world. Rather, let us seek the Lord and our true inheritance and glory in Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 3 October 2021 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all presented through what we have heard in the readings from the Sacred Scriptures the very clear proclamation of the Lord to all of us regarding the matter of the sacred bond of marriage, as we heard how marriage is a sacred bond decreed by the Lord for those who have chosen to be one and united, as husband and wife, and blessed by God as an indissoluble union. This is a sacred union that should be held sacred by all, and should not be broken easily, by any circumstances or reasons.

This is why the Church has been very strict with the laws and rules regulating the possibility of divorce or annulment, as both involves breaking the destruction of this sacred bond of marriage, which is a Sacramental Union, the Sacrament of the Holy Matrimony and not just a mere ceremony as many in our world today tend to see it. The Church has very strict conditions regarding the matter of annulment, through which only the matrimonial bond can cease to exist, not because they had been broken, but rather because of the special considerations and conditions, the marriage was held to have never occurred in the first place.

On the contrary, consistent to what we have heard from the Sacred Scriptures today, from the Divine Law, that divorce, especially when contracted against the advice and the rules of the Church, and God’s Law, is considered as a grave sin. That is why those who have divorced and then remarried again had committed an even greater sin, that is the sin of adultery, because once the man and woman had been united in the sacred union blessed by God, as the Lord Himself said, no one could and should break that bond, and for man to go specifically against the will of God by remarrying after divorce, is to commit a great sin before God and mankind alike.

This is what the Lord had put before us through the Scriptures to remind us to value and to treat our marriage life, our institution of Holy Matrimony with great importance, as truly, the Holy Matrimony is the origin of the Christian family, and if the institution of sacred marriage falls apart or is considered easily expendable as what many people in this world thought, then the Christian families themselves will come under great threat and eventually this will harm not only those who were directly involved in the divorce or remarriage after divorce, but also the entire Church.

For it was from our Christian families that more good Christians would come to be, as good Christian parents who lived through their marriage commitments faithfully will inevitably also likely to raise good and faithful young Christians from their children. Should families be broken by divorce and remarriage, as evidences from the past few decades up to now have shown us, many of the children and the other family members ended up being lost, fell into sinful ways and falling out from the Church, amidst other troubles that they encountered through the experience.

And not only that, but faithful and fruitful Christian marriage is what often led to blossoming in vocations to the priesthood and also to religious and consecrated life. Take for example St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus, whose feast we have just celebrated two days ago on the first day of October. This holy saint also had holy parents, namely St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, who also were made saints because of their very devout and pious upbringing of their children in the faith, and as role model for other parents in their love for one another and their children. All their five surviving daughters, including St. Therese, all joined consecrated life as religious sisters.

In our Scripture readings today, the Lord therefore wanted to remind us all that marriage is a very fundamental and important part of our Church life and in our calling for many of us to build up good and faithful Christian families. From the first reading we heard from the Book of Genesis about the account of the creation of Man, of how God made us man and woman, as He made Adam the first man, and then made the first woman, Eve, bone from Adam’s bone, and flesh from Adam’s flesh. Through this, as the Lord Himself said, that man and woman have been made to be complementary to each other, distinct and yet complementing each other.

This is also a reminder that by God’s Law and natural law, mankind are meant to unite, man and woman, to be one body, but in a more perfect union than merely conjugal and sexual relationship, or reproductive relationship, God Himself declared that man and woman in their union are united by God, blessed by Him and no longer separate. This means that the union between man and woman are divine by nature, a union not just between man and woman, but a contract that is made between them and God. This is why marriage is sacred, and through marriage, those who have embraced married life are called to be responsible to each other and through their children to raise them to be faithful to God as they are.

In our Gospel passage today then we heard of the confrontation between the Lord and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees who asked Him about the legality of divorces contracted through the laws and rules of Moses. The Mosaic law decreed that divorce could be done should the man and woman sought the authorities and made a certificate of dismissal. However, in its original intention, as the Lord mentioned, the Law of Moses was already modified as it was to accommodate the stubbornness of the people who continued to disobey God and sinned against Him.

And in its implementation and development over the centuries that passed since the Law was revealed, the practice and application of the Law had been further modified, eased and changed to suit the needs of man, such that by the time of the Lord Jesus, it was relatively easy for someone to divorce his spouse. It was even corrupted and wicked in nature considering that people could pay sums of money or make arrangements with the authorities to allow them to legally divorce their spouses and remarry again, essentially loosening the moral dimension and definition of marriage.

Essentially, what the Lord Jesus was against and which He spoke out fervently against, was not those marriages that were truly invalid and could be annulled legally and rightfully, but rather the practices of the people in treating the marriage as a commodity and as something that is not sacred and to be protected. He spoke out against those who treat the relationship between man and woman as merely a physical satisfaction of the flesh, and which can be easily undone once they no longer satisfied each other. This is unfortunately the same thing that is also happening in our world today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the world today is full of broken marriages and divorces, of broken families and even many more children who have been raised in families that were incomplete and bereft of true parental love. In the same manner, many people also treat marriage as no more than a convenience to suit themselves, to seek for wealth and pleasure, for physical appearances among other things. And once these no longer satisfied them, this is what resulted in infidelities in our married life, in adulterous relationships and improper moral behaviour amidst our communities.

This Sunday, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, we are all called to reflect carefully on the matter of our Christian marriage, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, that is now constantly under attack from those who seek to destroy the Church, that is none other than Satan and his fellow forces of evil. They tempt us with the temptations of worldly desires and pleasures, distorting the true meaning and importance of marriage and leading to infidelities and adultery that lead to breakups in marriages and families.

Those of us who have been called to the vocation of married life, let us all rediscover the sanctity of our marriages and the need for all of us to centre our married life and families in our focus towards God. We have to resist the many temptations of the evil ones who are actively trying to lead us astray into the path of sin. We have to control ourselves and understand that love is something that is sacred and blessed by God, and not lust or the fulfilment of the desire of the flesh. We have to sanctify our marriage, and the best way to do it is by praying together, and celebrating our faith together, through the celebration of the Sacraments in the Holy Mass.

If God is at the centre of our families and is present in our marriage, then it will be difficult for anyone to break up our union, as we allow God to strengthen us and our unity, and as long as we place our foundation, our family’s bedrock on Him, and live faithfully in obedience to His Law and commandments, while we may encounter difficulties and challenges as a married couple and family, we will be far more likely to succeed in resisting the pressures and temptations that can break our families apart.

We should also spend quality time with each other in our families, for no families can stay together unless they grow in their relationships, which requires commitment of time and effort. This may be difficult to accomplish at times, due to our work commitments and other matters that often take up much of our time, but can we not at least put the effort to do this? Just as we need to spend some time with God to grow in our relationship with Him, the same applies to our families as well. A family whose members do not communicate with each other, or spend at least some time to do things together, will not end up well and may easily be broken apart, as many evidences all around us have shown.

And to all of us who are contemplating marriage, let us all carefully discern our path towards marriage, and realise that marriage is not something that is trivial, but rather one that requires proper discernment and careful considerations, as well as proper journey and development, so that we will not end up like the millions of broken marriages and families out there, many of which happened because of impulsive decisions that those involved would come to realise only much too late afterwards. We have to communicate and build dialogues, and allow relationships to develop carefully and properly, and not rush to decisions unlike what many have done out there and failed.

Let us all protect the sanctity of our marriage, our Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and realise that as Christians, those of us who have responded to God’s call for us to build these sacred unions from which loving Christian families can be formed, we have the sacred duty to build up enduring, loving and faithful Christian families, in raising our children properly in the faith, and in living our faith together that we may inspire each other and also become inspirations to other families out there, on what our Christian marriages and families ought to be like.

Remember, brothers and sisters, that our families are the bedrock and pillars of the Church, as our community is based on our Christian families and their success. We have to resist the attacks of the evil ones who are trying to undermine the Church by attacking our family values and by striking at the sanctity and indissolubility of our sacred unions. Let us not be deceived and let us entrust our families and our marriages to God, and ask Him to strengthen each and every one of us so that we may ever persevere in faith, as loving Christian couples, as husbands and wives, as parents and as members of God’s Holy Church.

May God bless our families and our sacred bond of the Holy Matrimony, and may He guide us in our journey of love and faith, that each and every one of us, especially those who have married and built up families, may be role models to one another, in how we live our Christian lives with true and genuine faith, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 26 September 2021 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are all called through what we have received in the Sacred Scriptures, to reflect on our every actions in our own respective lives, on whether we have been good and faithful in exercising the gifts that God has given us, the gifts of His Wisdom and the Holy Spirit that He has sent to us. We have to distance ourselves from sin and from all things that are wicked so that our lives may be inspiration and good models for our fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Numbers about the time when the Lord sent His Spirit down to the seventy elders appointed to be the leaders of the people of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt. The Spirit of God that was upon Moses also came upon the seventy elders who began to prophesy in the Name of God, having received the gift of wisdom from the Lord. And it was then told that two men in the assembly who were not among the seventy elders, named Eldad and Medad also received the Spirit of God and began prophesying amongst the people.

When Moses then chided those who complained and tried to stop the two men’s actions, his words were truly prophetic at that time, as he wished that every single one of God’s children and people could also receive the same gift of the Spirit and has the same wisdom and ability to prophesise. And all these, brothers and sisters in Christ, have in fact came true during the Pentecost. For at Pentecost, God sent down His Holy Spirit on the disciples, which consists of the Twelve Apostles and Mary, but may also number seventy or seventy-two in total, symbolic of the seventy elders of the Israelites.

Then, these disciples of the Lord, having received the Holy Spirit, went forth from that day onwards and proclaimed the truth of God, His Good News and salvation without any more fear, but with great joy and conviction, with the strong desire for the salvation of many souls.

Many people came to believe in the Lord through them, through the efforts of the Apostles and the disciples, and they accepted baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and becoming the members of the Church of God. And in becoming Christians, they received through baptism the same Holy Spirit that God had sent to His disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves as Christians have also therefore received the same Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit having come down and dwelled within us through the gift of our baptism, and then affirmed for those of us who have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation. As we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, we too have been entrusted by the Lord with the wisdom and the responsibility to make good use of the various gifts and opportunities He has given us to do whatever we can to serve Him and to glorify His Name by our various deeds in life.

Yet, that is not what many of us had done, as St. James in his Epistle which we heard as our second reading today, spoke of the ways in which we have misused and abused the various gifts and talents that we had been given. He detailed how many among the rich and the powerful abused their wealth and power to exploit others and to enrich and make themselves more powerful over the suffering and hard labours of others. He mentioned how the poor and the weak were deceived and exploited by those who held sway and power over them, and implied that such an action was most unbecoming of Christians.

The Lord was not against the rich or the powerful. In fact, was it not by God’s grace and blessings that they had received their riches and opportunities in the first place? But they had chosen to use those for their own selfish purposes and even sought to get more of what they had already possessed a lot of. That is why they exploited others especially those who could not stand for themselves and are vulnerable to exploitation and extortion. This is also the reason for the many sufferings present in our world today, as we misuse the blessings and the opportunities that God had given to us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and to the people about doing the works for the glory of God, saying that they should not hinder anyone doing the good works of God even if those people did not belong to the same group as them. At that time, the disciples of the Lord saw some people who were doing works in the Name of the Lord, casting out demons and healing in His Name, wanting to stop them for doing so? Why were they doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they felt that having received the gift of power and miracle from the Lord, they wanted to keep these exclusive to themselves.

Such was a selfish action showed by the disciples which the Lord then calmly rebuked by saying that they must not have such a mindset, and that all with the desire to do the work of God, regardless of their affiliations are part of the Lord’s greater work and plans. At the same time, it is also a reminder that we should not aim to use these gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities God has given us for our own selfish purposes, and worse still if we make use of them to exploit others and causing sufferings to those who are less fortunate than us.

As Christians, all of us are called to reflect on the Lord’s words to us in our Sacred Scriptures today. When the Lord told His disciples that if their eyes caused them to sin, and they ought to tear them out, or if their hands and feet had caused them to sin and make them to fall into wickedness that they ought to cut them off, He was in fact calling on all of us to turn away from sin and to resist the temptations to sin to the best of our abilities. He did not literally mean for us to tear out our eyes, or cut off our limbs if they had led us all into sin. Otherwise, everyone would have been without eyes and limbs as inevitably, these would have tempted us to sin.

Our body, our organs and senses are all gifts from God to us, and they can be used for good purposes just as they can also be used for wicked purposes. The matter lies with how we make use of these gifts and how we make use of the other talents and opportunities that God has given to us. We have been given various gifts that are distinct from one another, and yet, many of us are still ignorant of them, or we deliberately did nothing at all to make use of them for the good of all. This is where we need to reflect and see in what way we can do to contribute our efforts for the good of humanity, for all those whom we encounter in life.

That is why, as Christians, we are all called to make good use of our gifts and talents for the benefit of all, to reach out to others around us so that whenever we see someone who is need of help, or hear the pleas and cries of the suffering and sorrowful, we may reach out to them and in various ways offer our help or do something even in the smallest ways to lighten their load, or to cheer them up and support them. We may be surprised just how much this can help in making them feel better and just how much this can benefit them in ways that we ourselves may not realise at first.

This Sunday, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, paying particular attention on all those who have left their homeland or place of birth behind in search of a better life, or for a place of refuge especially for those who have been displaced by famine, by war or by persecution either because of their faith, their race or their background, as diverse as these reasons may be. We remember our fellow brothers and sisters out there who are still suffering daily and having no true place to be called home, especially the refugees.

Many of these unfortunate circumstances came to be because of our own human greed and pride, our egoistic behaviours and our desires, unchecked and unbridled which led to the exploitation of the weak and the poor, as well as the persecution of peoples based on their backgrounds, races and all things that led them to flee their homeland or for various other reasons that made them to wander around. For some who were lucky, they would end up finding a new home and integrate well, but many are still out there, some even after many generations, waiting to find a home that will welcome them and which they can call as home.

Sadly and unfortunately, quite a few among those who have caused these sufferings were those who call themselves as Christians. And not few among us are also biased against these migrants and refugees, and not few among us are also perpetuating these biases and prejudice against those unfortunate people. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, that they too are our fellow brothers and sisters, the same children of God, having the same Father as us, Who loves them just as He loves all of us. If we shut the doors of our hearts to them, then how do you think God will react to His children being treated in this manner?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called and challenged to live our lives in a more Christian manner, to be more genuine in our Christian love and way of life, and not be hypocrites in faith. We are all called to embrace one another with love and in whatever we do, we have to show God’s love and truth to each other. Are we willing to do this, brethren? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the way of the Lord, and if we are given the opportunity to do more for the benefit of others around us, and more so if we have the chance to encounter migrants and refugees in our midst, to be welcoming towards them and to show them God’s generous love, that they may be strengthened and reminded that God never leaves them but remains with them with us, their own brothers and sisters.

Let us all do whatever we can to be less selfish and be more generous in giving to others, in touching the lives of others and in influencing one another to be more loving and caring especially to the weak and the oppressed, to those who are suffering and unloved, to those who need our care and attention. Let us all do our part, as members of the Church of God, having received the Lord’s Spirit and the commission to love, to be faithful to our calling and mission and to be good brothers and sisters to one another, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened and remembered the words of the Sacred Scripture passages on this Sunday, we are all called to reflect on what it means for us to be a Christian, as one who believe in the Lord and in His truth, and as one who are called to walk on the path that He has revealed and shown to us, following Christ’s example in obedience and love. As we remember those words of the Scripture, let us all ponder carefully how we should move forward in life and how we can better live our lives in the way according to the Lord and His will.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Wisdom the account of the words of the people who plotted against the faithful servants of God. The Book of Wisdom was often known as the Wisdom of Solomon, but was in fact written in Alexandria in Egypt during the period just around the time of Christ in the first century before or after His birth. Thus, as we heard from today’s passage, we heard how there were influences and information contained from the prophets, such as the prophet Isaiah, that detailed in one of his prophecies, the prophecy of the Suffering Messiah and servant of God.

This, coupled with the historical experience of how the prophets of God were treated during their years of ministry, rejected and ridiculed by the people they had been sent to minister to, makes understanding the context of our first reading today very important for us to appreciate just how much mankind had made it difficult for the Lord and all the messengers and servants He had sent to them. They were stubborn in their sinful ways and in refusing to listen to the truth or in embracing the forgiveness that God has offered freely to them.

In our Gospel passage today, which we listened from the Gospel of St. Mark, we heard of the time when the Lord was speaking to His disciples regarding His mission and also what it means for them to be His followers. The Lord spoke plainly before them that He, the Son of Man, would be delivered into the hands of men, to be persecuted and then killed. Then on the third day, He would rise again from the dead. This is a premonition that the Lord made on His eventual Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, and His eventual glorious Resurrection by which He would save all mankind.

Just as the prophets in the earlier times, the Lord Himself would not be spared the same fate of being made to suffer and to be rejected by the people. But why is that, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has offered His people so many good things, blessed them and sent His messengers one after another to remind them of His love and patient mercy, and yet, why did they refuse to listen to Him and follow Him? Why did our ancestors persecute the prophets and messengers of God? And why did they persecute and crucify our Lord? That is because of our pride, our ego and desire, and our refusal to admit our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities.

Let us first look at what happened then in the Gospel passage, as the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding the debate that they, especially the Twelve, the Lord’s own inner circle just had before they had the conversation with the Lord. They were arguing among themselves who among them were the greatest among them, wondering who among them was the one whom the Lord cherished the most or who was the most favourite disciple among them. In another occasion in the Gospels, we even had two of the Twelve, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, who went along with their mother before the Lord asking for special favours and honoured positions from Him.

The Lord then made it very clear before all of them, and made His point by bringing a child before them, pointing out to them how if they want to be His true followers, then they had to welcome the child, and in saying this, He meant that they should learn to be small, insignificant and humble like that of a child. Adults often exclude children from their talks, debates and arguments, dismissing the latter as being immature, unknowledgeable and for other reasons. Yet, a young child is pure in his beliefs and ideals, not yet being tainted by the corruptions of worldly desires and evils.

The Lord also said to the Twelve that all those who sought to be first would be last, while those who were last would be first. This means that the more they argued among them who was the greatest, most superior and honoured among them, and the more they strived and attempted to be the first, in fact, the further away they would end up in the path towards the kingdom of God. As Christians, all of them are expected to be humble in all things, and to put God first and foremost in their lives, and not their personal desires and ambitions.

God has reminded them to do this and He also showed it by His own example. Referring to what He Himself would do for the salvation of mankind, even though He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of the whole Universe, the Almighty God, but He willingly humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory, prestige, power and honour, by first assuming the humble appearance of a Man, born into this world not even of the powerful and mighty, but to a poor carpenter living in a small village on the periphery of the Jewish world back then.

He also humbled Himself and not wanting to make Himself prominent and known in the manner of how some others who claimed to be the Messiah at that time boasted of themselves as the Chosen One of God, only to falter and fail miserably because God was not with them. He has shown the perfect obedience to the will of His Father, to endure for our sake, the burdens of our sins, even though they must have been incredibly heavy, as the weight of the Cross bore down heavily on His shoulders. He obeyed and in His fervent prayers for our sake, He has been heard and through His sacrifice, we have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life.

St. James in his Epistle, part of which is our second reading today, reminded us the faithful of exactly the same thing, as he spoke of how those who follow the Lord ought to have God’s wisdom and truth in them, and that jealousy, discord and hatred all came ultimately from our own desires and wants, from the corrupt temptations of this world and others. And if we allow these things to affect and influence us, then we will end up being divided among ourselves and indulging in our desires, in maintaining our ego and pride, and in being stubborn in refusing to listen to God and to the words of His truth.

This was exactly why the people persecuted the prophets and the messengers of God in the times past, as they refused to admit that they could have been wrong or mistaken in their ways or in their thoughts. They would not admit that they were sinners and in need of help because their pride and ego would not let them to do that. They dwelled in their desires and pride, and they allowed those things to mislead them into the path of sin, in refusing the generous offer of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Let us all reflect on our own lives and how we have lived them thus far. Let us remember each and every moments when we look down on others just because we feel that we are better than them, and at every moments when we refused to admit our faults and ended up in quarrelling and being divided against each other, in our own families and among our relatives and friends, in our schools and workplaces among others. How often has it been that we prioritise our own desires and wants, our ambitions and pride first over that of God and His truth?

We often seek the glory of the world, the pleasure and satisfaction of our bodies, the comfort that we can enjoy from all these temptations in life. The issue is not so much so on the things that tempt us but rather more of our unhealthy attachment to them, or unbridled desire in wanting to gain more and more of those things that ended up causing us to be more and more distant away from God. This is something that as Christians we must consider and discern very carefully, that we do not end up falling into those same temptations and into the wrong path.

Let us all turn ourselves to the Lord, brothers and sisters, with a new heart filled with genuine love for Him, committing ourselves to Him with ever greater devotion from now on. Let us cast out from ourselves the excesses of our human pride and worldly desires, the desire for wealth, fame, glory, power and any other things that are truly impermanent and do not give us true happiness and joy. Instead, let us all seek the true happiness and satisfaction that we can find in the Lord, our God alone.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may find our way to Him and learn to commit ourselves more wholeheartedly from now on. Let us all devote more of our time and effort, our attention and focus on Him, and inspire one another to do the same as well. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Sunday, 12 September 2021 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are all called by God to be dedicated to Him through real actions and good works, to follow Him wholeheartedly and to endure challenges for His sake. We have to trust the Lord and walk down the path that He has shown us, living our lives as righteous and as virtuous as possible, to be exemplary in all things and be role models and inspiration for each other in our Christian faith and life.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he spoke the words of prophecy regarding the One Whom God would send into the world as His servant and deliverer for all the people, the identity of Whom was not yet known to Isaiah. This Servant of God would suffer, be rejected and endure all sorts of punishments and humiliations, to be scourged and beaten, all so that through Him, all of us could see the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us, not just through words and proclamations only, but through real and concrete action.

It is a reference and prophecy on what the Messiah or Saviour of God would do for the sake of the people of God, for all of mankind, the promise that God would save all of His people, despite all the disobedience and sins that they had committed in a lot of the occasions past. And all these would come to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God born into this world to be its Saviour, revealing the long promised salvation of God at long last. The Lord Jesus Himself also revealed that He was that Saviour that God had sent into the world.

And in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Himself revealing to the people and His disciples on what He was going to do, to bring about the salvation of all mankind, as He spoke in response to St. Peter’s courageous proclamation that He is the Messiah of God, amidst people wondering Who He really truly was. Some believed that He was one of the prophets, or even confused Him with St. John the Baptist. But the Twelve and the Lord’s closest disciples, led by St. Peter truly believed that Jesus was the One promised by God, the Messiah or Saviour Who would lead all of God’s people to freedom.

However, what all of them did not know was the manner in which the Lord would save His people, even though the prophecy of Isaiah has explicitly stated what would happen to the Messiah, Who would suffer and endure bitter punishment and sufferings, all so that the people of God may receive through Him the consolation and redemption that God has promised and endeavoured to bring into our midst. He did not just offer them mere empty words and unfulfilled promises.

Instead, He gave us His all, as He sent us no less than His own Son, the Divine Word and Son of God incarnate, taking up our existence and nature in the flesh, becoming the Son of Man, and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, making Himself the tangible expression of God’s true and enduring love for each and every one of us. Through Christ, God has reached out to us and called us out of the darkness and into the light, showing us the path that He revealed before us, that by following Him we may find our way to eternal life and salvation.

But the people, including the disciples would find it hard to believe what the Lord and Saviour of this world would have to go through in order to save all of us, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, how St. Peter reacted strongly and protested against the Lord when He said that He would be rejected, especially by the chief priests, condemned and put to death, a most painful and humiliating death before rising up on the third day in the glorious Resurrection.

At that time, St. Peter echoed the opinion that everyone else also shared, on how they expected the Messiah to be the Saviour who would lead them to freedom from their enemies and from tyranny, which could at that time be equated to the freedom from the Roman yoke. Many of them expected Him to be their King and to lead them into glorious victory and triumph against their enemies. Thus, when the Lord revealed such a terrible and sad fate that would happen to Him, some could not avoid hearing in disbelief at what He had just told them, including that of St. Peter.

The Lord rebuked Satan who used St. Peter to try to sow doubt in His commitment to see the mission of the Lord and the salvation to completion. Satan himself also did not fully know what the Lord would do for the salvation of mankind, as the truth would remain elusive to him until the day of Our Lord death on the Cross, when everything He said came to be true, and Satan was defeated. Yet, back then when St. Peter tried to dissuade and protest against the Lord, Satan was hoping to prevent whatever it was that the Lord Jesus was trying to do.

But the Lord was resolute and firmly rebuked Satan who tried to lead Him astray, and reiterated all the things that He would do for the sake of His beloved ones. He showed through concrete deeds and action that He loved each and every one of us without exception, even to the point of laying down His life for us, just as He Himself said that there is no love greater than for someone to willingly lie down His life for a friend, and there Jesus showed us all the ultimate love of God, by His ultimate and most selfless sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that corresponds to what St. James also mentioned in our second reading today, that our faith must be in tandem with good works and actions, and we cannot truly be genuinely faithful unless we can show this faith through real action based upon the faith we have in God. It means that we should not just pay lip service or empty gestures for our faith in the Lord, or treat it as a mere formality.

In our world today, we often see many among us Christians who do not act in the way that we believe, as we often behave in ways that are contrary to our beliefs, and we did things, or said things that were against the Law and commandments of God. And many of us are also often idle and complacent, in not doing what the Lord had told us to do, or in not listening to the teachings and exhortations of the Church, of our bishops and priests.

Many of us profess to be faithful to God and loving Him, and yet, we spent a lot more time in seeking worldly pursuits and desires, and spent little time for Him, besides the usual prayers and attending the Holy Mass, which even many of us felt dreaded to do, or even considering as a waste of time. Many of us treat the Holy Mass and our faith life as no more than just a mere formality or even as a side afterthought, which is the sad reality of what is happening to many of our Christian communities all over the world.

There are even more people out there who no longer attend the Holy Mass or receive any of the Sacraments, among many other things. These are things that prevented us from becoming true Christians, as the true and genuine disciples of Christ. As St. James mentioned in his Epistle, faith without genuine good works and actions are dead, and meaningless for us. This means that we should truly commit ourselves to the Lord and follow Him and His examples in love, in giving of ourselves to God just as He has given Himself to us with utmost love.

As mentioned just earlier on, the Lord has showered us with such great love and compassion, that He has not even held back giving us everything, even in laying down His life for us. By His scourges and wounds, we have been healed, and by His sacrifice and death on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He, our Paschal Lamb, shedding His Most Precious Blood and laying down His Most Precious Body, has given us all the promise of eternal life and redemption from all of our sins.

If God has shown us such a great love, not just by words and promises only, but through real and concrete action, even in going through the worst of sufferings and death for our sake, then why can’t we do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? In fact, we should be most ashamed by our attitudes towards the Lord, His love and compassion towards us, and at how we treat our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, our faith in God and our participation at the Holy Mass among other things. Many of us have failed miserably in living up to our faith, and yet, God still patiently reached out to us and hoped for us to find our way to Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having received from the Lord such generous and constant love, compassion and mercy, are we able and willing to show the same love and commitment to Him as we should have done? Are we able to live up our Christian faith through genuine actions and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments of our lives that we may be truly and genuinely faithful, in our every actions and deeds, in our every words and in all things, that all those who see us, interact with us and journey with us may know the Lord through us and learn more of the truth of God and His love through our own love? Let us all bring hope and light wherever we may be, and be the beacons of God’s truth and light to all men.

May the Lord give us the strength and the courage to be always faithful in all occasions and that we may always strive to do our best, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to love Him just as much as He has loved us and cared for us. Let us all be genuine Christians, loving God and loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and giving hope and strength to all those who are suffering and sorrowful, that our actions may bring life and strength to them. May God bless us all in our every endeavours and good works, and guide us through the journey of our lives in faith. Amen.

Sunday, 5 September 2021 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the all encompassing love of God, as He reassured all those who have placed their trust in Him that He would not abandon them and that He would love them all equally without bias or prejudice, and all are equally precious before Him, as He extends to us His love, His grace and blessings.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard from the prophecy of Isaiah the Lord’s promises to His people that He would one day come and liberate them, opening the eyes of their blind, unbinding and opening the ears of the deaf and the tongues of the mute, making the paralysed and the disabled to walk and move again, and other miraculous deeds and works that the Lord would do amongst His people.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel had been going through tough times, a time of many challenges and trials, as the once united and great kingdom of Israel under King David and King Solomon were already long passed and gone. The divided northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah had become diminished and were subjected to humiliations from their neighbours and other powers. And just around the time of Isaiah and his ministry as God’s prophet, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians, who brought off most of the inhabitants of the land to exile in far-off Mesopotamia.

At the same time, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah where Isaiah performed his ministry did not fare much better, as they too came under attack from king Sennacherib of Assyria, who brought up a vast army against Judah and Jerusalem, and almost conquered it if not for the timely intervention from God. The people of God had been brought low and suffered, and all these were because of their own disobedience and refusal to believe in God or follow His path, despite the numerous reminders from the many prophets sent to them.

In our Gospel passage today, from the Gospel of St. Mark, we then heard of the account of the miraculous healing that the Lord had done on a deaf and mute man, as He had pity on the man, and by His power, loosened the man’s tongue and opened his ears, allowing him to hear and speak properly once again. He has liberated the man from his troubles and showed God’s enduring love and compassion for each and every one of us. He fulfilled the promises that He Himself had made through His prophet Isaiah, the promises that we have just discussed earlier on.

And this is also a show that God loves everyone without exception, that even those who are often marginalised and prejudiced against, the weak and those afflicted with physical and spiritual ailments, God has reached out to them and healed them, freeing them from their troubles. This particular case mentioned in our Gospel today is significant because the word that the Lord spoke, ‘Ephphata’ meaning ‘Be opened!’ at the time when He loosened the tongue and opened the ears of the man, is also for a long time used in the rites of baptism of the Church, and is still used today in the baptism using the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Through this symbolic act, the priests placed their hands on the ears and the mouth of the person or infant to be baptised, signifying that they performed the rites of the Sacrament of Baptism in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ, opening the ears and the mouth of the one to be baptised that just as the man was healed as mentioned in our Gospel passage, then the person that was to be baptised would also be healed from his or her spiritual bondage to sin and death.

And the opening of the ears and the mouth are also significant because they represent symbolically our willingness by accepting baptism, to open our ears to listen to the truth and the Word of God, and to speak only the words of God’s truth, and not to proclaim things that are contrary to our faith. The Lord had freed us from our bondage and enslavement to sin and evil, and He has healed us from the most terrible disease of all, that is sin and death.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, although we may be physically well and even in best of health, all of us are in fact suffering from the affliction of sin, which corrupts us from within and making us defiled and unworthy of God. God alone can save and heal us from this affliction, and He has shown His willingness to free us and to be reconciled fully with us. All of us, whether we are great or small, rich or poor, influential, famous or unknown, all of us are equally sinners before God, and God loves all of us equally, which is what the Lord wanted to show us through the Word of God we have heard today.

And, in our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. James the Apostle, we heard the same message as the Apostle reminded the faithful that the Lord does not discriminate between persons, and he went on to give examples of how the faithful could unknowingly act in ways that promote prejudice and discrimination by treating their fellow brothers and sisters in different ways. It is inevitable that we will have differences in how we interact with different groups of people, and we will certainly be more willing to treat well those whom we love and care about, while ignoring or even treating badly those whom we dislike.

However, the Lord called on all of us to overcome this tendency, and reminded us that if He loves each and every one of us equally, then we as His people should also do the same, and love one another in the same manner. We have to do our best and strive to show care and compassion, forgiveness and the willingness to embrace even those who have persecuted and hurt us, as the Lord Jesus Himself taught us to forgive those who have hated us and pray for those who have persecuted us. He asked us to forgive one another’s sins, just as the Lord, His heavenly Father has forgiven us our sins, one of the key elements of the Lord’s Prayer, the Pater Noster we all know so well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today where inequality, prejudice, racial and religious tensions, divisions among people and all the other divisions and disagreements that exist between our communities and peoples, we are all called as Christians to be revolutionary and different. In a world where we are all encouraged to love ourselves and hate those whom we dislike, we are called to love without boundaries and without prejudice, to reach out even to those who hate us and dislike us, to forgive them and to pray for them.

And in a world that is obsessed with appearances, with prestige, power and glory, we are all called to get rid from ourselves these temptations of the flesh, to be filled with God’s love instead, and to be able to listen to His truth and to proclaim His words rather than to listen to the temptations of the devil, the allures of worldly desires and rather than to advance our own goals and ambitions in life. Again, as Christians, we are all called to be loving just as the Lord has been so loving towards us.

Is this easily done for us? Certainly not, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is truly often much easier said than done. We may think that it is easy for us to love one another, but those of us who have been hurt by others may find it very hard to forgive, and to let go of our anger and insecurities, of our desire for retribution and vengeance. And those of us who have not truly known love will find it difficult to love others, as the many trials and challenges many of us face in this world show us that to be Christians, is by no means a simple and easy feat.

That is why today, on this Sunday, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord called us all and reminded all of us of what being true Christians is all about. It is to love God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, and then to love ourselves and one another, just as much as we value and love ourselves. This is the true commandment of God, in the Lord Jesus’ own words, that we have to ‘love one another just as I have loved you’, a reminder that even though the challenges may be great, but we have to persevere nonetheless.

And none of us should endure it alone. Instead, we should help and support one another, by doing our best even in the smallest things and showing love for each other, to those dear to us, and even to strangers and those who hate and dislike us, and whom we dislike as well. Let us all slowly allow the Lord to teach us how to love genuinely and truly, in each and every moments of our lives. From now on, let all of our words, actions and deeds be ones that glorify the Lord, that through us, the Lord, His truth and love may come to be known by more and more people.

May God bless each and every one of us, all equally precious and beloved by God, that we may be always strong in dedicating ourselves to serve Him and to follow Him for all of our days, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 29 August 2021 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to follow the Lord and obey His will and commandments wholeheartedly, and by this it means that each and every one of us should understand and appreciate the true nature, importance and purpose of the Law and the commandments that we may truly follow the Lord in the right manner, and not fall into the wrong paths as how many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

The Law of God had been revealed to His chosen people through Moses, and He made clear what they all needed to do in order to follow Him, by giving them sets of rules and regulations, the Law and the Commandments, centred on the Ten Commandments which highlighted the core tenets of the Law. Those laws and rules were all in fact meant to help the people to remember that they all ought to be faithful to God and to love Him, and to abandon all sorts of evil and wicked ways and practices, that they would not fall into sin and therefore destruction.

Yet, despite everything that the Lord had done for them, the people refused to listen to Him and disobeyed Him, repeatedly again and again falling into sinful ways, into the worship of pagan and false idols, and thus, the Lord imposed those laws and regulations meant to help them to remain true to the path He has shown them, and to stay away from the temptations that could lead them down the path towards damnation. It was never intended to make their lives difficult or to make it a burden for them to follow the Lord.

As mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy in our first reading today, God has told His people through Moses, that they should not add any more or remove anything from the Law and the commandments that He had given them. That they should live in the manner that God has shown them, and called them to do. And this is truly what the Lord wanted from His people, to be righteous, good and virtuous, to be worthy of Him in their actions and deeds. He did not want them to suffer or to be burdened by those laws.

Yet, it was man themselves who misinterpreted and misunderstood His Law, and thinking of them as mere formality and regulations, that were dreaded and which the people found bothersome and unwilling to keep or follow. They also followed the temptations and worldly desires and were unable to keep up with the Law, fell into disobedience and refused to believe in God, fell into sin and suffered for their lack of faith in Him. They refused to listen to the prophets and messengers that God sent into their midst to guide then and help them.

Then on the other extreme, by the time of the Lord Jesus and His ministry, many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who imposed a very strict interpretation of the Law, which arose because of long period lasting centuries in which the people interpreted the Law in ever increasing rigidity as they experienced great suffering and the tragedy of the destruction of their nation and the first Temple, when Jerusalem itself was destroyed by the Babylonians, and many of the Israelites were uprooted into exile by the Assyrians and the Babylonians both.

As such, there were those over the centuries who sought to impose the Law strictly on the people, to keep them in toe and to prevent them from suffering the same fate. However, over the centuries, as things developed, some took it to the extreme, as the number of rules and regulations grew beyond what was originally prescribed in the Torah, or the Books of the Law corresponding to the first five books in the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. And those people entrusted with the spiritual leadership of the people and those deemed as experts of the Law ended up making these as a means to gain popularity and influence, and to be praised by the others who saw them.

But what the Lord often rebuked those Pharisees and teachers of the Law was the fact that despite having outwardly observed the Law, all the many rules and customs, but they did not truly love God in their hearts, and instead, they loved themselves and their interpretation of the Law more, as they lost the focus and the true intention of the Law, imposing the rules and regulations that ended up being too inwardly looking and bereft of true spiritual benefits, that they focused more and more on the letter of the Law than its Spirit.

For example, on the matter of the washing of hands before meal as mentioned by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in today’s Gospel passage, the rules stated that the people ought to wash their hands in a particular manner, right up to their elbow and over a few times, and as well as other things to be washed and purified before doing certain things and activities. It was their preoccupation and excessive attention to the details and excessive attachment to the rites and rituals which distracted them from the true intention of the Law and the love of God which the Law was meant for.

And as St. James then mentioned in his Epistle, in our second reading today, we are all called to follow the Lord faithfully in our every actions and deeds, in doing the Law and putting to use the gifts that God has given us, in the Word that He has sown within our hearts and minds. We should not be mere bystanders or idle followers of God, or to be those who profess to be faithful to God and yet in our actions we have no God reflected in them, like how many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law practiced their rigorous version of the Law and yet forgetting the true intention and purpose of what they have practiced and done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these readings from the Scripture, all of us are reminded that as Christians we have to be truly faithful to the Lord, in all things and from all of our entire being. We have to show our love to the Lord in all things, in our love for God in every words, actions and deeds, that all that we say and do, are truly for God and in accordance with God’s will. This is what we are called to do, and what we should be doing as we obey the Lord and do what we can to follow Him. And if we truly love the Lord, then as the Lord Jesus had said, we have to love one another in the same manner as well.

That is yet another reason why the Lord rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, that while they professed to love God, yet, they were lacking in love and empathy for their fellow brothers and sisters, often looking down on those who were deemed as sinners and unworthy, like the prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, people with diseases and demonic possessions, among others. The Lord was telling all of the people, including those same Pharisees and teachers of the Law, who were also often listening to Him, reminding them of the truth of the Law of God, the true intention and purpose of what the Lord has given to all of them.

That is why, He came not to abolish the Law and commandments, but rather to make it perfect for all of us. He wants us to rediscover our love for Him, and to practice it in our lives, to believe in Him wholeheartedly and not just being outwardly pious, and profess to be a loving Christian, yet we do not show love to our brothers and sisters, or are being prejudiced and angry at them. Indeed, we are not perfect people, and we make mistakes from time to time, and we do fall into being angry, jealous, prejudiced and biased against others, but what is important is that we must not allow those things to continue to shape our lives and actions.

If we truly love the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ, then our love for Him must be genuine in all things, and not just being outwardly devoted. Some of us think that by saying long prayers and devotions, we are good Christians, but we ignore our brothers and sisters around us, or worse still, we gossip about one another, talking bad about others whom we encounter at work, at school, or even in our own homes, among our relatives and friends. Is this what is meant for us to be Christians? Certainly not. God called us to be His true disciples, not just in obeying the Letter of the Law, but also in the Spirit.

That is why, all of us should spend some time today and onwards to reflect on our lives and our attitudes. Are we really good Christians in all things, in loving God and in loving one another? Or have we loved ourselves more and been selfish all these while, in desiring recognition and praise, or in wanting God to do something for us and to give us what we want? We have to discern all these carefully, so that from now on, we may follow the Lord with the right intention, with the right love in our hearts, not love that is inwards and selfish, but rather pouring outwards from ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.

Just like our Lord, Who loved us all infinitely, and Who has given to us His life in exchange for our salvation, by dying on the Cross for us, we have to be life-giving in our every actions and deeds, in our words and interactions with one another. We have to remove from us the poison of ego and pride, of greed and desires for power and glory, all the things that prevent us from truly being faithful to God genuinely, and from loving Him and our fellow brothers and sisters as His Law has taught us.

Let us all obey God’s Law and commandments, brothers and sisters, following what the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit and following the traditions of the faith from the time of God’s Apostles, have given and shown us, in ways how we can lead a most wholesome Christian life, that we may draw ever closer to God and be ever more loving in our every actions, not just to ourselves, but even more importantly to God and to all those who need our love and care, our attention and kindness.

May the Lord move all of us in our hearts that we may walk with Him, in the path of love, of genuine Christian love, in full and true obedience to His Law and commandments. May all of us be ever more courageous in our faith, and seek the Lord for strength whenever we need Him, and provide that same support and strength to one another, when we are struggling and in need of assistance. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours and works, and bring us ever closer to His grace and presence. Amen.

Sunday, 22 August 2021 : Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of our faith in the Lord, and of the obligations that each and every one of us have as Christians, and that is to hold firmly to the Law and commandments that the Lord has given to us all, revealed to us through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, and passed down to us through the Church, through His Apostles and disciples, and their successors.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Joshua, in which Joshua, the leader of all the Israelites, as the one who led the Israelites into the promised land, gathered all the whole assembly of the Israelites and reminded them to remain faithful to God and not to be easily swayed by the other gods and idols, and thus, he told them to make a stand right there and then, who they would follow and serve, whether the Lord or whether they preferred to follow the pagan gods and false idols instead.

We heard then how the people chose to follow the Lord and promised to follow Him and His path, and so would their descendants. Joshua then charged all the people to keep in mind the Lord’s Law and commandments, all that He had revealed and given to them, and pass them on to their descendants. They were charged with passing down all the stories and the faithful witnesses of the Lord’s great wonders and deeds, as He led them all out of the land of Egypt, took care of them throughout their Exodus in the desert, and finally led them to the promised land they were dwelling in.

Yet it was not easy for them to remain faithful to the Lord, or from time to time, again and again, they lapsed and fell into the wrong paths, as they abandoned the Lord and embraced the worship of pagan and false idols, and God sent to them His servants, the Judges and later on the prophets, to keep them in check, to guide them and to redirect their attention towards the Lord, and to remind them that as the people of God, they had an obligation to follow the Law of God and His commandments.

It is then we come to hear the account from the Gospel passage today, in which we heard the aftermath of the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the multitudes of thousands of people, and His discourse on the Bread of Life. At that occasion, the Lord told the people frankly and without hiding the truth, that He would gave them all His Body and His Blood for them all to partake, as real food and drink that they may eat and drink from. And this made the people to wonder and question Him and His truth, as they found it difficult to accept this truth, that the Lord as the Bread of Life is giving them His own Precious Body and Blood.

Many of the Lord’s disciples and the people who followed Him left Him at that time, and those who were left behind were few, including the Twelve who remained faithful, and who still trusted the Lord and His truth. Yet even they found the truth difficult to understand and endure, as represented by St. Peter, they told Him that such a harsh truth would be difficult for anyone to bear and stomach, and even they found it difficult to believe themselves, as some of them undoubtedly were still hesitating and still had doubts in them.

It was then that the Lord doubled down even more, by telling them that what He has revealed to them was just part of the greater revelation, that if they found it difficult to accept what He has just revealed to them, then it would be even tougher for them to accept and appreciate the things that they would come to witness, such as His Passion and death, and His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, which He did allude to in that occasion. And through this, we can see that to be Christians is not one simple matter or easy feat.

Often times we may have to go against the popular opinion or even logic in our faith, and we have to face persecutions, trials and troubles for our faith and trust in the Lord, and for standing up to His truth and love. Yet, we have to persevere and prevail, for the Lord’s truth has been revealed to us, the fullness of His love, care and compassion towards us as He has shown us through Christ, His Son. By His loving sacrifice on the Cross, He, our Eternal and True High Priest offered Himself, as the worthy Paschal Lamb of God, a sacrifice and offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we all who partake in His Body and Blood receive the assurance of eternal life through Him.

All of us as Christians have received this truth, and the revelation of God’s love. Therefore, as faithful servants and followers of the Lord, we should do our very best to commit ourselves to live righteously and strive to walk in His path, doing whatever we can, in our own capacities, and within our own communities and in the opportunities given to us, so that we may indeed be worthy of being called God’s chosen people, the members of His Church, with Christ as our Head, and we as the parts of this united Body of Christ, all sharing in the same Bread of Life.

Each and every one of us should embrace the Lord’s call for us to be more active in our faith life, and we should discern carefully what each and every one of us can do in order to be part of the Church’s efforts and good works in reaching out to more and more of our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who have not yet known the Lord, and those who may have had a wrong idea or impression Him and our Christian faith. It is up to us to be genuine witnesses of our faith and be inspiration to one another as Christians.

Let us all therefore today commit ourselves anew to the Lord, making commitment and dedication that lasts a lot longer and far more than the promises made by the Israelites of old before God and Joshua. Let us all follow in the path of the Apostles and the many other faithful disciples of the Lord, following the inspiring examples of the saints, and striving to lead a worthy and holy life, that we can become a source of inspiration ourselves to help inspire one another, especially those who lack the faith and are filled with doubt.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Father be with us always, and may He help us to remain strong in our faith, and may He encourage and strengthen us as we continue to walk through our life’s journey with true and sincere devotion to Him, now and always. Amen.